State Department adds chair of Islamic State’s delegated committee to terror list

In a July 2016 video, the Islamic State explained the delegated committee’s role.

The State Department announced yesterday (Nov. 20) that Hajji ‘Abd al-Nasir, a senior Islamic State official, has been designated as a terrorist. The US government says al-Nasri has served in “several leadership positions,” including as the group’s military emir in Syria and the “chair” of the Islamic State’s delegated committee. However, it isn’t clear what current position al-Nasir currently holds.

State describes the delegated committee as the “council that reports to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and exercises administrative control of the terrorist organization’s affairs.” This council is “responsible for planning and issuing orders related to ISIS’s military operations, tax collections, religious police, and commercial and security operations.”

The delegated committee within the so-called caliphate’s structure

The State Department’s description of the delegated committee’s tasks is generally consistent with the Islamic State’s own summary. Much of the text below was included in a previous FDD’s Long War Journal report.

In a July 2016 video titled “The Structure of the Khilafah,” the Islamic State’s media team explained that the delegated committee performs key jobs on behalf of Baghdadi. The video portrayed the committee as of equal importance to the self-declared caliphate’s chief shura (or advisory) council, which also sits immediately below Baghdad on its org chart. See the screen shot below:

“The task of communicating orders once they’ve been issued and ensuring their execution is delegated to a select group of knowledgeable and upright individuals with perception and leadership skills, as the Khilafah cannot himself personally carry out the work of the state, for that is an impossible endeavor,” the video’s narrator explained. “So it’s necessary for there to be a body of individuals that supports him [Baghdadi] and that body is the delegated committee.”

The delegated committee has broad administrative powers. The narrator explained that it “supervises” the wilayat (provinces), the dawawin, and the “offices and committees.” Each “province” is led by a wali (governor) who “refers serious matters to the delegated committee” and “governs the wilayat’s subjects.”

The dawawin are “places for protecting rights and are under the supervision of the delegated committee.” There are 14 dawawin, which are supposed to have physical offices in every wilayat. These offices “assume the maintenance of public interests” and “protect the people’s religion and security.” The dawawin are tasked with their own broad range of responsibilities, ranging from the arts of soldiery to dawa (proselytizing) and religious guidance.

The committees and offices are “concerned with various matters” and are “comprised of specialized personnel,” all of whom are “supervised by the delegated committee.” The committees and offices oversee: the arrival of “those who emigrate” to the lands of the caliphate, the staffing of the various dawawin, the affairs of Muslim prisoners, research of sharia issues, the wilayat outside of Iraq and Syria, and tribal relations, among other duties.

Therefore, according to the Islamic State’s own explanation, the delegated committee has vast power within the organization. “The Structure of the Khilafah” was produced more than two years ago, so it is likely that the group’s structure has evolved since then. Certainly, key personnel have turned over, as the so-called caliphate has suffered a string of leadership losses.

Controversy over takfir

The delegated committee has been at the center of controversy within Baghdadi’s enterprise. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports: Islamic State rescinds one of its most problematic religious rulings and Islamic State radio tries to quell controversy over takfir.]

A May 17, 2017 delegated committee ruling, titled “That Those Who Perish Would Perish Upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live Upon Proof,” adopted an exceptionally broad approach to takfir, the practice of declaring other Muslims to be non-believers due to their supposed apostasy or heresy. The Islamic State and its predecessors have always relied on a wide-ranging definition of takfir, even as compared to their jihadist rivals in al Qaeda and the Taliban. But the May 17 pamphlet took the issue further, apparently removing the little flexibility that Baghdadi’s men had previously afforded most Muslims.

This stirred controversy within the Islamic State’s ranks, as some senior ideologues objected to the delegated committee’s fatwa. After months of infighting and other problems exacerbated by the May 17 ruling, Baghdadi’s men were finally forced to rescind it. On Sept. 15, 2017, the Islamic State circulated a memo explaining that the May 17 document was riddled with factual errors and “caused conflict and division specifically among the ranks of the mujahideen and generally among Muslims.”

The self-declared caliphate said its followers should consult the texts issued prior to the disruptive document, as these books, after being amended and edited, “do not contain anything that contradicts the doctrine of the people of sunnah.”

“We advise” returning to and relying “on these books for clarification of the issue of excommunication of polytheists [mushrikin], the ruling of the abstaining community [meaning those who refuse to implement sharia], and the rulings on houses or other issues,” the Islamic State’s leadership commanded in the Sept. 15 memo.

The short document was a remarkable admission. The Islamic State implicitly conceded that its delegated committee, one of the most powerful councils within the self-declared caliphate, had made a grave doctrinal error.

*Note: As stated above, much of this text is copied or adapted from a previous FDD’s Long War Journal report: Islamic State rescinds one of its most problematic religious rulings.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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