Essay:Worldview of ISIS jihadis

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The worldview of jihadis loyal to the Islamic State is a confluence of two historical trends: (1) the writings of Sayyid Qutb, a "martyr" executed by the Nasser regime in 1966, and (2) the collapse of the "Twin Pillar"[1] Cold War alliance between Wahhabi Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, and the resulting covert actions and propaganda wars between the two.


Sometimes referred to as the Egyptian GandhiWikipedia of his time, Qutb spent two years in the United States and returned to Egypt horrified by what he had seen. In his 1964 book Milestones Qutb rediscovered the concept of jahiliyaWikipedia, or a state of, chaos and savagery (literally ignorance) before the divine revelations of the Prophet Muhammad. By mid 20th century the whole planet, in Qutb's view, had returned to a state of jahiliya under Western influences. Even the nation states in the post-colonial period with secular Muslim rulers, such as Nasser, had abandoned their Islamic roots and reverted back into jahiliya. Qutb and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood ultimately were hanged for conspiring against the regime. However Qutb left behind numerous religious writings and a commentary on the Qur'an (In the Shade of the Qur'an) which posthumously became the core curriculum in many madrassasWikipedia throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world.

Subsequent generations were, and still are, schooled in the basic concepts of Qutb's ideology. However by the 1990s his organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, assumed a public posture of denouncing violent change and embracing democratic participation. This led to condemnation of the Brotherhood (Ikhwan) by a newly regenerated Sunni movement known as Salafism.

Twin Pillars[edit]

In 1943 President Franklin Roosevelt declared the defense of Saudi Arabia was a vital interest to the United States. President Roosevelt and Ibn Saud then met in person and cemented an alliance as FDR returned from the 1945 Yalta Conference. Kings Saud, Faisal, Khalid, and Fahd continued their father's precedent of meeting with United States presidents.[2]

From the time of MosaddeghWikipedia til the fall of the Shah[3], Iran was an integral part of the U.S. anti-Soviet containment strategy. Outside the NATO sphere, oil shipments to the West and Japan from the Persian Gulf were protected against Soviet encroachment by the Twin Pillars - the Saudi and Persian monarchs. Two major events in late 1979 however were to change all that; a third colossal strategic blunder by the Soviet Union, and subsequent jihad declared by Saudi Arabia against the Soviet Union, shaped the events and outlook of the ISIS jihadis of our day.


Several global events of late 1979 seem astounding today - given that many were wholly based upon misinformation, leaks, misperception and rumour at the time of the three events discussed below in this section. Among the reactions packed into a few short weeks are:

  • The Carter administration assumed the rebels at the Grand Mosque were Shi'a spreading Khomeini's revolution.
  • The New York Times reported an American official described the militants in Mecca as likely to be responding to Khomeini's call for an "uprising by fundamentalist Muslims."[4]
  • Iranians were outraged by the false accusation. Khomeini broadcast a message accusing the U.S. and Israel of orchestrating the takeover of the Grand Mosque.
  • People in the Muslim world responded to Khomeini's description of the events at Mecca. In Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Libya, and Kuwait, places identified as American were targeted – embassies, consulates, U.S. information and culture centers, a Bank of America branch, an American Express office and Pan Am offices.
  • In Hyderabad, India, where there were no visible American targets, Muslims turned against Hindu merchants who had not shut down their businesses as Muslim merchants had. Violence continued for days until security forces made more than a thousand arrests.
  • A crowd broke into the U.S. embassy compound in Islamabad, PakistanWikipedia, killed two Americans and burnt the embassy to the ground.
  • Pope John Paul II was visiting Turkey when the siege began. A young Muslim, Mehmet ali Agca, escaped from a Turkish prison giving his reason as the siege at Mecca. He described the Pope's visit as part of the infidel plot and warned "the crusaders" would pay for their deeds. Two years later, Agca shot and wounded the Pope.[5]
  • President Carter redeployed a battle group from Subic Bay in the Philippines, including the carrier Kitty Hawk, to the Persian Gulf.
  • On December 10, the Soviet military began to assemble a force of 75,000 to 80,000 along the Afghan-Soviet border.

Iranian Revolution[edit]

The Shah had been a dedicated western ally and friend of Israel throughout his career. He came to power in 1941 after his father, an ally of Hitler, was deposed. In 1953 President Eisenhower expanded the Truman Doctrine to include Iran and sponsored the covert overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh,[6] consolidating the Shah's power. The Shah did not participate in the 1967 Six Day WarWikipedia and neutralized Iraqi ambitions during the 1973 Yom Kippur WarWikipedia by positioning troops along the Shatt al-Arab waterwayWikipedia forcing Saddam Hussein to move troops to his eastern border. The Carter administration however, abandoned the focus of U.S. foreign policy since Truman and embraced the Ayatollah Khomeini as leader of a national liberation movement.[7][8]

The success of the 1979 revolution in creating an Islamic state guided by Sharia law, albeit under Shi'a jurisprudence, initially gave Muslims worldwide a sense of pride in themselves once again. Inspired by the Iranian revolution, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood sought to establish their own Sunni Islamic state by overthrowing the Ba'athist regime of Hafez al-AssadWikipedia[9] which culminated in the tragic 1982 Hama MassacreWikipedia.[10][11] Dynamics changed immediately throughout the Middle East: the AlawiteWikipedia dominated regime of Syria grew closer to its Shia cousins in Iran and made a final break in its alliance with Egypt[12] over the Camp David AccordsWikipedia. A covert war between Saudi Arabia and a former U.S. ally, Iran, began. Indeed, the U.S.and its allies became more dependent upon Wahhabi dominated Saudi Arabia and its security interests.

