Wednesday, 23 March 2011

EXCELLENT: How Eretical is al-Qaeda? Some Light at the End of the Tunnel, or Just Some Internal Quarrel? Part I

But the aim is still the same: Jihad, the killing of Infidels because of the necessary spread of Islam

An In-Depth Summary of Sayyid Imam's New Polemic against Al-Qaeda, 'Exposing the Exoneration' By: Daniel Lav * (February 23, 2009)


The senior jihadist cleric Sayyid Imam Al-Sharif has recently published a new polemic against Al-Qaeda titled Exposing the Exoneration (Al-Ta'riya li-kitab al-tabri'a). To explain this title we need to review the events that led to the writing of this book.

In late 2007, rumors began circulating that Sayyid Imam, the imprisoned former leader of the Egyptian Jihad group in Pakistan and a former longtime associate of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was preparing to publish a new book calling to end the jihad against the rulers of Muslim countries and in the West. This book, The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World, was published in serial form between November 18 and December 4, 2007. It laid out, in terms of Islamic law, the arguments for refraining from jihad at the present time, as well as specific criticisms of recent jihadist activities. The underlying theme of these criticisms was that the jihadist movement had strayed from the proper practice of jihad as laid down in Islamic law. More specifically, the argument for refraining from jihad was based on the fact that the jihad groups are today in a state of weakness and have no possibility of waging a successful jihad.

The Document of Right Guidance served also as a formal cease-fire declaration, and was signed by imprisoned members of the Jihad group in Egypt. For this reason, Sayyid Imam wrote it in general terms, and did not name Al-Qaeda specifically as the target of his criticisms; he explained that some of the prisoners were cut off from news from the outside world, and still held Al-Qaeda in high esteem. Since he wanted to gain as much support for the document as possible, he merely laid out his theoretical positions, sidestepping the issue of whether Al-Qaeda was guilty of violating them or not. [1] He did, however, attack Al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and Al-Zawahiri in exceptionally harsh terms in an interview with the Al-Hayat newspaper. [2]

After some initial hesitation, Ayman Al-Zawahiri published a response to Sayyid Imam, in a book called A Treatise Exonerating the Nation of the Pen and the Sword from the Blemish of the Accusation of Weakness and Fatigue (henceforth: the Exoneration). The Exoneration attacked Sayyid Imam on a number of fronts. First, the Exoneration alleges that the Document of Right Guidance was written under duress, and that Imam had been tortured into writing it under the supervision of the CIA and Egyptian intelligence. (For this reason, Al-Zawahiri usually refers to "the author of the Document" rather than specifying Imam as the author.) Second, Al-Zawahiri attempts to refute the legal arguments in the Document of Right Guidance, and most importantly, the argument that "ability" - military, financial, and other - is a precondition for jihad that cannot be met today. Among other topics broached in the Exoneration are: differentiation between soldiers and civilians, retaliation in kind (al-mu'amala bi'l-mithl), whether attacks can be carried out by mujahideen who enter a foreign country with a visa, the argument of the "human shield," and whether a minor requires his parents' permission to fight jihad. It also addresses a range of other topical and historical issues, such as the 9/11 attacks, relations between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the history of the Egyptian Jihad group, Sayyid Imam's views on 'Abdallah 'Azzam, and Al-Qaeda's position on attacking Shi'ites. Sayyid Imam's new book is meant as a refutation of Al-Zawahiri's Exoneration, which explains its title, Exposing the Exoneration.

In addition to Al-Zawahiri's response, the Document of Right Guidance was denounced by other leading jihadist thinkers as well. The two most important of these were Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, the influential jihadist scholar living in Jordan who was Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi's mentor; and Abu Basir Al-Tartusi, an expatriate Syrian jihadist scholar. Both Al-Maqdisi and Al-Tartusi have themselves expressed criticism of some of Al-Qaeda's tactics, especially in Iraq, but their statements have always been couched in the language of constructive criticism, and they have stopped well short of calling for a moratorium on jihad.

