September 11, 2005 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 239

Dispute in Islamist Circles over the Legitimacy of Attacking Muslims, Shi'ites, and Non-combatant Non-Muslims in Jihad Operations in Iraq: Al-Maqdisi vs. His Disciple Al-Zarqawi

September 11, 2005 | By Y. Yehoshua*
Jordan, Iraq | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 239

In the past two years a religious dispute has developed between Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and his spiritual mentor Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi. [1] It has focused on the question of the legitimacy of certain Jihad operations in Iraq, and in particular on the question of the religious legitimacy of attacking Muslims, of attacking Shiites, and of attacking non-combatant non-Muslims.

The dispute began with Al-Maqdisi criticizing certain methods of Jihad in Iraq. In a July 2004 epistle to the Jihad fighters in Iraq, issued from his Jordanian prison cell, Al-Maqdisi criticized the harm being done to Muslim civilians in Iraq, which, he asserted, was not justified by Shari'a law.

About a year later, Al-Maqdisi voiced additional criticism, when he was released from prison in Jordan for several days. [2] In a number of interviews with the Arab media, he expressed reservations regarding "the extensive use of suicide operations" in which many Muslims were being killed, and stated that suicide operations were not at all a traditional Islamic means of warfare, but rather an exceptional means, for use only when necessary. Al-Maqdisi further expressed reservations about the extensive killing of Shi'ites in Iraq, and said that he was opposed to declaring the Shi'ites to be non-Muslims, which in effect permitted their blood.

In a response to Al-Maqdisi, Al-Zarqawi released an audiotape in May 2005, in which he set out the jurisprudent justification for attacking Muslim civilians in the context of Jihad warfare. He claimed that Allah had ordered the killing of infidels by all means, even if this caused the killing of infidels who did not constitute targets such as women and children, or the killing of Muslims. With regard to attacks on Shi'ites, Al-Zarqawi said, in a July 2005 audiotape, that it was a duty to wage Jihad against the Shi'ites because they were apostates (murtadoon) and had formed an alliance with the Crusaders against the Jihad fighters.

Al-Zarqawi published a third statement in July 2005, in which he rejected Al-Maqdisi's accusations and attacked him, saying that ulama who were not participating in the Jihad in Iraq had no right to criticize the actions of the fighters, thereby even serving Crusader interests. He said that although Al-Maqdisi had been his mentor, he, Al-Zarqawi, did not act strictly according to his teachings. Al-Zarqawi said he took the advice of other ulama with whom he was in contact; these ulama, he said, were "in the presence of the evil rulers," and he would not reveal their names in order to protect them.

Al-Zarqawi claimed that Al-Maqdisi's criticism of Al-Zarqawi's supposed change of heart was puzzling. He acknowledged that during their time fighting in Afghanistan, both he and Al-Maqdisi had maintained that suicide operations were prohibited, but that afterwards he had changed his mind regarding Iraq and considered such operations permissible, and even desirable. He pointed out that Al-Maqdisi had also changed his mind regarding suicide attacks, that he had once considered them prohibited, but now was stating that they were permitted under certain conditions.

Following is a review of the religious dispute between Al-Zarqawi and Al-Maqdisi, against the background of their 15-year relationship:

Al-Maqdisi and Al-Zarqawi: The Personal Relationship

The contact between Al-Zarqawi and Al-Maqdisi began in the 1990s when Al-Zarqawi was one of the activists of the Salafi trend in Jordan, headed by Al-Maqdisi. A December 2004 inquiry by the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat found that Al-Zarqawi would frequently accompany Al-Maqdisi on his trips around the country to visit the homes of Jihad activists in various cities. In the early 1990s, Al-Maqdisi and his follower Al-Zarqawi founded the secret Bay'at Al-Imam organization. Some time after its establishment, the Jordanian security forces found weapons and explosives in the possession of the two, and they were imprisoned until 1999. The paper's inquiry also found that during their imprisonment, the two managed to organize a considerable number of activists. However, since these activists were for the most part actual Jihad fighters, they refused to be commanded by Al-Maqdisi, and preferred the leadership of Al-Zarqawi because of his strength and determination. [3]

In an epistle published from prison in July 2004, Al-Maqdisi told of his relationship with Al-Zarqawi: "The first time I met Abu Mus'ab [Al-Zarqawi] was in a fleeting encounter in Peshawar [Pakistan], at the home of Brother Abu Al-Walid Al-Ansari, in the early 1990s. Afterwards, when he returned from Afghanistan, he visited my home in Jordan and expressed great interest in helping [establish the idea of] tawhid [monotheism] and da'wa [propagation] for Allah. Abu Al-Walid was the one who gave him my address in Jordan and advised him to contact me if he wanted to act for the religion of Allah in Jordan. That was about 14 years ago.

"We collaborated in this area. I organized lessons in various regions of Jordan, and we two printed and circulated some of my writings amongst the people. The young people began to gather around this da'wa, and passed the publications and epistles from hand to hand. The security apparatuses noticed this, and raided our house, and thus began the series of hunts and arrests [against us] …

"We were arrested time after time, and we were in the dungeons of [Jordanian] intelligence for periods of at least six months… I was together with Abu Mus'ab and a group of young people who were influenced by my da'wa and writings… I was chosen by the young people and I served as their commander for about a year, after which I preferred to take time off for writing and studying, and after I persuaded the young people, I appointed Abu Mus'ab commander in my stead, without any feud or dispute over the position, as is claimed…" [4]

