Category Archives: Miscellaneous

– The Myth of a “Global Caliphate”.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

A July 2012 study that examined the most frequently cited or quoted verses in the Qur’an from over 2,000 extremist texts from 1998 to 2011 in the Center for Strategic Communication’s database concluded that

“…verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. This shows close integration with the rhetorical vision of Islamist extremists.”[[1]]

The study further says,

“Based on this analysis we recommend that the West abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination, focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage, emphasize alternative means of deliverance, and work to undermine the “champion” image sought by extremists”[[2]] (italics added by reviewer).

While a 2007 poll in four countries (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia) showed majority support “to unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or caliphate,” this does not mean a Taliban-like state. The same poll showed that the majority favored “a democratic political system” to govern their country, as well as “freedom to practice any religion.”[[3]]

Another poll of Arab countries from 2004 to 2010 by Telhami, an Israeli-Arab scholar, concluded that only 7 percent of Arabs polled in both years “embraced Al Qaeda because of its aims to establish a Taliban-like Islamic state.”[[4]]

Another poll – the world’s biggest Gallup Poll of Muslims worldwide – concluded that Muslims

“wanting Sharia involved in politics does not translate into Muslims wanting theocracy. Majorities in many countries remarked that they do not want religious leaders to hold direct legislative or political power.”

Moreover,

“[M]any Muslims desire neither a democracy or theocracy, but instead a unique model incorporating both democratic and religious principles.”[[5]]

The type of “caliphate,” therefore, would be a moderate one that does not represent the kind of caliphate a minority of extremists would like, nor what classical Sunni Islam represents, but more similar to what the United States is like. Mohammed Habib, a former deputy general guide of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,

“underscores that the real goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is to bring about either a structure that resembles that of the US government or one that is looser but nevertheless a confederation, with a constitution and a leader.”[[6]]

Islamophobes’ warnings of a threat of an extremist global caliphate that reigns supreme and subjugates non-Muslims are therefore more imaginary and doom-laden than realistic. Kamal El Helbawy, a former steering committee member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who left the Brotherhood in 2012,

“insists that it is wrong to say that the absolute goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is to bring about any sort of caliphate.”[[7]]

Even if they did establish a caliphate, contrary to extremists, it would not be one that unites the Muslims, because the Muslim Brotherhood is not united at the regional or global levels, and most Muslims do not subscribe to the Salafi understanding of Islam. Juan Cole says,

“The Brotherhood is a decentralized organization even in Egypt. It is not organized internationally. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan…is essentially a different organization from its Egyptian counterpart. Hamas has its distant origins in Brotherhood proselytizing in the 1930s, but it takes no orders from Cairo. Other political groups with a Muslim Brotherhood genealogy include the Iraqi Islamic Party, which cooperated with George W. Bush’s invasion of and administration of Iraq.”[[8]]

Where is the “Totalitarian” Program? Matching Rhetoric with Action

In spite of their rhetoric, Islamists have generally been oblivious to how society ought to be governed according to Islamic Law. While a range of Islamists are now experimenting with governance after the Arab Spring, no planned program of governance has materialized that incorporates the full spectrum of Islamic Law, including its controversial aspects. Rather, Islamists are learning that Islamic Law can only expand within the confines of the current social-political milieu. Ideology in this sense, as scholar Olivier Roy describes, is

“more an emotional and vague narrative than a blueprint for ruling.”

To Roy, it is yet another reason why the continued “failure of political Islam” persists.

Likewise, Asef Bayat, author of Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East, says,

“Al-Qa’eda intrinsically lacks any sort of social and political program and thus is unlikely to succeed in mobilizing a concerted national dissent against a concrete national state” (p.238).

The seriousness with which Islamists claim to want an “Islamic State” seems to be lacking, in spite their rhetoric, slogans, and symbols.

When author and scholar, Fawaz Gerges, asked Kamal al-Said Habib, a top former leader of the al-Jihad terrorist organization in Egypt, if al-Jihad was “truly prepared to establish a viable Islamic government,” Habib replied,

“Thank God, we did not win, because we would have constructed a state along the same authoritarian lines as the ones existing in the Muslim world. We had no vision or an intellectual framework of what a state is or how it functions and how it should be administered, except that it should express and approximate the Islamic ideal. While I cannot predict that our state would have been totalitarian, we had little awareness of the challenges that needed to be overcome.”

Indeed the Islamists’ rhetoric of creating an “Islamic state” has always been louder than action. They would need to adapt to the needs of society in a more sophisticated and informed manner for any possibility of surviving.

Harvard scholar, Noah Feldman, attributes the ignorance of a blueprint for society by Islamists partly because Islamists are usually not religious scholars:

“The Islamists would…like to acknowledge what they refer to as God’s ‘sovereignty.’ But without the scholars to fulfill the role of authorized interpreters of God’s law, the Islamists find themselves in difficulties when they try to explain how and why Islamic law should govern.”

Feldman continues,

“For most of the last century, Islamist literature has basically avoided dealing with the issue. It presents Islamic law as a promising source for social salvation, with no serious attempt made to explain, constitutionally or theologically, what would justify its adoption and implementation.”

Had setting up an Islamic State been so important to most Islamist groups, why did they not give religious scholars the highest priority to advise the government on how its set-up should be? Rather, the religious scholars have been marginalized by Islamist governments, which illustrates that Islamists are not concerned about creating an Islamic State, in spite of their rhetoric.

If Islamists in general are unsure, unclear, and seemingly unserious about establishing an Islamic State, much less a  global caliphate, their claims should be interpreted as mere saber-rattling rhetoric without genuine substance.  


[[1]] Jeffry R. Halverson et al., “How Extremists Quote the Quran.” Center for Strategic Communication, Arizona State University. http://csc.asu.edu/wp-content/uploads/pdf/csc1202-quran-verses.pdf

[[2]] Ibid.

[[3]] Steven Kull et al., “Muslim Public Opinion on US Policy, Attacks on Civilians and al Qaeda.” International Policy Attitudes Program, University of Maryland. April 24, 2007. http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/apr07/START_Apr07_rpt.pdf

[[4]] S. Telhami, op. cit.,p.117.

[[5]] J. Esposito and D. Mogahed, op. cit., pg.5.

[[6]] C. Onal, op. cit.

[[7]] Cumali, Onal, “Goal of Muslim Brotherhood Not to Bring Back Caliphate,” Today’s Zaman, September 16, 2012, accessed May 25 2013,http://www.todayszaman.com/news-292466-goal-of-muslim-brotherhood-not-to-bring-back-caliphate.html

[[8]] Juan, Cole, May 15, 2013 (6:25 p.m.), “Fear Not the Muslim Brotherhood Boogeyman,” Juan Cole’s Columns –Truthdig, February 15, 2011, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/fear_not_the_muslim_brotherhood_boogeyman_20110215/

– “Islamic Law” – A Reality Check.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Does Today’s “Islamic State” Mimic the Early Muslims?

To demonstrate that Islamism today is not rooted in classical Sunni tradition, one can examine the nature of the “Islamic State” today in its various forms. These “Islamic States” are very much unlike the Islamic State in classical Islam. While Islamists today claim to emulate the Prophet Muhammad and the early Muslims of the Salaf, there was no Islamic State like the one Islamists envision today. Scholar and professor, Khalid Blankenship, says,

“The state established by the Prophet Muhammad…in al-Madinah was extremely rudimentary and lacked any of the institutionalization connected with the modern state.”

The Qur’an itself, Blankenship says, “never refers to the Muslim polity as a state, and the only complimentary reference to khalifah, the later title of caliph, is in one verse referring to the Prophet Dawud.” The “Shari’ah-based state,” he says, “as usually envisioned by its modern supporters never really existed before, and especially not as an institutional state.”[[1]]

Similarly, Wael Hallaq, author of The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament, says,

“…to resort to such a usage as ‘Islamic state’ – as an entity having existed in history – is not only to indulge in anachronistic thinking but also to misunderstand the structural and qualitative differences between the modern state and its ‘predecessors’” […].[[2]]

Because Islamists imagine they have an Islamic State similar to early times does not make it so. The current “Islamic State” is modeled after the modern nation-state, a foreign “Western” import and product of colonialism alien to classical Islamic tradition.

The Adoption of Islamic Law Today

How about Shari’ah (Islamic Law)? Islamist movements today claim to want Shari’ah Law but without the religious scholars which directly contradicts Shari’ah Law as seen in classical Sunni history in which religious scholars took center stage. But how much is Islamic Law followed today? Do all “Muslim” governments support Islamic Law?

