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Excommunication, Apostasy, and the Islamic State : The practice of Takfir in the Islamic State, an analysis of the propaganda magazine Dabiq.


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Apostasy, and the

Islamic State

KURS: Bachelor Thesis in Global Studies,15 ECTS

PROGRAM: International Work – Global Studies

FÖRFATTARE: Jesper Bjelke, Edvard Lervik

EXAMINATOR: Ann-Sofie Kall TERMIN:Spring 2020

The practice of Takfir in the Islamic State, an

analysis of the propaganda magazine Dabiq.



The School of Education and Communication International Work


The Islamic State (IS) infamously carried out brutal acts of terrorism against the west. These acts of terrorism in Europe and the USA does, however, not make up most of the violence instigated by the Islamic State. This majority of violence took place in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State conquered large territories. The forces that the IS battled in the Iraqi-Syrian theatre of war consisted largely of individuals identifying as Muslim. In some cases, the Islamic State fought other Islamist militias. In this context the concept of Takfir, i.e. excommunication within Islam, is central in the rhetoric of persecution. This paper analyses the Islamic State’s beliefs and practices on Takfir, as it is shown in the propaganda magazine Dabiq. Following a qualitative content analysis of Dabiq's articles relevant to Takfir and defining true Muslims, central themes were identified.

The bulk of the apostasy arguments found in Dabiq is targeted against ethnicities and sects that the Islamic State is at war with. Several arguments for the apostasy of the IS's enemies are explored, and an internal logic is presented throughout Dabiq. Neither the criteria’s nor the process that leads to the proclamation of Takfir, outside fighting the Islamic State, are explained in Dabiq. While examples of such Takfiri declarations are found in Dabiq, they are considerably less common than war-aligned claims of apostasy. What motivates the Islamic State’s practice of Takfir is open ended, as it can be both considered a result of their religious doctrine and a justification for the conflicts which they have partaken in.

Keywords: apostasy, takfir, excommunication, the islamic state, dabiq


Several people have been invaluable when writing this paper. First of all, we would like to thank Marco Nilsson, our thesis supervisor, who has been a constant source of guidance and deeper understanding of the context of this paper. Secondly, we would like to thank Anie Weidal and Nils Lervik, who both took the time to give us feedback that certainly improved this paper. Thank you for the support!

Bachelor Thesis 15 ECTS Global Studies Spring 2020

Jesper Bjelke & Edvard Lervik Number of pages: 33

“Excommunication, Apostasy, and the Islamic State”

The practice of Takfir in the Islamic State, an analysis of the propaganda magazine Dabiq.


Table of contents

1. Introduction ... 1

2. Purpose and Research Questions ... 2

3. Theory and Terminology ... 2

3.1 Theory ... 2

3.1 Terminology ... 2

4. Previous Research ... 4

4.1 The uses of Dabiq ... 4

4.2 The Function and Effect of Takfir ... 5

4.3 Ideological Discourse ... 6

4.4 Justifications for Takfir ... 7

5. Methodology ... 8

5.1 Choice of Method ... 8

5.2 Material Selection ... 8

5.3 Analysis of Data ... 9

5.4 Validity and Reliability ... 9

5.5 Criticism of Qualitative Research ... 10

5.6 Limitations ... 10

6. Result and Analysis ... 11

6.1 Process of Declaring Takfir ... 11

6.2 Rationalization of Takfir ... 13

6.2.1 Apostasy ... 13

6.2.2 Crusader-backed ... 14

6.2.3 Kufr ... 14

6.2.4 Hadiths and Scripture ... 15

6.3 Social Identity Theory and Takfir ... 15

6.3.1 Categorizing In- and Out-groups ... 16

6.3.2 The In-group ... 16

6.3.3 The Out-group ... 16

6.4 The Apostatized Factions ... 17

6.4.1 Al-Qaidah ... 17

6.4.2 The Rafidah ... 18

6.4.3 The Tawaghit States ... 19

6.4.4 Other Factions ... 19


8. Conclusion ... 22

9. References ... 24

10. Annex ... 28



1. Introduction

The Islamic State is arguably the most infamous terror organization in contemporary times. At the height of the organization’s territorial presence, the Islamic State controlled large areas in Iraq and Syria, and functioned as an unrecognized proto-state. In present time the IS is defeated as a territorial entity in both Iraq and Syria, however remnants of the terrorist organization is still active in the area alongside several affiliated organizations in other regions.

The roots of the Islamic State is found as far back as 2002 in Iraq, at the time of which the force was led by Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Originally, the force was a local offshoot of al-Qaidah, referred to as AQ-I (al-Qaidah in Iraq). Following al-Zarqawi's death in 2006, the force adopted the name Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). Leadership of the organization passed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2010 and by 2013 the organization had expanded and was conducting operations in Syria as well as Iraq. In early 2014, the Islamic State declared that it was not, nor had it ever been, an offshoot of al-Qaidah and that the IS therefore owed them neither obedience nor allegiance. June 2014 saw the declaration of the re-established Caliphate. Al-Baghdadi was declared Caliph and Imam, i.e. the leader to all Muslims globally. Following the declaration, the organization dropped the references to Iraq and Syria from its name, going from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the Islamic State (Blanchard & Humud, 2016). The Islamic State as a proto-state and an entity controlling territory collapsed during the conclusion of 2017. The Islamic State lost its de facto capital Raqqa, later Mosul fell as well (Clark, 2017). Presently, the Islamic State does not control any territories.

At the height of its power, the Islamic State had large production of propaganda material. Al-Hayat Media Center was a part of the Islamic State propaganda machine, that focused on producing and distributing content aimed at a western audience of non-Arabic speakers. Al-Hayat put out videos, short films, articles, news reporters, and the magazine Dabiq.

Dabiq is an English language magazine that was published from the year 2014 through

2016, in all the magazine published fifteen issues. Dabiq was focused on influencing a western audience and spreading the Islamic States ideas. The magazine is named after a small town in Syria where some hadiths predicts the last battle between the virtuous Islamic armies and “Rome” will play out (Droogan & Peattie, 2017).

Takfir has existed as a practice within Islam since the religion’s foundation. Originally the practice was a tool used for negotiations related to traditional discourses, but it has changed much since then. In recent years Takfir has been used to justify violence against others within the Islamic community. The aforementioned practice in recent time has resulted in conflicts between various Islamic communities with diverging beliefs. A prime example of its more contemporary practice was in October 1981 where Takfir was used to justify the assassination of the Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (McCarthy, 2015).

To justify one’s action is a common need for jihadists as they must fight with the right intent. Declaring jihad without the right intent will, according to some jihadists, result in you going to hell. Therefore, Takfir is a useful tool to the jihadists as it not only justifies their hostile actions towards other Muslims, but also emphasizes that their intent is indeed just. Takfir is then a useful practice used by Jihadists to claim that their enemies are not true Muslims. By doing so the jihadists are able to justify their aggressive actions while also being convinced that they have a just intent (Nilsson, 2015).



