– Osama bin Laden’s Islamic Education and His “Fatawa”.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Osama bin Laden was not a trained theologian. He was never known as a “great thinker” in the Islamic world. And what his followers saw as his “fatawa” (religious edicts) is what the elusive Mullah Omar saw as a violation of Islam. Mullah Omar, another confused and extremist mullah, said, “Only muftis can issue fatwas.”[1] He then said that Osama bin Laden “is not a mufti and therefore any fatwas he may have issued are illegal and null and void.”[2] Mullah Omar was adamant about this: “Bin Laden is not entitled to issue fatwas as he did not complete the mandatory 12 years of Koranic studies to qualify for the position of mufti.”[3]

The “12 years of Koranic studies” requirement is not necessarily true from a Sunni standpoint. The general point, however, is correct. It takes a long time of serious hard work and persistence from a learned scholar to reach the level of proclaiming religious edicts. Religious edicts in Islam are not a free-for-all for any person to say.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, a contemporary orthodox Sunni scholar, says that:

“a lay person is not allowed to give…a fatwa based on a hunch or some floating set of understandings they have developed. This would be sinful, even if they are right. Rather, it would be their duty to go back to scholars, either directly, or from a clear, reliable text that explicitly mentions the answer.”[4]

Sunni Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera, another contemporary Sunni scholar, explains who a “mufti” is and a mufti’s competencies:

“A mufti could normally be defined as someone well-grounded in Islamic law who has acquired the ability from qualified teachers to issue formal legal rulings on matters concerning Islamic law.”

“Reaching this status normally requires that one study the principle books of fiqh, usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence), books of fatawa (legal verdicts), and other related subjects, and then sit with muftis and practice researching issues of fiqh and providing answers to them with reference to the source books. Studies in other Islamic sciences are also very important: for instance aqida, tafsir, and hadith, since many fiqhi questions involve these subjects and a mufti is oftentimes required to have deep understanding of these sciences too.”[5]

Osama bin Laden certainly did not fulfill the general qualifications of being a Mufti, and was therefore unqualified to issue fatawa of any kind and on any issue.

Osama’s education was mainly in the worldly domain – not the Sunni spiritual domain – in spite of his intermittent, informal Islamic education with individuals holding dubious, Wahhabi-Salafi credentials. Even if had studied Islam formally and had become an Islamic scholar of some sort, he would have been indoctrinated in some manifestation of Wahhabism-Salafism which is rejected by the masses of Sunnis.

Osama was enrolled as a student at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah in 1976 as an “economics and management” student. And he didn’t even complete that education. Jean Sasson said:

“Najwa says that, despite reports claiming otherwise, Osama never graduated from the King Abdul Aziz University, but left three or four years after enrolling, only a few terms before graduation” (p.29).

And so Osama could not even complete a worldly education. Najwa is one of Osama’s wives and she arguably knows Osama well. After all, Osama was her husband and the father of some of her children. She definitely knew more than Osama’s deceived followers did who were and still are digesting Osama’s gibberish as sound fatawa, and who will find no correct Islamic justification for Osama’s “fatawa”. And I’m not talking about what his “fatawa” state, which are also wrong from an Islamic standpoint. I am talking about his issuing pseudo-fatawa while playing Mufti which is a serious violation of Islam, the religion he dubiously claimed to love.

[1] UPI Exclusive: “Osama bin Laden – ‘Null and Void’”. by Arnaud de Borchgrave. United Press International. June 14, 2001

[2] Ibid. UPI.

[3] Ibid. UPI.

– Combating with Wrong Intentions is Sinful.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Militants should be warned. Their fight is not an “Islamic” one because they violate conditions of a valid jihad in Islam. Even if conditions were valid (though they are not) their anger, spite, and arrogance that they prioritize over Islam in their words and actions is opposed by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the man they claim to emulate. A hadith says:

A man came to the Prophet and asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What kind of fighting is in Allah’s cause? (I ask this), for some of us fight because of being enraged and angry and some for the sake of his pride and haughtiness.” The Prophet raised his head (as the questioner was standing) and said, “He who fights so that Allah’s Word (Islam) should be superior, then he fights in Allah’s cause.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 3, Number 125)

Another hadith states:

A man came to the Prophet and asked, “A man fights for war booty; another fights for fame and a third fights for showing off; which of them fights in Allah’s Cause?” The Prophet said, “He who fights that Allah’s Word (i.e. Islam) should be superior, fights in Allah’s Cause.”

(Sahih al-Bukahri, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 65)

And what of those who die not for Islam or Allah, but for the pleasure of virgins in Paradise? Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that:

“a person whose intent is glory, booty (spoils), or females has no ties to God, and only God knows who strives for his sake”[“strives” refers here to the process of jihad]

(al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, No. 430)

– 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.