“Of the forty-six countries where Muslims constitute the majority of the population,” Grote and Roder say, “only ten declare themselves to be Islamic states in their constitutions.”[[3]]

This is only about 22 percent of the majority Muslim countries, which means that most of these countries (about 78 percent) do not declare themselves as Islamic States. Furthermore,

“most countries have settled for a more moderate version of Islamic constitutionalism declaring Islam as the official religion of the state, but stopping short of proclaiming the country an Islamic state.”[[4]]

Similarly, Jan Michiel Otto, author of Sharia and National Law in Muslim Countries: Tensions and Opportunities for Dutch and EU Foreign Policy, says,

“[I]n the majority of Muslim countries over the last 150 years, most laws, legal institutions and processes have evolved independently of sharia. The governments of most Muslim countries have for decades” and that “classical sharia has had little noteworthy influence in most areas of law.”[[5]]

Even when described as countries that have “Islamic Law,” secular jurists have outdone religious jurists in the new scheme of the unclassical “Muslim State”:

“States have enacted their sharia as national law, outranking the religious scholars who were the traditional keepers of ‘the’ sharia. Jurists, trained at secular faculties became the new ‘masters of law.’”[[6]]

Classical Sunni jurists did not train at secular facilities.

Islamic Theocracy is Antithetical to Sunni Tradition

While most Islamists have marginalized the role of religious scholars, the roles of religious scholar and ruler were combined in the person of Ayatollah Khomeini when he imposed the Vilayet-e-Faqih, or “Guardianship of the Jurist.” This gave the jurist executive authority analogous to a caliph or sultan of past who was responsible for political – not religious – matters. This is unprecedented in Islamic tradition and is yet another example of how modern manifestations of “Islamic” governance today deviate from the tradition of Muslim governments of the past.

Shari’ah’s Penal Code

Most Muslim countries today that include the Islamic criminal code law within modern criminal codes have, in recent years, “become increasingly hesitant when it comes to actually carrying out the more serious hadd punishments.”[[7]]

The hudūd (sing. hadd) punishments are perhaps the most controversial aspects of Islamic Law and include punishment for theft (sariqa), brigandage (hirabah), illicit sexual intercourse (zina), false accusation of sexual intercourse (qadhf), and drinking alcohol (shurb al-khamr).

The few countries today that frequently implement the hudūd, including Afghanistan (when under the Taliban) and Saudi Arabia, are exceptions to the rarity of its implementation by most Muslim countries today, and also by Muslims in the classical Sunni tradition.

Reformist Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, who has called for a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning, and death penalty, says,

“The majority of the ulamâ’ – or scholars – “historically and today, are of the opinion that these penalties are on the whole Islamic but that the conditions under which they should be implemented are nearly impossible to reestablish. These penalties, therefore, are ‘almost never applicable.’”[[8]]

Before the toppling of Egypt’s Islamist government in 2013, even Egypt’s Islamists did not appear to take Shari’ah’s penal code seriously. The lack of rigidity and seriousness of applying such punishments was clear when Egypt’s general prosecutor in April 2013 had announced that he had canceled the order to lash Mohamed Ragab who was intoxicated by alcohol, and who had been sentenced to lashing by the village prosecutor. The village prosecutor was suspended and an investigation was launched. Mike Giglio of The Daily Beast says,

“In Ragab’s case, the government acted swiftly to stop Sharia from being applied” and “analysts say that Ragab’s case helps to illustrate Morsi’s difficult balancing act on religion: while he and his allies may push Sharia in their politics, they are wary of seeing it put into practice now.”

Giglio then quotes Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center:

“The actual implementation of Islamic law is not on the [government’s] agenda right now,”

and

“They’re careful not to overreach.”[[9]]

This is a specific example that illustrates how the social and political contexts weaken Islamist ideology, including their purported interest in applying Shari’ah to the masses. Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, says

“Egypt is not following Iran’s path toward theocracy in spite of changes wrought by the infusion of religion into politics,”

and

Clerics are not gaining positions of political power.”[[10]]

How seriously then was the Muslim Brotherhood about imposing Shari’ah through a supposedly rigid ideology? Not very serious, it seems. The exaggeration of ideology in counter-terrorism studies will be examined in a separate, soon-to-be-published, post.


[[1]] Khalid Blankinship, “Is an Islamic State Just a Form of Muslim Zionism?,” Lamppost Productions, November 1, 2011, accessed May 23, 2013, http://www.lamppostproductions.com/?p=3226

[[2]] W. Hallaq, op. cit.,pp. 48-49.

[[3]] R. Grote and R. Tilmann, op. cit., p 10.  The 46 majority Muslim countries are “Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Brunei, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, the Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Muslims are also the majority in the Palestinian Territories and Western Sahara.” The ten countries that declare themselves Islamic States are Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Brunei, Maldives, Mauritania, Oman, and Yemen.

[[4]] R. Grote and R. Tilmann, op. cit., p 10.  These countries include Algeria, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Tunisia.

[[5]] Jan Michiel, Otto, Sharia and National Law in Muslim Countries: Tensions and Opportunities for Dutch and EU Foreign Policy (Leiden University Press, 2008.), accessed May 25, 2013,

https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/20694/Sharia%20and%20national%20Law%20in%20Muslim%20countries.pdf?sequence=6

[[6]]Ibid.

[[7]]Ibid.

[[8]] Tariq Ramadan, “An International Call for Moratorium on Corporal Punishment, Stoning and the Death Penalty in the Islamic World,” April 5, 2005, accessed May 25, 2013, http://www.tariqramadan.com/spip.php?article264&lang=fr

[[9]] Mike, Giglio, “Eighty Lashes for Drinking? Egyptian Court Ruling Puts Sharia in the Spotlight,” The Daily Beast, April 25, 2013, accessed May 29, 2013,

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/25/eighty-lashes-for-drinking-egyptian-court-ruling-puts-sharia-in-the-spotlight.html

[[10]] Nathan, Brown, “Islam and Politics in the New Egypt,” April 23, 2013, accessed June 2, 2013,

http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/04/23/islam-and-politics-in-new-egypt/g0se#

– Islam & the Fate of Non-Muslims in the Afterlife: Challenging the Militant Perspective.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, misunderstand Sunni Islam’s teachings on the possibility of salvation for non-Muslims. This, in part, is compounded by the statements of extreme figures, and is normally seen in a bi-polar way: “All Muslims are going to heaven; all non-Muslims are going to hell.” This understanding is simplistic at best and has become the ammunition of less knowing Muslims to eliminate any possibility of salvation for non-Muslims. It is an understanding that contradicts Sunni Islam’s position on the matter. Discussion of this issue is therefore needed to correct and balance this perspective.

Who Received the Message?

Sunni Islam does not reject non-Muslims wholesale as “disbelievers”. Salvation is contingent upon receiving the message of Islam in its pristine form. The Qur’an states: “We do not punish until We send a Messenger” (Qur’an 17:15). Contemporary Sunni scholar Nuh Ha Mim Keller says that Christian groups that did not receive the pristine message of Jesus until the time of Prophet Muhammad fall into this category from a Sunni perspective.[1] Similarly, contemporary Sunni scholar Shaykh Salman from Seeker’s Guidance says:

“While we deem Islam to be the only true religion, it needs to be kept in mind that divine amnesty may apply to even those who were not on the Islamic faith.”[2]

Hamza Yusuf, the Sunni scholar and founder of Zaytuna College in California, quotes the famous Sunni scholar and Sufi, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali:

I would even go as far as to say that most of the Christians among the Europeans and Turks in this time of ours will be embraced by the same mercy, if God most high wills. I mean specifically those who are among the remote inhabitants of Europe and Central Asia whom the call of Islam has not reached [will be embraced by this divine mercy] (Italics added by author).

The “Europeans” and “Turks” not of today, of course, but from the time Imam Ghazali lived. But how about non-Muslims living today?

Salvation for Non-Muslims Living Today

Nuh Keller elaborates on Imam Ghazali’s views by applying his statements to non-Muslims today:

The great Muslim scholar, Imam Ghazali, includes in this category those who have only been reached with a distorted picture of the Messenger of Islam (Allah bless him and give him peace), presumably including many people in the West today who know nothing about Allah’s religion but newspaper stories about Ayatollahs and mad Muslim bombers. Is it within such people’s capacity to believe? In Ghazali’s view, such people are excused until after they have had an opportunity to learn the undistorted truth about Islam (Ghazali: “Faysal al-tafriqa,” Majmu’a rasa’il al-Imam al-Ghazali, 3.96).[3]

It is interesting to note, according to Nuh Keller, the people who have a distorted view of Islam, “presumably including many people in the West today who know nothing about Allah’s religion but newspaper stories about Ayatollahs and mad Muslim bombers” – or those people who have not “had an opportunity to learn the undistorted truth about Islam” are “excused”. One can only wonder how many Americans, Europeans, so-called “polytheists”, and others fit in this category today, especially when receiving much of their information from mainstream media that usually presents a skewed understanding of Islam and Muslims. Sunni scholars of past and present gave non-Muslims the benefit of the doubt when it came to issues of salvation.

