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Opinion/Editorial: Extremism in Islam Part 1; The Roots of Modern-Day Terrorism


Extremism in Islam is a growing threat to the entire world. This extremism in Islam has given birth to groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria; Al-Qaeda; Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia; al-Shabab in Tunisia, ISIS, and other extremist groups. These groups not only target non-Muslims for violence, but Muslims as well who do not believe the same as them.

These groups follow what is known as the Khawarij or Khajarite ideology. This ideology has been around since the time of the death of the Prophet Muhammad and have been responsible for the slaughter of Muslims since this time.

The second article of this series will explain who the Khawarij are.


In order to be radicalized there needs to be a source of the radicalization. There are two scholars whose writings are very influential in shaping the ideologies of the Islamist extremists: Shaykh Taqi ad-Din ibn-Taymiyyah and Shaykh Muhhamad ibn-Abdul Wahhab. These two historical figures shaped the ideologies of Sayyed Qutb, the founder of Islamic Brotherhood, whose books in turn influenced every modern day Khawarij movement including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden, the founders of Al-Qaeda.

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyya (CE 1263-1328) was alive in the area of Turkey during the time of the Mongolian invasions. He lived under the auspices of a foreign ruler which caused him to want to get back to what he considered the roots of Islam, the Qur’an and Sunnah. He was a Hanbali jurist and was very influential in the ideologies of future Muslims especially the followers of Abdul-Wahhab, Sayyud Qutb, Zawahiri and Bin Laden, as well as the various sects of Salafism and Wahhabism.

Ibn Taymiyya, due to being under the rule of the Mongols, was a big proponent of his brand of Jihad. Taymiyya said that it is impermissible to live under the tyrannical rule of Kafirs. He felt that Jihad was obligatory and had to be fought by every capable Muslim. He said, “The best of the forms of voluntary service man can devote to God. The Uluma (scholars) of the Khawarij agree in proclaiming it superior to the Hajj (pilgrimage) and to the Umra (lesser pilgrimage), as well as to prayer and supererogatory fasts, as is shown in the Book and in the Sunna.” In doing this Ibn Taymiyya gives modern day Islamist extremists’ intellectual justification for performing their version of Jihad.

A quote taken from Shaykh inb-Taymiyyah by Zawahiri to justify his ideology is:

It is this type of reasoning that Qutb and Zawahiri use to call Democracy shirk (associating partners with Allah SWT). They believe that by associating partners by Allah SWT by having a government that is not sharia law that they are either kafirs and did not believe in Allah SWT in the first place or become kafirs by taking themselves out of their religion.

Shaykh Ibn Wahhab came at the end of the 18th century at a time when the Ottomans were struggling both financially and militarily. The Ottomans at the time had control over the two holy sites, Mecca and Medina. Wahhab made an alliance with the current Saud family which was the catalyst that put them into power. His strict interpretation of Islam based on the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah has been the catalyst and the rallying cry for Islamists worldwide. Ibn Wahhab felt that people should not follow the scholars of the day and that they should learn on their own.

Ibn Wahhab prescribed jihad against the Mushrik (atheists) and had many of the scholars and people from the house (the descendents) of the Prophet Muhammed PBUH murdered, even when he promised them protection.

This is in conflict with the traditional Islamic teachings of the Malaki School of thought in the Sunni Sect. The dangers of learning the religion of Islam on one’s own is very dangerous according to the Malaki scholars. They say that one of the dangers is that the person learning on their own become arrogant and attack other Muslims. Another danger is that the person learning on their own cannot have the wisdom to decipher what the Qur’an means due to the hyperbolic nature of the classical Arabic.

One letter, such as the letter ein, has at least seventeen different meanings.

Also one must have an isnad, which is a chain of narration to the prophet Muhammad PBUH, saying such and such person learned from such and such person, who learned from such and such person, even saying where they learned the hadeeth at all the way back to the prophet.  The Isnad will be listed on an Ijazat or a diploma giving the holder permission to teach that Islamic subject.

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was an Egyptian who was educated in the United States. He felt that American women in the 40’s and 50’s were way too promiscuous. He started an organization called the Islamic Brotherhood, which is the grandfather of all of the modern radical Islamic movements. He was heavily influenced by Abdul-Wahhab and Shaykh Ibn-Taymiyyah. When he was in the United States he experienced racism which led to his militancy.

He was executed for plotting against the Egyptian government and he hated Democracy. He considered Democracy a form of shirk and went against tawheed. He wrote two books, In the Shade of the Qur’an and Milestones Along the Way.  Even though these books have been refuted by the top Islamic scholars, extremists use these books as justification for their brutality.

