Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera[The following is transcript of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi's lecture "Hindsight is 20-20," which was given at AlMaghrib Institute's IlmFest 2010. The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
The talk that has been assigned to me – and in fact it is one that I have wanted to give for quite a while – I've entitled it “Hindsight is 20-20.” What I mean by this is when we look at the experiences of the past, when we look at the successes and the mistakes of what our ummah and others have done before us, we will learn the best on how to proceed in the future. As we stand here today, one of the themes of our conference today is to talk about some of the mistakes of the more, if you like, militant brothers and those who are involved in these types of organizations.
As we stand here today, one of the most common criticisms that we will hear and will continue to hear – and I myself have been confronted with many, many times – is why do you guys always concentrate on the mistakes of the 'mujahideen'? Why do you ignore the mistakes of NATO, of America? Which of the two groups uses drones? Which of the two has more collateral damage? Whose terrorism is on a higher scale and on a more mass level? I am told: “At least those guys are doing something. Why do you have to criticize them? If you are doing your job of teaching tawhid and teaching 'aqidah, then fine, the least you can do is be quiet and be silent. Why do you have to criticize those who are doing something?”
I have heard this over and over again. I have been e-mailed by dozens of different people. As I give my two cents on this and spread my message on how I disagree with the whole ideology of trying to confront this type of terror with a minor terror. Even if there is a major terrorist campaign going on, I am very much against trying to combat it with certain methodologies and agendas that are present in our times. So the criticism is: “Why do you concentrate on criticizing 'ours' and you ignore 'theirs'?”
First and foremost, it is simply unfair to claim that we don't criticize that which occurs on a more mass level. This is simply untrue. I myself have openly and publicly criticized the foreign policy of this very country. We are very public about it, and I have said many times and I have written in many articles that terrorism is the number one cause of terrorism. When you spread terrorism, you will reap back terrorism. When you terrorize others, they will terrorize you. I have said this publicly and privately, and I firmly believe that this militancy, this anger, and this terrorism at a minor scale is being caused by the excesses and the foreign policy at a much higher scale. It is not that we shy away from saying that. We say it publicly, vocally, and unabashedly.
However, one must look at one's role and one's audience. If I were to ask you right now: how many amongst you by a show of hands believe that a collateral damage of innocent Afghanis civilians is justified by the hunt for Osama Bin Laden? Please raise your hands. If I were to ask you: how many think that the accidental drone bombings that are occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan are permissible because there is a greater maslahah for it? Please raise your hand. I don't see a single hand in the audience. None of you here agrees with this tactic.
All of us are united in our condemnation of the tactics of our own government and those of NATO and those of other foreign powers in the region. We completely disagree with the entire foreign policy. If I were to come here today and if I were to rant and rave about that, then yes, all of you would clap and all of you would say takbeer, but I am preaching to the choir. I am preaching to the choir! You all agree with me. Me and you, you and I, all of us are in complete agreement that that type of agenda and that type of military hegemony over the area known as Afghanistan and known as Iraq is completely wrong, and whatever is happening there of the killing of innocent civilians and of drone bombings and of this “war on terror”, which in itself is a type of terror, and whatever is happening is 110% unjustified. We agree. So then why do I have to preach to the choir?
On the other hand, if I were to ask you how many of you sympathize with what we have been hearing about some preachers preaching jihad against America, how many of you does that type of talk resonate with? [Don't raise your hands or else somebody is going to come knocking on your door later on tonight.] But if I were to ask you, how many amongst you find that message at least if not resonating then at least it raises questions? At least you wonder who is right: the guys that teach me in a nice auditorium or those that are in caves in far away lands and seem to be full of fiery rhetoric and they are preaching the truth and speaking against the tyrants and are Davids against the mighty Goliaths.
You and I both know that many amongst you would timidly raise their hands – not in public, maybe in private. You and I both know there is this type of sympathy – maybe not even agreement. Maybe a lot of you still know “well, yeah that is too extreme.” But I bet you that deep down inside, many of you feel that they are brave and are doing something.
You know what? Personally, I disagree with that sentiment. When I preach to you about this, I am preaching to an audience that doesn't necessarily agree with me. What I am trying to come across here is that I firmly believe as I stand in front of you today as Allāh 'azza wa jall is my Witness that it is my responsibility as a person whom Allāh has blessed with a little bit of knowledge to try to convey to you what I believe about these issues. It is up to you to accept or reject, but I have to convey to you a message and a knowledge that I think many of you are not quite receptive to. If I were to preach to you American foreign policy, like I said, I would be preaching to the choir. And you know what, many of you know that I am involved in meeting government officials, and I go to the State Department and have gone to the counterterrorism meetings. I am a person who is a little bit involved.