In addition, while polytheism, or associating others in worship with God, is an unforgivable sin in Islam, the children of polytheists are still understood to be innocent according to Sunni Islam. Imam Nawawi, a leading jurist of the Shafi’i school of Sunni jurisprudence, said:

The preferred and soundest school of thought about them and the one most of the authoritative scholars have inclined toward is that they are in Paradise based upon God’s word, We do not punish a people until a messenger comes to them [17:15]. So if God does not punish an adult because no message has reached him, obviously, children would be even more secure.[4]

It should be emphasized that according to Sunni Islam, all children who have not reached the age of discernment are considered to be innocent, whether their parents are Hindus, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Animist, Darwinist, Agnostic, Atheist, or of any other belief, or of no belief. Should such children die, they are believed to have a one-way ticket to Paradise. Militants who target them are accumulating major sins according to the same tradition they claim to follow.

Extremists of past and present who were and are quick to declare Muslims and non-Muslims heretics, some going as far as maiming or killing them, should think twice. Al-Qa’eda, for example, labels all Americans, non-Muslim and Muslim, as “infidels” worthy of extermination. This understanding reflects ignorance of Sunni tradition. Extremists should ponder over the possibility that certain, and surely many, non-Muslims are not heretics at all, but simply need to learn the pristine message of Islam through peaceful means. The assumption that every non-Muslim is a heretic is just that – an assumption that can lead to wrong and sinful actions, including depriving non-Muslims from having a chance to acquire the uncorrupted knowledge of Islam’s teachings. Imam Ghazali’s view that “kufr is an active denial, not a passive state of ignorance”[5] must not be taken lightly. Extremists should fear Allah whom they claim to worship with unrelenting obedience. They should control their tongues and stop pointing weapons toward non-Muslims and children if they claim to be true to their faith.

Ibn Taymiyah and Universal Salvation?

Militants at this point must be trying to seek refuge in the teachings of Ibn Taymiyah. Unbeknownst to them, however, their favorite role model had an even stronger view in favor of non-Muslim salvation in the Afterlife. I am not referring to non-Muslims who received a distorted understanding of Islam, as described above, but to non-Muslims who heard and learned the correct teachings of Islam and rejected it.

It is documented that Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ibn Taymiyah’s closest student, had given Ibn Taymiyah a commentary of the Qur’an by a hadith specialist named `Abd ibn Hamid al-Kissi with a statement attributed to Omer, Islam’s second caliph, that the people dwelling in hell would eventually leave hell. This led Ibn Taymiyah to adopt the position “for temporal punishment and the eventual salvation of all people” from hell, including Muslims and non-Muslims. Mohammad Hassan Khalil, author of Islam and the Fate of Others: The Salvation Question, says the existence of the treatise by Ibn Taymiyah is “well documented” though “its title is disputed.” He says the treatise “was first published in its entirety in 1995 in Saudi Arabia under the somewhat misleading title al-Radd ‘ala man qala bi-fana’ al-janna wa-l-nar (The rejoinder to those who maintain the annihilation of the Garden and the Fire). Khalil refers to it, in short, as Fana’ al-nar (The annihilation of the Fire).[6]

While some of Ibn Taymiyah’s ardent supporters deny that Ibn Taymiyah ever held such a view for various reasons, Khalil, after investigating the evidence, states that the

“available evidence leads only to the conclusion that it was most likely Ibn Taymiyya’s final work.”[7]

He also says,

“we do not have a single report of any of Ibn Taymiyya’s contemporaries claiming that his universalist proclamations were misattributions”[8]

and

“Whatever the case may be, Ibn Taymiyya was undoubtedly the earliest prominent figure of the post-salaf era to claim that Paradise is for all of humanity.”[9]

Ibn Taymiyah was not alone. Ibn Qayyim, though more cautious on the matter, built “on [Ibn Taymiyah’s] Fana’” and “developed arguments for universal salvation”.[10] Khalil explains:

The latter are laid out not only in the Shifa’ but, most famously, in a work entitled Hadi al-arwah ila bila al-afrah (Spurring souls on to dominions of joys). A more forceful version of these arguments appears in one of his final works, Sawa’iq al-mursala (The dispatched thunderbolts); however, all we have of the relevant discussion in the Sawa’iq survives in an ostensibly reliable abridgment by a certain Muhammad ibn al-Mawsili (d. 774/1372), a contemporary of Ibn Qayyim.[11]

Militants who are keen to use, or rather abuse, Ibn Taymiyah’s statements to declare revolution or terrorism against “infidels” should ponder over his view of eternal salvation for Muslims and non-Muslims in the Afterlife, and, of course the genuine Sunni scholars who spoke of the possibility of non-Muslim salvation.

The possibility of salvation from the Sunni perspective for non-Muslims in the Afterlife must surely be surprising to many Muslims and non-Muslims today. After all, it is not what they are used to hearing daily on their radios and televisions, and even in some of their own mosques and Islamic schools.

A better use of time by militants, and Muslims in general, is if they pondered over their own salvation, and considered the possibility of whether they would be hell-bound or not. It is documented that a man who was resurrected by God on the Day of Resurrection thought he died in battle as a “martyr” only to be told by God:  “You lie. You fought in order to be called a hero, and it has already been said.” The so-called martyr is then “sentenced and dragged away on his face and flung into the fire.”[12]


[1] Nuh Ha Mim Keller (1996). On the validity of all religions in the thought of ibn Al-‘Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir: a letter to `Abd al-Matin. Available: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/amat.htm

[3] Nuh Ha Mim Keller (1996). On the validity of all religions in the thought of ibn Al-‘Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir: a letter to `Abd al-Matin. Available: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/amat.htm

[4] Imam Hamza Yusuf. “Who are the Desbelievers?”. Pg. 46. http://www.mujahideenryder.net/pdf/WhoAretheDisbelievers.pdf

[5] Imam Hamza Yusuf article on Who are the Desbelievers?. Pg. 45. http://www.mujahideenryder.net/pdf/WhoAretheDisbelievers.pdf

[6] Mohammad Hassan Khalil. Islam and the Salvation of Others. Pg.80.

[7] Mohammad Hassan Khalil. Islam and the Salvation of Others. Pg.88.

[8] Ibid.pg.87.

[9] Ibid.pg.86.

[10] Ibid.pg.93.

[11] Ibid.pg.93.

[12] Nuh Ha Mim Keller. “The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islam.” Available: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/sufitlk.htm. The hadith cited was from Sahih Muslim, 3.1514: hadith 1905.

– Sunni Creed: Strengthening the Sunni Narrative Against al-Qa’eda and Other Extremists.


(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

The Three Fundamentals of Orthodox Sunni Islam

There are three fundamentals of Sunni Islam based on the “hadith of Gabriel”[1]:

(1)   Practice/Jurisprudence[2] (Islam): Knowledge of the requirements of prayer, purification, pilgrimage, combative jihad, etc.

(2)   Creed/Theology (Iman): Knowledge of the Attributes of God, attributes of prophets, six articles of faith, etc.

(3)   Spiritual perfection[3] (Ihsan): Having the right intentions and genuinely loving Allah and Prophet Muhammad, worshipping sincerely and not for ostentation, shunning arrogance and envy, being mindful in prayer, etc.

While issues related to practice/jurisprudence, including jihad/combat and rebellion, have been discussed by many analysts to counter terrorists, there has been little to no discussion of how militants and other extremists contradict the most important fundamental of Islam: Mainstream Sunni creed/theology .[4] While militants prioritize the practice of combat and rebellion over other practices, their extreme marginalization of and differences in creed are bound to create fissures among jihadists, and Muslims in general, because creed is what determines whether one’s Islamic belief is sound or not. This article discusses the importance of creed in Sunni Islam, the Ash’ari, Maturidi, and Athari schools of Sunni creed, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s letter to Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi illustrating the divisions due to different creeds and the importance of overlooking them to unite under the umbrella of “jihad,” and how this knowledge can be used to strengthen the Sunni narrative against al-Qa’eda and other extremists.


The Importance of Sunni Creed

Why is correct creed important in Islam? The first pillar of Islam, which is the most important, is the Testification of Faith: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Orthodoxy in Islam is mainly represented by correct creed, which is a prerequisite to having all jurisprudential practices, like prayer and jihad, accepted. Knowing about God correctly is personal obligatory knowledge (fard `ayn) that every Muslim must know, and is sinful if one does not know. Sunni scholar Imam Nawawi said, “The first obligation of all who are morally responsible…is to know God[…].”[5]

Lumbard (2008) explains the importance of creed/faith:

“Many would first think of fasting (sawm), praying (salah), or pilgrimage (hajj) when Islam is mentioned, but such practices were not fully instituted until later in the life of the Prophet Muhammad….The first message God gave to the Prophet Muhammad…was one of truth, the human response to which is faith. That is why the first revelations of the Qur’an speak of God, death, and the Last Day rather than fasting, pilgrimage, and zakat (alms tax). First the revelation reestablished the proper relationship between the divine and the human through faith. Then it taught the way of observing and maintaining the relationship through submission.”[6]

Muslims are required to understand and accept Sunni creed with complete conviction.  Moreover, when Prophet Muhammad dispatched his companions to people in far off lands, he did not tell them to fight, but to invite them to Islam and to teach them Islamic belief. Imam Abu Hanifah, an eminent mujtahid scholar of early Islam whose ijtihad is followed by most Muslims today, described knowledge of creed as “Fiqh al-Akbar” (the Supreme Wisdom). While Muslims are not required to understand the details of dialectical theology, a correct understanding of the attributes of God is required. Sunni creed is represented by the Ash’ari, Maturidi, and Athari schools of creed.

