In the Tabri’a (Exoneration), released a few months ago, Zawahiri mentions several clerics he admires and who continue to support al-Qaeda. One of them is an Egyptian named Abu `Amr `Abd al-Hakim Hassan, whom he describes this way:
He has a long history in hijra, ribat, and jihad. He was arrested and tortured in Egypt, which he endured patiently. He graduated from the College of Commerce and then from al-Azhar’s College of Theology. His scholarly and scientific efforts are copious. Among the works he produced were the books Elucidation of the Importance of Issues Surrounding Unbelief and Faith (التبيان في أهم مسائل الكفر والإيمان) in three parts, Jihad in the Path of God: Etiquette and Rules (الجهاد في سبيل الله- آداب وأحكام) in two parts, and Guiding the Mujhadis to the Commission of the Trustworthy Prophet (هداية المجاهدين إلى وصية النبي الأمين), which is a book explaining the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) commission to listen and obey those in authority. He emigrated to Afghanistan two times–the first during the jihad against the Russians, the second during the time of the Islamic Emirate [the Taliban]. He was the supervisor of the journal Signposts of Jihad (معالم الجهاد), which was a quarterly scholarly journal that used to be published by the al-Jihad group. He established the The Salah al-Din Center for Proselytizing ( مركز صلاح الدين للدعوة), and taught lessons, which were not suspended (even) along the frontiers and battlefronts. When America launched its Crusader invasion on Afghanistan, he lined up with the mujahids, educating them, issuing them fatwas, and adjudicating between them. The shaykh has a website on the Internet that contains his valuable publications and fatwas. We beseech God to bless his righteous work, his health, and his life and to provide for us, for him, and for (all) Muslims constancy upon the truth and a good end.
Hassan’s website–kanzhassan.net–was working when when Zawahiri’s book first came out, but it is now defunct. I’ve attached archived copies of earlier versions.
Tawhed.ws, the main library of learned Jihadi-Salafism, carries a number of Hassan’s works and also has a bio. According to the site, Hassan was born in 1959 or 1960 (1379 AH) and adopted the Salafi creed in the seventies. He first studied with several shaykhs, including Azhari professors. He “participated” with the brothers in Egypt in their jihad against Sadat and was imprisoned in 1980 following Sadat’s assassination. After Hassan was released from prison, he formally studied at al-Azhar. Afterwards, he studied management at the College of Commerce. Hassan then traveled to the Arabian Peninsula and Yemen, where he studied with a number of scholars. But eventually he had to leave the Peninsula because he was not able to stay (doesn’t say why). Hassan decided to go to Afghanistan to participate in the jihad there in 1985 or 1986. While there, he published a lot on issues associated with jihad, particularly on issues associated with faith and unbelief. He also rubbed shoulders with `Abd Allah `Azzam and Sayyid Imam (aka Dr. Fadl or `Abd al-Qadir b. `Abd al-`Aziz). In 1992 or 1993 Hassan went to Yemen to teach in religious schools after fighting broke out among the mujahids in Afghanistan. After traveling to several countries, he returned to Afghanistan in 1995 or 1996 when the Taliban came to power. When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan after 9/11, Hassan fled with the mujahids to the mountains of Afghanistan, where he remains today.
So, who is `Abd al-Hakim Hassan? According to journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, he is none other than Shaykh `Isa (or Sheikh Essa), who is supposed to be a high-level member of al-Qaeda and one of its main links to the Pakistani tribal insurgents. Shahzad claims that `Isa has been instrumental in pushing takfirism in the tribal regions of Pakistan. He also claims that `Isa was nearly killed by a U.S. Predator drone a day after Bhutto’s assassination, but managed to survive.
If Shahzad is right, a brief study of some of Hassan/`Isa’s writings online might shed some light on recent ideological trends in the FATA and al-Qaeda’s intent in the region. One work, on the near enemy/far enemy question, looks particularly interesting. I’ll post more in a few days once I’ve had a chance to look at it in detail.
Document (Arabic): 6-1-2008-tawhed-bio-and-works-of-abd-al-hakim-hassan
Document (Arabic): 11-9-06-kanzhassan-dot-com
Document (Arabic): 8-9-2007-kanzhassan-dot-net