The Good Jihadist

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Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Islamophobia represents several spokes on the oppression wheel.

God loveth not the aggressors This is a principle that relates not so much to legalism or sentimentality as to the deepest nature of things; for, in the Islamic perspective, compassion is the very essence of the Real. This ontological imperative of mercy must always be borne in mind when considering issues connected with warfare and Islam. The examples of merciful magnanimity which we observe throughout the tradition of Muslim chivalry are not simply instances of individual virtue, but above all, natural fruits of this ontological imperative; and no one manifested this imperative so fully as the Prophet himself.

Contrary to the prevalent misconception that Islam was spread by the sword, the military campaigns and conquests of the Muslim armies were, on the whole, carried out in such an exemplary manner that the conquered peoples became attracted by the religion which so impressively disciplined its armies, and whose adherents so scrupulously respected the principle of freedom of worship.

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Paradoxically, the very freedom and respect given by the Muslim conquerors to believers of different faith-communities intensified the process of conversion to Islam. His account of the spread of Islam in all the major regions of what is now the Muslim world demonstrates that the growth and spread of the religion was of an essentially peaceful nature. The two most important factors in accounting for conversion to Islam were Sufism and trade. The mystic and the merchant, in other words, were the most successful missionaries of Islam While the Emir fought French colonialism militarily, in the following century, another great Sufi master in Algeria, Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, chose to resist with a peaceful strategy, but one which pertained no less to jihad, in the principial sense of the term.

The priority thus accorded to inward, spiritual effort over all outward endeavors must never be lost sight of in any discussion of jihad. The Shaykh al-Alawi concentrated on this love of the Friend, and of all those values connected to this imperative of remembrance, doing so to the exclusion of other, more overt forms of resistance, military and political, against the French.

The French could make no inroads into a mentality that remained inextricably rooted in the spiritual tradition of Islam The sacred norm of chivalric warfare in Islam stood out clearly for all to see, buttressed by the values and institutions of traditional Muslim society. It can still be discerned today, for those who look hard enough, through the hazy clouds of passion and ideology.

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It is far from coincidental that both the Emir and Imam Shamil, to mention other noble warriors who resisted the imperialist aggression of the West, such as Umar Mukhtar in Libya, the Mahdi in Sudan, and others were affiliated to Sufism. No one need claim that Sufism encompasses Islamic spirituality in an exclusive manner; but no one can deny that the spiritual values of Islam have been traditionally cultivated and brought to fruition most effectively and most beautifully by the Sufis.

And it is these spiritual values that infuse ethical norms in whatever domain with vivifying grace, the grace without which the acts of heroism and nobility surveyed here are scarcely conceivable. Sufism did not invent the spiritual values of Islam; it merely sought to give life to them, from generation to generation Today, Sufism is a name without a reality; formerly it was a reality without a name. In other words, the values proper to Sufism are deemed to have been present at the time of the Prophet and his companions, where their reality was lived rather than named.

After giving us this definition, al-Hujwiri adds that those who deny Sufism are in fact denying the whole sacred law of the Apostle and his praised qualities. It is no surprise, then, that those most steeped in Sufism were the ones most sensitive to the sanctity of human life, to the innate holiness of the human being, whatever his or her religion; nor is it a surprise that those most hostile to Sufism are those who demonstrate the most appalling disregard for the inviolability of human life. Now, such vehement opposition to the spiritual values of the tradition cannot but entail a desacralization of religion at its core; and this, inevitably, goes hand in hand with a rejection of the sacredness of other traditions.

From attacking the sacred within oneself, it is but a short step to destroying the religious other. Sufis, such as those we have presented here, on the contrary, are keenly aware not just of the intrinsic holiness of the religious other but also of the sacred manifestations within the religion of the other.

The Good Jihadist

Such churches as these would soon convince me of my error.. This reductionism is most apparent in that tiny minority of political extremists who claim to represent the Muslim umma community , but who manifest only the most violent consequences of the spiritual decline within the umma. In other words, the extremists recourse to religious vocabulary in the effort to legitimize jihadist ideology is itself a testimony to the continuing salience of religion in the Muslim world. The body politic of the Muslim world has indeed been infected by a poison which is now running riot within it; but it is also receiving, from without, violent assaults which are further weakening the body in its effort to eliminate the poison.

What Muslims need to do is to diagnose the poison and show that the tendency to resort to terrorism is a poison afflicting Islam; it is not a product of the essence of Islam. One of the truly great mujahideen in the war against the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Massoud, fell victim to a treacherous attack by two fellow Muslims, in what was evidently the first stage of the operation that destroyed the World Trade Center.