Previous research shows that there is a research gap in the understanding of Takfir’s influence in recent conflicts. The role Takfir played in the infighting between militias after the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the discord within al-Qaidah is covered in previous research. However, as the Islamic State eclipsed al-Qaidah as the preeminent Islamistic terrorist group, the views of the IS is inadequately explored. This study aims to begin the process of filling this gap by examining the role of Takfir within the Islamic State.

2. Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this paper is to examine the beliefs and practices on the Takfir doctrine held by the Islamic State (IS). More specifically, the paper aims to study how the organization makes use of Takfir. By analysing the IS’s English language magazine,

Dabiq, this paper will focus on four distinct aspects of the organization’s beliefs and

practises of Takfir. These aspects are as follows; how the act of Takfir is rationalized, who it is used against, how the process of sentencing groups as apostates’ function, and to what extent social identity theory is applicable. This paper aims to focus on these four aspects by answering the following research questions:

How is the Takfir sentencing process presented in Dabiq?

• How does the Islamic State rationalize the use of Takfir?

In Dabiq, how does Takfir follow the dynamics laid out in Social Identity Theory?

• Which groups are declared apostates using Takfir by the Islamic State through


3. Theory and Terminology

3.1 Theory

Social Identity Theory (SIT) is a socio-psychological theory developed by Henri Taijfel. The theory argues how an individual's conception of self, their ego-identity, is based in part on the group or groups the individual belongs to and identifies with. The status of the individual's group, the in-group, is dependent on comparison to outside groups. Therefore, self-conceptualization and -image for the individual is tied to the in-group’s status as it compares to other groups. The groups status and characteristics can be central in the individual's self-image and self-esteem. Therefore, it is common to build up positive stereotypes of the in-group and negative once of the out-group. The out-group is the other, outside and different from the in-group that the individual identifies as and with. Groups can be based on ethnicity, culture, economics, and religion, among others (Sanders, 2019).

3.2 Terminology


The practice of pronouncing an individual or group as an unbeliever (Kafir), and no longer a Muslim belonging to the religion of Islam. The doctrine is widely adopted by militant Islamist groups as a tool to sanction and justify violence against political leaders, their adversaries, and civilians. Mainstream Islam, as well as many Islamist, rejects the concept (Esposito, 2003).

Apostate (Murtadd)

An apostate is an individual that has renounced its religion. The classical Islamic legal tradition calls for banishment or execution as the punishment for apostasy, while modern



scholars argues against the death penalty since the Quran prohibits compulsion in religious matters.

Apostate in Arabic is Murtadd, while the act of apostasy is referred to as Riddah or Irtidad (Esposito, 2003).

Kufr (unbelief)

Kufr is the concept of disbelief within Islam. The term is mentioned 482 times in the Quran and holds special significance to reform movements. Many of the Islamic reform movements believes that modern Islam has been corrupted and that idolatry [shirk] and ignorance [jahiliyyah]. Some groups also view western influence on the Islamic world as a cause of Kufr (Esposito, 2003).


Hadiths, or sayings of the Prophet, are reports of words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad and early Muslims. They are considered as authoritative of revelation, second only to the Quran within Islam. Hadiths serve as sources of contextualization for Quranic revelations, Islamic law, and biographical material about Muhammad (Esposito, 2003).


Quranic term meaning migration or withdrawal. It refers to the migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E., which is year one in the Islamic calendar. Hijrah symbolizes the willingness to suffer for the faith and a refusal to lose hope when facing prosecution. It can be undertaken collectively or individually in response to a threat. In recent history, it has been used to oppose colonial rule, to legitimize Muslim migrations, to settle Bedouin tribes, and to consolidate power. Hijrah has also been ascribed the meaning of withdrawal from the politics of secularism, capitalism, socialism, and modernization/Westernization. In Sufism, the term refers to self-purification as a part of a inner spiritual journey that leads back to God. For the IS hijrah means to migrate to the body of Islam, i.e. the Caliphate (Esposito, 2003).


Rafidah is a derogatory name used by some Sunni Muslims toward the Shi´ite. The name is a term of disapproval and abuse meaning “repudiators”. This term is based on the division between the two main sects of Islam, were the Shia rejected the three first of the four al-Khulafa ar-Rashidun, so called “rightly guided” the caliphs following the prophet Muhammad (Bowker, 2003).


A branch of Islam whose adherents believe in a pure interpretation of the Quran and Islamic law. Salafists are orthodox Muslims who consider the Islam practised by Muhammad and his companions as the only true version of the religion. Salafist Islam is the base for the ideology of several violent Islamist organizations including al‐Qaidah (Gooch & Williams, 2015).

Islamism (Islamistic)

Islamism describes political ideologies based on Islam. Political and social activities carried out or driven by such ideologies are referred to as Islamistic. The ideologies are based on a fundamentalist view of Islam and the goal of implementing an Islamistic system of governance. Islamism is not one unified ideology, but rather a term that describes those ideologies that are based on the religion of Islam. This means that different Islamistic



groups may hold opposing and differing views based on local politics, context, and culture (Esposito, 2003).


Taghut is a term that is used within Islam and describes a false god or idol. The term is also used against tyrannical rulers and regimes. This, since Taghut implies that the leader expropriates the power for God in order to oppress the people. This interpretation of the term is used by Islamist terrorist groups as they fight against governments in Islamic countries (Esposito, 2003).

Jihad and Jihadist

Jihad in Arabic means “to strive”, “to strive,” “to exert,” or “to fight”; with the exact meaning beholden to context. Jihad in Islam can be internal, the struggle against internal evil, or external, i.e. converting unbelievers or acting on behalf of the moral of the Islamic community. Jihad is also the only legal form of warfare within Islam, and have restrictions and conditions set by sharia. Violent Islamist groups define their armed action against democracies and secular states as Jihad (Esposito, 2003).

Jihadists in this paper refers to individuals that advocate for, are connected to, or fight as members of armed and violent Islamist groups.


Mujahedin describes fighters, often guerrilla fighters, that fight for Islamistic armed group (Esposito, 2003). This is also the term that the IS uses for its fighters in Dabiq.

The Islamic State

The terrorist organization has been known by several names, which can be confusing as there are different names used to describe the same organization. While the organization in its early days were known as ISIL [Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant] or ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], it is more commonly known as the IS. The Islamic State has also been referred to as Daesh, an abbreviation of al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham. The abbreviation was commonly used by Arabic speakers and was later adopted by many westerners. The Daesh abbreviation sounds similarly the Arabic term daesh, which means “one who creates deviation”. For this reason, the IS declines the name and it is why many adversaries adopted the term. Throughout this paper the name Islamic State and the abbreviation IS will be used.

4. Previous Research

The previous research section of this paper presents a selection of the research currently available on the topic of Takfir. The relevance is proven by how the selection exemplifies the different trends and focuses within the research. This section will cover the existing research landscape on Takfir as well as research where Takfir is a factor. Furthermore, this section will present research on the Islamic State’s propaganda magazine Dabiq as it is interconnected with the topic of Takfir.

