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JIHAD ORGANIZATIONS. The number of jihad organizations has been increasing in the Arab world, and indeed in much of the Islamic world. This fact does not say as much about Islam, as is often assumed in the West, as it says about desperate attempts to exploit Islam politically. The word jihad is often translated in the Western press as “holy war,” although the original Islamic concept, on the basis of a well-known hadith, does not have an exclusive military connotation. Jihad is Arabic simply means “struggle,” and it came to denote in Islamic history and classical jurisprudence the struggle on behalf of the cause of Islam. In classical and modern times, Islamic governments, or more accurately governments that base their legitimacy on Islamic rationalization, have used the word to describe all combat efforts of their armies.

In the turbulent politics of the Arab world, the radical opposition groups are now fighting their own governments with the same weapons that have been used against them. Just as Arab governments have exploited Islam for purely political purposes, radical opposition groups that espouse Islam as an ideology now use the term to attribute their violent deeds to Islamic requirements. While many groups in the Middle East have used the phrase “Islamic Jihad” as the name for their organizations, it is important to note that those organizations are not necessarily in coordination with one another. There is very little, if any, coordination between those groups, and each should be analyzed within the context of the particular country in which it exists. There is no central jihad structure that conspiratorially creates and manipulates those groups in question.

Lebanon. The Lebanese-based Organization of the Islamic Jihad is probably the most notorious jihad group in the world, because it has claimed responsibility for the bombing of American interests in Lebanon (such as the embassy and the marines’ barracks). Islamic Jihad also claimed responsibility for kidnapping Western hostages in Lebanon. Nevertheless, there is no such organization in Lebanon. The name was used by Hizbullah (the Party of God) in Lebanon to maintain a degree of deniability for fear of retaliation by Western military forces. The Party of God also used other names, including the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth and the Revolutionary Justice Organization, in the course of their anti-Western and anti-Israel attacks. Some press reports linked Islamic Jihad to the security branch of the Party of God and to `Imad Mughniyah and `Abd alHadi Hammadi personally. But it is impossible to ascertain the truth of such reports in the absence of verifiable documentation, and party members and leaders have been consistently secretive about Islamic Jihad. [See Organization of the Islamic Jihad; Hizbullah, article on Hizbullah in Lebanon.]

Palestine. As in other Muslim nations, there is more than one organization using the word jihad in its name among Palestinians. The first Palestinian organization to use the word jihdd was the Usrat al-Jihad (Family of Jihad), which was founded in 1948 by `Abd Allah `Izz Darwish. The second organization is the Detachment of the Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the killing of Israeli soldiers in October 1986. This organization was believed to be tied to the faction within Fatah that was under the control of the late Palestine Liberation Organization leader Abu Jihad. The basis of support for this organization was in the West Bank.

The main jihad organization among the Palestinians is the Islamic Jihad Movement, the existence of which was revealed to the public in 1987. It emerged in Gaza and engaged in violent attacks in the course of the Palestinian uprising. Unlike jihad organizations in Egypt, the Islamic Jihad Movement seems to be less fixated on issues of theology and more insistent on the need for the eviction of Israeli occupation from Arab lands. It believes in the efficacy of armed struggle and has shown no reluctance to use violence against its enemies.

The Islamic Jihad Movement cannot be understood in a vacuum; it should be seen within the context of the contemporary transformation of the various cells of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1960s and especially following the humiliating Arab defeat in 1967. The writings of the Syrian Islamic fundamentalist thinker Said Hawwa served as the ideological inspiration of the movement. Leaders of the movement claim that it had emerged from the milieu of Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist activists of the 1970s. Most of the members who initiated contacts with one another regarding the need for a new Islamic Palestinian party were formerly active members of the establishment Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic Jihad Movement represents an offshoot of the mainstream Islamic fundamentalist movement by dissatisfied members who resented the political and military passivity of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Islamic Jihad Movement refuses to consider its birth as an original act; rather, it is perceived as a continuation of a long line of Palestinian activists and martyrs who combined their anti-Zionist stances with a political ideology based on their interpretations of Islam. The name of `Izz al-Din al-Qassam (the Syrian Islamic activist who died fighting for the Palestinians in 1935) is frequently invoked in this regard. The spiritual leader of the movement, `Abd al-`Aziz `Awdah, often expresses his firm belief in the efficacy of military combat against Israel. For the movement, the struggle against Israel does not revolve around the question of the rightful ownership of the land, but over the religiopolitical duty of Muslims to fend off religious enemies. Like other Islamic fundamentalist groups, the movement underlines the religious significance of Palestine from the standpoint of Islamic history.

