The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
A page from the Koran
Table of Contents
II) Jaish-e-Muhammad's Teaching Of Jihadist Verses In Pakistani Towns
III) Pakistani Militant Maulana Masood Azhar's Interpretation Of Verses On Jihad
IV) The Interpretation Of The Koranic Verses Regarding Battle
V) The References To Koranic Verses On Suicide BombingsVI) The Justifications For Bombings Of Churches, Synagogues, And Mosques
VII) The Verses Regarding Moderation/Compulsion In ReligionVIII) The Targeted Killings Of Shi'ite Muslims In The Name Of Islam
IX) The Interpretation Of Verses On Media Jihad
X) The Interpretation Of Verses Regarding Financial Jihad
This paper examines how jihadi organizations are using verses from the Koran to advance the cause of jihad and influence Muslim youth. In doing so, it sheds light on how liberal arguments regarding Islam, jihad, and Prophet Muhammad's historical role are being countered by the jihadi organizations, which cite verses from the Koran and early Islamic traditions in their support.
In an editorial published in July 2013, Daily Outlook Afghanistan, a Kabul-based newspaper, warned that the Taliban are using Koranic verses to influence and prepare child suicide bombers. It observed: "Over the last decade, children, who are as innocent as angels, have increasingly been used for executing terror attacks in Afghanistan, mainly for suicide attacks. The trend, which was actually initiated by Al-Qaeda, has gained greater focus of the Taliban in the recent years. The Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are bribing starving children as young as eight-years-old to plant deadly roadside booby traps, be decoys in ambushes, and even act as suicide bombers…
"There are 224 children in prisons in just Helmand and Ghazni who were arrested by government forces for planning or carrying out attacks. Here is another example of how the Taliban brainwash the children to use them in launching suicide attacks: they are given amulets containing verses from the Koran by Taliban commanders, who tell them they will be protected from the explosion."
In April 2013, the Al-Saadiqeen Production Center of the Toora Bora Front, a constituent of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban umbrella organization led by Mullah Mohammad Omar), released a video of jihadi commander Ustad Khwaja Maqsood Mukhlis, who urged Muslims to take part in "jihad against Jews and Christians." He stated: "Allah Almighty has ordered us [in the Koran], as for prayers, fasting, and Hajj, to be ready to fight against enemies of Islam, and get knowledge of every technique [in fighting] more than the infidels, because the war between Islam and kufr [unbelief] will continue until doomsday…"
Mukhlis added: "There are many Muslims who have not seen weapons and have not fired a shot… It is such a shame, especially when all the infidels, particularly the Jews and Christians, are united and have come against us. They know the use of all kinds of weapons to wipe out Muslims. But mercy on the condition of a Muslim who is afraid to even see a weapon," Mukhlis said, adding: "[A Muslim] will ask us about the Koranic verse on jihad. My message is particularly for those clerics who deliver Friday sermons and prayers at funerals and recite these [jihadi] verses of the Koran, but are afraid to take up arms."
The Afghanistan Islami Tehreek Fidayee Mahaz (the Martyrdom Front of Afghanistan's Islamic Movement) is a splinter group of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban umbrella organization. The Islamic Emirate doesn't recognize the Mahaz but the latter does exhort its fighters to follow Mullah Omar. In April 2014, Haji Omar Khattab, the emir of the Mahaz, urged his followers to wage jihad in the light of the Koran and Hadiths (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad). In a Pashtu-language statement, he cited the Koran's Chapter Al-Tawbah, Verse 111: "Surely, Allah has bought from the believers their souls and wealth in return for Paradise for them." He explained the meaning of the verse: "The aforementioned verse shows that those waging jihad for the supremacy of Kalmat-ul-Allah [the word of Allah] will be given paradise. Entering paradise is a big success which can only be achieved through jihad. A Muslim who wages jihad is bestowed with two titles - hero or martyr. Both positions are esteemed."
The militant commander noted that Allah orders in the Koran: "And continue your fight until there does not remain any disruption, and Deen (Islam) is devoted to Allah alone (Chapter Al-Anfal: Verse No. 39)." He added: "Jihad is as mandatory on the Muslims against the hypocrites as it is mandatory against the infidels, because both the infidels and hypocrites have the same aim of enforcing the satanic system, paganism, cruelty, and vulgarity on the earth. Jihad is obligatory against both these groups so that Allah's system can be enforced on the face of the Earth… Some stupid people say that jihad is legitimate only against foreigners [in Afghanistan], but that the killing of internal Afghans who are working for the government is wrong. We say that the Koran and Hadiths must be consulted [in this regard]. The Afghans who are supporting the slave administration, call the foreigners as friends, or use the word 'terrorist,' are hypocrites, and jihad is obligatory against them…"
In the context of this paper, the term "jihad" is used to mean armed fighting, not striving for reforming one's character and soul. The Koranic verses have been interpreted by different Islamic scholars, and there are some variations in their interpretations depending on the circumstances in which the verses were revealed. This paper is not an attempt at an interpretation of the verses on jihad. Relying mainly on South Asian jihadi media sources, it examines how terrorist groups interpret some of the verses regarding jihad to influence Muslim youth. The meaning of verses cited in this paper, therefore, is the meaning attached to those verses by the Islamic terrorist groups.
