Major Jihadi Cleric and Author of Al-Qaeda’s Shari’a Guide to Jihad Sayyed Imam vs. Al-Qaeda

Special Dispatch Series – No. 1826

January 25, 2008

No. 1826

Major Jihadi Cleric and Author of Al-Qaeda’s Shari’a Guide to Jihad Sayyed Imam vs. Al-Qaeda (2): Al-Zawahiri Was Sudanese Agent – Sudan‘s VP Ali Othman Taha Hired Him to Attack Egypt; Ban on Jihad against Egyptian Regime in Egypt; Summary of Imam’s New Right Guidance for Jihad Book

Following are more documents from imprisoned jihadi cleric Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, one of the chief ideologues of the global jihad movement. Sayyed Imam has recently come out against Al-Qaeda, and published a new book, The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World, that forbids waging jihad against the rulers of Muslim countries and in the West. (For MEMRI’s first report on Sayyed Imam, released Dec. 14, 2007, see )

Presented here are further excerpts from Sayyed Imam’s interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, followed by an excerpt from The Document of Right Guidance. In the first excerpt from the interview, Sayyed Imam, who was formerly shari’a authority for the Egyptian Jihad organization and a longtime associate of Al-Qaeda deputy commander Ayman Al-Zawahiri, says that Al-Zawahiri was commissioned by the Sudanese government to carry out terror attacks in Egypt in the 1990s. The second excerpt is Sayyed Imam’s own detailed summary of the contents of his new book, The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World. The third part of this report is a chapter of The Document of Right Guidance, titled “On the Shari’a Reasons and the Practical Reasons that Call for Not Clashing with the Egyptian Authorities”:

Sudanese VP ‘Ali Othman Taha Hired Al-Zawahiri to Attack in Egypt

In this portion of Sayyed Imam’s interview with the Al-Hayat daily, he discusses Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s and bin Laden’s relations with the Sudanese government and intelligence agencies, and also responds to criticism directed against him by pro-Al-Qaeda jihadis:

Al-Hayat: “After you cut your [formal] ties with Al-Zawahiri and the [Jihad] organization in Sudan, what was the nature of the relations among you all?

Sayyed Imam: “I learned that they [the Jihad] were carrying out operations in Egypt, in late 1993, and I said to Ayman Al-Zawahiri: Have fear of Allah for the brothers’ [sake], and don’t expose them to perils that are not obligatory on them.

“Al-Zawahiri told me that he was obligated to the Sudanese to carry out 10 operations in Egypt and that he had received $100,000 for these operations.

“The Sudanese intelligence agent who dealt with Al-Zawahiri was Nafi’ ‘Ali Nafi’. There was a Sudanese intermediary between them, whose name was Muhammad ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz. The one who oversaw all of this was the Sudanese vice president and No. 2 in Hasan Turabi’s [Islamic Salvation] Front, ‘Ali Othman Muhammad Taha. [1]

“The first time Al-Zawahiri met ‘Ali Othman Taha, Al-Zawahiri told him that he had an organization with 10,000 fighters in Egypt whose level of training was that of commando troops, and that he and those with him would never leave Sudan except [in order to enter] Egypt as conquerors.

“This was the very essence of falsehood, since they numbered no more than a few dozen [individuals]. Some of the brothers in the prisons still believe this lie to this day.

“In short, Al-Zawahiri tried to turn the Jihad group into mercenaries and agents, and he sold them to the Sudanese intelligence agencies, who found in them cheap and easy prey with which to harass the authorities in Egypt.

“Then Al-Zawahiri started sending the brothers to Egypt. Egyptian security had already penetrated them after the ‘Atef Sidqi incident, [2] and none of the brothers reached their target in Egypt; they were [all] killed or wounded.”

“[Al-Zawahiri] Hanged His Brothers on the Gallows and Crammed Them into the Jails”

“After Al-Zawahiri informed me that he was acting as an agent for the Sudanese, the brother Rifat, whose [real] name is Zaki ‘Izzat Zaki, invited me to the celebration of the birth of his daughter. A number of the brothers were there – Abu Talha, [3] Hisham Abaza, [4] and others. I said to them more than what I said in the Document [of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World]. I told them that jihad was not an obligation for them in Egypt, that there was no parity [between them and the Egyptian security forces], and [thus] they incurred no sin [by not waging jihad].