4.1 The uses of Dabiq

In the article The road to Genocide: The Propaganda Machine of the Self-declared Islamic

State (IS) (Badar, 2016), Dabiq is included as a part of the propaganda machine that the

Islamic State uses for recruitment purposes and furthering their own goals. In the article Badar (2016) argues for how these propagandic messages causes incitements to commit



genocide. By examining the magazine, the author concludes that Dabiq, amongst other sources of the propaganda machine, does promote the idea of committing genocide. Takfir then becomes a tool which is used as means to justify the act itself, thus making a supposedly convincing case that it is imperative for the readers to stand against the false Muslims and their allies.

Dabiq’s purpose is further explained in Droogan & Peattie’s article Mapping the thematic landscape of Dabiq magazine (2017), where the magazine is divided into various themes.

The themes are then shifted into what the authors refer to as four phases that explains the changing trends of the magazine over time. The issues of the magazine are divided into the four phases, with the two first issues being phase one. Each phase then represents a different topic which holds importance to the IS. Phase one, according to the authors, focuses on ‘Building the Caliphate’. The other two issues are considered phase two where the focus shifts to instead turn its attention to anti-Western themes. Issue five through eight is considered the third phase which has no obvious trends. The fourth phase, however, is of most importance to this study as it has a strong focus on out-groups. This phase includes issue nine to thirteen and also clarifies the supposed enemies of the Islamic State. In addition to this Takfir then becomes a tool in the fourth phase where the IS makes accusations of religious illegitimacy (Droogan & Peattie, 2017).

Defining out-groups is once again brought up in the article Apostasy and

Counter-Narratives - Two sides of the same coin: The Example of the Islamic state. Here, Göran

Larsson (2017) examines and compares an article in Dabiq and the criticism written against the magazine by Sheikh Mohammad al-Yaqoubi. Larsson (2017) claims that there is a great divide within the Islamic community on who is to be considered a true Muslim. Depending on which Islamic camp one belongs to the thought of what is right or wrong will definitely vary. The author also describes how it can be easy to claim that Islamic groups that advocate violence are not a part of “True Islam”. Furthermore, the author demonstrates how both al-Yaqoubi and the Islamic State uses similar grounds to base their opinion on, but still evidently end up with a different result. A final central note which holds importance to this study as well is how the author makes it clear that it is not for secular scholars and academics to decide what is to be considered the true Islam. Instead, the focus must be on the result of empirical findings and a critical analysis as it is a theological debate which does not belong in social science (Larsson, 2017).

4.2 The Function and Effect of Takfir

While Takfir in essence is a religious process and doctrine, it has taken on different dimensions when in the context of politics and conflict, both armed and unarmed. While numerous Islamic scholars have attempted to codify the border between belief [Iman] and infidelity [Kufr], there is no singular process or criteria agreed upon for Takfir within Islam. Given that, there is an ongoing discourse regarding the theological basis of excommunicating self-professed Muslims form the Umma [community]. An early example of Takfir as a political tool, in semi-modern situation, is seen in the establishment of the first Saudi state in 1960, as identified by Firro (2013). In The Political Context of

Early Wahhabi Discourse of Takfir Firro discusses and exemplifies how the Saudi and the

al-Wahhabi family used Takfir in order to justify violence against political and ideological opponents. By claiming the authority to distinguish between true and false belief the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance were able engage in warfare without much theological justification (Firro, 2013).



The usage of Takfir as a means to justify warfare and armed action is very much a reality in the political landscape of the Islamic world. Several adversarial relationships exist between self-professed Muslims in the present day on political, ideological, and religious levels. State sponsorship of proxy groups and geo-political struggles in the Islamic world has made the use of Takfir invaluable. The most visible implementation of Takfir, as a tool in violence and conflict, is by Jihadist groups such as al-Qaidah and the IS. Both these groups are regularly making use of Takfir as intra-Islamic conflict is dominating the current Jihadist landscape. While geopolitical circumstances can be seen as a driving force for intra-Islamic conflict, Takfir has played a central role in how, why, and against whom the violence is perpetrated against. The Shia-Sunni conflict is one of the divisions that act both as a political and religious conflict line, but it is not the only one. Al-Qaidah and the IS both are based in Sunni Islam, ideologically explaining the groups hostility toward Shia states, groups, and populations. The Takfir usage is not only used against Shia targets however, the IS especially has engaged in warfare against Sunni Muslims in the form of governmental forces, rival militias and armed group, and civilian populations. All factions not loyal to the Islamic State, or those considered illegitimate Muslims by the IS, are targets of the Takfiri doctrine (Alvi, 2014).

4.3 Ideological Discourse

One can compare the Islamic State and al-Qaidah as they are similar entities. This, however, is very untrue which is demonstrated in Christina Hartmann’s (2017) article named Who does (not) belong to the jihadis’ umma? A comparison of IS’s and al Qaida’s

use of takfir to exclude people from the Muslim community. The greatest difference

between the two organizations, according to Hartmann (2017), is how they make use of Takfir. More specifically the difference is on who the two organizations believe to be part of the umma. The Islamic State is very specific in who they consider to be a true Muslim as they must be Sunni and completely subjected to their ideology. Al-Qaidah, on the other hand, focuses less on defining who are a part of the Umma, as their focus is not necessarily on targeting apostates but rather on the far enemy which, according to the organization, is the United States of America. They do, however, agree on the fact that Arab regimes are to be considered Kufr and are thus enemies to the true Islam (Harmann, 2017).

Another discourse within Islam is between the jihadi and the reformist factions of the transnational Salafi movement. In The New Global Threat: Transnational Salafis and

Jihad does Wiktorowicz (2001) differentiate the two factions’ opinion on when and how a

jihad should be undertaken. The reformists believe that the Salafis must first and foremost make a foundation of religious understanding before the Umma is capable of attempting a jihad. While they, just like the jihadi, understand the need of a jihad, they do not believe it to be done unless there is a great necessity for it. An example for when it is to be considered a necessary action by Salafi was when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan or during the Muslim massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The jihadis instead believe that Salafis should immediately act the second that Muslims are oppressed. The example to what is to be considered being oppressed is made by Osama Bin Laden when he claimed that America and Israel are killing weaker men, women and children belonging to the Muslim community. This so-called American aggression is, according to the jihadi, reason enough to take up arms against the far enemy (Wiktorowicz, 2001).

A third and final discourse can be found between the Salafi-jihadis and Neo-Takfiris. Eli Alshech (2014) discusses this discourse in his article named The Doctrinal Crisis within



ideologies is not as much on the use of jihad but rather the stance one, as a Muslim, should take to the morally corrupt environment that you live in. The Neo-Takfiris then find a need to uphold a pure religious life no matter the cost. Thus, they do not adapt their religious ideals to the social and political landscape that they live in. The Salafi-jihadis are then far more adaptable as they accept the so-called “impure Islamic surrounding” that they live in. Another difference between the two is what they believe is the path of achieving salvation. Neo-Takfiris believe that one must both avoid grave sins and reject apostatizing behaviour as a true Muslim cannot even remotely resemble an infidel. Meanwhile Salafi-Jihadis believe that you can be a true Muslim even when accepting the rule of an apostate ruler. You must, however, forsake any apostate tendencies and behaviours (Alshech, 2014). In

Violent Jihad in the Netherlands: Current trends in the Islamist terrorist threat (Ministry

of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, 2006, p. 32-33) neo-Takfirism is explained further. The neo-Takfiri in this case are younger European Muslims who do not fully grasp Arabic but still attempt to interpret its meanings. This false interpretation results in what is referred to as a radical ‘cut-and-paste’ of the Quran which in turn leads to an extreme and misconceived version on Islam.