In doing so, this paper brings to light how the militants are using verses and prophetic traditions to answer some key questions such as: Is it justified to bomb mosques? Did Prophet Muhammad's companions opt for suicide attacks? Are Shi'ites infidels? Does Islam teach armed fighting? Does Islam stand for the elimination of all other systems of living and governance from the Earth? Does the Koran advocate 'no compulsion in religion'? In what manner should journalists be killed for not conforming to Islamic teachings? Did Prophet Muhammad grant amnesty to everyone, as it is generally claimed, on the day of victory of Mecca?
It is also pertinent to mention that several Islamic groups point to verses which promote social harmony. For example, the World Muslim Congress said in 2013 that it will respond to anti-Islam Christian pastors like Terry Jones with a pacific response and "cited a Koranic verse that says, 'To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil,' and said it is also strongly enjoined in the Koran in the same verse 41:34 that 'Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.'" However, as jihadi terror attacks continue in several Islamic countries, the message of peace offered by liberal interpretations of Koranic verses seems to be lost. Although liberal commentators argue that jihadists are inspired by radical Egyptian teacher Sayyed Qutb and Pakistani cleric Maulana Abul Aa'la Maududi among others, it doesn't appear that the jihadists are quoting these writers; most of the jihadist literature essentially cites the Koran and the Hadiths.
II) Jaish-e-Muhammad's Teaching Of Jihadist Verses In Pakistani Towns
Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) is a Pakistani terrorist organization founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, who along with two other militant commanders was freed by India in exchange for the passengers of an Indian plane hijacked to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 1999. Under titles like "Tours For Explaining The Jihadist Verses," Jaish-e-Muhammad organizes a series of lectures and competitive events for school-age students across Pakistan every year.
In the summer of 2010, the JeM-affiliated group Majlis-e-Dawat-ul-Quran (The Assembly On The Preaching Of Koran), organized lectures in Pakistani towns about the verses on jihad in the Koran. Haftroza Al-Qalam, a JeM weekly Urdu-language magazine which is openly sold in Pakistani towns, published a report titled "2,060 Students, 13,105 People Took Lessons In Jihad." Excerpts from the report include:
"The visits [of senior JeM clerics to teach] interpretations of the verses on jihad have concluded across the country in three stages. These visits were organized in 18 big cities of the country. As per the information received, more than 2,000 students and common people participated in these meetings regularly and [were instructed in] lessons that taught translation and interpretation of more than 558 verses on jihad…
"It should be mentioned that in the cities of Faisalabad and Tando Allahyar, in addition to the [male] students of madrassas, female students also attended the sessions and were taught the jihadist verses. The teaching sessions on the [Koranic] verses on jihad were organized over six days. Translation and interpretation of all the jihadist verses was taught from Saturday morning through Thursday afternoon… The number of participants was the highest in Karachi at 500, while the cities of Bahawalpur and Faisalabad had the second and third highest number of participants with 280 and 240, respectively.
"The details of the figures for the visits [in the following cities were]: Gujranwala – 80; Mirpur in Azad [Pakistani] Kashmir – 40; Sukkur – 70; Haveli Lakha Okara – 40; Peshawar – 80; Wah Cantonment Rawalpindi – 150; Swabi – 80; Nawabshah – 25; Quetta – 15; Bahawalpur – 280; Faisalabad – 240 including 80 female students; Karachi – 50; Mansehra – 35; Bannu – 25; Tando Allahyar – 200 including 80 female students; Kohat – 110; Sargodha – 40; whereas in [the tribal district of] Khyber Agency, 50 students took part in the teachings and interpretations. Overall, during the 18 visits, 2,060 people took lessons in the interpretations [of the jihadist verses] and 13,105 people benefitted from the concluding sessions of these teachings."
In June-July 2011, the JeM organized a similar lecture tour by its clerics in various Pakistani towns. The following are excerpts from a report titled "Verses On Jihad In The Koran," published in Haftroza Al-Qalam: "The prime objective of tafseer [interpretations of the Koran] is to connect the ummah with the Koran, to get them ready for jihad. Syed Ahmed Shaheed [the jihadi leader who fought against the British] has well said: 'In these times, the most important religious movement is jihad in the path of Allah.'
