Sunday, April 6, 2008

World: Forum 2000 Looks At War on Terror

World: Forum 2000 Looks At War on Terror
By Jeffrey Donovan

James Woolsey
Are the Islamic world and the West on a collision course? Has the ouster of Saddam Hussein improved the chances for democracy in the Middle East? Is the war on terror being won or lost? These are just some of the issues discussed today at the Forum 2000 conference in Prague. The annual gathering, launched in 1997 by former Czech President Vaclav Havel, brings together prominent politicians and thinkers from around the world to discuss ways to avert threats to international peace.

Prague, 10 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- How to assess the state of relations between the West and the Islamic world?
That depends on whom you ask. And to be sure, there were no shortage of voices -- ranging from alarming to reassuring -- at today's Forum 200 conference in Prague.

To hear James Woolsey describe it, the West is engaged in what the former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) calls "the long war of the 21st century."

Woolsey told RFE/RL he sees the West in a battle with three forms of totalitarianism: the remnants of Ba'athism in Iraq and Syria, the Shi'ite clerical regime of Iran, and the Sunni jihadists of Al-Qaeda.

The latter, he says, are largely underpinned by the Wahhabi ideology of Saudi Arabia and are the main threat to the West.

"I would say that the Wahhabis and the Islamist jihadis, Salafis like Al-Qaeda, are not all true representatives of Islam," Woolsey said. "We do not need to take their word for that any more than the world needed to take the word of [Tomas de] Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century that they were true representatives of Christianity. They were not; they were totalitarian bastards. And the Wahhabis and Al-Qaeda are the modern equivalents."

"The anti-Western hysteria, the anti-American hysteria, is exploited by authoritarian leaders in order to deflect attention from serious corruption and repression in their own countries." -- former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim
For Woolsey, who was CIA director in the mid-1990s, none of these groups can be appeased with concessions, such as a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"You could have an Israeli-Palestinian settlement tomorrow and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia would still be fanatically anti-Shi'ite, anti-Sufi, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-female, anti-democracy, anti-music, and so would Al-Qaeda be," Woolsey said. "Indeed, the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and the Islamist jihadis such as Al-Qaeda pretty much agree on everything, except on one thing: who should be in charge."

But former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim believes the West -- and the United States in particular -- can do a lot more to improve relations with the Muslim world and be a positive force for change there.
Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar, who was freed in 2004 after being imprisoned on politically motivated charges, knows about repression. He said that while the Muslim world has legitimate grievances with the West -- such as the war in Iraq -- leaders in the Islamic world use those issues to further repress their people.

"The anti-Western hysteria, the anti-American hysteria, is exploited by authoritarian leaders in order to deflect attention from serious corruption and repression in their own countries," Anwar said.

Anwar, who now teaches at Oxford University in Britain, said that Muslims are receptive to the current U.S. drive for democracy in the Middle East. But he said there remains a fundamental lack of trust due to the perceived failure to address Muslim grievances.

"I'm not denying the fact that the rhetoric of freedom and democracy by the administration in Washington is generally well received. But people are suspicious," Anwar said. "They see the war in Iraq. They see the failure to address the issues of the dispossessed Palestinians. So I think what is required is an effective [U.S.] engagement [with the Muslim world]."

Engagement is also a word used by Ghassan Salame. The former Lebanese culture minister now teaches international relations in Paris and advises UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In an interview with RFE/RL, Salame categorically rejected the notion of a "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West.

"The Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and the Islamist jihadis such as Al-Qaeda pretty much agree on everything, except on one thing: who should be in charge." -- former CIA director James Woolsey
"Civilizations are not political actors in the international arena so that they can clash or they can enter into a dialogue," Salame said. "Civilizations are just a reservoir for our values, for our ideas, for our dreams, for our languages, from which we borrow from time to time and very often we forget. So, that's what civilizations are, they are not actors. Individuals are actors, groups are actors, states are actors."

In that light, Salame sees the current insurgency in Iraq fueled not by a clash with the West, but by a combination of American mistakes and actions by Iraq's neighbors.

"They [Iraq's neighbors] used the very porous borders between them and Iraq in order to do a lot of unnecessary and very hostile and very destabilizing things in Iraq -- in order precisely to keep America busy in Iraq so that it doesn't turn against them," Salame said.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, some governments in the region feared they might become the next targets of the war on terror. The U.S. considers Iran and Syria to be state sponsors of terrorism.

200 Years of New Kharijism: the Ongoing Revision of Islam

200 Years of New Kharijism: the Ongoing Revision of Islam
By Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani
Chairman, Islamic Supreme Council of America

We live in a time when the enemies of Islam are attempting to destroy it from within.
Resourceful and determined, they announce new mode of leadership that pretends to restore the purity of the faith as a guise to gain the confidence of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The unwary observer is readily misled by their portrayal, which is eagerly disseminated by the media. In fact, it is these proponents of extremism who are themselves outside the realm of true Islam. “The Religion of God,” al-Khatib said, “lies between extremism and the laxity.”

1.0 Prophetic Traditions

The advent of these extremists was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (s).
Prophet Muhammad’s authentic traditionsii detail for us the characteristics and behavior of the extremists, stating that their existence in our world would be revealed when “…the destitute (al-buhm) camel-herds compete in building tall structures,”iii or in another narration “…the barefoot, naked, indigent (al-‘âla) shepherds compete in building tall structures.”iv

“…The barefoot and the naked are the heads of the people,”v or “…the barefoot and naked, the deaf and dumb are the kings of the earth.”vi

“Barefoot and naked” and “deaf and dumb” are metaphors to describe in figurative
speech just how depraved the new leaders would be. “Barefoot and naked” relates to people of the desert, and implies their utter ignorance in matters pertaining to organized society.vii “Deaf and dumb” implies that they would fail to use common sense in anything concerning religion, though they are perfectly sound in mind and limb.viii Implied as well is the notion that the extremists’ ultimate goal is world domination, to be “kings of the earth.”

The traditions reveal another of the signs of the extremists’ onset is “the affectation of eloquence by the rabble and their betaking to palaces in big ities.”ix

Prophet Muhammad predicted a reversal in society whereby these depraved leaders would take over the rule of every region by force. They would become extremely rich and their primary concern would be to erect the tallest buildings, rather than maintain order or care for the common welfare.x

2.0 A Reversal of Values

Sadly, we have witnessed the realization of the Prophet’s prediction in the dominance of extremist ideology in the Middle East and its increasing influence in the West. Because of their influence and their reversal of values, we now see doctrinal, political, and physical wars of exclusion being waged everywhere in the name of Islam. In the United States, extremist ideologues have waged a fifty-year long campaign to exclude moderate, traditional Muslims from political arenas as well as the mosque. The effect has been to create the impression that the 200 Years of New Kharijism – The Ongoing Revision of Islam Islamic Supreme Council of America
extremists are the majority whereas they are simply the most vociferous, having made it more comfortable for the majority of Muslims to stay at home, away from their doctrinal wrangling.

These two phenomena, depraved leadership and exclusionism, are the mainstays of
New Kharijism in our time. What clearer proof of this than what took place in Makka on November 20, 1979, when hundreds of armed men seized the Holy Mosque under the 36-year old Juhayman al-‘Utaybi and proclaimed him as the new leader of the country? They held the mosque for two weeks during which they practiced lewd sexual behavior with the women they held captive and those they had brought with them.

According to the New York Times, “There were hundreds of casualties on both sides
before Saudi forces were able to drag out the last remnant of what by then was a bunch of filthy, bedraggled young men.” Al-‘Utaybi and sixty-three of the captured were later executed by public beheading. According to As Sayyid Yusuf al-Rifa‘i, these wild young people learned their ways from the same teacher as Abdel Aziz Ibn Baz (d. 2000), a famous Wahhabi scholar.

3.0 The Original Khawârij

Before we speak of the modern phenomenon of New Kharijism it is important to define
the principal constituents of Khariji doctrines. The name “Khawârij” was applied to those who, in the time of the Successors of the Companions to the Prophet (one generation after Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime), parted ways with other Muslims and declared them disbelievers, just as the followers of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “Wahhabis” (also known as the “Salafis”), do today.xi

The Khawârij or “Kharijites” were tens of thousands of Muslims mostly comprised of
Qur’an memorizors and devoted worshippers who prayed and fasted above the norm. Yet, they declared every one of the Companions and all who associated with them to be apostate disbelievers and took up arms against them. The practices of declaring Muslims apostate (takfîr/tashrîk) and taking armed action (baghî) against the central Muslim authority – the Caliphate – became and continues to remain the hallmark of the Khawârij.

In addition, the Khawârij altered the interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna, and used them to declare it lawful to kill and take the property of Muslims, as do their modern counterparts, the Wahhabis.xii

The classification of the Wahhabis as Kharijis has been a leitmotiv of Sunni heresiography for the past 200 years. Only now has it become politically incorrect among the scholars of Islam (ulema).

4.0 Three Principles of the New Kharijis

The chief brand of New Kharijism, or Wahhabism, distinguishes itself from traditional
Islam by three main principles:

1. Anthropomorphism of the Deity: Attributing a body to the object of Islamic worship.

2. Disrespect of Prophet: Harming the Prophet through:

200 Years of New Kharijism – The Ongoing Revision of Islam Islamic Supreme Council of America

- Disrespect of his noble person, mosque, grave, vestiges, Family, or Companions.
- Disrespect of those who visit, love, and praise him.
- Disparaging or holding his status as an intercessor in disdain.

3. Disregard for the schools and methods of the Sunni Imams including:
- The Imams of Sunni doctrine (‘aqîda): al-Ash‘ari and al-Maturidi.
- The scholars of traditional Sunni jurisprudence (fiqh): Abu Hanifa, Malik, ash-Shafi‘i, and Ahmad.
- The Imams of Sunni morals (akhlâq) known as the Polesxiii of the science of soulpurification (tasawwuf): al-Junayd, al-Gilani, al-Shadhili, al-Rifa‘i, al-Chishti, al- Suhrawardi, Shah Naqshband, and al-Tijani.xiv

Since all sincere Muslims believe God is transcendent and love their Prophet, it follows that this third principle, disregard for the Sunni Schools and their jurisprudential authority, is by far the most harmful tenet of New Kharijism and its most devastating achievement. The attack on the schools of thought has resulted in the pollution of pure belief, the arrogant rejection of Islamic authority, and the discrediting of pious Muslims striving to follow the straight path.

The traditional schools were immediately supplanted by extremist ideologues and
radical centers of education. Africans tell the story of a young man sent to study Shari‘a at great expense by his Sunni parents. Upon his return a few years later, he refused to eat a chicken slaughtered in his honor by his father stating, “my father is an apostate.” Scenarios like this one quickly caused a great rift between the generations of peace-loving Muslims and the chaosdriven youth who were their children.