My speech to them is not what I speak to you about. When I go in front of them, that is when I mention American foreign policy and that is when I mention the war on terror and that is when I mention the draconian American laws. They are a different audience. I don't need to preach to them about issues that I am going to preach to you. There is a saying in Arabic: “every single audience and situation has a different talk to it.” When I speak to Muslim youth, then my talk has to be different. It is not that we ignore one at the expense of the other. It is that when I speak to you, there is a reason to talk about this particular topic.
And as for the claim that we should simply ignore them because they are doing something and you are doing nothing, honestly, I find this claim – with all respect – ludicrous. In my opinion, the analogy that I have is that of a house that is burning down and there may be people inside that house and there are two people outside of the house seeing the house burning down. One of them becomes completely paranoid and begins jumps up and down and starts screaming and ranting and raving and says, “The house is burning! The house is burning!” And he starts throwing anything he can at the house, and most of what he throws is nothing but more fuel and stones and sticks and wood. He is jumping up and down and screaming, “The house is burning! The house is burning!” and he is doing something. The other person next to him is trying to calm him down and saying, “Look, I know the house is burning. Let's think of something and see if we can call somebody and see if we can get help,” and he is not participating in throwing more sticks and more firewood at the house.
This is the example that I have. The house is burning. There are serious issues to deal with. In my humble opinion, militant rhetoric is simply throwing more firewood at the fire. The actions of these people and the rhetoric of these people is only making the fire worse. It's not that we ignore the fire. It's not that we don't care about the people inside the house. It is that – I believe firmly with Allāh 'azza wa jall as my Witness – the way to solve this and the way to quell and extinguish the fire is not the way that currently some of our other du'aat are saying. Because of this, we have decided that today and on other days when we are going to do IlmFest that a part of our lectures – not all of them – will be dedicated to this particular issue.
Now my particular talk centers around, as I said, learning from our history. As the saying goes: those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Do we really believe, brothers and sisters, that this is the first time that an injustice is occurring in the ummah? Do you really think that this ummah has never faced a crisis and that this is the first time people are reacting to a major crisis of international proportions? The fact of the matter is that our ummah has always had its ups and downs. There have been many various movements, some of them passive and some of them militant. There have been many trends in the last fourteen centuries.
If we examine and if we look at our own history to try to benefit from the successes and try to learn from the failures and faults, then inshā'Allāh ta'ala a lot can be done. The first thing that I would like to bring up today is a topic I think a lot of you have heard a few times, but nonetheless it should serve always as an introductory topic before we talk about extremist movements, and that is the prophetic description of the first extremists that this ummah ever saw.
Ahadith on the Kharijites
Our Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) predicted the coming of an extremist movement, and that extremist movement is known as the Kharijites. I want to be very clear here. I am not equating any particular person, any particular da'ee, or any particular movement with the Kharijites. I am not saying they are or they are not Kharijites. What I am going to talk about is that there are certain characteristics that our Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) gave of Kharijites, and I find those characteristics amongst many who are involved in such militant rhetoric. I repeat: I find characteristics that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) specifically mentioned with regards to the early Kharijites amongst many of our youth who are sympathetic or involved with such movements, and having a characteristic does not necessarily make you a part of that movement.
The first hadith I would like to quote is from Abu Sa'Īd Al-Khudri in Abu Dawud. Abu Sa'Īd Al-Khudri narrates that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “There will be differences and splits in my ummah. My ummah will split up, and a group will come out who are good in their speech but terrible in their actions. Their speech is flowery; their speech is attractive, but their actions belie their very words. They shall recite the Qur'an, but it will not leave their throats. They call to the Book of Allāh but they have nothing to do with it.”
In the next hadith in Sahih Bukhāri, which is really the beginning of the Kharijite movement, a man comes to the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) with a thick beard and a wide forehead and shaved hair, and he demanded from the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) to give him more money. When he didn't get more money, he said, “Ya Muḥammad…” [He addressed him in a manner in which you are not supposed to address the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) – by his first name.] “O Muḥammad (salallahu alayhi wa sallam), be just.” This is a man who is advising the Prophet of Allāh to be just. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Woe to you, if I am not just who will be just on this earth?” If you are going to accuse the prophet of God of not being just, who will be just? The man turned around arrogantly and walked away. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “There will come from his line [some scholars say he meant a biological line, but most scholars say they will come from that type of thought, that type of mentality, that 'holier than thou' mentality, and that mentality of 'I am better than you' for whatever reason] a group of people who shall recite the Qur'an but it will not bypass their throats.”