In essence, the founding figures of the jihadist movement today fall into three camps. 1) Al-Qaeda and its unconditional supporters; 2) jihadist scholars who are supportive of the global jihad, but critical of specific tactics and practices (e.g. Al-Maqdisi and Al-Tartusi); and 3) those who support jihad in theory, but are highly critical of Al-Qaeda and believe that most jihad operations should be stopped at present due to various contingencies (e.g. Sayyid Imam).

Exposing the Exoneration recycles many arguments already made by Imam in the Document of Right Guidance and in the Al-Hayat interview. However, since the Document avoided criticizing Al-Qaeda by name, this is in essence the first time that Imam has outlined a comprehensive criticism of Al-Qaeda per se in a written document. In addition, the language used in Exposing the Exoneration is even harsher than that used by Imam in the past. He repeatedly insinuates that Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden are apostates, and he compares them to the Dajjal (the antichrist).

Exposing the Exoneration consists of four chapters. The first attempts to demonstrate that Al-Zawahiri is a chronic liar; the second attempts to demonstrate that Al-Qaeda has founded a heretical school of jurisprudence whose entire purpose is to justify its actions; the third deals with various and sundry problems Imam has with Al-Zawahiri's Exoneration; and the fourth discusses Al-Zawahiri's personal history and his relationship with Al-Qaeda.

Chapter 1: Al-Zawahiri Is a Liar
Sayyid Imam's new book, Exposing the Exoneration, opens a second round of polemic with Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Al-Qaeda. The acrimony is evident from the outset, where Imam quotes: Quran 16:105, "Those who do not believe in Allah's signs, they are the liars"; Quran 33:58, "Those who malign believing men and women undeservedly are guilty of slander and manifest sin"; and a hadith: "Lying is iniquity, and iniquity leads to hellfire." Imam then lists "Al-Zawahiri's slanders and lies."

First, he says that Al-Zawahiri provides no proof for his accusation that the Document of Right Guidance was written under the direction of America and the Jews. He challenges Al-Zawahiri to a ritual exchange of curses (mubahala), in which each side invites Allah's curse on the party that is lying.

He also accuses Al-Zawahiri of lying when the latter wrote that the Document of Right Guidance made no mention of the ruling regimes (i.e. whether they are Muslim or apostate) or of preparation for jihad. Imam points out (correctly) that both issues were in fact mentioned, and that he dedicated an entire book to the issue of preparation for jihad, Al-'Umda fi i'dad al-'udda ("The Essentials of Making Ready for Jihad"). But while Imam is technically right on this point, he is nonetheless being disengenuous: the Document does not explicitly state that the rulers are apostates, nor does it give much prominence to the issue of preparing for jihad. The Document was written in deliberately ambiguous language; it appears moderate to the casual reader, yet when challenged by jihadist critics, Imam is able to point to passages that address their concerns, albeit only in general terms.

Sayyid Imam also takes on Al-Zawahiri over the latter's contention that the Document of Right Guidance serves the interests of America and the Jews, while Al-Qaeda is at the forefront of the fight against them. Imam writes that it is Al-Qaeda that brought America and the Jews into Afghanistan and Iraq, and that they were the first to flee from America in Afghanistan. He also notes that Al-Qaeda, at various times, offered America a ceasefire and negotiations. Imam ties this behavior to an earlier episode in which Al-Zawahiri lied to the Sudanese government, telling them that he had 10,000 fighters at his disposal, and received payment from them to carry out attacks in Egypt. Imam claims that when six of these Jihad members were being led to their execution, Al-Zawahiri sat with Sudanese officials telling jokes. "Some people pay money for fame, or to promote themselves or their product, but Al-Zawahari pays in the blood and lives of his brothers, and leads them to waste away in prison, for his own media fame. And then he says, 'are there any more?' and continues to find people he can dupe…" [3]

Sayyid Imam writes that he devoted space to proving that Al-Zawahiri is a liar because one may not accept testimony from liars, and thus it would be forbidden to listen to Al-Zawahiri even if in a given instance he were telling the truth.