More ugly still is the violence wreaked by extremists on the Muslims of Syria, Egypt,
Algeria, Afghanistan, Daghestan, Chechnya, and within the Indian Subcontinent. Violence and societal upheaval were instilled at the new schools by radical ideologues like Egyptian ex- Communist Sayyid Qutb. Sayyid Qutb declared a Muslim is either a “revolutionist” or an infidel, and went so far as to declare all the Islamic societies of his time apostate and fit to be overthrown. He stated, “Islam is a force that runs to gift freedom to all people on the earth with no regard to the variety of their religious beliefs. When this force meets with aberrant forces, it is the duty of his so-called “Islam” to struggle and annihilate them.”xvi

Invoking the memory of the original Kharijis, he also wrote, “Islam is a whole: its separated parts should be united and the differences removed.”xvii

5.0 Prohibitions of the New Kharijis

Today Sayyid Qutb’s spiritual children – such as the followers of Taqi al-Din al-
Nabahani, who are outlawed in most Muslim countries – tell Muslims not to:
- Participate in government.
- Sit on jury duty.

- Vote.
- Collaborate with other faith groups.
- Recite the remembrance of God in collective gatherings of dhikr.xviii
- Commemorate the birthday of our Prophet (mawlid) nor read poetry in his honor.
- Wear turbans or attempt to revive Prophetic traditions concerning dress.
- Show deference or respect to religious scholars or pious elders.
- Visit the tombs of saints.

5.0 The Ongoing Revision of Islam

The Neo-Kharijis and their sponsors are mounting a worldwide offensive to convince
Muslims and the rest of the world that theirs is the only way. To this end, a vast publishing campaign to revise Islam has been under way since the early thirties, an effort that has been redoubled since the eighties. This campaign is waged on five fronts:

5.1 Tampering with the Texts

A wanton, unethical manipulation of the great books of Islam has removed words or
entire chapters from classical works by the great Imams such as al-Nawawi, al-Sawi, and Ibn ‘Abidin. Quranic exegeses such as Tafsir al-Jalalayn and the works of ‘Abd Allah Yusuf ‘Ali have all been reprinted with changes. This corrupt tampering of these guiding texts has been documented at length.xix

5.2 “Improving” on the Foundational Books of Islam

They have unabashedly published corrective comments on manuals whose contents
were long ago established as normative in the scholarly community of Islam. Many such
instances have also been documented. xx

5.3 Revising Their Own Source Texts

Not content to fiddle with historically accepted books, they also find fault with the
minor texts they publish and distribute in order to gainsay their own putative authorities. This is a patent illustration of the principle that each new generation of innovators rejects the previous one as too moderate.xxi

5.4 Reprinting Discredited Works

The Neo-Kharijis are supplementing their own works by re-circulating books that have
already been condemned by the majority of scholars. Though heretical and un-Islamic,
numerous books are now being promoted as the fundamental guides for the practice of Islam.xxii

5.5 Promoting the Works of Unqualified, Self-styled Scholars to Attack Sufis and Asharis Including:
- Muhammad Ahmad ‘Abd al-Salam,
- Muhammad al-Shuqayri,
- Ibn Abi al-‘Izz,
- Muhammad Nasiruddeen al-Albani,
- Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Bin Baz,
- Muhammad bin Saleh Al-'Uthaymin,
- Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips,
- Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali,
- Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan,
- And many others. xxiii

Their dismissal of the traditional schools of thought, their development of schools as incubators for radical ideology, their attack on the source texts of Islam and generations of recognized scholars, and their financing by ideological counterparts worldwide, have truly enabled the Neo-Kharajite movement to dominate the vision of Islam in the world. Finding roots in the Khawârij of ca. 750 CE, and given new life by Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab in the 19th century, these extremists have only really succeeded in their efforts to subvert Islam in the past 75 years.

Traditional Muslims, the silent majority, remain numerous and confidant enough to
repel the Neo-Kharajite movement from within Islam, given the necessary support. However, backed by the oil-wealth of their ideological counterparts overseas, Neo-Kharajites have a definitive advantage over the majority of Muslims, who have only their own humble resources at their disposal. Only with real financial and political support can classical Muslim scholars and moderate, mainstream Muslims reclaim the banner of Islam from these usurpers, retake the podium they have hijacked, repel these extremists and discredit their heretical ideology. Truly, this is a battle worth fighting. And it is a battle which, with the help of Almighty God, we can
and must win.

Truly we belong to Allah and to Him is our return, and there is no power nor might except in Allah the Exalted and Almighty Lord.

i In al-Dhahabi, Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala’ (1997 ed. 13:598).

ii Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and advice communicated through verifiable chains of transmission, known as the ahadith. The body of traditions are called the Sunna, and form the second basis for Islamic law, in addition to the Holy Qur’an.
iii The well-known hadith of Gibril in Sahih al-Bukhari.
iv Sahih Muslim.
v Ibid.
vi Ibid
vii see Al-Taymi, Sulayman.
viii Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari.
ix Related by Al-Tabarani, through Abu Hamza, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas.
x Al-Qurtubi.
xi Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (3:309), “Bab al-Bughat” [Chapter on Rebels].
xii Al-Sawi, Hashiya ‘ala Tafsir al-Jalalayn (v. 58:18-19) in the Cairo, 1939 al-Mashhad al-Husayni edition (3:307-8) repr. Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi in Beirut.
xiii Aqtâb, sing. qutb
xiv The schools of tasawwuf are known as Paths, turuq, sing. Tarîqa.
xv Qutb, Sayyid, World’s Peace and Islam.
xvi The Future is Islaam (p. 203).
xvii Social Justice in Islam (p. 35).
xviii Dhikr is considered by traditional Muslims as the most excellent form of devotion for a servant of God, and is stressed over a hundred times in the Holy Qur’an. For the spiritually-inclined, it is polish for the heart, the essence of
the science of faith, and the key to all success. Nor are there any restrictions on the form, frequency, or timing of dhikr whatsoever.
xix Cf. Appendix, “Albani and Company,” in Struggle for the Soul of Islam: Exposing the Scholars of Najd and the Wahhabi/Salafi Movement, paragraph on Ibn Baz.
xx For example: Ibn Abi al-‘Izz’s commentary on al-Tahawi’s ‘Aqida. Al-Tahawi’s `Aqida is a normative classic of Islam but Ibn Abi al-‘Izz is unknown and nacceptable as a source for Ahl al-Sunna teachings. Examples of his unreliability are his rejection of al-Tahawi’s articles:
! §35: “The Seeing of Allah by the People of the Garden is true, without their vision being all-encompassing and without the manner of their vision being known” and
! §38: “He is beyond having limits placed on Him, or being restricted, or having parts or limbs, nor is He contained by the six directions as all created things are”.
Al-`Izz states, “Can any vision be rationally conceived without face-to-face encounter? And in it there is a proof for His elevation (‘uluw) over His reatures,” and “Whoever claims that Allah is seen without direction, let him verify his reason!” [Ibn Abi al-‘Izz, Sharh al-‘Aqida al-Tahawiyya, p. 195]. He also endorses Ibn Taymiyya’s view of the finality of Hellfire, in flat contradiction of the al-Tahawi’s statement, §83. “The Garden and the Fire are created and shall never be extinguished nor come to an end.” [Ibid. p. 427-430] There is also doubt as to Ibn Abi al-‘Izz’s identity and authorship of this Sharh.

xxi Muhammad Hamid al-Fiqqi objects apoplectically to Ibn Taymiyya in his edition of the latter’s Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim in the section entitled “Innovated festivities of time and place.” He criticizes Ibn Taymiyya for saying that “some people innovate a celebration out of love for the Prophet and to exalt him, and Allah may reward them for this love and striving.” Al-Fiqqi writes a two-page footnote exclaiming, “How can they possibly obtain a reward for this?! What striving is in this?!”

xxii Including:
! Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s Tawhid, which is replete with doctrinal errors such as: o Calling the Ash‘aris “Nullifiers of the Divine Attributes” (mu‘attila) [chapters 2, 16]
o Declaring the Lesser shirk an integral part of the Greater. [7]
o Misinterpreting the hadith “do not make my grave an idol” to mean: do not even pray near it whereas the agreed-upon meaning is: Do not pray towards or on top of it. [20]
o Stating: “The disbelievers who know their disbelief are better-guided than the believers.” (inna al-kuffâr al-ladhîna ya‘rifûna kufrahum ahdâ sabîlan min al-mu’minîn) [23]
o Stating: “Among the polytheists are those who love Allah with a tremendous love” [31].
o Stating that “the two opposites [belief and disbelief] can be found in a single heart” [41] in
violation of the verse [Allah has not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body] (33:4).
This and the previous four concepts are fundamental to understand their propagation of mutual suspicion among Muslims.
o Stating that Allah is explicitly said to have two hands: the right holds the heaven and the other holds the earth, and the other is explicitly named the left hand. [67]

! ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s al-Sunna, a foundational book of the Wahhabi creed. According to Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut, “at least 50 percent of the hadiths are weak or outright forgeries” in this book. Its publication was sponsored by His Highness King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Sa‘ud and a Jedda businessman named Muhammad Nasif in Cairo in 1349/1930 at al-Matba‘a al-Salafiyya.

The same Muhammad Nasif financed:
! an attack on Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari and the Hanafi School by ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mu‘allimi al-Yamani (d. 1386 H) entitled al-Tankil li Ma W arada fi Ta’nib al-Kawthari min al-Abatil.

o the reprinting of al-Qari’s hapless fatwa against the parents of the Prophet.
o the dissemination in India of al-Khatib’s derogatory biography of Imam Abu Hanifa from Tarikh Baghdad.

! Ibn Taymiyya: Fatwa Hamawiyya; ‘Aqida W asitiyya; Hadith al-Nuzul; Awliya’ al-Shaytan; Iqtida’ al-Sirat al- Mustaqim; Qa‘ida fi al-Tawassul; Ziyarat al-Qubur, etc.
! Ibn al-Qayyim: al-Qasida al-Nuniyya; Ijtima‘ al-Juyush al-Islamiyya.
! al-Harawi’s Dhamm ‘Ilm al-Kalam wa Ahlih
! al-Biqa‘i’s takfîr of Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi – may Allah have mercy on him – in his book Masra‘ al- Tasawwuf, Tanbih Al-Ghabi Ila Takfir Ibn ‘Arabi, ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Wakil (Bilbis: Dar al-Taqwa, <1989>)
xxiii In Arabic:
! Muhammad al-Shuqayri who wrote the book al-Sunna wa al-Mubtada‘at
! Muhammad Khalil Harras wrote a commentary on Ibn Taymiyya’s ‘Aqida W asitiyya – distributed for free in the Arab world
! Al-Albani
! ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abd al-Khaliq, al-Albani’s student and deputy in Kuwait, al-Fikr al-Sufi (“Sufi Thought”) and its abridgment Fada’ih al-Sufiyya (“The Disgraces of the Sufis”).