The Iran-Iraq WarWikipedia (1980-1988) was one such manifestation of the efforts of Wahhabi dominated Saudi Arabia and its allies to "contain" "Islamic fundamentalism", i.e. the export of the Iranian Shiite revolution. Khomeini denounced the United States as "the Great Satan" behind a conspiracy to destroy the Iranian Islamic State after overrunning the U.S. embassy and taking more than[13] 52 American hostages on 4 November 1979.

Siege of Mecca[edit]

On 20 November 1979 (1 Muharam 1400, New Year's Day of the Islamic 15th century) the Grand Mosque in Mecca was taken over for several weeks by an obscure group led by a Bedouin tribesman named Juhayman[14][15] whose theology was an early manifestation of modern violent Salafism. While the Saudi state had been focused on monitoring left-wing and communist subversion, the incident revealed the Saudis were thoroughly unprepared to deal with a challenge to their legitimacy and authority from conservative religious believers.[16] The group included persons from Yemen, Sudan, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi domains. After three days of negotiation the Saudi regime turned to foreign, non-Islamic French Special Forces[17] to help dislodge the domestic threat.[18][19]

The rebels had specific complaints against the House of Saud: its alliance with the West, its alliance with Christianity, cooperation with the United States, for introducing Western secularism and corruption into Islam's holy lands. Juhayman's speeches resembled Khomeini’s diatribes against the Iranian monarch. The Saudi religious establishment issued a series of fatwas to justify the use of force against Muslims by infidel French Special Ops at the holiest site in Islam.

Juhayman was captured and beheaded, but a movement of clandestine Islamist opposition took root in the Kingdom.

Soviet-Afghan war[edit]

The Politburo's decision to introduce troops into Afghanistan was controversial and not unanimous. The idea had been debated several times earlier that year and rejected. Much still remains shrouded in mystery, but evidently President Jimmy Carter's ordering the Kitty Hawk to the Persian Gulf gave the impetus and justification for a coalition majority in Soviet ruling circles to intervene.

Soviet expansionism re-energized what was left of the Cold War coalition. The House of SaudWikipedia, realizing it had deep social-political unrest among true believers of the Wahhabi creed, tried to regain legitimacy and at the same time rid the kingdom of unemployed malcontents by declaring a jihad against the godless communist Superpower which had invaded the Muslim lands of Afghanistan. Thus it was the Saudi's who were first to issue the call to jihad in modern times. The Saudi's even bought the jihadi volunteers one-way air fare to Afghanistan, raising a proxy force to fight the Evil EmpireWikipedia with arms provided by the United States.[20]

Among the jihadi loyalists to the Saudi monarch was Osama bin Laden. But the notion bin Laden was an egomaniac and grandstander, a rich kid seeking to buy his fame is not just Western propaganda -- the view is shared by other jihadi veterans[21], with the exception of those who benefited from his deep pockets. Most were inspired by the success of the Iranian Islamic state in throwing off the yoke of corrupt Western influence (of which the godless Soviet Union is part, and to which the House of Saud fell prey) and were seeking to establish a Sunni Islamic state governed by Sharia law in Afghanistan.

A later recruit was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who bore with him a rabid hatred of the "near enemy" after being spoon-fed as a child anti-Shiite propaganda manufactured by the Saudi religious establishment to counter the export of the Iranian revolution.[22] Unlike the position bin Laden later was to take, Zarqawi was a firm believer in the Qutbist theory of fighting the "near enemy" first -- that is fighting Islamic secular rulers and those who stand in the way of establishing a Caliphiate -- rather than the "far enemy", those outside Islam.[23]

Saudi Wahhabism[edit]

The Saudi religious establishment has steadily discredited itself over the lifetime of the regime from its earliest days[24] with increasing momentum since re-taking the Grand Mosque in 1979 and after King Fahd allowed wearing the cross. During the 1991 Gulf WarWikipedia a fatwa had been issued to allow American service personal, if they so choose, an expression of their faith by wearing a cross as they went into battle against Muslims in Iraq. The basing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia has since, disparagingly, been referred to as "Fahd taking up the cross", or "Fahd wearing the cross".[25]

The religious establishment's rulings in support of Fahd shook domestic society to its foundations. Bin Laden, fresh from victory over another Superpower, offered the use of his jihadis to liberate Kuwait but was rejected by the King. The radical Salafi-jihadi views of Abu Muhammad al-MaqdisiWikipedia, Abu Qatada al-FilistiniWikipedia and Abu Musab al-SuriWikipedia[26] and others gained wider acceptance. Two years earlier Maqdisi declared the Saudi rulers takfirWikipedia[27] or unbelievers, granting a license to kill Saudi leaders to followers of his teaching. Infidel Crusader armies using Saudi territory for staging a war against Muslims confirmed the Salafist's view of the regime and its 'paid donkeys' - Wahhabi establishment judges and scholars.

