August 30, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8254

Unofficial Hamas Fatwa Forbids Independent Jihad Operations By Individuals, Sparks Debate Among Gazan Social Media Users

August 30, 2019
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 8254

In the recent weeks there have been a number of attempts by armed Palestinians to penetrate into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the killing of the Palestinian operatives by the Israeli security forces. Although neither Hamas nor any of the other Gazan factions officially claimed responsibility for these attempts, they made sure to praise them after the fact, calling them "heroic actions" by "angry young men" who were acting independently.[1] According to Gazan reports, Hamas's "restraining force" is present on the border to prevent such actions,[2] but at the same time the movement uses them as another means to pressure Israel in the indirect negotiations towards a long-term arrangement in Gaza. The Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily reported that Hamas had indirectly informed Israel that it was not behind these actions, yet threatened that the continued economic crisis in Gaza could lead to many further attempts of this kind in the coming period, which it would not be able to prevent.[3]

Following the August 17 attempt by an armed terrorist cell to cross the border into Israel, Gazan Facebook pages and the Hamas-affiliated forum circulated a religious ruling (fatwa) by the "Shari'a Committee in the Gaza Strip" prohibiting independent "jihad operations" by individuals unless coordinated with the Gazan armed factions and/or authorized by their commanders. It should be noted that Hamas did not publicize the fatwa on any of its official media platforms, but neither did it renounce the fatwa. This allowed it to maintain an ambiguous position on these actions, in the face of Israeli accusations that it was instigating them and, on the other hand, condemnations from the operatives for restraining them.  

There are three possible explanations for the appearance of this fatwa. One is that it serves an actual need, following a deterioration of discipline in the ranks of Hamas. In fact, the organization is reportedly acting to form general frameworks, including a regular army called the Al-Quds Army, and this requires tightening discipline and banning independent operations by individuals. Since Hamas is unable, for ideological reasons, to openly condemn jihad operations, it is trying to convey this understanding by circulating a religious ruling that was clearly issued on its behalf but does not officially bear its seal.

A second explanation may be the Hamas authorities' need to deal with the rising power of other jihadist and/or Salafi groups in Gaza, whose tension with Hamas recently erupted into open clashes.[4] Hamas fears that these groups may attract young members of its ranks who are disappointed with its current level of action and policy of restraint.

A third possibility is that Hamas wants to create the impression that it opposes terror operations outside the Gaza Strip, at least at the current stage, in order to avoid jeopardizing the contacts towards an arrangement with Israel and the supply of Qatari funds. It should be recalled that, from their inception, the Palestinian terror organizations have employed the tactic of denying responsibility for operations when necessary, despite having instigated them in various ways, such as the operations of the Black September group, which was an integral part of Fatah but was completely renounced by this organization's leaders.

The fatwa evoked many responses from Gazan social media users. Its proponents stressed the importance of maintaining military discipline and of careful planning as a condition for successful action against Israel, while opponents of the fatwa claimed that Hamas was using religion to serve its political needs and was unjustly depriving  Gazans of the right to wage jihad against Israel. Many users wondered why there was no fatwa against taking place in the weekly "March of Return" protests on the Gaza border, which have likewise failed to yield much benefit or cause Israel serious harm.

This report presents a translation of the fatwa, and of some of the responses to it by Facebook users.

Unofficial Hamas Fatwa: According To Islam, A Fighter May Not Wage Jihad Without The Permission Of His Commander

"The order of the day is to keep the flame of jihad burning in the hearts of the Muslims and to encourage them to fight, while raising a generation [committed to] the values of generosity, virtue, obedience and abstinence from sin. Those in authority must always fight the sources of temptation and doubt and strive to reform the society that embraces the plan of jihad.

"It must be known that one who sets out to fight the enemy without prior approval can be in one of four situations. First, he may belong to one of the military factions active [in the field]. As such he may not set out to fight without the approval of his commanders, for the following reasons: 1. He is bound by the laws of obedience to his commanders and commitment to the weapon provided to him by his faction, and his commanders know better than him what the interests of jihad require and where there is need for daring [action] or, conversely, for restraint. 2. [There is no benefit in a fighter] setting out on his own and risking his life in a place where [an operation] is likely to cause little damage to the enemy whereas [the fighter's] death will please the enemy and present him as victorious and vigilant and the jihad fighters as weak and naïve. 3. [The operation] may cause greater harm, such as enemy strikes on the positions of the jihad fighters in retaliation for the action of a [single] fighter, causing the death of several fighters who will be unprepared for the sudden escalation. 4. As a result of the sudden raising of the level of alert, [the jihad fighters may] evacuate [their positions in anticipation of a retaliatory attack by the enemy], and this may [bring about] the cancelation or postponement of urgent military operations. 5. Unaware of the operation [in advance], the movement commanders may be forced to suddenly flee to their hideouts, thus exposing [these hideouts]. 6. [Such operations] open the gate wide to undisciplined extremists to carry out uncalculated or dubious operations.

