Captured Iraqi terrorist Hussam Naji, a.k.a. "Abu Mahmoud," who was appointed mufti of ISIS by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, recounted how he had met Al-Baghdadi while imprisoned at Camp Bucca, the U.S. detention center in Iraq, and also after his release, and said that he had had differences of opinion with Al-Baghdadi on jurisprudence matters, such as the jizya and kharaj taxes. Naji, a convert from Shia Islam, served as a senior ISIS religious authority in Iraq and was arrested in 2015, shortly after his appointment as a mufti. In this May 12 Al-Arabiya TV interview, Naji talked about the relations between Al-Baghdadi and Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who considered him insubordinate. He further said that at some point, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had started acting like a mafia boss.
Interviewer: "How many times did you meet Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?"
Hussam Naji: "The first time was in Camp Bucca. It was in Compound 6, in 2004. I met Sheikh Ibrahim there. But it was not long before he was released.'
Hussam Naji: "In late 2007, after my release, I was delivering a Friday sermon, and suddenly I saw him sitting there, together with [Al-Qaeda's 'Emir' of Baghdad] Manaf Al-Rawi. I knew he would knock on my door after the sermon, and he did. They sat with me, and I offered them lunch. He said to me: 'You should become active again. We could use your knowledge as an imam and a preacher.'
Hussam Naji: "In prison, he was a very quiet man. He would not talk. There was nothing about him to draw attention. He was quiet and preferred to keep to himself.
Hussam Naji: "But when he came to see me, after my release from Camp Bucca in 2007, he was stern and strict: 'You should become active again.'
Interviewer: "Did you discuss religious matters in these two meetings with Al-Baghdadi?"
Hussam Naji: "No. As I told you, in Camp Bucca, he was very quiet. He didn't say anything. He would come to pray, and he would preach from the pulpit, but it was all about matters of worship and not about incitement."
Interviewer: "What was Al-Baghdadi's position when he came to visit you?"
Hussam Naji: "Honestly, I did not ask, but he was driving a luxury car. I saw it, but I don't remember what model it was."
Interviewer: "Who were the top leaders you met in Camp Bucca apart from Al-Baghdadi?"
Hussam Naji: "There were many. There was Huthaifa Al-Batawi. In Compound 6 there was Abu Abdulrahman Al-Bilawi. Abu Muslim Al-Turkmani was there."
Interviewer: "Were there fatwas that you issued that were rejected by the leaders of ISIS?"
Hussam Naji: "The dispute was mostly between me and the general commander. Our dispute mostly revolved around the issue of the jizya poll tax. The scholars of jurisprudence set the condition that the person collecting the jizya would be able to protect himself, as well as the minorities under his rule. I said to him: 'You cannot even protect yourself.'
"I said to him: 'You cannot protect yourself or your land.' With the air cover, everything can go up in flames. But he insisted. The second matter we disagreed upon was the kharja land tax.
"The scholars of jurisprudence ruled that this tax is prohibited, but when I discussed this with [Al-Baghdadi], he quoted Imam Al-Shatibi as saying that it is allowed in times of necessity.
"Since I entered college in 2003-2004, I have become completely convinced that a ruler who does not rule according to the shari'a is a tyrant, and that he must be uprooted and ousted and an Islamic rule instated instead. I'm convinced of this.
"Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in his last statements before my arrest, was angry. He said to Al-Baghdadi: 'You pledged allegiance to me, and I ordered you to leave Syria and go back to Iraq. Your insubordination is unjustified.' Al-Baghdadi answered him: 'We have no allegiance to you.' What made matters even worse was the killing of a man sent by Al-Zawahiri in an attempt to make peace between the various groups. His name was Abu Khalid Al-Suri, and he was close to Ayman Al-Zawahiri. After that, Ayman Al-Zawahiri issued a fatwa that the Islamic State members are kharijites, and he compared them to the killers of the Emir of the Believers, Ali bin Abu Taleb."
Interviewer: "You were Shi'ite and converted to Sunni Islam.
"You people accuse Shi'ites of heresy, so how did you deal with your family? Did you refuse to say hello to your mother in court?"
Hussam Naji: "Absolutely not."
Interviewer: "Are your family infidels?"
Hussam Naji: "No. My mother and my father..."
Interviewer: "All the Shi'ites are infidels, except your mother and father?"