Sayyid Qutb can be seen as the mastermind of the modern era of these different radical Islamist groups. He espoused jihad against the West and Non-Muslims, and even though he was not a scholar and did not have ijazah (certificate which gives permission to teach Islam), and yet people followed and listened to Qutb’s rhetoric. Qutb, who lived in Greeley, CO, a place where alcohol was illegal at the time he lived there, said this about American women:

“The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs – and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

Qutb then went on to say that the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia were like the Jahaliya (Term meaning ignorant which is used for the pre-Islamic Arabs) and that these two governments needed to be overturned and replaced with a true Islamic government based on what he called the authentic Qur’an and Sunnah. Qutb had four ideas about ignorance and Jihad. He says that only Allah SWT has the right to make laws.

Called democracy a false religion, believing that only shariah can rule the land if it’s an Islamic land, and referred to anyone disagreeing with him as jahaliya. Qutb’s teachings went on to inspire many future Islamists, but none who has had a bigger impact on today’s worldwide affairs then Ayman al-Zawahiri, co-founder of al-Qaeda and mentor to the world’s most famous terrorist and Islamist, Osama Bin Laden.

Al-Qaeda (The Base) is now the model organization that many Islamist groups copy and emulate around the world. Al-Qaeda was created by Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri as an organization they claim is devoted to the protection of Islam worldwide and to rid the world of “Zionist Crusaders who are in the Holy Land.” They claim that Israel and the West want to wipe out Islam and also to make the Muslim woman undress.

Al-Qaeda is the organization behind the attacks on America’s Twin Towers in NYC on September 11, 2001, and also behind many other terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda believes it is their duty to rid the world of democracy and calls for the death of any American as well as any Muslim who believes in Democracy. Bin Laden gave the order to his followers, “Kill Americans wherever you find them.”

Al-Qaeda likes to use the takfiri method of saying they have the authority of kicking people out of the religion for not agreeing with them. The word takfiri comes from the root takfir which means to kick out. Bin Laded is famous for using this tactic. The top Saudi scholars even before 9/11 was telling Saudi citizens not to listen to Bin Laden because he was a danger and was not educated in the religion. He was only a construction worker and does not have ijaza to teach about Islam.

Before Bin Laden was the number-one most-wanted terrorist in the world, he was known for being a womanizer who frequented brothels and wasted the money his father sent him for his education on prostitutes, alcohol, and other deviant activities.

Bin Laden never started being religious until he helped fund the Afghani mujahedeen (holy warriors) in their jihad against the Soviet Union. It was this experience that went to his head and the power of war seduced him. When he started making connections with Mullah Omar and found that he could be in a position of power this went to his head. He was later introduced to Zawahiri and Zawahiri convinced him to use his money for the undertaking of kicking the United States out of Saudi Arabia.

A tactic used by al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Khawarij groups to get Iraqis to fight for them is the fear of the Iraqi person’s family being slaughtered for that individual not complying to the Khawarij’s terroristic demands. The individual is not nearly as concerned for his own life as he is for his family. Arabs have very strong family ties and strong family values, so this is a method commonly used to force people into terrorism.

Zawahiri has also called any Muslim who believes in Democracy an apostate-infidel. He says in his writings the Muslim who believes in democracy, “Is like the one who says about himself, I am a ‘Jewish-Muslim or I am a Christian-Muslim’ the one worse than the other, he is an apostate infidel, and his blood can be spilled.” Zawahiri has also made it permissible to have collateral damage and to destroy buildings, kill unarmed men, the elderly, women, children, animals, all while waging jihad when Allah SWT forbids this in the Qur’an.

Another source of extremism that must be discussed is the United States own part in the creation of the extremist movement. In 1968, the United States was making strategies to oust the Soviets out of Afghanistan, they had the CIA work with the University of Nebraska in order to make educational material to be given to elementary aged school children to radicalize them to want to fight against a common foe, communism. Some of the questions asked were, “If a Mujahdeen sees 400 Soviet Kafirs, and kills 120 of them, how many Soviet kafirs will run? If an AK-47 bullet travels at 400 meters per second and a Soviet kafir is 1,200 meters away, how many seconds will it take to kill the kafir?”

This program, which is not commonly known, was called Operation Mosquito in order to give the Russian Bear malaria.

Knowing and understanding the roots of extremism is crucial in order to know what is behind their ideology and how to combat it. The best way to combat it is through teaching the correct knowledge of Islam. Also jobs and opportunities are needed, building the economies of these regions as well as people not having a lot of time on their hands is crucial to combat terrorism

The next article in this series will about the Khawarij, who and what are they, as well as Islam’s position on them.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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