The political thought of the movement also carries some nationalistic elements. It is hard for any Palestinian movement to go very far in political mobilization without reflecting the nationalistic sentiments of the Palestinian people. Thus, for `Awdah, it is not the Palestinian cause that is in the service of Islam, but Islam is to be used in the service of the Palestinian cause. In other words, the Palestinian movement is understood and analyzed from both secular and religious points of view. On the question of the two-state solution, the movement rejects any compromise of the goal of liberating all of Palestinian lands.

It is a mistake to treat the Jihad movement as an organization with an original ideology. In fact, its political thought and practice is indistinguishable from other militant Islamic fundamentalist groups in the Middle East. Moreover, the Palestinian Jihad organization comprises within its ranks some former members from the Fatah movement. And it reflects the mood of disillusionment that prevailed among the Palestinians in the late 1970s. The Islamic fundamentalist groups among the Palestinians promote themselves as the credible alternatives to the secularist and nationalist agendas that are considered bankrupt by most Palestinians.

In recent times, the Islamic Jihad Movement failed to become the major political force that the Hamas organization has became. It also suffers from a reputation of blind allegiance to the Iranian regime. Information about the nature of financial, military, and political ties between the Palestinian Jihad movement and the Iranian regime are not easily verifiable.

Egypt. Much confusion surrounds the study of Jihad organizations in Egypt because there have been several groups using the name in their activities. Islamic fundamentalists from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood have been using the label of Jihad since 1958. Originally, the notion of Jihad simply referred to the attempt by some groups to use Islam to rationalize their violent activities. The organizational development of Jihad groups is the product of more recent times. The Jihad organization in Egypt can be traced back to 1979 when the engineer Muhammad `Abd al-Salim Faraj founded the Islamic Jihad Community. There were groups at the time that characterized their activities as Jihad activities but they did not choose the name Jihad for their organizations. Faraj’s organization came about as a result of the merger of three militant Islamic fundamentalist groups: Faraj’s group; Karam Zuhdi’s group; and the Jordanian Salim al-Rahhal’s group. The unity of the three groups was firmly established in 1981 when the leadership was centralized in a joint shura (council) headed by the prince (amir) of the organization, Faraj himself.

The council was divided into three committees: one dealt with propaganda and jurisprudent inculcation, the second dealt with economic and fund-raising issues, and the third dealt with preparation and military affairs. The political platform of the organization was presented in the booklet Al -faridah al-gha’ibah (The Missing Obligation), which was written by Faraj and which inspired, according to court records, the assassins of Sadat in 1981. The religiopolitical thought of Faraj was not original; he merely repeated the claims by Sayyid Qutb and others that certain Muslims (including rulers who use Islam for political legitimacy) could be declared kafirun (infidel). The practice of takfir (declaring the unbelief of other Muslims) is, of course, not new. It was practiced by the Khawarij in the first century of Islam. What is distinctive about Faraj is his ability to produce an accessible pamphlet that could articulate the opposition of Islamic fundamentalists to the rule of Sadat on religious grounds. The inspiration for Faraj, and for other contemporary fundamentalists, was found in the writings of Ibn Taymiyah, who in the fourteenth century urged and led the Muslim resistance to the Mongol invasion of Damascus despite the Islamic faith of the invaders. The ability of a Muslim to question the authenticity of the Islamic profession of another Muslim is the strongest political weapon in the hands of contemporary fundamentalists, because it belittles the Islamic claims of modern Islamic governments.