The Ash’aris and Maturidis

“Ash’ari” refers to an early Muslim theologian born in Basra named Abul Hassan al-Ash’ari (874-936), while “Maturidi” refers to another early Muslim theologian born in present-day Uzbekistan named Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (853-944). They were contemporary Muslim scholars who taught Sunni creed, and whose explanations of creed have been embraced for more than 1,000 years by the majority of Sunni Muslims from the early days of Islam to this day. While differing in only few respects, and described as virtually the same in most respects, Ash’ari’s and Maturidi’s  explanation of Sunni creed was formulated, systematized, and brought to fruition by them through rational debate with different sects competing for doctrinal truth (particularly the Mu’tazila). The challenges faced by Ash’ari and Maturidi were

(1)     “to define the tenets of faith of Islam and refute innovation;

(2)     to show that this faith was acceptable to the mind and not absurd or inconsistent; and

(3)      to give proofs that personally convinced the believer of it.”[7]

Most Sunni Muslims believe Ash’ari’s and Maturidi’s explanations of creed to be rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and in the understanding of early Muslims who preceded them. The overwhelming majority of religious scholars and followers have followed Ash’ari and Maturidi creeds for more than 1,000 years, and are said to represent Sunni orthodoxy. Al-Zawahiri was aware of this when he said:most of the Umma’s ulema are Ashari or Matridi[…].”[8] In the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence today (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools),[9] “most of the followers of the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence have historically been followers of the Maturidi school of theology. However, one third of them, along with three-quarters of the Shafi’is, all of the Malikis, and some Hanbalis, adhere to the Ash’ari school.”[10]

In line with the Ash’ari and Maturidi creeds, it is obligatory for a Muslim to know what is:

(1)     “necessarily true,

(2)     impossible, or

(3)     possible to affirm of both Allah and the prophets”[11]

Contemporary Sunni scholar, Nuh Keller, says, “These three categories traditionally subsume some fifty tenets of faith.”[12] (See footnote 12 for a description of the 50 tenets of faith)

The Atharis

Unlike the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools of creed, the Athari school – the third school of Sunni creed followed mainly by Hanbalis – did not delve into extensive doctrinal dialectics.[13] However, from a Sunni perspective the Athari school should be differentiated from the neo-Athari school that demonstrated and still demonstrates, the “tendency…towards excessive literalism in beliefs and even towards anthropomorphism (affirmation of human attributes to Allah).”[14] Wahhabis, militants, and other Salafis today follow a manifestation of the neo-Athari creed. While analysts differentiate Wahhabis from other Salafis mainly due to different views of combative “jihad” and rebellion, they nevertheless share the same or similar understanding of neo-Athari creed, which makes both groups very similar to each other. Both groups are, in fact, more similar in what is deemed more important to a Muslim: Creedal matters. Manifestations of neo-Athari creed, however, differentiate Wahhabis, militants, and other Salafis from the majority of Sunnis who are Ash’ari, Maturidi, or Athari in creed.

Al-Zawahiri’s Letter to Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi

The tension generated from creedal differences was demonstrated in Ayman al-Zawahiri’s letter to the late Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi (July 9, 2005) in which al-Zawahiri expressed concern that religious scholars (`ulema) – and the masses who follow these religious scholars – should not be criticized but supported. Not doing so would jeopardize the “jihad[15] effort. Al-Zawahiri mentions religious scholars in reference to Islamic creed (“Ashari,” “Matridi,” and “Salafi”):

“Striving for the ulema: From the standpoint of not highlighting the doctrinal differences which the masses do not understand, such as this one is Matridi or this one is Ashari or this one is Salafi, and from the standpoint of doing justice to the people, for there may be in the world a heresy or an inadequacy in a side which may have something to give to jihad, fighting, and sacrifice for God. We have seen magnificent examples in the Afghan jihad, and the prince of believers, Mullah Muhammad Omar – may God protect him – himself is of Hanafi adherence, Matridi creed, but he stood in the history of Islam with a stance rarely taken. You are the richer if you know the stances of the authentic ulema on rulers in times of jihad and the defense of the Muslim holy sites” (italics included by author).[16]

Al-Zawahiri’s call was one of unity among combatants to set aside their differences in matters of creed for the greater good: To win broader support from the religious scholars and population at large to strengthen the “jihad.” While al-Zawahiri appears to support Ash’aris and Maturidis, he, in fact, opposes them, as he clarifies below:

“If you take into account the fact that most of the Umma’s ulema are Ashari or Matridi, and if you take into consideration as well the fact that the issue of correcting the mistakes of ideology is an issue that will require generations of the call to Islam and modifying the educational curricula, and that the mujahedeen are not able to undertake this burden, rather they are in need of those who will help them with the difficulties and problems they face; if you take all this into consideration, and add to it the fact that all Muslims are speaking of jihad, whether they are Salafi or non-Salafi, then you would understand that it is a duty of the mujahed movement to include the energies of the Umma and in its wisdom and prudence to fill the role of leader, trailblazer, and exploiter of all the capabilities of the Umma for the sake of achieving our aims: a caliphate along the lines of the Prophet’s, with God’s permission” (italics added by author).[17]

Al-Zarqawi, Al-Zawahiri, and al-Qa’eda as a whole, not only oppose Ash’aris and Maturidis, but deal with them differently. While al-Zarqawi openly opposed and targeted them, al-Zawahiri’s strategic advice was to overlook creedal differences, whether “Salafi or non-Salafi,” to achieve the victory of “jihad” while recognizing that the Ash’aris and Maturidis have “mistakes” that would require “generations of the call to Islam and modifying the educational curricula” to correct them. Their opposition to Ash’aris and Maturidis, and adoption of a neo-Athari (Salafi) creed, is in violation of the three schools of Sunni creed that Sunni tradition represents. Al-Qa’eda and other militants have cited several Ash’ari scholars in their writings in an attempt to portray their support for traditional Sunni Islam. Their opposition to Ash’ari creed, however, renders their citations deceitful and insincere.[18]

The Sunni Narrative: Al-Qa’eda Violates Sunni Creed

To start, Sunni creed can be used to counter al-Qa’eda and other “Sunni” extremists for the following reasons:

(1)     Militants prioritize combat over creed. Militants trivialize the more important knowledge of creed, which is personal obligatory knowledge (fard `ayn) for every Muslim. The so-called jihad is interpreted in a twisted and exaggerated fashion by militants to represent it solely as a personal obligation more important than creed.

(2)     Militants have a non-Sunni creed and oppose creeds espoused by the Sunni majority. Orthodox Islam, as understood by militants, is mainly represented by combat instead of correct creed. Even while rhetorically claiming to support Sunni creed, militants and other extremists normally oppose all three schools of Sunni creed (Ash’ari, Maturidi, and Athari creeds) while superficially opting for a neo-Athari (anthropomorphic) creed, which has never been part of mainstream Sunni Islam. Furthermore, militants and other extremists are mostly against the majority understanding of Sunni creed, and accuse Ash’aris and Maturidis of being reprehensible innovators or infidels to be exterminated, yet deceitfully attempt to use them for support whenever it suits them. If militants claim that dialectical theology is not necessary to understand God, this does not make their neo-Athari creed correct from the standpoint of Sunni tradition. Rather, they adhere to an understanding of Wahhabi-Salafi creed that was invented by Ibn Taymiyah, supported later by Muhammad ibn Abdal-Wahhab[19], and propagated by Salafis of all colors. Namely, Oneness of God (tawheed al-uloohiyya), Unity of God’s Lordship (tawheed al-ruboobiyya), and Unity of God’s Names and Attributes (tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat). Creed has never been categorized and understood by the Sunni majority in this manner.

(3)     Militants demean religious scholars and knowledge. Joas Wagemakers says, “There seems to be a growing trend among jihadis to view fighters as being the most credible Muslims to comment on jihad, in spite of their lack of scholarly credentials.”[20] The opposition by militants to Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, well-known for his religious knowledge among extremist circles, illustrates the point. Scoffing at religious scholars, a central part of the militant outlook, elevates combat over belief, and ridicules Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, including: “Scholars [of religious knowledge] are the inheritors of the Prophets.”[21]  He did not say that those who combat are the heirs of the prophets. Prophet Muhammad was also asked, “`What is the best deed?’ He responded, ‘Belief in Allah and His Messenger […].’”[22] Many militants understand combat experience as a prerequisite to speaking about creed and other religious knowledge – a complete reversal of Sunni Islam that requires correct creed as a first priority and prerequisite to other Islamic practices. Militants do the opposite of what Prophet Muhammad prioritized.