In a very, very important hadith in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “There will come during the end of times a group of people…” I want you to memorize these particular phrases, and I want you to think about these phrases not just today and not just tomorrow but for the rest of your lives. These are the phrases of our Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam). “There will come during the end of times a group of people who are young of age, have the most foolish of visions…” If we were to translate in our modern rhetoric and in simple English and in modern vernacular: they are a bunch of kids with crazy ideas; they are a bunch of youngsters who have crazy ideas. “Their words sound the best that men have ever uttered.” It is the best speech you will hear. It is enticing. It will make your blood rise up in anger and passion. They know how to speak, but their actions belie their words. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “They shall leave the religion like an arrow leaves its prey.” You know, when you shoot an arrow into a deer, the arrow comes in and goes out. It comes in and then immediately leaves. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “They shall leave this religion like an arrow leaves its prey.” In one version, he said, “You will find them killing the people of the qiblah and leaving the people of the idols.” Their emphasis is on trying to attack other Muslims and leaving the people of the idols.
And of course in the famous hadith in Bukhāri, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “When you look at them, you will think that you are nothing compared to their piety.” I want you to keep this phrase in mind. You will trivialize your own piety. You will think: māshā'Allāh, these are the lions of Allāh. This is what the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) is saying. You will think them way above you. You will think them to be on a high pedestal and you to be on a low pedestal. “Their 'ibadah will be better than your 'ibadah, and their Qur'an is better than your Qur'an, and their ṣalāh is better than your ṣalāh, and their fasting is better than your fasting, but they will leave this religion faster than an arrow leaves its prey.”
And so on and so forth in many, many ahadith. What can we learn from all of this? We learn that of the characteristics of the Kharijites is that they are speaking that which sounds like it is good and true. They are reading the Qur'an and quoting the Qur'an and they are speaking the truth and are enticing and mesmerizing. Of the characteristics of the Kharijites: they truly appear like lions; you think that they are the best of creation; they are calling to the Book of Allāh 'azza wa jall, but there is something wrong with them. Apparently, they don't understand the Qur'an because the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) is saying they recite it, but it doesn't go beyond their throats. This is an expression in Arabic. It is stuck right here; they know how to pronounce it, but they don't understand it. They are reciting it and are quoting it, but they are not applying it properly.
In another hadith he tells us that they have blood on their hands. They kill the people of ṣalāh, they kill the Muslims facing the qiblah, and they leave the idol worshippers. These people have a 'holier than thou' attitude. These people look condescendingly down to the rest of the ummah. These people are giving mesmerizing speeches. These people have visions that are very enticing but they are downright foolish. These people are from the youngsters and not from the elders; you don't find them to be of the seniors or of those who have wisdom and experience. “Young kids with grandiose visions.” These are exactly the descriptions of the Kharijites that our Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) gave. They say the truth, but what they mean by it and their actions belie their reality.
We have a beautiful statement of Ali ibn Abi Talib. When the Kharijites came to him, and when the Kharijites wanted him to apply the Book of Allāh 'azza wa jall, and they wanted him to be a better Muslim and they said, “Let us judge by Allāh 'azza wa jall.” But they didn't mean what they were saying. Ali ibn Abi Talib said, “This is a true statement, but what they mean by it is evil.” What they are saying is good, but the consequences of their actions are evil.
Modern Movement of the 1970s: Al-Da'watul Muhtasibah
With this introduction, we only have time to talk about a few modern movements within Islam, movements that have performed actions of militancy and terrorism, some of which have succeeded in their short term goals, but none of which have ever succeeded in their long term goals. We would do well to look at these movements, all of which have occurred within the span of most of our lifetimes.
The first of these is a movement I have spoken about extensively in many places, and it is the movement of Juhayman ibn Sayf Al-Otaibi. Juhayman was a Saudi national born in the 1940s, and he joined the national guard at an early age as most bedouins of his time did. He became more and more religious over time, and he saw the influx of oil money into Saudi Arabia. We are talking about the 50s, 60s, and 70s when Saudi Arabia literally converted from a bedouin land into this land of wealth and fame and riches. He saw the excesses of materialism. He saw Americans arrive and take over many cities and build their own cities in the sand like Khobar and Dammam, and he was from that region. He saw the corruption amongst the royal family and the elite. He saw the pervasiveness of fahishah, of evil. He saw women without hijab and thought the Americans are coming and have no concern for our morality, and all of these changes are happening slowly but surely. He saw the application of the Shari'ah began to diminish bit by bit.
Slowly, he became more and more religious. He quit his job in the military and moved to the city of Madīnah in the 70s and began to be active with a grassroots movement Al-Da'watul Muhtasibah (The Movement of Accountability). This Da'wah was a Saudi movement and was a movement for the Saudi masses, primarily meant to make the masses better Muslims. Without being stereotypical, it was basically a little bit more academic version of the tablighi jamat. They were going house to house and village to village and preaching tawhid and preaching prayer and preaching avoiding of sins to the masses. This was Al-Da'watul Muhtasibah.
He became active in this group and slowly he began to rise in its ranks until he became director at one of the main branches of this movement. However, he wanted to change the direction of the movement to become more political. The Da'wah was completely grassroots and was aimed at the Saudi masses and wanted to make them better Muslims. Juhayman said, “No, we need to advise the rulers. We need to implement Shari'ah. We need to tell these Americans they can't dress like this. We need to stop seeing women without hijab and hearing music on the streets and seeing our princes flout their money and do all that they were doing.” But the Da'wah refused to take a more political stance and remained with the masses.
