Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi

From Citizendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is developing and not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and subject to a disclaimer.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (1958-), was born Isam Mohammad Taher al-Barqawi in Nablus, Palestine, which was then part of Jordan. He is known as the spiritual mentor of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who headed Jordanian and Iraqi terrorist organizations, which became the al-Qaeda "franchise", al-Qaida in Iraq. [1] Al-Maqdisi, however, eventually broke with the increasingly militant al-Zarqawi; al-Zarqawi endorsed the takfir ideology of killing all non-Muslims, which went beyond the core of salafism.

He was imprisoned, until 2008, by the Jordanian government, but continued to run al-Qaeda's Internet site, Tawhed, and is influential in the forming of jihadist ideology. [2] Jordan did not elaborate on the reasons for the release. [3]

He has been challenged as too soft by some jihadists, especially when he counseled restraint in the use of suicide attacks and advised against creating sectarian violence in Iraq. To reinforce his position, in April 2009, he cited Western counterinsurgency reports as evidence that he was dangerous. [4] Specifically, he cited publications of the Countering Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point: "Al-Maqdisi, however, cannot possibly be accused of selling out to anyone and has his prison record to prove it. The credibility and authority this gives him must mean something in the eyes of jihadists." [5] He may not agree with the journal's analysis that he might "have a moderating influence on those committed terrorists who are unlikely to be swayed by anyone else", and the Jordanians may have had this in mind when releasing him. He is considered more radical than Abu Basir al-Tartusi.[6]

Early life

While he was a child, his family moved to Kuwait, and he studied at the Mosul’s University in Iraq, where his Islamist identity grew.


In 1990, he met al-Zarqawi in Pakistan, and they cooperated for a time, forming, in 1992, the Bayt al-Imam (House of the Leader) for returnees from Afghanistan. It paralleled the Makhtab al-Khidimat (Services Office) set up, in Pakistan, by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam.

They were arrested in in March 1994 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, counterattacking the legitimacy of the government at their trial. In Suwaqa prison, al-Maqdisi, assisted by Zarqawi, led a prisoner group as Zarqawi studied.

He rejects the legitimacy of the Saudi government under the doctrine of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’‎, saying it "has left the religion of Islam" (qad kharajat min din al-Islam) due to:[7]

  1. loyalty to un-Islamic laws and its "loyalty to the infidel enemies of God" (muwalat a 'da' Allah min al-kuffar)
  2. "strengthening of brotherly ties" (tawthiq rawabit al-ikhwa) and its "love, affection and friendship" (al-mawadda wa-l-hubb wa-l-sadaqa) with non-Muslims
  3. in spite of its pious Wahhabi image, is no different from "the other idolatrous Arab systems" (al-anzima al-taghutiyya al-'Arabiyya al-ukhra)

This theory builds on the work of Juhayman al-Utaybi, the Saudi insurgent who led the 1979 attack on Mecca.

A Saudi journalist claimed that while al-Maqdasi claimed to base his thinking on the Sunna and to the Muslim community (Ahl al-sunna wa'l-jama'a), "he [in fact] reaches the [same] conclusion reached by the Khawarij (a group of extremists that broke away from the Fourth Caliph, (Ali) regarding the political outlook of Islam." His preaching motivates the terrorist group al-Salafiyya Al-Jihadiyya, "(which) is very similar to Nazism in terms of its causes and reasons. If the economic depression and the state of frustration that befell the world in 1930 were a cause for the spread of murderous Nazism, it may be said that the economic and cultural setback that has befallen the Arab and Muslim countries and the frustration suffered by Muslims today are also the primary cause for this murderous ideology [i.e., that of Al-Salafiyya Al-Jihadiyya].... In addition, both ideologies share hatred of the other and [the goal of] eliminating through his physical extermination – and they have many other common denominators as well."

"The Jordanian court is said to have cleared him of the charges against him –first and foremost [the charge of] planning to blow up American military facilities in Jordan– but this dangerous human-terrorist creature was in fact doing something far more dangerous, namely, booby-trapping minds and exploiting the state of frustration suffered by the Muslim youth so as to perpetuate violence, killing, and destruction, and to implant the idea of suicide and to incite to it. Is the charge of booby-trapping minds less severe than the booby-trapping of property[?]... [8]


At the core of his teaching is the admonition that Muslims must follow al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ (loyalty and disavowal). The loyalty is to God; the disavowal is to shirk (polytheism) in all its forms. Shirk, in his view, is not only the direct worship of multiple deities, but also following any law but Shari'a. He regards any loyalty to secular codes as forbidden polytheism, and gives a priority, not shared by some other jihadists, to fighting the "near enemy": allegedly Muslim regimes that do not follow strict Islamic law. [5]


  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
  2. "Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi", Global Jihad, the 21st Century phenomenon
  3. "Jordan releases leading al Qaeda mentor", Reuters, March 12, 2008
  4. Robert F. Worth (April 30, 2009), "Credentials Challenged, Radical Quotes West Point", New York Times
  5. 5.0 5.1 Joas Wagemakers (May 2008), "Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi: A Counter-Terrorism Asset?", Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, pp. 7-9
  6. Chris Heffelfinger (December 27, 2006), "The Ideological Voices of the Jihadi Movement", Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Federation
  7. Joas Wagemakers (Fall, 2008), "Framing the "threat to Islam": al-wala' wa al-bara' in Salafi discourse", Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
  8. Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Latif Aal Al-Sheikh (October 17, 2005), "Saudi Columnist: Jihadist Salafist Ideology is Like Nazism", Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Special Dispatch - No. 1007