Saturday, August 07, 2004


William's Note: here's another great article by Reuven PAZ from Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)

By Reuven Paz*

*Reuven Paz is founder and director of the Project for Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM), GLORIA Center, The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzeliya. Prism was founded in 2002, in order to combine academic and field research of new developments of radical Islam and Islamist movements.
PRISIM web site is --

The war against Iraq – apocalyptic visions
The war against Iraq and the period of preparations for it and the international debate over it, is naturally accompanied by reactions of Qa`idat al-Jihad, its front groups, and its many supporters and sympathizers in the Arab and Muslim world. It serves also as an important element in recruiting and creating more anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Jewish feelings among much wider circles of Arabs and Muslims. Furthermore, it is also a source of apocalyptic visions for many Muslim youngsters, who express their views freely through the “virtual global Jihad” of the Internet.

Many of these supporters look at Qa`idat al-Jihad and the Taliban, as “those who raise the black banners” (Ashab al-rayat al-sud), who would come from the East on the eve of the Islamic victory and proclaim the end of the world, to pave the way for the appearance of the Mahdi. The longest article on this topic so far, based on many Islamist sources, was placed on the net in March 9th 2003, by its author Usamah Azzam1. The author based his consequences not just on primary sacred Islamic sources, but also on the writings of contemporary scholars, mainly Abu Qutadah al-Filastini2 , one of the leading scholars of global Jihad in the Arab world and Europe, and his famous book Ma`alim Al-Tai’fah al-Mansurah (Characteristics of the secured community).

Azzam’s main conclusions are:

1. We are facing the coming end of the world:
“Following the above said, is there anyone that still doubts that we are approaching the end of the world? Does anyone think that the hour is far? We are on the eve of the total dismantling that would be followed by our clear victory”.

2. The characteristics of “the owners of the black banners and the secured community” are identical to al-Qa`idah and the Taliban:
“I have no doubt that the leaders of the Mujahidin of Al-Qa`idah and the Taliban are the owners of the black banners who will assist the Mahdi.”

The reader should decide whom to support: Qa`idat al-Jihad, Taliban, and the Mujahidin? The Arab and Muslim governments and their clerics and Islamic establishments, which insist on naming themselves Muslims? Or the Crusader West and the enemies of Allah on earth.

“Who is going to support the Mahdi except these men and clerics, and their followers? After this war, which has no precedence in human history and in the fight between the community of the believers and the Devil and its followers, does anyone doubt that these are the days of the Mahdi?”

1 Usamah Azzam, Hal Taliban wal-Qa`idah hum ashab al-rayat al-sud? 9 March 2003. See on-line in:

2 Omar Mahmoud Abu Omar “Abu Qutadah” was arrested in London in November 2002, after the British authorities were looking for him for about a year. He resides in the United Kingdom since 1993, under political asylum. Abu Qutadah, with his Jordanian-Palestinian colleague Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (now under arrest in Jordan), are the leading ideologues of the neo-Tawhid movement that supports Qa`idat al-Jihad, which stood behind the suicide bombing in Jerba/Tunisia in April 2002, and several plans for terrorist operations in Jordan

Another platform for these apocalyptic views that attracts many Islamic youngsters these days, is an on-line forum of “the Jinn and the Demons”3 It includes a special sector for interpretations of dreams and visions.4 These days, the forum is naturally full of apocalyptic visions that result from the war in Iraq and the growing Anti-American feelings in the Arab world. Many of these visions deal with the end of the United States, as the Saudi supervisor of the sector wrote:

These visions and their alike, which many of them were sent to me, propagate the destruction of this evil country and the punishments, disasters, and dismantling, that will occur there. This is the way Allah deals with oppressors…. The punishment of this super oppressor is very close. We ask Allah to heal the hearts of the believers from its influence, and grant the Muslims all of its finance and equipment as booty.

