Al Qaeda History

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.

Takfiri are those who carry out the excommunication of the Takfir, often using violent methods under the guise of Jihad (Holy War). Takfiris believe that true Muslims must depose, or excommunicate unnatural or false rulers and can do so only through active struggle. Takfiris take their beliefs out of the realm of contemplation and into the realm of action. Takfiri cells are trained to blend into Western societies, which they view as “kufar” (atheist, corrupt, or infidel) in order to plot terrorist attacks against those “corrupt” societies. Members of Takfiri cells may live together, not pray or attend Mosque, partake in alcohol and narcotics, and dress to assimilate and integrate into the communities they live, in an attempt to avoid suspicion and/or detection—Most of the 9/11 terrorists were Takfiri.

Al Qaeda may be considered the generic name for all those movements that have in common what is called the Takfiri ideology.

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 Shia, 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.

The above text was downloaded and adapted from to preserve it.

Kufr – Kafir – Takfir – Takfiri, Perspectives on World History and Current Events

By Trevor Stanley  

KufrUnbelief (in Islam) – literally, ingratitude.
kafirAn infidel (non-Muslim).
takfirExcommunication; declaring a person or group of people non-Muslim.
In mainstream Sunni Islam, it is considered wrong to engage in takfir. Sunni Islam has a general reluctance to spread fitna (sow dissension) or ‘backbite’. Furthermore, to declare takfir is to pre-empt Allah’s judgement. The Muslim who considers another’s actions to be wrong may say so, but will stop far short of declaring that person an apostate from the faith. Similarly, there is a reluctance to resist a leader who prays and does not restrict the observance of the faith.
Even qualified mainstream religious scholars are reluctant to declare takfir except in particularly egregious cases.
Some radical groups have broken this taboo.
TakfiriThose who excommunicate, or ‘declare kufr‘, mainstream Muslim individuals, societies and leaders.
Although nominally Sunni, takfiris reject major aspects of mainstream Sunni religion. They are also apt to reject components of society, culture and law in Muslim countries, which they consider to have slipped back into a pre-Islamic state of pagan ignorance (jahiliyya). Unsurprisingly, takfiris often support militancy against their regimes.
ExamplesThe radical medieval Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah established a precedent for the declaration of takfir against a leader. The Mongols were invading the Muslim lands, and the Mamluks were fighting a Jihad against them. This campaign faced a crisis of legitimacy when the Mongols converted to Islam but continued to attack. Ibn Taymiyyah said that the Mongols’ enforcement of the Yasa law in place of Islamic Shariah reversed their conversion, rendering the Mongols apostate. Therefore it was not only permitted, but obligatory to wage war against them. The political leadership acted upon this fatwa, establishing a valuable precedent for Islamic radicals.
The 18th Century Islamic Revivalist Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab referred back to Ibn Taymiyyah in constructing an interpretation of Islam that allowed him to fight his fellow Muslims. He condemned many mainstream Muslim traditions (such as Sufism) as bid’a (innovation of the religion) and his followers slew many Muslims for allegedly kufr practises.
However, as a classification, takfiri more usually refers to certain splinter groups that broke away from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.11 For more on the Muslim Brotherhood, see our biography of its founder, Hassan al-Banna
Following the writings of Maulana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb, groups of ‘takfiri’ Salafis have disengaged themselves from the surrounding society and planned insurrections. The first such group, Takfir wal-Hijra (TwH, Excommunication and Holy Flight/Emigration), was founded by Shukri Mustafa in 1971. The group’s strategy was to isolate itself from the general society while building strength for a planned uprising. The plan was unsuccessful, but later Qutbist movements have been inspired by Mustafa’s example. In particular, the most important intellectual figure in al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is believed to have been a member of TwH.
There are occasional news reports about takfiris, or about TwH. These are often confused, claiming for example that the group recently arose in Northern Africa. Although there are certainly takfiri radicals in countries such as Morocco and Algeria, TwH was founded in Egypt over thirty years ago.
One common theme emerges in contemporary reports on TwH, or the ‘takfiri’ ideology. That is that the takfiris privately adhere to austere Islamic beliefs, but are willing to engage in unislamic practises in order to infiltrate kufr society. This particular approach has certainly been adopted by al-Qaeda, and it is a legacy of Abdus-Salam Faraj’s challenge to Mustafa’s ideology. Qutb had preached that the nascent Islamic jama’ah needed to set itself apart from society, but he vaguely stated that some contact should be maintained. Mustafa taught a radical separation from kufr but his followers also travelled to oil-rich states such as Saudi Arabia as guest workers, to bring money back to the group. After TwH had been broken up, Faraj declared that the TwH’s isolation during a ‘period of weakness’ was merely a cowardly attempt to shirk the duty of jihad. His group, al-Jihad, delayed terrorist attacks only for long enough to infiltrate the apparatus of state. However, this model also failed because it did not for training and developing the strength of the organisation.
Al-Qaeda, and associated groups, have synthesised these competing models. The resultant ideology holds that in the absence of an Islamic state, the vulnerable Muslim community must find a geographical location for hijra (Emigration/Flight from kufr) – such as Afghan training camps. However, the new model avoids a prolonged period of inactivity by alternating periods of hijra with periods of coexistence and infiltration with the outside world. This is in fact a brilliant ideological synthesis that turned the intellectually clumsy cult of TwH and the bloodthirsty bravado of al-Jihad into a sophisticated and workable revolutionary system.
Although the al-Jihad organisation was an ideological antithesis of TwH, it is known that many TwH members joined al-Jihad (possibly including Zawahiri). It is possible that the organisation continued in a shell form, adapting to these ideological changes in direction, or that it continued as a moribund organisation until al-Qaeda operatives took it over (as Rohan Gunaratna seems to suggest).22Rohan Gunaratna, Inside al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, p114.
While the history of the group Takfir wal Hijra are likely to remain murky, we can make some observations about takfiri radicalism, as practised by al-Qaeda and its fellow travellers. As the heirs to a bizaare 1960s and 1970s cult that condemned mainstream Muslim society to apostasy, they bear about as much relation to the Muslim world as the Charles Manson cult bore to the Western world. They are willing to break traditional Muslim prohibitions in order to infiltrate Muslim and Western societies alike. In short, they will be extremely difficult to combat, both for the West and the East.

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