Chapter 2: Al-Qaeda Founded a DeviantSchool of Jurisprudence Solely to Permit Killing Americans En Masse
Sayyid Imam argues that Al-Zawahiri is not merely promoting isolated erroneous positions in jurisprudence; rather, Al-Qaeda has founded a corrupt and deviant school of jurisprudence expressly in order to permit inordinate mass killing, and all their positions in jurisprudence are aimed at this goal. He gives a list of "criminal" principles used by Al-Qaeda to sidestep shari'a laws that would prevent them from killing Americans en masse. These are:

- Fighting the far enemy (America) before the near enemy (apostate regimes);
- Takfir and killing based on nationality, on the grounds that citizenship is tantamount to allegiance to the infidel country and support for its laws;
- Allowing the killing of one who pays taxes to infidels, on the grounds that this is tantamount to financial warfare;
- Unrestricted permission to kill an infidel "human shield," thus allowing Al-Qaeda to kill civilians in infidel lands;
- Unrestricted permission to kill a Muslim "human shield," thus allowing Al-Qaeda to kill the Muslims mixed in with the infidels;
- Unrestricted application of the principle of retaliation in kind (al-mu'amala bi'l-mithl) in order to expand the scope of indiscriminate killing;
- Fighting America is defensive [jihad], and that [in consequence] one may travel to fight in America without the permission of one's father and others [whose permission is normally required];
- A Muslim's entry visa into infidel lands is not a guarantee of protection (aman), and [thus] he is allowed to kill [the infidels];
- Even if this visa were a guarantee of protection, it would be permitted to violate it;
- The entry visa for tourists entering Muslim lands does not serve them as a guarantee of protection from being killed or kidnapped.

Sayyid Imam argues that after adopting these principles, Al-Qaeda employed the following false arguments to deflect criticism:

- The only people allowed to speak on these matters are the sheikhs of jihad encamped in the mountains and on the frontiers (and not other 'ulama);
- Anyone who criticizes them is impeding the jihad, attacking the mujahideen, and causing harm to the Muslim nation;
- Anyone who criticizes them is serving the interests of the Crusaders and Zionists.

Sayyid Imam then turns to refute these principles:

The Cause of the Muslims' Misfortunes Is the Muslims Themselves, and Not America

The necessary predicate to the doctrine of jihad against the far enemy is the belief that America and the Jews are the cause of the Muslims' problems. Imam writes that bin Laden uses this claim to enlist the Muslims on his side and to transform his personal fixation on America into the issue of the entire Muslim nation, while in truth the cause of the Muslims' misfortunes is the Muslims themselves. He backs this up with a number of verses from the Quran, e.g. 42:30, "Whatever misfortunes befall you, they are because of what your hands have wrought…" Imam then implies that the leaders of Al-Qaeda are unbelievers (in this case equivalent to apostates), since their position contradicts these verses, and Allah said (Quran 29:47): "None deny my signs [or: verses] but the unbelievers." [4] He also points out that bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri's violations of the shari'a led Ahmad Al-Jaza'iri, a student of Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, to declare them apostates already in 1992. [5]

Imam then goes on to extend this principle in a quietist vein: Allah allows infidels to defeat Muslims as a punishment for their sins. He supports this contention from the hadith and historical examples. For instance, when Yusuf Ibn Tashfin, Emir of the North African Almoravid dynasty, helped the Muslims of Al-Andalus defeat the Spanish kings, they asked him to leave troops behind in Al-Andalus to defend them. He answered: "Devote your intention [to Allah alone], and Allah will protect you from your enemy." Imam continues: "Allah, may He be praised, says that the Muslims' misfortunes are because of themselves, and bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri say they are because of America. Let the Muslims consider who they are going to follow: Allah, or bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri?"