– Protecting non-Muslim Places of Worship.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Contrary to actions of militants today, Muslims did not go on a mad rampage of massacres against non-Muslims. Not only were they allowed to join Muslim armies, but their places of worship were left intact and unharmed. Dadake quotes Baladhuri regarding a letter sent by Muslims to Najran, a Christian community in southern Arabia:

“Najran and their followers are entitled to the protection of Allah and to the security of Muhammad the Prophet, the Messenger of Allah, which security shall involve their persons, religion, lands, and possessions, including those of them who are absent as well as those who are present, their camels, messengers, and images [amthila, a reference to crosses and icons]. The state they previously held shall not be changed, nor shall any of their religious services or images be changed. No attempt shall be made to turn a bishop, a monk from his office as a monk, nor the sexton of a church from his office.”[1]

Dadake says, “Indeed, such examples are to be found on every major front of the Islamic conquests from Perisa to Egypt and all areas in between.”[2]  He then says,

“Within the region of Syria, we have the example of the companion of the Prophet and commander of Muslims forces Abu `Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah, who concluded an agreement with the Christian population of Aleppo granting them safety for ‘their lives, their possessions, city wall, churches, homes, and the fort.’ Abu `Ubaydah is said to have concluded similar treaties at Antioch[3], Ma’arrat Masrin[4], Hims[5], Qinnasrin[6], and Ba’labakk.”[7]

[1] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17. Dadake cites: Baladhuri, Origins, vol.1, p.100.

[2] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17.

[3] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17. Dadake cites: Baladhuri, vol. 1, p.227.

[4] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17. Dadake cites: Baladhuri, vol. 1, p.229.

[5] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17. Dadake cites: Baladhuri, vol. 1, p.187.

[6] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17. Dadake cites: Baladhuri, vol. 1, p. 223.

[7] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.17. Dadake cites: Baladhuri, vol. 1, p. 198-199.

– Muslims Fought Alongside non-Muslims in Battle.

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

There is usually a simplistic and incorrect understanding that “Muslim” armies consisted only of Muslims who waged war against non-Muslims. Even worse, ignoramuses claim that it is the aim of Islam and Muslims to annihilate all non-Muslim. The Constitution of Medina accepted Jews alongside Muslims and both were considered as part of the same army.  Christians also participated alongside Muslims in jihad. Dadake says that:

…traditional Islamic histories give accounts of Christians taking part in some of the early battles alongside the Muslim armies. This is discussed by Fred Donner in his book The Early Islamic Conquests. He notes that, according to Muslim historical sources, in the very early period of jihad, Christian Arabs from tribes such as the Banu Tayyi of Najd, the Banu al-Namir ibn Qasit of the upper Euphrates river valley, and the Banu Lakhm participated in the jihad with the Muslim armies.[1]

Other examples include, “a treaty signed during the reign of the caliph `Umar by Suraqah ibn `Amr in 22 A.H./642 C.E.” Dadke asserts that “Suraqah was a commander of Muslim forces in Armenia, which was predominantly Christian” and that Christians had joined the Muslim army as an alternative to paying the poll tax.[2] This example contradicts Islamophobes and others who claim that refusal by Christians and Jews to accept Islam and pay the poll tax would result in wholesale war against them. Rather, the Christians in this example were not targeted, but rather fought alongside the Muslim army, and this is not the only example.

Dakake gives more examples of Christians joining the Muslim jihad. “Such is the case of Jarajimah, a Christian people from the town of Jurjumah.[3] This town had been under the control of the patrician and governor of Antioch but surrendered to the Muslim armies, commanded by Habib ibn Maslamah al-Fihri, when they attacked the town.” Dadake quotes Baladhuri:

“Terms were made providing that al-Jarajimah would act as helpers to the Moslems, and as spies and frontier garrison in Mount al-Lukam. On the other hand it was stipulated that they pay no tax, and that they keep for themselves the booty they take from the enemy in case they fight with the Moslems.”[4]

A similar agreement with Al-Jarajimah was made in the reign of the Ummayad Caliph al-Walid ibn `Abd al-Malik (86-96 A.H. / 705-715 C.E.).[5]

The above illustrates that early Muslims did not hesitate to have non-Muslims join their armies. It was not necessarily and exclusively a Muslim versus non-Muslim affair. As stated, non-Muslims would also help Muslims as “spies” and “frontier garrison”!  Moreover, non-Muslims were given alternative options other than to convert and pay the poll-tax. They kept their religion, their houses of worship, and were still permitted to join the Muslim army. Al-Qa’eda and other militants would never think for a second to imitate the way of the early Muslims in battle. Rather, they would take all Christians and Jews hostage, use them as bargaining chips, and often behead them.

[1] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.22. Dakake cites: Fred M. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p.200.

[2] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.22.

[3] Dakake states that “Jurjumah was located in the border region between modern-day Syria and Turkey.” (footnote #80, Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded), pg. 37.

[4] Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition (Revised and Expanded). Page.23. Dadake cities: Baladhuri, Origins, vol.1, p.246.

– Defending Sunni Tradition From Today's Kharijites and Other Extremists –