Monday, June 02, 2008

Make jihad only against the weak?

Inquiry and Analysis Series - No. 444
(MEMRI Logo from MEMRI)

Yesterday, I posted on "Jihad and Dr. Fadl's Inner Rebellion" and asked myself a central question about Dr. Fadl (aka Sayyid Imam al-Sharif), the jihadi intellectual and independent student of Islamic legal reasoning on jihad:
I wonder if his core beliefs about the centrality of jihad have changed . . . or if he has merely grown more realistic with age and defeat and is using his recent book, Rationalizing the jihadi action in Egypt and the world (Wathiqat Tarshid Al-'Aml Al-Jihadi fi Misr w'Al-'Alam, 2007), to repackage older ideas . . . . Fadl's view seems primarily to be that the terrorist jihad against America on 9/11 was wrong because it didn't succeed. (Gypsy Scholar, "Jihad and Dr. Fadl's Inner Rebellion," June 1, 2008)
I've now read a bit more on Dr. Fadl and see that my hunch was correct. He has not altered his view on jihad's centrality; he has merely argued that jihad is very unlikely to succeed.

For a technical explanation on this topic, see the text of a presentation by Daniel Lav, "The Party of Jurisprudence vs. The Party of Action: Sayyed Imam, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and the Split in the Jihad Movement," Inquiry and Analysis Series, MEMRI, No. 444, May 29, 2008. Lav explains that Fadl has not retracted his view that the rulers of most nominally Muslim countries throughout the world are not true Muslims. That is, he still holds that these rulers are apostates -- a position that Lav identifies as "the doctrine of takfir of the rulers (declaring the rulers to be apostates)."

Jihad against such apostate rulers can therefore be legitimate, but Fadl has recently argued against such jihadi actions. Why? Lav asks the same question . . . but also provides the answer:
Why then does Sayyed Imam [i.e., Dr. Fadl] forbid jihad against these regimes? The main argument of the Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity is that the jihad groups today are in a state of weakness that precludes the waging of jihad. A number of Quranic verses and hadith are adduced to prove that inability allows or requires one to defer an obligation; for instance, Quran 2:286: "Allah only imposes obligation on someone according to his ability." This principle applies to all positive commandments, but it is noteworthy that in the Document of Right Guidance Sayyed Imam sets an even higher threshold for "ability" with regard to jihad. He writes that jihad "is like other matters in religion; ability to perform it is one of the conditions of its being incumbent. However, ability in jihad is not limited to the Muslim's person -- such as his physical or financial ability -- but rather it goes beyond this and [includes] the reality of the circumstances surrounding him…"

The concept that inability, or 'ajz, is a legitimate exemption from jihad is not an innovation in Sayyed Imam's thought. The theoretical principle was already mentioned in Imam's first book, The Essentials of Making Ready for Jihad, which was written in 1987 as a shari'a guide for jihad to be used in the training camps for mujahideen in Afghanistan. In 1992 he had already decided that this concept applied to the situation in Egypt, and Imam, as Emir of the reconstituted Jihad group in Pakistan, tried to forbid it from pursuing armed activities in its home country. The difference between the treatment of this issue in the Document of Right Guidance and in Imam's previous writings is thus more one of emphasis than of substance.

Thus, while Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya undermined the very legitimacy of jihad against the regime, Sayyed Imam and the Jihad group continue to maintain that it is a theoretical obligation, whose implementation they merely defer. (Lav, "
The Party of Jurisprudence vs. The Party of Action," para. 20-22)
Another word must therefore be added to our vocabulary, 'ajz, or "inability," an important concept in Islam, for 'ajz exempts Muslims from duties that they are unable to fulfill -- e.g., the pilgrimage to Mecca for those too poor or too infirm to make the trip.

Consequently, Dr. Fadl has not retreated from his earlier position on takfir and jihad, which thus implies that he considers most current-day Muslim rulers apostates. What does this further imply?
This determination that the rulers are apostates has . . . . [the] consequence is that, in the absence of a legitimate Muslim ruler, his [i.e., the ruler's] duties and prerogatives -- including declaring and waging jihad -- devolve onto the Muslim community as a whole. This is what gives the jihad groups license to take matters into their own hands and, notably, stage operations in non-Muslim lands. (Lav, "The Party of Jurisprudence vs. The Party of Action," para. 11)
Dr. Fadl's view would seem to allow jihad groups to continue terrorist operations in non-Muslim lands . . . assuming, of course, that such operations can succeed. The doctrine of "inability" ('ajz) would also apply here and thus accounts for Fadl's view of 9/11, as reported by Lawrence Wright:
"People hate America, and the Islamist movements feel their hatred and their impotence. Ramming America has become the shortest road to fame and leadership among the Arabs and Muslims. But what good is it if you destroy one of your enemy's buildings, and he destroys one of your countries? What good is it if you kill one of his people, and he kills a thousand of yours? . . . That, in short, is my evaluation of 9/11." (Wright, "The Rebellion Within," page 10)
There we have it, Fadl's advice: Don't attack the strong; just attack the weak.

