The Islamic Fundamentalist View of Life as a Perennial Battle
By David Zeidan
MERIA Journal Volume 5, No. 4 - December 2001

Danish translation: Islamisk fundamentalismes syn på livet som en stadig kamp
Source: MERIA
Published on March 11, 2012

This article analyzes how radical Islamist movements have altered traditional Islamic concepts to justify their worldview. Based on the writings of prominent radical Islamist leaders across a wide spectrum, it analyzes the ideas of a cosmic struggle between good and evil as reflected in the individual and in society. It traces the reinterpretation of traditional Islamic concepts such as jahiliyya, takfir, hijra, mufassala, jihad and istishad to justify indiscriminate violence. Bin-Laden and his al-Qai’da group use these reinterpretations to justify terrorism, while these ideas also mobilize support for their deeds among a far broader sector among Muslims.

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New-York, there is a growing general public interest in Islamist "fundamentalism" as the perceived breeding ground for contemporary international terrorism, and a growing confusion in explaining its ideas and in categorizing its various components. This article discusses some basic views of Islamist movements, many of them reflected and amplified in the thinking of Usama Bin Ladin and those involved in the attack on the World Trade Center and other targets in the United States.

The radical Islamist movement is a fairly modern phenomenon, part of a wider resurgence of religion sweeping across the Muslim world, and existing in a symbiotic relationship with other trends. It is rooted in the recurring cycles of revivals characteristic of Muslim history and is also a reaction to the severe crisis of modernity converging with the rise of charismatic prophetic leaders. It constitutes a religious reform movement and a political ideology that includes a social element of protest and a search for identity by the have-nots of the Muslim world against an oppressive world order. Fundamentalism is the spearhead of religion engaging in a counterattack on the secularism which had reduced its power during recent decades. [1]

Islamist fundamentalism is composed of a wide variety of movements and views that offer Islam as a total way of life and as a viable alternative to Western secular ideologies. It aims at bringing all of contemporary society under God’s sovereignty, rule and law as revealed in scripture. The restoration of Islamic glory will be achieved by purifying society from un-Islamic teachings and practices, by a return to Islam’s original pure sources (the Quran--God’s written revelation through Muhammad, and Hadith, the divinely inspired traditions of the Prophet’s sayings and deeds) as the only authority, and by the establishment of an ideal Islamic state modeled on that of the Prophet and his Companions.

Most fundamentalist movements are united in these goals of Islamizing the total social and political system of their societies and of establishing a revived authentic world-wide Islamic state based on Sharia (the all-encompassing law ordained by God for humans and based on Quran and Hadith). The differences between movements stem from arguments on how best to achieve these goals and on whether to emphasize an internationalist program or focus on achieving power in a specific state as a first step. There is a debate between moderate gradualists willing to work within the constraints of a local political system and the radical revolutionaries willing to use force to achieve their aims.

Fundamentalists contrast sharply with traditionalists in many areas, but especially in their ideological emphasis on the state. The state is seen as the main instrument for implementing the fundamentalist vision of a God-pleasing state under Sharia and as the guarantor of its survival. Fundamentalists therefore concentrate their efforts on capturing the state and its centers of power--either legally within the democratic framework, or violently by revolution or coup d’etat. [2]

While fundamentalists are a minority in most Muslim societies and states, their insistent and vehement discourse has had much effect on the Muslim world, moving into the vacuum left by the failure of secular regimes, redefining orthodoxy, reconstituting the boundaries of political power relations, limiting the borders of the permissible, resonating in the hearts of the impoverished masses, and appealing to a new strata of literate people with modern technical education. [3]

This article tries to explain the concept of battle, common to most religions, as appropriated by Islamic fundamentalists, and the different interpretations given to it by various streams across the fundamentalist spectrum.

The concept of the world as a battlefield where the forces of good and evil are fighting against each other, of a perennial universal battle going on everywhere and at all times, is common to most prophetic religions, but is especially characteristic of the fundamentalist groups within them. Fundamentalists view history as a cosmic struggle between good and evil using stark binary dichotomies to describe the opposing camps. [4] This rhetoric stresses that the main battle is spiritual, but nonetheless real, being fought in the realms of personal spiritual and moral development, as well as in the sphere of ideas, worldviews and ideologies. [5] However, the manipulation of the concept of warfare to mobilize followers into activism can easily blur the distinctions between terms that symbolize moral and spiritual battle, such as Jihad, and their reinterpretation in specific contexts to legitimize violent struggle excused by an "ends justifies the means" ideology. [6]

Islamic fundamentalism offers a radical reinterpretation of traditional Islamic concepts, and its discourse on the subject of battle serves to mobilize believers, warn them against those identified as enemies, and encourage them to train, organize, and actively participate in the battle. Tactics differ as some fundamentalists tend to withdraw from society temporarily into isolationist separatism, while others actively engage in socio-political affairs to transform society. [7] Both responses are forms of battle, whether they are seen as defensive action against attacking evil forces or offensive campaigns to conquer enemies and transform the world.


Fundamentalisms view history in dialectical terms as a permanent spiritual battle, part of a great cosmic and spiritual confrontation between God’s forces of good and Satan’s forces of evil. Some stress the supernatural nature of the battle, asserting that invisible evil powers, fighting to control individuals and whole cultures, have infiltrated all societies. Every believer who takes a stand for truth is under attack and involved in the fight. It is therefore imperative to be forewarned and forearmed so as not to be taken by surprise. The seemingly mundane struggles of believers in this world are seen as reflections of higher struggles in the spiritual and heavenly realms.

Reality of the Battle

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was the ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s who was tortured and executed by President Nasser for his book Milestones (ma‘alim fil tariq) which reinterpreted traditional Islamic concepts to justify a violent takeover of the state. His reinterpretation of traditional Islamic concepts was the catalyst for the rise of radical Islamic groups. Qutb posits a real battle taking place in this world between the forces of good and those of evil, between faith and unbelief. True believers are to fight and suffer patiently, not for the reward, but because it is their duty toward God. This world is a battlefield, with angels looking on to see how believers fight, and the struggle is not limited to this earth, but extends into all of space and time. While in this world there are only partial victories, the final victory of good is assured. While believers do not always win and often suffer defeat and martyrdom, there is no cause for despair as God comforts and encourages them. From God’s perspective this world and its affairs are tiny in comparison with the world to come. Worldly success does not carry much weight in God’s scales:

"Real triumph is not limited to immediate victory…in Allah’s market the only commodity in demand is the commodity of faith. The highest form of triumph is the victory of soul over matter, the victory of belief over pain, and the victory of faith over persecution." [8]

The Battle in the Realm of Ideas, Worldviews and Ideologies

Fundamentalisms stress the importance of the battle in the realm of ideas. Two incompatible worldviews are fighting over the hearts and minds of people for the leadership of humanity: one is the Islamic fundamentalist paradigm centered on God and his perfect revelation, the other is the Western secularist-humanist view centered on man and his reason and passions. This conflict permeates every level of society.

Islamists emphasize the battle against jahiliyya, traditionally understood as the pagan state of ignorance in pre-Islamic Arabia, but reinterpreted by Qutb to mean any contemporary system not based on the original holy sources of Quran and Hadith and not operating under Sharia. Qutb also reinterpreted jihad to mean the permanent conflict between the Islamic system and all contemporary jahili paradigms. The concepts of the two systems are totally incompatible, so there is no possibility of compromise or coexistence between them. Truth is one and indivisible: all that is not true is inevitably false, and the mixing of truth with falsehood is impossible. Islam means total submission to God and his law, while jahili systems are "a deviation from the worship of One God and the divinely ordained way of life." [9]

According to Israr Ahmad (1932-), fundamentalist preacher, writer and Amir of the Pakistani Tanzim-i-Islami movement which is an offshoot of the better known jama’at-i-Islami, Islam is actively fighting all types of jahiliyya, both the superstitious jahiliyya of un-Islamic folk-religion and the jahiliyya of secular-materialistic atheism with its moral permissiveness. In this battle the most powerful weapon is the Quran, and the challenge is to cleanse the ideological realm from all atheistic elements, reconstructing Islamic thought in contemporary idiom. While the Quran is the true guide and motivator, its teaching can only be effective when coupled to Islamic activism. [10]

True Religion as Radical and Revolutionary

Fundamentalist writers stress the revolutionary character of Islam, viewed as a revolt against the status quo and its corrupting influences while aiming at establishing a new social and political order. The Prophet is pictured as a revolutionary leader, and his message is interpreted as a revolutionary ideology still potent to destroy evil and achieve drastic change in the modern world.

Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (1914-1999), a great fundamentalist scholar, writer and lecturer, who was rector of the Nadwatul ’Ulama Seminary in Pakistan and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, sees Islam as a revolutionary ideology with the power to change contemporary society and culture just as it had transformed seventh century society. [11] Qutb states that true Islam can never accept the status quo but must always struggle to oppose and change it by stimulating renewal. The purpose of the Islamic program (manhaj) is to propel humanity toward greater freedom and creativity, while destroying all bondage and suffering. [12]

Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979), one of the greatest founding figures and ideologues of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism, founder of the Pakistani Jama’at i-Islami, pictures true Islam and its past and present leaders as a modern-style revolutionary party engaged in a revolutionary struggle (jihad) to reshape the world:

“Islam is a revolutionary ideology which seeks to alter the social order of the entire world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. ‘Muslims’ is the title of that ‘International Revolutionary Party’ organized by Islam to carry out its revolutionary program. ‘Jihad’ refers to that revolutionary struggle and utmost exertion which the Islamic Nation/Party brings into play in order to achieve this objective….There is no doubt that all the Prophets of Allah, without exception, were Revolutionary Leaders, and the illustrious Prophet Muhammad was the greatest Revolutionary Leader of all.” [13]


Fundamentalists tend to use absolute Manichaean binary dichotomies such as God vs. Satan; truth vs. falsehood; light vs. darkness; and good vs. evil. [14] They see humanity as divided into two opposing camps of believers and unbelievers with no neutrality possible for anyone. While all fundamentalist discourse is dominated by a cosmology of the battle of good against evil, extreme groups concentrate on conspiracy theories, eliciting a hatred for specific perceived enemies which can legitimize outbursts of violence. By labeling everything in the modern West, as well as non-fundamentalist regimes and society in Muslim states as satanic and evil, extremists turn them into legitimate targets for violent attacks. [15]

Qutb divides the world into two camps: God’s party versus Satan’s. Man faces a moral choice he cannot evade, and he must voluntarily submit to God’s moral laws in Sharia. There is only one God and one truth. All else is error. There is only one law, Sharia. All other law is mere human caprice. There is only one true system, Islam. All other systems are jahiliyya. Qutb lays much stress on the either/or nature of the conflict between Islam and jahiliyya:

“Islam cannot accept any compromise with jahiliyya, either in its concept or in its modes of living derived from this concept. Either Islam will remain, or jahiliyya; Islam cannot accept or agree to a situation which is half-Islam and half-jahiliyya. In this respect Islam’s stand is very clear. It says that truth is one and cannot be divided; if it is not the truth, then it must be falsehood. The mixing and coexistence of the truth and falsehood is impossible. Command belongs to Allah, or else to jahiliyya. The Shari‘ah of Allah will prevail, or else people’s desires.” [16]

