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Abu Basir al-Tartusi

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Abu Basir al-Tartusi is a Syrian cleric and jihadist theoretician, considered slightly more moderate than Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi [1] Born 'Abd Al-Mun'im Mustafa Halima, he is an active supporter of armed jihad against both the near enemy and far enemy, but is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which does interact with less than strict Islamic governments. He has been banned from the U.S. and U.K. [2]

He has been at the forefront of using the Internet. The Times (U.K.) pointed out, in 2005 that his site,, was one of the very few to stay online after the 2005 London bombings. [3] That Arabic-language site was active in May 2009.

Concept of jihad

In a 2001 interview on al-Jazeera, when he was head of the Islamic faculty at Qatar University, he distinguished among both types of jihad and strategies for it. He drew the the historical observation that the Prophet waged more than one kind, waging armed Jihad only when he arrived at Medina. Im Mecca, he argued for unarmed jihad. Al-Tartusi said this changed over time, citing his initial refusal to shatter idols displayed in Mecca, with a comment that the time was yet to come, and ignored the Al-Hudaybiya agreement with the Qureish tribe, his opponent. Two years later, he "picked up a lance" and hit the idols. The two kinds are "a Jihad which you seek, and a Jihad in which you repulse an attack."

Still, he cautioned against seeking premature action. "The youth who wish to hurry to establish an Islamic state with an Islamic rule seek clashes with the existing regimes in the Arab states, despite the fact that they don't have sufficient strength, they don't have military strength, and not even the mental strength to establish an Islamic rule." There were times, however, that immediate action was required: ""On the other hand, there are some things that cannot wait; for instance, when the land of the Muslims is being invaded. When that happens, we do not say 'let's wait, we will surrender to them and only then [we shall see]'…no! In that case, Islam requires that the people of the invaded land will fight the invaders… and following them, their neighbors. And if this is not enough, all the Muslims [must enlist for this purpose]. Hence, a problem like the current Intifada and the Palestinian problem is one that cannot wait; the nation must fight and defend itself and not allow the invader to ruin the land…"[4]

Recent activities

His issuing, on his website, a fatwa declaring Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi an apostate, he calls attention to a theological and ideological split between Islamists close to the Muslim Brotherhood like Al-Qaradhawi, and global jihadists like himself.

He offered several reasons for the fatwa:[2]