The apocalyptic visions seem to be unwanted by the Salafi scholars of Qa`idat al-Jihad. In an unsigned article published in al-Qa`idah’s main web site of The Center for Islamic Studies and Research in February 2003, there was an attempt to block these ideas. The article – “Allah has not assigned our nation to know the person of the Mahdi prior to his appearance”5 – criticizes those who are looking for the Mahdi to establish the Islamic state, but in the meantime do nothing to promote its establishing. Those that believe in this Islamic principle “have fallen into a lot of exaggerations… and based their religion on false issues, until their religion turned feebler than the nest of a spider.” Moreover, the anonymous author who officially writes on behalf of Qa`idat al-Jihad, attacks the theories of “the Black Banners that will appear from the East”, as based on very weak Hadith stories. His main source of support is Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzi of the 14th Century, one of the leading sources for the Wahhabi doctrines.

The author mentions just once the name of Osamah bin Ladin in regard to these false theories, but his message is clear:

3 Muntada al-Jinn wal-`Afarit:
4 See:
5 The Center for Islamic Studies and Research, Nahnu Ummah lam yukallifna Allah bi-ma`rifat al-Mahdi qabla khurujihi, February 2003. See on-line in: (the addresses of this website changes frequently. This address was valid while writing this article).

We recommend our brothers not to twist the texts and mingle the weak and the well-based [Hadith], in order to make them suit reality. We also recommend all our brothers to act and say what might benefit the nation… You should support the Jihad against Allah’s enemies rather than harm the Jihad and the Mujahidin by nonsense ideas, which have no benefit.

The issue of such apocalyptic visions and the sense of an Armageddon might be natural on the eve and during the war against Iraq. This war is perceived by many in the Arab and Muslim world, primarily youngsters whose knowledge of Islam is poor, as a global attack against Islam, and part of a global conspiracy. The expectations from Bin Ladin to launch further attacks by Qa`idat al-Jihad, and on American soil, are enormous. The search for a new Salah al-Din al-Ayubi to confront the Crusaders is playing an important role for Arab Islamists. Yet, the more interesting issue is the denial of such perceptions by Bin Ladin and Qa`idat al-Jihad.

The reaction of al-Qa`idah might be first of all a result of the pure Wahhabi nature of the Saudi element of the organization. Another reason could be the personality of Bin Ladin, who so far did not make attempts to build an image of an Islamic savior. The idea of al-Qa`idah is to establish a new generation, front, or movement, which are not dependent upon individuals or miracles but on the hard work of a community, and the struggle of communities.

But, it might be also a consequence of another front of the Islamist struggle of Bin Ladin and his followers: the passivity of the Arab world towards the war, and even cooperation with the United States, and not just by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or other Gulf States. One of the symbols of this passivity of Arab governments is the apocalyptic expectation for salvation from the East. The front against governments of the Arab world is as important for Qa`idat al-Jihad as the global fight against the United States, Israel, or Western culture.

Bin Ladin and Arab governments
In February 2003, Bin Ladin distributed two audiocassettes, one to the Iraqi people6 and the other, on the occasion of the holiday of `Id al-Adha and his longest so far (53 minutes), to the Arab governments and clerics. In both cassettes, the American administration was very fast in declaring the authenticity of Bin Ladin’s voice, contrary to the previous cassette of November 2002, where it took it two weeks of technological examinations to decide.

Both cassettes were analyzed by supporters of Al-Qa`idah. The Saudi scholar Lewis Atiyyat Allah analyzed the first, addressed to the Iraqi people.7 The second, the holiday address, was analyzed by Abu Ayman al-Hilali, and appeared in the radical Islamist on-line magazine Al-Ansar. 8

The audiocassette of `Id al-Adha has not been circulated by Al-Jazirah TV but through several web sites on the Internet. It is very long, compare to previous addresses by Bin Ladin, and just recently it was circulated in full text in the form of a publication called Al-Nafir.

