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Al-Azzam Abdullah


Born in Palestine, he was both a scholar and a mujahid (the Emir of Jihad), important to the development of contemporary Islamic radicalism with its notion of a pan-Islamic, global jihad. Al-Azzam studied theology at Damascus University and received his doctorate in jurisprudence from al-Azhar University. After teaching Islamic law briefly at the University of Jordan, he taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he met Osama Bin Laden. He subsequently went to Peshawar, Pakistan, to join the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He was killed in an unsolved assassination in 1989. His writings and sermons have lived on as an inspiration to Muslim extremist movements.

In this selection from 1987, ‘Azzam proclaims that it is an individual obligation (fard al-‘ayn) of every believer living in a Muslim land that has been appropriated by non-Muslims to engage in jihad (exerting oneself for the sake of God). That obligation will remain for Muslims until their land is no longer under non-Muslim control. He distinguishes between an individual obligation and a collective obligation (fard al-kifayah). The former is more profound, because it is imposed on everyone without exception, whereas the latter can be met by anyone sharing the collective responsibility.

Part Three: Clarifications about the Issue of Jihad Today

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Blessings and peace be upon the noblest of Messengers, Muhammad, and upon all his family and companions.

1. We have spoken at length about the status of jihad today in Afghanistan, Palestine, and other usurped Muslim lands of the like. We have confirmed what has been agreed upon by the earlier (salaf) and latter (khalaf) generations of hadith scholars, exegetes, jurists, and scholars of religious principles (usul), namely that: “When a span of Muslim land is occupied, jihad becomes individually obligatory (fard ‘ayn) on the inhabitants of that piece of land. The woman may go out without her husband's permission with a mahram, the one in debt without the permission of the one to whom he owes, the child without his father's permission. If the inhabitants of that area are not sufficient in number, fall short, or are lazy, the individually obligatory nature of jihad extends to those around them, and so on and so on until it covers the entire Earth, being individually obligatory (fard ‘ayn) just like salah, fasting, and the like so that nobody may abandon it.”

2. The obligation of jihad today remains fard ‘ayn until the liberation of the last piece of land which was in the hands of Muslims but has been occupied by the Disbelievers.

3. Some scholars consider jihad today in Afghanistan and Palestine to be fard kifayah. We agree with them in that jihad in Afghanistan for the Arabs was initially fard kifayah. But the jihad is in need of men, and the inhabitants of Afghanistan have not met the requirement which is to expel the Disbelievers from Afghanistan. In this case, the communal obligation (fard kifayah) is overturned. It becomes individually obligatory (fard ‘ayn) in Afghanistan, and remains so until enough Mujahideen have gathered to expel the communists in which case it again becomes fard kifayah.

4. There is no permission needed from anybody in the case of an individual obligation (fard ‘ayn), according to the principle, “there is no permission necessary for an individual obligation (fard ‘ayn).”

5. A person who discourages people from jihad is like the one who discourages people from fasting. Whoever advises an able Muslim not to go for jihad is just like the one who advises him to eat in Ramadan while he is healthy and in residence.

6. It is best to shun the company of those who hold back from jihad and not to enter into arguments with them, for this would lead to idle dispu-tation and hardening of the heart. Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah says, “And avoidance comprises: avoiding evil and evil people, and similarly shunning those who call for innovation in religion, and sinful people and those who associate with such people or assist them in those endeavours. Similar is the case of the person who abandons jihad and from whom there is no benefit in associating with, for in this case we are liable to punishment for not having helped him by co-operating in matters of righteousness and piety.

“The adulterers, homosexuals, those who abandon jihad, the inno-vators and the alcoholics, as well as those who associate with them are a source of harm to the religion of Islam. They will not cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety. So whoever does not shun their company is, in fact, abandoning what he has been commanded to do and is committing a despicable deed.”

Important Notes regarding application of the ordinance

1. When we call people for jihad and explain to them its ordinance, it does not mean that we are in a position to take care of them, advise them, and look after their families. The concern of the scholars is to clarify the Islamic legal ruling. It is neither to bring people to jihad nor to borrow money from people to take care of the families of Mujahideen. When Ibn Taymiyyah or Al-‘Izz Ibn ‘Abd As- Salam explained the ruling concerning fighting against the Tartars, they did not become obliged to equip the army.

2. Carrying out religious obligations is necessary according to one's capability. Pilgrimage, for example, is compulsory on those who are able to perform it. “And it is an obligation on mankind towards Allah to perform the Pilgrimage of the House for whoever is able to do so.”

Similarly, jihad must be performed according to one's ability, as mentioned in the Qur'an,

There is no blame on the weak, nor on the ill, nor on those who cannot find anything to spend, when they have shown goodwill toward Allah and His Messenger. There is no censure upon the righteous. Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Nor (is there any blame) on those who, when they came to you to be mounted, you said to them, “I cannot find anything on which to mount you.” They turned away, their eyes flowing with tears, out of grief that they did not have anything to spend (in the path of Allah).