Regarding Israel as well, Imam claims that it is Palestinian agents who enable Israel to kill whomever it likes, and it is Palestinian workers who build the settlements. He lists a number of examples of internecine fighting among Muslims, and notes that the U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia - regardless of the legality or illegality of their presence - have not killed any Muslims in the country since they were introduced, whereas Al-Qaeda has.

He continues: "The number of Muslims whose death and dispossession Al-Qaeda has caused in a number of years, in Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Pakistan, and elsewhere, is far greater than the number killed or dispossessed by Israel in Palestine and neighboring countries in 60 years. So all the talk of Al-Qaeda defending Muslims is a tall tale…"

According to Imam, improvement of the Muslims' situation must start from within, as Allah said (Quran 13:11): "Allah does not change a people's lot until they change what is in their hearts." [6]

Other Options Besides Jihad
Imam writes: "Jihad against an aggressing enemy is obligatory when there is the ability to wage it. But to cross the ocean to go to your enemy in its own home and destroy one of its buildings, and [in retaliation] it destroys the Taliban state - and then you claim to be a mujahid - only an idiot would do such a thing." In essence this statement contains two factors that could make jihad against America not obligatory. The first is the condition of "ability" (istita'a), about which Imam already wrote at length in the Document of Right Guidance: even when a given jihad is obligatory, if Muslims lack the ability to carry it out successfully the obligation is suspended. But the other element here is whether jihad against America is considered an offensive or a defensive jihad; Imam considers it an offensive one, [7] whereas Al-Qaeda considers attacks on America defensive jihad.

Sayyid Imam attacks Al-Zawahiri's statement that "it has been clear, and remains clear, to any impartial observer with two eyes, that this corrupt reality will not be changed through softness and conciliation; it can only be changed by force." [8] Imam writes that this statement leads Al-Zawahiri to unbelief (or apostasy), since it denies other options that according to Imam are explicitly stated in the Quran and the sunna - for instance, Quran 8:61: "If they incline to peace, incline to it (as well)…" He also gives the example of the celebrated early Muslim commander Khalid bin Al-Walid, who retreated from the battle of Mu'ta and was praised by the Prophet for doing so. Moreover, he writes that Al-Zawahiri is simply lying about this whole issue, since bin Laden offered America a truce (Al-Hayat, January 20, 2006), and Al-Zawahiri offered to negotiate with America (Al-Hayat, December 21, 2006).

The Status of Mullah Omar
In his interview with Al-Hayat, Sayyid Imam advanced the claim that one of bin Laden's great sins was that he deceived Mullah Omar, to whom he had sworn obedience, by undertaking the 9/11 attacks behind his back. In Exposing the 'Exoneration,' Sayyid Imam continues this line of attack, and accuses bin Laden of coming up with a forbidden innovation in religion with regard to Mullah Omar's status as Emir, solely in order to justify his betrayal of him.

In June, 2001, bin Laden made it known that he was planning to carry out a large-scale attack against America; some of his followers, especially from his shari'a council, objected that Mullah Muhammad Omar had forbidden them to attack America. Imam claims that in response, bin Laden invented a new doctrine, according to which Mullah Omar was Emir only with regard to domestic issues, and that he did not have to be obeyed in matters that went beyond the borders of Afghanistan.

Imam argues that the shari'a definition of loyalty to the Emir does not recognize any such distinction, and that this was an idea that Satan planted in bin Laden's head. To prove his point, Imam notes that all scholars agree that one is obliged to obey the Emir in matters of jihad; and since jihad takes place beyond the Abode of Islam, it is clear that the Emir's authority extends to matters of foreign policy. In addition, he writes that the entire distinction is fallacious in this case, since the planning for 9/11 took place inside Afghanistan, the attackers set out from Afghanistan, and bin Laden stayed in Afghanistan after the attacks. Thus bin Laden violated his oath of fealty to Mullah Omar, and the Prophet Muhammad said of such people: "One who abandons obedience [to the ruler] will meet Allah on Judgment Day and will find nothing to say for himself."

