Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 44


Dr. A’id al-Qarni, a popular Saudi religious scholar known for his provocative observations on Islamic society and a series of best-selling books that present Islamic solutions to life’s problems in the “self-help” format common in the West, has now turned his attention in an article published by a pan-Arab daily to the global balance of power, which he sees as dominated by Western nations that recognize “power is the source of all stature and grandeur… The world respects no one but the strong” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, November 15).

For anyone who doubts these realities, al-Qarni points to the five major nuclear states and how they (and the United States in particular) have wielded their nuclear arsenals to achieve political power while calling on others to refrain from joining the nuclear club: “They possess the right to veto decisions and the world bows to them, fearing their reach and power. They preach to other states and advise all nations to be peaceful, transparent and hospitable, urging them not to manufacture nuclear weapons because this constitutes a global threat. In fact, the five major nuclear states do not want other nations to manufacture nuclear weapons so that they can maintain their hegemony, authority and tyranny.”

Al-Qarni mocks the Arab world for appealing to Iran to abandon its military nuclear program “to have mercy on the Arabs and gain heavenly merit for doing so,” saying Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons will ultimately prevent attack from the West once a bomb has been developed. These are the hard lessons of political reality in a world where Shari’a does not govern international relations:In this life, there is no room for integrity, for integrity and sacredness belong to the heavens, whilst the world’s laws and politics are established on deceit and cunning. As long as people accept to be ruled by current laws without divine legislation, then it is a matter of interests, manoeuvers, usurpation, arrogance, oppression and proving oneself.”

According to al-Qarni, the Arab world has misdirected its energies in cultural pursuits at the expense of its sovereignty and military preparedness: “Preoccupying the Middle East with arts, folklore, and cultural ceremonies at the expense of military factories is an open joke. To produce one tank would be better than a thousand poems, a rocket more useful than a hundred cultural shows, and a bomb more effective than a hundred epic tales to remind us of the glory of our forefathers, and what it used to be like in the old days.”

Unlike traditional Islamist statements that are built on a foundation of hadiths and quoted from the Quran, al-Qarni ventures to quote an observation from the modern Syrian poet and advocate of reform in gender relations in the Arab world, Nizar Qabbani (1923 – 1998). Noting that the West has turned to inter-continental ballistic missiles and atomic bombs to “rule the world and monopolize its wealth,” al-Qarni observes: “We in the Middle East are supposed to be content with reading history and reveling in the glories of the past, but this is only good for students in literacy classes. The poet Nizar Qabbani once said about the Arabs: ‘They have long written history books and they became convinced [of their past glories]. But since when did guns live inside books?’”

Al-Qarni urges the Arabs “to manufacture the nuclear bomb and nuclear weapons in a passage that resembles a Dadaist “anti-art” manifesto: “I urge the Arabs to manufacture the nuclear bomb and nuclear weapons. There are buildings currently being occupied by minor daily newspapers that no one reads, and ‘cultural heritage’ museums housing scrap metal, worn-out rope, blunt axes, and other artifacts. These should all be turned into factories to manufacture tanks, rocket-launchers, missiles, satellites and submarines, so that the world comes to respect us, hear our voice, and appreciate our status.”  The Saudi scholar concludes his commentary with an ominous warning to the Arab world: “Do not let us be fooled by Iran’s honeyed words suggesting that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons only to burn Israel, for this is purely an illusion.”

Shaykh A’id has a doctorate in hadith studies and is a highly active preacher, appearing on TV regularly as well as issuing a series of audio lectures on Islamic topics. His “self-help” approach to written works has proved highly successful, resulting in bestsellers such as Don’t Be Sad and You Can Be the Happiest Woman in the World. Al-Qarni is not new to publishing provocative views on life in the Islamic world. In 2008 he issued a controversial open letter in which he strongly criticized male dominance in Saudi Arabia and the abuse and subjugation of the Kingdom’s women (al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 26, 2008)

Unsurprisingly, al-Qarni’s views on the social role of Islam and his methodology have attracted the critical eye of Saudi Arabia’s more conservative religious scholars. Earlier this year, Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Rayis al-Rayis issued a lengthy review of his work entitled “The Statements of A’id al-Qarni: A Presentation and Critique” [1]

A’id al-Qarni experienced some damage to his reputation last year when he was repeatedly mixed-up with his cousin Awad al-Qarni in Egyptian court documents relating to a Muslim Brotherhood money laundering case. The mix-up led to the cancellation of a major lecture at Cairo’s al-Azhar University in what al-Qarni feared was a conspiracy to interfere with his preaching activities in Egypt (al-Hayat, April 26).