(4)      Militants make combat a pillar of Islam. The first pillar of Islam, the Testification of Faith (“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”) is replaced with so-called combative jihad as the first pillar, or is portrayed by militants as being a pillar of Islam. `Abd-al-Salam al-Faraj, for example, in “The Neglected Duty” saw combative jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam. However, jihad is not a pillar of Sunni Islam and never has been. Asma Afsaruddin says that “the Medinan scholar `Abdallah ibn `Umar, son of the second caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattab, is on record as having challenged those who had wished to elevate combative jihad to the level of a religious obligation. An Iraqi man came to Ibn `Umar and reproached him thus: “What is the matter with you that you perform the hajj and `umra but have abandoned fighting in the path of God (al-ghazu fi sabil allah)?’ To which Ibn `Umar responded, ‘Fie on you! Faith is founded on five pillars: that you worship God, perform the prayer, give zakat, perform the pilgrimage, and fast during Ramadan[…].”[23] If true, and even if militants today were waging genuine jihad, they would still be reprimanded by early Muslims for seeing jihad as a pillar of Islam.

Due to the reasons stated above, militants and other extremists contradict mainstream Sunni Islam because they violate the majority Sunni understanding of correct creed, which is the most critical fundamental of a Muslim’s salvation. Furthermore, those who hold a distorted understanding of Sunni creed as militants do due to prioritizing fighting over understanding God cannot be trusted for religious guidance. If their creed is wrong or uncertain from a Sunni perspective, how can Muslims be sure that their understanding of jurisprudence (including of jihad) is correct? The fissures created by creedal differences among militants should be further examined and exploited to strengthen the Sunni narrative against them.

 


[1] The three fundamentals of Islam are based on the following hadith, which describes the Angel Gabriel in the form of a man who explains the three fundamentals of Islam to Prophet Muhammad:

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said:
As we sat one day with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man in pure white clothing and jet black hair came to us, without a trace of travelling upon him, though none of us knew him.

He sat down before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bracing his knees against his, resting his hands on his legs, and said: “Muhammad, tell me about Islam.” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and to perform the prayer, give zakat, fast in Ramadan, and perform the pilgrimage to the House if you can find a way.”

He said: “You have spoken the truth,” and we were surprised that he should ask and then confirm the answer. Then he said: “Tell me about true faith (iman),” and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: “It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His inspired Books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in destiny, its good and evil.”

“You have spoken the truth,” he said, “Now tell me about the perfection of faith (ihsan),” and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: “It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you.”

He said: “Now tell me about the Hour.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: “The one who is asked about it does knows no more than the questioner.”

He said: “Then tell me about its signs.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace answered: “That a slave girl shall give birth to her mistress, and that you see barefoot, naked, destitute shepherds vying to build tall buildings.”

Then the visitor left. I waited a long while, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to me, “Do you know, ‘Umar, who was the questioner?” and I replied, “Allah and His messenger know best.” He said, “It was Gabriel, who came to you to teach you your religion” (Sahih Muslim, 1.37: hadith 8).

(Keller, Nuh Ha Mim. (1995).The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islamic Sciences. Available: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/sufitlk.htm)

While the hadith of Gabriel above seems to indicate that Islamic practices are more important than faith in God since the former precedes the latter in the order stated in the hadith, another narration of this hadith begins with an inquiry of faith by Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad. (See, for example, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 2, No. 47). Imam Zaid Shakir, a popular contemporary American Sunni scholar says, “The Hadith of Gabriel (Jibril) is considered by most Muslim scholars to be one of the fundamental texts of our religion. It presents, in a comprehensive way, the foundations of Islam.” (Imam Zaid Shakir, Giving Thanks (2011), Available: http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/notes/giving_thanks/ ). Of the three fundamentals of Islam, Lumbard ( 2008) says they “are the three fundamental dimensions of the submitting way; they complement and complete each other. They are envisioned as three partially overlapping circles, and the place where all three circles overlap is the ideal that all Muslims strive to attain. One who embodies all three in their fullest depth and breadth is closer to living as a true human being in what the Qur’an refers to as the true nature (fitrah). This true nature is our original state before God and the innate disposition of all human beings.” (Lumbard, Joseph E.B.(2008). Submission Faith & Beauty: The Religion of Islam. Zaytuna Institute. Berkley, CA. p.xix-xx).

[2] This fundamental of Islam is also described as “submitting or submission.” (Ibid. Lumbard, 2008).

[3] This fundamental of Ihsan is also described as “beautification.” (Ibid. Lumbard, 2008)

[4] This article will mostly use the word creed. Sunni creed is synonymous with Sunni tenets of faith, belief, doctrine, and theology. While Sunni creed relates to knowledge and understanding of God’s attributes, it also includes knowledge of what prophets are and are not attributed with. Traditional or mainstream Sunni Islam refers to the understanding of most scholars in Islam’s history, is followed by most Muslims in Islam since the time of Prophet Muhammad, and comprises three central dimensions: Islamic belief/creed, Islamic practice or jurisprudence, and achievement of states of inner purity.

[5] Nawawi.(2003). Al-Maqasid:. Nawawi’s Manual of Islam. Translation and Notes by Nuh Ha Mim Keller. Amana Publications. Beltsville, MD. pg.6.

[6] Lumbard, Joseph E.B.(2008). Submission Faith & Beauty: The Religion of Islam. Zaytuna Institute. Berkley, CA. pg.1

[7] Keller, Nu Ha Mim. “Kalaam in Islam.” Lecture given at Aal al-Bayt Institute of Islamic Thought on

4 January 2005 in Amman, Jordan. Available: http://www.livingislam.org/k/ki_e.html

[8] The “Umma” is the community of Muslims. The “ulema” are the religious scholars of Islam.

[9] Kamali describes the geographical distribution of the adherents of each of the four Sunni schools of law:

The Hanafi school has the largest following of all the schools, owing to its official adoption by the Ottoman Turks in the early sixteenth century. It is now predominant in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and among the Muslims of India, and its adherents constitute about one third of the Muslims of the world…(73).

The Maliki school is currently predominant in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Upper Egypt, the Sudan, Bahrain and Kuwait….(73)

The Shafi’i school is now prevalent in Lower Egypt, southern Arabia, East Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and has many followers in Palestine, Jordan and Syria….(83)

The Hanbali school is currently predominant in Saudi Arabia and also has followers in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait….(84)
(Kamali, Mohammad H. (2008). Shari’ah Law: An Introduction. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications, 2008, p.73, 83,84)

[10] Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf (compiler, translator, Introduction). (2007). Abu `l-Muntaha al-Maghnisawi, with Selections from `Ali al-Qari’s Commentary, Including Abu Hanifa’s Kitab al-Wasiyya. Imam Abu Hanifa’s Al-Fiqh al-Akbar Explained, Santa Barbara, California: White Thread Press, pg.19. Regarding criticisms, contemporary Sunni scholar Faraz Rabbani, says that “some major Hanbalis held beliefs that smacked of anthropomorphism [‘representation of God as having human form or traits’], this is true but unfair: it is also true that some Shafiis had such beliefs, and some were Mutazili rationalists; the same is also true of the Hanafi school. However, what matters is the general case (al-`ibra li’l ghalib), and the overwhelming majority of Hanbalis had sound beliefs, as is the case in the other schools…It is from the unfortunate attacks against the edifice of Sunni Islam that people pick on minor cases or rare historical incidents (like the occasional periods of inter-madhhab dispute) and try to generalize these into a history of discord whose existence is solely in their creative imaginations. Reality, for those who seek it, is that there was a remarkable unity that was based on a foundation of acceptance of difference of opinion within the limits; and a wisdom and pragmatism that avoided fitna with those whose ways diverged from the sound path of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and his inheritors, the scholars of Sunni Islam.” (Rabbani, Faraz. (2008). “Is There an ‘Athari’ Aqidah?” Question 4856. Qibla for the Islamic Sciences. Available: http://spa.qibla.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=4856&CATE=24)

[11] Ibid. Keller, “Kalaam in Islam.”

[12] Ibid. Keller, “Kalaam in Islam.”
“(a) The twenty attributes necessarily true of Allah are His (1) existence; (2) not beginning; (3) not ending; (4) self-subsistence, meaning not needing any place or determinant to exist; (5) dissimilarity to created things; (6) uniqueness, meaning having no partner (sharik) in His entity, attributes, or actions; (7) omnipotent power; (8) will; (9) knowledge; (10) life; (11) hearing; (12) sight; (13) speech; such that He is (14) al-mighty; (15) all-willing; (16) all-knowing; (17) living; (18) all-hearing; (19) all-seeing; (20) and speaking – through His attributes of power, will, knowledge, life, hearing, sight, and speech, not merely through His being.

(b) The twenty attributes necessarily impossible of Allah (21­40) are the opposites of the previous twenty, such as nonexistence, beginning, ending, and so on.

(c) The one attribute merely possible of Allah (41) is that He may create or destroy any possible thing.