! ‘Abd al-Rahman Dimashqiyya
! Mahmud ‘Abd al-Ra’uf al-Qasim al-Madkhali, al-Kashf ‘an Haqiqat al-Sufiyya (“Unveiling the Reality of the Sufis”), 1993. The book was refuted by Dr. ‘Abd al-Qadir ‘Isa in his 700-page Haqa’iq ‘an al-Tasawwuf.

! Al-Tuwayjiri (Hamd ibn ‘Abd al-Muhsin). With all respect to his person, he demanded that women caught driving in Saudi Arabia be labeled as prostitutes in the courts.
! Al-Jaza’iri (Abu Bakr)
! Al-Wadi‘i (Muqbil ibn Hadi), Nashr al-Sahifa fi Dhikr al-Sahih min Aqwal A’immat al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dil fi Abi Hanifa. Fada’ih (“Disgraces”), 1999.
In English
! Ibn Baz, Sunnah and Caution against Innovation
! An anonymous tract entitled A Brief Introduction to the Salafi Da‘wah.
! Muhammad Ma‘soomee al-Khajnadee (d. 1961 ce), Blind Following of Madhhabs (Birmingham: al- Hidaayah Publishing, 1993).

! A. A. Tabari, a fictitious name for the author of The Other Side of Sufism, abtract distributed in Wahhabi funded mosques and posted on the Internet.
! The Naqshbandi Tariqat Unveiled, al-Hidaayah, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Hizb ut-Tahrir: An Emerging Threat to U.S. Interests in Central Asia

Hizb ut-Tahrir: An Emerging Threat to U.S. Interests in Central Asia
by Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.
This article originally appeared in the Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1656, published May 30, 2003

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) is an emerging threat to American interests in Central and South Asia and the Middle East. It is a clandestine, cadre-operated, radical Islamist political organization that operates in 40 countries around the world, with headquarters apparently in London. Its proclaimed goal is jihad against America and the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a Caliphate (Khilafah in Arabic), a theocratic dictatorship based on the Shari'a (religious Islamic law). The model for Hizb is the "righteous" Caliphate, a militaristic Islamic state that existed in the 7th and 8th centuries under Mohammad and his first four successors, known as the "righteous Caliphs."

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks taught the United States a painful lesson--that it must be alert to emerging threats, including terrorism and other destabilizing activities against its military assets, citizens, and allies. Some of these emerging threats, combined with the actions of terrorist jihadi organizations, such as al-Qaeda, may also generate political instability in key geographic areas and threaten friendly regimes. In Central Asia, the security situation has deteriorated because the war against Saddam Hussein's regime has intensified the resolve of anti-American forces already active in the region.1

The United States has important national security interests at stake in Central Asia, including access to the military bases used to support operations in Afghanistan, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and technologies for their production, and securing access to natural resources, including oil and gas. The U.S. is also committed to spreading democracy, promoting market reforms, and improving human rights standards in the vast heartland of Eurasia.

Therefore, to prevent Hizb ut-Tahrir from destabilizing Central Asia and other areas, the U.S. should expand intelligence collection on Hizb. The U.S. should encourage Central Asian governments to pursue reforms that will expand civil society and diminish the alienation on which Hizb and fundamentalist Islamist movements are preying. Specifically, the U.S. should condition security assistance on economic reform, encourage democracy and popular participation, discredit radical Islamist movements, and support religious and political moderation and pluralism.

Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami is an emerging threat to American interests and the countries in which it operates. It has 5,000-10,000 hard-core members, and many more supporters in former Soviet Central Asia (e.g., Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), and is expanding its operations to oil-rich Kazakhstan. Over 10,000 members are active in Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and Indonesia.2 At least 500 are already behind bars in Uzbekistan alone, and hundreds are in custody in the Middle East.3 By breeding violent anti-American attitudes, attempting to overthrow existing regimes, and preparing cadres for more radical Islamist organizations, Hizb poses a threat to U.S. interests in Central Asia and elsewhere in the Islamic world where moderate regimes are found.

Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani al Falastini, the founder of Hizb, has written that every Muslim should strive to establish a Caliphate and that this religious imperative (fard) upon the Muslim nation (Umma) is so strong that Mohammad's close allies delayed burying his body until a new Caliph was appointed and the Caliphate established.4 The Caliphate would be led by a Caliph: a supreme, pious leader who would combine religious and political power.5

A Caliph, an-Nabhani believes, is a substitute for Mohammad as both political and religious leader. The Caliph would appoint an Amir, or military leader, who would declare jihad and wage war against all non-believers, including the United States. According to Hizb's political vision, such an entity, if established, would not recognize existing national, regional, tribal, or clan differences and would include all Muslims.

An-Nabhani has drafted the constitution of this future Caliphate. It is not the constitution of a democratic state. The Caliph would be appointed by acclamation by "prominent men," with male voters casting a vote of approval. The ruler would not be directly accountable to the people, and there would be no checks or balances between branches of government. Succession would be by designation of the Caliph or acclamation of the oligarchy.

Thus, Hizb explicitly rejects democracy. In fact, one of an-Nabhani's books is titled Democracy: The Law of Infidels.6 Yet some regional observers have called for the legitimization of Hizb and its integration into the existing political model.7 In doing so, they ignore the obvious--Hizb's goal is to smash the existing state apparatus, not to become a player within it.

Radical Islamic Roots
Since its inception in 1952 in Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem, Hizb has gained tens of thousands of followers from London to Lahore.8 From its beginning, an-Nabhani's organization was influenced by the rabid anti-Semitism propagated by Sheikh Hajj Amin Al-Housseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was a major Nazi war collaborator.9

An-Nabhani, who was serving at the time on the Islamic appellate court in Jerusalem, was an associate and contemporary of Hajj Amin's.10 He also drew on the organizational principles of Marxism-Leninism, which were quite well-known among the middle- and upper-class Arabs in British Mandate Palestine. Khaled Hassan, one of the founders of the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was also among the founders of Hizb ut-Tahrir, as was Sheikh Asaad Tahmimi, who became Islamic Jihad's spiritual leader.11 Hizb supported the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991 and backs the Islamic Salvation Front of Algeria, a radical movement on the U.S. State Department's terrorism list.12

An-Nabhani was also member of the radical Islamic Brotherhood (Al Ihwan al-Muslimeen), a secretive international fundamentalist organization founded in Egypt in 1928, which spread throughout the Islamic world and preaches the establishment of a Caliphate. He joined the Brotherhood while studying in Cairo's Al-Azhar University but later left the Brotherhood because he considered it too soft.13 It is likely that Hizb was supported initially by the Saudi-based radical Islamist Wahhabi movement, although the extent to which that support continues today is unclear.14

Hizb ut-Tahrir's spread around the globe, in Western Europe and often in authoritarian states with strong secret police organizations, is impressive. It could be accomplished only by applying 20th century totalitarian political "technology" melded with Islamic notions of the 7th and 8th centuries, as interpreted by medieval Islamic scholars. The genius of Hizb founder an-Nabhani was marrying Orthodox Islamist ideology to Leninist strategy and tactics.

The Leninist Model
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a totalitarian organization, akin to a disciplined Marxist-Leninist party, in which internal dissent is neither encouraged nor tolerated. Because its goal is global revolution, a leading Islamic scholar has compared it to the Trotskyite wing of the international communist movement.15 Its candidate members become well-versed in party literature during a two-year indoctrination course in a study circle, supervised by a party member. Only when a member "matures in Party culture," "adopts the thoughts and opinions of the party," and "melts with the Party" can he or she become a full-fledged member.16 Women are organized in cells supervised by a female cadre or a male relative. After joining the party, the new recruit may be requested (or ordered) to relocate to start a new cell.

When a critical mass of cells is achieved, according to its doctrine, Hizb may move to take over a country in preparation for the establishment of the Caliphate. Such a takeover would likely be bloody and violent. Moreover, its strategy and tactics show that, while the party is currently circumspect in preaching violence, it will justify its use--just as Lenin and the Bolsheviks did--when a critical mass is achieved.17

Hizb's platform and actions fit in with "Islamist globalization"--an alternative mode of globalization based on radical Islam. This ideology poses a direct challenge to the Western model of a secular, market-driven, tolerant, multicultural globalization.18

Where radicalization has taken hold in the Islamic world, Hizb has gained new supporters in droves. It operates clandestinely in over 40 countries around the world, with members organized in cells of five to eight members each. Only a cell commander knows the next level of leadership, ensuring operational security. "Representatives" in Great Britain and Pakistan claim to speak for the organization but have no official address or legal office. Leadership for large regions (e.g., the former Soviet Union), countries, and local areas is kept secret.

Hizb's primary characteristics include the fiery rhetoric of jihad, secret cells and operations, murky funding sources, rejection of existing political regimes, rapid transnational growth, and outlook and goals that are shared with al-Qaeda and other organizations of the global jihadi movement.

Hizb has called for a jihad against the U.S., its allies, and moderate Muslim states. The purpose of the jihad is "to find and kill the Kufar (non-believers)," in fact rejecting the Islamic notion of Greater Jihad against one's own as a sin.19

In documents drafted before 9/11, Hizb leaders accused the United States of imposing hegemony on the world. After 9/11, Hizb claimed that the U.S. had declared war against the global Muslim community (Umma), had established an international alliance under the "pretext" of fighting terrorism, and was reinforcing its grip on the countries of Central Asia. Hizb further claimed that the U.S. accused Osama bin Laden of being responsible for the 9/11 attacks "without any evidence or proof."

The party attempted to use its influence by calling upon all Muslim governments to reject the U.S. appeal for cooperation in the war against terrorism.20 It called for expulsion of U.S. and Western citizens, including Western diplomats, from countries in which it will take power and shredding diplomatic treaties and agreements with Western governments. It further declared:

Muslims! You are religiously obliged to reject this American question which takes you lightly and despises you. America does not have the sublime values that entitle it to tell you what to support and whom to fight against. You possess a divine mission. You are the ones to bring guidance and light to mankind. God described you with the following words: "You are the best people brought forth for the benefit of mankind. You enjoin good and forbid evil. And you believe in God."
As for is legal, in fact it is an obligation, it is the apex of Islamic ethics, as Almighty God says, "Keep in store for them whatever you are capable of, force and equipment with which you can frighten those who are enemies of God and enemies of yourselves...." God's Messenger (Mohammed) said, "Islam is the head, prayer is the backbone and Jihad is the perfection."
Muslims! The law of religion does not allow you to give to America what it is trying to impose upon you. You are not allowed to follow its orders or to provide it with any assistance whatsoever, no matter whether it be intelligence or facilities of using your territory, your air space or your territorial waters. It is not permissible to cede military bases to the Americans, nor it is allowed to coordinate any military activities with them or to collaborate with them. It is not allowed to enter into an alliance with them or to be loyal to them, because they are enemies of Islam and Muslims. God said, "Believers, Do not befriend my enemy and your enemy.... They have rejected the truth that has come to you."21
In a June 2001 article published in the party's journal, Hizb ideologists claim that all methods are justified in the struggle against the unbelievers, including murder. They specifically mention that a pilot's diving a plane hit by enemy fire into a crowd of unbelievers without bailing out with a parachute is a legitimate form of armed struggle. Hizb also demands that Muslims come to the support of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.22
According to Hizb, the main targets of jihad--in addition to moderate Muslim regimes such as Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Uzbekistan--are America and the Jews.

