Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Analysis of Al-Qa'ida's Worldview Part I I.

Reciprocal Treatment or Religious Obligation?

by Raymond Ibrahim

2nd part of 3



In fact, Offensive Jihad, something about which al-Qa'ida dissembles vis-à-vis the West, figures prominently in bin Ladin's diatribe to the Saudi intellectuals. In 1997, a direct question was asked of bin Ladin by a Westerner: "Mr. bin Ladin, will the end of the United States' presence in Saudi Arabia, their withdrawal, will that end your call for jihad against the United States?" Bin Ladin responded:

The cause of the reaction must be sought and the act that has triggered this reaction must be eliminated. The reaction came as a result of the U.S.' aggressive policy towards the entire Muslim world and not just towards the Arabian Peninsula. So if the cause that has called for this act comes to an end, this act, in turn, will come to an end. So, the Defensive Jihad against the U.S. does not stop with its withdrawal from the Arabian Peninsula, but rather it must desist from aggressive intervention against Muslims in the whole world.[10]

However, bin Ladin's ultimate motives became apparent after the Saudi intellectuals wrote: "Thus we say in all earnestness and plainly that we can open a mature dialogue around every issue that the West submits, ever cognizant that we share a number of understandings, moral values, rights, and ideas with the West, which, if fostered, can create a better [world] for all concerned" (p. 37)

To this "blasphemy," bin Ladin wrote extensively:

Regarding which shared understandings, exactly, is it possible that we agree with the immoral West?... What commonalities, if our foundations contradict, rendering useless the shared extremities--if they even exist? For practically everything valued by the immoral West is condemned under sharia law.... [T]he issues most prominent in the West revolve around secularism, homosexuality, sexuality, and atheism [p. 37].... As for this atmosphere of shared understandings, what evidence is there for Muslims to strive for this? What did the Prophet, the Companions after him, and the righteous forebears do? Did they wage jihad against the infidels, attacking them all over the earth, in order to place them under the suzerainty of Islam in great humility and submission? Or did they send messages to discover "shared understandings" between themselves and the infidels in order that they may reach an understanding whereby universal peace, security, and natural relations would spread--in such a satanic manner as this? The sharia provides a true and just path, securing Muslims, and providing peace to the world [p. 31].

Moreover, when the Saudi intellectuals dared write: "It's imperative that we bid all to legitimate talks, presented to the world, under the umbrella of justice, morality, and rights, ushering in legislations creating peace and prosperity for the world," [p. 31] bin Ladin lamented:

Surely there is no power save through Allah alone! We never thought that such words would ever appear from those who consider themselves adherents of this religion. Such expressions, and more like them, would lead the reader to believe that those who wrote them are Western intellectuals, not Muslims! Those previous expressions are true only by tearing down the wall of enmity from the infidels. They are also expressions true only by rejecting jihad--especially Offensive Jihad. The problem, however, is that Offensive Jihadis an established and basic tenet of this religion. It is a religious duty rejected only by the most deluded. So how can they call off this religious obligation [Offensive Jihad], while imploring the West to understandings and talks "under the umbrella of justice, morality, and rights"? The essence of all this comes from right inside the halls of the United Nations, instead of the Divine foundations that are built upon hating the infidels, repudiating them with tongue and teeth till they embrace Islam or pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission and humility.... Muslims, and especially the learned among them, should spread sharia law to the world--that and nothing else. Not laws under the "umbrella of justice, morality, and rights" as understood by the masses. No, the sharia of Islam is the foundation. [pp. 32-33]


Al-Qa'ida has maintained that its hostilities to the West have absolutely nothing to do with the latter's freedoms. Speaking to the Americans, bin Ladin asserted, "From the start, I tell you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life; free men do not underestimate their security--contrary to [President George W.] Bush's claim that we hate freedom. [11] If so, let him explain to us why we have not attacked Sweden, for instance." [p. 214].

