Messages from ISIL territory ask forgiveness for murder


The practice of writing a prominent official or
scholar for advice dates back hundreds of years, if
not more.
In the 1690s, for example, Londoners
sent letters to the Athenian Mercury, a twice
weekly newspaper that published the questions
about everything from love to sin. Religious figures
have also frequently been sought out for
correspondence by people seeking absolution or
guidance in times of hardship. Such exchanges
have long been a window into society’s fears and
Indeed the same may be true for written
correspondence from individuals living in parts of
Iraq controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and the
Levant (ISIL), which paints a bleak picture of life for
both ISIL members and civilians still living under
the its control.
The correspondence, obtained by The Intercept and
Al Jazeera, was sent to a religious scholar living in
Jordan who has been associated with other
groups in the past, but is critical of ISIL. The
messages come from people in ISIL-held territory,
both members of the group and civilians, who are
seeking his religious advice. Wanting such counsel
from religious figures is common in the Muslim
world, but the recipient of these messages in
particularly respected among Muslims in Iraq,
Syria and Jordan.

The religious figure is not named here in order to
protect his legal status in Jordan.
The advice seekers are unrelated: one is an ISIL
fighter in Fallujah, and the other is a Sunni Muslim
civilian living in Mosul.
The correspondence took place from early June to
mid August, and coincided with major events in
those cities reported by international media –
including the Iraqi government’s offensive to retake
Fallujah and the increasing pressure on the
inhabitants of Mosul in preparation for the
operation .
“The battle for Fallujah was a success in that it
ended with ISIS driven out and a government
established that had representation from the local
Sunni community,” says Nathaniel Rabkin,
managing editor of the political risk publication
Inside Iraq Politics.
“Having said that, there was a lot of ugliness
associated with the campaign, including damage to
infrastructure and allegations of abuses by Shia
militia groups.”

The messages from these cities offer a glimpse
into the effect of military pressure on ISIL fighters
in Iraq, as well as the fears of some Sunni Muslims
that they would be the target of reprisals when
their cities were recaptured by the government.

On June 26, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
announced that Iraqi forces had successfully
liberated the city of Fallujah from ISIL. The
announcement marked the fourth time that Fallujah
had violently changed hands since the American
invasion Iraq in 2003. In this case, the city, once
known as a centre of Sufi Islam, was retaken only
after months of US air raids and besiegement by
Iraqi ground troops.
Before heavy fighting in the city began this June,
an ISIL fighter reached out to the Jordanian
religious scholar for advice, saying that members
of ISIL had committed “mistakes” in Fallujah,
including acts of murder, and had mistreated the
local population.
“There is no time to indulge in details. However, if
I survive this ordeal I might get into details. But
let’s suppose that the mistakes had to do with
murder, what should I do? And if it had to do with
violations of Islamic law, what should I do so I face
God with clean conscience? Would my repentance
for these actions be enough for God to forgive me
if I am a member of this group?”Read more


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