[T]he war waged by America, the head of Kufr, and Britain and their allies from the Kafir states on Afghanistan is a crusade.... What America and Britain are doing is displaying their enmity for the Islamic Ummah. They are enemies; a state of war exists between them and all the Muslims that necessitates adopting an actual state of war as a basis for dealing with them according to the dictates of the Shari'ah rules. That position should be adopted with them and all those who ally themselves with them in their war against the Muslims.23

The war of America and her allies against Islam and the Muslims has shown the corrupt nature of her civilization and her colonial world-view. The War on Iraq...has demonstrated that America and her allies only strive to colonize and plunder the resources of the Islamic world, not to bring about justice and security.... America is intending to deceive you.... [S]he is inherently weak as her ideology is false and corrupt.... The time has come for Islam not just in Iraq but in this entire Ummah. It is time for the Islamic State (Khilafah) to lead the world and save the world from the crimes and oppression of the capitalist system.24

According to one of the Hizb Central Asian leaders, "we are very much opposed to the Jews and Israel.... Jews must leave Central Asia. The United States is the enemy of Islam with the Jews."25

Anti-Americanism, extremism, and preaching the violent overthrow of existing regimes make Hizb ut-Tahrir a prime suspect in the next wave of violent political action in Central Asia and other Muslim countries with relatively weak regimes, such as Pakistan and Indonesia.

Stages of Struggle, Jihad, and Violence
Hizb ut-Tahrir sees its struggle in parallel with the three stages that Mohammad experienced en route to the establishment of the Caliphate 1,400 years ago. These are spreading the word of God to the communities of Arabia; the flight from Mecca to Medina in order to establish the first Islamic community there; and, finally, the conquest of Mecca, jihad, and the establishment of the Caliphate.

Similarly, Hizb divides its strategy into three stages:

"Production of people who believe in the idea and the method of the Party so that they form the Party group" (recruitment and agitation, establishment of cells);
"Interaction with the Ummah; to let the Ummah embrace and carry Islam" (Islamization); and
"Establishing government, implementing Islam generally and comprehensively, and carrying it as a message to the world" (revolutionary takeover and Jihad).26
In the past, members of Hizb participated in coups against pro-Western regimes in the Middle East, such as the failed 1968 officers' coup against King Hussein II of Jordan.27 Despite its authoritarian and highly disciplined cadre structure, Hizb claimed that members who participated in the coup did so in an "individual capacity." However, more recently, Hizb representatives, together with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, participated in coordination meetings sponsored by al-Qaeda in the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Numerous Middle Eastern countries and Germany, where Hizb is establishing links with the neo-Nazis, have taken steps to outlaw its activities. Moreover, the Party clearly states that Jihad has to continue till the Day of Judgment. So whenever disbelieving enemies attack an Islamic country it becomes compulsory on its Muslim citizens to repel the enemy. The members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in that country are part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as [it] is upon other Muslims (not resident in that country) in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and expel them. Whenever there is a Muslim amir who declares jihad to enhance the Word of Allah and mobilizes the people to do that, the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir will respond in their capacity as Muslims in the country where the general call to arms was proclaimed.28

At this time, Hizb ut-Tahrir aims to seize power and supplant existing governments in Central Asia and elsewhere with an Islamist version based on Shari'a for the purpose of jihad against the West, which includes the following:

"A struggle against Kufr (non-believer) states which have domination and influence over the Islamic countries. The challenge against colonialism in all its intellectual, political, economic, and military forms, involves exposing its plans, and revealing its conspiracies in order to deliver the Ummah from its control and to liberate it."29

"A struggle against the rulers in the Arab and Muslim countries by exposing them, taking them to task, acting to change them whenever they have denied the rights of the Ummah or neglected to perform their duty towards her, or ignored any of her affairs, and whenever they disagreed with the rules of Islam, and acting also to remove their regimes so as to establish the Islamic rule in its place."30
Hizb also seeks to penetrate state structures and convert government officials and military officers to its creed. Its platform openly states that "the Party started to seek the support of the influential people with two objectives in mind:

So that it could manage to continue its daw'ah (Islamic appeal) while secure from affliction
To take over the rule in order to establish the Khilafah and apply Islam."31
Hizb has begun to penetrate the elites in Central Asia. Observers in the region have reported successes in penetrating the Parliament in Kyrgyzstan, the media in Kazakhstan, and customs offices in Uzbekistan.

U.S. strategic interests in Central Asia include both access to the military bases needed for operations in Afghanistan and deterring the establishment of safe havens for terrorist organizations. The U.S. is seeking to prevent a country, a group of countries, or a transnational movement or organization from establishing hegemonic control in the region. This includes barring transnational Islamic fundamentalist organizations and drug cartels from emerging as ruling bodies or dominant regional power centers.

The U.S. must also prevent Central Asia from becoming an arsenal of dangerous weaponry and should prevent the development and production of weapons of mass destruction in the region, to preclude them from falling into the hands of rogue regimes or terrorists. Furthermore, the U.S. needs to ensure equal access to the energy resources of the region, primarily in the Caspian Sea area, and encourage development of the East-West transportation and economic corridors, also known as the Silk Road. Finally, the U.S. should encourage economic reform, expansion of civic space, democratization, and development of open society in the region.32

The secular regimes of Central Asia have little to no democratic legitimacy. Most of their rulers are Soviet-era communist party leaders. Almost no political space is left for secular opposition in these states. U.S. objectives are thus jeopardized not only by the authoritarian parties of radical Islamic revolution such as Hizb, but also by the authoritarian nature of these Central Asian regimes themselves, with their rampant corruption, declining living standards, poor delivery of public goods and services, and stagnant or declining economies. By governing so poorly and being intolerant and undemocratic, these regimes inadvertently breed religious extremism.33

In this environment, Hizb ut-Tahrir has captured a protest niche that otherwise would be occupied by a legitimate political opposition. Despite this, the U.S. government, along with the policy analysis and expert communities as well as governments in the region and around the world, has yet to attain a clear picture of Hizb's real size and strength and threat it poses.

While reports of increasing Hizb activity abound, the extent to which local Hizb activities are part of a coordinated global plan is still unknown, just as the question of whether every region and country has an autonomous leadership that defines programs and sets deadlines remains unanswered. Hizb is rumored to be operating on a 13-year grand plan which, if it exists at all, is still unknown.

At its inception, Hizb likely had strong connections to Saudi Wahhabism, but it is unclear whether these links remain today. It is equally unclear whether Hizb has one or more state sponsors and, if so, who they are. At various times, experts have speculated that Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan have been involved. The international intelligence community is also uncertain as to who finances the organization; who controls the funds internally; what the mode of financing is (e.g., regional self-sufficiency or centralized funding); and how funds are transferred (e.g., via the Hawala informal banking system or couriers).

The current leader of Hizb is also unknown, as are where he resides and the identity of the senior officers of Hizb. Upon his death, an-Nabhani was succeeded by Sheikh Abd-el Qadim Zaloom, another Palestinian cleric and a former professor at Al-Azhar in Cairo.34 Zaloom was with Hizb for 50 years and died on April 29, 2003.35 While anecdotal reports place the organization's headquarters in London and indicate that many European converts to Islam are staffing mid- and senior levels of the organization, very little evidence confirms this. These questions need to be answered, and a joint international program of collecting intelligence on Hizb and countering its activities must be developed.

The U.S. and its allies in the war on terrorism need to recognize that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a growing threat in Central Asia. Specifically, to develop a comprehensive strategy and counter Hizb's influence, the U.S. should:

Expand intelligence collection on Hizb ut-Tahrir. This needs to be done both in Western Europe and in outlying areas, such as Central Asia, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Most important is information on state sponsorship, leadership, finances, intentions and capabilities, time lines, links with violent terrorist groups, and penetration of state structures. The U.S. intelligence community should work with the United Kingdom's MI5 and MI6 and with the intelligence services of Russia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Central Asian states. U.S. analysts and policymakers, however, should be aware that some of the regimes in question will attempt to portray Hizb as a terrorist organization with links to Osama bin Laden.36

Condition security assistance to Central Asia on economic reform. Hizb is growing in Central Asia due to the "revolution of diminishing expectations," increasing despair, and the lack of secular political space and economic opportunity in the region.37 While some are attracted to Hizb's harsh version of radical Islam, others see it is as an outlet for their frustration with the status quo and an instrument for upward mobility. U.S. assistance to Central Asian countries, which has doubled since 9/11, has not changed the economic dynamics in the region, and most of the funds were understandably earmarked for security cooperation and military assistance.

To jump-start economic development, the Bush Administration should condition Pentagon security assistance on the adoption of free market policies, strengthening property rights and the rule of law, encouraging transparency, and fighting corruption. These measures are likely to make the Central Asian economies more attractive to private investment, stimulate domestic economic growth, and increase prosperity and economic opportunity, thus diminishing the ability of Hizb to use economic decline as an engine for recruitment, as it does in the Ferghana Valley and Kyrgyzstan.

Encourage democracy and popular participation. The scarcity of secular and moderate Islamic democratic politics and credible non-governmental organization (NGO) activities and the lack of freedom of expression may be driving thousands of young recruits to join Hizb in Central Asia, especially in Uzbekistan. There have been no democratic elections in the region for several years, and the opposition press is either nonexistent or severely curbed. Hizb, as well as jihadi organizations, recruits from among alienated students and urban youth, frustrated with the status quo and facing limited futures.

While economic opportunity, religious freedom, and freedom of expression are not a panacea against Islamist radicalism, as the swelling ranks of young Islamic fundamentalists in Western Europe demonstrate, expanding the civic space and allowing more political pluralism, media diversity, and grassroots initiatives may diminish Hizb's appeal. According to a representative of a major U.S. NGO, some liberalization of the nonprofit sector has been attained in the Central Asian countries since 9/11. This trend needs to be encouraged.38

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department should, however, coordinate their activities with the Pentagon, World Bank, and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, all of which are interested in political stability, reducing corruption, and development of property rights and a more investment-oriented environment. Together, they are more likely to convince the Central Asian regimes to undertake further political liberalization, including competitive, free and fair elections.