The neocon argument among others for removing Saddam Hussein was basically to close Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia and remove the cross from around King Fahd's neck. U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia continued after the Gulf War because of the threat posed by Saddam and his military.[28] The 9/11 attacks[29] according to bin Laden, were perpetrated because of U.S. presence. Once Saddam was removed, U.S. presence in the peninsula was no longer needed, the justification for attacks in Manhattan and Washington removed, and the bases hastily closed.[30]

Qutbism imported[edit]

After Qutb was hung, Saudi Arabia welcomed persecuted Muslim Brotherhood dissidents from Egypt and Syria. At a time of rapid modernization due to the growth of its oil exports, Saudi Arabia needed well-trained professionals. The Brotherhood played a key role in the 1960s and 70s as the government expanded education with oil profits. The bulk of the faculties were Qutbists who designed new curricula for schools and universities. A blended view emerged among students of traditional Wahhabism on social issues with the contemporary Muslim Brotherhood approach to politics. And the regime used the Muslim Brotherhood's more politicized version of Islam in its disputes with its secularized neighbors, Nasser's Eygpt and Ba'athist Syria.[31]

Qutb's teachings draw heavily on Ibn TaymiyyahWikipedia and Abd al-Wahhab, emphasizing tawhid (the uniqueness and sovereignty of Allah), the importance of relying on the Qur'an, Sunna, and and writings of the Prophet's companions, the fight against shirk (polytheism)[32], and the conspiracies of Islam’s enemies. These are now cornerstones of modern Salafism. Young scholars emerged from the universities in the 1980s believing they had a moral responsibility to discuss politics and critique un-Islamic rulers and policies. Unlike the Wahhabi establishment, they sought to influence issues beyond rituals and social norms. Initially they remained deferential to Wahhabi establishment scholars, but things changed dramatically in 1990 when the religious establishment issued a fatwa permitting American troops in Saudi Arabia.[33]

After the 9/11 attacks severe damage was done to the name and image of Saudi Wahhabism. More significantly, Salafists view the Saudi Wahhabi religious establishment as in the service of Western counterintelligence[34] as the Saudi religious establishment sought to disassociate themselves from jihadis they now labeled as Qutbists. The fact Qutb's movement now embraced democracy[35] and the Salafi-jihadists were vehemently anti-democratic and seeking an Islamic Caliphate, wrought more confusion.

Funding the global message[edit]

It is estimated the government sponsored Wahhabi religious establishment has spent in excess of $100 billion dollars to take the hardcore, intolerant message of Abd al Wahhab outside the Arabian Peninsula and globally. The money has been used both directly and through various frontsWikipedia, publishing houses, broadcasting, and religious scholars. Much shock, passion, and hyperbole is directed at the House of Saud for hypocrisy from both jihadists and infidels, but neither seem to be able to see the world through the Saudi's eyes.

In Islamic societies (as in all societies) it would be convenient to have the person charged with civil administration to have some semblance of morality, however this is not always possible. So most societies recognize the job of civil administration and safeguarding public morality has to be divided up.[36] The founder of the Saudi dynasty in 1744, a warrior prince named Muhammad bin Saud, needed the religious cleric Abd al Wahhab to grant him legitimacy. Thus was the beginning of an alliance between the House of Saud and Wahhabi clerics that over the space of more than two and a half centuries unified the disparate tribes of the Arabian peninsula, conquered Mecca, and became a global economic force.

By the time of Ibn Saud (1925) there was creeping Westernization and globalization that the founder of the present Saudi state was to exploit to his, and his constituents, advantage: there was black gold-in-them-thar-sand hills. Oil was no use to feed a camel, but in the industrialized West it was worth a fortune. Rather than behead the infidel MI5Wikipedia agent Jack PhilbyWikipedia, Ibn Saud showed tolerance and listened to his scheme to defeat the HashemitesWikipedia, conquer the HejazWikipedia, gain political recognition from the West and get filthy rich at the same time. And this all guided by the religious rulings of the intolerant Wahhabi clerics who made it possible for the state of Saudi Arabia to forge treaties, partnerships and alliances with non-Muslims.

In retrospect, modern Salafists and jihadists condemn the official Wahhabi clerics on the payroll of the regime for sanctioning corruption from Westernization and modernization. The Saudis did what was expected of them -- supported the religious establishment with its new found wealth and, to their credit, have been able to persuade the Saudi Wahhabi clerics to be open and more tolerant toward non-Muslims and others. But that changed somewhat after the Shi'a revolution in Iran of 1979. Suddenly the burden of defending the monarchy from renegade Shiites, who didn't care if the godless communists took over the planet or the global economy came crashing down, took precedents. That, with increasing pressure from the United States that both countries destinies were linked. So the Saudi Wahhabi religious establishment cranked up its anti-Shi'a propaganda apparatus and schooled the present generation of ISIS jihadis, then just schoolchildren, on the untrustworthiness of the apostate Shi'a.[37]

Prominent clerics[edit]

A religious scholar in an Islamic society functions as the judiciary does in Western societies, formulating rulings based upon the Qur'an and other sources to resolve questions and disputes in ordinary civil society. Although modern Salafists deny it, an Islamic scholar also functions as a legislator, formulating new rulings emanating from the penumbra of old rulings and texts.

