In his first public stance since he disappeared after the war against terrorism began against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in response to the attacks of September 11th, 2001, former al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith criticised his organisation's leaders without identifying them by name.
In a book titled "Twenty Guidelines on the Path of Jihad", Abu Ghaith affirmed his rejection of jihadist work as "the project of one individual using the blood of others to act out what seems correct to him".
Jassem Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, also known as "Abu Youssef", is of Kuwaiti origin. The Kuwaiti government stripped him of citizenship in 2001, after he moved to Afghanistan and appeared alongside al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a spokesman for the organisation.
The book was published on the website of an Egyptian Islamist known as Mustafa Hamid, author of the "Mutarid" book series and a veteran "Arab mujahid" in Afghanistan. Hamid is a known critic of bin Laden.
Abu Ghaith's book contains 20 pieces of "advice" about "jihad work", but it never addresses al-Qaeda by name, despite the fact that its author was the organisation's spokesman in 2001. Abu Ghaith also does not mention bin Laden by name nor any other leader of the organisation. But much of the "advice" seems directed toward the leaders of al-Qaeda specifically, in addition to leaders of other groups that describe their work as "jihadist".
In his book, Abu Ghaith writes, "Jihad, as I have said repeatedly, is a mission of the Umma (Islamic nation) and should not be hijacked or monopolised. Those who think that jihad means carrying arms and fighting the enemy are mistaken. This would mean that the culture of killing and destruction is what drives us, not a culture of life and building."
Abu Ghaith said that it was a mistake to believe that jihadists should not be concerned with building the state and its institutions, spreading science and knowledge, and "securing a better life for all who live with Islam and in the Islamic state".
He added that jihadists should be concerned with "drawing the real picture of jihad and bearing arms for justice and not injustice, building and not destruction, security and not fear, compassion and not punishment, consensus and not division."
Although Abu Ghaith did not specify who is "hijacking" or "monopolising" jihad, his words could be interpreted as applying to al-Qaeda, which is criticised for carrying out actions that limit the meaning of jihad to carrying weapons, offering nothing but destruction.
Addressing the "mujahids", Abu Ghaith said taking up arms is an act based on responsibility that should make fighters "fear God in shedding people's blood, and not spill blood except for rightful reasons".
Critics also accuse al-Qaeda of going overboard in shedding blood, even though the organisation denies this.
The former al-Qaeda spokesman wrote, "Today we need to stop the chaos of putting the statements of humans ahead of the words of God and the words of [the prophet Muhammad]."
He added, "There is no shame in examining our mistakes and fixing them. Indeed, this is the correct thing to do. But the shame of all shame is to see our mistakes and bury them."
Abu Ghaith said allegiance should only be given to "those whose honesty, integrity and capacity are trustworthy". Giving it to someone who does not deserve it is "treason" and those who give it will "share the responsibility for every mistake made by those it is given to or for any disaster that occurs on their account".
Here too, Abu Ghaith does not specify the identity of the leader who could lead others to "disaster" if accorded allegiance by the masses. However, observers believe it is likely he was referring to bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Hayat's Pakistan-based reporter Jamal Ismail described Abu Ghaith's book as a "rejection" of bin Laden's jihad, citing the author's line about jihad not being the "project of one person". Ismail said the book sets a "precedent that al-Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups have not seen before".
Abu Hafs the Mauritanian
Abu Ghaith's book includes an introduction by Mahfouz Ould al-Walid (Abu Hafs the Mauritanian), the former head of al-Qaeda's Sharia Committee who was among those who fled Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime.
Ould al-Walid is believed to be one who outwardly rejected the September 11th attacks before they occurred. His position caused a public dispute between him and al-Zawahiri.
Abu Hafs introduced the book as one in a series of "educational" books about jihad to "set the path straight and guide the actions" of jihadists.
If proven that Abu Ghaith, through his "Twenty Guidelines" intended to direct criticism against al-Qaeda's leaders, he will be the latest "jihadist" figure to publicly criticise bin Laden and the leaders close to him, foremost among them Ayman al-Zawahiri.
One of the most prominent critics is Sayed Imam al-Sharif (Dr. Fadl), described as the "jihadists' theoretician", who sharply criticised al-Qaeda's actions in several studies published while he was in prison in Egypt.
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group leadership also directed implicit criticisms toward al-Qaeda in a large study published last year.