"It is a yardstick to differentiate between a true and pseudo believer. Allah is spreading the message and desire of jihad of Syed Ahmed Shaheed through Emir-ul-Mujahideen [Maulana Masood Azhar] (may Allah protect him), and in this connection the series of tafseer sessions is a revolutionary step which is a living miracle of the Emir-ul-Mujahideen (May Allah protect him), and those benefiting from these courses are the blessed ones… This year, 21 annual tafseer sessions were held in several big cities of the country. The sessions started on June 18, while the final session began from July 16 and ended on July 21… Praise be to Allah! The light of the Koran's grace and echoes of jihad's invitation are having effects on Muslim society. The paranoids and fears spread by hawks and ringleaders of infidel forces are coming to an end. Allah willing! The light of the Koran will have to illuminate the entire world."
In 2012, the JeM, which has its headquarters in the town of Bahawalpur, organized similar lessons on jihadist verses. According to a report in Haftroza Al-Qalam: "It is perhaps the incident of the Thursday night [sometime in March or April 2012], when there was transaction of billions of dollars in the entire world to wipe out jihad. Millions of soldiers with lethal weapons were at the borders to wipe out the Muslim ummah. Thousands of TVs, nets, and radio channels were speaking against jihad. At that time, the Masjid Usman-o-Ali [mosque] in Bahawalpur was resounding with persuasion to jihad. There was a speech contest on the topic 'History Of Jihad.' There were 36 speakers representing Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan, NWFP [now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], and unoccupied [Pakistani] Kashmir."
Sometime in the first quarter of 2012, the JeM organized a 40-day course "Dawat-o-Rukniyat Muhim" (Preaching And Membership Campaign) aimed at recruiting men to the fold of jihad. The campaign was followed by an eight-day course for women, with both the events being organized by Al-Rehmat Trust, the charity arm of JeM. A report titled "A Lovely Campaign For Muslim Women" noted: "According to Emir-e-Jamaat [the Emir of Jaish-e-Muhammad] and Emir of the Mujahideen Maulana Masood Azhar, the objective of the 40-day 'Dawat-o-Rukniyat Muhim' was to raise the 'Laskhar-e-Ghaza' [army of jihadi fighters] – an army of victors, valiant and mujahid – and now the aim of this eight-day 'Al-Mominaat Muhim' is to raise the Lashkar-e-Dua [army to pray, or women who will raise jihadist youth in the homes]."
In 2013, similar short courses on jihad were organized by the JeM's Al-Rehmat Trust in various Pakistani towns. In November-December 2013, it organized a series of such courses on the "Concept Of Jihad In Islam" in Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, and Lahore; similar lectures on the interpretation of jihad based on verses in the Koran were organized in Peshawar and Sialkot. Sometime in September-October 2013, it organized a conference on the "Wars Of The Prophet," in which the importance of jihad "in the light of the Koran" were explained by JeM-associated clerics in Peshawar; its clerics made trips to various mosques in the region of Faisalabad to explain the jihadi cause; similar events were organized in the towns of Larkana, Nawabshah, Kohat, Mehrabpur and Sukkur; and special meetings for clerics were also organized in Sahiwal, Multan, and Rawalpindi to explain the JeM's mission ( the details of these events are too many to narrate here). As the government turns a blind eye to their activities, numerous such lectures are being organized regularly by the JeM as well as by other terrorist groups throughout Pakistan.
III) Pakistani Militant Maulana Masood Azhar's Interpretation Of Verses On Jihad
Maulana Masood Azhar, an ideologue of jihad
The first volume of the English-language magazine Al-Rashideen, which was published in March 2013 by Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its military arm Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (SSP-LeJ), contained excerpts from a book on jihad written by Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who cited several Koranic verses to explain the jihadist mission in Islam. The following are excerpts:
"'If it were not for the fact that Allah opposes some people with others [e.g. infidels opposed by true Muslims or jihadis], monasteries, churches and synagogues would be destroyed, as well as masajid [mosques] in which Allah's name is taken in abundance. (However, because Allah makes the people of truth repel attacks from the evil ones of their respective times, these places of worship remain safe). Allah will certainly assist those who assist him (those who assist his deen [religion]). Verily Allah is omnipotent, mighty' (Chapter Hajj, Verse 40 [see Section VI of this paper for further explanation of this verse]). This verse makes it clear that it is by the clashing of people of the truth and people of falsehood that the safety of places of worship is ensured. If jihad were stopped, there would be none on Earth to worship Allah. In fact, it was exactly this that rasulullaah [Messenger of Allah, i.e. Prophet Muhammad] referred to before the decisive Battle of Badr when he prayed, 'Oh Allah! If this small group (of Muslims) is destroyed, there will be none on earth to take your name.'