As he continued to try in vain, he realized that nothing much would happen if he remained in the Da'wah, so in 1976 he broke away from the Da'wah and formed his own group, which he called Ikhwaan, not to be confused with the Egyptian Ikhwaan Al-Muslimeen which was a completely independent movement; this is the Saudi version of its own Ikhwaan and had nothing to do with the Egyptian Ikhwaan. From 1976 onwards, he began to preach and even retreated outside of Madīnah and started living in a small village outside of Madīnah.
He began to be more secretive and began to preach to a core group of students, many of whom studied at the Islamic University of Madīnah, where myself and Shaykh Yaser Birjas and others have graduated from. He was a star student of many of the famous scholars that you all know. Shaykh Ibn Baaz (rahimahullah ta'ala) personally was his tutor and mentor and knew him very well. In fact, on one occasion when Juhayman was arrested for physically causing some violence – I don't remember exactly but I think did something to a music store, basically he saw an evil – a shop that was selling I think music or some magazines – and he did something physical to shut the shop down. He didn't harm a person, but he shut the shop down by throwing something at it. He did some type of physical movement or what not, and obviously the police arrested him and put him in jail.
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (rahimahullah ta'ala) personally intervened and made shafa'ah and caused him to be removed from jail. What I am trying to say is that Shaykh Ibn Baaz (rahimahullah ta'ala) – we all know who he is – saw some good in this man. He saw some good in Juhayman; he didn't know the reality of this person. He saw some good, he went and took him out of jail. Many were the famous scholars, some of whose names you know and wallahi I don't like mentioning these names, but the fact of the matter is I want you to understand many times good and evil is difficult to distinguish even by great ulema. Many times that which appears to be good turns out to be evil. With regards to the Juhayman movement, we see this over and over again.
Ulema whom I look up to and respect like Shaykh Ibn Baaz (rahimahullah ta'ala) and ulema like Shaykh Muqbil bin Haadi al-Waadi'ee from Yemen. Shaykh Muqbil was a part of the movement before it took on its militancy. Ulema like Shaykh Badee al-Deen Shah Al-Sindhi of Pakistan, one of the greatest scholars of the ahl al-hadeeth movement of Pakistan of our times. All of them were part in parcel of this particular movement with Juhayman before he became militant, and they respected Juhayman, and they considered him to be a star pupil and a rising ''ālim and an up and coming ''ālim.
From 1976 to 1979, he preached an open and a secretive da'wah. In the open da'wah, he would give public lectures and public halaqahs, but he also had a secret halaqah, which you had to be a member to come in, and you had to be initiated. Many of my own teachers – I graduated from Madīnah in 2005 and I studied from 1995 to 2005 – many of my own teachers were undergraduates during this time in the late 70s and early 80s, and I have heard so many stories about the Juhayman movement directly from them. Of what they tell me is that they knew many of the people who were involved in Juhayman's movement. Many of my teachers knew their friends and colleagues; they were young at the time – 19, 20, 21. Many of their colleagues got involved with the Juhayman movement, and many of them were students at the University of Madīnah. There was even an African American who was part of the movement, who eventually died as we are going to come to.
One of my teachers said, – and I'll never forget his quote – “subḥānAllāh it was usually the huffadh who joined his movement.” I was really shocked when I heard that. In other words, they were sincere people and they felt that they could create a change.
On the 20th of November 1979, corresponding to the 1st of Muharram 1400 AH – the first of Muharram of a new millennium – Juhayman and a group of around 250 men – we are never going to know the details for sure, and these are all now hushed up in the files of the Saudi Arabian security forces – secretly departed from Madīnah and made their way to Mecca and entered the Haram. Back then there were no checkpoints and no guards at the Haram and Saudi Arabia was a very, very different place. All of the changes and the visa restrictions and the stamps and checkpoints were a direct result of Juhayman. There was never any checking before 1980, and those of you who have lived in Saudi Arabia knows how much checking occurs now. And to this day it is because of Juhayman.
Nonetheless, on the 1st of Muharram 1400 before ṣalāh al-fajr, 250 armed men entered the Haram from different doors, and many of the guns were hidden in women's jilbabs. Others were hidden on the coffin biers, and the people thought they were dead bodies, but they were nothing but guns. They come inside the Haram slowly but surely. After ṣalāh al-fajr, when Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Al-Subayil, who is still alive amongst us, finished saying the tasleem, Juhayman stood up and took his gun out and took the microphone from Shaykh ibn Al-Subayil and his followers immediately surrounded the guards and took their guns away. Juhayman ibn Sayf Al-Otaibi began announcing the coming of a new era.