The attributes of the prophets…similarly fall under the three headings:

(a) The four attributes necessarily true of the prophets (42­45) are telling the truth, keeping their trust, conveying to mankind everything they were ordered to, and intelligence.

(b) The four attributes necessarily impossible of them (46­49) are the opposites of the previous four, namely lying, treachery, concealing what they were ordered to reveal, and feeblemindedness.

(c) The one attribute possible of them (50) is any human state that does not detract from their rank, such as eating, sleeping, marrying, and illnesses not repellant to others; although Allah protected them from every offensive physical trait and everything unbecoming them, keeping them from both lesser sins and enormities, before their prophethood and thereafter.” (Ibid, Keller).

[13] Some pseudo-Sunni groups describe themselves as “Athari,” whereas they do not represent authentic Athari creed. Such groups promote anthropomorphism in the name of the “Athari” creed, and are better described as pseudo-Athari anthropomorphists from a Sunni perspective. In addition to many militants, they also include non-violent extremists, including Wahhabis and other Salafis,

[14] Rabbani, Faraz. “The Ash’aris & Maturidis: Standards of Mainstream Sunni Beliefs.” Available: http://seekersguidance.org/ans-blog/2009/11/19/the-asharis-maturidis-standards-of-mainstream-sunni-beliefs/, accessed Jan.12, 2012.

[15] Jihad is in quotes because militants violate the conditions that make combative jihad valid.

[16] Letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, available: http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/report/2005/zawahiri-zarqawi-letter_9jul2005.htm

[17] Ibid. Letter from Al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi.

[18] While militants are usually against Ash’aris and Maturidis, they nevertheless use their statements in an attempt to portray support for their perspectives. This is a deceitful attempt to win more recruits from the moderate Sunni majority who espouse Ash’ari and Maturidi creeds. Qurtubi, for example, is a well known Ash’ari scholar who has been cited by Osama bin Laden in his declarations. See, for example: Bruce, Lawrence (2005). Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden. Verso. New York, NY. pg..7 (footnote 13). Other Ash’ari scholars, including Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (see Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s “Illustrious Points: Observations on the Book al-Jami’” and

Abu Jandal al-Azdi’s “The Scholar’s Ruling on the Killing of Soldiers and Secret Police”), Jalaluddin al-Suyuti (see Harith `Abd al-Salam al-Misri’s “[If] They say…then you say! Revealing the Doubts of the Tremblers and Abandoners Regarding Jihad”), Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani (see Yusuf al-`Uyayri’s “The Truth About the New Crusader War”), Nawawi (see Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “Response to a Grave Uncertainty from Shaykh al-Albani Regarding Silence in the Face of Apostate Rulers”), al-Qadi `Iyad (see Abu Qatada al-Filistini’s “Characteristics of the Victorious Sect in the Muslim’s Home Land (Greater Syria)”), are also cited. (William McCants (Editor & Project Director), Jarret Brachman (Project Coordinator). (2006).“Militant Ideology Atlas,” Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY. pp. 83, 121, 123, 130, 145, 205, 272. Available: http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Atlas-ResearchCompendium1.pdf

[19] Muhammad ibn Abdal-Wahhab is the founder of the Wahhabi movement.

[20] Wagemakers, Joas (2011). “Reclaiming Scholarly Authority: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Critique of Jihadi Practices.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34: 7, 523-539.

[21] This is an authentic hadith related by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Ibn Habban, and others. For an explanation of the hadith, see: http://seekersguidance.org/blog/2011/03/is-the-hadith-the-scholars-are-the-inheritors-of-the-prophets-authentic-if-so-what-does-it-mean-faraz-rabbani/

[22] Sahih Bukhari: Vol.2, Book 26, No. 594.

[23] al-Huda, Qamar (Ed.). (2010).Crescent and Dove: Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam. United States Institute of Peace. Washington, DC. pg.47.

– Militants and Perverted Fantasies.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

“Muslim” militants and Islamophobes portray terrorists as loyal to their supposed cause: To fight in the cause of Islam, in the cause of Allah, and to suffer with honor any consequences. However, examining the lives of well known militants unveils a different reality.

For example, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad’s (KSM) behavior is far from what the Qur’an and Sunnah teach. Of KSM, The Guardian notes:

“Although Mohammed insists that he is a believer, he is not a strict Muslim, and while the September hijackers lived in cheap lodgings, he stayed in plush hotels. In contrast to the spartan lifestyle of Osama bin Laden and his followers, he was flamboyant, spent lavishly, and is known to joke with colleagues to ease the pressure on him and on them”[1]

KSM’s lack of humility and simplicity is not the only issue. He is quite impure from an Islamic standpoint.

“In the Philippines he was a frequent visitor to Manila’s red light district, including its karaoke bars and mirrored go-go clubs, where he introduced himself to women as a wealthy businessman from Qatar. Mohammed’s womanizing included phoning a dentist and telling her: “Look out of the window and look up.”’

What she saw was Mohammed and his nephew and protege Ramzi Ahmed Yousef waving from a helicopter hovering above her clinic and displaying a banner saying

“I love you.”[2]

Terrorist escapades with women and lying about being a wealthy businessman. Neither reflects Islamic behavior. Richard Miniter sheds more light on KSM and Rami Yousef’s playboy lives “at odds with Islamic Law”:

“While planning a series of bombings designed to create an Islamic superstate, KSM and Ramzi Yousef enjoyed a playboy life in the Philippines, at odds with Islamic law. They hung out nearly every night at strip clubs, where Arminda Costudio, a waitress, remembers KSM’s ‘chubby’ fingers and fat wads of cash….Another favorite haunt was an alcohol-serving karaoke bar on A. Mabini Street in Manila. They enjoyed music and alcohol while watching the overhead television screen. Bin Laden would not have approved. KSM didn’t care. He had his own financing and made his own rules.”[3]

Women, and now alcohol, and all the things that come with it at strip clubs and karaoke bars. A twisted love of lust while desiring to make a bomb to kill innocent civilians to make a so-called Islamic state? It is probable that their making the bomb was an escape for these terrorists  to soothe their guilty conscience for all the perverted and un-Islamic things they did.

KSM and Ramzi Yousef are not the only warriors of worldly lust. Anwar al-Awlaki is reported to have solicited prostitutes in his life [4], and The Telegraph reports that Muhammad Atta, the:

 “leader of the September 11 terrorists and four other hijackers made several trips to Las Vegas over the summer to hold meetings, gamble and be entertained by topless dancers.”[5]

It is worth examining this matter at length to give us a better understanding about what these militants are really like, especially when they claim to be the best representatives of Islam:

“According to the FBI, Mohamed Atta, the pilot of the first hijacked aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Centre, and his accomplices spent some of their time in Las Vegas at the Olympic Bar, a downtown strip club.

Lotfi Riassi, a pilot arrested in London on suspicion of teaching four hijackers how to fly, also stayed in the gambling city in Nevada. Investigators believe the September 11 plot was developed there.

But the Muslim fundamentalists, who supposedly believed that their terrorism would earn them the pleasures of eager virgins in heaven, also sampled some of the forbidden pleasures of America’s capital of decadence.”[6]

Reporter Harnden then tells us about a stripper named Samantha who did a lap dance for one of the terrorists:

“Samantha, a 29-year-old stripper, told the San Francisco Chronicle, that she had been paid to lap dance for Marwan al-Shehhi, the pilot of the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Centre.”

Breathtaking. And it is not over yet. Samantha had something to say:

“Some big-man terrorist, huh?”,

she said as she took a break at the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret.

“He spent about $20 for a quick dance and didn’t tip more.”

She remembered the terrorist staring blankly at her as she swung her hips inches from his face. “I’m glad he’s dead with the rest of them, and I don’t like feeling something like that,” she said. “But he wasn’t just a bad tipper – he killed people.”

“Some of the girls here remember a couple of those guys coming in here in August, too. For me, what I remembered most was the guy with the beard. You don’t forget a face in this business.”

What was going on in Marwan al-Shehhi’s mind when Samantha

 “swung her hips inches from his face.”

How is al-Shehhi supposed to reconcile dying in the name of Allah with having American hips swinging inches from his face?

This brotherly absorption in materialism by terrorists was shared by others of their kind:

“The FBI has told business owners that in addition to Atta and al-Shehhi, Nawaq Alhamzi, Ziad Jarrahi, and Hani Hanjour all stayed in Las Vegas off and on between May and August. The group included a hijacker from each of the four flights.”

And the pattern makes itself evident when examining other terrorists. Pornography was reportedly found in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad.

Apparently Nidal Malik Hassan had a humble lap-dance at a strip joint just six days before the Fort Hood massacre.[7]

Imam Samudra, “overall commander of the Bali bombings,” also contributed to unIslamic behavior:

“When investigators seized his laptop computer, they found a wealth of evidence showing connections to Al Qaeda as well as hours of pornographic images of Barbie-doll-like women downloaded from Western Web sites.”

Naked women, and from the “West”? The same “West” that they condemn as filthy, immoral, and decadent? The same “West” they are waging a supposed “holy” struggle against? Where is the “holiness” in their struggle?