After the seizure of Grand Mosque it was evident within Saudi ruling circles and the religious establishment the need for a reform movement. To stave off the ever present threat of violence and intolerance in the name of jihad, the Saudi Wahhabi establishment clerics began the Sahwa movementWikipedia (Islamic Awakening movement). The reformist Sahwa movement is the non-violent twin brother of Salafi-jihadism, both claiming parentage from Wahhabism. The Saudi religious clerics recognized the need for a more "enlightened" brand of Salafism.

It was Abd al-Aziz ibn BazWikipedia who issued the call for the anti-Soviet jihad.[38] Only weeks earlier bin Baz doctored a fatwa legitimizing the unthinkable – spilling blood in Islam’s holiest site. Juhayman was a student of bin Baz in the early 1970s at the Islamic University in Medina. But Juhayman complained he and other students couldn't find 'pure' Sharia education in the official Sharia school.[39] They stopped attending bin Baz's lectures and formed their own movement, claiming the religious establishment refused to criticize the Saudi ruling clan's un-Islamic behavior. Bin Baz was called to investigate his former pupil's group to see if they were traitorous. Despite their differences, bin Baz protected Juhayman and his group several times, refusing to condemn Juhayman as non Muslim (takfir) even up to the end of the siege of the Grand Mosque. After Fahd began wearing the cross in 1991, bin Baz was promoted to Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.[40]

Imam Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-AlbaniWikipedia who also taught in Medina condemned Juhayman's seizure of the Mosque. One of his students however, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, fell under the influence of Juhayman's thought. In coming years Maqdisi further developed the idea that the Saudi ruling clan were apostate Muslim infidels worthy of being disposed of, along with a rejection of the very idea of a nation state.[41]

The Iranian hegemon[edit]

Since the 1979 revolution the Iranian regime has consistently attempted to destabilize the House of Saud's control over the Arabian peninsula. The U.S. State Department has listed the Iranian regime as a major state sponsor of terrorism since 1982.[42] The Iranian government has been linked to terrorism in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and the Gulf states.

Iran views itself as a hegemon[43], that is to say, a Superpower that does not get the respect it deserves from the other competing Superpower entities. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of Imperial Germany's pre-World War I efforts to have its "day in the sun" - recognition from the other Great Powers of that era, the British Empire, the French Empire, the Russian Empire etc., as an equal. Iran's bid for Superpower status is most evident in its attempts to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

Iran has sought to spread its influence outside it's borders, among the Shia in the Gulf States and the eastern provinces of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen, and Afghanistan. And westward to the Mediterranean through what the Salafi-jihadis call the Rejectionist quadrilateral[44], Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iran has close ties with Shia of various sects inside the American installed Baghdad regime[45], the Assad regime of Syria, and Hezbollah. Most notably Iran has provided weapons and support to further its brand of a revolutionary Islamic state to non-Shia groups in the Palestinian territories, including Hamas in Gaza. Islamic State jihadists view Iran as a competitor for power and influence over the Palestinian territories.

Renewing an old debate[edit]

The rise of the genocidal Islamic State renews an important debate - the makeup of the United Nations Security Council. Does a power structure originally conceived to maintain global peace and security after 1945 fit the needs of the 21st century? FDR originally spoke of "Four Policemen" to keep in order the old imperialist's "spheres of influence" swept away by two world wars. The Four Policemen being Britain, the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Kuomintang China.[46] France was added, (although it wasn't able to defend its own borders since 1812) for several reasons: early Cold War tensions, the U.S. and Britain needed a continental power other than the Soviet Union, France still had major influence in Africa and Asia, and any board of directors always needs an odd number for a tie breaking vote.[47]

Thus was born the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. A billion people of the Indian subcontinent could be represented through Britain; Black Africa could have its interests looked after by Britain and France, and a billion plus Muslims could have their interests guarded by the votes of Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Each permanent member could be granted a "free hand" to act as policeman on the block should there be trouble.[48]

The world changed by 2014. No single member, let alone three acting in concert, have shown any willingness or ability to prevent or re-educate an army of psychotic delusionaries from taking modern civilization back to an era of savage hatred and enslavement. That portion of the inhabited human sphere, specifically the Muslim world of the Middle East, desperately needs a policeman, a big boy on the block, to keep order. Who are the candidates?

(1) Saudi Arabia, third largest military budget on the planet but lacking in manpower to shuttle forces against larger threats.
(2) Egypt, largest population in the region but dirt poor and economically dependent on the United States. Essentially, a U.S. proxy.[49]
(3) Pakistan, the only Islamic nuclear power but outside the region; also some questions about its stability.
(4) Iran, multinational, multicultural, educated, independent and stubbornly beholden to no one, but labeled number 1 among state sponsors of terrorism.[50]
(5) Turkey, since the rise of ISIS and complications over its EU membership application there have been new rumblings of a Turkish Caliphate as a counterweight to growing Iranian influence in the region; like Iran, Turkey has ethnic and linguistic differences with the Arabs.