In a July 10, 2005 interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, Al-Maqdisi tells of his last meeting with Al-Zarqawi: "It was after we were released [from prison] in 1999, and before he left for Afghanistan. He decided to go there in order to live under the Taliban government, together with his brethren and their families. Abu Mus'ab [spoke with me] more than once from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and sent regards from Osama bin Laden. In one of our conversations he noted that he had requested of Osama bin Laden for members of the Al-Qaeda organization to study my books and epistles, [but] bin Laden refused." [5]

Al-Zarqawi, on his part, denied having asked bin Laden's men to study Al-Maqdisi's books and epistles, hinting that Al-Maqdisi's doctrine contained no innovations anyway. In his July 2005 statement, he said: "Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] says that I have made my cooperation with Sheikh Osama bin Laden conditional upon the teaching of his doctrine. To this I respond that this is totally devoid of truth. I have never sat with Sheikh Osama [bin Laden to discuss] this matter, and I am asking Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi], with regard to his expression 'the doctrine of Abu Muhammad [Al-Maqdisi]': Is this doctrine unique to him, and has no one preceded him in it? Isn't he following others from among our pious predecessors? If he answers that the former is correct, we have no use for his doctrine, because our religion is a religion of following [the Islamic tradition], not a religion of innovation. The doctrine of our predecessors is enough for us, and we do not need so-and-so's or so-and-so's doctrines.

"If he answers that the latter is correct, [that he is following the pious predecessors,] which would indeed be proper for him, why does he attribute it to himself? The sheikhs of Jihad in our age issue the same call as Abu Muhammad [Al-Maqdisi], yet we have never heard any of them say: 'This is my doctrine.'

"I cannot stop wondering how Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] can make this claim [that I made my cooperation with Bin Laden conditional upon teaching Al-Maqdisi's doctrine], although he has never checked this with me. There are questions that disturb my sleep: Why does he say this now, at precisely this very sensitive time, particularly now that I am a soldier in the army of Sheikh Osama [bin Laden]? What interest [does it serve], and who benefits from its being mentioned now?" [6]

Al-Maqdisi acknowledged that there was religious tension between Al-Zarqawi and himself. In a statement to the Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm following his release – which he later denied ever making – he said the tension "began during the period of joint incarceration, when Al-Zarqawi saw him sitting in the company of people who were not among their religious trend, and he did not like that." Al-Maqdisi further explained that the tension increased when "Al-Zarqawi went to Iraq and launched a battle of communiqués and epistles between the two." Al-Maqdisi also complained that Al-Zarqawi had called his organization in Iraq Jama'at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (The Group of Monotheism and Jihad), while the name of Al-Maqdisi's own website was Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (The Pulpit of Monotheism and Jihad) – which "harmed the idea" that "Al-Maqdisi supports." [7]

Al-Zarqawi, on his part, acknowledged in his July 2005 statement that there had been much disagreement between him and Al-Maqdisi both in prison and outside prison, particularly regarding matters of Jihad: " All who know [me] and who know the sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] both inside and outside prison know with certainty that I used to disagree with him on many issues, especially those connected with Jihad and communal activity. When I came out of prison and decided to go to the country of Jihad, I did not consult Abu Muhammad [Al-Maqdisi]. Rather, I preferred another way to support this religion [Islam], which differs from the way chosen by Sheikh Al-Maqdisi...

"Have you ever found, in the Koran, in the [sources of] Prophetic tradition, or in the history of the early Muslims, that if a man learns anything from a teacher, he should become enslaved to him, and should not be allowed to disagree with his [teacher's] personal judgment, or to adopt the views of other religious scholars?" [8]

In the same statement, Al-Zarqawi responded to another claim by Al-Maqdisi: "Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] says that I called [my group] Jama'at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad after his website, called Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad. To this I respond: The words tawhid and jihad are two terms of Islamic law which we proudly reiterated in prison. So why does he deny us the right to use them as a name for our group? Are they monopolized by anyone in particular?...

"I remember that Sheikh Al-Maqdisi used to say repeatedly that the Salafi movement is not a private business nor a company of shareholders owned by any particular person and denied to others. So why does the sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] do today what he condemned yesterday?...

"Yes, you [Al-Maqdisi] would be right, if I had called my group 'The Group of Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad Stemming from the Pulpit of Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad" or 'Following the Sheikh Al-Maqdisi,' or if I had taken the very name of the pulpit itself...

"What is the purpose of repeating this matter on every occasion, and what will the Islamic nation benefit from it – especially since Jama'at Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad has become a thing of the past, and is now under the banner of the organization of Al-Qaeda?" [9]

The Religious Dispute: Al-Maqdisi Versus Al-Zarqawi

The religious dispute between the two took the form of statements and counter-statements, primarily on Islamist websites and message forums, but also in the Arab media. Whereas Al-Maqdisi stressed that he was not directly criticizing his follower Al-Zarqawi, the latter launched a strong personal attack against Al-Maqdisi and other ulama with similar views, whose criticism, Al-Zarqawi said, served Crusader interests.

It is noteworthy that in support of their respective positions, both Al-Maqdisi and Al-Zarqawi drew upon the legal writings of the medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya (1263–1328), who is considered the mentor of contemporary Islamists.

Following are excerpts from the statements pertaining to the religious dispute between Al-Maqdisi and Al-Zarqawi during the past two years.

Al-Maqdisi in July 2004 Epistle from Prison: "Car Bombings in Iraq Stain the Image of Jihad"

"The Hands of the Jihad Fighters Must Remain Clean, So as Not to Be Sullied with the Blood of Those Whom It is Forbidden to Harm"

In July 2004, Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi posted on his website www.almaqdese.netan article titled "Al-Zarqawi – Support and Advice: Hopes and Pains" in which he wrote:

"I say and stress this when I hear and monitor the chaos that rages today in Iraq, by means of which they seek to blemish the Jihad and its honorable image by blowing up cars, planting bombs in the roads, and firing mortars in the streets, markets, and other places where Muslims congregate. The hands of the Jihad fighters must remain clean, so as not to be sullied with the blood of those whom it is forbidden to harm, even if they are rebellious sinners… Caution must be taken also regarding entanglement in choosing means [of warfare] that are illegal according to Shari'a, or means and methods that are counter to the proper choices preferred by the Jihad fighter as part of the reactions to the crimes of the tyrants.