4.4 Justifications for Takfir

Satoru Nakamura (2019) goes back to examine various theologians and scholars before the time of the Ottoman Empire. One of these theologians was Ibn Taymiyyah who strongly advocated defensive jihad. He was cautious and deliberative on the use of Takfir but did not shy away from using it against his opponents as he made attempts to have them regarded as disbelievers. In The Tenets of Jihad and Takfir in the Emerging Concept of

Wasatiya (Moderation) as Counterterrorism in Saudi Arabia Nakamura (2019) continue

to make examples of how Takfir was rationalized and justified throughout history. It is described in the article how the defensive jihad became more offensive over time and that the use of Takfir did not originate in tenets of Islam but was instead declared through unofficial and non-academic methods such as letters, statements, preaching and oral discourse (Nakamura, 2019). The article demonstrates how the evolution of Takfir has changed drastically, as it has gone from being used with caution and deliberation to become a tool used freely in un-official settings.

In Al-Takfir wa’l Hijra: Unpacking an Enigma Jeffrey B. Cozzens (2009) examines how a extremist Jihadi organisation named Al-Takfir wa’l Hijra (ATWH) used Takfir. ATWH was founded by Shukri Mustafa who was previously a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. His stance on Islam was very unlike the mainstream trends of that day as Mustafa required his followers to emulate the path of Muhammad when he emigrated from Mecca to Medina. This emigration was emulated in the form of having the members of ATWH denounce the Egyptian society. This denunciation went as far as to the members not praying in public mosques given that they were connected to the state. The justification of Takfir then becomes clear as Mustafa claims that all who do not follow these specific instructions and are not a member of ATWH declares themselves an enemy of God and should thus be treated accordingly. This proves that the ATWH has numerous tools to justify their use of Takfir. By claiming that no human can be the source of divine guidance is ATWH and its members capable of ignoring the words of jurists, theologists and other prominent members of the Islamic community. By disregarding all beside their own interpretations of religious texts has the ATWH been able to rationalize not only their use of Takfir but also their own actions. For example, present ATWH are integrating themselves in the western society, meaning that they take on practices that are otherwise often considered heretical by Islamic standards (Cozzens, 2009).



5. Methodology

5.1 Choice of Method

A qualitative content analysis is the method used for this study in order to answer its research questions. The method has been applied to the study’s primary source of data which is the online magazine Dabiq, a magazine that was published by al-Hayat Media Center and was founded by the Islamic State (Droogan & Peattie, 2017, p. 592-593).

A qualitative content analysis is useful when examining Dabiq for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is how the method allows for interpretation of the analysed text, which is advantageous given the material it is being applied on. This is because Dabiq, as a source, is difficult to analyse given how it focuses on disseminating propagandistic views to its readers (Droogan & Peattie, 2017, p. 592). As Bryman (2011, p. 505-506) states, a qualitative content analysis is mainly used to discern themes within the reviewed texts. In the case of this paper such themes are central to answering the research questions. The study relies on identifying these themes to clarify how the Islamic State has made use of the Takfiri doctrine, which in turn is not a central topic within Dabiq.

Bryman (2011, p. 346-347) explains how a qualitative method allows for both interpretation and the accumulation of relevant data. A qualitative content analysis thus gives the study the ability to interpret the magazine while also searching for specific themes. This is how the study strives to answer its research questions, as it becomes especially important given that Dabiq is the sole source of data for the study. Therefore, it is important that the data found is both relevant to the study and can be thoroughly analysed in order for it to yield as valid and accurate results as possible.

5.2 Material Selection

This paper analyses the propaganda magazine Dabiq which is accessible through various websites online. The material is gathered as pdf files of the the fifteen issues of the magazine from the webpage of the US’s think tank The Clarion Project. All Issues of

Dabiq were available on the site, and problems such as having to go on Jihadist platforms

to gather the material for this paper was avoided. While the Clarion Project presents and comments on the magazine and its specific issues, none of this material was read or processed by the researchers in this paper. This is because gathering Dabiq as material was the sole purpose when looking at the Clarion Project. In addition to this, the way Dabiq is referenced to in this paper should be clarified. The reference will be to the magazine with both the issue and the page, e.g. Dabiq 8:4, meaning Dabiq issue 8 and page 4. While a minority of the articles in the magazine are accredited to writers, they will not be referenced in this article. It is common for Jihadists to adopt new names when joining up with the Islamic State. Due to this fact, it seems somewhat redundant to refer to an author. However, the authors are referred to in the full list of analysed articles in the appendix to this paper. Between the year 2014 and 2016 al-Hayat Media Center has published fifteen issues of

Dabiq. Each issue varies in length, but on average the issues are sixty pages long (Droogan

& Peattie, 2017, p. 592). To thoroughly analyse each article within the fifteen issues of

Dabiq would not be possible within the time frame of this study. Attempting to do would

diminishing the validity of this study.

In order to maintain the validity of this study while also gathering data with appropriate relevance, keywords were used to search through every published issue of Dabiq. The first



keyword used to initialize the search process was Takfir. By searching for how many times the word was used in each issue of Dabiq it became clear that some issues held more relevance to the study than others. However, to make sure that critical articles were not overlooked due to them lacking one specific word, the search was broadened as explained below. Based on this search articles relevant to the study were identified from Dabiq’s issues. The articles of the initial search were examined in search of recurring words.

After examining the initial articles, a set of keywords were identified as important and relevant for the study. These keywords were, in addition to Takfir, Murtadd, Apostate, and Riddah. The relevance of the articles was then categorized by how frequently the keywords were mentioned. Any material lacking the keywords were categorized as less likely to hold relevance and therefore disregarded. By using the selected keywords, a more manageable number of articles were identified for analysis. This, in turn, became the selected material that this study is based on.

5.3 Analysis of Data

The selection process resulted in thirty different articles to be analysed due to their relevance to the purpose of this study. In order to locate answers to the research questions a qualitative analysis was used. Potential themes were separated into what could be considered as answers to one of the four different research questions. Each research question was coloured to make the process clearer while also making the separation of themes more distinct so that there was no overlapping.

Throughout the analysis any section or paragraph that was considered applicable to our research questions copied and marked with the colour of which research question it held relevance to. Then, once all thirty articles had been analysed, were the excerpts examined further in order to highlight the various identifiable themes. This approach proved to be very useful as the themes became rather apparent given how repetitively Dabiq makes use of different themes and phrases.

