A few days ago, a US raid on the Syrian town of Atmeh in the northwestern province of Idlib killed ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. Also known as Hajj Abdullah Qardash, al-Qurayshi’s real name was Amir Muhammad Saeed Abd al-Rahman Muhammad al-Mawla.
The operation destroyed the three-story building where the group’s leader was living with his two wives and children, all of whom bar two also died when Qardash blew himself up to avoid capture.
Information gathered from ISIS dissidents, such as Abu Issa al-Masry in his book 'The Barisha Sultan' and Abu Jandal al-Haili in his book 'The Massacre of Repentants', say Hajj Abdullah, who succeeded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as ISIS leader, was the group’s chief judge and presided over its sharia courts and Delegated Committee before taking over as head of the group. An Iraqi of Turkmen origin, Qardash was presumably born in Tal Afar in 1976. He led the negotiations between ISIS and the Turkish government regarding the Mosul Turkish consulate staff and transported them himself from Mosul to a safe zone from which they headed to Turkey.
The slain leader had spearheaded the battles of Sinjar, where he killed hundreds of Yazidis, as well as the battles of Kobani in northern Syria. According to Abu Jandal al-Haili, he ordered the jailing of some 2,300 ISIS members who opposed the new approach of applying takfir [holding as infidel] rulings on states and their inhabitants; in other words, pronouncing takfir on both states and people and then takfir by muwalat [alignment]. After the prisoners’ repentance in writing, Qardash ordered their imprisonment and murder all at once. When al-Baghdadi asked him about his decision, he told him: “I fear that they would fight us later, like the Sunni Awakening Movement did.”
Abu Issa al-Masry cites Qardash as having said that “the State [the putative Islamic State] is more important to me than lives or anything else.” Therefore, he killed people based on suspicions and murdered any member of another faction of the group unabatedly, especially the followers of scholar Turki al-Binali.
After the murder of top ISIS leaders like Abu Muslim al-Turkmani and Abu Ali al-Anbari, only Qardash, known at the time as Hajj Abdullah, was left to succeed al-Baghdadi. He took over in late October 2019 and made no video appearances since, in an overly precautious approach.
The first thing Qardash did was eliminate ideological fissures, in the sense that he got rid of all other wings of the group. Among these were the extremist wing of al-Hattab, which pronounced takfir on the masses considering it to be a principle of Islam and did not excuse ignorance or interpretation. Qardash also abolished the Al-Banali wing, which did not believe takfir to be a principle of the religion and did excuse ignorance or interpretation, but not armies and security officers.
Qardash followed the approach of ISIS media official Abu Muhammad al-Furqan, who believed that takfir is a principle of Islam but advocated for examining and clarifying. When asked about this after taking over the leadership of the group, Qardash said: “I do not care for these doctrinal disputes so long as the group is protected.”
Now, following his death, the Delegated Committee is the highest authority in ISIS per the group’s organizational hierarchy. With each of its members overseeing a certain dossier, the Committee is the one to decide the group’s general policy, choose emirs, and accept pledges of allegiance. Therefore, one of these members will likely be chosen as Qardash’s successor: Mu’tazz Nu’man Abdul-Nayef al-Jabbouri, Ziad Jawhar Abdullah, Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Samidi, Abu Hamzah al-Qurashi al-Muhajir, or Nayif Hamad Shayya’.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Egyptian newspaper Al-Watan.