A First Look at the LIFG Revisions

Posted: 14th September 2009 by Vahid Brown in Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Retractions

(Editor’s note: This piece is a sneak preview of our second guest blogger: Vahid Brown from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He will not start writing regularly until October, and I will present him more formally then, but he has already written this important piece, which for obvious reasons cannot wait.)

I have just looked at the first three installments of the LIFG Revisions posted to the internet, and though these initial releases amount to less than ten percent of the work, we can already see that this is a very sweeping repudiation not just of salafi jihadism but of all forms of revolutionary Islamism in general.

The text is remarkably broad in its scope, and strikes me as a 21st-century Sahwist renewal of the 1970s-era Muslim Brotherhood rejection of Qutbist Islamism. Indeed, the phrase in the last sentence of the excerpt below, about the authors being “preachers not judges,” refers to the famous 1977 Muslim Brotherhood tract of the same title (Hudaybi’s authorship is controversial) that repudiated Sayyid Qutb’s violent form of takfiri revolutionary politics.  Given the prominence of the group of people who have already publicly endorsed the Revisions – including Salman al-’Awda and Yusuf al-Qaradawi – the work promises to be quite consequential.

The first section includes a brief precis of the contents of the work, which I translate below. Much of this is somewhat allusive and often couched in the techinical terminology of Islamic jurisprudence, but I think the message comes through nonetheless:

“We have arranged this study in nine chapters, each with sections and sub-headings.  The first chapter is “The Covenant of Islam and how it is Established,” in which we discuss the qualities necessary for a person to establish their bond [covenant] with Islam and be endowed with the rights of a Muslim, and we point out certain errors in this regard and delineate their negative consequences.

The second chapter is “Knowledge and the Scholars,” (‘ilm wa’l-’ulama) in which we explicate the virtues of Shar’ia knowlege, the characteristics of its adherents, its importance, and the grave seriousness of issuing judgments without jurisprudential qualifications.  We mention that many of the calamities besetting the Muslims today have arisen on account of ignorance and the issuing of decisions, without jurisprudential qualifications, on matters of great importance, especially those having to do with blood and money.

The third chapter is “The Call to God,” which concerns that call (da’wa) which God has made a defining feature of this community (umma), and we discuss the objectives [of da'wa], its various types and areas of application, the need for it, and the obligations and characteristics of those that raise this call (du’at).

The fourth chapter is “Jihad,” in which we mention its virtue and position, and expound upon the ethical requirements, regulations and etiquette (adab) of jihad, mentioning the disastrous consequences of deviating from these regulations.  We discuss the history of the use of violence in political revolutions, the position of the scholars on this issue, as well as our own position on armed struggle, established on the basis of our personal experiences in this regard.

The fifth chapter is “Differences in Legal Opinions” (fiqh al-khilaf), in which we explain the various types [of acceptable multiplicity/contestation of legal views in Islamic jurisprudence], and define what is and is not permissible in this regard. We call attention to the deleterious effects on Muslim unity arising out of ignorance of the proper rules relating to divergence of legal opinion.

The sixth chapter is dedicated to “Religious Extremism” (ghuluw fi’l-din), in which we discuss its manifestations and causes, as well as its negative effects on the individual and the community (umma).

The seventh chapter is “The Beneficial and the Harmful,” (al-masalih wa’l-mafasid), in which we explain the importance of considering the consequences of actions, and the weighing of the beneficial and harmful in the scale of the purposes of sacred law; we conclude that neglect of this issue has been the cause of most of the errors in the Muslim community (al-umma al-islamiyya).

The eighth chapter is on “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong,” the basis of the community’s well-being. We discuss some of the errors committed under this rubric, which, despite the best of intentions, lead to evil results.

Finally, the ninth chapter is on “Passing Judgment on People,” in which we explain the grave seriousness of issuing decrees against people, and in particular the excommunication (takfir) of a Muslim. We discuss the regulations on passing judgment, the regulations on those qualified to pass such judgments, and we conclude that, indeed, we are preachers not judges, and that it is not ours to know the hearts of men, or to search their breasts, but rather to invite them unto righteousness.” (Kitab al-dirasat al-tashihiyya, part one).

  1. Hesperado says:

    The writer, Vahid Brown, writes:

    “…salafi jihadism but of all forms of revolutionary Islamism in general. The text is remarkably broad in its scope, and strikes me as a 21st-century Sahwist renewal of the 1970s-era Muslim Brotherhood rejection of Qutbist Islamism.”

    Wow, he’s sure giving the Istist terminological rhetoric a workout! Within those two brief introductory paragraphs, we have the following Istist terms:

    salafi jihadism (I’m surprised Brown didn’t go further and refer to “salafist jihadism”)

    revolutionary Islamism

    Sahwist renewal

    Qutbist Islamism.

    All these Ists of the Istist terminological rhetoric (and there are more, such as “extremist” and “fundamentalist” as well as other words without that particular suffix which nevertheless provide the same function, such as “militant”) strike me as ways to continue to avoid the Camel in the Room — Islam itself.

    The pressure of a logical question exerts itself: How many “transnational Jihadists” popping up in thousands of different places around the globe must Jihadica analysts notice and catalogue before they start wondering whether the implicit denial which their taxonomy assumes — the denial, that is, that Islam itself is the source of all these “Jihadists” and their “Jihadism” — is valid?

    And the Islam in that question refers to Islam holistically — Islam sociologically, Islam culturally, Islam theologically, Islam psychologically.

  2. Voldedork says:

    Herperado is an extremist. Herperado is human. Therefore, all humans are extremists.

    Logic fail.

  3. Hesperado says:

    Voldedork, where in my comment did I mention “all” Muslims?

  4. Hesperado says:

    On another note, I wonder if Vahid Brown and/or other Jihadica analysts are aware of a curious number of websites out there that have strings of apparently nonsensical prose that includes the name “vahid brown” along with “al qaeda”?

    If you go to this Google page, you will see one page with 10 results for such websites.

    Two additional curiosities about them:

    1) They are all websites whose search titles have something to do with websites selling footwear

    2) the text that appears in each of the search results on the Google page is nowhere to be found on the website after you click on the link to access it.

    Example text:

    “Unlisted- Hand Glide (Dark Brown)- Footwear 63. around mirror two person plays vahid brown al qaeda tweak south park carroll leftwich straughan temazepam …”

  5. Palestine and Israel; Middle East Scapegoats?

  6. [...] to pluck one example out of thousands, I noted a typical quote from Vahid Brown two years ago, in which he analyzes a communique from some jihadist website called [...]