The newspaper Asharq Alawsat published a series of articles between January 25th and February 2nd, which were a condensed version of a new book by Dr. Sayyid Imam Abdul Aziz Al-Sharif, better known as Dr. Fadl, a prominent Jihadi theoretician. His books were used by al-Qaeda to train and educate its members in matters of Islamic jurisprudence and religious principles.
In his book, titled "The Future of the Conflict between the Taliban and America in Afghanistan", Dr. Fadl pursued his attack against the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He accused both of them of being fully responsible for the "catastrophes" that have befallen the Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The new book by Dr. Fadl, imprisoned in Egypt since 2002 after being handed over to Egyptian authorities by Yemen, is consistent with his previous series of books which he published in the last few years, starting with "A Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World" (2007), in which he provided Islamic legal arguments which, in his view, strip the actions of al-Qaeda of its "jihadi" aspect.
Due to the influence exerted by this Egyptian surgeon who led the Egyptian Islamic Jihad before the reins of leadership were handed over to Dr. Al-Zawahiri in 1994, and who wrote the two books "The Essential Guide for Preparation (for Jihad)" and "The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge", which are two principal training manuals in al-Qaeda training camps, it is natural that his criticism of Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri would cause a stir in the midst of the jihadists. Some of them set out to launch virulent attacks against the person who was once described by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad as "the mufti of the jihadists worldwide". That was before he changed his stance from those held by the new leadership under his colleague and compatriot, Dr. Al-Zawahiri.
Dr. Fadl's criticisms of the actions which he considered to be misrepresenting Jihad - and subsequently Islam itself – lost their credibility from the Islamic legal viewpoint when he went on to engage in a personal dispute with Dr. Al-Zawahiri. The latter published a rebuttal to Dr. Fadl's book "A Guidance for Jihad Activity" titled "The Exoneration: A Letter Exonerating the Umma of the Pen and Sword from the Unjust Allegation of Feebleness and Weakness" in which he defends the actions of al-Qaeda.
Dr. Fadl came out with a counter-rebuttal titled "Exposing the Exoneration". In his book "The Future of the Conflict Between the Taliban and America in Afghanistan" (in which he expected the Taliban to be victorious), Dr. Fadl is seemingly trying to readjust the direction of the compass – which was lost due to the personal disputes between him and Al-Zawahiri taking the front seat, relegating his legal arguments that al-Qaeda's actions cannot be attributed to Islam to the background.
This time, he focused on the actions of Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri and how these actions have caused harm to the Islamic Community which they claim they are defending.
Once again, Al-Zawahiri did not escape the attacks of Dr. Fadl, as the latter reiterated his accusations against him for leading the youths of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to imprisonment and death in their fight against the Egyptian government. He accused Al-Zawahiri of doing so in order to please Sudanese intelligence which granted him residence in the 1990s. (He said that Al-Zawahiri had told him personally that he received money from Sudanese security forces in order to carry out attacks against the Egyptian government led by President Hosni Mubarak.)
In his new book, Dr. Fadl accuses the two leaders of al-Qaeda, Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, of trying to obtain popular support from Muslims by claiming that what their organisation is doing is for the sake of Palestine and the fight against America. Dr. Fadl denies that this is actually the case, and that in reality they are seeking leadership.
The Egyptian doctor dedicated a significant part of his new study to blaming Bin Laden personally for what happened in Afghanistan, saying that he launched his September 11th, 2001 attacks without informing the Taliban, which Bin Laden himself admitted was the case. He said that Bin Laden had brought the Americans to overthrow this regime, which refused to hand him over for prosecution. He also indicated that Bin Laden is responsible for bringing the Americans to Iraq because after the attacks of September 11th, Washington adopted the strategy of pre-emptive war, which consists of attacking potential enemies before they could initiate an attack, which is what happened in Iraq in 2003.
Dr. Fadl said that Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri did not have the ability to resist the Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He believes that what they did "reveals the extent of their disregard for people in general and Muslims in particular, whom they have reduced to guinea pigs for experimenting on their ideas in order to solve their first and difficult equation: How could they realize major gains with limited resources?"
He added that "the idea that they have mounted resistance against the Americans and the Jews is a lie. They killed the weak, and ran away from the strong. They brought America to Afghanistan and then ran away, leaving the fighting to the Afghans. In Iraq, they killed hundreds of thousands of the Iraqi people, and they caused sectarian strife. There were 21,000 prisoners held in American prisons in Iraq, and they were unable to free any of them, because they do not attack military positions but instead target mosques and marketplaces, until the opposite of what Al-Zawahiri expected happened as the Iraqi people rose up against them because of their barbarity, and preferred the Americans over them."
Sayyid Imam paused to reflect on Iraq saying that "what has happened in Iraq in the past two years has never happened in any resistance movement against occupiers. People turned against the members of al-Qaeda -- their fellow Muslims, fellow Arabs and fellow resistors. They gave preference to the occupiers because of the unprecedented atrocities committed by al-Qaeda against the Iraqi people, from mass killing and destruction, to kidnapping and demanding ransoms, and imposing exorbitant taxes, theft, criminalizing legitimate activities and imposing punishments that have no basis in Islamic law. Every time the US Army would go after them in a particular region, they would run away."
Dr. Fadl repeated his Islamic legal argument that it is not permissible for Muslims to carry out bombings in Western countries.
He explained how it is not permissible for a Muslim to enter a Western country with a covenant of security (Aman) – such as being issued a visa – and then engage in an offensive action against that country, because it is a form of treachery and Islam forbids treachery. He said, "Even if a Muslim enters a non-Muslim country and he is safe and not under threat from them but they abuse other Muslims, he is not permitted to betray them."
He added, "If they have committed all these atrocities and brought calamities upon the Muslims, and opposed Islamic rulings and the words of Allah and his Messenger, may peace be upon him, and are in a state of weakness and running away, what will they do if they gain control of a country?"
He called for setting up an Islamic tribunal for the trial of Bin Laden and "all those who support him, approve his actions and rationalize them. Bin Laden made the decision on his own to order the 9/11 bombings as well as others, and he was the first one to justify it. Then he ran away, leaving others to pay the consequences."
Dr. Fadl's new book will not cause a major upheaval in the thoughts of al-Qaeda supporters. Just like his previous positions were not able to rein in al-Qaeda, his new positions will most probably be similarly unsuccessful.
But his new contribution in terms of removing legitimacy from al-Qaeda's actions comes in the context of many 'revisions' that the Jihadists are making in many Arab countries, all of which boils down to one thing, which is criticism against the actions of Bin Laden and his supporters. Will this new wave of "jihadi revisionism" – including the positions of Dr. Fadl – prompt al-Qaeda members to think about what they are doing? Some, at least, will think longer before engaging in their actions, knowing that many Jihadists, including their Mufti Dr. Fadl, consider them to be against Islamic teachings.