Preferring the Far Enemy to the Near One
Another Al-Qaeda principle that Sayyid Imam considers a forbidden innovation in religion is that of giving the far enemy (America) precedence over the near one (apostate regimes).

First, this principle is based on the contention that America is the cause of all the Muslim's misfortunes, a principle with which Imam already took issue. In addition, it contradicts the Quran and the sunna. For instance, Quran 9:123 says: "Oh believers, fight those unbelievers who are near to you…" This was interpreted by prominent exegetes, and in a fatwa by Ibn Taymiyya, as meaning that the obligation in jihad is to begin with the nearest enemy. Thus Imam accuses Al-Zawahiri of throwing aside the Quran and the sunna and replacing them with individual opinion, all in order to accommodate bin Laden. He cites again Ibn Taymiyya: "When a man permits something that is forbidden by unanimous opinion, or forbids something that is permitted by unanimous opinion, or changes an [Islamic] law that is agreed to unanimously, it is the agreed view of the jurisprudents that he is an infidel apostate." [9]

Imam claims that Al-Zawahiri only came up with the principle of fighting the far enemy when he joined bin Laden in 1998, and that his fellow members of the Egyptian Jihad criticized him for this, since it led the U.S. to begin kidnapping the group's members. Despite this sacrifice, Imam says that bin Laden didn't even give Al-Zawahiri advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, and only taxed him with justifying them ex post facto. [10]

He then notes an irony: the 9/11 attacks on the far enemy drew America into Afghanistan, where it became the near enemy, against whom there is a clear obligation to fight. But precisely at this point, bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri fled the battle, leaving the Afghans to bear the brunt of the war. The Al-Qaeda leaders claim that their role is to incite to battle, but Imam asks why they don't incite themselves to fight. Allah commanded Muhammad to rouse the believers to battle by providing a personal example (Quran 4:84). Thus when a Muslim encounters someone who claims that his role is to incite to battle, he should say to him: first of all, go incite yourself, and go fight.

Takfir and Killing Based on Nationality
Bin Laden's stated position is to kill Americans without differentiating between military and civilians. One of the difficulties in this position is that the U.S. has Muslim citizens as well. In the Exoneration, Al-Zawahiri justifies this position by saying that being a citizen of an infidel nation necessarily means allegiance to that nation and obedience to its infidel laws. This renders the Muslim citizen himself an infidel, or at least something close to it, and thus killing Americans en masse is allowed. One does not have to worry that such attacks may kill Muslims, since they are all apostates.

Imam points out that Al-Zawahiri's position is tantamount to takfir of hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. It cannot be definitively said that all these Muslims are satisfied with the infidel laws in their countries, especially as there is no Abode of Islam today to which they could emigrate. (The Abode of Islam is defined as areas ruled by Muslims and by Islam; for Sayyid Imam, none of what are usually referred to as Muslim countries fit this description).

Imam writes further that even if one were to grant Al-Zawahari's argument that all Americans are infidels, one could still not kill Americans indiscriminately, since there are categories of infidels that it is forbidden to kill - women, children, the aged, peasants, etc. He notes that cumulatively, the members of these categories make up the majority of the population of infidel lands.

The common explanation for these exemptions is that these categories of people are unable to take part in combat. [11] Al-Zawahiri thus attempts to sidestep this difficulty by arguing that since Americans pay taxes, they are funding the army that is fighting the Muslims, and in consequence are to be considered financial combatants. In response, Imam points out that this would make all the Muslims in India and Russia apostates, since their countries are fighting in Kashmir and Chechnya. In addition, he says, Al-Zawahiri's position contradicts the practice of the Caliph 'Umar, who ordered his soldiers to spare noncombatant peasants during the invasions of Persia and Byzantium - this despite their being taxpayers.

