Friday, September 16, 2005



Al Qaeda, may be considered the generic name for all those movements that have in common what we call the Takfiri ideology. We have to explain this term to our friends. Kufr in the Arabic language means disbelief, atheism, or blasphemy. Kafir is the adjective which means somebody who is an infidel, atheist or heathen. Takfir is to attribute this adjective to someone, i.e. castigate people and excommunicate them as Kafirs. This ideology is not a new one, and neither is it exclusive to the Islamic religion. Unfortunately the idea seems to be implicit in the literalist understanding of all religions, especially those of Semitic origin. I do not intend to embark on a historical survey to illustrate this point; suffice it to say that Dante's Inferno and Purgatorio in his Divine Comedy had a place for everyone who was not of the strictest Catholic persuasion, according to the code and precepts of the era. Many scholars, particularly in the Arab world, believe that Dante's masterpiece must have had its original inspiration somehow from the much earlier Islamic story of "Israa and Miirage", i.e. the miraculous ascent by the prophet (PBU) to the seven heavens during his life time, and also the later "Risalat Al Ghufran" (Message of Forgiveness) by the great medieval Arab poet Abu Al- Alaa Al Maari, best remembered for his pessimism and bitterness against life and the human condition. It is established historically that Arabic language and culture were not unknown in the early days of the European Renaissance, especially in Italy. And I suppose this idea of exclusivity is to be found originally in the Jewish tradition of the chosen people; the favored nation, which by the way is acknowledged and celebrated in the Islamic tradition and the Koran as well, where numerous references to the children of Israel can be found. Well, all this is a digression from our subject which I could not resist.

What I wanted to say is that the present day Takfiri movement has historical roots that go very far back in time. Indeed the Khawarij movement which appeared in the first century of the Moslem calendar (i.e. the seventh century A.D.), bears a great resemblance to the modern Al-Qaeda and the other Takfiri groups. The Khawarij also went about committing the most terrible atrocities against foes and innocent folks alike, particularly Moslems, on the basis that these were apostates and Kafirs, citing certain verses and phrases from the Koran as justification. For instance, they would kill and disembowel pregnant Moslem women, based on a verse in the Koran, in which the prophet Noah (of the Arc), asks the Lord to exterminate all the Kafirs, because if they are left on earth they would only beget wicked Kafirs like them (Sura of Noah ). The Khawarij were also quite fanatical and suicidal and fought all their battles to the death. Many of these battles took place during the rule of Imam Ali (PBU), in whose camp, ironically, most of them belonged originally. The Imam (who is the most revered figure by the Shiaa, after the prophet), went to extreme lengths in trying to dissuade and pacify these groups, but to no avail. He was forced to wage very bloody wars against them, which usually ended in completely annihilating all their numbers in battle, since they never surrendered or laid down arms. Despite that, one of their number succeeded in assassinating the Imam while he was praying in the Kufa Mosque in present day Iraq.

Thus those who believe that the present day Takfiri movement is just the outcome of contemporary factors, such as poverty, the political struggle against western policies, nationalism etc. etc., will never arrive at a proper understanding if they do not appreciate the profound complexities of the historical background. Thus I would call these movements and groups the Neo-Khawarij. The renaissance of this Neo-Khawarij in the modern era can certainly be traced to the rise of Wahabism in the 18th century in the Arabian Peninsula, i.e. the present day Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. This movement started as an extreme stern puritanical doctrine directed mostly against Shirk, which means worshiping other deities besides Allah. But basically it was directed mainly against the Shiaa and Mystic sects who abounded everywhere in the Moslem world then. The Wahabis committed many atrocities particularly against the Iraqi Shiaa, when hordes used to raid Najaf and other Shiaa holy cities frequently and murder thousands of pilgrims and residents, and that was long before any western powers appeared in the region. The Al-Saud family had a very special relationship with this movement. They used them originally to gain power and ascendancy in the Arabian Peninsula, but when they were firmly in power, they often collided with them and suppressed them quite violently. Today Saudi Arabia and many of the Gulf States are officially of the Wahabi sect, but it must be said that it would be inaccurate to consider them as Takfirists and terrorists. It can only be said that the modern terrorist Takfiri movement is a fringe movement originating from this Wahabi background, and that most of its adherents originate from this milieu, or are converts to this way of thinking from other Moslem sects almost invariably Sunni. but note that Wahabism is not properly a Sunni Sect, but is certainly more tolerant of Sunnis than of other Moslem sects, although regarding the four established Sunni schools with some disdain and disapproval.

Well I just wanted to fill in some background information to help my western friends understand better the nature of the enemy we are facing.


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