Development of ideological radicalism
Ideological doctrines of radicalism comprise the essential part of modern terrorism. They tend to be accepted not only as being Islamic, but also as the only true concepts. Activities such as suicide bombers’ terror acts are based on these pseudo-Islamic concepts.
In theory, there are two types of these concepts: moderate and extremist. The ultimate goal for both of them is to create the so called Islamic state which will allegedly function according to Sharia. However, these concepts have some key distinctions. Those who follow the moderate direction prefer to achieve their goals in a peaceful way. They focus on Islamic invitation. As for the extremist direction, its’ adherents consider taking power by force acceptable. They do not mind different forms of armed violence including terror acts.
Those organisations, groups and certain individuals who are engaged in combat struggle and terror acts belong to the extremist part of radicalism. They use propaganda as a supplement to attract more supporters. The most famous ideological thinkers of this Islamists type are Sayyid Qutb, Abd as-Salam Faraj, Abbud az-Zumr, Tarik az-Zumr, Ayman az-Zawahiri and others. These theorists along with other thinkers of pseudo-Islamic radical concepts base their works on writings of reputable Muslim ulemas of the past such as Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kaseer, Al-Qurtubi, An-Nawawi, M. ibn abd al-Wahhab and others.
Ibn Hanbal and his followers Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir, Al-Qurtubi, An-Nawawi and others were advocating the idea of returning to “the Islamic Golden age”. This period covers the time when Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the four righteous caliphs were living (610-661). This coincides with the period of the first three Muslim generations’ lifetime. During this period (“The Islamic Golden age”) Islam was unified and there were no splits into various schools, ideological groups and Sufi brotherhoods. All of these appeared later. Therefore, Ibn Hanbal and his fellow-thinkers classified all the changes in Islam which were introduced after “the Islamic Golden age” as bid’ah (sinful innovations). They claimed that Islam should be cleared from them. In other words, they were striving for the “pure” Islam and insisted on returning to this fundamental Muslim basis.
Because of this, Western opponents called them “fundamentalists”. They considered themselves as “Salafites”. This term derived from the Arabic phrase “Salaf-e-Saliheen” (“Pious Predecessors”) and refers to the period of the first three Muslim generations’ lifetime, or life of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and “the Rashidun” (righteous caliphs), or “the Islamic Golden Age”. The term “Salafites” and “Salafism” has been widely used in the East, West and Russia.
It is worth pointing out that Islam started up in the 7th century. After a couple of successful and prosperous centuries, Islamic world slowed down its rapid advance and entered the period of long-lasting political and cultural decay which it is still experiencing. According to the Salafi concept, the reason for the decline is that the Islamic community (Ummah) deviated from the Straight Path. The force and success of the predecessors were based on their faith and compliance with the religious commitments as this is acceptable before God. Returning to the genuine faith and the predecessors’ traditions (especially the ones referring to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his followers) is the way to win back the ancient glory and greatness. Based on these assumptions, Salafites deny modern Muslim’s traditions and lifestyle as they led Ummah to the decline.
The creation of political parties in the spirit of Salafi revival in the 20th century had a great impact on the modern religious political parties’ radicalisation. In 1928, Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949) founded the organisation “Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun” (“Muslim Brotherhood”) in Egypt. In 1941, Abu al-A’la Maududi (1903-1979) founded the organisation “Jamaat-e-Islami” (“Islamic society”) in India. They both believed that Islam was a universal doctrine for the Muslim Ummah. They advocated the necessity of creating allegedly “genuine Islamic state” by means of introducing Sharia. According to them, Sharia was not only the law based on Quran, but also the guideline for everyday life.
Colonial emancipation in the middle of the 20th century brought hope to Salafites. New leaders of Muslims chose the reforms imitation line. Their ideas with regard to secularism, public sovereignty, nationalism, women’s rights and constitutionalism led them to a serious clash with the Salafites. The Salafites raised a question about the Muslim leaders’ legitimacy as rulers of the countries. This provoked a troubled situation. Many political regimes responded by a flip and flop policy fluctuating from political compromises with the Salafites to their persecution.
It seems to be quite natural that under these circumstances there appeared a new constellation of radical pseudo-Islamic concepts’ theorists. They were occupied with developing modern ideological doctrines. The Egyptians are considered to be the most vivid representatives among them: S. Qutb, M. Shukree, M. Faraj, A. az-Zawahiri and others. It is worth mentioning that there are two fundamental notions interpreted in a particular way in these types of ideological doctrines. According to Islamic studies scholar A.A. Ignatenko, they are takfir (accusation of kufr, that is disbelief) and jihad (holy war for the faith). Therefore, radicals are often referred to as takfiri-jihadists.