Now, this is where the contrast with Shi'ism and Sunni Salafism is important: a basic tenet of the Salafi creed is the United Nations is made up of kufr nations, non-Islamic and the enemies of God.[51] There is no making peace with the enemies of God. The controversial doctrine of takfirism in modern Islam probably exhibits the biggest difference between the Shia and the Sunni. While Shia initially followed a bloodline from Mohammad (thru Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of Mohammad), the Sunni follow the Prophet's companions, one of whom was Sahih al-Bukhari. Bukhari scripted the now infamous hadith (hadiths are words allegedly spoken by Mohammad but not written in the Koran. But because the Prophet allegedly spoke them they are supposed to carry the same weight as the Koran, even though Allah and Mohammad evidently forgot to include this seminal doctrine). "Whoever changes his religion, kill him." In recent years, radical Sunnis have gone berserk with Bukhari's words, but the Shia sect, which has constantly been accused of takfirism and victimized as such, are not under such intolerant compunction.

Russia has proposed a 'New Yalta' conference of the 'Big Three', the US, Russia, and China, where a reordering of global power structures could be discussed.[52]

Iran's refusal to make a peace treaty with Israel, that and its open support of Sunni radicals in the Palestinian territories, is perhaps the remaining reason the U.N. Security Council has not been expanded to include a Muslim state. Anti-Semitism and hostility toward the State of Israel is the traditional bogeyman used in the Middle East by tyrants to unite the disparate competing factions under their rule that otherwise would be feuding with each other. But to paraphrase Samuel HuntingtonWikipedia and Edward SaidWikipedia, Islam's bloody borders and innards[53] culturally makes it difficult to play nice with others so it will continue to be treated as a retarded step-child by the five permanent members of the U.N Security Council.

Restoring the alliance[edit]

Since the fall of the ShahWikipedia there have been several attempts to re-establish relations between the United States and Shi'ite Iran and make the U.S. less dependent on Saudi Arabia's security. Ronald Reagan delivered TOW missile's to Iran, restoring a balance on the battlefield and making it impossible for Saddam to win the Iran-Iraq war.[54] George W. Bush removed the Sunni-dominated regime in Baghdad tilting the scale toward majority Shiites and Iranian influence over the new Iraqi state. Barack Obama has suggested renewing relations with Iran and reopening the embassy.[55] Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has a long tradition of elections and parliamentary governance pre-dating Mosaddegh. Some say Iran should be a natural ally of the U.S.[56]

Ex post facto, Jimmy Carter attempted to mend his disastrous foreign policy that led to the fall of the Shah, the rise of the Shi'a Islamic state and the global Islamic revolution. The Carter DoctrineWikipedia committed the United States to Saudi Arabia's security with all the attendant problems the regime and its scholars brought with it. To his credit, Carter is the rare case of a president who recognized a major foul up of his own doing and visibly took high profile steps to mitigate his own mistake while running for re-election. Papa Bush used the Carter Doctrine to hang the cross round Fahd's neck which, in retrospect, furthered Iran's anti-Saudi policy. Bill Clinton, as he was famous for[57] ignored the problem and only re-iterated FDR's line about the Saudi's being vital to America's strategic interests.

Fighting for status[edit]

Iran is proud of its Islamic state under Sharia which has survived for 30 plus years now and views it as a model for other Islamists. It considers itself able to fill an important leadership role among the world's 1.2 billion Muslims[58] but is being opposed by a conspiracy of the Saudi Wabbists, the Great Satan and the little Satan (Zionist Israel), and their various proxies such as al Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and DAESH. Delusion is nothing new among the five permanent members of the U.N Security Council, after all Putin considers Ukrainian democracy as fascist and America considered Castro and the Sandinistas as Soviet proxies.

Sunni clerics have called for a jihad against Iranian backed Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad.[59] Iran accuses the House of Saud of fomenting the current conflicts against Shia in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon as proxy wars.[60] Iranian Shi'a view the so-called Arab Spring uprising against Assad as a Saudi Wahhabi plot.

The Salafist view[edit]

The Salafist and jihadi view is nothing new, and is designed to take advantage of the impotency of the post-colonial and Cold War international power structures. Even the most uneducated and illiterate jihadist understands what the Russian, American, French and British public is unable or in denial of. Democracy and Salafist Islam are not just incompatible, but irreconcilable. There is no peaceful co-existence or live and let live. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Islam is not a religion of forgiveness, redemption and restoration; it is a religion of vengeance and divine retribution.

The Islamic Thinkers Society posts this extract on its website in an article entitled, "Apostasy of the Rulers"[61]:

They do not reject the TaghoutWikipedia (idolotry) of United Nations, the United Nations is a constitution based on certain rules, it is a kufrWikipedia (unbelieving) organization based on sovereignty for man, anything that gives sovereignty to anything other than Allah (swt) is Taghout. All the rulers willingly apply to be a member of the UN, and pay willingly to maintain their membership, and they willingly adhere to their rules and kufr law, they adhere to the kuffar (unbelievers) to be in authority over them and all the Muslims, they accept for the five Kafir (unbelieving) countries in the security councilWikipedia to have an upperhand over them.

The Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has this to say on its website about the growing mainstream popularity of the Salafi ideal throughout the Middle East:[62]

The movement gained mass popularity during the last century and Salafis now constitute a majority or significant portion of the Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa. This is despite the fact that it was often strongly opposed by secular nationalist regimes and non-Salafi clerics. Western governments have neither the local credibility nor the cultural expertise necessary to diminish the popularity of Salafism.