Bin Ladin is using in this last speech a new element by presenting a partial survey of American defeats by various Islamic forces, and not just by Qa`idat al-Jihad. He starts with the bombing of the headquarters of the American Marines in Beirut in October 1983 by Hizballah, where over 240 American troops were killed. Then he moves in the 1990s to the attacks in Somalia and Aden. The next attack he mentioned was in November 1995 in Riyadh, which was “a clear message from the people of this region, protesting against the American policy in support for the Jews and the occupation of Saudi Arabia.” Then he mentioned the attack in Khobar/Dhahran in Saudi Arabia in 1996, which “made the Americans move their forces from the big cities to bases in the desert.” The last attack was carried out by the Saudi Shi`i Hizballah. Then came the attacks against the two American embassies in East Africa in August 1998, and the suicide operation against the USS Cole in Aden, in November 2000. Bin Ladin ends his survey with the September 11th attacks.

There is no reference to the attacks that followed September 2001. This attack on American soil, which proved to the whole world that “the United States can be targeted on its soil by focusing on its most prominent points of weakness.”

If we hit just one percent of these points the United States would shrink and retire from leading the world and oppressing it…. Few Muslim youngsters managed to prove to the world, despite the international alliance against them, the capability to fight the super power… more than fifty governments, peoples, and countries in the Islamic world. That is since they held the Jihad as the means to save their religion.”

Yet, the main focus of his speech was not the United States but the Arab governments and the Islamic clerics that support them and supply their legitimacy. Here is also a new element in his speeches: the conflict with these Arab governments is eternal and cannot be solved, since they are excommunicated from Islam.

The rulers that want to solve our problems, of which the most important is the Palestinian one, through the United Nations… have betrayed Allah and his messenger are no longer Muslims… The Muslims should acquit themselves from these oppressing rulers. The acquitting from the evil rulers is known to be one of the two pillars of Tawhid, which are vital for the belief.

The other element targeted by Bin Ladin was the Muslim clerics of the Arab world. Here, Bin Ladin differentiated between two kinds of clerics: those who are loyal to their rulers and legitimize their decisions by rulings; and those who support the true Islamic doctrines but refrain from Jihad as a result of fear of the oppressing governments. “This fear, created by the Arab countries against their own people, has destroyed every possible field of life including the religious one.”

Following the clerics, Bin Ladin divides also the Arab Islamic movements into three parts:

a. Those that are loyal to their governments;

b. Those that decided that they could not defend their interests, groups, and schools, or promote the Da’wah, and joined the supporters of these governments. They started to circulate false interpretations and misled a large public;
c. Those who fought against their governments for the true Islamic principles, but could not endure the oppression, and did not adhere to the Jihad and resistance.

6 See the text of the cassette in:
7 Lewis Atiyyat Allah, Qira’ah fi khitab al-Sheikh Osamah lil-Sha`b al-`Iraqi, March 2003. See his analysis on-line in:
8 Abu Ayman al-Hilali, Khutbat al-Imam Ibn Ladin wama`alim al-hall al-Islami, Al-Ansar, vol. 26 (March 3, 2003), pp. 19-29. See on-line in:

The crisis of Islamic leaderships
The messages of Bin Ladin, which are quite rare under the circumstances of his whereabouts, cannot serve efficiently the doctrines of Global Jihad, and derive more thorough backup by the growing group of Islamist scholars, clerics, and intellectuals, most of them from the Saudi Islamist opposition.

Two of these supporters followed Bin Laden’s speech by thorough critical analysis. The first, Dr. `Abd al-`Aziz al-Qari’, published in March 23rd 2003, an article titled “The crisis of leaderships of the Islamic world,” which was circulated in several Islamist web sites.9 He started his article with total disqualification of the political Arab and Muslim governments:

“There are only two kinds of governments: one was created by Imperialism… which keeps the interests of its master… When they will be no longer effective, they would be thrown to the garbage… The second type has virtues and weaknesses, but it is too weak to confront the new Imperialist and its power.