Pornography was even found by security forces in Taliban hideouts in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Daily Times reported that

“Security forces…seized porn films from the hideouts of the Taliban during various search operations” according to Pakistan’s Interior Minister at the time, Rehman Malik.[8]

Militants were also guilty of “embedding coded material” in child porn:

“Scotland Yard fear the Islamic fundamentalists are embedding coded material in depraved pictures of children and using paedophile websites as a secure way of exchanging information. The Sun continued, “The sick link came to light after child pornography was found in anti-terror swoops on addresses across the UK – and during major investigations in Italy and Spain.”[9]

It all really makes one wonder what the “Dirty Bomber” really means. And then we hear about the “Underwear Bomber.” It certainly does not sound like Islam but sick urges with sexual undertones. Militants are not looking forward to virgins in heaven. They want them here and now. Apparently even non-virgins will do.  Pornography-prone mujahideen among the noble salaf-us-salih never existed, so who are these terrorists emulating?

72 Virgins and “Martyrdom”

Speaking of heavenly virgins, it is a good time to settle the issue. Why all the obsession from militants and martyr wannabees for 72 virgins?  Shaykh Faraz Khan says the 72 virgins issue is from an authentic hadeeth of Prophet Muhammad  in the Sunnah of Tirmidhi. The Prophet says:

“The martyr has six unique traits: he is forgiven immediately; he sees his seat in Paradise and he is saved from the punishment of the grave; he is granted safety from the great terror [of the Day of Judgment]; a crown of honor is placed upon his head, a ruby of which is better than this life and all it contains; he is married to 72 maidens of Paradise; and he is allowed to intercede for 70 relatives.”

Shaykh Faraz Khan, an orthodox Sunni scholar, explains:

“Notice that there is no particular emphasis in the hadith on the 72 maidens – it is one of several types of reward given to the martyr. Likewise, Muslims do not go about their day-to-day lives thinking of the maidens of Paradise; they are not obsessed with it the way they are often made out to be.”[10]

But it is the militants who seem to be the most obsessed about it. It is interesting that of the many rewards in Paradise, militants so frequently single out heavenly virgins at the exclusion of other rewards mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah just before they kill themselves in the name of “martyrdom.” Their intentions and efforts show a frustrated lust for women than having a genuine desire to experience the many rewards in Paradise as a real believer would.

Even more bizarre, their desire for heavenly virgins occurs just before they commit the haraam act of suicide – as if suicide, in what they wrongly understand as “martyrdom,” will give them any reward, much less the reward of heavenly virgins.  These lunatics play with Allah’s Words in the Qur’an and are experts at making a mockery of Islam’s Holy Book and Sunni tradition. They do not respect or fear Allah when they make the haraam (forbidden) halaal (permitted) by making the haraam act of suicide synonymous with the act of martyrdom. Shaykh Faraz Khan explains:

“Also, it is worth mentioning that what is meant by “martyr” in the Islamic tradition is not what is commonly portrayed in Western media, namely, one who dies committing an act of terrorism – that is merely propaganda, and it is a lie. Terrorism has no place in Islam, and Islamic scholars have unequivocally condemned it in the harshest manner, time and time again.

The concept of martyrdom when understood properly is something valued by all religions and societies as noble and chivalrous, as it represents the ultimate sacrifice one can make to serve his Creator and his fellow man. In American history, for example, figures such as Patrick Henry are praised as courageous and honorable for statements such as, “Give me liberty or give me death.”[11]

It is worth pausing for a moment to understand – and the militants should pay heed – that because one  thinks one is doing “martyrdom” does not necessarily make it so. This should make anyone think twice before attempting martyrdom because it requires the purest of intentions in the correct Islamically approved circumstances.

An example of a person who thought he was a martyr, but was not, is clearly illustrated in a hadith. The fact that this mistake can occur with the mistaken “martyr” being dragged to hellfire instead of heaven should make every terrorist pause and reflect: “What if I am hell-bound?”


[3] Richard Miniter. Mastermind. Pg.88.

– The Sin of “Takfir” in Islam.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Takfir, or to declare someone a disbeliever, is a heinous sin in Islam, reminiscent of the Kharijites in early Islam who declared the Companions of Prophet Muhamamd to be disbelievers, and misinterpreted Qur’anic verses to justify their fanaticism.

Shaykh Faraz Khan, a contemporary Sunni scholar, says:

“One of the greatest tribulations (fitan) of our times is the prevalence of some Muslims deeming other Muslims as disbelievers (takfir). This is a catastrophe, whose harm is most clearly manifested in the senseless killing of innocent Muslims by extremists.”[1]

It is, in fact, easy to become a Muslim. If there is certainty that one believes in Islam, but doubt as to whether such a person renounced Islam or not, the former takes precedence over the latter since in Islam a state of certainty takes precedence over a state of uncertainty. For the same reason, when a Muslim, for example, purifies him- or herself and is unsure of whether he or she nullified the purification, then he or she is considered to be in a state of purity. To accuse someone of being out of Islam’s ambit requires concrete proof – not hunches and conjecture. As explained, that is why Muslim scholars in Sunni tradition were reluctant to excommunicate others.

Can any Muslim declare another Muslim of being outside the pale of Islam? No. This is the prerogative of a qualified Muslim Judge. Shaykh Nuh Keller explains:

“In Muslim society, such a judgment [of belief versus unbelief of someone] is the business of the qadi or Islamic judge alone, and only because he has to. In cases where he must distinguish between the kufr or iman of a nominally Muslim individual, he does so because of earthly rights and penalties entailed by such a judgement, such as that an apostate’s marriage to a Muslim woman is null and void, the meat he slaughters is not lawful to eat, and his property belongs to the Muslim common fund (bayt al-mal), and so forth.”

Shaykh Nuh Keller continues – and this is very important:

“Moreover, these are the responsibility of the Islamic government to implement, and in the absence of such a government, ordinary Muslims may neither judge nor carry out the worldly consequences of such legal rulings because they have no authority to do so, for Islam does not permit vigilante or mob “justice.” Ordinary Muslims other than the qadi are not required to judge the faith in the heart of anyone who has spoken the Shahada or Testification of Faith, with the possible exception of someone married to a spouse who may have left Islam.”

So, if a judge has the prerogative to excommunicate someone from Islam – and only when the evidence is conclusive – this stresses the abomination and unlawfulness of Muslim laypeople to play excommunicator.

How does an Islamic judge determine the belief or disbelief of a person in Islam? Imam Hamza Yusuf, a contemporary Sunni scholar, says:

“Six conditions have to be fulfilled in order for a judge to rule concerning a person’s faith: Intention; Absence of Coercion; Level of Knowledge; Absence of Esoteric Interpretation; Mental Ability to Reason; and, Proof of Faith.”

Sunni scholars say that if the apparently kufr statements of someone can be interpreted to be other than kufr, then this should be done. The famous Hanafi scholar, Ibn Abideen, as quoted by contemporary Sunni scholar Shaykh Gibril F Haddad, said:

“The Fatwa of Kufr is not given to a Muslim when his words have the possibility of being interpreted in better (Hasan) manner (not amounting to Kufr)”.[2]

Moreover, if someone utters actual kufr, instead of such a person being declared a disbeliever, he or she should be taught the correct understanding of Islam and be corrected politely.

Today what we commonly find instead is so-called Muslims not only not giving the benefit of the doubt in terms of an alternative interpretation to what sounds like kufr, but to declare such people apostates on the spot, with some even brutally killing them without considering any leeway and leniency that Islam provides.

Verbal “corrections” that happen to be provided by some so-called Muslims are harsh and domineering, without wisdom (`aql) or etiquette (adaab), in strict violation of the example of Prophet Muhammad. A lot of times, these “corrections” result in more harm than good, and have little to no effect on the person listening. Also, no Muslim knows whether a living person will go to Heaven or Hell because belief can undergo drastic change in one’s lifetime.

The upshot/point is that a person who has heard the call to Islam and rejected it does not necessarily mean that the person will necessarily go to Hell. Abu Sufyan, for example, opposed Prophet Muhammad and “fought” him “for almost twenty years, yet never did the Prophet despair of the possibility that Abu Sufyan would accept faith.”[3] How different is this from the understanding of extremists and other militants who have already judged the outcome of the salvation of living human beings when they do not even possess such knowledge. Imam Hamza Yusuf said:

“The majority of scholars have prohibited damning an individual, whether Muslim or not, because only God knows a person’s ultimate status.”[4]

King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan issued the Amman Message on November 9th, 2004 for unity and tolerance among Muslims and was supported by 200 Muslim scholars from over 50 countries. This statement, perhaps the biggest demonstration of unity and tolerance among Muslims of diverse sects, stated that it was impermissible for Muslims to declare other Muslims “apostate”:

“Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi,Maliki, Shafi‘i and Hanbali), the two Shi‘i schools ofIslamic jurisprudence (Ja‘fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Shaykh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash‘ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.”

“Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in God and the pillars of faith, who acknowledges the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion.”[5]


[2] Takfir – Anathematizing. Gabriel F. Haddad quotes Ibn Abideen “Radd al-Muhtar” (English translation?). Qibla for the Islamic Sciencies: http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=216&CATE=13

[3] Imam Hamza Yusuf article on Who are the Desbelievers?. Pg. 42. http://www.mujahideenryder.net/pdf/WhoAretheDisbelievers.pdf

[4] Imam Hamza Yusuf article on Who are the Desbelievers?. Pg. 42. http://www.mujahideenryder.net/pdf/WhoAretheDisbelievers.pdf

[5] TheAmman Message (cite properly). I have the book.

– Al-Qa’eda and Wahhabism.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

The claim that Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with Wahhabism is disingenuous and misleading. This is not to say that Osama correctly represents Wahhabism, but to illustrate the connection between two individuals who were outcasts in the orthodox Sunni communities of their times. Osama bin Laden quotes the founder of the Wahhabi movement, Muhammad ibn Abdal-Wahhab, in his speeches.  In his “Open Letter to King Fahd” in 1995,  Osama bin Laden says the following in reference to a hadith:

“Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd-al-Wahab, may God rest his soul in peace, classifying the abovementioned tale of ‘Uday bin Hatam, “He who obeys the scholars and the princes in disallowing what God has permitted and allowing what He has rendered impermissible, has made them unto lords. (From a footnote to the Book of Monotheism, p.146).”[i]

It is to be noted that OBL first quotes Ibn Taymiyah’s explanation of a particular hadith, and then subsequently uses “Shaykh Muhammad bin Abdl-Wahhab” to support his point.  Never mind the hadith he discussed, and whether it was even the correct understanding or not to justify his perspective. The point here is that he used the founder of the Wahhabi movement to support his perspectives because he deems him to be a good Islamic scholar. This is a view that contradicts the views of orthodox Sunni scholars.

In the same Open Letter to King Fahd, Osama bin Laden says:

“There is neither a doubt nor any controversy among the scholars that having infidels as allies and supporting them against Muslims is definitely inconsistent to the teachings of Islam. It was mentioned by the Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd-al-Wahab as one of ten contradictions of Islam.”[ii]

Furthermore, OBL mentions Shaykh Abd al-Rehamn bin Hasan Al Shaykh. This same scholar was stated later as an author/scholar of a book recommended in a recent audio recording presumably by OBL that was released on March 14, 2009.   Among the “beneficial books” the first one on OBL’s list is:

“‘Achievement of the Glorious’ by Shaykh Abd al-Rahman bin Hasan Al Shaykh, which is a very important book which talks about Tawheed and warns against Shirk [polytheism], including the Shirk of graves and the Shirk of palaces.”[iii]

According to the Quilliam Foundation, which describes the book as “Victory of the Glorious” instead of “Achievement of the Glorious,” the book is a “commentary on [Muhammad] Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s Kitab al-Tawhid, the founding textbook of Wahhabism”[iv] and Shaykh Abd al-Rahman bin Hasan Al Shaykh, the author, is the “grandson” of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab.[v]

OBL’s friend, Khalid, who had “long arguments and discussions” with OBL about political issues said:

“Mr Osama said that Abdul Aziz ibn Saud was not a religious leader at all but just a tribal chieftain. He used to say that Wahhabism was exploited and used as a cover so the House of al-Saud could fight against the Ottomans and win land and wealth.”[vi]

It is clear from above that while OBL sees Muhammad ibn Abdl-Wahhab as a reliable scholar, he sees al-Sa’ud as pseudo-Wahhabis who use Wahhabism as a mask to attain material benefit.

Osama bin Laden mentions Muhammad Hamid al- Fiqqi:

“In his comments on the Book of Monotheism, Shaykh Muhammad Hamid al-Fiqqi, May God rest his soul in peace, says in regards to legislator of the positive laws the he is doubtlessly a renegade infidel if he insists on them and does not refer to what God has revealed. Whatever name he calls himself is with no avail nor will any good deed such as prayer, fasting, the Hajj, and such help him.” [From the Glorious Conquest, the interpretation of the Book of Monotheism. 3/396]”

Al-Fiqqi is a Wahhabi scholar, who, along with Muhammad Al-Amin al-Shanqiti – another Wahhabi scholar stated by OBL to support his perspectives – were teachers of the Salafi, Hammad al-Ansari. Gabriel Fouad Haddad quotes Shaykh Yusuf al-Rifa’i (both of the latter being orthodox Sunni scholars) about al-Ansari as being “the defunct Shaykh of the anthropomorphists in Madina and a venal mercenary from Mali.” Of Al-Faqqi, Shaykh Haddad says he “contributed Wahhabi annotations” to well-known Hanbali works. [vii] Moreover, as is typical of Wahhabis and other Salafis, Al-Fiqqi incidentally goes against Ibn Taymiyah in the matter of commemorating Mawlid, or the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, an orthodox Sunni scholar, says, “Muhammad Hamid al-Fiqqi objects apoplectically to Ibn Taymiyya in his edition of the latter’s Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim in the section entitled “Innovated festivities of time and place.” He criticizes Ibn Taymiyya for saying that “some people innovate a celebration out of love for the Prophet and to exalt him, and Allah may reward them for this love and striving.” Al-Fiqqi writes a two-page footnote exclaiming, “How can they possibly obtain a reward for this?! What striving is in this?!”[viii]

The late Abu Yahya al-Libi, an al-Qa’eda member, also uses the Wahhabi founder to support his point in his “Guidance on the Ruling of the Muslim Spy”. He says:

“Imam Muhammad Bin-Abd-al-Wahhab, may God have mercy on him, said: ‘The eighth violator is the backing of polytheists and supporting them against Muslims. The proof of this saying is the Almighty’s words: ‘O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust’ [Koranic verse, Al-Ma’idah, 5:51].[ix]

It is interesting to note that Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qa’eda’s second in command after OBL, wrote the introduction and praised the book. One assumes then that al-Zawahiri also sees Muhammad ibn Abdl-Wahhab as a reliable scholar. This becomes clear when he mentions the Wahhabi founder’s name himself in his book entitled Exoneration:

 “–Allamah Shaykh Muhammad Khalil Hiras, may he rest in peace. I petitioned him at his home in Tanta around the year 1974. I do not remember the exact date. He ruled that the Egyptian regime was apostate and should be overthrown by anyone able to do so. I discussed with him other issues including Shari’ah judgment on fighting the Jews in the Egyptian army for those who are coerced to do so. I presented him with the clues I had found in the writings of Imam al-Shafi’i, Shaykh al-Islam Ibn-Taymiyyah, and Shaykh Muhammad Abd-al-Wahhab, may they rest in peace. He endorsed my findings and expressed pleasure that young men like myself were able to find these clues and read those references.”[x]

Like OBL and al-Zawahiri, Abu Abdallah Al-Sa’di also mentions the Wahhabi founder in al-Qa’eda’s Voice of Jihad magazine. He says:

“The state of Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab [Sa’udi Arabia] arose only by jihad. The state of the Taliban in Afghanistan arose only by jihad. The Islamic state in Chechnya arose only by jihad. It is true that these attempts were not perfect and did not fill the full role required, but incremental progress is a known universal principle. Yesterday, we did not dream of a state; today we established states and they fall. Tomorrow, Allah willing, a state will arise and will not fall[…].”[xi]

Those who claim that OBL and al-Qa’eda are radical Salafis who had/have nothing to do with Wahhabism are promoting a myth. But was OBL a true Wahhabi? Osama was a hybrid Wahhabi-Salafi who was nevertheless described as a “Wahhabi” by his son, Omer. While OBL cannot be said to represent Wahhabism, he was definitely molded and inculcated by it in his Saudi surroundings and by his father’s Wahhabi guidance.
____________

[i] The full transcript of Osama bin Laden’s Open Letter to King Fahd can be found at: www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/FeaturedDocs/nefaublletterkindfahd.pdf

and a partial transcript which includes this quote can be found at the Jihad Unspun website: www.jihadunspun.com/articles/05272002-Open.Letter.To.King.Fahd/index2.html

[iv] “Muhammad” enclosed in square brackets added by the author.

[v] The Quilliam Foundation. Quilliam Alert – Osama bin Laden’s recommended reading: Implications for UK counter-terrorism policy. March 18, 2009: www.quilliamfoundation.org/index.php/component/content/article/481

[vi] Jason Burke. 2004. Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam. Pg. 57.

[vii] GH Haddad. 2007. Hammad al-Ansari. www.livingislam.org/k/hans_e.html

[viii] 200 Years of New Kharijism: The Ongoing Revision of Islam. Footnote XXI. Available:  www.islamicsupremecouncil.org/bin/site/wrappers/isca_inside_extremism_newkhawarij.html

[xi] Memri Special Dispatch 650, 27 January 2004, as quoted in Richard Bonney (2004) “Jihad: From Qur’an to bin Laden”. New York, NY, Palgrave Macmillan. p.154.