Mawdudi argues that as Islam means submission to God, kufr means disobedience to God. God loves Muslims but dislikes kafirs. Muslims find God’s forgiveness, kafirs do not. Muslims will go to jannah (paradise), kafirs to hell (jahannum). Both camps consist of human beings, but Muslims recognize and obey their Lord, while kafirs neither recognize him nor obey him. That is the basic difference. [17]

Ibrahim, Abdul Maajid, & Darbaalah are disciples of the Egyptian Sheikh Umar Abdul-Rahman (imprisoned in America for involvement in the first bombing of the World Trade Center), and linked to the radical Egyptian Islamist group al-jama’a al-Islamiyya. They state that Islam clearly describes "The position of the party of Allah as opposed to the party of Satan." It commands total hatred, animosity and roughness towards disbelievers with whom there can be no compromise. [18]

Bin-Laden (1956-), the Saudi leader of the al-Qa’ida radical Islamist group, believed to be behind most of the anti-American terrorist acts of the last decade, including the bombing of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar as-Salaam in 1998 and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, sees the world divided into two camps--"one of faith where there is no hypocrisy and one of infidelity from which we hope God will protect us". The camp of faith is the Muslim camp, and the camp of unbelief is led by the United States under the banner of Christianity. [19]

On the more moderate side, Rached Ghannouchi (1941-), exiled leader of the Tunisian fundamentalist Al-Nahda movement, sees the real conflict in the contemporary world not as that between civilizations or religions, but as the multidimensional conflict between Truth and Falsehood, between oppressed and oppressor. These conflicts are often packaged in appealing humanistic and religious slogans so as to deceive the masses. [20]


Fundamentalisms stress individual responsibility and the importance of the internal battle within each believer against sin and temptation. They highlight the ennobling results of this struggle as the believer overcomes his lower nature and develops in purity, God-consciousness and devotion.

As in traditional Islam, the concept of jihad among Muslim fundamentalists is divided into two: the greater jihad and the lesser jihad. The greater jihad is the moral struggle in the individual soul, a continuous struggle aimed at subduing man’s baser nature and attuning him to God’s moral standards revealed in Sharia. The lesser jihad is the one by the sword.

While not all Muslim fundamentalists ascribe to the two-nature doctrine of man, the charismatic preachers and those influenced by Shia and Sufi teachings, do. Qutb states categorically that man possesses two natures. Every individual is obliged "to deny his lower self and its unlawful desires and to cleanse and purify it and carry it on the road to spiritual health and salvation; otherwise it will carry him to destruction." The individual is responsible to watch his lower self, calling it to account when it errs. [21]

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), leader of the Iranian Islamic revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, stresses that man’s worst enemy is the lower self within him, an idol that hinders him from developing in godliness. It is imperative to smash this idol and get rid of selfishness which is the root cause of human depravity. The major jihad is the fight against one’s lower self – it is useless to engage in other jihads before succeeding in this one. Khomeini highlights the early Muslims who fought first against their lower selves before going out in jihad against unbelievers, and he calls contemporary believers to emulate them in fighting to the utmost against worldly desires within, trusting Allah for success. [22]

Sheikh ’Abd al-Hamid Kishk (1933-), an extremely popular and charismatic Egyptian preacher whose books and sermons on cassette are widely distributed all over Egypt and the Arab world, restates traditional themes when he pictures the believer in this world as surrounded on every side and at all times by "fearsome waves of materialism" from which only faith can save him. Everyone must persevere in this struggle against the world, the devil, and his lower self, trusting in God’s mercy and forgiveness. [23]

Kishk views man as a dichotomy of body and spirit, lower self and intellect. The spirit strives to elevate man to the sublime heights of fulfilling God’s requirements while the lower self distracts him from this lofty goal by tempting him to be preoccupied with lusts. The lower self was created in order to test men by constantly tempting them "from the path of good, love and duty." However, Allah who created man for this struggle against his lower self has also given him the inner strength to confront it. Kishk stresses that in order to escape hell-fire, attain freedom from enslavement to self, and receive Allah’s peace and certainty, believers must continually struggle against the appetites of the lower self by disciplining it. This involves giving up things it craves and learning to be content with just enough material things to "keep the body straight." Self discipline, obedience to Sharia, meditating on God, and affirming His greatness, are the means provided for overcoming evil. The greater jihad is a continuous struggle aimed at subduing one’s baser nature and attuning oneself to God’s moral standards. It is the basis for personal moral development, creating pious and philanthropic activism, promoting justice and prosperity in society, while combating ignorance, injustice and oppression. As a result of this greater jihad, says Kishk, Islam "heals those societies which follows its guidance and are built on consciences which have been awakened and hearts which have been illuminated by the light of belief." [24]


All fundamentalists are separatists in the moral and behavioral spheres, stressing the importance of personal moral separation from evil and of the struggle against it. Most go further by setting visible boundaries and demanding some degree of separation from worldly society and its corrupting influences, evidenced by norms of conduct, dress and behavior. Some demand institutional separation not only from the world, but also from erring believers in order to ensure doctrinal and institutional purity. A few demand total separation from all aspects of the surrounding evil society and the corrupt state. It is the degree of separation from jahili society that fuels the discourse.

Islamist Views on Separation - Development in Stages

For most Islamist fundamentalists, separation is a stage in the political quest for the establishment of the Islamic state modeled on Muhammad’s practice.

Qutb started the contemporary Islamic debate on separation by his re-interpretation of separation (mufassala) and migration (hijra). He argued that the first Muslim community developed in clearly defined stages that must be emulated today. First was the proclamation of the message (da’wa), then the separation (mufassala) from unbelievers, and finally the fight to implement God’s new society on earth (jihad). Separation from jahili society is a necessary step for establishing boundaries and identity. It is not conceived of as total physical separation, but as a spiritual separation whilst staying on in society to proclaim and recruit. In the Islamic golden age, when a person became a Muslim he made a clean break with his past, separating himself totally from the jahili environment, and starting a new life with the Quran as his only guide.

Qutb concludes that this characteristic of the first unique generation is a necessary condition for any modern renewal: "In the early stages of the new Islamic movement, we must remove ourselves from all the influences of the jahiliyyah in which we live and from which we derive our benefits." The first step for true Muslims is separation from jahili society, transforming themselves by immersion in the Quran, so as to radically change society as they follow in the footsteps of the first Muslims. [25]

In the process of replacing all other human systems with the God-given revolutionary ideology and system of Islam, total separation is however not possible--Qutb here adopts a stand somewhat similar to the Christian principle of "in the world, but not of it":

"This cannot come about by going along even a few steps with jahiliyyah, nor by severing relations with it and removing ourselves to a separate corner; never. The correct procedure is to mix with discretion, give and take with dignity; speak the truth with love, and show the superiority of the Faith with humility. But we must always bear in mind that we live in the midst of jahiliyyah, that our way of life is nobler than that of jahiliyya, and that the change from jahiliyyah to Islam is vast and far-reaching. The chasm between Islam and jahiliyyah is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of jahiliyyah may come over to Islam, whether they reside in a so-called Islamic country and consider themselves Muslims or are outside the Muslim world so they may come out of darkness into light, get rid of their miserable conditions, and enjoy the blessings that we have tasted - we who have understood Islam and live in its atmosphere. If they do not respond to our call, then we shall say to them what Allah commanded His Messenger, peace on him, to say: ‘For you your way, for me mine’." [26]

Physical Separation

The Egyptian extremist movement Takfir wal-Hijra developed Qutb’s ideas on separation to mean that all true Muslims in all generations must emulate Muhammad’s model of hijra (migration) from Mecca to Medina: there must be physical separation from unbelieving society, withdrawal to a new location to establish a new alternative society, and prepare for the stage of tamakkun (strength) and ultimate victory. Total separation (mufassala kamila) is a must in the temporary stage of weakness which ends when the alternative ’umma becomes strong enough to challenge the regime. Until then, passive separation, non-violence, and escape to safe areas to reduce contact with the apostate world were recommended.

Takfir aimed at winning over a large portion of the total population before it would deem itself strong enough for the final assault on jahili society. However, it did not reach its phase of power--it was still in its phase of weakness when it was destroyed. It also interpreted separation as meaning that in case of war members must not fight in the ranks of the Egyptian Army, but flee to secure positions. Society members refused to be conscripted to the army and felt no allegiance to the state, rejecting anything that might serve its interests. They did not recognize state education, uniforms, marriage, or legal system--since all was jahili. They were not allowed to be state employees, and those who were changed jobs on entering the society. [27]

Such comprehensive and extensive separation as a group, however, is rare among Islamist movements.

Spiritual Separation

A more common interpretation, as practiced by another Egyptian radical Islamist group, al-Jihad, responsible for Sadat’s assassination in 1981, rejected the notion of total separation from society advocated by Takfir, interpreting Qutb’s concept of separation as purely spiritual and moral, with a duty laid on true believers to penetrate jahili society and structures in order to bring about a radical change as soon as possible. Al-Jihad tried to infiltrate the military, security services and government institutions so as to wage immediate jihad which it initiated by the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. [28] Several leaders of al-Jihad (especially Ayman al-Zawahiri) have in recent years cooperated with Usama bin-Ladin and his attacks on United States targets.


Eschatology, messianism, and millenarianism play an important part in the worldview of most fundamentalists, encouraging separatism and justifying conspiracy theories and violence.[29] Eschatological views affect the interpretation of the relations between God’s Kingdom, state and society, helping believers identify enemies and see themselves as engaged in the final battle of the end time.

Most fundamentalists accept the traditional Sunni or Shi’i eschatological teachings on the signs of the end times: the appearance of the Antichrist (ad-dajjal), the coming of the mahdi (the awaited end-time deliverer of Muslim tradition) or the return of the Hidden Imam of Shia expectation to set up a righteous rule on earth. [30] However, some groups are more heavily influenced by Islamic eschatology than others, perceiving their activities as part of the end-time scenario.