The notion of “takfir” is based on allocationg “Islam enemies”. According to the modern radical theorists, “Islam enemies”, firstly, include all non-Muslims (“Kafirs” – disbelievers) and secondly, the Muslims who do not share their ideological beliefs (“murtaddun” – those who abjured Islam; “munafiqun” – hypocrites who do not believe sincerely or in the right way). As for the concept of jihad, it was qualified exceptionally as a war with “Islam enemies” as opposed to the classical Muslim law. Moreover, the radicals consider aggressive fighting as being acceptable.
However, according to the Islamic orthodoxy, there are two forms of jihad: greater and lesser. Greater jihad is a person’s voluntary striving to live in a righteous Muslim way following Will of God. The greater jihad is performed by compliance with five pillars of Islam: declaring Islam as a faith (Shahadah), regular Salat, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, charity and pilgrimage to Mecca. This requires self-discipline, hard work and self-improvement all life long. As opposed to the greater jihad, the lesser one presents a military combat for Islam. The traditional Muslim law considered jihad as a Muslim’s duty in the world divided into “land of Islam” (dar al Islam) and “land of war” (dar al harb).
There was a critical distinction between self-defensive and offensive jihad. A fatwah (the legal opinion of a qualified theological scholar) might allow jihad against disbelievers, if they invade “dar al Islam” and endanger Islam and its confession. This means that it is every Muslim personal duty (fard al-ayn) to take part in an offensive jihad either by direct involvement or by supporting it financially and by praying for it. On the contrary, offensive jihad, which aims at invading the disbelievers’ land (dar al-Kufr) and making them follow strict regulations of Sharia based on Quran, is considered to be a communal responsibility (fard al-kifayah). This duty is normally performed by the Muslim countries’ government without each individual Muslim involvement. Yet, the theorists of modern radical pseudo-Islamic concepts deny the existence of jihad division into greater and lesser. They declare that there is only military form of jihad and particularly emphasize the importance of the offensive jihad.
Theorist and ideologist of the Egyptian association “Muslim Brotherhood” S.Qutb wrote a series of paper devoted to various aspects of “Islam revival” ideology in the middle of 20th century. According to S.Qutb’s framework, there are two types of society: Islamic and jahiliyya. The Islamic society seems to admit only the power of Allah and live according to Sharia. As for jahiliyya (pre-Islamic paganism), people in this society make their own laws and contravene with the crucial principle of monotheism which is the absolute rule of Allah (hakimiyya). So, most of the modern societies, including those which consider themselves Muslim but not live according to Sharia, can be defined as pagan. Denying hakimiyya means recreancy which leads to disbelief. Islam and jahiliyya are two incompatible systems which are not able to coexist peacefully. Besides that, gradual transformation of jahiliyya into Islam does not seem to be possible too. S.Qutb believed that the power of Allah on the earth can be restored only by demolishing jahiliyya. He was convinced that it is every Muslim’s duty to be involved in this struggle.
It should be noted though that the radical jahiliyya framework was updated before S.Qutb in the 18th century by the preacher from Arabia Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab (1703-1791). He criticised the people of the Peninsula beliefs and customs for depravity. Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab said that they returned to jahiliyya and became worshippers of idols. Therefore, they deserve death penalty for abjuration of Islam. He preached a tough framework based on a strict Quran interpretation and clearing Islam from the latest developments. His doctrine is based on “tawhid” (translating from Arabic this means that there is only one God). It condemned any form of mediation as far as communication with God is concerned as being idolatrous. Al-Wahhab concluded an alliance with one of the Arabia tribes’ heads Muhammad ibn Saud. This was the starting point for a new state formation on the territory of the Arabian Peninsula. Since 1932, this state has been called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ibn abd al-Wahhab justified many of his Quran interpretations by the fatwahs of Syrian theologist Taqi as-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328). This scholar lived in one of the most destructive periods of the Muslim history when the Islamic countries were conquered by the Mongols. Despite the fact that the Mongols were converted to Islam, they continued to live according to “Yassa” (Mongolian code of law). Under these circumstances, ibn Taymiyyah was asked if the Muslims could declare jihad against other Muslims (the Mongols). In his famous work “Fatwa about the Tatars”, ibn Taymiyyah said that the Mongols continue to follow “Yassa” which is the law created by Genghis Khan and do not comply with Sharia. Therefore, they cannot be considered as true Muslims. So, they are renegades who should be punished by death penalty. Jihad against them seemed to be Muslims’ right or rather, their duty.
