By Adnan Abu Amer
October 13, 2014
The magnitude of Hamas’ media mobilization
in response to Israeli accusations of being the same as the Islamic State (IS)
was remarkable. Hamas spokespeople and prominent leaders denied the
accusations, which have not fooled Western circles.
The political differences between Hamas and
IS are primarily ideological and doctrinal, which have prompted many Salafist
jihadist members to abandon Hamas as they disagreed with its approach. Many of
these Salafist jihadists later joined radical groups, among them IS.
A scholar in Gaza with ties to Hamas spoke
to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity about the doctrinal divergences between
Hamas and IS. A primary difference, he said, is the two groups'
"relationship with others who are religiously and politically different in
times of peace and war. Hamas deals with those who are different — except for
Israel — on the basis of peace, including those who are religiously different,
whereas IS battles against all of those that are different from it."
In its relationship with Christians and
Jews, Hamas’ position is based on Verse Eight of the Quranic Surat
al-Mumtahanah, which reads, “God does not forbid you from those who do not
fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes — from being
righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, God loves those
who act justly.”
The scholar added, “Hamas and IS have
different doctrinal stances in terms of governance, democracy, the civil state,
citizenship and the formation of political parties. While Hamas recognizes and
encourages these concepts, IS considers them blasphemy whose proponents must be
Although IS has no military presence in the
Palestinian territories, Hamas is taking part in the intellectual and
ideological debate regarding IS, judging IS' behaviour and weighing in on its
disputes with Islamic movements in Arab countries.
A number of Hamas elites are reluctant to
openly speak of the doctrinal and intellectual differences with IS, preferring
to talk about them privately in closed-door meetings or anonymously in the
media due to security concerns and out of fear of sparking an offensive by IS
supporters or engaging in a doctrinal or an endless Sharia debate.
A Hamas official told Al-Monitor on
condition of anonymity that a Sept. 14 statement by Yusuf al-Qaradawi best
represents Hamas' convictions on the matter. Specifically, it has intellectual
and methodological disagreements with IS, but Hamas does not support the US-led
battle against it.
A senior scholar in Gaza told Al-Monitor,
“Hamas and IS have significant disagreements in terms of the interpretation of
Islamic sources and the role of politics. Hamas’ short term strategy to reach
power stems from the structures that are based on political partnership. This
is part of its pragmatism that requires the movement to participate in
He added, “IS views the concept of
political partnership as blasphemous and contrary to Islamic rules, for it is
controlled by positive laws that are away from the divine law. It believes in
the access to power through armed force only and does not underestimate its
Salafist jihadist ideology.”
Adnan Ibrahim, a Palestinian author born in
Gaza who has lived for decades in Austria, has expressed one of the most
outwardly anti-IS statement thus far. Ibrahim, who is considered an innovator
of Islamic thought, accused IS of desecrating non-Muslims and subjecting them
to Islamic authority.
Al-Monitor obtained a booklet circulating
among Salafist activists supporting IS in Gaza. It read, “IS considers Hamas’
participation in the elections and its application of the positive law as part
of the polytheistic innovations worthy of the fires of hell.”
It went on, “Hamas is violating Sharia by
adding a Palestinian nationalist nature to its resistance to the Israeli
occupation and by not speaking of the Islamic faith. This is because Islam
requires Muslims to engage in war to establish a complete international Islamic
community that is not limited to a particular geographic area.”
Hamas scholars consider IS in violation of
Sharia, as the group does not refer to the scholars of the Islamic nation. IS
has no Sharia scholars in its ranks, and it has split away from the larger
Muslim community and announced the establishment of the caliphate with zero
consultation. IS believes that everyone who has a different opinion is an
infidel and carries out mass murders without distinction.
Youssef Farhat, a prominent scholar and
Hamas figure in Gaza, took a firm position against IS and engaged in dialogues
to express the variance between IS and Hamas.