Another argument employed by Al-Qaeda to justify the killing of innocent civilians is that of the human shield. (The primary meaning of this term is a noncombatant used as a human shield during battle, but it can mean as well any noncombatant present among others who are legitimate targets.) [12] Sayyid Imam refers the reader to his explanation of the issue in the Document of Right Guidance. There he wrote that the permission to kill the human shield is not based on any proof-text, and thus the scholars allowed it only in cases of necessity. Since, in his opinion, attacks on America are offensive jihad - that is, a jihad voluntarily initiated by the Muslims - it is not possible to invoke necessity, and thus it is not permitted to kill the human shield. [13]

Sayyid Imam then addresses yet another argument employed by Al-Qaeda to justify indiscriminate killing of Americans: the principle of retaliation in kind (al-mu'amala bi'l-mithl). Al-Zawahiri bases this principle on two Quranic verses (2:194 and 16:126), and on a fatwa by a contemporary Al-Qaeda sheikh, Nasir bin Hamad Al-Fahd. The fatwa asserts that the U.S. has killed approximately 10 million Muslims in recent decades, and thus according to the principle of retaliation in kind, "even if a bomb were dropped on [America] killing 10 million of them, and destroyed their land to the same degree that they destroyed Muslim lands, this would be permitted, without any need for any other proof. We would need other proofs [only] if we wanted to kill more than this number."

Imam answers this argument by saying that Al-Qaeda looks at the shari'a through one eye only. The principle, properly stated, says that one should retaliate in kind, unless the "kind" is something that is not permitted in the shari'a. [14] And since indiscriminate killing is forbidden in the shari'a, the principle cannot be used to justify Al-Qaeda's attacks on America. [15]

On 9/11: An Entry Visa Is a Guarantee of Protection and Obligates the Foreigner Not to Harm the Host Country
Sayyid Imam writes that the preceding issues had been discussed by Al-Qaeda's Shura council prior to the 9/11 attacks. Aside from bin Laden, only three people (in the leadership) knew the details of the plot - Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Abu Hafs Al-Masri (Muhammad 'Atif), and another he leaves unnamed, whom he says was informed 24 hours before the attacks. The others knew that a large attack on America was planned, and so they held discussions regarding the legitimacy of such an attack. However, since they did not know that the attackers would be entering the U.S. on entry visas, this particular issue was not raised. After 9/11, when it became known that the attackers used entry visas, a dispute arose between those who said this was a violation of the shari'a and those who defended the practice. The critics argued that a visa is a guarantee of protection (aman), and it entails an obligation on the part of its beneficiary not to harm the host country. The attacks were then a violation of this obligation and an act of perfidy. This is the view advanced by Sayyid Imam as well. [16]

Al-Zawahiri argued against this view in the Exoneration, drawing on Western definitions of a visa that do not mention anything about protection. [17] Imam excoriates Al-Zawahiri for relying directly on definitions of a visa found in foreign laws and in the Encyclopedia Britannica and calls this methodology ignorance in the shari'a. He argues that when considering a topic for which there is no clear precedent in Islamic jurisprudence, one must first determine what aspects of the issue are relevant, and then compare those aspects with other issues for which there are precedents to see if there is an applicable law. With regard to the matter at hand, Imam adduces classical scholars who wrote that permission to enter a country amounts to a guarantee of protection (aman) even when this is not explicitly stated. Thus the determinative factor regarding a visa is whether or not it is permission to enter a country, and not whether or not it contains an explicit statement of protection. Since a visa is by definition permission to enter a country, it is similar to the classical aman, and thus is a guarantee of protection, and entails the corresponding obligation from the Muslims not to harm the host country. Imam summarizes Al-Zawahiri's methodology thus: "Al-Zawahiri abandons the Muslim jurisprudents and issues fatwas based on the Encyclopedia Britannica. This is like those mentioned by the Prophet: 'The people have taken ignorant people as leaders; they are asked questions and issue rulings without knowledge, and they go astray and lead others astray'."