Moderate Pakistani Islamist of the 20th century Maududi reanimated the concept of jahiliyya as an abstract notion to describe the faith system in India. However, he never justified the idea of military revolt in his works. As for S. Qutb, using ibn Taymiyyah’s point with regard to obligatory jihad against renegades and taking out of context Maududi’s concept about jahiliyya, he combined their ideas in a fresh way which allowed him to interpret Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab’s ideas in a broader way. Declaring the existed Muslim society jahilistic, S. Qutb gave the grounds for denial and armed revolution (jihad bis saif) against the formally Muslim regimes. At the same time, the issue of distemper (fitnah) can be avoided. In his opinion, in such a situation the Muslims fight not against other Muslims, but against idolists. S.Qutb was arrested again by the Egyptian government of the president Naseer after his most outstanding work “Signposts on the Road” publication. He was charged with abetment of revolt and executed in Cairo prison on the 29th of August, 1966.
Shukri Mustafa who maximized the jahiliyya doctrine and founded the sect called “Jama’at al-Muslimin” (“Society of Muslims”) in Egypt was under the influence of S. Qutb’s ideas. The sect’s main principle was initiative isolationism from the vicious jahiliyya society. The sect was ridiculed by the press which depicted it as a group of fanatics or criminals obsessive with the dual concept of “excommunication and exile” (at-Takfir w’al-Hijra). Shukri’s group made it into the history of radical movement under this name. Having been persecuted by the Egypt governing regime in 1977, this sect disappeared. Yet, its ideas have not been forgotten by future generations of radicals.
One of the most famous followers of S. Qutb was Muhammad abd as-Salam Faraj (1954-1981). He was the head of Cairo branch of “Tanzim al-Jihad” (“Organisation of jihad”) which killed the president of Egypt Anwar Sadat. Muhammad abd as-Salam Faraj put his ideas into the pamphlet called “The Neglected Obligation” (“Al-Farida al-gha’iba”). To illustrate his views, we can draw this example from the pamphlet: “Establishment of the Islamic state is the duty of Muslims. If something required for the fulfillment of the obligatory is missing, it becomes obligatory itself. Besides that, if the Islamic state cannot be founded without the war, the war becomes obligatory in the same way… Nowadays Muslims are governed by the laws of Disbelief. In fact, these laws have been introduced by disbelievers who subsequently made Muslims follow them (follow these laws)… The Caliphate was abolished in 1924. After that, the code of Islamic laws in its integrity has been rejected and replaced with the laws introduced by disbelievers. So, the Muslims faced the situation similar with the one which the Mongols had”.
Faraj asserted that Islam had been spread by the sword showing that jihad was not self-defensive. He also refused to distinguish between greater (efforts made to improve oneself; fighting with own ill habits) and lesser (war against an enemy) forms of jihad. Faraj believed that this innovation is dangerous as it down-grades a military combat. Similarly, he thought that the absence of a caliph cannot be a justification for suspending jihad. All this made jihad essential. He asserted that only this way Islam can be returned to the Muslims. According to Faraj, meanness, humiliation, disunion and the split within the Muslims which they experience now is the price for rejecting jihad.
According to A.Faraj, the strategy of jihad is based on the distinction between the so called “near enemy” (these are Muslims who do not share the radicals’ ideological beliefs and practice) and “far enemy” (these are non-Muslim opponents of the radicals such as the representatives of West-European countries) and the idea that jihad is each Muslim’s individual duty (fard ayn). In A. Faraj’s opinion, jihad also becomes obligatory if the head of a Muslim state refuses to run the country according to Sharia. In such a case, the ruler should be dethroned and jihad becomes an individual duty of every Muslim. Under such circumstances there is no need for the Ulemas’ special permission to perform jihad as it becomes the same individual duty as the prayer or fasting.
Copies of Faraj’s work were found among the belongings of the suspects in president Sadat assassination. The theologists of the Al-Azhar Islamic University were ordered by the Egyptian government to confute the arguments of Faraj work. Only following this, the work itself was published. The debates over jahiliyya and takfir date back to the polemic between traditionalists and salafi-jihadists with regard to jihad importance and legitimacy of armed uprising (fitnah). The followers of the armed combat as well as Faraj justified their arguments by selectively quoting Quran. Interpreting “The Verse of the Sword”, for example, he quoted only its first part. Yet, it continues in Quran this way: “If they repent and take a prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful” (Quran, 9:5). So this part disposes of the rationale for random killing of “enemies of Islam” employed so often by the adherents of the military fighting.