We identified various themes regarding, for example, the rationalization of Takfir by how often the Islamic State used terms such as apostate, kufr and crusaders. These three terms then became highlighted as they were either used directly or through equally as distinguishable synonyms. This process was used to discern the themes of all the research questions as the examined excerpts allowed for a similar approach. Additionally, there themes were other, less specified, examples were used to give a more thorough answer to the paper’s research questions.

5.4 Validity and Reliability

As already mentioned before, the validity has of the study been considered throughout the process. To make certain that such was the case four concepts has been used by LeCompte & Goetz been regarded and taken into account while working on the study (Bryman, 2011, p. 352).

The first concept is external reliability which is supposed to measure how repeatable the study is. Normally this is considered difficult for a qualitative study. However, due to the reasoning that shall be explained later on, this study has focused on one primary source which remains the same. Following studies therefore able to mimic our method of analysing Dabiq and thus partially recreate the study which in turn increases the reliability. Internal reliability is the second concept which is relatively easy to achieve as it simply



means that those involved in the study agrees with how the data is being interpreted. This has been achieved given that we, the two students working on this study, has constantly been communicating and working cohesively as a unit (Bryman, 2011, p. 352).

Third is internal validity which LeCompte & Goetz explains is when there is a clear conformity between concepts and the observations made. This is accomplished as the research questions of this study is made as tools for examining Dabiq which is the data that has been thoroughly analysed. External validity, the final concept, is not relevant for this study. Given that the research questions only involve the Islamic State and Dabiq generalization is not a problem since the topic of the paper is contained to our result and study (Bryman, 2011, p. 352).

5.5 Criticism of Qualitative Research

Bryman (2011, p. 368-370) brings up four different weaknesses of a qualitative research which all holds relevance to this study. These weaknesses are of course difficult to avoid given that no method is without its flaws. All four weaknesses will be explained briefly in the follow section while also describing how they have affected this particular study.

The first weakness mentioned is how qualitative research often can be seen as subjective, which means that researchers have a tendency to base their conclusions on personal interpretations (Bryman, 2011, p. 368). Given that the method of this study is a qualitative content analysis it is of course difficult to accommodate for this deficiency. This is especially true given that our main means of examining data is by interpretation articles within Dabiq. Difficulties in replicating the research is the second weakness which has already been touched upon through external reliability. The inability to replicate a qualitative study is based on the fact that the researcher places their own values into the research which makes it hard to recreate (Bryman, 2011, p. 368-369). As explained in regard to external reliability this weakness is not all that relevant to this study given the single source used and how the used themes are apparent throughout the entire paper.

How qualitative research has a problem with generalization is the third critique. More specifically, the problem is that you cannot generalize the results of a qualitative research. Therefore, are the results not applicable in any other case than the one they have been made for (Bryman, 2011, p. 369-370). It is difficult for our study to make up for this weakness since the research questions are specifically made for examining Dabiq while the themes found are restricted to the chosen articles. The final weakness, however, does not affect our study as much given that it concerns studies lacking transparency. Given that this study does not make use of neither observations nor interviews is this not a prominent weakness to be considered according to Bryman (2011, p. 370).

5.6 Limitations

A set of difficulties were encountered throughout the process of writing this paper. The most evident one is the lack of cultural context. While examining Dabiq it was quickly made clear that certain knowledge was required in order to fully understand what was being said. Therefore, much time was spent in order to get a greater understanding of this context and also researching the meaning of Arabic terms that was repeated throughout most issues of the magazine. This predicament, while manageable, became time consuming as it extended the analysis process as a whole.



It should also be noted that analysing Dabiq meant that we examined what the Islamic State wanted to be read. The difficulty is then that words written in Dabiq are not being compared to any other source. Given the context of Dabiq it is evident that the material is purposely lacking in aspects of the Islamic State that might reflect poorly on the organization. Originally the idea was to compare Dabiq to a more mainstream Islamic outlook by interviewing local Imams and discussing their thoughts on the use of Takfir. That, however, became difficult with Covid-19 that resulted in many mosques being closed down in Sweden during the period where this paper was being written (Johansson, 2020). The change of approach also limited our time to a certain degree as the original plan to perform interviews was discarded several weeks in. These difficulties that were experienced throughout the process of writing this paper, while inconvenient, were all manageable in the end.

6. Result and Analysis

6.1 Process of Declaring Takfir

The process by which individuals and/or groups are judged with Takfir is not presented in one singular nor coherent way in Dabiq. Rather, the ways in which apostasy is determined are varied. Throughout the magazines fifteen issues, numerous self-describing Muslims are categorised as other than belonging to the faith [Islam] in several differing means. As the reasoning for Takfir differs, so does the process shown in Dabiq. The analysis of Takfir relevant material located in Dabiq magazine identified the following processes of Takfir judgments.

One of the processes of Takfir described in Dabiq is the judgments made by historical scholars and religious authorities. The targeted group are labelled as apostates with reference to judgments made of the group’s centuries ago. By referring to medieval declarations of Takfir the Shiite Muslims are marked as apostates, or rather the sect position as other than Islam is upheld in Dabiq; “Imam Ahmad was asked about on who

curses Abu Baker,’Umar, or ‘A´ishah. He replied, ‘I don’t consider him to be upon Islam (…) ‘I fear kufr for those who – like the Rafidha – course the Sahabah. We can safely say that one who cures the Sahabah of the Prophet has left the religion” (Dabiq 13:35). This

Takfir judgment was made by Ahamed ibn Hanbal (780-855 AD) a Sunni jurist and scholar. In Dabiq, the authority of the past is used to categorize Shia Muslims as non-Muslims and to incite violence toward them. This same process of presenting Takfir declarations from the medieval period, without making an apostasy judgment on the authority of the IS, is levied against the Druze and the Nusayryyah sects using the judgment made by Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (661-728 AD). “Shaykhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah

was asked about the ruling upon the Nusayriyyah and the Druze and answered, ‘The Druze and the Nusayriyyah are kuffār according to the agreement of the Muslims.(...) for they are apostates from the religion of Islam...” (Dabiq 10:8). In both the case of the Rafidah

[Shia], the Druze and Nusayryyah, the centuries old judgments are presented in articles were Dabiq describes their military actions and skirmishes with militias of the judged sects. The Druze and Nusayryyah fought the IS as a part of Iraqi government forces and Shia militias fought the Caliphate in both Syria and Iraq.

Dabiq does present contemporary declarations of Takfir. In these cases, the declarations

of Takfir are made by contemporary Jihadist leaders. In a printed speech, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State until his death in 2019, stated;



“[I’ve said to my army] if the Muslims perform adhān and they do not perform adhān, then rush to kill them. And if they perform adhān, then restrain yourselves from attacking them until you ask them to deliver what is obligatory upon them [the zakāh]. If they refuse, then rush to kill them” (Dabiq 7:18).

This is a blanket Takfir judgment of any individual that does not perform the religious rites in the way that the IS fighters see fit. Al-Baghdadi’s declaration gives the IS members a tool to justify violence and based on the tax issue of the zakah.