Sayyid Imam next deals with Al-Zawahiri's backup argument, namely, that even if the visa is a guarantee of protection, one is allowed to violate its conditions. Al-Zawahiri borrows this argument from the Al-Qaeda cleric Sheikh Nasir Al-Fahd. Unlike Al-Zawahiri, Al-Fahd holds that the entry visa is a guarantee of protection; he writes, however, that violating the guarantee of protection is possible for two reasons: 1) in order to trick the enemy; and 2) because the enemy, America, has committed aggression against the Muslims.

For the first argument, Al-Fahd based himself on the story of a Jew, Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf, who lived in Medina during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Al-Fahd argues that the Prophet's companions gave Ka'b a guarantee of protection, and then killed him. This is similar to what Al-Qaeda did on 9/11, and thus 9/11 was likewise permitted.

Sayyid Imam presents three counterarguments. First, he writes that no one ever gave Ka'b a guarantee of protection, or anything remotely resembling it. He had been covered by the agreement between Muhammad and the Jews of Medina, but Ka'b had violated the conditions of this agreement by insulting the Prophet. The Companion who killed him did employ a ruse - with Muhammad's knowledge and consent - but this has nothing to do with the issue of a guarantee of protection.

Second, while the Prophet Muhammad did say "war is deception," classical scholars wrote that this principle only allows deception of infidels when there is no accord or guarantee of protection (aman). Third, Al-Fahd tried to compare the law of an infidel with a guarantee of protection in Muslim lands to the law of a Muslim with a guarantee of protection in infidel lands, and these cases are not comparable.

Al-Fahd's second argument was that there is no accord between America and the Muslims, since the shari'a does not recognize those that have been signed under international law; and even if there were a valid accord, America's actions against the Muslims would certainly have abrogated it. [18] Sayyid Imam refutes this argument in a number of ways. First, he writes that no matter how bad America's aggression against Muslims may be, it does not reach the level of those who fought against the Prophet himself (sic). He then cites a hadith concerning two Muslims who promised the Quraysh tribe that they would not fight alongside Muhammad (at the Battle of Badr). When the two informed Muhammad of this promise, he told them they had to keep it and sit out the battle. Thus if one is obligated to keep a promise to the Quraysh, who fought against the Prophet himself, one is certainly obliged to uphold one's obligations towards America entailed in the visa. Imam then cites Al-Shafi'i, the eponym of one of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, who also wrote that aggression on the part of infidels does not make it permissible for a Muslim to violate the conditions of the guarantee of protection.

Americans Are Not One Single Legal Entity
Sayyid Imam then turns to another of the arguments in Sheikh Nasir Al-Fahd's fatwa. Al-Fahd compared the American people in toto to Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf. He argued that all Americans are a single legal entity, since none of the U.S.'s institutions are of any consequence without (the support of) the American people.

Imam writes that this concept, which does away with the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, is yet another of Al-Qaeda's forbidden innovations in religion. He points out that the Prophet did not relate to the Quraysh tribe in this way. In addition, one could say that the Persian and Byzantine rulers would also have been of no consequence without the support of their peoples, and yet the Prophet's Companions did not consider these peoples one single legal entity, and refrained from killing the categories of people one is not allowed to kill.

Sayyid Imam also uses current events to argue against Fahd's view. He points out that some countries, like Spain, replaced heads of state who supported the Iraq War; that there are protests against the war in America and in the other countries of the alliance; and that the Archbishop of Canterbury recently has taken positions in the Muslims' favor. Thus, factually speaking, it is wrong to consider all Americans or all Europeans as enemies.