At the turn of the eighties-nineties of the 20th century, a new leader of “Al-Jihad” Abbud az-Zumar complemented its ideological doctrine with some new concepts. Tarik az-Zumar was an influential author of the movement too. Their interpretation of the jihad concept does not differ a lot from A. Faraj’s ideas. For instance, Abbud az-Zumar believed that jihad is a fard ayn. In other words, it is every Muslim’s duty which he has to fulfill to the best of his ability. As for Tarik as-Zumar, he sharply critisized the Islamist leaders who only focused on ideological fighting. Moreover, he supported the idea of offensive jihad. He claimed that to start jihad, disbelievers are not supposed to invade their country first. “If disbelievers have attributes of those we should fight with, it is enough to perform jihad”, he said.
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri founded “al-Qaeda” at the end of 1980-s in Afghanistan. This organisation’s main target was defined as the regime of Muslim countries, especially the one of the Arab states. It was considered to be artificial and contradicting the Islamic concepts. This regime was viewed as the tool of the West for controlling the Muslims.
Based on their viewpoints, pseudo-jihadists aimed at toppling “artificial puppet regimes” in Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and other countries of the region. Their purpose was to create a unified Islamic state on their place. This was supposed to be caliphate which would function according to Quran and hadiths of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Since “al-Qaeda” foundation, its branches and similar groups put a lot of effort into achieving its goal. They mobilized militants, spread their ideology and mounted provocative attacks. Yet, until later, all their attempts to topple the Arab regimes tended to fail.
One of the jihadists’ international leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri proposed his fresh ideas by the end of 1990-s. He became the leader of “al-Qaeda” after Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011. First of all, he provided rationale for performing the so called “global jihad” against the “far enemy” (alliance of the world kufr). According to al-Zawahiri, the “far enemy” is first of all represented by the Western countries, the United States and Israel. As far as Russia is concerned, jihadists believe that it has joined the union of these countries not long ago. In al-Zawahiri opinion, the fight with the “far enemy” cannot be postponed because the alliance between the Jews and crusaders does not allow them to defeat the “near enemy”. Therefore, al-Zawahiri, suggested removing the war on the territory of the enemy, outside of the Islamic world. He supported the idea of performing the so called successful “jihad” aimed at making the Muslims free out of Afghanistan and Chechnya and relocate it to the very heart of the Islamic world from its outskirts.
Before the September 11, 2001 attack in the United States, in his project book “Knights under the Prophet banner” al-Zawahiri declared that “jihad” is the fight between Islam and the world hostile forces (the Western countries and Russia). He pointed out that the so called “jihad” should demonstrate the betrayal of the Muslim leaders and their proponents which is rooted in their disbelief and support which they gave to disbelievers against the Muslims. This is why the movement is set to establish “Islamic state” in the centre of the Muslim world and to start the fight in order to restore the caliphate based on the Prophet’s traditions.
To achieve success al-Zawahiri wanted his associates to build a good rapport with common Muslims and be among them or somewhat ahead of them, but not isolated from them. In order to fulfill this goal, one of the branches of jihad movement should focus on working with people, preaching, creating support services for Muslims and sharing their concerns in all possible ways as far as charity and education is concerned.
After the terror attacks of September 11, 2011, in his book “al-Wala wal-Bara”, al-Zawahiri highlighted that nowadays each Muslim must confront invaders with their hands, tongues or at least in their thoughts. He declared the peculiar fatwah which forbids Muslims to become friends with kafirs and deal with them. According to the fatwah, Muslims should keep all their secrets, they are not allowed to adopt atheists’ ideas and theories, assist kafirs in their war against Muslims and justify crusaders in any possible way. Muslims are prescribed to perform jihad against atheistic aggressors, abjurers and hypocrites (under the last two the Arab regimes allowing their territory for performing the anti-terror campaign and the corrupt ulemas issuing false fatwas are meant).
As a result, by the beginning of the 21st century the articulate ideological doctrine of takfiri jihadists was formed by the efforts of foreign and Egyptian Islamists’ theorists. This doctrine presents an ideological foundation for modern terrorism sheltering under Islam and justifying a cruel political practice of the radical terrorists.
I. Dobaev, Dr. phil, Professor of the applied and theoretical Regional Studies faculty of the Southern Federal University