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At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little apostasy is a dangerous thing. I unabashedly admit, I'm heavy into borrowing.

"...jihad groups today are in a state of weakness that precludes the waging of jihad..."

"... He writes that jihad "is like other matters in religion; ability to perform it is one of the conditions of its being incumbent..."

"...This is what gives the jihad groups license to take matters into their own hands and, notably, stage operations in non-Muslim lands..."

And to give you Professor your due, "There we have it, Fadl's advice: Don't attack the strong; just attack the weak."

I might seem to detour but might not, building upon Jeffery's post. If the prospective jihadi knows in his righteous blood that he (however justifying) must attack the strong he must do so where media is ubiquitous. His "jihadi self" knowing in advance that the strong enemy is likely to be a bit more than miffed-shall rain down Hell upon the Uhmma.

Drones are in the skies. Shall the righteous many, be required to sustain or drain their breath away at the whims of any who might "know" they KNOW the MIND of GOD.

I myself may be a man who recognizes that God has not given me, a mere man, license to decide the fate of either the Uhmma or the Infidel(s). I believe however that I am simply a man. As such, I don't recognize that any Imam, Preacher or Priest (unless and until I SEE him cloaked in the whatever) possesses that "Divine Thing" to revise my belief.

I've got a feeling, just looking at the numbers, that you "jihadis" are gonna have to be sharing your virgins.


At 11:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Virgins? That's a misunderstanding of the text, I'm told. According to the experts, Muslim martyrs will be enjoying grapes still on the vine -- never been plucked!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where'd ya hear that stuff?

Unplucked grapes are pretty good but they're unplucked, thus unavailable even in Paradise. To be unplucked a grape must remain, heck I don't know, "adhered" maybe?

If one is gonna strap on a vest that, in the end blows oneself into bits too small for sparrows to provide sustenence (well, I hear the head, spine and pelvis are pretty much left intact) for others of God's creatures, then:

Hey where's that guy who was giving all us Infidels the obvious?

I don't like to admit it, but even if the guy was full of sparrow poop, he did seem sure.


At 1:19 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, on the grapes interpretation, just check out Christoph Luxenberg on Wikipedia.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:03 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Even though I seem to defend the faith quite often, I am not a Muslim. I do this for any religion that is misunderstood, by the “believers” and “non-believers”, and where I feel I can help out…

Something that gets me with Sayyid Imam al-Sharif is his use of Jihad. He uses in a very specific way to promote his personal political issues. I know he claims to care for the whole Muslim world, but then what about the people who are quietly converting and expanding the religion in the very countries that he claims to hate? Don’t they care? Is their efforts worth less because they don’t put it under the banner of Jihad, but under the banner of the Loving Understanding God that Muslim are suppose to worship?

Jihad is a struggle that should be fought by every follower of Allah. This struggle takes more than one form of which, in my humble opinion, fighting with infidels is a negligible part. Islam itself calls the Inner Jihad, the struggle against your own desires and devils, the Greater. It calls the Outer Jihad against foreign enemies the Lesser. It should be quite obvious to see, I feel, that this Inner Jihad should indeed a central part of the faith.

Surely, if you haven’t finished with your personal Inner Jihad then you should not waste your time fighting the foreign enemy. If Islam is indeed spreading as fast as Muslims claim, then ignoring the US and letting things go its own way would achieve much more, would it not? Wikipedia mentions that John Esposito says about Jihad that it is a “struggle to improve one's self and/or society.” How is waging these wars of terror improving society anywhere? It has turned many of the most powerful people in the world completely against Islam to the extent that they don’t seem to even want to find out the very basis ideas of the religion.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Otto, I think that JK was obliquely referring to Irfan Yusuf.

I'm not entirely sure what Dr. Fadl thinks about the so-called "lesser jihad" when carried out against non-Muslim societies. Perhaps I'll do some more digging around and see.

I would think that one's own inner jihad would have to have been perfected first, but the classical Muslim texts may be against me on this point.

And perhaps also against Prof. Esposito...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I admit that I don't know a lot, but what I've been thought about the religion comes from people who cringe when thinking about the the way the world looks at Jihad. They were very insistent in teaching me that Jihad is something personal first and the "Jihad" that we know better is not needed and is hurting.