He began announcing the coming of the promised Mahdi, and as the world watched in shock, he shut down the doors of the Haram, and thousands and thousands of people remained hostage inside the very structure that we know. He began telling them, “This is the Mahdi.” He had a brother-in-law, and a long story I've talked about in many CDs and DVDs that are available, and he said, “My brother-in-law is the promised Mahdi. Give him the oath of allegiance.” Many of them, as you can image, were completely confused and lost. Thousands of women and children were trapped there, and they remained trapped for a few days.
When the guards were sent there, Juhayman had posted snipers on the minarets, the famous tall minarets of the Haram. They shot the guards, and first blood was drawn. They killed Muslim guards coming to see what the commotion was, and those bodies remained there rotting for three or four days because every time somebody came to try to collect them, they shot them again. There were bodies lying in front of the Haram and outside of the Grand Mosque for a number of days. I have talked about this in detail in my CDs on the Mahdi. To make a long story short, for two weeks (around 14 days) Juhayman held the Ka'bah hostage. For two weeks, tawaf stopped around the Ka'bah, adhān was not called, people did not pray, blood was shed, and the world was engulfed in chaos. What is happening? Who were these people?
The non-Muslims were even more stunned and wondered what was happening with Muslims taking over their holiest site. Juhayman sat there on his microphone listing his demands. Do you know what his demands were? No more women in television, no more music in the streets, get the Americans out of Arabia.
subḥānAllāh. You are going to hold the Ka'bah hostage because there are women on the streets? What type of mentality is that? Where are you coming from? He held the Ka'bah hostage believing in some messianic vision that God Himself would save him. That is literally what he thought: that Allāh would protect him because he had the promised Mahdi on his side.
Of course the Saudi security forces were forced to try to take over the Haram, and they did what they did, and I'm not defending their own incompetency and in all honesty they also caused a lot of problems by not doing things wisely. But you know what, at the end of the day, you cannot criticize the bungling Saudi forces for their incompetency. They were forced to do something because of Juhayman's taking over of the Haram.
After two weeks, the scholars gave the fatwa that if this is what he is doing, then they are going to have to bring in the tanks and the paratroopers and break down the doors of the Haram. Tanks rolled in on the very steps we now walk to this day. People with guns and snipers were in the shade of the Ka'bah fighting with Juhayman's followers down to the very last man. Hundreds of people died, and nobody will know how many. It is assumed that over 2,000 people died. The official count was around 500, but as you all know, the official numbers are always different from the real numbers. It is assumed that over 2,000 people died, many of whom were innocent bystanders and innocent hujjaj and murtabirin. There was even an African American brother who I have heard quite a lot about and have actually met friends of his here who do not want to be known and what not; I have met people here in America who knew him who were studying there.
Nobody could have imagined an African American brother went to Madīnah to study Islam and ends up with Juhayman's group holding the Ka'bah hostage. We have some video footage, which I think is very interesting. If we could have the video footage shown.[From the video footage “The Juhaiman Incident”: The gravity of the situation could not be imagined. The minarets echoing with the sounds of gunfire causing harm to the innocents, to the citizens, and even those who came to the rescue. All were victims of this heinous act. The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continuously asked the renegades to lay down their arms.]. [Commentary on video]
I'm sorry, it is very blurry. These are the tanks running into the doors of the Ka'bah, and you hear the security forces in the background trying to tell the Juhayman followers to surrender. I don't think you can see it very clearly, and I do apologize. It is a double problem – firstly, the footage itself is very old and very grainy, and secondly, obviously, when it is being broadcast on such a large screen, it becomes more grainy.[Commentary on the video footage of “Juhaiman's Arrest”]
The point being though that they held the Ka'bah itself hostage for over two weeks. Juhayman was captured alive and was executed. His brother-in-law who was the supposed Mahdi was actually killed in the Haram, nobody knows how. You will now see some pictures of the prisoners who had been taken. Most of these prisoners were students of the Islamic University of Madīnah. Pretty much all of them were students of knowledge. They weren't as they say 'militants' in that sense of the term. They weren't average shopkeepers. These were people who were studying and who had a love of Allāh and His Messenger. You know, every time I read this story or I hear it or see it, honestly my mind boggles and my heart trembles. If this is what can happen to a group of righteous people – I'll never forget one of my teachers was telling the story, and he broke down in tears because he had a friend who was a part of Juhayman's movement. He had a friend who was of those who were killed and he was a hafidh of the Qur'an and was a person who was zahid, 'abid, and would always be seen with a mus-haf in his hand and would always be seen reciting the Qur'an. It was exactly like the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: you will consider their worship to be way above yours. My own teacher said his friend was one of those people in that movement, and he was captured and killed and executed.
What drove these people to such depths of believing that they were doing something good for the ummah? How can you possibly think that you are doing something good for the ummah when you're taking the Ka'bah itself hostage? Well, that is exactly what happens when you have a mentality of 'the world is out to get you' and a mentality of 'we have to do something to change for the better.'