The Egyptian Takfir wal-Hijra organization was a mahdist movement with an eschatological worldview similar to Christian premillennialism. The world was close to its end time as indicated by the signs of disbelief, oppression, immorality, famine, wars, earthquakes and hurricanes. Their charismatic leader, Shukri Mustafa (1942-1978), a disciple of Sayyid Qutb, was seen as the promised mahdi who would found the new Muslim community, conquer the world, and usher in God’s final reign on earth. [31]

’Abd al-Salam Faraj (1952-1982), the founder and theorist of al-Jihad, who in his popular booklet "The Neglected Duty" had raised violent Jihad to the status of a sixth pillar of Islam, accepted the traditions of the mahdi who will reveal himself at the end of time and establish justice in the whole world. This however, should not lead to passivity, as in the meantime true Muslims are duty bound to actively fulfill God’s original mandate of spreading Islam to the whole world before the end-time and the appearance of the mahdi. Lack of messianic leadership is no excuse for postponing the struggle, as leadership in the meantime can be given to the best Muslim in the community. [32]

In Saudi-Arabia, Juhayman al-’Utaybi (1943-1979), a strict Wahhabi disillusioned by the profligate lifestyle of the royal family, led a failed revolt against the Saudi regime in 1979 [33] in the name of a proclaimed mahdi, Muhammad ibn-’Abdullah al-Qahtani, a student at the Islamic University in Riyad, whose mahdi status had been revealed in dreams to his wife and sister and coincided with the beginning of the 15th Islamic hijra century. His followers claimed that al-Qahtani fulfilled the Hadith that the mahdi would appear at the ka‘ba at the turn of the Islamic century, as well as other Hadiths that state he will have the same name as the Prophet and exhibit similar physical attributes. The movement’s ideology taught that after a long period of deviation from true Islam the mahdi had now appeared to put an end to tyrannical kingship and set up God’s reign of justice and peace. The movement was convinced that once their mahdi had revealed himself, all Muslims would pay him allegiance, helping him defeat the forces of the corrupt regimes who would be swallowed up by the earth. [34]

It would seem that for many impoverished and oppressed Muslims today, awaiting a messianic Savior figure to restore both their fortunes and Islamic pride and glory, Usama bin-Laden is a mahdi-like figure who has achieved mythical proportions. His austere and devout life-style, zeal for Islam, reported exploits, legendary riches, and international renown have exaggerated his popular appeal to Muslim masses around the world. [35]

In the Shia world, the rise of Khomeini to power in the Islamic Revolution resonated with Shia eschatological symbols and inspired many Iranians to see him either as the promised "Hidden Imam" himself, or at least as some eschatological manifestation and representative of the Hidden Imam sent to prepare the way for the end times. ’Ali Shariati (1933-1977), the main ideologue of the Iranian revolution, a radical social and political thinker, reinterpreted the Shia concept of intizar, the waiting for the return of the Hidden Imam, as an active waiting for and accelerating of his coming--a progressive struggle toward the goal of revolution. All roads lead to the inevitable climax when equality and unity are realized worldwide--this will be utopia, the end of history, the return of the Mahdi, the culmination of the dialectical struggle. [36]


Scapegoating thrives in many diverse social and political groupings that feel the need to blame external forces for their perceived intolerable situation. It is however especially typical of religious fundamentalisms, with the more radical groups having a special affinity to harboring bizarre conspiracy theories. Islamists identify secularism in all its forms, the Christian West, Judaism (especially Zionism), and Freemasonry as part of a satanic worldwide evil plot to exterminate true Islam. While Usama bin-Ladin has been especially explicit in calling for battle against a Christian-Jewish conspiracy against Islam, this basic view is a common one among radical Islamists.

Islamic conspiracy theories are rooted in the frustration arising out of several centuries of colonialism and dependency. Against the views held by traditionalists of Jews and Christians as protected "dhimmis" and "people of the Book," fundamentalists link contemporary Western supremacy to the historic opposition of Jews and Christians to Muhammad in the 7th century, and also to texts in Quran and Hadith with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish implications. They then develop a modern concept of uninterrupted Christian and Jewish hatred for Islam since its inception, expressed in continual efforts throughout history to divide, weaken, and destroy Islam. The Jews and Christians of the 7th century are seen as identical with the Jews and Christians of today, so the "Christian Crusading West" in its various contemporary post-colonialist forms, together with the Jews, are deemed to be perennial enemies plotting the destruction of Islam.

Secularism is the other favorite enemy of Islamic fundamentalists. Recent decades have seen the rise of a Muslim anti-secularist discourse that accuses secularism in its various forms of being part of a sinister plot to undermine Islam. Muslims who are also secularists are viewed as being anti-Islamic foreign agents. [37] Most Islamic fundamentalists accept the prevalent conspiracy theories that see the Christian West, Jewish Zionism, and secularism as three forces combining to corrupt, divide and destroy Islam. Rulers in Muslim states are viewed as puppets of these forces, betraying their countries into dependence and secularization.

Qutb senses a worldwide conspiracy of the Crusading Christian West, Marxist Communism, and World Jewry against true Islam. These three forces are jahiliyya at its worst, enemies of God always plotting the destruction of Islam. Modern imperialism is a masked Crusade by the Christian West aided by the Jews to attain world domination. Atheistic Marxists, who replaced God with materialistic-dialectic determinism, joined this attack on Islam. [38] Qutb sees hostility to Islam as inherited, inherent, and latent in the West since Crusader days. Orientalism transmitted the distorted versions of Islam absorbed during the Crusades, the Reconquista, the fall of Constantinople, and the Reformation. Secular Europe inherited the contempt for all things Islamic from religious Europe, and in spite of its rationalism, these irrational prejudices survive, strengthened by Western Imperialism which saw Islam as the main obstacle to achieving world domination. This anti-Islamic spirit unites all Western states and cultures. [39]

Taqiuddin an-Nabhani (1909-1977), Palestinian founder of the radical Hizb al-Tahrir, an extremist offshoot from the Muslim Brotherhood, also sees the Western animosity to Islam as a constant ever since the Crusades. It is fuelled by a wish for revenge and manifests itself in "oppression, humiliation, colonization and exploitation." In colonial times it revealed itself in Orientalism and missionary work, both backed by Western states. This deep-rooted Crusader animosity to Islam resulted in the military conquest of Arab lands during WWI. Modern Europe is engaged in a cultural Crusade against Islam aiming at poisoning the minds of young Muslims by distorting Islamic history and values. This cultural venom is far more dangerous than the Crusades, portraying Islam as a "bogey of humanity, or this demon which would destroy the progress of humanity." Orientalists and Christian clergy continue to support all anti-Islamic activities in the world, conspiring against Islam, slandering its history, and degrading Muhammad and his Companions. [40]

Khomeini, too, has much to say about the conspiracies of Jews and Christians against Islam:

“Since its inception, Islam was afflicted with the Jews who distorted the reputation of Islam by assaulting and slandering it, and this has continued to our present day. The Crusades made the Christian West realize that Islam with its laws and beliefs was the biggest obstacle to their control and domination of the world. That is why they harbored resentment and treated it unjustly. Then more than three centuries ago, came the evil colonists who found in the Muslim world their long sought object. To achieve their ambitions they labored to create the conditions that would lead to the annihilation of Islam. Missionaries, Orientalists, the information media--all are in the service of the colonialist countries and all are guilty of distorting Islam in a way that has caused many Muslims to steer away from it and not find their way back to it. Whilst Islam is the religion of struggle for right, justice, freedom and independence, those enemies have portrayed it in a distorted manner, even in the academic world, aiming at extinguishing its flame and robbing it of its revolutionary character. They teach that Islam has no relevance to society and government and is only concerned with private rituals. These enemies have implanted their falsehoods in the minds of the Muslim people with the help of their agents, and have managed to eliminate Islam’s judiciary and political laws from the sphere of application, replacing them by European laws. The colonialists and their lackeys claim there is a separation between state and religion, so they can isolate Islam from the affairs of society and keep the ulama away from the people. When they have separated and isolated us they can take away our resources and rule us.” [41]

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (1939-), former president of Iran and Khomeini’s successor as Supreme Guardian of the Islamic republic of Iran, labels the United States and Israel as enemies of Iran and of Islam. Iran has demolished the American superpower’s myth of invincibility by standing up to its threats and not bowing to its demands. Following Iran’s example, Muslims all over the world have started fighting and expressing their Islamic feelings. Khamenei posits a struggle during the last twenty years between two competitive camps on the world political scene--the camp of arrogance led by America and the Islamic camp led by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Islamic camp has advanced and gained victories with Islamic movements coming to power in various states. Khamenei goes on to review the history of United States interference in Iran - a history of "America delivering blows to us, betraying us, stabbing us in the back by plotting coups d’etat …” In the Iraq-Iran war, America supported Iraq against Iran. America has harmed Iran more than anyone else, and it fully deserves the title "The Great Satan" because "it engages in evil, in treachery, in murder and because it is arrogant." America is also "the greatest supporter of the Zionist regime which has thrown out an Islamic nation from its homeland." [42]

Iranian revolutionary hate discourse against America also affected Sunni fundamentalist groups. The World Islamic Front in its gathering in London on February 23, 1998, which included among others Usama bin-Laden (al-Qa‘ida), Ayman al-Zawahiri (al-Jihad), Abu-Yasir Taha (Jama‘at Islamiyya), Mir Hamza (Jamiatul Ulama-e-Pakistan), and Fazlul Rahman (Jihad Movement Bangladesh), issued a statement: "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders" in which the United States was identified as the main enemy of Islam for occupying Islamic holy land in the Arabian Peninsula, and for fighting against the Iraqi and Palestinian peoples. In this endeavor the Americans have forged an alliance with the other great enemy of Islam, the Zionists and the Jews: "All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger, and Muslims." The Front issued a fatwa declaring it an individual duty (fard ’ayn) on all Muslims to kill the Americans and their allies wherever possible in order to liberate al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and the Holy Mosque in Mecca from their grip, and in order to drive out their armies from all Muslim lands. [43]

Usama bin-Laden sees two parties battling each other: on the one hand is World Christianity allied to Zionist Jewry and led by the United States, Britain and Israel; on the other hand there is the Muslim world. [44] The conspiracy led by America, Britain and Israel is the great enemy, an infidel Crusader-Jewish alliance under the cover of the United Nations fighting against the people of Islam. This alliance is said to have spilt Muslim blood in massacres perpetrated in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Burma, Kashmir, Assam, Philippines, Somalia, Eritrea, Chechnya and Bosnia. [45]

The greatest outrage of all is the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia, which is an outright infidel occupation of the "land of the two Holy Places the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims." Some regimes in Muslim states, including the Saudi government, have joined this evil alliance, becoming mere puppets of the Americans and suppressing faithful ulama who would reveal the truth to their people. Westerners living in the Arabian Peninsula are not people of the book, but infidels occupying Muslim Holy Land and must be expelled by violent jihad. Bin-Laden also accuses the Western powers of plotting to divide Iraq into three mini-states (the north for the Kurds, the middle for the Sunni, and the south for the Shia), and that they plot a similar partition in Saudi-Arabia: one mini-state around the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina, one in the middle, and one in the oil-rich Eastern region. [46]


Compared to Christian Europe, Islam has a good record of treating Jews with tolerance over many centuries, seeing them as protected dhimmis and as legitimate "people of the book" (ahl al-kitab). Traditional Muslims did not see the Jews who had resisted Muhammad as representative of all Jews in all times and places. In contrast, modern Islamic fundamentalists, reacting to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, have developed a virulent new form of anti-Semitism that see Jews everywhere and at all times involved in a sinister plot to destroy Islam. Selectively using the same anti-Jewish sources of Quran and Hadith as the traditionalists, they blur the distinctions between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and propagate the view of all Jews everywhere and at all times as the enemies of God and as conspirators against Islam. Islamists have imbibed much of modern Western irrational fascist and Nazi ideologies, with their racist anti-Semitism. In order to excuse modern Muslim weakness and the sense of shame and humiliation it engenders, they target all Jews as convenient scapegoats. [47]

It was mainly as a result of Qutb’s invective that Anti-Semitism has become a marker of fundamentalist movements while also infecting the mainstream of Muslim society, especially in the Arab world. Qutb used racist stereotypes and forgeries of Western anti-Semitism such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (translated into Arabic and widely distributed in the Muslim world). [48] As a result, Islamic fundamentalism today sees itself involved in a cosmic struggle against "the Jews" and has developed a comprehensive new doctrine of Muslim-Jewish relations. [49]

