As Number Of COVID-19 Cases In Idlib Rises, Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)-Linked Salvation Government Promotes Vaccination; Jihadi Clerics Claim: The Virus Is A Mercy For Believers

October 5, 2021

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On September 29, 2021, a new issue of the weekly Nabd Al-Muharrar (Pulse of the Liberated Areas) was published by the Salvation Government in Idlib which is backed by Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). The issue included an article titled "The River of Madness," authored by Zayd Al-Khatib,[1] which encouraged locals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, emphasizing that it is the only solution for stopping the growing number of fatalities in the fully-packed hospitals of HTS-controlled areas.

The article began by citing a folk tale about a kingdom whose people drank from a river whose water causes insanity. "One day the king and his minister woke up to find that all the people drank from that river. The king asked 'Who did not drink?' 'No one is left but you and me,' said the minister."

According to the tale, the people of the kingdom began accusing the king and the minister of being crazy for refusing to drink from the river, and eventually forced them to drink from its waters, because they cannot challenge everyone around them."

The author of the article argued that the situation in Idlib is like the one in the tale, noting that "hospitals are fully packed with COVID-19 patients," and that many have died because of the virus. Al-Khatib added that even though the Salvation Government advises that people be vaccinated, opinions among locals are still split over the vaccine's efficacy.

The many rumors about the efficacy of the vaccine make the matter even more confusing, said the author: "Some people are waiting to see what will happen to those who were vaccinated, and others are waiting for those who are unvaccinated to die."

Speaking about the reasons behind the rise in COVID-19 cases in Idlib, the author pointed to a "lack of awareness" among the locals as the first factor, adding that the second factor is their "fear of the unknown." "If people were truly committed to protecting themselves, they would not have needed to be vaccinated in the first place," added Al-Khatib.

Citing examples where locals displayed a lack of awareness, the author criticized locals who swap their masks when visiting government departments. Al-Khatib concluded by saying that "the only solution to reduce the corona casualties is to take the vaccine."

The article appears to coincide with other content recently disseminated by Idlib-based jihadis indicating a rise in COVID-19 cases in Idlib and the surrounding areas.

For example, Syria-based U.S.-born jihadi reporter Bilal Abdul Kareem linked his YouTube video on his Telegram channel, in which he states that he is now recovering from COVID-19. He explained that he had severe symptoms. Abdul Kareem stresses in the video that the virus is a "blessing from Allah" as it makes people appreciate having good health.[2]

The same day, the pro-jihadi Irda' Media Foundation released a public service announcement video featuring jihadi preacher Abu Mariyah Al-Shami discussing COVID-19 from a religious point of view. The preacher argued that the pandemic is a test from Allah, urging Muslims infected by the virus to be patient and endure this hardship.[3]

The Telegram channel of Syrian Jihadi cleric 'Abd Al-Razzaq Al-Mahdi published a post claiming that the cleric is suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms, and asked his followers to pray for his recovery. The post included a photo of the jihadi cleric with an oxygen tank.[4]

Interestingly, in January 2020, when the pandemic first broke out, Al-Mahdi deemed it permissible to rejoice when unbelievers, such as the "communist" Chinese and the Iranians, were infected by the virus. [5]

Idlib-based jihadi cleric Abu Muslim Al-'Anadani shared on his Telegram channel a YouTube video documenting his Friday sermon, titled "Corona: Torment for the Unbelievers and Mercy for the Believers."[6]

In the video, the cleric argued that while the virus is a punishment from Allah to the disbelievers, the same virus is considered "a mercy for the believers, as it exonerates them of their sins. He went further to claim that believers who die because of COVID-19 will be considered martyrs.

The newly content released by jihadi media outlets about COVID-19 indicates that there is a shift in the jihadi narrative regarding the virus. Back in 2020, the jihadi narrative portrayed the virus as a "soldier of Allah, sent to strike the enemies of Allah." However, the recent content focuses on the narrative that when that "believers" i.e., jihadis, are infected by the virus, this is a sign of "mercy from Allah" and a "test of their faith in Him."


[1] Telegram, September 26, 2021.

[2] Telegram, September 27, 2021.

[3] Telegram, September 29, 2021.

[4] Telegram, September 26, 2021.

[6] Telegram, September 27, 2021.













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