"'If Allah had not repelled (driven back) some (corrupt) men by others (had good men not prevailed over the corrupt and evil ones), the (entire) Earth would have been corrupted (Allah therefore sets matters straight in this way from time to time). However, Allah is the one who showers grace on the universe' (Chapter Baqarah, Verse 251).
"One of the greatest causes of lawlessness on Earth is widespread corruption, that in terms of the Koran is worse than killing. Allah says: 'Corruption (preventing people from deen) is worse than killing' (Chapter Baqarah, Verse 217). The Koran condemns this corruption in various verses and states that spreading corruption is a hallmark of the kuffar [infidels]. In verse 7 of Chapter Aal Imraan, the Koran identifies that one of the distinctive characteristics of the kuffar is that they search for avenues to cause mischief... Jihad is a cure for all of this... Allah says: 'Continue fighting them until no corruption (especially no shirk [polytheism] and turning others away from Islam) exists and until religion (worship) is only for Allah (until people worship Allah only).' (Chapter Baqra, Verse 193)."
"Such are the high objectives of jihad. Allah reiterates this message in Chapter Anfal, where Allah says: 'Fight them until no corruption (kufr) exists and all religion (worship) is for Allah' (Chapter Anfal, Verse 39). This verse refers to the final objective of jihad, which is to exterminate every shred of resistance that kufr offers so that Islam dominates over all other religions and all abide by the law of Allah.
"Allah has revealed the Koran as a cure and a mercy. Since the Koran has prescribed jihad as the cure for corruption and lawlessness, it follows that jihad contains curative properties and is also a source of mercy. While verses mentioned earlier state that jihad is a source of mercy, the Koran also makes it clear that jihad is a cure for the hearts. In the following verses, Allah mentions six benefits of jihad. Allah says: Fight them! (i) Allah will punish them at your hands (when they are killed), (ii) will humiliate them (when they are imprisoned and defeated), (iii) will assist you against them, (iv) will heal the (pain and sorrow in the) hearts of the momineen (who suffered at the hands of the kuffar), (v) remove the fury of their hearts (which was built when the kuffar broke the treaty), and (vi) Allah accepts the repentance (from kufr) of whoever he wills (thereby allowing the kuffar to become Muslims) (Chapter Tauba, Verses 14-15)."
IV) The Interpretation Of The Koranic Verses Regarding Battle
The Voice Of Jihad – website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Almost all jihadi videos quote verses from the Koran to justify jihad and martyrdom missions. In July 2013, the Manba-ul-Jihad Studio of the Haqqani Network, a constituent of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, released a video which contains an interview with commander Sirajuddin Haqqani and opens with a Koranic verse: "And fight them 'til there remains not any mischief, and the entire religion be only of Allah [on earth]; then if they desist, Allah is seeing their deeds." (Verse 8:39)
In May 2013, the TTP's Umar Media released a video titled "Ghazwa-e-Hind 3," containing an interview with Hafiz Muhammad Saeed Khan, emir of TTP for Orakzai Agency. The video begins with a Koranic verse: "Fight against them. Allah will torment them at your hands and will humiliate them, and will help you against them, and will heal the breasts of the Muslims [Verse 9:14]." In June 2013, the "Qaeda al-Jihad fi Bilad-e-Khurasan" (Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan), released a video lecture of militant cleric Maulana Asim Umar in which he cited Koranic verses in favor of the argument that Islam should prevail over all other ways of life. In the video, which was addressed to Indian Muslims and titled "Why Is There No Storm In Your River," Asim Umar cited a number of verses, stating: "Oh, youth of the Muslim ummah, Allah says in the noble Koran: 'And if Allah did not check one set of people by means of another, the Earth would indeed be full of mischief. But Allah is full of bounty to the 'alameen (mankind, jinns, and all that exists).' (Chapter Al-Baqarah, Verse 251) This means that had it not been for jihad, the Earth would have been filled with corruption. Nothing on this Earth would have remained in its natural condition. Without jihad, man strays away from the purpose of his existence. His blood is spilled. Injustice prevails everywhere. The weak are denied their right while the strong behave as if they are gods. The rich enslave the poor. My Lord has said, 'The earth would indeed be full of mischief.' In other words, everything will leave its natural state. Allah created mankind in a state of nature. He gave them the religion of nature [i.e. Islam].