"In light of [all] this, according to the Islamic shari'a a jihad fighter may not [carry out an act of] war without the permission of his commander, lest he be guilty of the sin of disobedience and causing harm, as detailed above,... and of disrespecting the weapons he has been entrusted with. We bear no responsibility for the sin of one who sets out on jihad without the permission of his commanders, especially if he caused [the jihad fighters] losses in money or lives, for a legitimate operation must meet two criteria: honest intention and correct action... If the criterion of correct action is not met, the one who carried out the operation is guilty of sin, even if his intention was honest.

"The second situation is [that of an individual] who does not belong to any active armed [faction] and his weapon was privately purchased. [Such a person] is required to consult the factions responsible for jihad in Gaza and coordination with them, lest his armed operation cause more harm than good... The relevant apparatuses reserve the right to prevent him from doing so as part of preserving the public interest and managing the jihad activity.

"The third sitaution is [that of an individual] who is motivated by someone with malicious intentions, who conceivably may [in turn] be motivated by the occupation or its servants. Such a person is undoubtedly guilty of the greatest sin and a tremendous crime. His operation is dangerous for society and for the jihad fighters, and if he is killed in action, he is not regarded as a martyr, due to his evil intentions or because he failed to verify the identity of whoever motivated him, God forbid.

"The fourth situation is when there is an enemy invasion [of the Gaza Strip] and a war breaks out, and everyone is duty-bound to fight the enemy by every means and in every way that can cause the enemy heavy losses. The rebelling youths and fighting factions must realize that causing the enemy heavy losses is one of the goals of jihad, and this requires adequate preparation and optimal planning.  It is not enough to rely on one's emotions and love of martyrdom. It must also be kept in mind that the young fighters are our capital... and they must be protected as much as possible by engaging with the enemy in a prudent and calculated manner, until we emerge victorious, with Allah's help. The fulfillment of Allah's promise of victory will be attained through piety, patience, endurance and preparing for battle, for Allah said 'Oh you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful [Quran 3:200].'

"Allah knows all, and He is the mightiest and most honorable.

"The [Hamas] Movement Shari'a Committee in the Gaza Strip

"Wednesday, Dhu Al-Hijjah 13, 1440 [August 15, 2019]."[5]

Responses To The Fatwa By Gazan Facebook Users

The publication of the fatwa on various Facebook pages, on August 18-20, sparked a debate among Gazan Facebook users, some of them clearly affiliated with Hamas. Below is a sampling of the arguments they presented.

Someone Who Joins  A Movement Or Armed Organization Must Obey Its Military Orders

Responding to many users who questioned the authenticity of the fatwa and the true identity of its authors, Gazan sheikh Abu Suhaib 'Aliyan, known for his ties with Hamas, said: "This is a flawless fatwa. It is a fatwa rather than a shari'a law – the distinction is clear to anyone who studied [Islamic] jurisprudence – and it does not involve any difficulty from the juridical perspective or in terms of public interest, for it is based on two principles. First, a member of an organization does not take up the arms of that organization without its permission. This is a basic rule of discipline. Second, one may not set out [on an operation] without consulting the [Palestinian] factions responsible for jihad..."[6]

Sheikh Abu Suhaib 'Aliyan's response

Other users, mainly ones affiliated with the armed branches of Hamas or other factions, presented military and procedural arguments to justify the fatwa. User Salam Salame wrote: "It is impossible to circumvent the apparatuses and mechanisms installed [by Israel on the border] without planning and without making an effort [to gather] accurate advance intelligence. The resistance has mostly relied on the tactic of tunnels to circumvent the technology, weapons and intelligence superiority of the occupation army. Taking precautions is a religious duty, just as jihad is a religious duty.[7] User Mahmoud Abu Sariya wrote: "Most of the responders fail to understand how much the structure of armed action in Gaza has changed, in terms of the structure of the units and the formulation of offensive and defensive plans. Every fighter has a well-defined role in his unit, and if he undertakes [independent action] this may create embarrasment and cause substantial losses undermining months of preparation, especially if he is taken captive..."[8] User Mohammad Al-Masri wrote: "...Whoever undertakes to become a member of a movement or armed organization must obey its military orders, for that is one of the basic principles of military action."[9] User Nabeel M. Nabeel wrote: "Jihad is permitted only [based on an order] by the leader or Caliph." [10]