Writings of Juhayman
Juhayman wrote a number of books and a number of articles. I shouldn't say 'books' – a number of pamphlets. These pamphlets are obviously banned and are very, very difficult to get a hold of. alḥamdulillāh, I was actually able to get a hold of them, and I gave an academic paper in Harvard about this many years ago, so I read his pamphlets cover to cover. I want to summarize some of the things that he said. He has around fourteen or fifteen little booklets, and I read all of them, and you know, I'm going to be honest here, completely honest. Reading those books, I was moved. alḥamdulillāh Allāh has blessed me to study for ten years, and I have knowledge, and I have studied with a lot of the ulema, but it was obvious that Juhayman was given the gift of the tongue and the gift of the pen.
I could see his eloquence and his fiery rhetoric in his writings, and I tried to as a talib al-'ilm (student of knowledge) and not as a Yale academic to go through this with a fine toothcomb to try to find mistakes. I tried to myself in the shoes of a student of knowledge in 1978 who would be reading these pamphlets and reading these booklets. I tried to ask myself: What if I had been there? What if I was reading Juhayman's writings? What if I had seen this demagogue of a fiery preacher and a leader who was preaching what I thought was the truth? Would I be swayed or not? You know, honestly, I read those booklets cover to cover and I could not find any major methodological faults with them, and that made me very scared. It made me very scared because if the author who could have written those books could hold the Ka'bah hostage and could hold the Haram hostage, subḥānAllāh how difficult is it to tell truth from falsehood.
Nonetheless, his basic premise in all of these writings is: 'we are living at the end of times, and the forces of evil around us and the Americans have taken over our land and are stealing our oil and have a presence in the Arabian Peninsula and the Al-Saud have become completely corrupted and they are taking our money and so much westernization is coming, and we have to do something about it.'
Now, it doesn't say exactly what they are going to do. It doesn't say what he is going to do in this particular pamphlet, nonetheless the rhetoric is there, and the feelings of 'some wrong having occurred and I will bring about an age of righteousness and good' is clear in his writings and in his pamphlet.
He also has an entire tract which is a tafsir of Surah Ta Ha. What is Surah Ta Ha about? It is about Musa and Firawn. He reads this tract in a modern light. He is Musa basically, and the Firwan is all of the government leaders of our times. He is the pious preacher, and he says, “And the Firawns made fun of Musa just like the people of our times make fun of the ulema, and the Firawns imprisoned Musa just like the people of our times imprison scholars.”
He makes himself out to be the greatest scholar of his time. He doesn't say so, but it is quite obvious in his writings when he was asked, “What do you say to those who are older than you and wiser than you? What do you say to Shaykh Ibn Baaz who is your teacher and doesn't agree with you?” Juhayman had to say he dismissed them outright because they were government scholars and basically payrolled by the government. About Shaykh Ibn Baaz, he said, “He is a scholar, I agree, but he doesn't know the reality of the situation. I know better than him. I know the reality better than him.” Of course this is exactly what the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, and that is they are young men with fiery rhetoric and they think they have idealistic visions.
Other Modern Movements
We can go on and on about Juhayman, but again, time is of the essence here, and we have to move on to the next movement that we have some benefit to derive from and that is a number of Egyptian movements that began, again, in the late 70s, and they culminated in the 80s and still exist in our times. The Tanzim Al-Jihad, the Ma'a Islamiyyah, the Da'wat Al-Tawhid, the Jama'ah Al-Takfir wa'l-Hijrah. These were some different miscellaneous movements, all of whom aimed to overthrow the Egyptian government. The most famous names involved here were Muḥammad ibn Abdul Salaam Al-Faraj who wrote the famous book Al-Faridatul Gha'ibah, which is The Neglected Fard. What is the neglected fard? The sixth pillar of Islam and that is the pillar of jihad. This is the most famous book that instigated the jihadists or militant movements of our times. It is available and has been refuted by many, many scholars of our times. Also, Khalid Al-Islambouli was a member of these movements, and we are going to come to his name later.
Ayman Al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda fame. Ayman Al- Zawahiri as a young medical student back in the 70s was a card-carrying member and not just a member. He was a leader of one of their secret cells. Ayman Al- Zawahiri recruited somebody by the name of Dr. Fadl. We are going to come to Dr. Fadl in a while. This movement secretly plotted for three years to overthrow the Egyptian government. We are going to have to be very brief here, we could go into a lot of detail.