"If jihad is not performed, everything on Earth would be filled with corruption. Listen! Not only man … not only birds and animals … not only will crops and water be filled with corruption, but even flowers will be deprived of their scent! Flower buds will be deprived of their beauty. Fruits will lose their sweetness and taste. Neither pure milk will be available, nor pure water. Yes, not even pure water! After emptying water of its natural properties, mixing chemicals in it, and bottling it, you will be made dependent on it. What my Lord has declared is so accurate: 'The earth would indeed be full of corruption…'
"In case any power becomes a hurdle in this path, we have been given a clear order: 'And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.' [Chapter Al-Anfal, Verse 39] Fight those who try to obstruct this system until their strength is decisively broken and their dominance is brought to an end. After this, let the way of life in the entire world be according to the Koran. However, don't force any infidel to recite the testimony of faith. This is his own choice. It is up to him to decide whether to become a Muslim or practice his old religion. However, since this Earth is Allah's, therefore it is necessary to establish Allah's system on it. It is necessary to do this so that even the disbelievers can live a natural life and the earth is saved from corruption.
"If you abandon jihad or do not fight in the way of Allah, the caliphate will cease to exist. The entire world will be filled with corruption. Everything on the Earth and inside it will be corrupted. Remember that you will pray in the mosques, but you will hear the sound of music even during prayers, since the system of Satan dominates the Earth. There will be such corruption on the Earth that even the environment will not be able to retain its purity. It will be polluted and altered. The children will disobey their parents. 'The Earth would indeed be full of mischief!'"
Having explained this context and the necessity of jihad to eradicate mischief from the earth in order to establish the peace of Islam, Asim Umar declared: "It must be kept in mind that the period after the break-up of the Ottoman Caliphate [in 1924] is the age of 'corruption on the earth.' There is corruption everywhere. Trade has been corrupted by usury. The judiciary has been filled with corruption by man-made laws."
In the inaugural issue of Azan, an English-language magazine launched by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Adnan Rasheed, the former Pakistan Air Force commando and now a TTP commander who was freed by Taliban fighters from a prison in April 2012, went on to argue that jihad is the only solution to liberate Muslims from their present sorry state of affairs. He stated: "The jihad is the only solution for the plight of our ummah. We are suffering today from the mistakes of the past, and the biggest mistake was forsaking the jihad. It cannot be stopped now; the world is moving to its ultimate end. I will say to my brothers in jihad that we all must be grateful to Allah that he chose us as His soldiers, because guidance is in the hands of Allah. If he had let us join the U.S. Army or the armies of the apostates, then who would've been there to guide us?"
To buttress his point, Adnan Rasheed quoted a verse: "Allah the exalted says in the Koran: 'And don't be weak in the pursuit of the enemy; if you are suffering (hardships) then surely, they (too) are suffering (hardships) as you are suffering, but you have a hope from Allah (for the reward, i.e. paradise) that for which they hope not, and Allah is ever all knowing, all wise.' (Verse 4:104) 'So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers.' (Verse 3:139)"
In early June 2013, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan released a video showing how Taliban militants are training. During the training session, instructors teach the militants how to seize weapons, including AK-47s and pistols, from their enemies. The video cited a verse from the Koran on the need to prepare for fighting: "And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them whom you do not, [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged."
Arguing that Prophet Muhammad and his companions used to master all conventional military education, training, and equipment of their times, and never lagged behind infidels in the art of war, it cited a verse: "Oh believers! What is the matter with you that when you are asked to set out (to fight) in the way of Allah, you, weighing heavier, incline towards (the material and ignoble world of) the earth? Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? So, the property and belongings of the life of this world are worthless in (comparison with) the Hereafter (and carry) but little (value) [Verse 9:38]."
V) The References To Koranic Verses On Suicide Bombings
Cover page of Azan magazine
The second issue of Azan lauded the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013 and the Woolwich attack of May 2013 in which British soldier Lee Rigby was hacked to death by two jihadis in southeast London, rejected the Western media's descriptions of jihadi martyrdom attacks as "suicide" bombings, and cited verses from the Koran and Prophet Muhammad's sayings to justify martyrdom missions in which jihadi fighters know in advance that they will die.
In a cover story titled "The Boston Special - The Victorious Strangers," Muhammad Qasim, the author, began his article about the April 15, 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon by quoting verses from the Koran which describe the futility of life in this world: "And this life of the world is only amusement and play! Verily, the home of the Hereafter, that is the life indeed, i.e. the eternal life that will never end… (Verse 29:64)"; "Think not of those who are killed in the way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord. (Verse 3:169)."
Click here to complete reading