Umayma al-Zawahiri on Women’s Role in Jihad

In December 2009, al-Sahab released a missive entitled “Letter to My Muslim Sisters” (risala ila al-akhawat al-muslimat) by Umayma al-Zawahiri – Ayman al-Zawahiri’s wife. The letter is addressed to three categories of Muslim women: (1)    To the female jihadis (murabitat and mujahidat – I shall return to these terms later) in the Islamic umma. She believes that like her, these women have sacrificed their all; and despite their loss of loved ones and separation from family, their situation is one of grace, for they are ‘content with the honors God has bestowed upon us; He elected us from among all his servants by blessing us with [being part of] jihad in His path to make His religion triumphant and make His word supreme.’ Umayma al-Zawahiri urges these female jihadis to remain steadfast on that same jihadi path, for ‘victory is near’. God, she assures them, is not about to forsake

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The Forgotten Recantation

‘Abbud al-Zumar, one-time military intelligence colonel in the Egyptian army who was implicated in the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat, has recently released a co-authored document with his cousin and brother-in-law Tariq from prison. The document, al-Badil al-Thalith bayna al-Istibdad wa-al-Istislam (The Third Alternative between Despotism and Surrender) was published by the Egyptian newspaper al-Shuruq in late August and early September 2009 (the document was also published in al-Masriyyun and can also be found on the discussion forum of the Egyptian Islamic Group website – click here for a collated PDF printout). The text has received surprisingly little media coverage so far. This is curious, not least considering the importance of ‘Abbud al-Zumar to the legacy of the Egyptian al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group). According to Muntasir al-Zayyat (one-time activist in al-Jama‘a and now a lawyer who specializes in defending Islamist activists – see his website), ‘Abbud was the military strategist of

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Qaradawi on Jihad (3 of 3)

Read part 1 and part 2 What does Youssef al-Qaradawi say about Jihad as an individual duty (fard ‘ayn), i.e., the kind of jihad that allows all Muslims, including women and minors, to take up jihad without seeking anyone’s permission? This aspect is of particular interest for those of us interested in jihadi ideology. Jihadi ideologues believe that the classical defensive legal doctrine of jihad, i.e., jihad as an individual duty, applies today. In their minds, Muslims are being oppressed not just by ‘unbelievers’ but also by their own ‘apostate’ Muslim rulers. It is the Muslims’ duty (and right), they hold, to defend themselves against both. That jihad today is an individual duty was pioneered by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj in his book al-Farida al-Gha’iba (The Neglected Duty [of Jihad]), it was later developed into a transnational agenda by ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam to mobilize Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and eventually

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Qaradawi on Jihad (2 of 3)

Read part 1 What does Youssef al-Qaradawi say about waging war against non-Muslims at least once a year as part of fard kifaya, a task some classical jurists believed was incumbent upon the ruler? Al-Qaradawi does not believe that the classical jurists reached a consensus on this matter. Instead, he believes that their opinions were dictated by the circumstances of their time, namely ‘the relationship between the Islamic state and its neighbors that were constantly threatening it, especially Byzantium.’ Muslims then had to ‘engage in skirmishes along their borders every once and a while, to ensure the security of their borders and assert their presence.’ This, he believes is akin to ‘what scholars today call “preemptive war”, which they consider to be justifiable and lawful.’ (issue 7) Preemptive war is more controversial in international law than al-Qaradawi implies. Some Israeli and US military strategists though might agree with al-Qaradawi that

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Qaradawi on Jihad (1 of 3)

(Editor’s note: I have the pleasure of introducing Nelly Lahoud, a political theorist working on Islamism. She has published several books and has a new one on jihadi ideology coming out next year. Nelly is on my wish list for guest bloggers, but she has not yet been able to join us for a more extended period of time. She has nevertheless taken the time to write the following piece for us. To my knowledge Nelly is the first scholar to have looked closely at the substance of Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s new book on Jihad). Youssef al-Qaradawi’s recent book Fiqh al-Jihad (Jurisprudential Reasoning and Jihad), excerpts of which are available here, has received considerable attention in the Arabic press and for good reason.  Al-Qaradawi commands significant influence among Sunni Muslims in the Arab world and beyond, not least because he reaches a wider audience through his television shows on al-Jazeera (“Huda

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