International Jihadism: Jihad Will Continue
By: Mohammad Moheq
The term “Al-Jihad Al-Alami” refers to International Jihadism, a movement initiated by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam in Peshawar in the last century. They were influenced by Sayyid Qutb and the al-Ikhwān al-Muslimūn (Muslim Brotherhood) and chose political Islam as their path. Zawahiri eventually left the Muslim Brotherhood, while bin Laden distanced himself from the path under his influence. Azzam, however, remained a member of the community and added new concepts to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. In addition, the three had a tendency towards Salafi ideology, so they worked to combine the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists to create Salafi jihadism, which later developed into International jihadism. This was rooted in three literary schools of thought: The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi, and jihadism derived from Sayyid Qutb’s literary. Ironically, the project of Islamic fundamentalism was chosen by the United States and its allied governments as a tool to support the West in the Cold War. However, after completing their mission, all three were killed by the same people who had chosen them for the game. Azzam was killed by a mine explosion, bin Laden was shot by American soldiers, and Zawahiri was killed by a missile.
Zawahiri played a major part in promoting international jihadism. Despite not being as educated as Azam or as charismatic as bin Laden, he was adept at organizing clandestine activities and anti-security measures. This enabled him to overcome the difficult situation he was in, particularly due to the murder of Anwar Sadat (which resulted in him being imprisoned). Consequently, he became the leader of the Al Qaeda group and laid the groundwork for international jihadism. Zawahiri broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood organization in his youth. Years later, he compared and contrasted the two ideologies (his and the Muslim Brotherhood organization) in a book, titled Sixty Years of Failed Efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood. Like other fundamentalists, Zawahiri agreed with the Muslim Brotherhood’s grand strategy, which would ultimately lead to the establishment of the caliphate system. However, he disagreed with its tactics.
In his letter to bin Laden about the Taliban, Zawahiri argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is more interested in politics and gaining power than religion, and that their chosen path and actions are not in line with Islamic values. He expressed his concerns about traitors, spies, and hypocrites (the Taliban) who may agree to sign a peace deal with America in order to gain power, disregarding the sacrifices of thousands of fighters. He then urged Al Qaeda to prepare a strategy for such a situation.
The conflict between Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood is not only about prioritizing politics and power, but also about the strategy of jihadism. The Muslim Brotherhood has always encouraged jihad in the form of armed war, and this concept was further developed by Hassan al Banna, Abul A’la al Maududi, and Sayyid Qutb in their treatises, which were later compiled into the book Maʿālim fī aṭ Ṭarīq (Landmarks On the Way). This book became the classic manifesto of jihadists, and was adopted by Islamic political groups such as Pakistan’s Jama’at-e-Islami and some Afghan Mujahedeen. This treatise was an implication of the West’s goal to fight against communism in Islamic countries, and it reinterpreted the definition of jihad during the Islamic golden age, which was associated with inner growth and spiritual development, rather than war. As a result, jihad was redefined as a war against infidels and Muslims, if necessary.
The Sunnah community of Islam holds that there are five pillars of the faith, excluding jihad. These five pillars are divided into one ideological pillar and four devotional pillars. However, international jihadism does not accept this view. Instead, it is based on the ideology of Ibn Taymiyyah, who argued that jihad is the sixth pillar of Islam, and that the other five pillars depend on it. International jihadism believes that the only way to re-establish a caliphate similar to the one in the medieval age is to bring all Muslims worldwide under one roof, which cannot be achieved in one or two generations. Therefore, many generations must work together towards this goal, and jihad should be spread among elites, scouts, and the general public. This is also mentioned in Zawahiri’s letter, and further details can be found in Abdullah Azzam’s book.
The Muslim Brotherhood believes that jihad is important, and they focus on recruiting, training, networking, and infiltrating civil society under the guise of charity and humanitarian work, educational institutions, and even politics. They believe that if these steps are taken carefully, they can gain power without resorting to war. Khairat el-Shater, the deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the presidency of Morsi, warned the Egyptian army that they would use their strategic force to turn Egypt into hell. However, when they attempted to do this, only ten thousand people out of the hundred million population of Egypt showed up, and the Egyptian army was able to stop them.
International jihadism views the Brotherhood’s theory as simplistic and its experience as unsuccessful, believing that power cannot be achieved through peaceful means because modern Muslims are not like those in the early Islamic era and do not prioritize religious values like jihadists. Instead, they are secularists and will not support the jihadists when they need it. This approach only leads to imprisonment and defeat, as the Brotherhood has experienced multiple times. Therefore, Zawahiri suggests that instead of focusing on political activities, charity organizations, and other covert operations, these groups should focus on jihad and teach Muslims that they have a duty to their religion and must join the jihad.
Jihad is both a tactic and a strategy, as evidenced by the international movement of jihadism. As a tactic, it creates a sense of urgency and presents Muslims with a difficult choice, while also instilling fear in the enemy and preventing open opposition. As a strategy, jihad is not limited to one region or period in history, and its effects can be seen in many countries, leading to a direct conflict with Israel and the West and the eventual fall of Israel. This would result in all Islamic countries uniting and engaging in an international jihad against the world’s superpowers, leading to a global conquest.
When required, the Muslim Brotherhood agrees with Al Qaeda in non-Muslim countries and in countries at war with western civilization. Hassan al Banna has emphasized this. However, there is a dispute about which way will lead to the goal sooner. Sayyid Qutb believed that people’s struggles and commitment to jihad are a university and there is no need for long-term schooling. Zawahiri blames and criticizes the Brotherhood for this, insisting that a century of recruitment and education has not achieved any result and they are still in the same place as they were a century ago. He also implies that with their entrance into politics and society, several leaders play political games differently, which is reflected in their presence in different countries. These leaders become secular, collect money, fall for desires and luxury, and marriages, and eventually commit financial corruption.
From an international jihadism perspective, jihad is a school that educates and develops the character of Muslims to help them reach an Islamic caliphate. It also sets a mission for future generations to continue jihad until they conquer the world. Regarding the Taliban, it has been noted that while some members may not be trustworthy, the majority will remain loyal. Thus, with the help of Al Qaeda, the international jihadism strategy will be successful.