Speaking to the Europeans, bin Ladin tries to define terrorism: "[W]e inform you that your description of us as ‘terrorists' and our actions as ‘terrorism' necessarily means that you and your actions must be defined likewise. Our actions are merely reactions to yours...." (p. 234)

Finally, bin Ladin makes it quite clear that terrorism is used only in reciprocity since al-Qa'ida has no other choice: "Shall a man be blamed for protecting his own? Self-defense and punishing the wicked in kind--are these shameful [acts of] ‘terrorism'? And even if it is, we have no other option." (p. 216)

Taken together, all these messages assert that the terror al-Qa'ida inflicts upon the West has nothing to do with Western freedoms and everything to do with reciprocal treatment. Moreover, by stating "we have no other option" than to engage in acts of terrorism, bin Ladin clearly implies that terrorism is being relied upon as a last resort out of desperation. Thus al-Qa'ida maintains that there is no correlation between Western freedoms and Islamic terrorism--that the latter is never used simply to suppress the former.

This is not the case when addressing the Saudis. After they wrote to the Americans saying that Islam does not allow coercion in matters of religion, bin Ladin, once again, revealed his true beliefs and ultimate goals. The Saudi intellectuals had declared, "It is not permitted to coerce anyone regarding his religion. Allah Most High said: ‘There is no compulsion in religion' [Koran 2:256]. Thus Islam itself does not comport with coercion." (p. 40) After explaining that this verse has to do with matters of the heart and not Islam's destiny to rule the whole world,[12] bin Ladin quotes the Hadith:

Whenever the Messenger of Allah appointed someone as leader of an army or detachment, he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and be good to the Muslims with him. Then he would say: "Attack in the name of Allah and in the path of Allah do battle with whoever rejects Allah. Attack!... If you happen upon your idolatrous enemies, call them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, accept it and stay yourself from them. [1] Call them to Islam: If they respond [i.e., convert], accept this and cease fighting them..... [2] If they refuse to accept Islam, demand of them the jizya: If they respond, accept it and cease fighting them. [3] But if they refuse, seek the aid of Allah and fight them." Thus our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue--one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice--and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword--for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. [pp. 41-42]

When the Saudi intellectuals wrote: "Man, from his very make-up, is a sacred creation. Thus it is impermissible to transgress against him, no matter what his color, race, or religion." Bin Ladin, after mocking their language for its "UN" tone, wrote extensively:

Now, then, how can you speak about Allah without knowledge? Who told you that transgression against man is impermissible--if he is an infidel? What about Offensive Jihad? Allah Exalted, the Most High, said: "Fight them! Allah will torment them with your hands".... [Koran 9:14] Indeed, these expressions of yours are built upon the principle of equality, as found in the charters of the United Nations, which do not distinguish [among] people, neither by way of religion nor race nor sex. Islam improves; it is not improved.... [p. 38] Furthermore, how can they [intellectuals] claim that we have no right to force a people to change its particular values, when they transgress the bounds of nature? Such are lies. In fact, Muslims are obligated to raid the lands of the infidels, occupy them, and exchange their systems of governance for an Islamic system, barring any practice that contradicts the sharia from being publicly voiced among the people, as was the case at the dawn of Islam....[p. 50] Thus they make claims and speak about Allah without understanding. They say that our sharia does not impose our particular beliefs upon others; this is a false assertion. For it is, in fact, part of our religion to impose our particular beliefs upon others. Whoever doubts this, let him turn to the deeds of the Companions when they raided the lands of the Christians and Omar imposed upon them the conditions of dhimmi[tude]. These conditions involve clothing attire, specific situations, and class distinctions known to ulamaas the pact of Omar,[13] and they are notoriously famous. Let the signatories review them so they know that we are to force people by the power of the sword to [our] particular understandings, customs, and conditions, all in order to induce debasement and humility, just like Allah commanded when he said: "[...]until they pay the jizya by hand, in complete submission and humility." [Koran 9:29] Now, if you are incapable of jihad and placing people into the religion, like the Companions did, your impotence does not mean that it is not a legitimate aspect of the religion. [p. 51]

As for direct support for terrorism, bin Ladin again refers to the Koran:

"Muster against them [infidels] what fighting-men and steeds of war you can, in order to strike terror in the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them whom you do not know, but Allah knows well." [Koran 8:60] Thus whoever refuses the principle of terror[ism] against the enemy also refuses the commandment of Allah the Exalted, the Most High, and His sharia. The West prepares to defend itself in face of this extremist verse. [p. 54]