Discredit radicals and encourage moderates. The U.S. should encourage local governments to not only crack down on radical Islam (as they already do), but also encourage alternatives. Uzbekistan has reportedly jailed hundreds of Hizbi activists. The Union of Councils' Central Asian Information Network has documented disappearances, 14 deaths in detention, and over 500 political prisoners in Uzbekistan.39 Human Rights Watch claims that thousands of Central Asian prisoners could qualify as political, including many members of Hizb, who receive 15-17 year sentences for minor offenses such as leaflet distribution.40

The State Department and U.S.-funded NGOs should encourage more U.S. media exposure (e.g., Uzbek and other local language broadcasts by Radio Liberty and the Voice of American) and educational contacts, speaking engagements, and exchanges between local clergy and moderate Muslim leaders in the West.41 The Central Asian public needs to be directly exposed to traditional moderate local brands of Islam, Sufi mystical branches (Tariq'at), and reformist moderate Jadidi Islam.

Beyond that, secular regimes in Central Asia should stop persecuting new evangelical Christian denominations, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians. Development of independent media and activities aimed at youth, women, the business community, and ethnic and religious minorities--groups more likely to be discriminated against by Hizb and other radical Sunni groups--should be encouraged and supported.42

However, Hizb, as well as Salafi/Wahhabi and other radical Islamic schools that preach jihad against America and the West, should not be allowed to operate. The U.S. should provide support to local media to cover negative examples of the application of Shari'a law, such as amputations for minor offenses or alcohol possession in Chechnya, Afghanistan under the Taliban, Saudi Arabia, and other places. The consequences of jihad-type civil war, such as in Algeria, which left 100,000-200,000 dead, should also be covered. Positive coverage of the West should also be supported.

Hizb ut-Tahrir represents a growing medium- and long-term threat to geopolitical stability and the secular regimes of Central Asia and ultimately poses a potential threat to other regions of the world. The party is transnational, secretive, and extremist in its anti-Americanism. It seeks to overthrow and destroy existing regimes and establish a Shari'a-based Caliphate.

Hizb may launch terrorist attacks against U.S. targets and allies, operating either alone or in cooperation with other global terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. A Hizb takeover of any Central Asian state could provide the global radical Islamist movement with a geographic base and access to the expertise and technology to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and its allies must do everything possible to avoid such an outcome.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


1. "Hizb-ut-Tahrir s korichnevym ottenkom" (Hizb-ut-Tahrir with a brown tinge), Vecherniy Bishkek, April 4, 2003.

2. Interview with Husain Haqqani, The Carnegie Endowment, May 2003; see also "Fourteen Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir Caught," Anatolia Press Agency, March 6, 2000; "More Arrests Reported in Hizb ut-Tahrir Operations," Anatolia Press Agency, March 7, 2000; FBIS/World News Connection, March 7, 2000.

3. Union of Councils Central Asian Information Network, "Uzbekistan: List of 14 Possible Political Prisoners Who Died in Jail, 5 Disappearances and 505 Possible Political Prisoners," at

4. Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, Khilafa, quoted in Alima Bissenova, "Hizb al-Tahrir Political Thought from the Pan-Islamic Perspective," paper presented at the 8th Annual Convention of the Association for Study of Nationalities, New York, April 2003, p. 6.

5. Al-Mawardi, The Ordinances of Government (United Kingdom: Garnett Publishing, 1996). An-Nabhani based his judgment on the work of Al-Mawardi, the first Islamic scholar who decreed the necessity of establishing the Caliphate. See Bissenova, "Hizb al-Tahrir Political Thought from the Pan-Islamic Perspective," pp. 8-11.

6. "Hizb-ut-Tahrir na `Svobode,'" (Hizb-ut-Tahrir at Radio Liberty); Vremia Po (Almaty, Kazakhstan), July 22, 2001; interview with Vitaly Ponomarev, coordinator of Central Asian program of the Moscow human rights group Memorial, available at FBIS.

7. Alisher Khamidov, "Countering the Call: The U.S., Hizb ut-Tahrir, and Religious Extremism in Central Asia," draft, Brookings Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World, April 2003.

8. Ahmed Rashid, "Asking for Holy War," at

9. Michael R. Fischbach, "Biography of Taqyy al-Din an-Nabhani," in Phillip Mattar, ed., Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, at

10. "While in Baghdad, al-Husseini aided the pro-Nazi revolt of 1941. He then spent the rest of World War II as Hitler's special guest in Berlin, advocating the extermination of Jews in radio broadcasts to the Middle East and recruiting Balkan Muslims for the infamous SS `mountain divisions' that tried to wipe out Jewish communities throughout the region." See "Who was the Grand Mufti, Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini?" at

11. Hashem Kassem, "Hizb- ut-Tahrir al Islami" (The Islamic Liberation Party), 2002, at

12. Ibid.

13. Fischbach, "Biography of Taqyy al-Din an-Nabhani."

14. Ahmed Rashid, "Asking for Holy War," at

15. Personal interview with Husain Haqqani, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 2003.

16. Hizb ut-Tahrir, "The Reasons for the Establishment of Hizb ut-Tahrir," at

17. Compare V. I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done (New York: International Publishers, 1988), pp. 111-113 and 122-123 on legal work, and pp. 126-129 on the spread of illegal cells and activities.

18. Alexei Malashenko, "Musul'mane v nachale veka: Nadezhdy & ugrozy" (Muslims in the beginning of the century: Hopes and threats), Moscow Carnegie Center Working Paper No. 7, 2002, pp. 5-6.

19. Sidik Aukbur, "The True Meaning of Jihad," Khilafah, May 2003, at

20. "Alliance with America Is a Capital Crime Prohibited by Islam," Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet, September 18, 2001, at

21. "Alliance with America Is a Capital Crime Prohibited by Islam," Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet, September 18, 2001, at

22. Hizb ut-Tahrir, "America and Britain Declare War Against Islam and the Muslims," communiqu? October 14, 2001, at

23. Ibid.

24. Hizb-ut Tahrir Britain, "An Open Letter from Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain to the Iraqi Opposition Groups Conferring in Their Conference in London," December 13, 2002, at

25. Ahmed Rashid, "Asking for Holy War," International Eurasian Institute for Economic and Political Research, at

26. "The Method of Hizb ut-Tahrir," at

27. Hashem Kassem, "Hizb- ut-Tahrir al Islami."

28. "The Method of Hizb ut-Tahrir" (italics added).

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid. (bullet points added).

32. "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics," Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, 105th Cong., 2nd Sess., February 12, 1998, at

33. Ariel Cohen, "U.S. Interests in Central Asia," testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific , March 17, 1999, at

34. Ahmed Rashid, "Reviving the Caliphate," chapter 6 of Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 119.

35. "Hizb ut-Tahrir Announces the Death of Its Ameer," at

36. Rashid, "Reviving the Caliphate," p. 135. Under the auspices of the Taliban, representatives of Hizb attended meetings in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Al-Qaeda also participated.

37. Ibid., pp. 135-136.

38. Personal interview with a source who requests not to be identified, April 2003.

39. Union of Councils Central Asian Information Network, "Uzbekistan: List of 14 Possible Political Prisoners Who Died in Jail, 5 Disappearances and 505 Possible Political Prisoners."

40. "Uzbekistan: Harassment Before EBRD Annual Meeting," Human Rights Watch, May 2, 2003, at; see also "Persecution of Human Rights Defenders in Uzbekistan," Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, May 1, 2003, at

41. "Muslim Clerics Visit U.S.," Caspian Business News, December 16, 2002, p. 12, at However, USAID, which is funding visits to the U.S. by Central Asian clergy so they can learn how Islam functions in a democracy, should be careful not to expose them to U.S.-based Wahhabis, who are actively abusing the democratic system.

42. Ariel Cohen, "Promoting Freedom and Democracy: Fighting the War of Ideas Against Islamic Terrorism," Comparative Strategy, June 2003, forthcoming.

Monday, March 31, 2008

On the Status, Method and Fallout of the Global Spread of Wahhabism


On the Status, Method and Fallout of the Global Spread of Wahhabism
An interview with Professor Sulayman Nyang

DR. NYANG: The second point that you know which I think is very critical – so these are common grounds whether they are Muslims from India, Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine – it doesn’t matter…

The second point that I think is critical for Muslims in the United States and all over the world is to recognize the fact that in order for them to succeed in doing da`wah, and in promoting the word of Allah (swt) and the example of Prophet Muhammad (s) – they have to like each other, otherwise you cannot be impressive. How you going [to] tell a Christian or a Yahudi (Jew) or non-believer that Islam is very full when he can see that you don’t like your other Muslim brother. It doesn’t
make sense. You cannot be effective. The only way you can be effective is to prove to him or her –that listen – I disagree with my brother – just like in your own family you can disagree with your brother or your sister… So it’s just a difference of opinion. So this way the person looking at you will say ah ha, this person does not only have a message but he also has an example in himself or herself, and these two points are very critical…

Q: How do one implement this here between the various organizations? Because this is the main issue. We don’t disagree with each other on the general level. For example when I sit with Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi or this one or with that one, you see that there is a mutual understanding. When it goes high to the – [person[] sitting on [top of] his organization, then the whole idea changes.

DR. NYANG: You see, this is where the structures work against unity. Because the structures are institutionalization of narrow interests, you see, and then you see this is where the external forces become dangerous and this is what I keep telling the Muslims in America - if the Muslims are genuinely interested in planting the seeds of Islam in America they should not allow themselves to be controlled by the forces outside them. Like what you are saying… people will do things Islamically if it advances their interest. What does Islam do for me instead of what can I do for
Islam? That’s where we started the conversation. The external forces, sometimes governments, sometimes international Muslim organizations abroad – they feel that they can manipulate groups….

Q: They have such bad ideas about Tasawwuf [Sufism]; … they brainwash them … that Tasawwuf is shirk (associating partners with Allah), so anyone that has a Sufi background – they come against him without trying to know why …because they learned that Tasawwuf is not existing in Islam, which is incorrect. So that’s what …many Muslims are facing in the United States. But in our countries if you say that you are of this Tariqa [spiritual path] or that Tariqa, they will be happy!