For Qutb, modern-day Jews are identical to their ancient forefathers at the time of Muhammad, who "confronted Islam with Enmity from the moment that the Islamic state was established in Medina. They plotted against the Muslim Community from the first day it became a Community." [50] Since then, all Jews have always been wicked enemies of Islam, and the contemporary Muslim ’umma continues to be attacked by the very same Jews and their:

"Machinations and double dealings which discomfited the Early Muslims....The Jews continue–through their wickedness and double-dealing–to lead this (Muslim) community away from its religion and to alienate it from its Qur’an.…Anyone who leads this Community away from its Religion and its Qur’an can only be a Jewish agent ...." [51]

Qutb accuses the Jews of having conspired to poison the Islamic heritage, including Quranic exegesis, by inserting falsehoods in the "Islamic Oral Heritage" in order to confuse Muslims. [52] Jews are inherently evil because all through the ages they have rebelled against God. As a result, "From such creatures who kill, massacre and defame prophets one can only expect the spilling of human blood and dirty means which would further their machinations and evilness." They are characterized by ingratitude, selfishness, fanaticism, isolationism, and hatred for all others, always fomenting dissension in their host societies, exploiting all disasters to profit from the misery of others. They utilize usury to accumulate wealth, infiltrate societies, and dominate the whole world. [53]

Qutb states that Jews have been behind every misfortune that befell the Muslims through the ages, Zionism being but the latest in the long line of Jewish plots against Islam. He identifies modern secular philosophy as a trap laid by world-wide Judaism in order to destroy barriers of creed, weaken society, and enable Jews to penetrate every country with their "satanic usurious activity" which will finally "deliver the proceeds of all human toil into the hands of the great usurious Jewish financial institutions." [54] He also claims that Orientalism has been infiltrated by Jews who poison Western academic studies of Islam. Jews have even infiltrated Muslim states in the guise of political leaders who betray their own people: "Therefore the struggle between Islam and the Jews continues in force and will continue, because the Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction of this religion (Islam)." [55]

Usama bin-Laden’s views reveal the mixture of traditional and modern anti-Jewish sentiments. He states that the Jews want to divide the Muslim world, enslave it and loot its wealth, and that they use Western powers to achieve these aims. [56] The Jews in the past attacked the Prophets and accused Mary the mother of Jesus, who is revered in Muslim tradition, of a great sin. They believe all other humans were created to be exploited by them, and engage in killing, raping and stealing. They have managed to install governments in America that serve as their agents and do their bidding. [57]

Some of these views are reflected in sources using the modern innovation of the internet to combine radical Islamic views on politics and power with blatant anti-Semitism of the modern Western racial sort. One example is the "al-Bayan" site whose chief editor is Jamaaluddin al-Haidar, an American Islamist writer and activist based in Houston, Texas. When dealing with Jews it combines references to Quranic and Hadith sources derogatory of Jews with modern Western anti-Jewish discourse such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and articles obviously gleaned from the Christian neo-Nazi hard right fringe such as: "The Truth About the Talmud: An Expose on the Roots of Zionism" and "EXPOSED!: The AIPAC Tapes Revisited: Evidence of Zionist stranglehold over Clinton White House and US Congress." [58] In an article in which Haidar calls on Muslims of various convictions to drop their petty internal quarrels (the lesser kufr) in order to unite in fighting the "greater kufr", he names the Jews as the common enemy, stating:

"They [the Jews] are vampires, and vampires do not live on vampires. They cannot live only among themselves. They must subsist on Christians and other people not of their race. If you do not exclude them, in less than 200 years our descendants will be working in the fields to furnish them sustenance while they will be in the counting houses rubbing their hands. (i.e. Jewish-dominated Wall Street in New York City)." [59]

Another example is Ahmed Rami, a former lieutenant in the Moroccan army who fled to Sweden following his involvement with military coups in Morocco in the early 1970s, and has set up a radio station called Radio Islam which broadcasts and publishes virulent ant-Semitic material, targeting Zionism and the Jews as the "only one enemy" of Islam and of mankind, and includes excerpts from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and American extreme right wing racist and anti-Semitic supremacist material. He has forged links with both American and Russian anti-Semitic groups. He sees Jewish conspiracies behind all Western regimes and some Arab regimes like Morocco, which he terms "Judaeocracies". He claims that a "Zionist Mafia" and Jewish intellectual terrorism have overpowered Western systems (as in Sweden), and that "the power over banks, mass media and commercial and industrial life is in the hands of a small group of ‘the chosen people’. All education in schools and universities is carried on in a way which is favorable to the ‘master race.’ [60] Ahmad also published a letter to his station in which the writer urges that "it is time for Muslims and Christians to stop fighting each other and see the REAL enemy!" [61]

Azzam Tamimi, a disciple of Ghannouchi and Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, represents a more moderate Islamist fundamentalist viewpoint when he recognizes that during the first thirteen centuries of Islam the Muslim perception of Jews as protected people of the book alongside Christians never changed. They were accorded a safe haven in Muslim lands from Christian persecution and allowed to participate in the Islamic State. It was Christians, not Muslims, who regularly blamed Jews for every catastrophe and crisis. It was modern Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel that changed this perception, he says, turning Jews into enemies of Arabs and Muslims. However, Tamimi warns against the shift in Muslim perceptions, created by a re-reading of history and a re-interpretation of the sacred texts, which views all Jews everywhere as always corrupt and scheming against Islam. He recognizes the primary contribution of modern Western-Christian anti-Jewish writings including the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to the emerging Islamist anti-Semitism that concludes that Jews have hatched a global conspiracy aiming at imposing their control over the whole world. Tamimi also accepts that hostility to the Zionist project has blurred the traditional distinction between the Quranic condemnation of some Jews for their bad conduct, and the Quranic injunction to give Jews and Christians covenant rights, the violation of which is a grave sin. [62]

Tamimi warns fellow Muslims against failing to make distinctions between Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, and he calls for a revision and a re-interpretation of sources and an elimination of false concepts that do not distinguish between them. This revision calls for a restoration of the contextual interpretation of Quranic texts which clearly distinguish between evil and righteous Jews, and will prepare the Muslim world for the post-Israel period when, due to the retreat of the West coinciding with the Muslim political revival, the state of Israel will disappear–but Jews will remain. [63]

Some fundamentalists further away from the Middle East take a more moderate stand on the Jewish question. Khurram Murad (1932-1996), a highly respected scholar and leader of the Pakistani Jama‘at-i Islami argues that the primary purpose of Quranic accounts of the failings of the Jews was not to condemn the Jews of the Prophet’s time, but to provide a case study of what may go wrong with any individual believer or believing community. The Jews had been the "Muslim Ummah of their times" and the history of their deviation is given as a warning, a mirror placed before Muslims of all times to see a true reflection of themselves in their response to God’s revelation: "This ‘mirror’ shows Muslims what can go wrong, where, and why, and the consequences." Muslims, says Murad, "are no different...As the Prophet said: ‘You will follow the ways of Bani Israel, step by step’." Murad sees great similarities between the history of the Jews and the Muslim ‘umma’s later deviation from Sharia, both leading to similar consequences of subjugation by alien powers. [64]


Radical fundamentalists see militancy as a defense against modern secularizing tendencies threatening to destroy religion. In response, they are willing to break state laws in the name of a higher sacred law. [65] As bearers of a revolutionary ideology, fundamentalists are actively engaged in recruiting, mobilizing and organizing for the showdown with the hostile systems.

Not all states are innocent victims of terror. States enforce conformity to their own worldview, labeling groups that deny their legitimacy or use violence as terrorists against whom state violence is legitimate. [66] As many observers point out, in the Muslim world the state is often as culpable as the fundamentalist groups in this vicious cycle of repression and violence. [67]

Fundamentalisms tend to see contemporary modern and post-modern society as essentially neo-pagan, reverting to the immorality and antinomianism of the pre-Islamic polytheistic heathen civilizations (jahiliyya). This reversion to paganism serves as a main legitimization for concepts of civil disobedience and resistance to immoral and evil government regulations. Fundamentalist civil disobedience is rooted in situations where mere men command what God explicitly forbids in revealed scripture. While most fundamentalists have an affinity to the model of the conservative, law-abiding, good citizen stereotype, moral conflicts imposed by secular authorities stir their conscience and shift them to passive civil disobedience that can move on to activist violent modes. [68]

The fundamentalist tendency to continually stress issues that evoke deep emotional resonance can eventually wear down psychological barriers to violent action. Religious issues evoke primordial concepts of identity and values lending added ferocity to conflicts. While state violence might destroy some organizations, new radical groups always emerge to continue the fight. Religions are not inherently more prone to violence than other ideologies, but they do contain the potential for violence alongside their potential for peace and reconciliation. Religions generally subject violence to detailed ethical regulations that define the legitimacy of their targets and methods. But religious groups and their guidelines can be easily manipulated by unscrupulous leaders. [69]

Fundamentalist Views on Jahiliyya and Takfir

In traditional Islam the term jahiliyya denotes the historic condition of immoral paganism and crude ignorance in pre-Islamic Arabia. It has always had a pejorative sense, and ignorance of the jahiliyya period still prevails in most Muslim societies, while studies of jahiliyya that do not fit Islamic perspectives are branded anti-Islamic. For most Muslims, traditional and fundamentalist, real history began with Islam – anything before it is jahiliyya and therefore of no value except as a counterpoint to Islamic greatness. [70] Fundamentalists have however reinterpreted jahiliyya, applying it to present day societies, rulers, and regimes. Viewing only Sharia-based regimes as really legitimate, some have reinterpreted the traditional concepts of jahiliyya and takfir in their attempts to justify the use of force against other Muslims and against state-regimes.

Radical and mainline movements differ over the application of jahiliyya to Muslim society and states. The central question for Islamists is the extent of jahiliyya: does it apply to society as a whole or only to the regime? Does it include the bureaucracy and the military? The ‘ulama’ establishment? If the entire society, not just the government, is jahili, then this legitimizes attacks on civilians who are effectively apostates. There is no neutral ground. [71] For extreme Muslim fundamentalists, jahiliyya is the present condition of a society that by its non-implementation of full Sharia reveals its rebellion against God’s sovereignty. All Western society and the international organizations dominated by it are jahili as are all Muslim regimes.

Since the violent seventh-century khariji rebellions the ‘ulama’ have recognized the dangers of takfir (official labeling as apostate), [72] ruling that it cannot be used against professing Muslims. The Wahhabis of Arabia were the first to re-introduce the khariji concept of takfir into their doctrinal worldview. Muhammad Ibn ’Abd al-Wahhab (1691-1787), founder of the Wahhabi movement that later gave birth to the Saudi-Arabian state, used takfir both against non-Muslims and against Muslims he defined as hypocrites or infidels. He was also the first to expand the concept of jahiliyya to include Muslim societies of his time that had diverted from the pure path of Quran and Sunna by their sins of shirk (the great sin of associating others with God), especially in the veneration of saints and their tombs. [73] Designating Muslims as jahilis and kafirs opened the way for proclaiming jihad against them. [74] Early Wahhabism influenced contemporary fundamentalist movements in Egypt via Rashid Rida (1865-1935), who accepted many of their ideas in formulating the contemporary salafi worldview.