"An example of this is when the fighter crosses the lines of Shari'a by abducting or killing someone who is among the Muslims, with non-Shari'a excuses such as the claim that he worked for the infidels – while this deed [working for the infidels] does not reach [the level] of aiding the infidels or aiding in doing harm to Muslims [that justifies killing them.]" [10]

In an interview about a year later on Al-Jazeera TV, Al-Maqdisi explained the circumstances under which he had published his epistle:

"When I wrote it, I had heard news of the arrest – not the death – of Sheikh Abu Anas [Al-Shami], [11] and I said that now Abu Mus'ab needs advice more than anything else, particularly because he had just lost a brother like this. Brother [Abu Anas Al-Shami] was a [religious] scholar, and I had been very glad to know that Abu Mus'ab [was near him] and [had appointed] him to be in charge of Shari'a matters…"

"At that time Al-Zarqawi was using the name of my website as the name of his own organization and group… As long as the name [of Al-Zarqawi's organization] is similar to the name of my website, I have the right to have reservations about some of Brother Al-Mus'ab's choices and interpretations, in case I have different interpretations. So there was nothing to do but issue this epistle…" [12]

Al-Zarqawi in May 2005 Recording: The Evil of Heresy and Idolatry Is Greater than the Evil Resulting from the Unintentional Collateral Killing of Muslims

"Allah Has Ordered Us to Kill the Infidels and Fight Them by Any Means, Even if This Results in the Killing of Muslims"

In May 2005, Al-Zarqawi responded to Al-Maqdisi's criticism in an address titled "The Return of Ibn Al-'Alqami's Grandchildren." The address was posted on Islamist message forums on May 18, 2005 by the media department of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. [13] Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi: Collateral Killing of Muslims is LegitimateThe main point of the speech was to justify collateral killing of Muslims as well as non-combatant non-Muslims, according to Islamic religious norms. Following are excerpts:

"[Those of our people who collaborate with the Crusaders] turned their tongues and pens to criticizing the Jihad fighters, accusing them of grave crimes under the pretext that these [martyrdom] operations sometimes involve the killing of those described as civilians or innocents... Since I know that the Jihad fighters... fully observe the obligations of Islamic law in these operations – and how could it be otherwise – … I want here to clarify the position of the Shari'a regarding such incidents in which Muslims are killed incidentally... There is no doubt that Allah has ordered us to target the infidels, to kill them and to fight them, by any means that can achieve this goal, even if [those hurt] by these means include [not just] those infidels against whom war is being waged – who are the intended targets – but also those who are not intended as targets, such as women, children, and other such infidels whose intentional killing is not permitted. This is what the Muslim jurists conventionally define as 'collateral killing.'

"The legitimacy of these [means] has been established even if [their use] results in the killing of a number of Muslims, even if it is known that they are likely to be there at the time, for whatever reason. This is justified under the principle of Dharura [overriding necessity], due to the fact that it is impossible to avoid them and to distinguish between them and those infidels against whom war is being waged and who are the intended targets. Admittedly, the killing of a number of Muslims whom it is forbidden to kill is undoubtedly a grave evil; however, it is permissible to commit this evil – indeed, it is even required – in order to ward off a greater evil, namely, the evil of suspending jihad. To claim that [such means of war] are not permissible here, especially in light of the present form of fighting, means inevitably suspending jihad and stopping it – indeed, burying it alive and completely shutting the gate of jihad." [14]

"The Infidels Find Collaborators among the Corrupt So-Called Ulama and Fools Who Claim to Profess Islam"

In his address, Al-Zarqawi further said: "This inevitably means surrendering the land and the believers to the hands of infidels who bitterly hate Islam and its people, allowing them to impose at will humiliation and inferior status on Islam and its people, and to drive the Muslims en masse, once they have turned them into obedient slaves, to the slaughter, or to heresy and apostasy, while falsifying Islam and totally transforming it... and reshaping it in a new form such that it becomes a religion that is different from that which was revealed by he who was sent with the sword [i.e., Muhammad]. This is their highest goal, that for which they strive, and they find those who collaborate with them in this among fools who claim to profess Islam and among the corrupt so-called ulama. Which evil, then, is the greater?...

"Islamic law states that the Islamic faith is more important than life, honor, and property. Indeed, it is the most important of the five inalienable rights, [15] and their very basis, and safeguarding it takes precedence over safeguarding them. It should be noted that all of these inalienable rights cannot be safeguarded except through assuring the observance of the Islamic faith...

"Interpreting His words [in the Koran, 2:191] 'Temptation [Fitna] is worse than killing,' [the commentator] Mujahid says: 'For a Muslim, apostasy into idolatry is worse than death'...

"Allah stated [in the Koran] that heresy and idolatry, according to His law and His faith, are worse than killing. This is the Koranic basis for giving the safeguarding of the [Islamic] faith precedence over the other four inalienable rights, the first of which is life. To safeguard those [other] inalienable rights by forfeiting Islam... – this is the real temptation against which Allah warns...

"The evil of the temptation of heresy and idolatry is greater than the evil resulting from the unintentional, collateral killing of Muslims [in the course of Jihad] intended to destroy the Fitna of heresy and idolatry and to cleanse the universe of it.