By the way, these are movements you should be aware of and read up on. Lots and lots of books have been written in English about these movements. In fact, you find more in English than in Arabic for obvious reasons. These movements managed to infiltrate the Egyptian security forces, so much so that that they actually managed to infiltrate the presidential guard itself. In other words, they managed to convert army members and members of the elite or secret presidential guard to their movement, and you all know what happened, or perhaps some of you are not aware. On the 6th of October 1981 – [Video footage on the “Assassination of Sadat”].[From the video footage “Assassination of Sadat”: Shortly before the beginning of the state presidential parade, Khalid Al-Islambouli loads his rifle in his tent and hides the hand grenades in a helmet. As his vehicle is passing in front of the tribune, he forces the driver at gunpoint to stop. The assassins jump off. President Sadat is hit by 37 bullets, but it is a ricochet which delivers the fatal wound.]
They actually succeeded. They actually succeeded in assassinating the President of Egypt Anwar Sadat, and when they succeeded, what do you think they had in mind? They thought that the greatest revolution would come about. They thought that a time of 'izzah and glory would come on the ummah. They thought that finally they will re-establish the khilafah and that all they had to do was get rid of the Firawn and all they had to do is to kill the Pharaoh and then they would have 'izzah and honor and glory; Islam will be established, the Shari'ah will be upheld, ulema will be respected. They only thought of one thing and that is killing the president. Well, what happened after they killed the president? Instead of having Islam established, they had another person come to power and that is none other than who? Somebody whom we all know.
You really wonder, and you know, modern analysts have actually said that the reign of Anwar Sadat was better than the reign of the one before him and the one after him. They killed Anwar Sadat. In fact, Sadat – generally speaking, I am not going to defend the guy because I really have no concern about defending him or lambasting him – overall had more of a religious training and a love for the religion than the one before him and the one after him. By killing Sadat, what happened? Well, we had another person come into place and we know the story from that time onwards.
Of course, many things happened after that. I don't have much time to go on. I want to just talk about then the story of Dr. Fadl. I mentioned Dr. Fadl just now, and Ayman Al- Zawahiri was the one who gave daw'ah to Dr. Fadl. This was back in the 60s when they were both in medical school together. Dr. Fadl was a far more intellectual person and from a far more prestigious or educated family. He was converted to these jihadist movements, and he emigrated immediately after the death of Sadat. Ayman Al-Zawahiri was captured and tried and put into jail for a number of years and then as soon as he was released he made his way to Afghanistan, and you know the story from there and he is now who he is.
As for Dr. Fadl, he managed to get away before that and went to Afghanistan immediately. As you know, in Afghanistan at that time, the jihadist movement of Osama Bin Laden – and in fact, Osama Bin Laden was a minor player at the time and in the Afghan jihad there were far bigger names such as Hekmatyar, Rabbani, and Ghulam Rasool and all of these big guys who were there fighting against the Soviet invasion. Back then in the 80s – and I remember this as a young kid growing up I would read this in the newspaper – the term mujahideen was a positive term. CBS and ABC would use the term in a positive sense. The 'Afghan mujahideen' and they would show these really cool pictures of people fighting the Soviets, so when you are against the Soviets, you are the good guys.
In any case, Dr. Fadl went and joined the movement back then, and he continued to rise in the ranks of the jihad against the Soviet Union. Eventually, Dr. Fadl became, if you like, the intellectual architect of the movement. He began to write a lot of writings. He wrote a book which in English is called the Encyclopedia of Jihad and is basically a huge compendium of over a thousand pages long in which he discusses the importance of jihad, the ahadith on jihad, the ayat on jihad, and what the scholars of the past said about jihad. This book is the standard reference after Al-Faraj's book which is Al-Faridatul Gha'ibah which is really just a small pamphlet and the catalyst that started this whole trend.
Dr. Fadl came along and in the 80s wrote a much larger book, and it is available and composed of ayat, ahadith, and statements of the scholars, but of course he means with it something other than what most likely those scholars meant in those days. When the Afghan War died down, he moved to Yemen, and he continued to write his books over there. He retained his legendary status online, writing articles, but he kept a very low profile. 9/11 happened and even before 9/11, between Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Dr. Fadl, a rift began to appear. They exchanged a number of harsh letters and harsh words. After 9/11 happened, Dr. Fadl broke away completely from the movement that in all honesty he had been the intellectual founder of and had been involved in for the last 30 years.
Last year, Dr. Fadl wrote a book entitled Tarsheed Al-Jihad (Reclaiming Jihad – re-guiding jihad and diverting jihad back to where it should be; you are giving jihad the rushd or the guidance it should have). This book sent panic waves amongst the jihadists and militant movements. Why? Firstly because of who wrote it. This was a person whose books they grew up reading. This was a person who was their intellectual mastermind. He was their ''ālim. Secondly, because he was speaking from experience. This is not some pacifist, and this is not some government-employed scholar. He cannot be accused of wanting to live a cushier, cozy life in Egypt or America or some place. This is the man with the credentials, and he has lived the life of a 'real' jihadist. He participated in the Afghan jihad, and then he moved forward, so when he was writing, he was writing from personal experience.