In fact, the two kinds are nothing but weak fa?ades that cannot defend the interests of the nation… If to conclude the absurd and bitter scene, look at those two famous associations: the “Arab league” of the Arab rulers, and the Muslim Conference” of the rulers of the Islamic world… What a shame for a nation represented by those two paralyzed associations.”

Yet, if in the field of the political Arab leaders the author does not have any expectations, then his more serious criticism is on the Arab Islamic movements. Those are “in part, led by people who are not clerics and have poor knowledge of Islamic law, and do not consult clerics…. Take for example one of the most important Islamic movements – the Muslim Brotherhood – and compare Hasan al-Bana and Sayyid Qutb to the present leaders, and you would understand their deterioration.”

9 Dr. `Abd al-`Aziz al-Qari’, Azmat al-qiyadat fi al-`Alam al-Islami. See on-line in:

The leading role of the `Ulamaa’
The author goes on accusing the generation of great Islamic leaders in neglecting their duty to bring up a second generation of leaders who could promote their movements. But his surprising conclusion is:
“Neglecting this duty always results in weakening the movement and leads to its decay, since then the leadership falls in the hands of the incapables. When the leadership in not in the hands of the clerics (`Ulamaa’) there is no hope and no good…. If this is the situation of the leaderships of the [Islamic] movements, and the political leaderships are corrupted, the responsibility of leadership should be transferred to the `Ulamaa’. They are here but they are spread in various places, and there is no contact or coordination between them, not even a clandestine one. They are oppressed and there is an effort to exclude them from power and influence, primarily from the leadership. Moreover, some oppressive and vicious governments in the Islamic world attempt at eliminating them. These clerics must take the responsibility. The nation is exposed with no leadership.

How they should move and act? I don’t want to sketch here any plans. Their duty is to act, and first of all by building connections, consult, and communicate with each other. That might lead to coordination and hence, the establishing of one clandestine or public front, or even both.”

After historical survey of the crucial role of the Islamic clerics in both the survival of the Islamic nation, and in inspiring the emergence of victorious political and military leaderships, the author concludes:

And so happened in modern times. When the Islamic world confronted the second Crusader campaign of the European imperialism…. Those who started its struggle for freedom were the clerics, such as Sheikh `Abd al-Hamid bin Badis in Algeria, al-Sanusi in Libya, al-Mahdi in the Sudan, Sheikh Muhammad bin `Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula, or Muslim clerics in India.

And in our days, history repeats itself, and the Islamic world is facing the third Crusader campaign, this time it is American. The `Ulamaa’ must therefore, take their role in strengthening the nation, and maintain its spirit, faith, and unity, and prepare new leaders, or prepare the nation for the “ultimate” leadership!”

This is not the Iranian revolutionary idea of Vilayet-I-faqi or the Islamic government, but there is a new line of thought among Saudi Salafi scholars, which might be followed.

Reforming the Islamic way of thinking
Another article was published in two parts, in March 15th and 22nd, by the Saudi cleric and scholar Sheikh Salman bin Fahd al-`Awdah, in his web site Islamtoday under the title: “The duty of these times.”10 Al-`Awdah, one of the more popular Islamist Saudi scholars in recent years, whose articles are circulated frequently in many of those web sites, offers eleven recommendations for the coming Islamic agenda. He is calling for more reasonable and peaceful attitude of “the Muslim individual who is looking for a positive role in such stormy and crucial times.” He calls for a reasonable dealing with the news, analysis, statements, and the Media in general, and warns from spreading rumors, analysis, and news of pessimistic nature.
His surprising model is no other than “our first enemy – so-called Israel.” He views Israel, as “one of the most progressing countries in dealing with the Media, while we in the Islamic world do not possess even the minimum necessary ability for that.” Viewing the advantages and virtues of the enemy and learning from its lessons is not unique in the Arab world and among Islamic movements. We can find in writings of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s, a kind of envious look at the role of religion in the Israeli society and politics. The modern Islamic generations are generally affected consciously or unconsciously by Western worldviews and values, even though they come from the “infidel enemy.” Yet, in our times, such views are rare.

