The latest in a year-long series on proper beliefs and doctrine of the mujahid was released on March 14 by the Global Islamic Media Front. The series, entitled “Lessons in Doctrine (Prepared for the Mujahideen)” is a program prepared specifically for the mujahideen of Iraq (https://www.alfirdaws.org/vb/). The materials have been posted on the most widely used forums—alfirdaws.org, tajdeed.co.uk, the sites of Kuwaiti cleric Hamid bin ‘Ali and others—and the contents have been widely read and reposted. Such online materials have been a mainstay of the Salafi education curriculum for mujahideen since the mid-1990s, although now they are finding a wider readership largely due to technological developments and the appeal of the culture of jihad on internet forums. Such literature is described in Arabic as manhaj, best translated as “program,” here referring to a doctrinal program for the believer—essentially a programmatic reader for the mujahid-in-training that instructs him on correct Islamic beliefs and practices.
The first in the series was released in February 2006. GIMF describes learning the “correct” doctrine as a blessing from God “that must be one’s first concern, as doctrine is the basis upon which we build religion, and the source of the integrity of action and conduct.” The author follows this with Quranic verse and more emphasis on the importance of the correct doctrine, and that it be the guide for the believer in speech and action. The first installment was dominated by Quranic verse and sayings of the Prophet, and leaves specifics for the following lessons. The programs that follow in the series are heavy on quotations from Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al-Qayyam and Muhammed Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, covering aspects of the oneness of God and the dangers of polytheism and disbelief. These are the basic tenets of Salafi Islam, based on the movement created by Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and based theologically on the writings of the medieval Hanafi scholar Ibn Taymiyya and his most prolific student, Ibn al-Qayyam. Above all, these emphasize the oneness of Allah and the risks of disbelief (practiced by many Muslims, according to Salafis) of associating other forms of divinity with Him. The doctrine of God’s oneness is fundamental to Islam and appeals to Muslims from a wide spectrum of beliefs, not only those already aligned with Salafis.
This series also cites the work of Nasr al-Din al-Albani, a prominent Saudi cleric of Albanian origin who died in 1999. By citing the leaders of the Saudi Salafi establishment, the author attempts to associate al-Albani with the jihadi movement, thereby appropriating his legitimacy in the eyes of many Muslims who hold respect for the religious institutions in Mecca and Medina. Although the Saudi Salafi establishment breaks with Salafi-Jihadis over armed confrontation with the West, there are a great many similarities in belief between Salafis under the influence of the Saudi royal family and those under the influence of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. The risk for the United States and its allies in the war on terrorism is that these Muslims could fall outside the influence of the Saudi institutions, which are only restrained from jihad by the House of Saud and its alliance with the United States, and join the ranks of the global jihadi movement.
This 10th and most recent installment follows suit; the author discusses the testimony of faith (the shahada, “There is No god but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger”), and the importance of God’s oneness in that most basic testimony of faith. One may ask why this media organization, which has effectively acted as representative and recruiter for al-Qaeda and the global jihadi movement more generally, has issued a 10-part series on these basic beliefs during the past year, while ignoring the mujahid’s preparation for jihad, training, tactics or strategy. Yet, for the leaders of the global jihadi movement, ideology and doctrine are the cornerstones for recruiting and developing effective mujahideen to carry out operations and for driving the movement into the future.
Millions of Muslims have passed through Mecca and Medina as an obligatory part of the Hajj and ‘Umra. These holiest of sites in Islam are under the auspices of Salafi leadership, sanctioned by the Saudi royal family. These Salafis share the same doctrine as the Salafi-led mujahideen fighting the United States, except for their policies allowing for a U.S. presence in the Gulf and banning involvement in jihad against the United States. That the global jihadi movement can tap into the beliefs of their “cousins” could present a serious long-term threat of a strong and growing core of mujahideen. It may also, however, present the fulcrum point of disparate militants fighting under this common banner, and as such, an opportunity to counter the movement and new recruits on the ideological level.