In the Dabiq article, Report: the Punishing of Shuáytät for Treachery, police officers and military personnel are declared as automatic apostates based on the words of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the organization which later became the Islamic State;

“[al-Zarqawi] also said, “From now on, everyone whose affiliation with the pagan guards, police, and army is confirmed, or his collaboration and espionage for the crusaders is verified, then his ruling is execution, …” (Dabiq 3:12). The judgment is presented as a

declaration and it calls for violence against soldiers and police officers that serve man made laws and regimes.

An example of a Takfir process further down in the IS power structure is found in issue nr. 7 of Dabiq. In correlation to disparate jihadist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan swearing allegiance to the IS, they gather to establish the local power structure and proclaim their loyalty to the Caliphate. During the curse of the gathering a Pakistani soldier was sentenced as an apostate and executed; “The declaration of this Pakistani soldier’s riddah [apostasy]

and his subsequent execution are both matters that these jihād claimants” (Dabiq 6:32).

While the article does not go into any greater detail of the sentencing process, it presents the elected local leader as having the authority to declare the soldier’s apostasy.

As it is presented in Dabiq, it appears that the declaration of Takfir has a decentralized process. Despite this, members of the IS in encouraged to be tempered and caseous in applying the kufr label on to people;

“…you are not allowed to apply [takfir] to anyone except those who deserve it according to the Sharī’ah. And know that takfīr has both conditions and preventative factors, so we don’t declare takfīr of someone unless the conditions are fulfilled and the preventative factors are eliminated.” (Dabiq 6:7).

This assertion anchors the declaration of Takfir stronger to Shariah jurisprudence than it is presented in the rest of Dabiq.

It should be clarified that in a significant number of the instances where a group or individual was classified as apostates, there was no description of the process by which the Takfir judgment was determined. The terms of murtadd, apostate, or any other classifications were simply attached to the groups or individuals. In the instances where the process is not shown, the absence seems to be due to the IS and Dabiq’s authors viewing the question of apostasy to be obvious. This is evident in the description of the Syrian dictator Bashr al-Asad in the 12th issue of Dabiq; “… as Bashr al-Asad is a murtadd

taghut belonging to the apostate Nusayri sect and apostate Baath party; (…) His evil is so clear-cut that it does not require a trial to prove his apostasy and crimes…” (Dabiq 12:14).

Based on al-Asad being a Taghut, i.e. the head of a state with man-made as opposed to Sharia laws, and the version of Islam he practises, he is declared an apostate. This marks him for death according to Dabiq, without the need for a legal procedure.



6.2 Rationalization of Takfir

In order to rationalize their use of Takfir the Islamic State, through Dabiq, repeatedly attempts to convince their readers that the targeted groups are indeed the enemy. Using Takfir to claim that all who abandons Islam is an enemy deserving of violent retribution is not necessarily the common interpretation of the practice. However, for the Islamic State this practice has been interpreted and used as such. They do so by various means and adopts a very specific vocabulary to differentiate friends from foe. This vocabulary is the Islamic State’s primary means of justifying their use of not only Takfir, but also determining who to collectively wage war against. In addition to the specific vocabulary the IS does also refers to hadiths and other quotes to support their actions.

6.2.1 Apostasy

When examining Dabiq the word apostasy stands out as the primary term used to pronounce who is an enemy of the Islamic State. Apostasy then, by extension, emerges as the main method of rationalizing the proclamation of Takfir. While the term apostate is independently used to differentiate friends from foes, it is frequently used in tandem with other terms that define groups as enemies of the Islamic State.

Islamic State’s effort to invalidate their enemies by declaring them apostates is repeatedly demonstrated in Dabiq. For instance, they openly question the actions of their enemies by claiming that “If those holding supposedly good intentions were truthful, they would

abandon the Sahwah alliance, repent from their apostasy, pronounce takfir upon their former allies, and wage war against them, not the against the Islamic State.” (Dabiq 12:16)

Statements similar to this one is not uncommon in Dabiq as it clarifies to its readers who the enemies are. In this case it is of course the Sawah alliance who are outright declared to be apostates and thus, by extension, becomes a viable target to wage war against. Various methods are used to validate their claim as they, for example, bring up how the alliance is affiliated to other enemies of Islam (Dabiq 12:17).

How apostasy is revealed through various affiliations is emphasized as Dabiq claims the following; “And so they cooperate with these apostate allies against the Islamic State,

thereby drowning themselves in the depths of apostasy.” (Dabiq 12:54). This citation

demonstrates how factions associated with organizations already established as apostate are likely to also eventually be regarded as apostates. To associate one with apostasy is, however, not the only way that the IS makes an enemy of other factions. There are times where no reason is given beside that their enemies had “...apostatized years ago…” (Dabiq 13:8). There are many examples similar to these where the term apostate is used to accentuate who the enemy of the IS truly is. The Islamic State differentiates the levels of apostasy as there are claims such as; “Their apostasy is even grosser than any other, having

studied the clear texts proving their collapse into kufr.” (Dabiq 13:7). This statement shows

that the Islamic State considers some apostates less forgivable than others, as the educated in this case should know that they are indeed guilty of apostasy.

Throughout the entirety of Dabiq there are several examples on who is guilty of apostasy. Certain groups, which we shall examine more thoroughly later in the paper, are declared apostates with many different arguments backing this claim. At times the word apostate is used repeatedly in an attempt to highlight their apostasy to the readers of the magazine. An example of this is the article The Rafidah from Ibn Saba´ to the Dajjal (Dabiq 13:32-45) where the Islamic States repeatedly uses the word apostate while talking about the Rafidah.



In this article the so-called Rafidah are declared apostates thirteen times which shows how keen the Islamic State is to clarify their ties to apostasy.

6.2.2 Crusader-backed

Another prominent method of rationalizing the use of Takfir against other self-identifying Muslim organization is to expose their affiliation with the so-called Crusader-state. In

Dabiq the term crusader is used to describe western states, such as the United States of

America and Europe, as a whole (Dabiq 12:11). When Dabiq claims an organization to be crusader-backed, it means that the members of said organization are, due to their affiliation with the crusaders, considered apostates. Additionally, there are examples where a group’s affiliation with crusaders is merely a tool used to strengthen the claim of the already existing apostasy.

Dabiq has various methods of arguing that an organization is crusader-backed. At times it

is a word used in passing when a territory was lost, in this case, due to “...these

crusader-backed apostates…” (Dabiq 12:17). These proclamations often lack context but is once

more repeatedly used to separate friend from foe. There are other instances such as the Islamic State’s enemies being considered “... that they are agents of the crusaders…” (Dabiq 12:54). The so-called crusader-states are not only considered enemies of the Islamic State but also, according to them, enemies and oppressors of Islam. The article “The allies

of Al-Qaidah in Sham: The End” (Dabiq 12:11) demonstrates this as Dabiq makes an effort

to rationalize their war against al-Qaidah. Their argument is that Al-Qaidah is cooperating with the crusader-state America and validates this by writing the following; “But does a

“jihād” group hand over its posts to crusader agents backed by crusader jets to fight against Muslims?” (Dabiq 12:11). In this case Dabiq makes it clear that any who are

backed by or collaborating with crusaders are enemies of Islam, thus rationalizing their use of Takfir.