The Saudi government, while battling a homegrown radical Islamist opposition that included bin-Ladin, has encouraged and financed modern Wahhabi movements across the Muslim world as well as every variety of radical Islamist movement abroad, thus spreading these concepts in contemporary Muslim societies. Since the 1950s, when Saudi Arabia supported Egyptian Islamists against the Arab nationalist regime of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and granted asylum to many of them, there has been a process of cross-fertilization and integration between Wahhabism and contemporary fundamentalism. Radical Saudi opposition figures such as Muhammad al-Mas‘ari and Usama bin-Laden carry this integrated Wahhabi-fundamentalist legacy. [75] The Afghan jihad against the Soviets saw these concepts, pushed both by Wahhabi and fundamentalist mujahidin, radicalizing Pakistani and Afghani traditional reform movements of the Deobandi school like Jamiat-e Ulema-i Islam, which eventually gave birth to the Taliban movement. [76]

The large mainline fundamentalist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, although using the jahili concept in their discourse, follow the tradition of not pronouncing takfir on any Muslim, accepting claims of belonging to the faith at face value, while leaving the judgment of intentions to God.

Qutb taught that the main cause of the loss of moral values affecting Christian and Muslim societies is the return of humanity to paganism (jahiliyya) and the dethroning of God from His rightful sovereignty and rule (hakimiyya). In his view, jahiliyya is not a pre-Islamic historical era of paganism but rather an ever-present condition of denying God’s rule, usurping His authority, and living by man-made laws that enslave men to their rulers, engendering oppression. Qutb identifies the enemy as all jahili societies, thus supplying a specific focus for revolutionary action. Jahiliyya is always evil in whatever form it manifests itself, always seeking to crush true Islam. Jihad by force (bil saif) must be used to annihilate jahili regimes and replace them by true Muslim ones. [77]

Qutb claimed that the first step towards Islamic renewal is to judge all societies, institutions, and regimes by the criteria of true tawhid and hakimiyya. All those that do not fulfill these criteria are to be proclaimed jahili. All Western societies, Christian, Jewish, Communist, and all contemporary Muslim societies are denounced as jahili, and no truly Islamic state exists in the world today. This pronouncement of individuals and communities as apostate (takfir) made them into legitimate targets for active jihad. Qutb’s reinterpretation of jahiliyya and takfir unsheathed a tempting weapon for radicals: the possibility of pronouncing all rival groups and individuals as kuffar–thus paving the way for indiscriminate terror as practiced by al-Jama‘at al-Islamiyya in Egypt or by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria. [78]

Following Qutb’s reinterpretations, radical movements use the concepts of jahiliyya and takfir to legitimize their actions. They are willing to denounce as kuffar whole societies (including Muslim ones) and regimes as well as individuals. According to the radicals, the failure to implement Sharia in any state makes that state a jahili state under takfir, and all true Muslims are duty-bound to wage jihad against its regime. Radical movements, such as al-Jama‘at al-Islamiyya and al-Jihad in Egypt, claim that gradualist attempts at reform are un-Quranic, and view most regimes in Muslim countries as in a state of jahiliyya resembling the Arabs in pre-Islamic times. However, for contemporary radicals modern jahiliyya is far worse as it includes the rejection of the message of Islam: "It is not a jahiliyya of ignorance, but a jahiliyya of conscious rejection." [79]

Shukri Mustafa, leader of the Egyptian Takfir wal-Hijra, for example, declared both regime and society as in a state of jahiliyya and under takfir, and ordered true Muslims to separate from them all. [80] He viewed all Islamic communities since Muhammad and the Rashidun Caliphs as jahili. All traditions following Quran and Sunna (including the four main judicial schools of thought, the madhabs) are mere traditions of men and therefore jahili. They are unnecessary as the Quran was given in plain Arabic and is absolutely clear for every Muslim. By closing the door of ijtihad, i.e., individual initiative in reinterpreting Islamic principles, the four imams who founded those schools had made themselves into tawaghit, pagan idols, interposing themselves as mediators between God and the believer. [81]

’Abdessalam Faraj, the founder of al-Jihad, did not see all of society as jahili, nor did he reject the four madhabs. Rather, each individual in society is to be treated according to whether he is a true Muslim or a jahil. Faraj interpreted Ibn-Taymiyya as teaching that while the masses are composed of both Muslims and jahilis intermixed, the rulers are all jahili because while claiming to be Islamic they rule according to their own whims. [82]

Discourse on Jihad

The other concept used to legitimize violence is jihad, which is a very popular notion in Islamic heroic folklore and myth. Traditional Islam allowed only competent ‘ulama’ to declare jihad after due deliberation, and it was hedged in by elaborate conditions. In contrast, Islamic fundamentalists have popularized jihad as an effective tool against all enemies in their struggle for an Islamic state, with lay leaders arrogating to themselves the authority to issue declarations of jihad. Some indeed turn it into a sixth pillar of Islam–the missing or forgotten obligation.

While accepting that the individual internal struggle is important, many fundamentalists see jihad, striving in God’s way, as mainly an external struggle against societal evil, a defense against enemies, and as a strategy for spreading Islam so as to establish a true Islamic system based on Sharia. The only question is whether the goal is to be achieved by a peaceful struggle or by a violent effort. Radicals go beyond the concept accepted by mainline movements of a gradual struggle to improve society (reserving the use of force for defense against aggressors), to include aggressive violent action aimed at taking over power in the state. Some justify attacks on other Muslim and non-Muslim jahili states, seen as dar-al-harb (the house of war), in order to impose the Islamic system and Sharia on the whole world.

Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949), a main early leader of the contemporary Islamic resurgence, founder of the mainline Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, saw jihad as a God-ordained defensive strategy, stating that most Islamic scholars, "Agree unanimously that jihad is a communal defensive obligation imposed upon the Islamic ummah in order to broadcast the summons (to embrace Islam), and that it is an individual obligation to repulse the attack of unbelievers upon it." However, as a result of unbelievers ruling Muslim lands and humbling Muslim honor, "It has become an individual obligation, which there is no evading, on every Muslim to prepare his equipment, to make up his mind to engage in jihad, and to get ready for it until the opportunity is ripe and God decrees a matter which is sure to be accomplished." [83]

Banna does not accept as sound the Hadith that claims the jihad of the spirit is the greater jihad, and the jihad of the sword the lesser jihad, and he glorifies active defensive jihad: "The supreme martyrdom is only conferred on those who slay or are slain in the way of God. As death is inevitable and can happen only once, partaking in jihad is profitable in this world and the next." [84]

Ghannouchi promotes the defensive nature of jihad. The Quran "condemns aggression and oppression and recognizes the legitimate right of an oppressed to resist and even fight in order to deter oppression." The Quran accepts the fact of conflict as a natural feature of human development: as evil spreads so the fight against it must intensify. The Quran calls for the establishment of truth and justice both by peaceful means and by jihad. [85]

Qutb views jihad as both defensive and offensive, stating that jahiliyya is always evil in whatever form it manifests itself and jihad by force (bil saif) must be used to annihilate evil jahili regimes, replacing them by Islamic systems. Jihad bil-saif is not aimed at individuals – "there is no compulsion in religion" defines Islam’s attitude to individuals. However, to guarantee the free choice of accepting true Islam, individuals must live in a Muslim environment where no impediment is placed on the implementation of Sharia. The goal of jihad is to free people from enslavement to other men so that they might serve God alone in a society where all can see Islam operating as God intended: all are free, all are equally slaves to God, legal and social justice is practiced, greed and usury are eliminated.

When there is no such freedom, it becomes incumbent upon Muslims to launch a struggle, initiating an activist movement committed to restoring their freedom and destroying the regimes that deny people the freedom to listen to the message of Islam and force them to bow to their own sovereignty rather than to that of Allah. Having annihilated the tyranny, Islam then establishes a new social, economic and political system, in which all men and women enjoy real freedom. The purpose of jihad bil-saif is to introduce true freedom for mankind and prepare the way for a free preaching of Islam to all humanity. This it accomplishes by using all resources practically available in any given human situation, and developing in definite stages, in each of which it utilizes appropriate new methods. [86]

Mawdudi seems to go a step further, explaining jihad as the revolutionary struggle to establish God’s just order on earth "To bring about a revolution and establish a new order in conformity with the ideology of Islam." This struggle is undertaken not for selfish reasons, but to earn God’s pleasure, the aim being not to "replace Caesar with Caesar" but to establish a "just and equitable social order among human beings." In this struggle Muslims are to expend all their possessions including their lives in the fight against evil "so that evil and contumacy may be eradicated and Allah’s Law enforced on earth". Mawdudi explains that it is the duty of true believers to "wipe out oppression, wrongdoing, strife, immorality, arrogance and unlawful exploitation from the world by force of arms. It is their objective to shatter the myth of the divinity of ‘demi-gods’ and false deities, and to reinstate good in the place of evil." Under an evil government evil systems takes root and flourish and no pious order can ever be established. This is why the Islamic party has no option but to wrest the authority of government from wicked hands and transfer it to the hands of true Muslims. [87]

The radicals view jihad as both aggressive and imperative. Shukri Mustafa claimed that as both society and regime in Egypt are under takfir, both are the first enemy to be dealt with by jihad. Israel, the enemy far away would come later. Open jihad however is not to be initiated until Takfir reaches its phase of strength. [88]

Faraj of al-Jihad declared both regime and its employees as jahili and under takfir, therefore jihad against them is justified and imperative. Active jihad was God’s solution to the problem of dealing with apostate rulers. Faraj taught that violent jihad against all unbelievers is the suppressed sixth pillar of Islam, the main religious duty of true Muslims, superior to all other forms of struggle, which must be given top priority. True Islam means immediate and continuous jihad against Egypt’s atheist ruler and state. Focusing on achieving political power, Faraj gave priority to an immediate coup against the regime, seizure of political power, and the assassination of the "evil prince." The first target had to be the enemy at home–external enemies would be dealt with later. There was no excuse for postponing the confrontation that was to be waged by violence and the mobilization of the masses. Killing true Muslims enlisted by the regime was justified by reference to prophetic example and famous commentators, as was the infiltration of the enemy camp and the use of deception in overthrowing the regime. Faraj criticized other groups for their gradualist strategy of involvement in the political system as only strengthening the regime. He dealt with various excuses put forward for postponing active jihad or interpreting it as defensive or non-violent and concluded that they were all wrong and that active and immediate jihad is the only strategy for achieving an Islamic state. [89]

Ibrahim, Abdul-Majid, and Darbaalah, who are close to al-jama’a al-Islamiyya, criticize Muslims who believe that jihad is only permitted in self-defense, or that jihad should be postponed for various reasons. They state that jihad is one of the three practices, da’wa (the call to Islam), hisba (public order in accordance with Sharia), and jihad, ordained by God for dealing with the world and applicable in all times and places. [90] Jihad is aimed at unbelievers against whom war must be waged at all times, and it is the means by which to establish khilafa, after removing the disbelieving rulers who have usurped God’s position, and of establishing God’s law as supreme. Jihad is also the only way by which to recover lost Muslim lands. Jihad is an obligation on all Muslims and it is an unforgivable crime to abandon it. Faraj was right to label it "The Forgotten Obligation". However, jihad must be waged only in the framework of a jama’a based on Sharia. [91]