  • Speaking to protect the Buddha sculptures in Afghanistan,especially since he had not fought in the war, but only went there "for the sake of the false god and the idol he was moved, and set out [for Afghanistan]…" He called a clear act of apostasy: "One who repudiates false gods (al-taghut) and believes in Allah has clung to the firmest bond of faith that never breaks…"[5] He then argues that this verse lays out two conditions for faith – repudiation of false gods and belief in Allah – and that Al-Qaradhawi, by defending the Buddha statues, failed to uphold the first condition, and thus became an unbeliever.
  • Issuing a fatwa allowing Muslims to fight in the U.S. Army: Al-Qaradhari and four other clerics responded to a request, from a Muslim chaplin in the U.S. military, Maj. Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, wrote to Yousef Al-Qaradhawi that it was acceptable to fight the killers of innocents, and Muslims have a responsibility to bring such killers to justice: "Help one another in righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression." [6]Repudiating that ruling, he said that the fact that a Western military service is voluntary eliminates an argument of copulsion, and then accused Al-Qaradhawi of accepting the U.S.'s claim that the war was directed against terrorists, when in fact the U.S. is fighting Islam and the Muslims. Al-Tartusi then said that the war supported by Al-Qadhari: the U.S. replaced an Islamic government in Afghanistan with a traitorous puppet state and killed tens of thousands of peaceful Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. Further, permitting a Muslim to be a soldier in an army of "unbelief and idolatry" fighting against Muslims is clear apostasy: "Oh believers: do not take the Jews and Christians as friends. They are friends one to another, and those of you who befriend them become of them. Allah does not guide iniquitous people";[7] and "Let not the believers take the infidels as friends instead of the believers; one who does so has no part in Allah."[8] Al-Qaradhawi is not only guilty of doing this himself, but he has permitted it to others, which is a separate sin known as "permitting that which is forbidden," and is in itself cause for apostasy. Al-Tartusi writes that Al-Qaradhawi has taken the concept of nation as a false idol, by speaking of allegiance to nation and to national laws, and by preferring this allegiance over allegiance to Allah and to Islam. This is apostasy, since it violates the principle of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’: exclusive allegiance to Allah and Islam, and repudiation of unbelief and unbelievers.
  • Making light of Allah: Al-Tartusi said Al-Qaradhawi praised elections in Israel as fair, in contrast with elections in some Arab countries, where the ruler receives "99.99" percent of the vote; Al-Qaradhawi then added "if Allah [Himself] were in the running he wouldn't receive such a share" of the vote. Al-Tartusi further claims that when this quote was presented to the late senior Saudi cleric Muhammad Ibn Salih Ibn 'Uthaymin, he said: "… He [Al-Qaradhawi] must repent, he must repent for this; if he doesn't, he is an apostate, because he has made the created greater than the Creator. He must repent to Allah, and Allah accepts the repentance of his servants. If he doesn't, the authorities need to behead him."
  • Support of multiparty democracy in defiance of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’: "in its permissive, infidel meaning," including support of freedom of belief and apostasy; freedom to form infidel and apostate political parties, including atheist Communist parties; and sanctification of majority rule, even if this majority were to choose unbelief and atheism.
  • Violating al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ by too-close relations with non-Muslims: Al-Tartusi cites Qur'an 5:51 and 3:28 which forbid befriending non-Muslims, quoting al-Qaradhi: "all of the problems among us [Muslim and Christian Egyptians] are common to us all. We are members of the same homeland and the same nation. I call them 'our Christian brothers'; some people condemn me for this [and say]: how can I say 'my Christian brothers'? "The believers are but a single brotherhood.' Yes, we are believers, and they are believers, in a different way… The Copts are our brothers, and we have the same rights and duties."[9] Regarding Jews, Al-Qaradhawi says: "The war between us and the Jews is not because of belief. Some might think that we are fighting the Jews because of their belief, but this is wrong… We are fighting the Jews because of the land they usurped and its people they made homeless." Al-Qaradhawi also says that there is no reason to use the term "infidels" (kuffar), and that one should say 'non-Muslims' instead.
  • "heretical" jurisprudence which substitutes whim for divine law: "Under the rubric of 'the jurisprudence of balances,' which he subjects to his own whim and nothing else, he permits and forbids of his own accord, without rule from Allah; he ratifies heresy and idolatry, and sacrifices the interest of Allah's unity for the least supposed material interest…" Such a jurisprudence led to rulings like the defense of the Buddha statues, allowing churches to be built in the Arabian Peninsula, and support for apostate rulers. In Al-Tartusi's view, one can weigh benefits versus drawbacks in jurisprudence, but first one must be able to assess them correctly, and the principle of Allah's unity must always be placed first and foremost. He also accuses Al-Qaradhawi of raising leniency to an independent principle, whereby he permits mixing of the sexes, women's singing, the sale of wine and pork in some circumstances, and some interest-bearing transactions, as well as allowing a Muslim wife to remain with her non-Muslim husband. Al-Tartusi especially criticized "[We need] to cleanse our public culture, which we instill in students in the schools, and in the masses through the media, of some of the erroneous concepts found in old books, which carry the imprint of their age and the environment [in which they were written]. We cannot generalize these concepts to all generations, as they ended together with the conditions [that produced them]…[We need] to inaugurate a new moderate culture, based on mutual recognition, not mutual refusal of acknowledgement… based on love, not hatred; based on pluralism, not on isolation; and based on peace, and not on war."

