The Religious Foundations of Suicide Bombings
by David Bukay
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2006, pp. 27-36
Most recent jihadists have relied on Qutb to justify their own theories of violent jihad. ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Azzam (1941-89), a Palestinian who fled to Jordan after the Six-Day war, adopted many elements of both Ibn Taymiya, an early fourteenth century Islamic scholar who laid the philosophical groundwork for the Islamic fundamentalism adopted by Saudi Arabia centuries later, and Qutb to promote the belief in an inevitable clash of civilizations. He emphasized the necessity of violent revolution through jihad against both secular governments in majority Muslim states and against the West. He is credited with being the first Sunni Islamic figure to instill the Islamic community with a divine myth of invincibility of jihad and terrorism.
‘Azzam was a major intellectual influence upon Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. In his book Knights under the Banner of the Prophet, bin Laden's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, identified his organization's goals as da'wa and violent jihad against both an "internal enemy," i.e., existing Arab infidel regimes, and an "external enemy" in areas not controlled by Muslims. To Zawahiri, Muslims who accept Western values such as democracy and those who renounce jihad as a means to establish the Islamic state are infidels deserving of death. The Islamic nation, he maintained, would be established only through jihad for the sake of God, compulsory duty vested upon all the Islamic community. He believed that a "Crusader-Jewish" alliance would mobilize all its resources to counter Islamic power.
Bin Laden embraced similar logic. Beginning in August 1996, he used verses from the Qur'an and the Hadith to argue that jihad was compulsory to expel non-Muslims and Westerners from Saudi Arabia. On February 23, 1998, though, he expanded his jihad when, with Zawahiri at his side, he announced the creation of the International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders.
The writings of Qutb also influenced Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Zarqawi peppered his speeches and declarations with verses from the Qur'an and Hadith to demonstrate God's promise of the inevitability of the creation of a pure Sunni Islamic state so long as Muslims fight jihad against the enemies of Islam by jihad. Zarqawi called jihad "the crest of the summit of Islam."
Bin Laden granted Zarqawi permission to kill Iraqi security forces and Shi‘ites in order to achieve a "state of truth" and uproot the "state of the lie." Zarqawi did so with both car bombs and suicide bombers. On May 18, 2005, Zarqawi legitimized the killing of Muslims under the principle of overriding necessity and the victory of jihad. "Islamic law states that the Islamic faith is more important than life, honor, and property," and the Shi‘ites are worse than the Crusaders, he argued. He declared both collateral killing of Muslims and murder of noncombatant non-Muslims legitimate and, on September 14, 2005, declared jihad war on the Shi‘ites.
In the words of Rudolph Peters, an expert on contemporary Islam, the ultimate aim of jihad is the subjection of the non-believers and the eradication of non-belief. Islamic law is the ultimate solution, and it has full answers to all possible situations and problems, present and future. This is why the fanatic Muslims of today—religious, ideologists, and practitioners—denounce all the existing political systems and demand their liquidation. The current Arab-Islamic system represents a "new age of ignorance" and the Western political systems are "the new Crusaderism," all doomed to extermination by jihad warfare.