PAGE 2 OF 13

On Wahhabization of the Islamic movement

DR. NYANG: Yeah, now you see what is happening– if you look at the intellectual history, the social history of the Muslim organizations in America, you can see the reason why this is the case. And again it’s because many of these people – if you take the MSA, which we started when we just came here. It started in ’64. I came maybe one year later after they started [with] Ahmad Sakr, and all the others.
You have three elements who were instrumental in bringing about the MSA. You have those people from the subcontinent who were followers of Mawlana Maududi. Anis Ahmad and all those people – Iqbal Yunus, and all those people. Then you have people who came from the Arab world who would identify with the Ikwan al-Muslimoon [Muslim Brotherhood]. You know, Abu Gideri, Tijani. We’re neighbors, you can name their names. And then those who came from Iran, who were the followers of Ayatollah Khoei, people like Mosadeq; [or the one] who became foreign minister after the [Iranian Islamic] Revolution - people like Ibrahim Yazdi. Those elements, they were students here. These groups, the followers of Ayatollah Khoei, those from Najaf in Iraq; the followers of Mawlana Maududi; and the followers of Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al- Banna and the Ikhwan [al-Muslimoon] – they were the ones who started the MSA in America.

Many of those people, they have a version of Islam – even though Maududi himself has
some Tasawwuf connections, but they became very rigid in terms of their Islam, and to
some extent many of them had to deal with the Salafi people. So they turned against

…If one is to really write an article about American Muslims’ resistance to Tasawwuf, you have to trace the roots back to this. And then you see what happened is – because of the politics in Arab world, at the time these people were coming in, those people who were followers of Ayatollah Khoei – they were opposed to the Ba`ath Party in Iraq and Syria. So naturally those kids, our generation, they were older, I was the young… Many of those …so the Ba`athists were opposed by these Muslims, because in the 50’s and 60’s most of the Arab kids I went to school with in America
were secular…. They were Muslims, but Islam was not seen as progressive, because they
were all Arab nationalists – [saying,] “Nasser, Nasser, Nasser. “ That was the other thing.

So the Ikhwan people were very marginalized among the Arab intellectual groups. And
those people who were followers of Ayatollah Khoei from Iraq and Iran, they were also
marginalized, because these were young Arab, Iranian, Pakistani, Indian Muslims who were Islamic.

We used to pray – there are a lot of people I know, now many of them are active, but when we were students, many of them from Africa, and many from Pakistan – they didn’t want to pray. Many of them now, they are very active. And…their kids are now going to college. In those days they were just what I called “grasshopper” Muslims.
I want to say why Tasawwuf was rejected: most of those [Muslims] were secular…and…they came back to Islam after the Iranian Revolution. Many of them, they have kids, they’re now professionals in America. They moved from secularism into Islam. And the kind of Islam they know is ISNA. And the other thing – they come back from being grasshoppers to being ‘regular’ Muslims.

Two things have taken place – in the Arab world, in the Muslim world. You have the Iranian Revolution – many of them were now beginning to be attacked by the non-Muslims for being Muslims. So even if you are a secularized Muslim, you are still attacked. And the Iranians learned the hard way. Even if you are a secular Iranian, because you are Iranian you are going to be attacked. So many of them now began to realize their Muslim identity. And this coincided with the oil embargo in the Arab world, and the rise of Saudi Arabia.

So, you see, because Maududi and the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon people were supported by
the Arab Gulf States in Saudi Arabia. That’s why you have many of these people who are leaders now in Southern California here – they were living in the Arab world. They were doctors in the Arab world, they made money in Kuwait and in Saudi Arabia… because they fled from Egypt, from Nasser’s air forces. They went to Saudi Arabia, they helped King Faisal and King Khalid.

Many of them made money, and then they came to America. They became very active in
Islamic work here. Those people now, while they were refugees from Nasser in Saudi
Arabia, in Qatar – they became Wahhabis. So if you’re really trying to understand the root of these anti-Tasawwuf [concepts], you have to [study]… the intellectual history and the social history of the Muslim groups.

So those people who were Maududi supporters, those people who were Ayatollah Khoei
supporters, and those people who were supporters of the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon, who
became refugees in Saudi Arabia, they became influenced by the Wahhabis. And when
they came to America and they started doing da`wah they were getting money from Saudi
Arabia. So those people, they opposed Tasawwuf. That’s the intellectual history of what happened.

On why American Islamist groups reject traditional Islam

Q: …This is what MSA [and] those who put MSA together at the beginning [believe] – but now we are seeing more Muslims coming, immigrants …[who] know their backgrounds.
[Is it not correct] that the majority of them practice Tasawwuf?


Q: And they practice Islamic beliefs like Mawlid an-Nabi (birthday of Prophet Muhammad), like salaam; like praising [the Prophet (s)]; like na’at and so on [sending salams on the Prophet, praising him, and reciting beautiful poetry and ballads in praise of him]. If the MSA had that idea at the beginning and [among the] new people [who] are coming – is this [rejection of these an] effect of the old leaders of MSA still influencing the new generation?

DR. NYANG: No, no, no. That’s why when you say the silent majority – they come from Muslim countries where you have Tasawwuf already [established]. So there’s a gap between the elites who have been influenced, as I described, and the masses… There’s a gap there.

Most Muslim countries have been exposed to Tasawwuf – that’s a fact in our intellectual history. There is not a single Muslim country where Islam went without the Tasawwuf people.

Q: And that Tasawwuf was a blessing that had helped to spread Islam…?

DR. NYANG: Yes, of course, that’s the way it happened all over the Islamic world. Of course, you know, some of our ulema (religious scholars), some of our people now, especially the Salafi and the Wahhabi intellectuals will say, “Well these were distortions of Islam because the march of Muslim traders and scholars who were going to these countries in Malaysia, in Indonesia, in Africa, in Central Asia – they had to deal with the culture, so they compromised with the culture.” But I think that’s false.

Q: Yeah, because as you see, Ibn Taymiyya has clearly supported Tasawwuf … the correct Tasawwuf.


Q: Which implements the state of ihsan? [“Ihsan” is a state of closeness to Allah Almighty about which the Prophet (s) said, “It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, He indeed sees you.”]


Q: And many of the Sufis, like Abu Yazid al-Bistami, like Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, Sulayman ad-Durrani [are mentioned by] Ibn Taymiyya [in] two volumes [about that] in his Fatawa, volumes 10 and 11 on Tasawwuf, and the necessity of Tasawwuf. And [Ibn Taymiyya] was a Qadiri himself?


Q: So, if we relate to what you said that the traders who conducted business in Central Asia or the Far East or Subcontinents – for their culture to compromise with the culture of the people there… we also find in the Islamic tradition that different scholars, like Ibn Taymiyya, [were] Sufi, who now … are being studied…?
DR. NYANG: Yes, that’s right, that’s right.

Q: Even Imam Nawawi was a Sufi. Even Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani [and] Al-Haythami [were]
Sufi. As-Subki was a Sufi, Adh-Dhahabi, … were Sufi.


Q: The Four Schools of Islam…

DR. NYANG: The major thinkers, yes. They all have Sufi ancestry.

Q: Dr. Nyang, in your opinion – how we can … bring unity? Because we don’t want clashes between the ummah [Muslims of the world], especially in America…

DR. NYANG: No, no.

On clearing up the false understanding of Tasawwuf

Q: How can we clear up the MSA understanding about Tasawwuf, that it is not something
other than Islam, but it is [part of] Islam?

DR. NYANG: Yes, this is where the dialogue has to be initiated. And I think two processes must take place. One is, there must be dialogue with the elites – not all of them will come. Some of them, they have vested interests. Because, see, if you are a Muslim in America and you are getting money from Saudi Arabia – I don’t expect you to… – you may know the truth but you will not come, because your interest is linked… They’re not going to accept that because they feel that if they do it, they will destroy their sources of funding. So those people, you don’t dismiss them. You still maintain the door open. Keep the door open, because their
circumstances could change, you know what I’m saying. They may fall out with the Saudis or whoever that is, and because you did not snub them or close the door against them, they may turn around and say, “Well you know brother you are right, what you were saying is correct.”

I mean, self interest misguided them. It’s not that they don’t have the intellectual understanding - this is a human being, you know that. I mean if you have a son and he falls in love with a girl, because he sees her and he likes her, and we say, “That’s not good for you,” he’s not going to listen... Because that’s his interest. You see what I’m saying. Now, until he has intellectual conversion that what he wants – if he wants to buy a car, you tell him, “Don’t buy this car, it’s not good for you” – but if he’s emotionally attached to that car, you cannot tell him anything. Now, until he is influenced by an intellectual understanding that
“this is not good for me”, then you see that, “what daddy was saying or my friend was saying was correct”… Your interest blinds you to reality, you cannot see it.
There are people like that, those people who have vested interest in the way the Wahhabi hierarchy in Saudi Arabia doles out money to them. And that’s not only in America – it’s …all over the world. You see Rabita people – they give money to them. Those people are not going to accept. Intellectually they know that what you are saying is correct, but they are not going to accept it. You see this in every area, with politics and everything else… Once you know this, you understand their behavior.

That’s of course, in knowledge, what we call the sociology of knowledge. Because you have higher interests that affects the manner in which human beings respond to knowledge; because of their interests.

The Wahhabi – [and] people who are inspired by the Wahhabi, or influenced by the
Wahhabi – will never accept Tasawwuf, even if they are intellectually convinced about the validity and the strength of Tasawwuf because of their material interest. And this is very clear in the United States. So, that dialogue – you don’t shut the door, don’t close the door to them. You keep the door ajar, and if they want to come and dialogue, fine. If I see you [I say], “salaamu ’alaykum brother, how are you doing?” I will be very nice to you. That’s between you and me as a brother Muslim. Khalas [finished].

On the causes for the rejection of Tasawwuf

Q: Can I ask a question? As you are a professor in these issues, and you have more vision on these subjects, tell us why then this ideology - if they know that it is correct, and Tasawwuf has been correct all the time, and we know that now in Saudi Arabia, or in this country especially… the silent majority is Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’at and few are not from Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’at - why then, since they know this, is there that fear of the word “Tasawwuf”? What is in their heart that they are so irritated when the issue of Tasawwuf comes up?

DR. NYANG: You know, the thing is this: I was a diplomat in Saudi Arabia in the 70’s, twenty-two years ago... What I observed over there in Saudi Arabia, is the fact that the Saudi ruling family itself is not united on this issue of Wahhabism.

Q: Yes, that is correct. They have nothing to do with it, they don’t [even] care for it.

DR. NYANG: Yes, you see what has happened is at one point in time, their father or grandfather, Abdul Aziz, was able to use the Ikhwan, which grew out of the movement created by, you know, like the amir, you know, so-called Saudi Greats, and Muhammad ibn Saud, [and] Abdul Wahhab, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. That alliance between the crown and the pen, you know, in Saudi Arabia, has led to the Aali-Shaykh family...You see, and the Al- Saud family. That’s why the Aali-Shaykh, you know that very well, Aali-Shaykh family becomes the Minister of Education since the beginning of the kingdom.

