ISIS Handbook for the Modern Jihadi Woman

The Islamic State has published a comprehensive manifesto for women and girls living under its rule, a world in which 'men are men, and women are women.'

ISIS militants
ISIS militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit.

The Islamic State has published a guide for women and girls living under its rule. The guide, titled "Women in the Islamic State: A Manifesto and Case Study," lists the rights and responsibilities of women who wish to join the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and promises them protection and a more harmonious life, in a world in which "men are men and women are women."

The full document, published by the Al-Khansaa Brigade, ISIS' "women's activist group," has been translated into English with an introduction by the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-terrorism think tank in London.

This is the first such detailed guide for women from ISIS. In recent months, the organization has put out newsletters for its members on subjects such as how to treat female prisoners, as well as advice on motherhood, but this is the first time the group has laid out an entire manifesto for women.

It is intended in particular for women in the Arab world who want to join ISIS, and the organization has not translated it into any other language – in contrast to many other of its publications intended for Westerners, which it has translated into French, English and Russian. The document appeared on January 24 on the organization's website, but the content is only now being reported in the West with its translation into English.

In general, the manifesto condemns the influence of Western culture and values on women in the Muslim world, emphasizing the organization's opposition to science: "[T]he ideal Islamic community should refrain from becoming caught up in exploring [science,] the depths of matter, trying to uncover the secrets of nature and reaching the peaks of architectural sophistication. It is intended to realise tawheed ... the implementation of Shariah, the spreading of Islam across the land and the bringing of people from the darkness of unbelief to the light of faith.

"This is not to say, in any sense that we should wholly do without the necessary worldly sciences without which humans could not live – agriculture, medicine and building and so on. Just those that people need, that help facilitate the lives of Muslims and their affairs are permissible.

"They claim that most important knowledge is the worldly one and that the only true knowledge, Shariah, is not a knowledge! Because of this, a woman studies these worthless worldly sciences in the farthest mountains and the deepest valleys. She travels, intent upon learning Western lifestyle and sitting in the midst of another culture, to study the brain cells of crows, grains of sand and the arteries of fish! But that the ummah is saved, generations righted, and the flag of Islam raised," states the document.

The document nonetheless claims that a woman cannot raise her children if she is "illiterate or ignorant," so ISIS has designed a special educational program for women. From ages 7 through 9 girls should learn Arabic, religious studies and science (accounting and natural sciences). From 10 to 12 they should learn more religious studies, especially those related to women and those concerning marriage and divorce, as well as continuing on in Arabic and science.

Women should also be taught basic skills, such as sewing and knitting, according to the manifesto, as well as the basics of cooking at this age. From 13 to 15, girls will start focusing more on Muslim Sharia law, as well as other skills, especially those related to raising children - and less science," the basics of which will already have been taught." In addition, "they will be taught about Islamic history, the life of the Prophet and his followers."

As for marriage: "It is considered legitimate for a girl to be married at the age of nine. Most pure girls will be married by sixteen or seventeen, while they are still young and active. Young men will not be more than twenty years old in those glorious generations."

After marriage, women will remain in the home and take care of the children, though the organization does allow them to leave the house - properly covered up - in special cases. "It is sometimes permissible for a woman to leave the house. The circumstances in which this is permitted are: if she is going to study theology; if she is a women’s doctor or teacher; if it has been ruled by fatwa that she must fight, engage in jihad because the situation of the ummah has become desperate, “as the women of Iraq and Chechnya did, with great sadness”. 

ISIS also condemns the "tyranny of capitalism," and proposes an Islamic welfare state that will protect working women and her children. Women may work, but no more than three days a week; her workdays should not be too long; she must receive vacation and sick days when her children are at home or her husband must travel. She must also receive two years maternity leave; and "There must be a place to put the children at work until they reach school age, where they can be checked upon from time to time to stop the problems that arise from small children being by themselves in the house or someone to care for them."

In the introduction, the translator explains how the final section of the document compares how women fare in the Arabian Peninsula to what their lives are like in Islamic State-held Iraq and Syria. "The content of this section renders apparent that this document’s primary target audience is women living in Saudi Arabia... The text implores women living in the Kingdom to migrate to IS-held lands, and to do so urgently."

The document gives what it calls case studies of life for women in the “shade of the Caliphate” and an idealized view of daily life for women living in ISIS-held territories.

As to the situation today in Iraq with a coalition of forces fighting ISIS, the document says: "We find people living in peace in the middle of a war in a situation that reminds one of ancient Palestine, when the shoots of jihad emerged standing up to the Jews in every village. When this was happening, the Palestinian people continued to grow and reproduce, think and study, garrisoned and guarding.

"Today, the soldiers of the Antichrist come every day and the hum of their jets can be heard as they come to throw bombs from the skies and demolish buildings, this is what the ummah faces. The armies of the enemy remain on its doorstep, working against its religion and trying to seize its resources and capabilities. This is the natural situation right now, unless they surrender to the enemy and submit to its thought, methodologically and religiously, as is the situation for the peaceful Muslim countries today, this imaginary safety is based on the bodies of the vulnerable and the tears of widows and the blood of orphans and the oppressed."