6.2.3 Kufr

Kufr is another term often used in Dabiq to rationalize the denunciation of self-identifying Muslims. This term is often used to strengthen the argument of who is an apostate and enemy of Islam. Dabiq uses the term to clearly justify the fighting of all their enemies as all who oppose them are, according to the Islamic State, kufr. This is evident in Dabiq when the IS warns their enemies by stating the following; “So beware, for by fighting the

Islamic State you fall into kufr whether you realize it or not.” (Dabiq 10:50). The warning

they make is one that justifies many acts of violence that they have undertaken, as any organization attacking them is by default apostates.

In “Report: the Punishing of Shuáytät for Treachery” (Issue 3, p. 14) a hadith where a group of kufr are killed for their disbelief is quoted. Dabiq uses this to demonstrate the

“...severity of the prophetic punishment against the treacherous, false claimants of Islam.”

(Dabiq 3:14). This quote is one of many ways of how the Islamic State justifies their actions against those who are deemed kufr through deeds of apostasy. The Islamic State even goes as far as to claim that some Imams of the kufr, i.e. Imams whose ideology differs from the IS, are to be killed given that they “... are valid - rather, obligatory - targets according to



6.2.4 Hadiths and Scripture

While apostate, kufr and crusader-backed are all terms frequently used when the Islamic State argues for rationalization of their fight against other self-identifying Muslims, there are also other more direct quotes and examples. A prime example is found in the article

The Burning of the Murtadd Plot (Dabiq 7:5-8) where they cite the prophet Muhammad as

he states that “Whoever harms and ally of Mine, then I have declared war against him.” (Dabiq 7:6). Citations such as these are used in Dabiq to further justify the Islamic State’s use of Takfir as it is done in defence according to them. This perspective is repeated and strengthened in Kill the Imams of Kufr (Dabiq 13:6-8) where they claim that scholars defending and supporting the Taghut should be killed. Additionally, Dabiq cites a hadith that says; “... whoever aggresses against you, then aggress against him the like of which

he aggressed against you.” (Dabiq 13:8). Again, this consolidates the Islamic State’s

previous methods of declaring apostasy upon those attacking them.

There are also other, less evident, examples where Dabiq proves apostasy by explaining how their enemies are not adhering to the rules of Islam. The following quote exemplifies how the Islamic State categorizes apostates based on religious practices. The citation reads as follows:

The five daily prayers are likewise abandoned, and most of your people do not attend the jumu’ah or congregational prayer, nor do they pray individually. And most of those amongst you who do pray, pray individually at home, and those who attend congregational prayer are few in number. When one of them attends the prayer, he comes out and finds the people in the markets, abandoning the prayer and immersed in sin, play, immorality, and wrongs, and he does not denounce them. (Dabiq 10:60).

In the same issue, the article called The Allies of al-Qäídah in Sham; Part 3 (Dabiq10:6-13) explains how it is an obligation to pray five times a day, and by not doing so you are committing apostasy.

Lastly, another method of strengthening their legitimacy is how the Islamic State considers itself to be the only place “... which rules by that which Allah revealed…” (Dabiq 10:50). This means, according to Dabiq, that the Islamic State is the only place currently upholding the true values and practices of Islam. They continue by warning all Muslims who considers attacking the territories belonging to the Islamic State that they should; “... ask

yourself, ‘What is the ruling on someone who replaces or is a cause for the replacement of the law of Allah with the law of man?’” (Dabiq 10:50). Dabiq concludes by proclaiming

that all who wage war against the Islamic State or try to discard the laws of Allah are apostatized. (Dabiq 10:50-64).

6.3 Social Identity Theory and Takfir

Within the issues of Dabiq, a clear and significant distinction is made between the Umma, the community of true Muslims, and the Kufr, i.e. everybody outside of this group. Analysing this distinction through Social Identity Theory (SIT) will provide valuable insight into the relationship between the in- and out-group and as such will allow for further understanding of the IS use of Takfir. In this context the IS and their Umma is the in-group and all others are categorized as the out-group. Having laid claim on representing the Umma of Islam the IS faces the problem for individuals and groups that is they categorize as the other or an out-group claiming to belong to the Umma. Through the lens of SIT the Takfir practice can be seen as a tool to legitimize the categorization of claimants on the in-group as part of the out-in-group. Furthermore, the Takfir practice can be considered a tool



to strengthen the prestige and positive stereotypes that the in-group ascribes to itself, while enforcing negative stereotypes about the out-group. Through the lens of SIT, Dabiq can be seen as individuals building up and reaffirming the prestige of the group that they identify with.

6.3.1 Categorizing In- and Out-groups

While the Islamic State lays claim to the Umma of Islam as its in-group, the categorization of the community and the others is not based on religious practice and conduct alone. In addition to categorizing the in-group by adherence to a dogmatic interpretation of Islam, the in-group of the IS is defined by obedience and loyalty to the group and hatred toward all out-groups. Within the pages of Dabiq, the IS fluctuates between imploring the “true” Muslims to join the States and questioning the position of the Muslim population not living under the IS’s control. These two categorizations are often presented in tandem. The reader is warned against the evils of the grey-zone; hypocrisy, the crusaders and their apostate agents, and what living peacefully in territories rules by the kufr. In proximity to the damnation of the Muslims in the grey-zone, the reads are implored to join up with the IS.

So we warn the tribes, that any tribe or party or assembly whose involvement and collaboration with the crusaders and their apostate agents are confirmed, then by He who sent Muhammad with the truth, we will target them just as we target the crusaders, and we will eradicate and distinguish them, for there are only two camps: the camp of truth and its followers, and the camp of falsehood and its factions. So choose to be from one of the two camps. (Dabiq 3:12)

The “we” against the “other” is used to further categorize the group as in- or out-groups and its use to categorize the individual as in or out. In Dabiq the IS is clear in its view that there are only two religions, Islam [as interpreted by the IS] and the kafir [the other]. “In

reality, there are only two religions. There is the religion of Allah, which is Islam, and there is the religion of anything else, which is kufr.” (Dabiq 14:8). Moreover, Takfir and

apostasy is used to uphold the boundaries of the out-group and to show the exclusivity of the in-group.

6.3.2 The In-group

The strength and determination of the mujahidin, i.e. the fighters loyal to the IS, are presented as virtuous and something to aspire to in Dabiq. In the discourse and rhetoric about apostasy and Takfir in Dabiq, it is emphasized to the reader how the true mujahidin are strong and has sacrificed for their faith, “the mujāhidīn who sacrificed all that is dear

and precious, offered their souls without hesitation…” (Dabiq 5:22). The in-group is

described as patience and lasting against the forces of apostates and crusaders [westerners] that has acted against Islam. With the re-establishment of the Caliphate, Dabiq states that the wait is over and all who have endured the crusaders and apostates now have a pure Islamic State in the Caliphate. Takfir is used to differentiate the IS loyalists from the rest of the population that is either seen as apostates aiding the crusaders in their war on Islam or hypocrites that allow or turn a blind eye to the attacks.

6.3.3 The Out-group

The out-groups presented in Dabiq are simultaneously numerous and few. The Islamic State divides the world into only two sides, the side of Islam and the side of kufr. What the IS consider the side of kufr is the majority of the world, made up of thousands of ethnicities, nations, religions and groups. The out-groups are described in terms of the crusaders [the



west] and their puppets. The crusaders are defined by the crimes they commit against Islam; “… if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, vilifying us, and usurping our

lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.” (Dabiq 15:33). The out-group is shown as an

oppressor and adversary of the in-group. While the crusaders are the primary target of negative descriptions amongst the out-groups, self-identifying Muslims that do not swear allegiance to the IS is depicted as accomplices to crimes against Islam; “Muslims, the

tāghūt rulers who rule your lands … are the allies of the Jews and Crusaders. Rather, they are their slaves, servants, and guard dogs, and nothing else” (Dabiq 9:55).

6.4 The Apostatized Factions

Throughout all issues of Dabiq the Islamic State repeatedly attempts to paint their adversaries in a negative light to prove that they are indeed enemies of Islam. They approach the topic in various directions but are always keen to clarify why the organization, person or state in question are indeed their adversaries according to Dabiq’s internal logic.

6.4.1 Al-Qaidah

The conflict between the Islamic State and al-Qaidah is complicated. In the article A

Family Schism: ISIL, al-Qaida, and the New Civil War the author describes the conflict

well by saying that “It would be facile to call the split between al-Qaida and ISIL merely

a battle of egos or a political struggle, as their difference lie most prominently in ideology.” (Shafer-Ray, 2015). The complexity of their conflict becomes more apparent in Dabiq where the Islamic State makes great efforts to apostatize al-Qaidah in many different


The Islamic State again uses the method of associating their enemies with other organizations in order to apostatize them. This is certainly the case against al-Qaidah as

Dabiq repeatedly aims to prove their apostasy by linking them to other factions that are

more commonly considered enemies of Islam. In The allies of Al-Qaidah (Dabiq 12:5-7) there are many examples of such where the Islamic State draws connection between al-Qaidah and other factions. Their collaboration with Libyan factions are made clear as the Islamic State explains that “In North Africa, they are the allies of the Libyan factions who

partook in the religion of democracy in the name of “Islam.” (Dabiq 12:5). Associations

like these come in different forms as this particular one indicates that they are allied to factions preaching democracy which is not in accordance with the laws of Allah. On the very next page of the article is another effort made to prove that al-Qaidah is indeed an organization of apostates as they “..blatantly flaunt their continued relationship with the

tāghūt regime of ‘Abd Rabbuh…” (Dabiq 12:6). Similar quotes are dotted throughout the

entirety of the article where they, again on the very next page, criticize al-Qaidah and their collaborations with enemies of Islam. This time Dabiq examines al-Qaidah’s website where “..they regularly report their relations with top officials from the ‘Abd Rabbuh

(Yemen) regime…” (Dabiq 12:7). This again shows just how insistent Dabiq is in getting

their point across as they repeatedly make their argument for it to truly stick with their readers.

Dabiq also strengthens their arguments by including actions that al-Qaidah have made that

goes against the ideologies of the Islamic State. Again, the article The allies of Al-Qaidah (Dabiq 12:5-7) demonstrates this well in a quote where they discuss how al-Qaidah handed over some of their territory to apostates:



After expelling a tāghūt in power, al-Qā’idah refused to take control of the land and rule it by Sharī’ah themselves and instead handed it over to a selection of Ikhwān, Saudi supporters, grave worshippers, and former parliament, military, and security officials! Meanwhile, as their relationship with the nationalist resistance grows, their enmity towards the Islamic State surges. They are not able to fathom takfīr and war against both the Rāfidī Houthis and the murtadd regime forces together. And if matters carry on as they had in Shām, the common enemy between the Yemeni Qā’idah and the nationalist resistance will become the Khilāfah. May Allah guide the soldiers in the ranks of al-Qā’idah out of the ranks of partisanship and into the ranks of the Jamā’ah before they follow the footsteps of the apostate Jawlānī front (Daibq 12:7).

This excerpt shows how the Islamic State argues for al-Qaidah’s apostasy by warning its soldiers to leave the organization before they become apostates themselves. They highlight al-Qaidah’s relations with enemies of Islam and, more importantly, how they fail to declare Takfir upon these factions. Similar transgressions are mentioned in the article The allies of

Al-Qaidah in Sham: The End (Dabiq 12:11-16) where the Islamic State yet again strives to

prove al-Qaidah’s apostasy. How al-Qaidah “... publicly coordinates a handover of their

frontline posts to the Shāmiyyah Front, an open ally of the American crusaders and Turkish tawāghīt.” (Dabiq 12:11) is, according to the Islamic State, yet another verification that

the members of al-Qaidah has descended into apostasy.

6.4.2 The Rafidah

Another major faction that the Islamic State makes an effort to apostatize are the Shia, who the Islamic State refers to as the Rafidah. Their means of apostatizing them is vastly different in comparison to the methods used against other factions. Instead of associating them to other organizations or bringing up examples on why they are apostates, they claim that the Rafidah hates Islam. Dabiq does this by asserting that “The Rāfidah hate Islam

just as the Jews hate Christianity.” (Dabiq 13:33). The comparison between the Rafidah

and the Jewish is a theme that continues later on where they state that “.. the worst of them

are the Rāfidah, as they are the Jews of this Ummah.” (Dabiq 13:34).

Dabiq also question other factions who do not fight the Rafidah. Yemen is an example

where the Islamic State outright criticizes them for not targeting a Rafidah faction called the Houthis. Dabiq does so by saying that “Sadly, the dominant methodology in Yemen,

especially after the so-called “Arab Spring,” was one that prohibited the targeting of the Rāfidī Houthis because they were allegedly “Muslims” excused due to ignorance!” (Daibq

5:27). This clearly disagrees with the Islamic State who repeatedly encourage their soldiers to fight the Rafidah. There are many instances throughout Dabiq where this is the case. For example, the Islamic State advocates their soldiers to “Draw your swords. Deal with

the Rāfidah first, wherever you find them then Āl Salūl and their soldiers before the crusaders and their bases.” (Dabiq 5:27) which in turn demonstrates that the Islamic State

prioritizes the fight against the Rafidah over crusaders and self-identifying Muslims.

The focus on the Rafidah continues as the Islamic State implores their allies in Yemen, asking them to fight the Rafidah. This plea is found in the article Remaining and Expanding (Dabiq, 5:20-33); “... the car bombs have not roasted their skin, nor have the explosive

belts and IEDs severed their joints. Is there not in Yemen a person who will take revenge for us from the Houthis?” (Issue 5, Remaining and Expanding, p. 28) which clarifies just

how important they think the war against the Rafidah is to the Islamic State. This is made even more clear when, on the very same page, they ask their readers to “Be harsh against


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