But that does not reflect the thinking of those who answer the call to fulfill the religious obligation of jihad, only a measure of support for them. Controversial questions among adherents surround collateral damage to non-combatants, civilians, women, children, the elderly, other Muslims, and where, when, and under what circumstances shahid (suicide bombers) may be necessary or acceptable. Salafi scholars may differ on these subjects, but as one scholar might condemn an action, another can always be found to sanction it. Jihadists seem to have the luxury of picking and choosing which scholars they wish to follow. And of course a scholar can always change his mind about what Allah thinks as time and circumstances warrant.

Wahhabism, again[edit]

So, when the term 'Wahhabism' is cited in Western media it can refer to one of two diametrically opposed groups: (1) the Saudi religious establishment which, despite its conservative veneer, has shown itself tolerant and progressive (by Islamic standards) viz-a-viz being supportive of the central government's foreign policy; or it can refer (2) to Salafists, and their armed movement the Salafi-jihadists, which take quite literally the hardcore 18th century doctrines of Abd al-Wahhab and wish to impose them on Sunni Muslims outside Saudi Arabia (Sunnis who have resisted Wahhabism for 200 years), and an unsuspecting world.[63].

The Salafis (true believers of the Wahhabi creed) want to behead the Saudi rulers and its religious establishment; the Saudi Wahhabi religious establishment (many who trace a bloodline back to Wahhab himself) conversely accuse the Salafis of Qutbism, conspiring to overthrow the national government and replace it with the Islamic Caliphate.

Near enemy and far enemy[edit]

The idea of fighting the "near enemy" (apostate regimes) before the "far enemy" (Israel) is considered a basic tenet among Qutbists. The term's origin has been attributed to Muhammad abd-al-Salam FarajWikipedia, executed in 1982 for conspiracy in the murder of Egyptian President Anwar SadatWikipedia. In more recent times the near enemy has been expanded to include Shiites, Christians, Yazidis, insolent Sunnis and just about anyone within ISIS controlled territories who does not support the Caliph. The far enemy has been expanded (primarily through bin Laden's attack upon the United States) to the U.S and other states outside Islamic lands that give aid to "the war on Islam", as jihadists see it.


Takfirism has become probably the most controversial component of the Salafist creed, often separating Salafi-jihadi scholars from garden variety Salafi scholars, Wahhabists, and Shi'a scholars. Most traditional scholars follow a prescribed process based upon the Qur'an and Hadith, that only the clergy (ulema or scholars) are trusted to perform; Salafi-jihadists have taken to allowing rank-and-file believers to declare scholars (clergy), rulers (tyrants), and other professing Muslims of other sects and schools as traitors to Islam, worse than ignorantWikipedia infidelsWikipedia worthy to be put to the sword.

Sayyid Qutb postulated the takfir of the whole of society:

The statement that the UmmahWikipedia of Islam is absent (ghaa‘ibah) necessitates takfir upon every single one of the Islamic states, because it means that there is no Islamic state in existence.[64]

Since Qutb's death the scholars demonstrated Qutb's error contradicting the words of the Prophet:

A group from my Ummah will always remain victorious. Those who abandon them will not be able to harm them, until the Hour is established.[65]

So Qutb proved himself fallible, and is universally accepted as in error, leading some people into sin.[66] Nonetheless he's regarded as one of the first shahids of the modern revival movement. What's more, the scholars happened upon the remnant group, the 73rd sect, that shall be victorious[67] -- the Salafi-jihadis of these final days. The text of The Final Jihad (unknown author, c. 2007) carries the desperate, apocryphal, and end times tone of the modern jihadist movement. But the issue of applying infidel status to whole populations versus individuals remains unresolved (the Shi'a and the United States, for example).

Ibn Taymiyyah is the scholar who modeled how to declare rulers (or tyrants), professing to be Muslim (the Mongolian Khans), as takfir in order to throw off foreign invaders and domination (such as American presence in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques). The takfir tyrants of today being the House of Saud who invited the infidel occupiers in. On this all the Salafists agree, with the exception of the Salafists of the Saudi Wahhabi religious establishment in the service of their paymasters.

See also[edit]