’Abdullah Azzam, (1941-1989), a prominent Palestinian jihad fighter in Afghanistan, considered by many to be bin-Laden’s mentor, repudiated the Hadith about the "greater jihad" as inauthentic. He saw jihad as the greatest religious obligation after faith (Iman). It is God’s ordained method for establishing Islam in the world, a "battle…for the reformation of mankind, that the truth may be made dominant and good propagated." [92] ’Azzam claimed that jihad is the apex of a staged process that includes hijra (migration), preparation, and ribat (defensive living on the frontline). Only the ill, the crippled, children, women who cannot emigrate, and the aged are excused from this duty, which is an act of communal worship of God conducted under a recognized leader. [93]

Following Faraj, ’Azzam claims that this obligation has been forgotten, and its neglect is the cause of contemporary Muslim humiliation. When not under direct attack by unbelievers, jihad is a communal obligation (fard kifaya) where it is sufficient that the armed forces protect the borders and the Imam sends out an army at least once a year "to terrorize the enemies of Allah". However, when kuffar occupy Muslim land, jihad becomes a compulsory individual obligation on every single Muslim (fard ‘ayn) and remains so until the liberation of the last occupied piece of Muslim land. ’Azzam offers quotes from the four madhabs to support this view. As infidels today occupy Muslim lands in Palestine, Afghanistan (in the 1980s), Kashmir, and other places, it is clear that the obligation is a personal one on all Muslims. ’Azzam recommends concentrating first on Afghanistan and Palestine "because they have become our foremost problems." [94]

’Azzam also calls for Muslims to give up narrow nationalism and let their vision extend beyond national borders "that have been drawn up for us by the Kuffar." He repudiates all arguments against the immediate prosecution of jihad, such as the lack of a qualified Amir (princely leader), internal squabbles among Muslims, or the lack of manpower. Nothing annuls the obligation of fighting in the defense of Muslim lands. Indeed, the conduction of jihad is part of the process of uniting Muslims and establishing a real Caliphate. [95]

Usama bin-Laden does not theorize about jihad, but simply claims that it is part of the Islamic religion, especially relevant in the case of repelling infidel invaders. The stationing of Western military bases on the soil of Muslim states constitutes an occupation by infidels, a clear cause for jihad. [96] In his notorious "Ladinese Epistle" in which he declared jihad against America, he bases himself on Ibn-Taymiyya who stressed the importance of dealing with the "greater kufr" before dealing with other, lesser kufrs based on the principle of necessity. It is a religious duty to repel the greatest danger even if it means ignoring smaller enemies for a while. He identifies the greater kufr as America, because of its occupation of the Arabian Peninsula and its support of Israel. [97]

The Discourse on Martyrdom and Suicide Missions

Active martyrdom is another area of reinterpretation and implementation. Martyrdom (istishad) is being actively encouraged and glorified by fundamentalists, and its rewards in the afterlife stressed to induce many to court it. Extreme fundamentalists have revived the khariji and assassin (Isma‘ili) traditions of suicide-killings as a legitimate weapon in their contemporary jihad. [98] This is especially true of Shia fundamentalists, [99] but has also motivated Sunni groups to encourage and organize acts of violent martyrdom. [100]

Shari’ati lays great stress on martyrdom as a revolutionary weapon. Its utility lies in its being an integral part of Shi’ite ideology motivating men to become the martyrs who are the heartbeat of history. The martyrdom of Hussein, Muhammad’s grandson and a role model for Shia Muslims, is the great paradigm, a protest against tyranny and a witness to the true values of Islam, guaranteeing that faith would survive. Martyrdom is a legitimate deliberate choice which will strengthen future generations whilst shaming the evil powers of the enemy. It is a true jihad that guarantees honor, faith, and the future of the powerless. It transforms Shi’ites from passive "guardians of the cemeteries" to active followers of Ali and Hussein, fighting for truth on every front. Referring to the place and date of Hussein’s death, he states:

"In the permanent battle of history – everywhere and everyplace, all fields are Karbala, all months are Moharram, all days are Ashura...."

Shari’ati argues that when false religion is established, when all avenues of protest are closed, when potential revolutionaries are bribed, co-opted or killed, then Hussein's model teaches man to be a martyr, and by his death become a witness to the truth and a shaker of the evil empire: "It is an invitation to all ages and generations that if you cannot kill, die". [101]

The utility of the martyr motive to the revolution was later demonstrated by the myriads of idealistic young Iranians who found their death on the killing fields of the Iraq-Iran war when volunteering for duty as human assault waves or living land-mine detonators, as well as by Hizballah activists in Southern Lebanon.

The concept and the discourse around martyrdom and suicide missions was adopted by Sunni radicals and has become an important component in their arsenal of weapons as demonstrated by Palestinian Hamas and Jihad suicide bombings in Israel and the suicidal attacks on the Twin Towers in New York by al-Qa’ida members.

Traditional Islam forbids suicide (intihar), stressing that it is not part of the jihad discourse in Sharia and that it is a major sin. In addition, it forbids the killing of non-combatants, women, children and the elderly. [102] Most radicals agree that suicide is a major sin forbidden in Islam. However, they use Quranic verses, Hadith and cases from the early history of Islam to prove either that the voluntary sacrifice of oneself in the cause of Islam (including blowing oneself up as a living bomb) with the objective of defending Muslims and hurting their enemies, is not considered suicide but is a legitimate fight to the death. [103] Other approaches are to claim that it is martyrdom, which is different to suicide and legitimate in Islam or simply to affirm that suicide bombings are permissible as a form of fulfilling the individual duty (fard ‘ayn) of jihad. Feldner quotes Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (1926-), prominent Egyptian cleric and scholar, Head of the Department of Sunna Studies at the University of Qatar, considered a moderate Muslim Brotherhood member, as arguing that suicide bombings are "heroic operations of martyrdom," have nothing to do with suicide, and "are the supreme form of Jihad for the sake of Allah, and a type of terrorism that is allowed by the Shari‘a". [104]

The intent behind the attempt fuels the discussion. All agree that someone attempting to end his life for personal reasons is committing a forbidden act of suicide. Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, Sheikh of al-Azhar, argues that suicide operations are to be regarded as martyrdom if the intention is to kill enemy soldiers but not women or children. Al-Qaradawi argued that they are legal even if women and children are killed because Israeli society is militaristic by nature and women serve in its army. However children and the elderly should not be targeted, though if they are killed accidentally this can be excused by the principle of necessity which justifies the forbidden. A group of al-Azhar scholars published a fatwa supporting suicide attacks in which people sacrifice themselves to protect the rights, honor and land of Muslims. [105]

Following the attack on the Twin Towers, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn-Abdullah ibn-Muhammed Al el Sheikh issued a statement that condemned the act as criminal on the grounds that Islam forbids hijacking of planes, the terrorizing of innocent people, and the shedding of blood. This is representative of many regime scholars issuing statements justifying their government’s support of the United States. However he did not touch on the question of martyrdom or suicide--a significant omission. [106]


In the 1970s and 1980s, most radical Islamic groups tended to focus their violent activities on destabilizing and destroying the infidel regimes in their own states, following the injunction of fighting the enemies at hand before dealing with enemies further afield. The 1990s saw a shift due to the catalytic effect of the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation. Thousands of volunteers from across the Muslim world joined the jihad against the Soviets, and a measure of cooperation was forged between the widely divergent groups in spite of many internal conflicts. [107] Their victory over the superpower, coupled to the interchange of ideas and the links forged between groups, helped internationalize the movement.

Many Afghan veterans returning home after the Soviet withdrawal instigated a radicalization of Islamist groups and a marked increase in violence in their home countries, especially in Algeria and Egypt. Others however found new sponsors and moved to other flashpoints where they sensed infidel attacks on Muslim communities, such as Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo and the Philippines. They have been instrumental in intensifying the militancy of Islamist movements in Indonesia and in sub-Saharan Africa. [108]

Another interesting development of the 1990s was the relocation of the centers of many extremist movements from their countries of origin to the West due to the repression of radical fundamentalists in their home countries. Many leaders and activists were exiled or went into voluntary exile to Western Europe, the United States and Canada, where they utilized the relative freedom of operation granted them in the secular-liberal democracies to set up their bases and networks. From the West they could more effectively oversee their networks, link up with each other and propagate their doctrines back into their home countries using the modern globalizing technologies of fax, e-mail and the world-wide-web, while recruiting new members in the Western Muslim communities and raising the necessary finance for increased activities. [109]

The Gulf War further radicalized these groups by endorsing their perception of the West as aiming to re-colonize Muslim states. Their sensibilities were especially enraged by the permanent stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia. The presence of kafir soldiers polluting the Holy Land of the two Holy Shrines was perceived as an aggressive act of infidels aimed at dominating the Muslim heartland.

The USA thus became an enemy near at hand and the major focus of attention for some groups like al-Jihad and al-jama‘at al-Islamiyya (…) Usama bin-Laden’s al-Qa’ida was in the forefront of those who encouraged interaction and networking between a large variety of such movements around the world, preparing for assaults that would really hurt and humiliate America. Petty squabbles and the enmity to corrupt regimes in Muslim lands became secondary in light of this jihad against the greater kufr. The results of this shift have now been seen, among others, in the bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar al-Salaam and in the dramatic attacks on the Twin Towers in New York using hijacked civilian planes.


Bin-Laden is not an impassioned revolutionary radical like Qutb or Shariati, seeking social justice for the poor and oppressed. Nor is he the product of harassment, imprisonment and torture at the hand of Muslim regimes as are the leaders of the Egyptian jihad and jama’a groups. Rather, bin-Laden is a product of traditional Saudi Wahhabism, enjoying riches and a privileged position until his radicalization in the Afghan wars. However, he is impacted by his close association with radical ideological Egyptian fundamentalist groups such as al-jihad.

Bin-Laden does not mention the concepts of jahiliyya and takfir in his interviews, fatwas and statements. He focuses on jihad, as understood by the more traditionalist ulama--a defensive struggle against enemies who attack and occupy Muslim lands. It was not Qutb’s theories and reinterpretations that mobilized him, but the Soviet invasion of Muslim Afghanistan and the stationing of American troops in Saudi-Arabia. His focus is not on replacing the corrupt Saudi regime (though he does label it as an American stooge whose turn will eventually come), but on fighting the external foes of Islam whoever they may be. [110]

What characterizes him is his pan-Islamic stance that does not recognize internal divisions in the umma and his sense of grievance at the weakness of the whole umma and its continued humiliation at the hands of the West. His capabilities in administration and technical matters as well as his charisma and motivating power and ability to form alliances across a wide spectrum of ideologies, have placed him in the forefront of radical Islamists using terror to further their cause. He is not a shadowy secretive figure like other leaders of radical groups, but rather courts publicity, giving interviews and appearing on videos and TV programs. The staggering magnitude of his exploits in terms of victims and destruction, and his gift for public relations have made him the darling of Muslim masses worldwide, appealing to their popular views of jihad, articulating their sense of wounded pride and wish for revenge, and identifying a highly visible scapegoat, the United States, as the root of all evil and corruption.


A main marker of fundamentalisms is the view of life as a constant battle between God’s powers of good ranged against Satanic evil powers. Fundamentalists call on believers to fight and suffer patiently in God’s cause, stressing the militant attitude expected of believers in light of this emergency situation.