It was a strategic imperative for the planners of the operation to rid the land of its most charismatic leader: a hero who could credibly be used by the West as a figurehead for the revenge attack on Afghanistan that was provoked, anticipated, and hoped for, by the terrorists. To present the indiscriminate murder of western civilians as jihad, the values of true jihad needed to be dead and buried.

The destruction is only apparent in that, on the one hand, They destroy [but] themselves, they who would ready a pit of fire fiercely burning [for all who have attained to faith]. And on the other hand: Say not of those who are slain in the path of God: They are dead. Nay, they are alive, though ye perceive not. Let it also be noted that, while it is indeed true that the martyr ash-shahid is promised Paradise, the true shahid is one whose death bears witness shahada to the truth of God.

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Abdelkader Education Project Allied Organizations. Further, if Al Qaeda focuses its resources on striking the West, and is able to do so successfully, this may provide the momentum necessary to supplant IS as the leader of the global jihadist movement, and even poach IS fighters as it has done already in parts of the Middle East and Africa. Al Qaeda certainly possesses the capability to capitalize upon IS' potential missteps and has already gone to great lengths to reframe its strategy as one aimed at garnering local support and parroting grievances held by communities at local levels.

This scenario predicts the demise of Al Qaeda while the Islamic State rebounds and flourishes, in a replay of the situation during the period between and During this time, IS was ascendant and Al Qaeda was caught flat-footed. Zawahiri's organization failed to anticipate the events surrounding the Arab Spring and then responded in a sclerotic manner, as other groups took advantage of the power vacuum to promote their own agendas and ideologies.

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  • Ultimately, Al Qaeda benefited from the chaos that resulted from the Arab Spring, but continued success is far from certain. There is a high probability that IS will indeed reconstitute itself and will almost certainly do so in Iraq and Syria, in addition to other potential locations. But the question is, to what extent does IS rebound and can it once again be in a position to reclaim its previous territorial control? Losing the physical caliphate may tarnish its brand in the eyes of some, but the fact that it was able to successfully establish a caliphate in the first place will remain a viable propaganda tool for the group to recruit new members and lift the morale of the global jihadist movement as a whole.

    It remains doubtful that the international community, having once been so negligent, would take as long to organise and mobilise again should the group attempt to rebuild a state. The memories of past atrocities are still too fresh. But most of all, for the countries most affected by the rise of IS—those in the region and others in the West where foreign terrorist fighters and their families are now attempting to return home to—the terror and instability conjured by the Islamic State is still quite palpable.

    In fact, the pivotal timeframe that could engender this scenario is The result could be that Al Qaeda is temporarily perceived as the most concerning target for Western counter-terrorism forces, which once again attack Al Qaeda wherever it coalesces. This would elevate IS by default, as its fighters seek and are then better positioned to quietly and patiently rebuild in their own right with the bulk of counter-terrorism efforts diverted elsewhere.

    The challenge in thinking through these scenarios is attributing a likelihood or percentage to each, attempting to weight various factors as to which are most likely to occur and impact the relative standing of IS and Al Qaeda as transnational organizations, while also taking into consideration the myriad local affiliations, offshoots, and franchises that each group maintains. Still others, including Seth Jones , have noted the sheer numbers of Salafi-jihadists while suggesting that it would be a grave mistake to declare victory prematurely against the terrorist threat.

    My own view is that both of these observations can be true: Salafi jihadist organisations can still struggle to mobilise a sustained transnational campaign of violence, while the numbers of fighters committed to this ideology continue to grow.

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    The future of the global jihadist movement is therefore likely to resemble its past, with peripatetic and divided groups of militants dispersing to new battlefields, from North Africa to Southeast Asia. There they will join existing civil wars, establish safe havens and sanctuaries, and seek ways of conducting spectacular attacks in the West that inspire new followers. In this fragmented and atomised form, IS could become even more dangerous and challenging for counterterrorism forces, as its splinter groups threaten renewed and heightened violence throughout the globe.

    Even if foreign fighters return home in much smaller numbers than initially expected, the next five-year period could very well be characterised by a spike in attacks. Stalked by fundamentalists and Pakistani intelligence, Matt ends up a pawn in a conspiracy to redraw the boundaries of global power; a secret war that is ripping a nation apart.

    But not the one he thinks. From ex-SAS soldier and bestselling author Bob Shepherd comes an action thriller torn from tomorrow's headlines.

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