On rejection of Wahhabism in its homeland

DR. NYANG: Now, what has happened really is the royal family may not care about Wahhabism any more. Because this is one of the reasons why – if you go to Riyadh or Jeddah, you take a taxi, they still listen to music. Whereas Wahhabis used to say, “no music.” [You see] cigars... They put it on TV. If they are Wahhabis, they are opposed to that. In the past, no music in Saudi Arabia. You see, you can see that even among the royal family, this old idea of Wahhabism, rigid Wahhabism, is fading away.

OK, the silent majority, the first they are Ahl Jama’at was-Sunnah, that’s what they are in Saudi Arabia, especially in Hijaz. People they do Mawlid an-Nabi in Medina. [They celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, listen to music, smoke cigars, all of which is outlawed by Wahhabis.]

Q: In Medina and Makkah?


Q: Jeddah, everywhere?

DR. NYANG: They do! So the reality is really that the elites have a vested interest in keeping the facade – it’s all facade – there is no substance to it in Saudi Arabia. It’s facade because, you see, the prestige internationally depends on Wahhabism. The great irony in Saudi Arabia is that Wahhabism is more important as a tool of foreign policy than as an instrument of internal government policy. You see what I am saying! This is what is happening. And if we recognize this reality, we will know how to deal with them. You see where there is a political issue – because, you see they would like to use this political issue for international propaganda.
And you have some groups now from overseas who have a vested interest in clinging on to that. You see, because the groups that are in America, if they get money from the
Wahhabi’s government, they re-enforce the external policy, even though, domestically they didn’t have much substance to it. You see what I’m saying? This is where politics comes in, and it has nothing to do with Islam or anything else. It’s just mere power and how to get power and keep power.

On Wahabi incitement to violence in Africa

Q: And that’s what we see now – I’d like your opinion on another matter, also. Now we see that in many African countries like Kenya, Senegal, Djibouti, Somalia – they begin big fights and clashes between the Muslims. …We are seeing that Muslims are fighting each other there, because the majority there are following Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’at and following Tasawwuf, because this is how they grew up. [Is this indeed correct?]

DR. NYANG: That’s right.

Q: And now with this new ideology that’s coming in from the Wahhabis – you are finding that this is going… clashes are increasing?


Q: We have some – one of our brothers sent me letters, that …in many masajid (mosques), there have been many killings there for who will be in authority between the Wahhabis or still in the hands of the Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama’at.

DR. NYANG: Yes… I can understand this, you see because you have the so called the Islamic Party of Kenya. What’s his name again? You know, Ahmed Bilala. The problem you have, you know, in the Kenyan case, you have in Mombasa, you have many of those people – they call them – Europeans call them Afro-Arabs. These are people from Hadramut, you know, who migrated to Africa two hundred years ago, they settled, they intermarried with local people. People of Nazariya… You know, and others… So you have these people in Pimba, in Malindi, and you know, like and in Mombasa area.

Those coastal city-states of Muslims have been there for almost about 800 years. Those families of Muslims, many of them historically came from Oman, or Hadramaut, and some other areas in Yemen. Now, some of them were Shi’a, but most of them were Sunni, Ahl as-Sunnah. So they settled in that region.

In recent times what has happened is when the Rabita began to fight on behalf of the
Saudi family with Nasserites, they were looking for allies in the region. And these groups of people became actively involved. So these Wahhabis had their own people. You see, so those people, they get money. If you are an imam in Mombasa, for example, and the Rabita sends you a check - in Africa it’s a lot of money. They send them about $800 a month. It’s a lot of money over there. In America it’s nothing. Over there it’s a lot of money. So, you are on the payroll of Rabita. They send you $800 every month. I mean, it makes you live a middle-class lifestyle in Kenya. So, you are an imam and you know every month you get a check and then you may even be member of the Global Islamic Council of Imams or Mosques.

They have a mosque in Saudi Arabia. Every year you go for this annual meeting of imams from around the world. And you meet there – you meet all the people from Pakistan, from Thailand, from Malaysia. You can then go for `umra [the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca]. It gives you prestige in your community. Because you see, they say the imam is going to see the Imam of Mecca. That’s prestige, you see, it’s prestige. The newspaper will say that Imam Ahmed Abdullah will be going to Mecca to attend the Global Council of Masjids (mosques).

Prestige. If we have money, you do it in America, too… If they get an invitation, they come from Kenya, yea I’m going to America to join the Muslims. You see? Prestige for them. That’s what’s happening! This is what is happening! So those guys, they got caught up in this international network of Wahhabis, so when they come to Kenya, they will fight anybody who talks Tasawwuf…

Even though in Saudi Arabia, the royal family is not united on Wahhabism anymore. These people are more holier than thou. Ha ha ha. This is what is happening! Politicization of Islam. And the creation of the profit motive in sectarianism. See what I’m saying? It becomes commercial.

What you were saying earlier in the conversation. People will say, “What can I get from this Islam?” Islam now is good for them, it’s modernized. You see what I am saying? This is what is happening…?

On how the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon and Wahabi interests became linked

Q: What is your future vision of Islam in the world, Professor Nyang? With the power of money and political influence, will ideology overcome the whole world and become the effecting factor on Islamic belief? And will the belief of Muslims through fourteen hundred years be changed slightly toward the new ideology of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab?

DR. NYANG: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. You see, fortunately for Muslims – fortunately, I say this – the Saudis don’t have the intellectual ability to do that. If they had the intellectual ability, we’d be in serious trouble. You see, they don’t have the same intellectual clout that the Egyptians had under Nasser. You see, when Nasser… you see, if you look at what happened – in fact, I’ve been trying to encourage some of my students to write – one of the Egyptians scholars who retired from my department said he might write a book or, he said, will get me a grant – then I can write a book… I would like to get one of the graduate
students, you know, to really, to investigate this. Because, you see, I have written some articles about it, but I think it should be investigated thoroughly and a book should be written. And that is – because this will deal with the question that you are raising.

The intellectual impact of what the late Malcolm Kerr, who was killed in Lebanon …he was the president of American University of Beirut… Malcolm Kerr wrote a book called The Arab Cold War... The royal families like the Wahhabis and King Faisal, King Hussein and all that… then later between the Hashemites and the Nasserites, and then, of course, later on it took a different character between the Saudis – Riyadh and Cairo. Because, you see, because of the tension that was going on between Nasser and his advocacy of radical Arab republicanism on the one hand and the traditional Arab monarchists – that tension between the two forces led to the migration of many
Muslim intellectuals from the Ihkwan to the Gulf countries.

You know, in my research, which I wrote a long time ago, I wrote this paper many years ago “Saudi Foreign Policy in Africa,” which was published almost 20 years ago now. I mean, the argument I made there – some of the things I’m telling you now, I wrote that long …ago in that article.

What happened really was when King Saud was fighting – at first, Saud was close to
Nasser, but then, because Saud was close to America and Nasser was close to the Soviet Union – the Arabs were split ideologically between the supporters of America and the West and the supporters of Russia. Nasser became the leader of the republican radicals, and then the Saudi family was supported by America. So, many of the Egyptian intellectuals who were with the Ihkwan al-Muslimoon of Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb migrated to Saudi Arabia. And they are the ones – the intellectuals – that’s why I told you that the Saudis don’t have the intellectual ability – they are the ones who helped the Saudi Arabians to establish what? Rabita.
The Rabita was created only to fight the Egyptians Nasserites. Because you have Tawfiq Awwiyla, you know, who was the head of the Majlis, the Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs in Egypt, which was the strongest weapon used by Nasser to penetrate Africa and Asia.

And Nasser gave scholarships to Pakistanis, Malaysians – at that time, Malaysia was not strong as it is today –and they were all going to Egypt, at Al-Azhar University, to study. And then the Saudis, benefiting from the Egyptian intellectuals, people like Mahmoud Tawfiq… [who] all went to Riyadh and they created the Rabita. And the Egyptians, the Lebanese, and the Syrians and Iraqi intellectuals who were Ikhwanis – they fled to Saudi Arabia. And they’re the ones who created the intellectual infrastructure for the royal family in Saudi Arabia.

So, you have the Majlis in Egypt and you have the Rabita. And the Rabita would now
become a very important instrument for the royal family in Saudi Arabia, not only to fight the Nasserites, but to expand Saudi influence in the Muslim world. Then the Saudis’ businessmen, the Alureesha, Alamoodi, al-Wajhi, al-Suleyman, you know, al-Dilal – all those different families that are in Riyadh and in Jeddah – the Hijazis – they put their money together and they established Jami`at Abdul Aziz University, which was a private university, but then, later on, taken over. Because of the rivalry between the Egyptians and the Saudis, that private university became… It’s been widely written about. So when you talk about how Wahabi thought became dominant, this Saudi influence – they didn’t have intellectual know-how.

You see, there are a lot of Saudis now who are educated – many of them are my students. They come to my classes. I have trained many Saudis. They went back now to Saudi Arabia. Some of them are big. But this is the problem. They don’t have the intellectual ability. If they had they had the intellectual ability of the Syrians, or the Egyptians, or the Lebanese, or to a certain extent the Tunisians or Moroccans, maybe they would be able to influence the world. But the Saudis don’t
have that.

On Bilal Philips

Q: Don’t you think through Rabita and through scholarships that they are giving in thousands and thousands and they are teaching the people in Medina and Mecca and Riyadh, and these people return to their countries as Bilal Phillips did, or …?
DR. NYANG: Hah! Bilal Phillips and all those guys!

Q: Because I hear …people in Sri Lanka … have big problems there because Bilal Phillips was there and many others from Saudi Arabia were there, and beginning to make…
DR. NYANG: Attack.

Q: Attack the whole belief [system] of Sri Lankan Muslims, because of their belief in


Q: And then they are bringing now this new issue about the Muslims and they are supporting the government, so the government gave them the authority to run masajids [mosques]?

DR. NYANG: Ah! Now you’re talking. This is the politicization. This is what’s happening. This is what is happening. You see, now, you see this is the thing. This is why we have to analyze these things and you understand the political forces at work. Then you have a global understanding. See, what has to happen, really, is that the people, you know, who are committed to Tasawwuf have to recognize – they have to do this analysis. What we are doing now, they have to do it systematically, so they have a very solid intellectual understanding of what is on the ground, you see?

Now… Bilal Philips, of course, you know, he left Saudi Arabia. He was there – he was with Dar al-Ifta. You know, Shaykh Bin Baz. He was a protégé of Shaykh Bin Baz. And Shaykh Bin Baz gave him thousands… hundreds of thousands of dollars from them… He’s a very young man, you know, like he went there and you know, ostensibly to study Arabic, and he did study Arabic very well. You have Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University in Riyadh and – so he became a protégé of Shaykh Bin Baz. Bin Baz has a lot of money so he gave him a lot of money, you know.