There Are No Constraints On Jihad For The Sake Of Allah; Revolutionary Action Has Become Just Another Job

Conversely, other users claimed that the fatwa places unnecessary constraints on the Palestinians' right to wage jihad against Israel. Gazan user Ahmed H R AbuAssi wrote: "As long as my country is occupied, my rights are denied me, and my enemy oppresses me, the right of self-defense must be a legitimate right, recognized by all religions and by the law."[11] User Fadi 'Abd Al-Qader wrote: "Coordination is a national duty, but there are no constraints on jihad for the sake of Allah. A revolutionary cannot restrain himself when he is in the grip of emotion. A fidai operation requires permission from nobody."[12]

Fadi 'Abd Al-Qader's post

Shady Ahmad claimed that the fatwa reflected the helplessness and defeatism of the Gazan factions, writing: "When revolutionary action becomes [just another] job and resistance against the occupier depends on an order from the leader, I conclude that we are on a path that aims to eliminate the [Palestinian] cause and legitimize the incompetence, helplessness and stupor that afflict the so-called revolutionary factions..."[13]

This Is A Political Move In Religious Guise

Some Gazan users claimed that the fatwa aims to serve the interests of Hamas as part of the bid for an arrangement with Israel. User Abu Draz Abedelkarim wrote sarcastically: "Soon there will be fatwas stating that shaking the enemy's hand and coordinating with him are a [religious] duty, necessary in order to protect the homeland and citizens."[14] A user calling himself Mhmoud Abu Quta wondered: "Does the prohibition on independent action in Gaza also apply to the West Bank? What is the difference between independent action in the West Bank and in Gaza?"[15] Fahmi Kanan, of Bethlehem, stressed that Hamas uses religion to serve political ends: "This is a fatwa motivated by political considerations in religious guise, as part of what I described two weeks ago as 'the Islamic jurisprudence of understandings [with Israel].' This new [brand of] Islamic jurisprudence enables to subordinate everything to [Hamas'] partisan interest, and whoever violates it will be considered a traitor, infidel or  plotter..."[16]

What About The 'Marches Of Return,' Which  Likewise Yielded No Substantial Gains Against Israel?

Many users compared the independent operations to the Hamas-led weekly March of Return protests against Israel on the Gaza border, wondering why no fatwa has been issued prohibiting participation in the latter, for these protests, just like the independent operations, have yielded no substantial political or military gains but only the killing and wounding of Palestinians. User 'Alaa Sajid wrote: "What is the religious and juridical ruling on the Marches of Return, in which the blood of dozens of martyrs has been spilled, over 2,000 have been wounded or crippled, and [many have become] orphans and widows, [and all this] in vain, for no benefit[?]..."[17]Muhammad Shahin wrote in a similar vein: "What about the Marches of Return, which have depleted the human abilities of our young people and [in which many] were wounded or lost limbs, [thus] destroying their future? It would have been better to stop this show and protect our youth..."[18]

 Muhammad Shahin's post


[1] See for example remarks by Hamas spokesmen 'Abd Al-Latif Al-Qanou' and Fawzi Barhoum (, August 10, 2019;, August 18, 2019).

[2], August 12, 2019.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), August 14, 2019.

[4] This week Hamas carried out a wave of arrests of Salafi-jihadi activists in Gaza, following two bombings of police stations in the south and west of the city, which resulted in the death of three police officers. It should be mentioned that in the past Hamas has waged an all-out war against the Salafi-jihadi groups in Gaza, which came to a head in August 2009, when Hamas raided the Ibn Taymiyya mosque in Rafah killed several dozen supporters of the Salafi-jihadi group Ansar Allah who challenged Hamas' authority and declared an Islamic emirate in Gaza.

[5], August 19, 2019.

[6], August 18, 2019.

[7], August 18, 2019.

[8], August 20, 2019.

[9], August 19, 2019.

[10] hosen.hasn, August 20, 2019.

[11], August 18, 2019.

[12], August 19, 2019.

[13] hosen.hasn, August 20, 2019.

[14], August 18, 2019.

[15], August 19, 2019.

[16i], August 20, 2019.

[17], August 18, 2019.

[18], August 20, 2019.


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