  1. The Iran Primer: The Carter Administration, Gary Sick, United States Institute of Peace.
  2. Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Saudi Arabia: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1992.
  3. This spans the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations.
  4. The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine, Yaroslav Trofimov, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Sep 9, 2008, p. 96.
  5. 'I killed the Pope' note left in hotel, Chicago Tribune, May 14 1981.
  6. The Oxford Companion to United States History, edited by Paul S. Boyer & Melvyn Dubofsky, Oxford University Press, Jul 4, 2001, p. 284. [1]
  7. Another "Gandhi-like figure".The Rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Stephen Hughes, p. 4.
  8. Gary Sick, All fall down: America's fateful encounter in Iran, I.B.Tauris, 1985, p. 166.
  9. Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Pressure Intensifies. Defense Intelligence Agency. 22 April 1982.
  10. Lessons Learned from the Jihad Ordeal in Syria (English Translation), Abu Musab al-Suri. Wikimedia Commons.
  11. Jabhat al-Nusra’s New Syria Strategy, Murad Batal al-Shishani, Al-Monitor, 2013.
  12. Egypt and Syria had formed the United Arab RepublicWikipedia in a bid to encircle Israel.
  13. 65 American hostages were taken. Playing to American domestic identity politicsWikipedia in vogue at the time, 13 blacks and women were released.
  14. Review of The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam's Holiest Shrine and the Birth of al Qaeda, Yaroslav Trofimov, Doubleday, 2007.
  15. Juhayman's forebearers were Ikhwan warriorsWikipedia (not to be confused with the Egyptian Ikhwan or Muslim Brotherhood) who originally were aligned with Ibn Saud but later resisted the unification of the Arabian Peninsula because of Ibn Saud's "alliance with Christians" and his forbidding jihad against Shiites ("the Mushrikīn of ‘Irāq"; see Yahoo Answers: Wahabi: overwhelming majority of Muslims are in fact mushrikin (polytheists) and kuffar (unbelievers)).
  16. Thomas Hegghammer and Stephane Lacroix. Rejectionist Islamism in Saudi Arabia: The Story of Juhayman al-Utaybi Revisited. International Journal of Middle East Studies, February 2007, pp 103-122, Cambridge University Press.
  17. The French GIGNWikipedia commandos had to go through a brief ceremony of conversion to Islam to be able to enter the shrine, which is considered now by critics as a farce.
  18. Many details of the Mosque takeover remain officially classified Saudi state secrets. The Makkan Siege: In Defense of Juhayman, a collection of internet reports on the siege and excerpts of Juhayman's letters. Juhayman is considered to have provided more inspiration to the the modern jihadist movement than Osama bin Laden who left virtually no religious writings behind.
  19. Trofimov includes, "There were American citizens on both sides of the barricades. The gunmen occupying the Mosque included a number of African-American converts to Islam. Retired American military personal were employed flying Saudi helicopters above the Mosque in support of the mission in Mecca. And the CIA provided tear gas and advice on the ground. At the end, however, it was the role of the French commandos that proved decisive". The information is considered unverified by Salafi-jihadi scholars though potentially more damning to the House of Saud and its Wahhabi scholars if proven so.
  20. Actually, most of the equipment and spare parts were of Soviet manufacture which the U.S. took possession of and transported to Afghanistan after Egypt became a U.S. client state under the 1979 Camp David Accords. The TOW missile however, proved decisive against Soviet helicopters.
  21. Inside Al-Qaeda’s Hard Drive, ALAN CULLISON, The Atlantic, SEP 1 2004.
  22. Zarqawi's Anti-Shi'a Legacy: Original or Borrowed? Nibras Kazimi, 1 November, 2006.
  23. Several knowledgeable writers state Sayyid Qutb was not a big influence on bin Laden. Scheuer (pp 56-60 pdf) says he was more influenced by Qutb's brother, Muhammad Qutb. Wiktorowitcz states al Qaeda needs to be distinguished in declaring an individual an apostate from "Sayyid Qutb and many of his followers, who denounced entire populations as apostates". Wiktorowitcz quotes from an al Qaeda statement regarding the legitimacy of a regime: “The ruler of a country is the one that has authority in it. Unless he is an atheist, he can rule even if he lacked shari’ah conditions.” (Wiktorowitcz, p. 230.) Only later when bin Laden met up with Qutb's student, Ayman al-Zawahiri, did both compromise their beliefs to accommodate each other with Zawahiri agreeing to fight a "far enemy" - in this case the United States, first. [2]
  24. See Wikipedia's Ikhwan RevoltWikipedia.
  25. Fahd literally wore the cross in a meeting with the British Royal family during the build up to the war. Bin Laden expressed the outrage of many. See Item 2, Open Letter to Shaykh Bin Baz on the Invalidity of his Fatwa on Peace with the Jews (1994) by Osama bin Laden.
  26. According to al-Suri, bin Laden was a johnny-come-lately to the cause of Salafi-jihadism, having been a Saudi-Wahhabi loyalist up until the time King Fahd began wearing the cross; he floundered about Sudan for a few years until local Islamists declared him takfir (a non-Muslim) in 1994 (Sheuer, pp.88, 109-110) and fled to Afghanistan where al-Suri converted him to the Salafi cause in 1996 (Lawrence Wright, The Master Plan, The New Yorker, 11 September 2006).
  27. takfir is the controversial process of declaring a Muslim a kafir, or unbelieving infidel. Once a believer falls into sin, he is supposed to be admonished and granted time to repent. Scholars disagree how many believing witnesses are to approach the sinner with a warning and how long the sinner is given opportunity to change their behavior. Neither bin Laden nor JuhaymanWikipedia were declared takfir by the Saudi religious establishment, only admonished to repent for causing the deaths of innocent people. Peter Edward Kassig, a humanitarian aid worker who converted to Islam and was never accused of killing anyone, was declared takfir by ISIS and beheaded. The consensus among Salafi scholars is, it only takes one Muslim to declare another Muslim takfir, and thus a traitor to Islam - a more serious crime than being an simple ignorant infidel who never accepted the tawhidWikipedia.
  28. Even bin Laden was fearful of the threat Saddam posed to the Kingdom in a letter to Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef prior to the Gulf War. See Osama bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 81.