2004 conference

In the summer of 2004, he established, in London, the European Council for Fatwa and Research, intending to counter Islamist reforms:
The general overall goal is to preserve the identity of the Islamic nation, and its essential entity – to protect it against the attacks that seek to tear it from its roots and change the identity of the [Islamic] nation and turn it into a different nation with a different philosophy that will make it merely a tail, while Allah has created it to be the head; make it a nation in vassalage to others, while [its destiny] is to be followed by others; and to preserve the message of the nation in its true Islamic face, and to counter the destructive currents that want to change the identity of the nation and also to counter even the inner currents that seek to change the nature of Islam and make of it a religion of violence or something like that. We are against these currents and we seek to highlight the civilized face and the message of Islam…[10]

Iraq War

There are conflicting reports on his view of attacks on Americans in Ira. The hard-line version has been praised by some clerics, and attacked by progressive Muslim writers who are not clerics, and indeed are critical of political Islam. [11] At a convention on the subject of "Pluralism in Islam" which took place in late August, 2004 at the Egyptian Journalists' Union in Cairo, he was reported to have said ""all of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and one should fight them, since the American civilians came to Iraq in order to serve the occupation. The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately. The mutilation of corpses [however] is forbidden in Islam."[12]

Subsequently, he sent a fax [13] to the office of the Al-Hayat daily in which he disowned "that which was said in my name in the media on the subject of the killing of American civilians in Iraq." According to Al-Qaradhawi, "some media outlets have claimed that I published a religious legal opinion to the effect that there is an obligation to kill American civilians in Iraq. These claims are unfounded. I have not published a Fatwa on this issue. At the Egyptian Journalists' Union a few days ago I was asked about the permissibility of fighting against the occupation in Iraq, and I answered that it is permitted. Afterwards I was asked concerning the American civilians in Iraq and I merely responded with the question – are there American civilians in Iraq? It is a matter of common knowledge that in Fatwas such as these I do not use the word "killing" but rather I say "struggle," which is a more comprehensive word than the word "killing" and whose meaning is not necessarily to kill. In addition, I have condemned the taking of hostages on a number of occasions in the past and have demanded that they be released and that their lives not be threatened."e

Support of suicide attacks

He distinguishes between suicide, which is forbidden to Muslims, "self-sacrifice" or "self risk", for which he used the example of Palestinian suicide attacks. A person conducting such an attack "is not a suicide [bomber]. He kills the enemy while taking self-risk, similarly to what Muslims did in the past… He wants to scare his enemies, and the religious authorities have permitted this. They said that if he causes the enemy both sorrow and fear of Muslims… he is permitted to risk himself and even get killed."[4]

He did, however, condemn the London bombings, calling them a “disgraceful and shameful act, with no manhood, bravery, or morality. We cannot approve it nor accept it, and it is denied islamically and politically.” To critical response, he wrote, “The Love of Revenge or the Legal Ruling,” on 11 July 2005. [14]


  1. Brian Drinkwine (January 26, 2009), "The Serpent in Our Garden: Al-Qa'ida and the Long War", Carlisle Papers, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, p. 7
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Syrian Jihadist Scholar Abu Basir Al-Tartusi: Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi is an Apostate", Turkish Weekly, 26 December 2008
  3. "Finger points to British intelligence as al-Qaeda websites are wiped out", The Sunday Times, July 31, 2005
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Prophet Muhammad as a Jihad Model, Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI), July 26, 2001
  5. Qur'an 2:256
  6. Qur'an 5:2
  7. Qur'an 5:51
  8. Qur'an 3:28
  9. Qur'an 49:10
  10. Steven Stalinsky (July 8, 2004), Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi in London to Establish 'The International Council of Muslim Clerics', Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI)
  11. Reactions to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq, Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI), October 6, 2004
  12. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 2, 2004, quoted in MEMRI, October 6, 2004
  13. Al-Hayat (London), September 9, 2004, quoted in MEMRI, October 6, 2004
  14. Gabriel Weimann (13 July 2006), "Deadly Conversations: More than a propaganda tool, the internet offers terrorists a forum for debating strategy", YaleGlobal