Shaykh Awad is a very different character than Shaykh A’id, and is known for his fiery denunciations of the United States and a reputed close association with the Muslim Brotherhood, an association he nevertheless downplays in a somewhat condescending manner that reveals something of the attitude of Saudi religious scholars to Islam as it practiced outside of the Kingdom:  “I [previously] declared that I challenge the Egyptian regime to prove that I have any organizational relation with the Brothers. This is not disregard or contempt toward the Brothers or any of the virtuous sons of the nation. But we in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have a specific feature based on the implementation of the Islamic Shari`a in all aspects of life; therefore, we do not need the organizational work needed by the other Arab peoples to reestablish Islam in their lives” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 26). Awad recently made headlines by offering a bounty of $100,000 to any Palestinian who kidnaps an Israeli soldier. After Awad reported receiving death threats, Saudi Prince Khalid bin Talal raised the bounty to an even $1 million in solidarity (Reuters, October 29).








A prominent member of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has given an interview to an Amman daily in which he discusses the differences between the struggle for political reform inside Jordan and events elsewhere in the tumultuous “Arab Spring” (al-Dustur [Amman], November 24). Rahil Gharayibah is the deputy secretary-general of Jordan’s largest single political party, Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami (JAI – Islamic Action Front) and a frequent spokesman on its behalf. Founded in 1992, the JAI is generally regarded as the political wing of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood.

Gharayibah acknowledges that, as part of the Arab world, Jordan is experiencing a “critical stage” in its development. Sharing a common culture and system of values with the rest of the Arab nation, Jordan cannot be isolated or immune from the developments shaking the political structure of its neighbors. According to Gharayibah, however, Jordan was already ahead of other Arab nations in their pursuit of democracy by having already adopted “a model that is closer to democracy than the systems adopted by the other Arab states.” While the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya have been conducted under the slogan “Overthrow the Regime,” the Jordanians have raised the slogan “Reform the Regime.”

This has not, however, precluded the participation of the Brotherhood in demonstrations calling for the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of Prime Minister Dr. Marouf Sulayman Bakhit, a former Major-General whose reform efforts were ineffective, leading to his eventual resignation in October after only 8½ months in power. Bakhit’s reluctance to reopen the constitution for major changes was a sticking point with the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks constitutional reform.

For Jordan to move forward, all the influential parties in the process must agree that “reform and change are inevitable.” Describing Jordan’s people and political parties as “extremely mature,” Gharayibah says they are seeking “genuine reform and the establishment of a democratic, civil and modern state of Jordan under a monarchist umbrella.” The existing system is illegitimate as it is based on vote rigging and founded upon “tribal, provincial, geographical and regional bases… The number of those who were elected on political merit can be counted on the fingers of one hand.”

Though the Brotherhood is advocating a type of constitutional monarchy for Jordan, Gharayibah has still been a harsh critic of King Abdullah II’s existing powers. In a rally held in Amman in September, Gharayibah insisted that Jordanians would “not be slaves or serfs on anyone’s estate… Is [Jordan] an estate owned by one person? Are its people his serfs?” (al-Akhbar [Beirut], September 3).

The Jordanian Brotherhood’s leader, Hammam Sa’id, has demanded the cancellation of the Wadi Araba Agreement, the 1994 treaty that normalized relations with Israel and banned attacks on Israel launched from Jordanian territory (al-Akhbar, September 3). The Jordanian Brotherhood enjoys strong support from Jordan’s Palestinian community but avoids open support for militant groups other than Hamas, the political wing of the Gazan Muslim Brotherhood.  Gharayibah maintains that reform efforts in Jordan do not conflict with the Palestinian liberation project: “Indeed, the two are twins. The Jordanian national reform plan is one of the most important mainstays of the Palestinian liberation project… The birth of the Jordanian reformist national project is the most important strategic step in confronting the expansionist, colonial-style and Zionist plan.”

Regarding the movement’s strategy, Gharayibah says the group will end its participation in the political reform process if it is seen as thwarting progress towards democracy or if it loses the support of the man-in-the-street. Otherwise, “the Islamic movement’s methodology is to participate when that enables it to serve the homeland and the citizen.”

The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is considered to be closely tied to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and has been very vocal in its support for the opposition Syrian National Council. Though it rejects Western intervention in Syria, it favors an “Arab solution,” including military operations by Arab states, to resolve the Syrian political crisis (Jordan Times, November 24).