When they had those problems with so-called “Islamic fundamentalists” in Saudi Arabia –that was when the secular forces – because in Saudi Arabia you have a strong group of people who were – they call them the Southern California Mafia. These are Saudi Arabians who are secular nationalists, and they are still here in America. And they went back home –they’re not interested in Tasawwuf, they’re not interested in Wahhabism – they’re interested in Saudi nationalism. Many of them were Ba`athists or Nasserites, and these guys – they saw people like Bilal Philips as troublemakers, because they are encouraging the radicals. That’s why they kicked him out – so he went to Dubai. That’s why he went to Dubai, and that’s why he ended up in the Philippines – even married to a Filipino girl…

The thing is this, you see, the people who were Ahl at-Tasawwuf… must have an intellectual understanding of what is happening. Like we are doing now – what’s happening globally. And then you develop strategies.

You see, in Sri Lanka, you’re right… with the Saudis. Because those people who are locals – they have their personal interests, what can Islam do for me in Sri Lanka? So those imams, those khatibs, and all those people in the masajids who have vested interests – they know that they may be outnumbered locally by the people who follow Tasawwuf, but they could use their government, where the government in Sri Lanka is now faced with a problem. You know, they have a problem with the… in Jafna and all those places in Sri Lanka. So what they try to do now is that – the Muslims are the middle group. The Sinhalese and the Tamil fight.

The Muslims, they cut both groups. You have some Muslims who are Sinhalese, some who are Tamils. So the Muslims are the brokers between the two groups. So the leadership, who are mainly Sinhalese anyway in Sri Lanka – they would like the Muslims to be on their side. And if that is the case, the Muslims who are now struggling for power among themselves – those who are opposed to the Sufis, they try to get the Saudis to bring money to the Sri Lankans. That’s the game that they’re playing! So you see, if I want to win against the Sufis in Sri Lanka, I’d form
two alliances. I’d form an alliance with the Wahhabis, and I’d form an alliance with the government. And I’d tell my Wahhabi friends, “Send money to these guys, because they are fighting the war against the Tamils.” You see what I’m saying? And this way they benefit. This is what’s happening.

So what has to happen really – they will not succeed. Because you know the Arab intellectual history. In the early part of Islam, when the Mu’tazila became dominant – the Khalifa tried to use state power to repress all the other groups. Is that true? But they did not succeed. They lost out.

You see, they lost out. The disciples of Imam al-Ash`ari eventually won. The same thing is going to happen. Don’t worry about them.

On correcting the Muslims understanding of doctrine

DR. NYANG: The most important thing is to build structures. That’s why America becomes a very important theatre here. What has to happen here is the people who are interested in really promoting Islam and away from these government structures that have narrow blinders, you plant the seeds here among the young people. Get people like Shihab, Muhammad Zain and others. Get the… Pass it around. Give them the information.

Q: How do you give them the information?

DR. NYANG: Well, books like this is one [Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine]. And then you organize seminars. And then you begin to create catalysts – you have regional seminars, you have annual seminars, conference – annual conference, regional seminars – East Coast, West Coast, southern part like Florida. And then you also begin to create catalysts for da’wah and reinforcement. Then you have dialogue. Because you see, in order for the Muslim groups that are genuinely interested in promoting Islam – they have to do da’wah and dialogue. But these are two different strategies.

Da’wah is to teach those people who are within the community more about Islam, and to make sure that the division which is incurred is minimized. And at the same time to educate non-Muslims about Islam… Not every Muslim can dialogue with Nassaranis or Yahudis, no. You have to be secure. See, I feel adequate to dialogue with hristians, because if I sit down with Christians, I may know more about Christianity than they do. Because I have read their classical works. I know what their scholars have said. So when I sit down with them, I talk to them, and I tell them what their scholars have said. And I tell them what we Muslims believe in, and what our scholars have said, and then we’ll dialogue. Let’s talk, let’s find common ground. It’s because we live in America here.

You will need to educate them. So they will go and they say, “Wow, now we have” – you know, if you are dialoguing with them, they say, “Yeah, … He’s secure as a Muslim, but he’s willing to dialogue with us.” Those people now you make them your emissaries. Because when they go and they talk with their own people, they will be ambassadors there. Because the ideas you leave with them, they will talk. But if you just put your stuff out like Muslims who are in their cocoon… these are kuffars [unbelievers]. What kind of message is that? If you don’t like kuffar why are you here? Go back to your Muslim world!

People like Saddam Hussein are no good? Ha ha ha. I go every week to Muslims – every week I am speaking to Muslims. Last weekend this time, I was in Dayton, Ohio, and in Youngstown, Ohio.

Q: One question … how far did you, here and there what you have discussed with other groups, but have these subjects about Tasawwuf and so on, have they been discussed or questioned…?

DR. NYANG: The only – in fact that’s why I wrote an article one time – the ISNA people published one, because I write a lot of things and I give them. Omar Abdullah, who is the editor of the Horizon, he lives in Virginia there – when they called me, Khalid Griggs from The Message people in New York – they call me once in a while – when they want articles they call you. I just look up some of the things I have and I send it to them, and then they can publish what they want.

But the question of Tasawwuf has not come up in the way we are discussing. It always
comes in the context of – they don’t deal with genuine Tasawwuf – they deal with what I call “distorted Tasawwuf” - you know, what I call “popcorn Sufis”… I coined this term 15 years ago. Because there’s a white American lady who is the head of a museum in Washington, D.C., and her sister called her one day – that’s how the name ‘popcorn Sufi’ came up. And she had a sister somewhere in the Western part of the United States here, I think in Oregon or Washington state or somewhere else, and she called her sister and said, “Guess what, guess what”. Her sister said, “Guess what, what’s happening?”… [they have a group] holding hands and saying “Allah, Allah, Allah”, and she’s not a Muslim – then she must be a ‘popcorn Sufi’.

So you see, that trivialization of Tasawwuf has become the major instrument they use
against the Muslims, I mean against Muslims who are with Tasawwuf. Because this is the kind of Tasawwuf … they see in the United States. People who are followers of these different groups. And in California, there are many of them. If you go to the library, you look at the Encyclopedia of Religion in the United States and you look under Islam or Sufism, you look at the index – you will see these different groups. You know, they have these different groups. So this is where the problem is – you have these different who don’t really – like the Ibn al-Arabi Society, they may have their own journal…Sufis of the West and all these different groups…

Now what has to happen, and this is where it has to be done, without being divisive – I think what has to be done very clearly, … You have to come out and say very clearly, we believe in Tasawwuf and we maintain our commitment to Tasawwuf in light of our commitment to ‘aqida of the Prophet (s), the Sunnah – we belong to Ahl as-Sunnah – you come out, and in a very conscious way separate yourself from ‘popcorn Sufis’. This way you solve the problem. They have to deal with you now intellectually – they cannot just marginalize you and put you there, because they now know that you are not a ‘popcorn Sufi’…. So intellectually now you force them to be honest.

On Islamic acceptability of Tasawwuf and Mawlid

Q: Professor Sulayman Nyang, do you think that Tasawwuf is correct Islamically?

DR. NYANG: Well, yes – there are various references in the Qur’an which suggest that you have the mystical dimension of Islam. I mean, you know, we can see that very clearly. You know, when the people who are Salafi or Wahhabi reinterpret nafs ul-ammara bi su, nafs ullawwamma, nafs ul-mutma’iyna, they may interpret these concepts in their own relative manner – but they cannot deny the fact that these are stages in the spiritual evolution of insan [humankind]. They cannot deny that.
And of course there are many other verses one can quote from the which suggest that there is that mystical understanding which is critical in the development of spiritual enlightenment and the elevation of the human being. You see that very clearly. In our intellectual tradition – Imam al-Ghazali is a classical example of someone who was well-grounded in terms of the intellectual currents of his time. But he was able to do what I just recommended. He was able to say, “OK listen, I don’t support some of these groups who are going one way.” And these people, you know, their intellectual practices deviate from our ‘aqida and the central beliefs we have. Now these other groups – I do not agree with them… That has to happen. That’s why I’m saying that this book [Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine] here will be part of that intellectual debate.

Q: Insha’llah (God Willing). It has many references…

DR. NYANG: Yes. What we have to discourage really is – and this is where as a minority we cannot afford it – we must reduce polemics in our community. You see, I can disagree with my brother, without going [to extremes]… Well, they call me Sufi! So I mean, you know, … these people call me Sufi anyway.

Q: [Can you] say Sulayman Nyang accepts celebration of Milad an-Nabi (s)?

DR. NYANG: Well, I gave lectures to the Agha Khan people, celebrating Milad… So I would not have been there if I didn’t. So I mean the Agha Khan people will invite me to go and speak to them on Milad an-Nabi (S). And you know, interestingly enough, let me make just this point here – when I spoke in Toronto, lot of the Muslims who would not normally go to Agha Khan gatherings – hundreds of them, they came. They came! Many of the Muslims from Pakistan, because they know me, they know what I have written over the years, and they came…..

But at least intellectually, I think they respect my opinion, to the point that many of these Pakistanis and Indian Muslims and Bangladeshis who knew my writings and who knew me personally, because I have spoken in their masajids in Canada before, you know, long before I was invited by the Agha Khan followers, the Isma’ilis in Toronto – so they came. And the Isma’ilis were very happy the other Muslims came to attend the event for the first time. So I mean, you know like, you have thousands – the whole place was packed. Over two thousand people – the whole convention place was packed full. You know, they had all their people, and I came, I spoke to them. Because the point is – my concern is they wanted me to talk on Islamic civilization. And of course the Agha Khan is very interested in architecture, and he has an award now – the “Agha Khan Award for Architecture”. The best building that resembles the
classical Islamic architecture constructed in any country, based on the reports of the judges, will be given an award. And they may get hundreds of thousands of dollars for that. That’s one of his contributions. And notice that King Fahd has also created one like that now…

So I mean, this is the thing. They have done this, I mean the way I see it – the way I see myself intellectually – I want to be in a position to explain to Muslims their intellectual state of affairs. And I want to be a good ambassador of the Muslims to non-Muslims. So that when I meet Hindus, even the worst Hindu that doesn’t like us – when he meets me, he will walk away and say, “You know, I don’t like those Muslims, but I now know where they stand intellectually.”

Ahh, then I have succeeded. I have done da’wah, because I have planted a seed in his mind, and with Allah’s blessing he could change his mind. This is what we have to do. This is the way I see it. Yeah, that’s how I see it.

Q: If we can ask you for some articles…

DR. NYANG: Yeah, of course. I mean I can write whatever I like, you know like, I mean, you know, like in the areas that I am competent I will write articles.

Q: We are launching a new magazine…The Muslim Magazine – Al-Muslimoon. The Board of the Advisory Committee are very well known people from here, overseas…

DR. NYANG: Overseas, that’s good.

Q: From al-Azhar, from Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, Turkey, from here – and we are launching the first issue insha-Allah…