Fundamentalists view history as a dialectical spiritual battle in which a stand for God’s truth will always involve confrontation. They use binary dichotomies to describe the world, stressing that there can be no neutrality or compromise, and that the opponents of God are totally corrupt and evil. They stress the supernatural aspects of this battle, as well as the fight in the realm of ideas, worldviews and ideologies. In this battle two diametrically opposed camps are battling for supremacy, the central issue being that of God’s authority and rule. Fundamentalists state that the Prophet Muhammad as well as the early Caliphs and Imams were radical revolutionaries who had initiated a new system that destroyed the corrupt status quo, and that contemporary Muslims must emulate that system.

Some fundamentalists dedicate much discourse to the issue of the personal moral struggle within the individual, stressing man’s dual nature and the importance of the struggle against temptation and evil in the development of a godly and pious character. They use the metaphor of the lower evil self which has to be conquered and subdued in the greater jihad as a preparation for participation in the lesser jihad against external enemies.

Fundamentalisms advocate separatism to varying degrees. This includes separation from personal evil and heretical teachings and systems, leading many to set up their own independent movements and institutions. For Islamic fundamentalists separation usually means emulating the Prophet’s hijra from Mecca to Medina interpreted as a temporary separation from the jahili environment in order to consolidate the community’s strength and eventually return in power to destroy the evil system and establish God’s rule. While the personal aspect of this separation is stressed by some, most Islamic discourse is on its political expression, discussing whether it means total non-involvement with present regimes and societies, or only partial separation as true Muslims seek to impact individuals in society and influence the general culture.

Another interesting hallmark of fundamentalisms is the thriving of conspiracy theories. There is a tendency to identify perceived enemies and unmask secret conspirators. For Islamists, the perennial enemies of Islam are the Crusading Christians, the Jews, and secularism in its manifold manifestations. In contemporary Islamic fundamentalism, anti-Semitic rhetoric plays a dominant role.

Fundamentalisms view contemporary society as neo-pagan (jahili) in its repudiation of moral absolutes, its sexual permissiveness and secular-atheistic worldview. They stress the need to resist the ungodly and evil dictates of such systems. Mainline groups view the struggle mainly in ideological terms and advocate involvement in civil society, charitable work, and democratic politics to change the evil system. Among radicals, jahiliyya, takfir, and jihad, are the concepts used to justify armed resistance and violent takeovers of government from corrupt and apostate regimes as well as indiscriminate acts of terrorism against all perceived enemies using suicide missions as legitimate tools. While some see all of contemporary society as apostate and legitimate targets of violence, as there are no innocent neutrals, others claim it is only the rulers, regimes and active helpers that may be targeted.

More recently, following the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the Gulf War, the focus of jihad has shifted to the United States as the main enemy of Islam. The main reason given is its permanent stationing of American troops in Saudi-Arabia, the Holy Land of Islam and its sanctions against Iraq that have caused the death of hundreds of thousands of children, in addition to its older sins of supporting Israel against the Palestinians, and of exporting decadent immoral culture into Muslim societies. Radical groups have used modern technologies to build up loose web-like international organizational structures as well as to multiply the magnitude of damage caused by their acts of terrorism especially against American targets.

The concept of battle seems to have come full circle. Beginning with the desire to reform Islam itself in an activist spiritual and intellectual battle to remove inherent internal causes of the ummah’s weakness and decadence, it has developed an escapist version of searching for scapegoats which were first defined as corrupt regimes and institutions in Muslim states and societies and later identified as external Western powers and especially the United States and Israel. Reformist energies are being subverted and dissipated by venting all the frustrations of the past few centuries of dependency and humiliation on those identified as scapegoats. This appeal to populist notions of shame, wounded pride, and loss of honor being redeemable only by the shedding of blood. The indiscriminate shedding of blood has become the hallmark of radical movements from the Maghreb to the Pacific, its latest manifestation so vividly experienced in New York and Washington.


1. Ameer Ali, "Islamism: Emancipation, Protest and Identity", Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 1, (2000), pp. 11-28; For a very thorough discussion of fundamentalisms across various religions, the reader is directed to the 5-volume "The Fundamentalist Project", edited by Martin E. Marty & Scott Appleby published by the University of Chicago Press between 1991 and 1995.

2. Laura Guazzone, "Islamism and Islamists in the Contemporary Arab World" in Laura Guazzone, ed., The Islamist Dilemma: The Political Role of Islamist Movements in the Contemporary Arab World (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1995), pp. 10-12.

3. Salwa Isma‘il, Discourse and Ideology in Contemporary Egypt unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Political Science, McGill University, (1992), pp. 1-2, 89-92, 112-116.

4. Lionel Caplan in Caplan, ed., Studies in Religious Fundamentalisms (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987), pp. 18-19.

5. Mark Juergensmeyer, The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 156-160.

6. The manipulation isn’t a monopoly of fundamentalists. Clever politicians happily manipulate these concepts to further their interests. Sometimes these manipulations boomerang. A good example is Pakistan’s support of various extremist groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir to further its regional interests, which are now destabilizing the state. See Selig S. Harrison, "Pakistan: The Destabilisation Game", Le Monde diplomatique (October 2001).

7. David C. Rapoport, "Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Groups," in Marty & Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms and the State (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 430-431.

8. Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (Ma‘alim fil Tariq) English Translation, (Indianapolis: American TArust Publications, 1990), pp. 130-137.

9. Qutb 1990, pp. 111-113.

10. Israr Ahmad, "Atheistic Ideologies can be defeated only through the Qur’an", Tanzeem-e-Islami, Press Release, 26,9,97, MSANEWS, Internet, <>.

11. Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi. 1983. Muslims in the West: The Message and Mission edited by Khurram Murad, (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1983), p. 94.

12. Sayyid Qutb, "Social Justice in Islam" in Shepard, W. ed., Sayyid Qutb and Islamic Activism: A Translation and Critical Analysis of ‘Social Justice in Islam’ (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996), pp. 309-311.

13. Abul A‘la Mawdudi, Jihad fi Sabilillah (Jihad in Islam) translated by Khurshid Ahmad, (Birmingham: UK Islamic Dawah Centre, 1997), pp. 3, 8-9.

14. William Shepard, "Fundamentalism, Christian and Islamic", Religion No 17 (1987), p. 362.

15. Nader Saiedi, "What is Fundamentalism?" in Hadden & Shupe, eds., Prophetic Religions and Politics (New York: Paragon Press, 1986), pp. 173-195.

16. Qutb. 1990. pp. 101-102, 112.

17. Abul A‘la Mawdudi, Let Us Be Muslims edited by Khurram Murad, (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1982), pp. 53-54.

18. Naahah Ibrahim, Asim Abdul Maajid, & Esaam-ud-Deen Darbaalah, In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure (London: Al-Firdous, 1997), pp. 199-201.

19. Usama bin-Laden, "Bin Laden’s Warning: Full Text", Full text of a recorded statement broadcast on al-Jazeera television. BBC News, South Asia, Sunday, October 7, 2001, Internet: <…th_asia/newsid_1585000/1585636.stm>. See also CNN report on a letter by bin-Laden to the Pakistani people condemning Pakistan’s support for the U.S. campaign against Afghanistan, Internet: <>.

20. Rached Ghannouchi, "The Conflict Between the West and Islam: The Tunisian Case: Reality and Prospects", a lecture delivered at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London, May 9, 1995, Internet: <>, pp. 2-3; 7.

21. Qutb, "Social Justice in Islam," pp. 70-71.

22. Ruhollah Khomeini, "Difference Between Bismillah of each Surah", in Mutahhari, Tabatabai, & Khumayni, Light Within Me (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, nd), pp. 139-44.

23. ‘Abd al-Hamid Kishk, Dealing With Lust and Greed According to Islam (London: Dar Al Taqwa, 1995), pp. 143-145.

24. Ibid., pp. 2-9, 133.

25. Qutb, Milestones, pp. 14-16.

26. Ibid., pp. 113-114, 120.

27. Nabeel T. Jabbour, The Rumbling Volcano: Islamic Fundamentalism In Egypt (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1993) pp. 143-157; See also Gilles Kepel, The Prophet and The Pharaoh: Muslim Extremism in Egypt, (London: al-Saqi, 1985), pp. 95-96, 150.

28. Hrair R. Dekmejian, 1985. Islam In Revolution: Fundamentalism in the Arab World (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1985), pp. 92-96, 101.

29. Rapoport, "Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Groups," pp. 447, 450.

30. Ibrahim, Abdul-Maajid, & Darbaalah, In Pursuit of Allah’s Pleasure, pp. 30-31. The authors, who are members of the Egyptian Jama‘at Islamiyya movement, include in their declaration of faith (‘aqeedah) the following items: "We have no doubt that the awaited Mahdee (or rightly-guided Imam) will come forth from among the Ummah of the Prophet at the end of time (on earth). We believe in the Signs of the Hour. The appearance of ad-Dajjal (Afalse Messiah, or Antichrist). The descent from heaven of ‘Isa, son of Mary. The sun rising from the West. The emergence of the Beast from the earth. And other signs mentioned in the Qur’an and the authentic Hadeeth of the Prophet".

31. Walid M. Abdelnasser, The Islamic Movement in Egypt (London: Kegan Paul International, 1994), p. 216. See also Derek Hopwood,. 1991. Egypt: Politics and Society 1945-1990, (London: Harper Collins Academic, 1991), p. 118.

32. Muhammad Abdessalam Faraj, Al-farida al-gha’iba, translated, in Jansen, G.H., 1986. The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East (New York: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 163-164. See also Abdelnasser, pp. 234-235.

33. Juhayman and his followers seized the Grand Mosque in 1979 and had to be dislodged by the security forces in a violent siege.

34. Ayman Al-Yassini, Religion and State in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985), pp.124-129.

35. Khaled Dawoud, "America’s Most Wanted", Al-Ahram Weekly Online Issue No. 552, September 20-26, 2001. Dawoud states that "For his followers, Bin Laden is not just a political figure, but has a status almost akin to that of a saint or a messiah". He describes bin-Laden’s ascetic lifestyle living in harsh surroundings in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan and surviving on a simple diet of cheese, milk and dates. See also Daniel Pipes, "Muslims Love Bin Laden", New York Post, October 22, 2001.

36. Ali Shariati. 1982. "Intizar: The Religion of Protest and the Return to Self", in Donohue & Esposito, eds., Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 298-304; See also Ali Shariati, On the Sociology of Islam tr. by Hamid Algar, (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1979), p. 124.

37. Kate Zebiri, "Muslim Anti-Secularist DiscourAse in the Context of Muslim-Christian Relations", Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations Vol. 9, No. 1 (1998), p. 3.

38. Qutb, Milestones, pp. 94-96.

39. Qutb, "Social Justice in Islam," pp. 284-288.

40. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, The Islamic State, (London: Al-Khilafah Publications, nd), pp. 188-192.

41. Ruhollah Khomeini, "Islamic Government," in Donohue & Esposito, eds., Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives, pp. 314-315.

42. Ali Khamenei, "No Need for Iran-US Negotiations," excerpts from a khutbah addressed to Tehran’s Friday worshippers on January 16, 1998. MSANEWS, January 27, 1998.

43. World Islamic Front Statement, "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," Internet, <>. This fatwa was based on the Quranic verses: "And fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together", and "fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God."

44. "Usamah Bin-Laden, the Destruction of the Base", an Interview with Usama bin-Laden conducted by Jamal Isma'il and aired 10,June,1999. Published by The Terrorism Research Centre, Internet, <>.

