The Muslim-kill-Muslim doctrine

Khaled Ahmed July 17, 2010

Al Qaeda began to kill Muslims on the basis of a fatwa given by Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) saying Muslims can kill Muslims under certain conditions. The fatwa was issued at Mardin, in present-day Turkey, against a Muslim ruler and his government. Al Qaeda had an early dispute while interpreting the great jurist’s ruling.

A founder of al Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, teaching at Islamabad Islamic University — from where a student is suspected of having killed the Parade Lane military personnel saying their namaz in Rawalpindi cantonment area — thought al Qaeda should kill ‘adu al-ba’eed’ (far enemy); Al Zawahiri, on the other hand, thought al Qaeda should kill ‘adu al-qareeb’ (near enemy). Azzam was killed in Peshawar along with his sons and Al Zawahiri became the thinker of al Qaeda, getting Muslims to kill Muslims, ‘the near enemy’.

Abdullah Azzam was a moderate who wanted to kill Americans, not Muslims. He had followers in Pakistan, including Fazlur Rehman Khaleel of Harkatul Mujahideen who later became a henchman of al Qaeda. After his death, the presiding saint of al Qaeda became Ibn Taymiyya, together with Syed Qutb who had twisted Maududi’s concept of ‘jahiliya’ into a religious culpability which must be penalised. In March 2010, some private Islamic organisations from all over the Islamic world, excluding Pakistan, got together at Mardin and resolved that Ibn Taymiyya had been misinterpreted by al Qaeda into a Muslim-kill-Muslim doctrine. Al Jazeera covered the event.

Did the government of Turkey go along? No. Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate did not support the conference and said: ‘It is groundless to blame all post-September 11 violence on Ibn Taymiyya's fatwa when political, social and economic reasons also play a major role, and that no one in Anatolia or the rest of the Islamic world remembers a fatwa issued seven centuries ago’.

Something like this happened earlier in Saudi Arabia too. This is revealed in Ibn Taymiyya and his Times, edited by Yossef Rapoport & Shahab Ahmed (OUP 2010).

On 22 May 2003, 10 days after a series of suicide bombings in Riyadh, a leading Saudi newspaper published an article entitled ‘The Individual and the Homeland are more valuable than Ibn Taymiyya’. Author Khaled al-Ghanami wrote: ‘How did these murderers justify the shedding of the blood of Muslims and children? They did this based on a fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya on jihad, in which he rules that if infidels take shelter behind Muslims, and these Muslims become a shield for the infidels, it is permitted to kill the Muslims in order to get at the infidels. Ibn Taymiyya did not base his fatwa on any verse in the Quran, nor on any saying of the Prophet (pbuh)’ (p3). What happened next? The newspaper Editor-in-Chief, Jamal Khashoggi, was dismissed by order of the Saudi information ministry. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia acted the same way. And this is how the Islamic world will react too. The liberal clerics who gathered at Mardin will be isolated if not condemned and apostatised. And al Qaeda too may target them. The country where al Qaeda lives, Pakistan, was not represented at Mardin.

Ibn Taymiyya argued that converts to Islam carried over remnants of their pre-existing practices, and brought to their new community deviant practices, customs, beliefs or innovations (p.233). For him, heterodox groups within Islam were most vulnerable to the threat posed by non-Muslim minorities. He dedicates one of the early sections of his book Minhaj al-Sunna to pointing out the similarities between Shias, Jews, and Christians (p233). Ibn Taymiyya interpreted the hadith ‘Do not make my grave into a festival’ to mean that Eid Milad should not be held (p289).

Published in Tribune, July 18th, 2010.


Syeda Namra Khalid | 11 years ago | Reply Azzam taught at International Islamic University Islamabad in 1980 just for few months. He was just a visiting lecturer. And he is not the ONLY part of "IIUI's history". There are so many positive & glorifying things about... this institute but you've never mentioned them. Secondly, this institute is not having Azzam's followers. He left it 30 years back. You can't blame IIUI for flourishing such people. It is not a Madrassah. They doesn't support 'this' concept of Jehad and if someone is having 'such' views, they don't influence 'students'. And we ourselves are 'blast victums' (its the 1st institute attacked by suicide bombers). How can you put this allegation of 'Jehad' then? No offense please, you better varify the things before dislpaying them here on this social networking site =//
Arshad Zaman | 11 years ago | Reply
On: "... a fatwa given by Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) saying Muslims can kill Muslims under certain conditions."
I am not knowledgeable on the subject but it would seem that: A fatwa is a specific answer to a specific question; it is not applicable universally, and is never issued suo moto (without a question being asked). (This question and answer tradition exists in Judaism, She'elot ve-Teshuvot in Hebrew; and among Roman Catholics, and in Roman law, quaestiones and responsa in Latin.) So, as in all legal matters but especially in this tradition, the framing and wording of the question is as essential to an understanding of the response as the wording of the response itself. So, what was the question? Born five years after the (first) sack of Baghdad, Ibn Taymiyya lived in times of great upheaval. It isn't known when this fatwa was given, but the question reportedly was (to put it in modern terms): "Do the laws of peace apply to Mardin (a then strategically located fortress town, in Turkey now), or the laws of war ?" (This isn't all that dissimilar to what the Pentagon wrestled with on whether the Geneva Convention applied in Afghanistan.) Ibn Taymiyya's fatwa -- innovative, in that it ducked the implications of a simplistic response by inventing a third category -- reportedly was:
"Is [Mardin] a domain of war or of peace? It is a [city of a status] composite (murakkab), in which both the things signified [by those terms are to be found]. It is not in the situation of a domain of peace in which the institutions (ahkam) of Islam are implemented because its army (jund) is [composed of] Muslims. Nor is it in the situation of a domain of war, whose inhabitants are unbelievers. Rather, it constitutes a third type [of domain], in which the Muslim shall be treated as he merits, and in which the one who departs from the Way/Law of Islam shall be combated as he merits."
I haven't seen the book, but if he has summarised this as "Muslims can kill Muslims" then Professor Y. Rapoport of Israel is engaging less in scholarship than in scholarly combat! As Professor Y. Michot writes in his book, Muslims Under Non-Muslim Rule, Oxford: Interface Publications, 2006:
"Crass howlers about Ibn Taymiyyah have long been in circulation – one might think as far back as the tittle-tattle about him hawked around by Ibn Battuta. Since 9/11, however, the situation has worsened. The most ignorant untruths are reproduced apace, not only in the media but even in supposedly serious studies." (p123)
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