Oman, the Land of No Jihad

Ekhlaas member al-Suhayl observes that JIhadis criticize Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and other Arab countries for collaborating with the United States, but they say nothing about Oman. Moreover, Oman has not been the object of Jihadi violence. This despite the fact that Oman allows the U.S. to use its military bases, has an office for Omani-Israeli relations, has a constitution that violates Sharia law, and has reformed its curriculum to conform with “Bushi-Blairi” Islam.

Abu al-Usud al-Saffak (The Blood-shedding Father of Lions) responds that Jihadis come from every country of the world except Oman. He’s at a loss to explain it.

Suhayl concurs, remarking: “One of the mujahids said: ‘There are two countries from which mujahids do not originate: Oman and Bahrain.'”

`Adhab al-Qabr (Torment of the Tomb) believes that the reason for Oman’s lack of Jihadi production is the Ibadi ideology that dominates religious matters. (This would be ironic given that Ibadism is a soft remnant of the revolutionary Kharijite Movement that roiled the early Islamic empire–a movement often compared to contemporary Jihadi-Salafism.) `Adhab’s solution is that the brothers need to start joining Omani forums and spreading Jihadi ideas.

Al-`Adiyyat (Antiquities) complains that he has already done so, but to little effect. Even the non-Ibadis in Oman are not interested because they are too taken with Sufism.

The absence of Jihadi foreign fighters from Oman and the dearth of Jihadi activity in Oman does need explanation. It has the right ingredients–authoritarian rule, no civil rights, a revolutionary and misanthropic ideology, and a U.S. presence–but no cake. Perhaps there needs to be more ingredients. Or perhaps the ingredients have to be mixed in specific portions (i.e. Oman lacks the right recipe). At the very least, the absence challenges the standard cultural or political explanations for Jihadi violence. Any takers?

Document (Arabic): 7-17-08-ekhlaas-why-no-jihad-in-oman

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6 Responses

  1. ibadism + the fact that life actually seems to be continually improving for the vast majority under the current sultan since 38 years, all-out dictator though he is? plus, the country is puny population-wise, so there wouldn’t be many jihadis even if the socioeconomics were sufficiently screwed-up.

  2. (having just left oman, i did see loads of khomeini paraphernalia in what must have been a shia bookshop in muscat, though… but otherwise, omanis seem to be a happily depoliticized lot.)

  3. Oman has never appeared to show any active role in the political scene in the Middle East.

    You almost never see an Omani person on a web forum. I have wondered why before, but as far as I know, I only been told tales of witchcraft in Oman when I was a child. As absurd and obscure those stories are, the Sultanate seem to have little known about it but those stories and about their tourist locations.

  4. Interesting – According to information provided by Alexa.com, 9.5% of users in Ekhlaas are accessing the website from Oman. Could this be because individuals outside the country are using proxy servers via Oman?

  5. Part of the answer, as allued above, has to do with Omani adherence (not total, but a majority of the country) to Ibadism. As the Ibadis came into existence, they articulated their identity over and against the militant Kharijites of Basra. The Ibadis early in their history rejected the notion of strict takfir. That is, they endorsed a difference between what they call “kufr al-ni’ma” and “kufr shirk”; between actions that constitute essentially sinfulness and actions that constitute disbelief. The implication – pace the Kharijites – is that simple kufr al-ni’ma does not automatically make one a non-Muslim, and thus, the prohibitions against killing Muslims applied. Ibadis also rejected the idea of hijra (which, just like it meant to the early Kharijite Azariqa and Najdat, in militant ideology can mean breaking from society at large in order to constitute a separate society of the righteous). In rejecting hijra, they argued that there can be no hijra after the original hijra of Muhammad. Additionally, they have highly developed legal concepts that deliniate an Ibadi’s relationship to non-Ibadi Muslims (these are the rules of wilaya and bara’a): the upshot of which is that non-Ibadis are treated as fellow monotheists with all the attendant rights of fellow monotheists, except when they engage in acts of tyranny and injustice. These same works often devote considerable attention to how an Ibadi should act in the face of injustice and tyranny. There are a dozen volumes of medieval legal works devoted to these subjects that I can think of right off the top of my head. Almost every single Omani legal work has a sizable section on them.
    Moreover, such discussions are not relegated to the medieval period. During the Ibadi renaissance of the last few centuries, Ibadi scholars (such as Ibrahim Atfayyish) articulated a vision of Ibadism that explicitly rejected any connection to the early Kharijites. Thus, when the current debate about Islamic militants emerged in the 70-90s, and when that debate began to compare the jihadis to the early Kharijites, Ibadis already had a long and respected tradition of dissociating themselves from Kharijite or anything resembling Kharijite practices. Thus, it is the weight of Ibadi tradition – a tradition that has been alive and vibrant for several centuries – that mitigates against militant behavior of the jihadi type.
    Nor do I believe that Oman’s isolation can explain the Omani reticence toward jihadism: the scholars of Oman are fully aware of what is going on outside of their borders.
    Now, when the Sultan dies, that will be a time to watch Oman. At that point, we might see an attempt to re-constitute the Imamate, which could involve fighting. But this violence will be politically driven, local, and aimed at re-establishing a quintessentially Omani-Ibadi institution: the Imama. It will not be a global jihad.

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