I don't see how something this straight forward can be that complicated without people distorting it. Unfortunately I can give examples of how Christianity was distorted in South Africa while I was growing up, so this is nothing new to me.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm sure that jihad can mean either greater (inner) or lesser (outer), that it can mean defensive or offensive, and that it can mean either this or that, depending upon the source, but my strong impression from earlier sources is that when the term "jihad" was used without qualification, it meant military battle.

I doubt that it meant "terrorism," for that was simply not open to premodern thinkers.

But I'm no expert.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abd Al-Qader (or Dr. Fadl) didn't change his mind about anything - not even about the likelihood of jihad in Egypt, let alone abroad, to succeed. Lawrence Wright sounds sensational on first sight, totally out of the loop on second, as you've discovered yourself in very short time. But there's more: He, like many others, may just be preparing the ground for a shift in emphasis you've not anticipated yet.

The idea that you shouldn't engage in offensive jihad until you've cleaned your house and are able to do so has been Abd Al-Qader's position all along. He is easily the strictest islamist thinker around, way stricter than al-Qaeda (or, earlier, his Islamic Jehad movement), who he regarded as little more than unruly children. He is also an eminent legal scholar, the best in a hundred years, and his "The Compendium in the Pursuit of Noble Knowledge" is so good, it has become mainstream.

And this is where it gets interesting: What we see Lawrence Wright doing here, and doing - I assume - with the approval of the US intelligence and on behest of Mubarak's secret services, who are known to provide strategical guidance for them, is turning the tables and preparing the ground, slowly. So that everybody can catch up, slowly, and ride along.

Stage 1) Al-Qaeda bad, Muslims peaceful. That's where everybody started out.

Stage 2) Al-Qaeda bad, but Muslims actually kinda appear to like them. This also dawned on a lot of people, in due time.

Stage 3) Muslims distance themselves from shrinking Al-Qaeda, rally around orthodoxy or modern interpretations thereof. Phew! Sighs of relief! This is where we are now.

Stage 4) make people realize that orthodoxy is not only tainted, but actually more radical than even al-Qaeda. They were only unruly romantics, the masterplan's locus is elsewhere, and it's bigger than Al-Qaeda ever was.

The operative lemma in that stage is "takfir" for consumption in the Muslim world, and "da'wa" (and not 'ajz, although it was a good guess) for the West.

North Africa is already well into stage 3; the West just starts into it (too many people in charge still preoccupied with terrorism instead of dogma); Turkey enters Stage 4, and already prepares for a showdown, with the old Kemalist theology faculty swooping down hard on orthodoxy on the dogma, and the supreme court and the army hitting Erdogan's moderate Islamists on the political front. This will mean mayhem, maybe even war. The army will keep the upper hand in the end.

But Egypt will lead the pack, again, just like they did vis-a-vis Israel: Expect the Muslim Brotherhood to run for their lives there. Expect Syria to take on Hizbollah, expect Egypt and Jordan going after Hamas, with Saudi approval. They'll be given special promises to be left alone, if they donate funds. Heaven alone knows, what Pakistan will be doing, but Musharraf is smart enough to follow Mubarak's lead, I guess. The radical solution would be to temporarily cede the lost provinces and reunite Punjab and Sind with India.

This will leave a crescent of lawlessness from Turkey's border, through central Irak and northern Iran (very bad for the Mullahs) and all of Afghanistan to west (Ex-)Pakistan. This is where everybody will drop their insurgents and jihadists (again!), including, eventually and indirectly, Europe. Unable to push home, and permanently attacked on that front, they will move north, into Russia's satellites - this will, also strategically desireable for the West, keep the Russians very busy indeed, and the Kazakhs running for shelter under a Western umbrella.

The whole scenario will re-create a world ca. 1980, plus perks: The West in the driver's seat, petty secular dictators in Muslim lands, China unprovoked, a war zone for Russia to deal with, and access to the Caspian Basin. The wet dream of the US.

When the news eventually breaks that the Egyptians and Saudis who flew these plans into those towers 20 years ago, were actually working for a top-secret Egyptian-American-Israeli-German-Jordanian intelligence cabal, who pretended to be, or represent, Al-Qaeda, who will care? War is deceit and you can't argue with success. And the Arab street suspected as much all along anyway. But they knew they had it coming, too: It's what happens, when you subcutaneously want a Caliphate, again.

Just a wild guess, of course.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Just a wild guess, of course."

I was beginning to wonder if you were channeling "Spengler" -- the Asia Times guy, not the long-dead Oswald -- but this was even more entertaining.

Jeffery Hodges

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