Ibn al-‘Arabi said,

This second verse is the strongest of evidence for the acceptability of the excuse of one who is in poverty or has a valid need which holds him back from jihad, provided goodwill has been identified in his conduct while claiming the inability.

Qurtubi said in his tafsir,

The verse is a basis for the dismissal of obligation from the incapable, so that whoever is incapable of performing a deed is exempted from it, sometimes by doing something else in its place, and sometimes by merely having the resolution and will to do it. There is no difference in this respect between a person who is incapable physically, and one who is financially unable. This verse is explained by the words of Allah, (translated) “Allah does not impose upon any soul a burden beyond its capability.”

In Sahih Muslim, it is reported that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “In Madinah are people who are with you whenever you travel any distance or traverse a valley. They were held back by (valid) excuses.” According to another narration, “they were held back by illness.”

Qurtubi said, “The majority of scholars are of the view that anybody who cannot find anything to spend in jihad is not obliged to spend.”

Tabari inferred, “There is no blame (i.e. sin) on those with chronic diseases, who are incapable of travelling and fighting, nor on the ill, nor on those who do not find anything to spend to take them to jihad.”

Ibn Taymiyyah said, “The commands, retributions, expiations and so on of the Islamic law are intended to be implemented according to capability.”

Adding to the Texts of Scholars already mentioned

1. Those with valid excuses are absolved of the sin of sitting back from jihad. Those validly excused include:

a) somebody with a wife and children who do not have income from any other source nor have anybody besides him who could support and maintain them. But if he is able to allocate provision for them for the duration of his absence, then he is sinful if he sits back. Every Muslim should reduce his spending and be frugal with his earnings until he is able to go out for jihad.

b) somebody who was unable, after much effort, to obtain a visa to come to Pakistan.

c) somebody whose government denied him a passport or prevented him from leaving from the airport.

d) somebody who has parents who do not have anybody besides him to support and maintain them.

The Question of Interrogation by Police Authorities upon return of the Mujahid to his Homeland from Jihad

This point is never an excuse because it is a matter of suspicion and uncertainty. Jihad is a certainty and the fear of interrogation by the Intelligence is a matter of doubt. In fact, even if he is certain that the Intelligence will interrogate him, this is not an excuse, which absolves him from the sin of sitting back from jihad. The excuse of coercion which is admissible in the shari‘ah and which would absolve him of the sin of abandoning an obligation is “direct coercion which threatens loss of life or limb,” that is, torture involving death or severance of a limb.

Similarly, fear of police authorities in the country whose passport he holds, even if he is sure that when he returns they will detain him and kill him or sever his limb, is not an acceptable excuse before Allah because in this case he is obliged to forsake his country and live in the land of jihad.

Those whose souls the angels take while they are wronging themselves—(the angels) say to them, “What was the matter with you?” They reply, “We were weak and oppressed in the land.” (The angels) say, “Was not Allah's earth spacious enough that you could emigrate therein?” Then, the abode of those people shall be Hell—how evil a destination it is! Except for such weak and oppressed men, women and children who were neither able to come up with a stratagem (to emigrate) nor shown any way (to do so)—those Allah will surely pardon, and Allah is Most Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving.

The Issue of Arab Women Performing Jihad in Afghanistan

Arab women may not come without a non-marriageable male guardian (mahram). Their duties are confined to education, nursing, and assisting refugees. As for fighting, Arab women may not fight because until now, Afghan women are not participating in the fighting.

The Issue of somebody who has a Handicap (such as the cripple) which prevents him from fighting but does not prevent him from working in other Spheres

The individual obligation is not dismissed from a cripple or from an invalid whose illness is not serious because they are capable of working in the spheres of health and education which is a broad field. The Mujahideen are now more in need of propagators than they are in need of food, weapons, and medicine.

Ibn al-Humam said, “As for the one who is not able to go out for fighting, he must go out to swell the ranks for this will help terrorise the enemy.” So if going out to swell the ranks is obligatory, then how about going out to teach the Mujahideen the regulations of their religion? This is more obligatory and more strongly compulsory.

A Word to those with Families

In conclusion: We tell those with families that they may not leave their families and go out for jihad without ensuring provision for them and without ensuring that somebody will take care of them. Thus, whoever wishes to go out now with his family should realise that we are not able to take care of him. He should therefore check with the Islamic centres close to him or with well-wishers until he is able to guarantee provision for his family. The poor people with families must therefore determinedly look for somebody who could financially support their families for the duration of their absence. They should urgently hasten to take care of their financial affairs, then go out for jihad.

Bibliography references:

From http://www.religioscope.com/info/doc/jihad/azzam_caravan_5_part 3.htm.

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