Sheikh Al-`Awdah is also encouraging the use of the Internet and the satellite channels, “which grant us a sense of freedom. We should study how to use this freedom.”

But, his main point is the need for reform within the Islamic societies:

We are not talking about beliefs or principle positions, but the practical field…. If we mean just to talk we can say about our enemies whatever we like. But if we want to move to the field of practice we have to choose our targets precisely…. We are longing to the glory and power of this nation. Yet, after a short while we start talking passionately about the United States and Israel, then Europe, then the Western world, then the entire world. Then we move to the Islamic world, starting with our rivals in opinion…. There is a vital need to revise our priorities, and consider the religious powers within the Islamic world.

His main conclusion is the need “to leave aside all our internal conflicts with our brothers in faith and religion. Abandoning these conflicts does not mean the neglect of the Da’wah, but establishing solid basis for it. We should not leave our differences of views but maintain a dialogue and refrain from the system of boycotting, and disdaining the other views.”

We should put aside the differences in viewing the governments between this group and the other. We should occupy ourselves with the greater issues, each group according to its project. If the Islamic world cannot agree upon a united position on the most important issues, let them walk in parallel lanes…. We should open the field of Ijtihad in a way that it would include all the people that works for the Da’wah, not just the clerics.

Sheikh al-`Awdah is actually calling for Islamic pluralism but within what he takes from the world of sports – “Team spirit.” “We grew up in our childhood and in our schools on the spirit of revenge and retaliation, and even with the closest relatives…. As we wash our faces and hands dozens of times a day, let us try this time wash our hearts.”

10 Salman bin Fahd al-`Awdah, Wajib al-Waqt. See on-line in: and

The apocalyptic visions, the internal conflicts in the Arab and Islamic world, the crisis of leaderships, the diversity of Islamic movements, and the development of extreme radical views within the Islamist arena, seem to cause second thoughts among the wider circle of Islamist scholars. It might be a result of sparks of thought that Qa`idat al-Jihad has fulfilled its role by igniting the Islamist revolution, but, the movement and its extreme ideas cannot lead this revolution. The Arab Islamic world needs now a new generation of clerics that by Ijtihad – the formulation of new legal thinking in Islamic law – would bring the expected change.

The call for the renewal of Ijtihad is not new in modern Islamic thinking. Yet, it is unusual among Saudi-Wahhabi scholars. The leading elements in calling for Ijtihad so far among the supporters of Qa`idat al-Jihad or its affiliated Jihadi-Salafi groups were so far Egyptians or Palestinians.

This line of thought might also result by second thoughts about the globalization of the Islamist struggle. The phenomenon of the Jihadi-Salafi movement, either Qa`idat al-Jihad or other groups and individuals, has always been an Arab one, and remained so. Arab Islamic and Islamists movements and groups also kept their independent infrastructure. A crisis of the global Islamist struggle might bring them “back home.” We should not be surprised therefore, if the above lines of thought, both about the role of the `Ulamaa’ and the Ijtihad of Arab Islamic movements within a pluralist agenda, are just vanguard views to be followed.

A Pakistani army brigadier, S. K. Malik, who elaborated on his country's philosophy of terrorism in his book The Islamic Concept of War, wrote there: "Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge.” 11

New thinking among Arab Islamists might be the start of decline of the Islamist terrorism of Qa`idat al-Jihad, at least in the global arena. Yet, even if it is going to shift back to the Arab world, it is going to be fed by anti-American and anti-Western views on one hand, but also by ambivalent feelings towards Western modernization, on the other.

11 Quoted by Dr. Ajai Sahni, in his article “War and the ‘deluge’ of Terror,” A commentary published in March 25th 2003. See on-line in:

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