The Saudi intellectuals wrote: "Terrorism, according to the universally agreed meaning being used today, is but one of many manifestations of unjust aggression against life and property." Bin Ladin, outraged, responds:

Behold! Today they are agreed to the meaning and definition of "terrorism" as acknowledged and agreed to by the Americans, that is, "unjust aggression against life and property." And such acknowledgment by necessity must apply to and include the Prophet who assaulted the lives, properties, and women of the infidels, who were living in secure and settled cities. As did his Companions after him. Such aggression, as understood by the West, is not justified; nor does such hostility agree with the Western notion of "freedom of religion." Thus our Prophet and his Companions and the righteous forefathers have all now become "terrorists."[14] [p. 58]

Taken together, the above three sections all demonstrate that for al-Qa'ida, hostility and violence towards the West is not merely "reciprocal treatment"--that is, "an eye for an eye"--but rather religious obligation that far transcends any and all notions of "universal justice" and claims to grievances. However, there are two more notable contradictions between what they say to the West and what they affirm to Muslims. Consider the following disparities:


On two separate occasions, al-Qa'ida, in the person of bin Ladin, has offered the West a truce. In April of 2002, bin Ladin offered European nations an apparently long-lasting truce: "I therefore offer them this peace treaty [mudabarat sulh], which essentially is a commitment to cease operations against every country that pledges not to attack Muslims or interfere in their business--including the American conspiracy against the greater Islamic world.... Stop shedding our blood and thereby save your own." [p. 235]

In late January 2006, bin Ladin, who had not been heard from for over a year, resurfaced by way of an audio-tape and offered the Americans a truce: "So we have no qualms in offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. For we are the umma that Allah has forbidden from double-crossing and lying." [p. 224]

However, while Islam does permit the making of truces with infidels, it only allows this under certain conditions--namely, when Muslims are in a weakened position and unable to wage an Offensive Jihad effectively.[15] In "Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents," Ayman Zawahiri declares:

Whenever they are able... believers are to enjoin good and forbid evil [i.e. enforce Shari'a law]--which, by nature, is [waging Offensive] Jihad in the path of Allah and spreading the call to [conversion to the religion of] the Most High: "Those whom we have given mastery over the earth uphold prayers, render alms, enjoin good and forbid evil; Allah controls the destiny of all things" [Koran 22:41].... Therefore if believers are weak, they are to wage jihad with their hearts and tongues; if they are able, they are to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, fight the infidels, and spread the call of Tawhid. [pp. 150-51]

In this same treatise, Zawahiri stresses the need for deception in warfare. Based on Muhammad's assertion--"War [is] deceit"--Zawahiri goes on to say:

Deception in warfare requires that the mujahid bide his time and wait for an opportunity against his enemy, while avoiding confrontation at all possible costs. For triumph, in almost every case, is [achieved] through deception: triumph achieved through confrontation possesses many dangers.... And in the Hadith, practicing deceit in war is well demonstrated. Indeed, its need is more stressed than [the need for] courage. [p. 142]

More importantly, however, in Ayman al-Zawahiri's treatise "Loyalty and Enmity," Muslims are flat-out told that lying and dissembling in front of infidels is permitted. This is the doctrine of taqiyya (religiously sanctioned lies for purposes of self-preservation),[16] which has plenty of Koranic but especially Hadith support. The Koran states: "Let Believers not take for friends and allies infidels rather than Believers: and who so does this shall have no relationship left with Allah--unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions." (Koran 3:28) Two of the more famous Hadiths evoked by al-Qa'ida say, "Truly, we grin to the faces of some peoples, while our hearts curse them"; and "Protection is not secured by deeds but with the tongue." (p. 73)

Finally, there are also several Hadiths of Muhammad that justify oath-breaking. For instance, "Allah's Messenger [Muhammad] said, ‘He who takes an oath but eventually finds a better way should do that which is better and break his oath.'" (Sahih Muslim 15: 4057)

Considering that al-Qa'ida subscribes to the view that Islam must war with the non-Muslim world till the former subsumes the latter, and that they also subscribe to these doctrines of deceit, what is to be made of al-Qa'ida's truce-offers?

Raymond Ibrahim
- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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