December 3, 2006
The Two Trees of Jihadism

I ran across a group of articles a little while ago that brought into focus some of the things my friends and I have been trying to talk about. I’ve taken some time to let these ideas develop, and I’ve had some discussions with other knowledgeable and very analytic people. Now I’ll try to encapsulate here what I think I’ve gotten from them, including much that has come from considerations and researches triggered by them.

One thing that is reinforced is that the jihadists’ ideology is not Islam, no matter how much they may claim to be the true Muslims and to speak for Islam. (I confess that I’ve been holding that as a hope as much as a belief; quite a number of others [including (ex-?)Muslims] have written quite persuasively that these doctrines are inherent in Islam.) One trigger was in a Mark Steyn column in which he said that

any religion that needs to do that (coerce “conversions”) is, by definition, a weak one. More than that, the fierce faith of the 8th century Muslim warrior has been mostly replaced by a lot of hastily cobbled-together flimflam bought wholesale from clapped out European totalitarian pathologies.
That told me I needed to do a bit more digging. I had thought that Islamic jihadism came from the thought of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a Sunni cleric whose 18th century reinterpretation said all post-8th century reinterpretations were invalid; al-Wahhab’s thought spawned the Salafist movement, including the Wahhabi and Deobandi sects. In digging, I learned that modern Salafi jihadism began with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 and of which Ayman al Zawahiri (Osama bin Laden's deputy) was a member. It was this organization that successfully grafted a totalitarian (extreme socialist) political ideology onto the Salafi belief structure. The Brotherhood then spawned Sayyid Qutb, who provided the Brotherhood’s jihadism with the more complete intellectual underpinnings that enabled it to spawn both al Qaeda and the Taliban. So the jihadism we see from the Salafis and Wahhabis today is a 20th century graft onto an 18th century reinterpretation which, by the jihadists’ own logic, it is not an authentic Islam.

Incidentally, this may provide at least a partial answer to the question as to why Arab (or Muslim) societies have been more susceptible than others to European fascist ideologies. They were more susceptible because significant segments of their populations had already accepted a similar/parallel totalitarian socialist ideology. It certainly also didn’t hurt that the translation of Mein Kampf is My Jihad.

That’s not to say jihad is a recent Islamic innovation. Clearly, it’s not. The term jihad has been used — in its current “holy war” sense — at least since the 12th century when Saladin (Salah-ad-Din) was obsessed with jihad and issued a “call to jihad” to take Jerusalem from the Crusaders. Thus, the term jihad has had the meaning the West understands for it at least since the 12th century, and apparently all the way back to the days when Mohammed led his wars of conquest. (It may also be of interest that a 1991 authoritative manual of Sunni Islamic law — ‘Umdat al-Salik, published in English in 1999 — continues to define this class of jihad as “war against non-Muslims”, and notes that the word jihad “is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion.”) The recent (20th century) innovation is the grafting of a political ideology onto the religious concept.

That leaves the problem of the Shi’ite jihadists, the other “major tree” of jihadism. Their motivation is different. Most Shi’ite jihadists are apparently members of the Hojjatieh sect, which is a Khomeinist group even though it was banned (forced underground) by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when it opposed his political agenda. The Hojjatieh (Hojjatiyya) Society was founded in Iran in the early 1950s (some references say in 1953) by Sheikh Mahmoud Tavallai, popularly known as Sheikh Halabi, an extremist Shi’ite cleric who founded the group to eradicate members of the Baha’i faith (an offshoot of Islam). This millennialist sect awaits the return of the twelfth imam (the 12th grandson of prophet Mohammed), the so-called “hidden” (Savior) Imam Mahdi who disappeared as a child in 941 AD. They believe he will return only when the world contains enough oppression, misery, tyranny, and sorrow to warrant his coming. As a result, they believe in spreading evil and creating chaos as their way to hasten his return. This is the sect to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (or Ahmadi-Nejad) belongs, along with Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iraq’s Moqtada al-Sadr.

The Hojjatieh sect went down the Salafis’ religion-to-politics path much more quickly than did the Salafis. It was banned (forced to disband) in 1983 because it opposed religious involvement in political affairs and wouldn’t go along with Ayatollah Khomeini’s “rule of the supreme jurisconsult (Vilayat-i Faqih)”. Now, however, they support the Khomeinist state — and have a shot at making their leader (Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi) the annointed successor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As has been said before “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So now the Hojjatieh approach absolute corruption in Iran, and do their best to spread as much evil as possible throughout the world.

All of which supports Steyn’s assertion (quoted above) that

the fierce faith of the 8th century Muslim warrior has been mostly replaced by a lot of hastily cobbled-together flimflam bought wholesale from clapped out European totalitarian pathologies.
Columnist David Warren also says that the problem is the perverters of Islam, not Islam itself. He says
If I were a Muslim, with the inheritance of Islamic tradition behind me, I’d be deeply ashamed of the babbling idiots who claimed to speak for me. I would be very loud in contradicting them. Their ideology is tied to Islam, and constructed largely with an Islamic vocabulary and rough grammar, but hardly with an Islamic syntax. By this I mean, that it is inconceivable that anything resembling the “blovulations” of the Salafists, and Shia revolutionists of Iran, could emerge from a purely Islamic course of reasoning. There are too many extraneous elements. In the use of Islamic terms, there is too much slapstick and self-parody.
. . .
But it is certainly true that Muslim authorities, in most preceding centuries, offered a view of God and man’s duties and destiny, that was a whole lot more impressive than the current lot offers. Islam has long been the West’s rival. But we could never have wished our rival to be idiotized to such a degree.

Thus, my digging seems to have produced confirmation that the modern jihadi ideology is not Islam, and not really Islamic, but is the ideology of those who would use and pervert Islam for their own evil purposes.

With that, my encapsulation is complete. But that leaves some questions for consideration. The general one to begin with is, what do we (Muslims and non-Muslims) do about it? How do the Muslims show the problem is the perverters of Islam rather than Islam itself? How do they act to take back their good name from the evildoers claiming to be acting in that name? And what do we do to protect ourselves from these sons of dog crap — and help turn Islam back to the real Muslims?

Does anyone have any thoughts? (e-mail the weblog webmaster — gdcritter "at" msn "dot" com)

Category: Jihad / War On Terror

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