  29. referred to in jihadist literature usually as "momentous events of September", or sometimes "Blessed Tuesday".
  30. Prince Sultan Air Base, Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia. Both the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003 were staged from Prince Sultan Airbase; as tensions with Iran rose in June 2019, the U.S. military returned to the base after 15 years/ REPORT: U.S. Military deploys hundreds of troops to Saudi Arabia.
  31. SAUDI ARABIA BACKGROUNDER:WHO ARE THE ISLAMISTS?, International Crisis Group, Middle East Report No. 31, 21 September 2004.
  32. polytheism is a codeword for believers in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Twelfth ImamWikipedia
  33. Anatomy of the Salafi Movement, Quintan Wiktorowitcz, Talylor Francis Group, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 2006, pp 221-225.
  34. much the same as one-world conspiracy theorists view the Jesuits.
  35. The Muslim Brotherhood has allegedly renounced violence sometime after the murder of Sadat and adopted the takfir position of participating in elections.
  36. An example: Charlemagne was crowned Emperor by the ecclesiastical authority whereas Bonaparte grabbed the crown out of the pope's hand and crowned himself, symbolizing he bowed to no other higher moral authority than himself.
  37. "There is now a massive body of literature in the Sunni world filled with hatred of the Shi’a..." The escalating anti-Shi’ite rhetoric from Sunni clerics belonging to different schools of thought, Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, 18/06/2013.
  38. Ibn Baaz's fatwa in support of the war against the soviets. Ibn Baz Fatwas, Volume 27, Book on Da`wah. An interview by the Pakistani magazine: Takbir.
  39. The Brother's Call, Juhayman al Utaybi.
  40. Kind of like the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court with power to rule on which actions of the executive authority are legal.
  41. Maqdisi's Community of Abraham is a further expansion of Juhayman's Clarification Concerning the Community of the One God Designated as Guide of the People; Awakening Islam, Stephane Lacroix & George Holoch, Harvard University Press, Aug 15, 2011, Page 101.
  42. State Sponsors: Iran, Greg Bruno, Council on Foreign Relations, Updated: October 13, 2011.
  43. Iran's Hegemonic Ambitions: Restoring History.
  44. New article from Anṣār al-Mujāhidīn English Forum’s ‘Anṣār': “The dissolution of the rejectionist quadrilateral by the inevitable fall of the Syrian government”, 21 January 2013., posted by Aaron Y. Zelin.
  45. The Baghdad government is often referred to as "the Green Zone" in jihadist writings.
  46. See The Tehran Conference 1943, Office of the Historian, U.S. State Department. "At Tehran, Roosevelt outlined for Stalin his vision of the proposed organization in which the future United Nations would be dominated by “four policemen” (the United States, Britain, China, and Soviet Union) who “would have the power to deal immediately with any threat to the peace and any sudden emergency which requires action.” ¶Finally, the three leaders issued a “Declaration of the Three Powers Regarding Iran.” Within it, they thanked the Iranian Government for its assistance in the war against Germany and promised to provide it with economic assistance both during and after the war. Most importantly, the U.S., British, and Soviet Governments stated that they all shared a “desire for the maintenance of the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran.”
  47. If an Islamic state were to be added to the council, the obvious choice for a seventh tie breaking member would be India, a nuclear power, the worlds largest democracy and representative of the world's Hindus.
  48. The original "free hand" imagery stems from Teddy Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, giving the United States a free hand to act as a policeman in the Caribbean if it deemed necessary.
  49. CIA World Fact Book: Eygpt. Egypt ranks No. 144 in per capita income. The U.S. pays more than a significant share of its defense costs and the country is run by its military.
  50. Flaunting international conventions has never been a bar to sitting among the five permanent members. Numerous examples abound.
  51. See for example, The Management of Savagery, Abu Bakr Naji, Translated by William McCants for the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, 2006, p. 253 in pdf, "where are the studies of the shaykhs which demonstrate God's sanction for the United Nations and its charter and (His sanction for) national legitimacy? (Where are the studies which demonstrate) the rule of God in the order of nationality and the demarcation of borders and nationalism? (Where are the studies which demonstrate) in detail the sanction of God for all these matters and others which the shaykhs have avoided speaking about? Likewise, what did God say about dealing with the laws that result from all these matters?"
  53. The Clash of Civilizations?, By Samuel P. Huntington, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993.
  54. The missile's were personally delivered by Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal.
  55. Obama doesn't rule out U.S. embassy in Iran, Associated Press, 29 December 2014.
  56. Iran was not violating international conventions, pursuing nuclear power status or making threats toward Israel when it was a U.S. ally.
  57. Legacy of Ashes, Tim Wiener, Random House, 2008, p. 507.
  58. See Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member StatesWikipedia
  59. Top cleric Qaradawi calls for Jihad against Hezbollah, Assad in Syria, Al Arabiya with AFP, 2 June 2013.
  60. Saudi bid to Iran, admission of defeat, Finian Cunningham, PressTV, Wed May 14, 2014. PressTVWikipedia is state-owned by the Iranian government and its head is appointed directly by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  62. Militant Ideology Atlas, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, November 2006, Conclusions, p. 10.
  63. Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family as the New Emirs of Arabia, By Alastair Crooke, September 3, 2014.
  64. See also Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present, Gilles Dorronsoro, Columbia University Press, Aug 13, 2013, p. 158 and fn. 33.
  65. The Creed of the Four Imams, p. 31 and fn. 142.,
  66. Yusuf al-Qaradawi: The Takfir of All Societies and Announcement of Destructive Revolutions In the Final Works of Sayyid Qutb, December 29 2009 - by Takfiris.Com
  67. 73 sect narration - in the light of Quran, Hadees and facts, Khurshid imam.