This is a brand new book, and again, it is very difficult to get a hold of. I managed to find bits and pieces of it here and there. I don't have the full book with me, and it is not something I was able to purchase as of yet – living in America, there is a problem of getting books. Nonetheless, from what I read, this is an amazing book, and I have bits and portions of it translated here. inshā'Allāh I hope some day somebody translates the entire book, but portions of what he says:
Dr. Fadl says, “These jihadists of our times” – and he calls them jihadiyyoon, so he uses the term 'jihadists' – “cut and paste from the books of the past, but they have no idea of the reality that they are living in.” I want you to understand this is a person who has lived the movement and is a part and parcel of the jihadist trend. He has been in it for 30 years and has seen assassination of Sadat and has been in Afghanistan and he knows Osama Bin Laden is and Al-Zawahiri personally, and now he is breaking away from the movement. Of what he says, “These are the people who can quote you the texts, but they have no idea of reality. They don't understand the current circumstances.” He accuses the jihadists of many things. He says that these people don't care about scruples and morals and want to get money from any way possible. He says even from haram means they just want to get money, even if it is through stealing or something as long as they then can justify the use for jihad – the ends justify the means. He criticizes them for the spilling of innocent blood, and he says, “There is no crime worse in our Shari'ah that is worse after shirk than spilling innocent blood.” He asks them, “What will you answer to Allāh 'azza wa jall for all the blood that you have shed?” And then, he tells them, “Let the kuffar shed the blood that they are doing. What else do you expect them to do? We are Muslims whom Allāh has given a Divine guidance, and we should be role models. We shouldn't stoop to their level.”
He says, – and I quote directly from the translation, and it is the translation that I made, so if it is wrong, then the responsibility is on me – “O believers, don't listen to those with fancy slogans who entice you to enter a conflict you are not qualified to participate in. Don't listen to fancy rhetoric and slogans when people are enticing you to enter a military conflict. You are not qualified!” He accuses the jihadist leaders of not only lacking Islamic knowledge, but he says, “You have no knowledge of warfare. You have no knowledge of politics. You have no knowledge of modern economics. You are a bunch of rebels who think that they are going to change the system without knowledge of the Shari'ah and without knowledge of reality, what do you think you are going to accomplish?”
And he says, “The harm that you bring about is more than any good that you think you gain.” This is exactly my analogy of throwing sticks at a fire that is burning. What do you think is going to happen? “The harm that you bring about is more than the good that you think you gain. What is the point if you destroy one building of theirs, and they bomb a hundred of your cities? What is the point in killing one of theirs when they retaliate by killing a thousand of you.”
Wallahi, these are the words of a wise man – I can't see he is an ''ālim or not an ''ālim. These are the words of a wise man. What is the point of all of this senseless violence when the response is going to be more senseless violence directed to ourselves?
Brothers and sisters, it never ceases to amaze me how shallow militants are and how overzealous and undereducated they are. They cannot think two steps ahead but only one step of “Kill, kill, kill! Get rid of them!” Well, what is going to happen after you kill the person in front of you? What will be the retaliation? What will be step two? They never think two steps ahead. What did Juhayman think when he trapped the Ka'bah and held it hostage. What would happen after that? What did Jama'ah Al-Takfir think when they assassinated Sadat? What did they think would happen after that? What did Al-Jama'ah Al-Islamiyyah think when they massacred hundreds of civilians in Egypt? It is another long story that we don't have time to talk about. What did Hasan Abu Nidal think when he killed a bunch of American servicemen? What would be the retaliation? What would be the next step? You are going to make life even more difficult for your Muslim brothers and sisters.
In conclusion, brothers and sisters – especially brothers – there is a lot to be angry about in the world today. There is a lot that deserves our condemnation. There is a lot that should make our blood boil. But our religion is not based upon mere knee-jerk emotional responses. Our religion is better than that. Be angry, I tell you. Wallahi, be angry! Be angry every time a bomb is dropped on innocent civilians in the name of the war on terror. Be angry every time our tax dollars are spent to oppress yet another group of innocent Palestinians. Be angry every time more draconian measures are utilized against us in this greatest democracy on earth. Be angry! And if you are not angry, then there is a problem in your Islam and you know what, there is even a problem in your humanity. Be angry!
I'm not telling you not to be angry, but what I am telling you is to channel that anger in a productive manner and channel that anger in a useful manner. Don't be like the person who is just throwing more sticks at the fire thinking that he is doing something. Be the person who uses his rational head! Be the person who uses his īmān and taqwa to control that anger! Channel that anger not into acts of rage and not into acts of violence and not into acts of militancy and not into foolish, useless rhetoric that will only bring about undue attention to you and greater suspicion of the Muslim community.
Don't be an overzealous kid with foolish dreams! If you are not going to allow religious sentiments to be tempered by the religion itself, then at least learn from history and be tempered by the lessons that history teaches us.
Jazakum Allahu khayran wassalamu 'alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.