Farhat believes that IS, with its radical orientations,
should be first fought on the ideological and intellectual level before the
military level. According to him, the group’s origins are deeply rooted in
Islamic history, while other Islamic groups have deviated from the true Islamic
path and teachings.
Al-Monitor met with a scholar within Hamas,
a graduate of Al-Madinah International University who wished to remain
nameless. He referred to the two groups' religious origins, noting that Hamas
belongs to the moderate Muslim Brotherhood, while IS is related to a radical
current close to al-Qaeda. The latter had created other groups that were also
incompatible with Hamas in terms of Sharia interpretation and political ideas.
The same scholar believes that IS' creation
was inspired by Saudi Arabian Wahhabism. This extremist, radical ideology is
the foundation of al-Qaeda and all its branches, including IS. The beliefs of
IS are no different from the ideas, beliefs and actions of Saudi Arabia, except
when it comes to armed jihad.
The differences between Hamas' ideology and
the Wahhabi-inspired ideology of the Islamic State are numerous. Hamas does not
consider Shiites infidels, as IS do. Hamas scholars believe that Shiites are an
Islamic group that strayed from the teachings of Islam, though it does not consider
them infidels in the doctrinal sense of the word.
Further, Hamas’ literature does not call
for the establishment of a caliphate, as advocated by IS. Hamas rejects a
religious theocratic government and calls for a civil state with an Islamic
reference, with no caliphate label, as explained by Qaradawi's book, “The
Jurisprudence of the State in Islam,” which is studied by Hamas’ Sharia
Hamas does not consider non-Muslim
Brotherhood members infidels. Meanwhile, IS commits massacres against those who
oppose it, whether Muslims or Christians, considering anyone who doesn't join
its ranks infidels.
Hamas scholars show their support for
religious freedom and do not condone attacking or harming any person, in
reference to the Quranic teaching, “There is no compulsion in religion.”
Hamas is an inclusive movement that takes
on political, social and jihadist roles. Its efforts are not limited to its
military wing, despite its importance. However, the goals of IS are purely
military, as this group does not believe in politics or institutional work.
For Hamas, the concept of jihad is limited
to resistance against the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories. It
does not fight the Jews because of their religion, but because they are
occupying Palestine. Also, Hamas does not adopt the practice of beheading
Israeli soldiers and settlers, as it believes that mutilating bodies is
prohibited by Islam.
Al-Monitor learned that the Hamas
leadership did not approve of its militants’ execution of spies on Sept. 22
during the Gaza war, as it preferred to execute these spies out of the public
eye or in the presence of judicial bodies. The move coincided with the
publishing of images of IS executions on battlefields in Syria and Iraq, giving
a pretext for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to claim a link between
Hamas and IS and inaccurately say that they use the same methods.
Hamas aims to organize and prepare society
before adopting the provisions of Sharia, one of the central differences
between IS and Hamas. This orientation goes in line with the Muslim Brotherhood
theory that calls for the formation of a Muslim individual first, then a Muslim
family, in order to establish a Muslim society and then a Muslim state.
The Muslim Brotherhood doctrine, followed
by Hamas, teaches its followers the importance of first spreading the group's
ideology among individuals, underlined by the Brotherhood slogan: "If you
create an Islamic state within yourselves, it will be created on your
land." IS began its work by imposing borders on the people.
IS has tarnished the image of Islam through
its killings and beheadings that are broadcast on social media. This, in turn,
has ruined the image of Islam in the eyes of both its followers and
Hamas does not base its rules solely on
Sharia, but mixes it with positive laws and is committed to the gradual
implementation of Sharia, which is not the approach of the Islamic State. While
Hamas accepts democracy as a system of governance, IS considers it blasphemous
and considers anyone supporting a democratic system of governance an infidel.
Adnan Abu Amer is dean of the Faculty of Arts and head of the Press and
Information Section as well as a lecturer in the history of the Palestinian
issue, national security, political science and Islamic civilization at Al
Ummah University Open Education. He holds a doctorate in political history from
the Demashq University and has published a number of books on issues related to
the contemporary history of the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli