September 30, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 580

The New Egyptian Mufti - Dr. Sheikh 'Ali Gum'a: Opinions About Jihad, Supporting Suicide Bombings, and Forbidding Muslims in the U.S. Military From Fighting Other Muslims

September 30, 2003
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 580

There has been a recent reorganization of the highest echelons of Egypt's religious establishment: Sheikh Dr. 'Ali Gum'a has been appointed to the post of Egyptian Mufti, replacing Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb[1], who was appointed president of Al-Azhar University. Dr. Al-Tayyeb replaced Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Omar Hashem. The following is a review of a number of the mufti's statements:

It is Forbidden for a Muslim in the U.S. Military To Fight His Brother

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the start of the war in Afghanistan, a debate arose among Muslim clerics regarding whether it was permitted for Muslims to serve in the U.S.'s armed forces and fight against Muslims in Afghanistan.[2] Sheikh Gum'a objected to Muslims participating in the war as U.S. soldiers. In a Fatwa issued six days after the war began, Sheikh Gum'a wrote:[3]

"…There is news that some of the Mujahideen [who fought] recently against the Communist forces are now behind the events that took place on September 11, 2001 in Washington and New York… The U.S. set the columns of soldiers in motion and insisted on moving from suspicion to actual punishment…

"The Prophet said: 'Do not go back after [my death] to being infidels who strike each other's necks.' When he was asked about civil war between Muslims, he said: 'If two Muslims fight with their swords and kill each other, the place of both the killer and the killed is in Hell.'

"A consensus emerged that it was forbidden for a Muslim to [fight] his brother. Even if the [brother's] guilt was proven, a Muslim is forbidden from fighting his brother, all the more so when it occurs as a result of propaganda and lies.

"A Hadith says: 'A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he does not abandon him and he does not give him away.' …The Muslim soldier in the American army must refrain [from participating] in this war, and if he cannot, he must serve in the [logistic] ranks, and if he cannot, he must submit his resignation. If he is forced to [fight] and is among the combating ranks, he is forbidden from killing a Muslim with his weapon; if he kills him in error he must pay reparation. If he kills him intentionally, he has committed the sin of killing a Muslim intentionally."[4]

He Who Carries Out Martyrdom Operations Against the Zionists is a Shahid

Sheikh Gum'a was one of the twenty-eight Al-Azhar clerics who signed a communiqué opposing the position of Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, who has at times prohibited suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.[5]

Sheikh Gum'a was also a signatory to the "Basic Announcement of the World Campaign For Resistance to Aggression," which stated: "The Islamic nation is, in the recent period, subject to cruel aggression on the part of the forces of oppression and tyranny, primarily the Zionist forces and the American administration, led by the extreme right, that acts to impose [their] hegemony on the nations and on the peoples and to change their curricula and their social systems…"[6]

In an interview conducted in early July 2003 with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Haqiqa, Sheikh Gum'a discussed current political topics and offered his view on the issues of suicide bombings and the killing of foreigners:

Question: "Who has the authority to call for Jihad against the aggressors?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "The one with the authority to declare Jihad is the imam who has under his [command] a regular army capable of waging a war of regular armies. When the Prophet was in Mecca, he had no army, and therefore he could not declare Jihad… that is, when there was a state of enmity between Muslims and the polytheists and there was harm caused to the believers by the polytheists, all the Prophet ordered his comrades to do was to say: 'You have your religion and we have our religion.'

"[But], when the army in Al-Madina was formed, there was land, there was a regime, and there was the capability to fight, the Prophet launched war…

"The Prophet taught us that warfare can exist only under a flag, and that the one with the right to declare Jihad is the one with the flag. The one with the flag in our day is the president of the state, in every one of the [Muslim] countries. He, and the leaders at his side, are capable of assessing whether this war is beneficial or whether it leads to loss, whether the war will protect the Muslims or whether it will harm them…"

Question: "If so, what is the rule regarding a young man who infiltrates into the land of Palestine for the sake of Jihad without the permission of the ruler, and is killed?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "He is a Shahid, because Palestine is a special case and not the ordinary case existing in the world… This is because in Palestine there is an enemy that rules the land. This rule is considered a crime by international conventions and resolutions…

"The world has let the Jews spread corruption throughout the land and they have succeeded in obtaining international legitimacy to territories that were conquered after 1967…Israel is a special case that does not exist [anywhere else] on the face of the earth. We are facing a criminal occupation that is the source of terror."

Question: "And what is the ruling regarding the martyrdom [i.e. suicide] operations? Unfortunately, there have been those who have condemned them or demanded that they be stopped [i.e. the sheikh of Al-Azhar, Tantawi]."

Sheikh Gum'a: "The one who carries out Fedaii [martyrdom] operations against the Zionists and blows himself up is, without a doubt, a Shahid because he is defending his homeland against the occupying enemy who is supported by superpowers such as the U.S. and Britain."

Question: "Do you distinguish between Fedaii operations against military personnel and those carried out against so-called civilians among the Zionists?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "The Zionists themselves do not differentiate between civilian and military personnel. They have set the entire people to military service. The civilian settler who occupies land in a state of war is a Harbi [that is, a non-Muslim living in an area regarded as 'Dar Al-harb,' the 'domain of war,' in which Islam does not dominate and must therefore be fought until Islam dominates it]. Besides, everyone in Israel, civilians and military personnel, bear arms. That is, they are 'Ahl Al-Qital' [that is, those who deserve to be fought]."

Question: "Do you differentiate between operations carried out within the 1948 borders and operations carried out within the 1967 borders?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "Even Zionists do not differentiate. They occupied the entire territory. We differentiate when there is a difference, [but] there is no difference between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Hebron."

Question: "Is it permitted to kill an Israeli traveling outside the borders of his land?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "Yes, it is permitted to kill him, because he is a Harbi and the Harbi spreads corruption throughout the face of the earth."

Question: "Even if he is wearing a diplomatic uniform, for example?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "He can wear a diplomatic uniform as much as he likes, but his blood is permitted. But permitting his blood does not mean that he must be killed; it only permits his killing."

Americans Living in Muslim Lands Should be Protected

Question: "The foreigner, in general, even if he fights the Muslims, when he enters the Muslim lands and receives a visa – does this visa guarantee his protection?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "Yes, even if he is a Harbi."

Question: "We understand from your words that you see the Riyadh and Casablanca bombings as a crime."

Sheikh Gum'a: "Of course. What was said [in favor of these attacks] was [wrong]. Among the killed were foreigners, who between us and them there is no war, such as the French and the Belgians. To the contrary, they have held positions in support of the Muslims. Furthermore, Muslims died in these bombings. [All of whom] are considered to be those whose blood is protected, both the Muslim and the foreigner who is protected and must not be attacked."

Question: "Should the security of every American living in a Muslim land be protected?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "Of course. We must protect his security…"

Question: "And if it is proven that he is carrying out espionage operations against the country in which he lives?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "The state is the one to punish him, and the one to prove the accusation, because the state is the one that gave him the visa. Individuals are forbidden from doing this..."

Question: "Is the martyrdom phenomenon a response?"

Sheikh Gum'a: "No… It is not a question of frustration by the one martyring himself. To the contrary, this is a planned deed by means of which the martyr wishes to gain Paradise…"[7]

Martyrdom Operations in Palestine Constitute Legitimate Resistance

In his first statements after his appointment, Sheikh Gum'a warned against "confusing the concepts regarding martyrdom operations in Palestine, because they constitute legitimate resistance in defense of religion, land, soul, honor, and property. In contrast, the real terrorism is the plundering of the rights and lands of others and the attempts by certain regimes to impose their opinions by force."[8]


[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 402, "Egypt's Mufti: We Condemned the September 11 Attacks, But Since Then Our Feelings Have Changed." Egypt's Mufti: We Condemned the September 11 Attacks, But Since Then Our Feelings Have Changed .

[2] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 75, "Terror in America (23) Muslim Soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan: To Fight or Not to Fight?"

Terror In America (23) Muslim Soldiers In The U.S. Armed Forces In Afghanistan: To Fight Or Not To Fight? .

[3], October 16, 2001.

[4], October 16, 2001.

[5], June 30, 2002.

[6], May 2, 2003.

[7], July 8, 2003.

[8] Al-Hayat (London), September 30, 2003.

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