"Sheikh Al-Islam ['the authority of Islam'] Ibn Taymiyya said: 'Complete piety means that man should be able to recognize the better of two good things and the worse of two evils, and that he should know that the basis of Islamic law is that one should [strive to] achieve beneficial things and perfect them and to stop evil things and diminish them...

"He [Ibn Taymiyya] also said: 'Allah made it lawful to kill people as much as necessary for the good of humanity. As He said [in the Koran, 2:217]: 'The temptation [of idolatry] [Fitna] is worse than killing.' [This is so] because, although killing is evil and wrong, there is more evil and wrong in the temptation of heresy'..." [16]

Al-Maqdisi in Media Interviews Following His July 2005 Release from Prison: Against Killing Iraqi Civilians and Shi'ites, Against Church Bombings

"I Have Reservations about Killing Civilians, and Attacking Churches and Shi'ite Mosques"

During his brief days of freedom outside prison walls, the Arab press published some of Al-Maqdisi's reservations regarding the actions of the Jihad fighters in Iraq. The Jordanian daily Al-Ghad reported that Al-Maqdisi said that the arbitrary operations being carried out in Iraq and in other Muslim countries "harm the image of the Jihad" and that the Jihad fighters must not "aim their weapons and explosives at Muslims." [17] But Al-Maqdisi himself denied these statements. According to a communiqué posted in his name in Islamist forums, the newspaper "took words out of context, particularly in what concerned being just towards our brothers the Jihad fighters in Iraq… Also, even though I have some reservations regarding what is happening in the Iraqi arena, our Jihad fighter brothers there have [freedom] of opinion and [the right] to choose what seems fit to them in an arena from which we are distant." [18]

In an interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, he said that "the martyrdom operations are an exceptional means, not a traditional, original means of Jihad operation. Similarly, I expressed my reservations about killing civilians, and attacking churches and Shi'ite mosques – if it is true that Al-Zarqawi is doing these deeds." [19]

In a July 6 Al-Jazeera TV interview, Al-Maqdisi expanded further on the subject, but noted that he was not personally criticizing his pupil Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi because he did not know for sure whether Al-Zarqawi was indeed involved in these acts: "I am not interested in placing [responsibility] on Brother Abu Mus'ab for things in which he is not involved, particularly [in light of the fact] that I was in solitary confinement in prison. But I am talking about things – in the event that the media reports are true – that Abu Mus'ab perhaps chose [to carry out], and about these I have reservations. This is an extensive use of operations that we call Jihad operations, or that some call suicide or martyrdom operations…" [20]

"Suicide Operations Are Not a Traditional Means of Warfare"

In the Al-Jazeera interview, Al-Maqdisi said: "I took the middle path, as our ulama took the middle path, with regard to killing a Muslim who is serving as a shield for the infidels… The ulama permitted killing this shield out of necessity, if [the possibility of] not killing him would cause greater damage to Islam and the Muslims – and then there is no choice but to kill him. The ulama [have set] conditions for this. We have implemented this opinion of the ulama in cases of operations in which the Jihad fighter infiltrates a group of infidels and blows himself up, killing them and striking them a hard blow, and is killed in this [operation]. Accordingly, killing the [human] shield or killing a soul is the same thing, because this is a soul that has immunity and whose killing is forbidden. In any case, we thought that these operations were permitted [only] when necessary…

"There were some who disagreed with us on this matter, and thought that the [suicide operations] were a traditional means [of warfare] such as a weapon, a Kalashnikov, a pistol, or anything else. [But] we say that this means is not a traditional means, but an exceptional means, [that is used only] at a time of need. If the Jihad fighter can kill the enemy with a Kalashnikov or a pistol, he is forbidden from blowing himself up, and he is forbidden from turning to this method… Six months ago, every day we read in the newspapers and saw on television dozens of killed Iraqi civilians, women and children, while barely one or two of the American occupiers were killed. There is no escape from expressing reservations, and reexamining this matter…"

As evidence that immune individuals must not be killed, Al-Maqdisi gave an example from the days of the Prophet Muhammad, when the Prophet became angry at his marshal Khaled ibn Al-Walid for killing some converts to Islam: "Khaled ibn Al-Walid killed some people who had immunity because they bowed down and said, 'We have become Sabians,' and did not see fit to say, 'We have converted to Islam.' [21] [Khaled bin Al-Walid] wanted them to say that they had converted to Islam, but they said 'We have become Sabians.' And he hastened to kill them even though they had converted to Islam and said a word that meant Islam to them, [yet] in the eyes of Khaled bin Al-Walid it did not mean Islam…

"'We have become Sabians' means 'we have converted to Islam'… When word [of their killing] became known to the Prophet, he said, 'Oh Allah, before You I renounce what Khaled has done.' And Khaled is [nicknamed] 'Sayf Allah al-Maslul' ['the sharpened sword of Allah'], and here we are not talking about Al-Zarqawi or others, but about the sharpened sword of Allah… [Muhammad said that he renounces this killing] because the Messenger of Allah represents the illuminating side of Jihad. The Jihad that Muhammad called for and towards which he urged the believers must remain clean and pure, and it is forbidden for it to be scratched or befouled by mistakes – even [mistakes] by the Companions of the Prophet." [22]

"Ibn Taymiyya Did Not Declare Ordinary Shiites as Non-Muslims; The Extensive Killing Of Shi'ites was Initiated by Saddam's Sheikhs to Justify the Iran-Iraq War"

During the Al-Jazeera TV interview, Al-Maqdisi also expressed his reservations about the killing of Shi'ites in Iraq: "I [go] according to the school of Sheikh Al-Islam ibn Taymiyya, who did not declare ordinary Shi'ites as non-Muslims [takfir al-shi'a]… Hence, it is forbidden to equate them with Jews and Christians in fighting and in similar things.

"It is forbidden to equate the ordinary Shi'ite with the American in warfare. Even if our Sunni brothers in Iraq have many justifications… this does not justify blowing up mosques… Permitting the blood of the Shi'ites is a mistake in which Jihad fighters had best not become entangled. I have expressed reservations in this matter in particular because the bombings are taking place in the mosques, because this is the sectarian Fitna [civil strife] for which the occupier has yearned…

"I do not support these bombings, particularly when they take place in mosques. But this does not mean that I accuse Al-Zarqawi [of carrying them out] – that is, [I am not accusing him of carrying out] the bombings that took place in Karbala at the Ashura about a year and a half or two years ago… for which Abu Mus'ab did not take responsibility… This advice is directed to everyone, not to Al-Zarqawi [personally], so that we do not accuse him for no reason… I even warned against blowing up churches, and I said that this is not in the interest of Islam and the Muslims.

"The whole issue of the Shi'ites and the extensive killing of the Shi'ites and the permitting of their blood was [the result] of a Fatwa issued during the Iran-Iraq war by the sheikhs of the [Saddam] regime, with the aim of justifying and legitimizing the war during that time. All the regimes in the Gulf stood alongside Saddam [Hussein] at that time, and the Fatwas denounced Shi'ites as non-Muslimsto the Shi'ites… We [on the other hand] did not issue a Fatwa that denounces Shiites in general as non-Muslims."

In the interview, Al-Maqdisi stressed that his words were nothing new, nor did they constitute a reexamination: "When have we said anything counter to this? When have we said to kill women and children? When have we said to kill all Shi'ites?" [23]

Al-Zarqawi in an Audiotape: "The Prophet First Began to Fight Those of His Own People Who Were an Obstacle in the Way of Islam, Before Fighting the Byzantines"

"It is Obligatory to Wage Jihad Against the Shi'ites, Because They Have Committed Apostasy and Are Allies of the Crusaders"

Following Al-Maqdisi's statements in the Jordanian media, Al-Zarqawi posted his July 5, 2005 audiotape response on Islamic message forums:

"Allah has created man with varying degrees of religious ardor…He who is [endowed] with high religious ardor will sacrifice his life and that which is most dear to him in order to achieve his goal…whereas he who is of weak spirit, whenever he wants to attain lofty things, he is overtaken by the weakness of his spirit, which says to him: 'Which is the greater – you, or the circumstances?' The righteous early generations excelled in their high religious endeavor in every aspect of Islam… in worship… in religious learning… in generosity… and in Jihad… Our history has preserved for us the record of their great [military] deeds and stories, which is evidence of their great religious ardor.

" What a great religion this is. If only there were men [to uphold it]. The worshippers of the cross have defiled the Koran, having thrown it in their toilets as part of a complete plan to ruin the dignity of everything sacred in the hearts of Muslims. Woe to my [Islamic] nation! If its children do not rise up to avenge the Koran, then when will they rise up?

" The worshippers of the cross attacked our lands and profaned that which is sacred to us, violated the honor of our women, and pillaged our resources in the largest Crusader campaign in contemporary history. What are the children of this [Islamic] nation waiting for? When will they break out of their lethargy? Here are people in whose land there is a great opportunity for martyrdom, but they are nonetheless idle in their lethargy and their distraction…

"The prophet said: 'There will always be a group among my people, until Allah's final judgment comes, who will uphold the truth and will not be hurt by those who abandon them.' And [indeed] some of this Islamic nation responded to the call [of Jihad]…and they made the worshippers of the cross taste defeat…and they crushed their awe-inspiring reputation…When the [Americans] [24] realized that they were in dire straits and that their losses were high, they rushed to form the units of the [Iraqi] army and the 'National Guard,' [25] so as to provide a protective shield for the Crusaders and an arm that would strike at the Jihad fighters. Lowly people responded to their call, betrayed their religion and relinquished their divine reward. The verdict of the Jihad fighters concerning them is plain and clear, without any ambiguity – namely, that it is obligatory to wage Jihad against them, because they have committed apostasy and allied themselves with the Crusaders.

"However, the matter of these [apostates] became muddled because of some of those who are considered to be religious scholars, let alone for the ignorant masses. They [those considered to be scholars] issued Fatwas to the effect that it is not permissible to fight those [apostates] in order to protect the inviolability of Iraqis' lives and the immunity of the Iraqi people.

"By Allah, this is a real predicament for many groups working for the sake of Islam at this time, namely, the predicament of distinguishing between the external enemy and the internal enemy. As for the external enemy, the Islamic nation rises up to fight it and exhausts all its powers in order to wage Jihad against it, but when they leave our country and deputize the apostates from among our own kind,… then [we are told that] it becomes forbidden for the Muslims to fight them and wage Jihad against them, even if they do a lot of damage? When the enemy has fair skin and blue eyes, it is obligatory to fight him, but if the enemy has dark skin and black eyes, [we are told that] it is not permissible to fight him? By Allah, that is the kind of war waged by nationalists; that is not the war of those who fight for God's unity…

"These apostates did not form their army for any other purpose at all other than fighting Islam, and to be the striking arm to pound the sincere believers. Their continuous operations of destroying the Sunnis is clear proof of this: … [the attacks in Iraq], the attacks in Pakistan [carried out by those who serve the Americans] against the Arab and Afghan Jihad fighters, in Jordan against the virtuous people of Ma'an, and in Riyadh, Qusaym, and Mecca against the true believers…" [26]

Ibn Taymiyya Issued a Fatwa that the Mongols Were Apostates, Even Though They Prayed and Fasted; Arab Regimes That Refrain From Applying the Shari'a and Rule by Their Constitutions Are Like the Mongols, Who Ruled by the Law of Yasa

Al-Zarqawi continued by saying: "However, we declare: The Iraqi army is an army of apostasy and collaboration allied with the Crusaders. It came in order to destroy Islam and to fight the Muslims. We shall fight it, just as the Islamic nation fought the Mongols, who attacked the Islamic nation… They used to profess the declaration of faith, and in their army there were imams, and muezzins, and there were among them people who prayed and fasted, and so people were in doubt about them, and the religious scholars were perplexed. How can one fight them when they claim to be part of the Islamic nation and profess the declaration of faith? This confusion continued until Allah sent for this trial one of the Islamic nation's brightest suns and lighthouses, Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, and he issued a Fatwa that they [the Mongols] are apostates and [therefore] it is obligatory to fight them, as they refrain from applying the Shari'a and the rule of the Koran, and instead apply the law of Yasa which was set down for them by Genghis Khan, who had assembled it for them from the laws of the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the customs of the Mongols – and this is exactly the case with the constitutions in the Arab regimes nowadays…And he [Ibn Taymiyya] said: To fight this kind [of people] is obligatory according to the consensus of religious scholars [ijma'], and no one who knows the law of Islam and knows their true nature has any doubt about this, because this state of peace which they maintain is incompatible with Islam.

"We are fully aware that in our fight against the armies of apostasy, we are going to face fierce condemnation and resentment from the naïve among this Islamic nation, because, according to their inadequate logic, how can a Jihad fighter fight against his brother or cousin and against a member of his own tribe? These [naïve people] do not know that the Prophet first began to fight those of his own people who were an obstacle in the way of Islam, before fighting the Byzantines, and his Companions followed suit…" [27]

"Honorable Resistance Sacrifices the Lives of its Children and Gives Freely Everything Precious"

Al-Zarqawi continued: "However, some of those [considered to be religious scholars] came out with an unprecedented kind of division concerning the Jihad in Iraq, saying: 'The Resistance (a term towards which I have some reservations) is of two kinds: honorable resistance, which is directed against the occupying infidels, and resistance which is not honorable, which is directed against Iraqis, be they who they may.' We, though, say to these people: What we know of our religion is that the Prophet said, 'He who fights so that Allah's Word shall be supreme – he fights for Allah's sake.' Honorable resistance is fought in accordance with Allah's command – so that there should be no discord [Fitna] and so that religion will be entirely Allah's [Koran 8:39] – not the resistance which makes the timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign enemy a condition for the cessation of fighting, so that if they appoint after themselves a collaborator government which rules not in accordance with Allah's law and is allied with His enemies and is hostile to His friends, we should all come under the [government's] banner as though nothing had happened.

"Honorable resistance is that which sacrifices the lives of its children and gives freely everything precious… Unlike that resistance which prefers [its own] security and fights for the realization of selfish personal interests and wants to use its military operations as a card to be used for applying pressure on the occupying enemy to improve its conditions and to offer it an opportunity to participate in [Iraq's] political life… honorable resistance is one which makes its Jihad a global Jihad, a Jihad that does not depend on color, ethnic origin or country, for the Muslims are one Islamic nation, whose blood is of equal worth and they are all united as one against all others– unlike the so-called resistance which [implicitly] accepts the Sykes-Picot borders [28] as the basis for its goals and its Jihad…

"[By contrast], honorable resistance has lofty, noble goals and great objectives in accordance with Islamic law. Hence all its means are lawful, as guided by the Koran and the sunna – unlike that [so-called] 'resistance' for whom the end justifies the means, and they have no compunction about allying themselves and cooperating with those who oppose Allah and his Messenger in order to achieve their own interests. Those who are accused of not being honorable resistance are precisely those who have been fighting Jihad for the sake of Allah for more than two years, sacrificing everything they have in order to elevate the cause of this religion. They put their ulama and commanders and cadres in the frontlines. Weren't they the ones who took the brunt of the fighting at Al-Qa'im?...All this was done by the members of the Al-Qaeda organization, both muhajirun and ansar [i.e., volunteers from both inside and outside] and other sincere Jihad fighters…" [29]

Our Imams Should, At the Very Least, Stop Attacking the Jihad Fighters, and Not Collaborate With the Crusaders and Apostates – If Not Wage Jihad Themselves

"It is a cause for grief to see that some ulama whom we consider to be sincere and devoted to Jihad and its people have [gone wrong]. Some of them have sent me word advising me that one should not fight to death in Iraq and that one should not assemble all the forces of the Islamic nation in this war. Allah knows how much these words grieve me. Is that what our Islamic nation has come to? Are these the ideas of our ulama? Until when shall the ulama keep themselves away from the fields of Jihad, issuing decisions and giving advice while being far removed from the reality experienced by the Islamic nation? Correct decision should be based on both knowledge of the Islamic law and experience of the actual situation…

"When [do they think the right time will come] to sacrifice ourselves for the defense of Muslim men and Muslim women? Is it when the worshippers of the cross enter Syria? Or Mecca and Medina? Will it then be the time for sacrificing ourselves?… Allah knows that one fingernail of a Sunni Muslim woman in Iraq in general, and of the people of Falluja in particular, is dearer to me than all the worldly things together. By Allah, the organization of Al-Qaeda in Iraq would not hesitate for a moment to sacrifice itself in its totality to free the women from the jails of the Crusaders and the malevolent Shi'ites. …

"Some of those [ulama] want us to stop our Jihad in Iraq, claiming that the Jihad in Iraq is merely a Jihad which causes harm to the enemy but is not a Jihad that can lead to the establishment of Islamic government, and therefore there will be those who reap the benefit of this Jihad and achieve power at the expense of the blood of the Jihad fighters. We say, however, that Allah obligated the believers to follow his orders and apply his law… Allah has ordered us to fight the infidels [Koran, 8:39]: 'so that there should be no discord and religion shall all be for Allah.' This should be carried out by offensive Jihad. This is all the more true in our present circumstances, when the enemy has attacked us…

"Our imams and preachers – if they do not themselves rush to help the oppressed and they do not fight Jihad with their words against the enemies of religion and they do not pray for the true believers – should at least stop attacking the Jihad fighters. This is the least they should do. They should not be collaborators of the Crusaders and apostates. By Allah, a nation which thinks poorly of the best of its fighting children the Jihad fighters, and curses them, is an evil nation. A nation which thinks poorly of and curses Yousuf al-'Ayiri, 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Muqrin, Turki Al-Dandani, Hamad Al-Hamidi, Issa Al-'Awshan, 'Abdallah Al-Rashud, Salih Al-'Awfi [30], and others of the Jihad fighters is indeed an evil nation." [31]

Al-Zarqawi in a Statement: "The Claim that Ordinary Shi'ites Are Like Ordinary Sunnis Is Surely an Injustice to Ordinary Sunnis"; "We Do Not See Christians and Other Civilians as Targets"

"Contacts Have Never Stopped Between Me and Some Ulama Who Surpass Al-Maqdisi in Religious Knowledge and Are Now Iin the Presence of the Evil Rulers. I Would Have Mentioned Their Names Had I Not Been Wary of Causing Them Harm"

Inan effort to refute Al-Maqdisi's statements on Al-Jazeera TV, the media division of Al-Qaeda in Iraq posted a statement by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi on the Islamist message forums. Following are excerpts:

"[Al-Maqdisi's attack] is a new arrow aimed at our hearts, except that this time it is not from the quiver of those [enemies] to whom I previously referred, but from a man who is one of this school [of ours] and a religious scholar. This was Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi's article, 'Al-Zarqawi – Support and Advice: Hopes and Pains.'

"At the time I thought that the matter was no more than an accidental mistake by a good man... However, he emphasized it all again in his interview with Al-Jazeera, declaring that he was speaking of his own free will and that nobody was forcing him to do so. So I saw that the matter has gone beyond the boundaries of support and advice...

"In pursuing the way of Jihad, I did not approach any issue without having before my eyes the restraints of Islamic law. I have never dared to be involved in any matter without first consulting the honest, Jihad-fighting ulama...

"Contacts have never stopped between me and some ulama who surpass Abu Muhammad [Al-Maqdisi] in religious knowledge... and they are now in the presence of the evil rulers. I would have mentioned their names had I not been wary of causing them harm. All who know [me] and who know the sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] both inside and outside prison know with certainty that I used to disagree with him on many issues, especially those connected with Jihad and communal activity. When I came out of prison and decided to go to the country of Jihad, I did not consult Abu Muhammad [Al-Maqdisi]. Rather, I preferred another way to support this religion [Islam], which differs from the way chosen by Sheikh Al-Maqdisi..

"Have you ever found, in the Koran, in the [sources of] Prophetic tradition, or in the history of the early Muslims, that if a man learns anything from a teacher, he should become enslaved to him, and should not be allowed to disagree with his [teacher's] personal judgment, or to adopt the views of other religious scholars?..." [32]

We Do Not Consider [Arab] Christians and Other Civilians To Be Targets; They Do Not Play the Same Base Role as Shi'ites Do; The Shi'ites Have Become the Troops of the Occupying Infidels

In the statement, Al-Zarqawi said: "The sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] mentions that I used to follow his view in disallowing suicide operations, and that I have now started to use them extensively in Iraq. To which I answer that this is not the case. Indeed, I maintained that they were not permissible when I was in Afghanistan during the Communist invasion... which was before I had met Al-Maqdisi. When I met him, my belief [on this issue] was in agreement with his. Then, when we got out of prison and I went to Afghanistan once again, I met Sheikh Abu Abdallah Al-Muhajir and we discussed the question of suicide operations, and Sheikh [Al-Muhajir] concluded that they should be permitted. I read a very valuable study by him on this question, and heard some recorded cassettes by him on this matter. Allah opened my heart to [accept] his conclusion.

"Not only did I adopt the idea that [suicide operations] are permissible, but I see fit to advocate them as commendable... Why should Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] disapprove of my change of heart about these operations, while he himself first used to hold them non-permissible and now he holds that they are permissible under certain conditions which he has laid? Wouldn't it be fair to mention this [Al-Maqdisi's changed position], if he mentions [my changed position]?...

"Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] says that he does not approve of blowing up churches and killing civilians. To this I respond: I do not know from where the sheikh gets his information... We declared in the audio cassette ''The Return of Ibn Al-'Alqami's Grandchildren' that we do not see [Arab] Christians and other civilians as targets...

"Even though these are non-Muslim groups, they have not demonstrated to us that they have become partners of the Crusaders in their fighting against the Jihad fighters, and they do not play the base role played by the Shiites." [33]

"The Claim that Ordinary Shi'ites Are Like Ordinary Sunnis is Surely an Injustice to Ordinary Sunnis"

In the statement, Al-Zarqawi said: "Sheikh [Al-Maqdisi] expressed reservations about our fighting the Shi'ites, and claimed that ordinary Shi'ites are like ordinary Sunnis. To this I respond: 'As for fighting the Shiites, we have declared a number of times, especially in the above-mentioned audio cassette, that we did not start the fighting... but that it was they who started to liquidate the cadres of the Sunnis and to expel them, and to take over their mosques and homes. The crimes of the Al-Badr Brigades are still fresh to us, [34] not to mention the fact that they are [now] hiding behind police and National Guard uniforms. [35]

"The most important thing, however, is that they subordinate themselves to the Crusaders. In view of all this, can we turn away from fighting them?