Faraj and other members of militant Islamic fundamentalist groups in Egypt believed that Muslims should not live under any laws except those that are derived from the Qur’an. The divine source of rulership constitutes a major element in the thought of modern Islamic fundamentalist groups. But the groups refuse any application of Islamic laws if it does not conform to their specific interpretations of shari’ah (the divine law). The goal of the establishment of an Islamic republic founded on the principles of shad `ah, and only on the principles of shari’ah, becomes a religious obligation that all Muslims are required to work for. No means are to be excluded in the struggle for the new Islamic order and for “restoration of the caliphate,” and violence occupies a central part of the strategy of the Jihad organization, as is illustrated in the booklet by Faraj. The rulers of Egypt cannot be removed without the employment of violent means (jihad in the lexicon of Faraj), because they are supported by the enemies of Islam. The Islamic credentials of the government in Egypt and of the establishment religious institutions (like al-Azhar) are totally discredited, because their interpretations are seen in the thinking of the Jihad group as tantamount to unbelief.

The Jihad group never enjoyed an ideological or organizational coherence; it always served as a vehicle for a loose association of individuals and factions. Shaykh Omar Abdel Rahman (`Umar `Abd al-Rahman), for example, who now serves as the leader of the Islamic Community (al-Jama’ah al-`Islamiyah), was identified with one of the factions of the group. He is also responsible for the promotion of the notion of “restoration of the caliphate” in the literature of the group, especially in the mouthpiece of the group Kalimat Hagg, which was circulated on college campuses.

The confusion over the exact role of the Jihad group in Egypt arose from the splits that afflicted the group in the mid-1980s. There are still reports in the Arabic and Western press that claim that Abdel Rahman, for example, is the leader of the Jihad organization. In reality, the brief unity between the various factions that formed the Jihad organization did not last very long. The various leaders and members of the group engaged in lively and arduous debates and deliberations in jail after their arrest in the wake of the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. In the course of the debates, it became clear the Abdel Rahman saw himself as the overall leader of the Jihad group, and he was attracting followers from among the political prisoners. Others, headed by `Abbud al-Zumar, strongly disagreed with Abdel Rahman and objected to the imamate (leadership of the Islamic community here) of the blind man. Zumar and his followers argued that Abdel Rahman could play a leading role in the group but could not assume the ultimate leadership position. Sometime in 1984 (in jail) the two groups parted ways, and each developed an independent organizational existence. Zumar became the overall head of the Jihad organization, which now was different from the old one because of the defection of other factions, while Abdel Rahman became the head of what is known as al-Jama`ah al-`Islamiyah (The Islamic Community). [See Jama`at al-Islamiyah, al-; and the biography of Abdel Rahman.]

Much of the violent activities in Egypt in the past several years are often mistakenly attributed to the Jihad organization, while in reality the Islamic Community is responsible for most of the acts. The Islamic Community continues to have a number of leaders and followers active  m the countryside, while the leadership the membership of the Jihad remains in jail serving long sentences. Zumar, who is serving a forty-year sentence for his involvement in the assassination of Sadat, continues to exercise leadership responsibilities from behind bars, and he sometimes succeeds in smuggling interviews and speeches to the outside world. He strictly rejects the principle of party politics and is very suspicious of coordination with other parties and groups.

In 1993, it was revealed that the organization TaldT al-Fath (Vanguards of Conquest) was now part of the Jihad organization; at that time efforts were underway to rejuvenate the Jihad organization by inviting a variety of small militant Islamic fundamentalist groups to join the Zumar-led Jihad group. It appeared that Ayman alZawahiri, who resides in Pakistan and is the deputy commander of the Jihad organization, was concentrating on the need for expanding the power base of his organization.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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AS`AD ABUKHALIL

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/jihad-organizations/
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  • writerPosted On: July 12, 2014
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