Syria’s Army of the Muhajirin Pledges Allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Andrew McGregor

December 12, 2013

On December 2, the Islamist Army of Muhajirin and Ansar in Bilad al-Sham issued a statement announcing it had declared its baya’a (oath of allegiance) to the Amir al-Muminin (commander of the faithful) Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Qurayshi al-Baghdadi, leader of the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [1] According to the document, the decision to come under ISIS command came after the Muhajirin (“emigrants”) and ISIS had conducted a number of joint operations. The statement was signed by the “former Amir of the Army of the Muhajirin and Ansar, Omar al-Shishani” and the “former Shari’a judge of the Amir of the Muhajirin and Ansar, Abu Jafar al-Hattab.”

Omar al-Shishani

The Muhajirin are dominated by fighters from the Northern Caucasus, led by Abu Omar, an ethnic-Chechen from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge who has established a reputation for honesty as well as fighting skills due to his rejection of abuses by foreign fighters against Syrian civilians (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, August 9).  Besides Chechens (estimated to form at least half of the Muhajirin), the group includes a reported large number of Daghestanis and ethnic Tatars and Bashkirs from the Middle Volga region (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, September 25). Those components of the Ansar al-Muhajirin listed as giving their approval of the baya’a include the Arab mujahideen, the Turkish mujahideen, the mujahideen from the Caucasus, the European mujahideen, the heavy arms detachment, the commando detachment and the administrative council.

Muhajirin in Training

The statement appeared to be an elaboration of an earlier and much shorter announcement issued on November 21 in which the Muhajirin Brigade swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS, except for “those brothers from the Caucasus Emirate who had already sworn their oath to Emirate leader Dokku Umarov. The announcement provided few other details besides citing several hadith supporting the idea that only members of the Quraysh tribe (as al-Baghdadi is alleged to be) are suitable for ruling the Caliphate (a notion disputed by many Islamic scholars who claim the hadiths refer only to conditions in the first era of Islam). [2]

According to the group’s media officer, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the group believes that:

Secularism with its different banners and various schools like nationalism, communism and Ba’athism is an obvious kufr [disbelief] that contradicts Islam… The kufr of apostasy is greater by unanimity from the original kufr, and that is why fighting the apostates has more priority to us [than] fighting the original kufr… so our jihad is with the sword and spear and with argument and clarification, and who called for another religion than Islam or slandered the religion or fought us, then he is a combatant to us. [3]

Abu Hamza also referred to the apocalyptic predictions of Islamic eschatology that are set in al-Shams (the land of the Levant, including Syria) involving the arrival of the Mahdi (the expected one), the return of the Nabi Issa (Prophet Jesus) and their battle on the day of resurrection with al-Dajjal (“the false Messiah,” roughly in the role of the Anti-Christ of Christian eschatology):

Jihad will continue to the Day of Judgment. The development of events on the land of Sham will bring what no one expected because the land of Sham is guaranteed by Allah Almighty and the angels are spreading their wings over al-Sham. This is not Afghanistan or Bosnia or Chechnya, this is the land of al-Sham, Issa, peace be upon him, will come down here, and al-Dajjal will come out here, it is the land of epics and the land of resurrection… [4]

The Muhajirin recently completed Operation Fatih in the southwestern part of Aleppo governorate, claiming to have seized seven apartment towers and two villages as well as T-72 tanks and an anti-aircraft gun. The group claims their victory brings them closer to the road connecting Aleppo with the south. [5]


1. “Statement of the Baya’a of the Army of Muhajirin and Ansar to the ISIS,” December 2, 2013,

2. “Umar al-Shisani Swears an Oath to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” November 21, 2013, 

3. Islamic News Agency Haq: |Muhajirin Battalion in a comprehensive interview:  “Our goal is to liberate Syria from the Assad regime and establish the Islamic state,” April 14, 2013,

4. Ibid

5. “Operation Fatih,”

This article first appeared in the December 12, 2013 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.