Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty of Jihad

By Aboul-Enein, Youssef | Infantry, January/February 2007 | Go to article overview

Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty of Jihad


Aboul-Enein, Youssef, Infantry


Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty of Jihad. By Shmuel Bar. Published in cooperation with the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, California and available through Rowan and Littlefield Publishers, 152 pages, $21.95. Reviewed by lieutenant Commander Youssef AboulEnein, USN.

One of the root causes of Islamist militancy and methods to enable recruitment and sanction violence are the so-called unchallenged fatwas (religious edicts) issued by clerics. It is vital that wellknown fatwas utilized by jihadists like those of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Abdullah Azzam not only be exposed for the damage they do to Muslim society as a whole, but be Islamically challenged by other clerics. This requires a sensitization for the fatwas of jihad, and Shmuel Bar, director of Studies at the Institute of Strategy and Policy at Herzliya University in Israel, provides an insightful starting point to begin understanding how war of fatwas represents the tip of the spear in the debate over whether Islamic history, law and precedent will be interpreted in a constructive or destructive manner in the 21st century. In many ways classical Islamic scholars were much wiser than their counterparts today. The book highlights a quote by 13th century scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, who serves as a major source of fundamentalist Muslims. He said, "As for the fanatics, they can place any problem upside down. When they turn to the sunnah (Islamic precedence) they borrow only what corresponds to their pronouncements and contrive tricks to push away evidence that does not suit them." This sentence rings as true today as it did more than 700 years ago, as jihadist ideology selectively applies only those aspects of Islamic law that advances its agenda of dominance and control.

Among the problems identified is how the relationship between the ulama (religious establishment) and the government differs from one Middle Eastern country to another. The Saudi royal family is highlighted as having lost control of the rank and file ulama, and that the number of fatwas issued by unsanctioned Saudi clerics is on the rise since 9-11. …

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