Hussam Naji: "I have expressed my opinion about the Twelver Shia in the past. In his book Minhaj Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiyyah, Sheikh of Islam Abu Taymiyya wrote that only the Ghurabiyya Shiites among them are infidels, because they believe that the Quran was distorted. As for my younger brother Muhannad, who would blaspheme all the time, I said to him a thousand times: you are an apostate and an infidel."
Interviewer: "Okay, but when you detonate a car bomb in the street, how can you tell if a victim subscribes to the Twelver Shia or another sect?"
Hussam Naji: "Let me tell you something. These matters are sealed, as far as they are concerned, and they never ask for a fatwa about them. This was passed down to them as a cornerstone by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi."
Interviewer: "You people accuse the Shi'ites of heresy, and you have carried out attacks that killed hundreds of innocent Sunnis and Shi'ites. You have carried out attacks throughout the Middle East. But we have never heard from you a fatwa regarding Iran."
Hussam Naji: "The Islamic State... Let me tell you something... When I was in Fallujah, I learned from the leaders there and elsewhere that they do not want to have many fronts."
Interviewer: "All the countries in the world except Iran?!"
Hussam Naji: "The Governor of Fallujah at the time was Haji Islam Abu Omar, [he] tried to avoid provoking multiple enemies against him.
"The perspective of [ISIS] is religious. It deals with the texts, regardless of whether it does it right or wrong. It believes that any group that supports the government against it must be removed in order to enable [ISIS] achieve its goal and reach power."
Interviewer: "Where is the Islamic State?"
Hussam Naji: "It has been eroded."
Hussam Naji: "For several reasons. First of all, the Islamic State has lost its popularity. There is no doubt about this. Secondly, I saw in Fallujah that the Islamic State is like an orphan. It has no real arsenals, only traditional weapons. In addition, the air cover caused attrition... Before I was arrested, I was in Fallujah, and I can tell you that the air cover caused real attrition. Even I returned from Fallujah to Baghdad."
Interviewer: "Why don't you admit that the mistakes you have made against the Sunnis are what caused the destruction of your state[?]"
Hussam Naji: "I told you that they lost their popularity."
Interviewer: "What is the difference between the religious authorities of ISIS and Al-Qaeda?"
Hussam Naji: "Brother, I did not stay in Fallujah long enough to develop a comprehensive view, but I will try to explain this to you. With regard to immutable principles, such as the government being infidel, and that anyone supporting it must be removed and destroyed – this is not something that is up for debate. They don't even ask for a fatwa about this. The issue that caused confusion and required me to approach the Qadhi, and led the Qadhi, in turn, to consult his friend, was the issue of the jizya and kharraj taxes. This was one of the most significant problems that occurred."
Interviewer: "What is your position on the issue of slave girls?"
Hussam Naji: "As I've told you, the slave girls and the jizya depend on your ability to provide protection. [Al-Baghdadi] was unable to provide protection, so both the issue of the slave girls and of the jizya were sins. When the ruler of the Muslims is capable of providing protection for his subjects – when he is capable of protecting himself and the minorities under his rule – there is no objection to this. There are slave girls in Islam. Allah said in the Quran: 'Except from their wives or those their right hands possess.' Who are 'those their right hands possess' if not slaves? But it is not [permitted] under the current circumstances of [ISIS]."
Interviewer: "You even fought and killed members of the Free Syrian Army [FSA]."
Hussam Naji: "This matter was also presented to the Qadhi of Fallujah, and he said the Jabhat Al-Nusra was fighting us under the cover of the coalition, and that therefore the members of Jabhat Al-Nusra are apostates. This is what I heard from him. I had some reservations about what he said, but it is true that the Islamic State considers Jabhat Al-Nusra to be heretic. It believes Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani to be a heretic, and there are no hesitations or qualms about this. "
Interviewer: "What about the FSA? They want freedom and the removal of Bashar Al-Assad..."
Hussam Naji: "The FSA wants to reach power and then rule by [man-made] law. This alone is heresy."
Interviewer: "So the 'state' of Al-Baghdadi constituted falsehood?"
Hussam Naji: "Undoubtedly. Once things became clear and many of the veils were removed, it turned out that the man [Al-Baghdadi] was going down a slippery slope, until he started acting like a mafia boss. Unfortunately."