45. Usama bin-Laden, "Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places", (1996), Internet, <>; See also "Terror Suspect", an ABC News interview with Usama bin-Laden conducted by Rahimullah Yousafsai in December 1998, Internet, <http://printerfriend…mGLUE=true&GLUEService=ABCNewsArc>.

46. IbiAd.

47. Martin Kramer, "The Salience of Islamic Antisemitism", Full text of a lecture delivered by Prof. Kramer at the Institute of Jewish Affairs in London and published in its "Reports" series (no. 2, October 1995). Internet, <>

48. Qutb, Milestones pp. 94-96.

49. Ronald L. Nettler, Past Trials and Present Tribulations: A Muslim Fundamentalist’s View of the Jews (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1987), Foreword & p. x.

50. Qutb, "Our Struggle With the Jews", in Nettler, Past Trials and Present Tribulations: A Muslim Fundamentalist’s View of the Jews, p. 81.

51. Ibid., p. 72.

52. Qutb is here evidently referring to the Isra’iliyat.

53. Qutb, "Our Struggles with the Jews"; See also Qutb, Milestones pp. 94-96.

54. Qutb, "Social Justice in Islam", p. 303.

55. Qutb, "Our Struggles with the Jews", pp. 75-85.

56. "Conversation with Terror", Interview with Usama bin-Laden, TIME January 11, 1999, pp. 34-35.

57. "Talking with Terror’s Banker", an ABCNews interview with Usama bin-Laden conducted by John Miller, May 28, 1998. Internet, <>.

58. Al-Bayan Homepage, Internet, < >.

59. Jamaaluddin al-Haidar, "Sufi-vs-Salafi: The Pot Calls the Kettle Black," Internet, <>.

60. "Ahmad Rami’s Idealism", Pravda interview with Ahmad Rami, Radio AIslam, July 15, 1997, Internet, <http://www.radioislam/english/toread/pravda.htm>.

61. "Right On!" by Jessie, Radio Islam, Internet, <>.

62. Azzam Tamimi, "Jews and Muslims in Post-Israel Middle East", MSANEWS  June 30, 1999, Internet, <>.

63. Ibid.

64. Khurram Murad, 1996. Key to al-Baqarah: The Longest Surah of the Qur’an (Leicester: The Islamic foundation, 1996), pp. 15-19.

65. Rapoport, "Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Groups," pp. 429-430.

66. William Herbrecht, "Religious Authenticity as a Function of State Power", in Bromley & Carter, eds., Religion and the Social Order, vol.6, 1996: The Issue of Authenticity in the Study of Religions (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1996), pp. 20-21.

67. Ahmad S. Moussalli,. "Modern Islamic Fundamentalist Discourses on Civil Society, Pluralism and Democracy", in Augustus R. Norton, ed., Civil Society in the Middle East (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), pp. 16-17.

68. John H. Garvey, "Fundamentalism and American Law", in Marty & Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms and the State, pp. 35-36.

69. Rapoport, "Comparing Militant Fundamentalist Groups," pp. 439-440, 446-447.

70. As‘ad Abu-Khalil, "The Incoherence of Islamic Fundamentalism: Arab Islamic Thought at the End of the 20th Century", Middle East Journal, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Autumn 1994).

71. Strawson, John, "Encountering Islamic Law," Essay presented at the Critical Legal Conference, New College, Oxford, September 9 – 12, 1993. The World Wide WebA Virtual Library: Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, Internet, <>. p. 11.

72. The Kharijis seceded from ‘Ali’s camp in 659AD because of his compromise with Mu’awiya. They judged Muslims who committed sins to have become non-Muslim apostates worthy of death, and instigated many rebellions in the first centuries of Islam until cruelly suppressed.

73. Ende & Steinbach, eds., Der Islam in der Gegenwart (Munchen: C.H.Beck, 1984), pp. 96-98.

74. al-Yasini, Religion and State in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, pp. 28-29.

75. Joseph Kostiner, "State, Islam and Opposition in Saudi Arabia", in Bruce Maddy-Wizman & Efraim Inbar, eds., Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East (London: Frank Cass, 1997), pp. 75-89. Kostiner characterizes some opposition figures as Wahabbis who are modern-educated and influenced by ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood and radical revivalist groups in Egypt (p. 81).

76. On the rise of the Taliban, and on whether they are traditionalists or fundamentalists, see William Maley, "Interpreting the Taliban", in William Maley, ed., Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban (London: Hurst & Company, 1998), pp. 1-28..

77. Qutb, Milestones, pp. 5-10, 15-17, 45-50, 66-67, 101, 123.

78. Ibid., pp. 64-68, 91-92,

79. Strawson, "Encountering Islamic Law," p. 11.

80. Jabbour, The Rumbling Volcano: Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt, pp. 194-212; See also Abdelnasser, The Islamic Movement in Egypt, pp. 204-205.

81. Dekmejian, Islam in Revolution: Fundamentalism in the Arab World, pp. 92-96.

82. Faraj, "al-Farida al-Gha’ibah", pp. 169-175; See also Kepel, The Prophet and the Pharaoh: Muslim Extremism in Egypt, pp. 191-222; Also Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 134-135.

83 Hasan al-Banna. 1978. Five Tracts of Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949): A Selection from the Majmu‘at Rasa’il al-Imam al-Shahid (Bekeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 150-151.

84. Al-Banna, Five Tracts of Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949): A Selection from the Majmu‘at Rasa’il al-Imam al-Shahid, pp. 155-156.

85. Ghannouchi, "The Conflict Between the West and Islam: The Tunisian Case: Reality and Prospects".

86. Qutb, Milestones, pp. 43-50.

87. Mawdudi, Jihad fi-Sabil Allah, pp. 4-6, 10-11.

88. Jabbour, The Rumbling Volcano: Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt, pp. 194-212; See also Abdelnasser, The Islamic Movement in Egypt, pp. 204-205.

89. Faraj, "al-Farida al-Gha’ibah", pp. 159-179, 186-189, 192-193, 207-213; See also Hamid Ansari, "The Islamic Militants in Egyptian Politics", International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 16, (1984), pp. 136-137; also Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? pp. 134-135.

90. Da‘wa is the missionary call to all people to submit to Islam, while hisba entails all the practical means of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong in society.

91. Ibrahim, Abdul-Maajid, & Darbaalah., Seeking Allah’s Pleasure, pp. 48-51, 76-77, 115, 123.

92. ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam, Defence of the Muslim Lands (Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama‘at, nd), pp. 4-6.

93. ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam, Join the Caravan (London: Azzam Publications, 1996), pp. 36-38.

94. ‘Azzam, Defence of the Muslim Lands, pp. 7-17.

95. ‘Azzam, Defence of the Muslim Lands, pp. 29-33.

96. "Conversation with Terror", Interview with Usama bin-Laden in TIME, January 11, 1999, pp. 34-35. See also "Terror Suspect", an ABC News iAnterview with Usama bin-Laden conducted by Rahimullah Yousafsai in December 1998, Internet, <http://printerfriend…mGLUE=true&GLUEService=ABCNewsArc>.

97. Usama bin-Laden, 1996. "Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places", Internet, <>. Qutb, Milestones, pp. 94-96.

98. Ziauddin Sardar, "Clinton Provokes a Jihad: Bin Laden vs Hasan-e Sabah", New Statesman August 28,  1998. The assassins were an extreme Shia group of Nizari Ismailis who used suicide missions and political assassinations to further their goals of establishing a worldwide Ismaili state.

99. For a good introduction to contemporary Shia thought on martyrdom, see: Ali Shariati, Martyrdom: Arise and Bear Witness (Teheran: Ministry of Islamic Guidance, 1981), in which Shariati stresses the importance of martyrdom as a revolutionary weapon.

100. Olivier Roy, The Failure of Political Islam (London: I.B. Tauris, 1994), pp. 65-67; See also: Gabriel Ben-Dor, "The Uniqueness of Islamic Fundamentalism", in Maddy-Weizman & Inbar, eds., Islamic Radicalism in the Greater Middle East, pp. 246-247; Shia martyrdom has a long pedigree beginning with that of ‘Ali and Hussein, which are annually commemorated in the ‘Ashura. Martyrdom as a political and military tool has been especially cultivated by Shia groups in Iran (Fedayin-i-Islam) and Lebanon (Hizbullah), and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups, though it appears also in other arenas of Islamic struggle against perceived enemies as in Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc.

101. Shari‘ati, Martyrdom: Arise and Bear Witness, pp. 12, 50-51,70-76, 89-91,94.

102. On the discussions between ulama’ on the question of suicide bombings in the context of the Palestinian uprising, see Yotam Feldner, "Debating the Religious,A Political and Moral Legitimacy of Suicide Bombings", The Middle East Media & Research Institute Inquiry & Analysis No. 53, (May 2, 2001), Internet: <>.

103. Abu Ruqaiyah. "The Islamic Legitimacy of the ‘Martyrdom Operations’", Nida’ul Islam December/January 1996-7, Internet: <>.

104. Yotam Feldner, "Debating the Religious, Political and Moral Legitimacy of Suicide Bombings", The Middle East Media & Research Institute Inquiry & Analysis, No. 53, May 2, 2001, Internet: <>.

105. Feldner, "Debating the Religious, Political and Moral Legitimacy of Suicide Bombings"; See also No. 65, July 26, 2001., <Internet:<>.

106. Article 6, Ain-al-Yaqeen (September 21, 2001), Internet:<>.

107. Differences were based on confessional Sunni-Shia lines, on ethnic and tribal rivalries as well as on ideological nuances and on the backing of outside Muslim powers such as Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi-Arabia.

108. Richard Engel, "Inside Al-Qaeda: A Window into the World of Militant Islam and the Afghani Alumni", Jane’s International Security News (September 28, 2001), Internet: <…ity/news/misc/janes010928_1_n.shtml>; See also Simon Reeves, The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism (London : Andre Deutsch, 2000,), pp. 172-189; Also Shaul Shay & Yoram Schweitzer, "The ‘Afghan Alumni’ Terrorism: Islamic Militants Against the Rest of the World", The International Policy Institute for Counter TerrorAism, ( 6 November, 2000), Internet: <>

109. See Reeves, The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism, p. 232, on the radical groups establishing themselves in the USA.

110. Diaa Rashwan, "A War over Resources, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, September 20-26, 2001. Rashwan makes a clear distinction between Islamist groups like Jihad and al-jamaa al-slamiyya, who espouse internal jihad against their own Muslim regimes towards creating Islamic states, and groups like al-Qa’ida who espouse external jihad against non-Muslim enemies. Of course the co-operation between the various groups in the Afghan war has led to a shift of the first in the direction of the second.

David Zeidan is a research consultant in Middle Eastern and Islamic Affairs. He has an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) in Middle East Area Studies, and a PhD in comparative religions from the university of London for his thesis: The Resurgence of Religion: A Comparative Study of Selected Themes in Christian and Islamic Fundamentalisms. His publications include: "The Alevi of Anatolia", MERIA Journal, Vol. 3, No. 4 (December 1999); "Radical Islam in Egypt: A Comparison of Two Groups," MERIA Journal, Vol. 3, No. 3, (September, 1999); and "The Copts–Equal, Protected or Persecuted? The Impact of Islamization on Muslim-Christian Relations in Modern Egypt," Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1999.