"As for the claim that ordinary Shi'ites are like ordinary Sunnis, that is surely an injustice to ordinary Sunnis. Are those who firmly adhere to Allah's unity the same as those who believe in praying for help through Al-Husayn [the Shi'ite martyr] and through the family of the Prophet... and who believe in the infallibility of their imams?... No, by God, they are not the same.

"Besides, they are no longer ordinary people in the sense that you mean, because they have become the troops of the occupying infidels and spies working against the sincere Jihad fighters." [36]

[1] Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi is the nickname of Ahmad Al-Khalayla, a Jordanian from the city of Al-Zarqaa in Jordan; Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi is the nickname of 'Issam Muhammad Taher Al-Barqawi, a Palestinian from the Nablus region who resided in Jordan.

[2] On July 2, 2005, the Jordanian authorities released Al-Maqdisi from prison for several days, some six months after the State Security Court had, on December 27, 2004, found him not guilty of involvement in terror activity because of lack of evidence. Three days after his release, Al-Maqdisi was rearrested by Jordanian security forces, for maintaining, according to Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Al-Mu'ashar, "contacts with terror elements outside Jordan." See Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 4, 2005 ; Al-Jazeera TV, July 6, 2005.

[3] Al-Hayat (London), December 14, 15, and 16, 2004. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 848, " Al-Hayat Inquiry: The City of Al-Zarqaa in Jordan – Breeding Ground of Jordan's Salafi Jihad Movement," January 17, 2005 Al-Hayat Inquiry: The City of Al-Zarqaa in Jordan – Breeding Ground of Jordan's Salafi Jihad Movement

[4] Al-Maqdisi's epistle was published on July, 2004 on his own website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad (The Pulpit of Monotheism and Jihad): Al-Maqdisi's site has other URLs as well:,, and

[5] Al-Hayat (London), July 10, 2005.

[6] Al-Zarqawi's statement was posted on mid-July, 2005 on various Islamic message forums; see, for example:

[7] Al-Arab Al-Yawm (Jordan), July 5, 2005. In a communiqué posted in the Islamist message forums, Al-Maqdisi denied having made statements attributed to him by the Jordanian newspapers Al-Arab Al-Yawm and Al-Ghad. "The Jordanian papers published today, July 5, 2005, statements that were falsely attributed to me, or that were taken out of the context, that are being exploited by the enemies of Allah in order to sow divisiveness and hostility amongst the Jihad fighters. Accordingly, in order to stop the possibility of Fitna [civil strife], I would like to clarify to my brothers the preachers and the Jihad fighters that between myself and the author of the article published in the Al-Arab Al-Yawm daily there was not, and will not be, any interview or any dialogue." Al-Maqdisi's communiqué was posted on July 5, 2005 on various Islamist message forums; see, for example:


[9] Ibid.


[11] Omar Yousuf, nicknamed Abu Anas Al-Shami, a Jordanian, was a close advisor to Al-Zarqawi and in charge of matters of jurisprudence in his organization. He died in an American bombing in Iraq in September 2004.

[12] Al-Jazeera (Qatar), July 6, 2005. The transcript of the program is available at:

[13] Ibn Al-'Alqami, the Shi'ite vizier of the last 'Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, Al-Musta'sim, was accused of opening the gates of Baghdad to the Mongol armies. It should be noted that this is a common slur used by Sunni Islamists against the Iraqi government and its supporters.

[14] The speech appeared on various Islamist message forums on May 18, 2005; see, for example,

[15] The five inalienable rights in Islamic law are: religion, life, honor, property, and the right to procreate.


[17] Al-Ghad (Jordan), July 5, 2005.


[19] Al-Hayat (London), July 10, 2005.

[20] Al-Jazeera (Qatar), July 6, 2005.

[21] According to Muslim sources, the people of Mecca called the converts to Islam " Sabians " after the Sabaite cult of baptizers who lived in the Arabian Peninsula in the time of Muhammad and whose believers were defined as protected [Ahl-al Dhimma] along with Jews and Christians.

[22] Al-Jazeera (Qatar), July 6, 2005.

[23] ibid

[24] The Arabic has here banu al-asfar, that is, "the children of the reddish one," an Arabic medieval derogatory term for the Byzantines, who were believed to be the descendants of Esau son of Isaac, "who was ruddy."

[25] Using an Arabic pun, he refers to the National Guard as the "idolatrous guard" (wathani for watani).


[27] ibid

[28] The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement divided the Middle East into British and French spheres of influence.


[30] Yousuf al-'Ayiri and 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Muqrin were commanders of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; they were killed by Saudi security forces in June 2003 and June 2004, respectively. Turki Al-Dandani was a wanted Saudi who committed suicide during a pursuit by Saudi security forces, on July 3, 2003. The Saudi Sheikh Hamad Al-Hamidi was arrested by Saudi security forces for supporting Bin Laden. Issa Al-'Awshan, another wanted Saudi, was killed by Saudi security forces in July 2004. 'Abdallah Al-Rashud, who was also wanted by the Saudi authorities, was a member of the Jurisprudent Committee of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. He died in June 2005. Salih Al-Awfi, another commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed during a clash with Saudi security forces on August 18, 2005.



[33] ibid

[34] The Al-Badr Brigades are the Iranian-sponsored military wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI).

[35] The Arabic text uses the word wathani, which means "idolatrous," as a pun on the word watani, which means "national."


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