He adds that Nasir Al-Fahd is ignorant, should be prevented from issuing fatwas, and should be held liable for the damage he has done.

Attacks on Tourists in Muslim Countries
Al-Zawahiri relied on Nasir Al-Fahd's ruling that all Americans are a single legal entity to permit attacks on tourists in Muslim countries as well. Since Imam already dealt with this argument, he merely restates the reasons he gave in the Document forbidding attacks on tourists. It is not permitted to attack a non-Muslim who entered a Muslim country under a guarantee of protection, and this applies to those who received visas from these countries. In fact, one is not allowed to harm any non-Muslim who believes he has a valid guarantee of protection, regardless of whether the guarantee given him is objectively valid. (This is an important part of the argument, since both Imam and Al-Qaeda consider the governments of Muslim countries to be apostate). If the guarantee is invalid, one must escort the non-Muslim out of the country, without harming him. Imam criticizes Al-Zawahiri for encouraging the kidnapping and killing of tourists, when Al-Zawahiri himself traveled to European countries and to America, and entered and left unharmed.

Attacking Civilians Is Proof of Al-Qaeda's Cowardice
Sayyid Imam sums up this discussion and concludes that all of Al-Qaeda's various arguments - killing based on nationality or payment of taxes, the human shield, retaliation in kind, considering all Americans a single legal entity - are all just excuses to justify killing Americans en masse. He adds that Al-Qaeda's killing of civilians (including Muslim civilians) is a kind of (tacit) admission of their inability to attack military targets. In addition, he says, it is a proof of cowardice.

Regarding the Argument that Only "the Scholars of Jihad" Can Rule on Such Matters
Imam then takes issue with the argument that only "the scholars of jihad" - i.e. scholars who are themselves mujahideen - can rule on matters relating to jihad. (He does not name Al-Zawahiri specifically as the source of this doctrine, and it does not in fact seem to appear in the Exoneration, at least not in such a categorical form.) He writes that this is another religiously forbidden innovation. Nowhere in the classical works of jurisprudence is this specified as a condition; in addition, Imam notes that classes of people who do not fight jihad - the blind, the disabled, the sick, and women - can rule on judicial matters. He also notes that the early jurisprudent Muhammad Al-Shaybani lived in Iraq, which was not then on the frontier, and when he wrote on the laws of jihad he received the commendation of his contemporary, Al-Awza'i, who did live on what was then the frontier (Beirut). [19]

Sayyid Imam concludes the chapter by reiterating his assertion that bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and their followers are ignorant in religion and that their corrupt positions on jurisprudence were invented with the express intent of justifying their sins. He adds that normally one does not dignify such ignorance with a response, but that he wrote the preceding refutations so that the uneducated would not be taken in. [20]

Later in the book, Sayyid Imam returns to the subject of Al-Zawahiri's take on jurisprudence, and writes that the root of the problem is the undue sway that the thinking of Sayyid Qutb continues to have over Al-Zawahiri: "I would like to draw the reader's attention to the fact that Al-Zawahiri is influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb, may Allah have mercy on him. That which is correct in the writings of both of them [i.e. Al-Zawahiri and Qutb] is in the field of general education, and jurisprudential laws must not be based on this - especially regarding permission to spill blood and take goods. Both of them are extremely weak in jurisprudence, though there is a vast difference between Sayyid Qutb and Al-Zawahiri in terms of their honesty…

"If Sayyid Qutb were still living, I think that he would have already filled the gap in his knowledge of jurisprudence. He had spent most of his life in literary studies [and thus his lack of knowledge of jurisprudence was due to lack of time to study]. But as for Al-Zawahiri, his intellectual development stopped at the stage of Sayyid Qutb's writings, more than thirty years ago, and he never progressed beyond them to the stage of jurisprudential maturity - despite my repeated and futile attempts to push him to study the shari'a. He didn't have patience for the study of the shari'a sciences…" [21]


More on this issue:

Continues on Part II


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