“I told them that they had learned the principles of guerilla warfare and conventional warfare, and that the confrontation they were carrying out in Egypt could not be classified as either – that it was a kind of futility that brought no benefit.

“I spoke to them about the error in what they were doing, using proofs from the shari’a and from reality – this is what is included in the second notice, at the end of the Document. [See translation at the end of this report.] The brothers said they had been convinced by what I said. This was in late 1993 or early 1994.

“Al-Zawahiri was alarmed when he learned of this, and he gathered them together and said to them: ‘Dr. Fadl [i.e. Sayyed Imam] wants to make us a salafi group, but we are a jihad [group], and we will continue fighting in Egypt down to our last dollar and our last man.’

“But this was a lie, as he was the first to leave Sudan when the Sudanese expelled them in 1995, when they discovered that Al-Zawahiri had been lying to them and didn’t fight down to the last man, as he claimed. He was the first to flee, as usual. When the Sudanese expelled him, he announced that he was stopping operations in Egypt, in 1995 – after he had hanged his brothers on the gallows and crammed them into the jails in Egypt.”

Al-Hayat: “But didn’t Al-Zawahiri leave Sudan together with Osama Bin Laden?

Sayyed Imam: “What the Sudanese did with Al-Zawahiri they did with bin Laden as well. If the oil tanker from Saudi Arabia came to them late, they would urge bin Laden to publish communiqués attacking Saudi Arabia, and bin Laden’s followers would stay up all night by the fax machine to send the communiqués to Saudi Arabia. Then they expelled bin Laden like they did Al-Zawahiri.

“So whoever claims that I retreated and changed my views in prison should know: What is in the Document, I have been telling the brothers since 1992. This is the reality of which they are unaware, and I could say more.”

“‘You Mean We Were Mercenaries?'”

Al-Hayat: “So say more.”

Sayyed Imam: “I met Majdi Kamal in prison in Egypt in February, 2007. I said to him: ‘You told me in 1992 that the time for speaking had come to an end and that the time for action had come. So tell me, what have you done these 15 years, from 1992 to 2007?’

“The brother was silent, because he hadn’t done a thing except for [being in] prison. I said to him: ‘The Sudanese intelligence agencies induced you with money to clash with Egypt, and I forbade you to do this in the past.’ Majdi Kamal said to me: ‘You mean we were mercenaries?’ I said to him: ‘Yes, Al-Zawahiri turned you into mercenaries of Hasan Al-Turabi’s intelligence agencies.’ The brother said to me: ‘Please don’t mention this to anyone.’

“I will go on and say that when I was [still] free in Yemen, around 2000, the brother Osama Siddiq called me from Germany and consulted with me about launching an initiative for calm (tahdiya) in Egypt. I encouraged him to do so. Osama Siddiq is with you in Europe. You can ask him…” [5]

Al-Qaeda’s Followers Commit Grave Violations in the Name of Jihad Almost Daily in Iraq

Al-Hayat:“Some Islamists overseas [6] have asked why you wrote about ‘right guidance for jihad’, as the Jihad organization already announced that it had stopped its operations in Egypt in 1995?

Sayyed Imam: “I don’t write for any particular group or against any particular group. [Religious] knowledge is written for all…

“As for grave violations [of shari’a] committed in the name of jihad in various places in the world, these still occur, especially among those influenced by the deviant program of Al-Qaeda.

“The violations in Iraq [occur] almost daily. Not long ago there was the incident of the killing of French tourists in Saudi Arabia, and it came to light that they were Muslims. Not long ago there was the incident of the organization of Indian doctors in Britain.

“All the time, organizations [made up] of the youngest youth fall in Egypt – those who were recruited through the Internet. They are known in the prisons by the name of ‘net-brothers.’

“So to say that the violations have come to an end is not true, and it is contrary to reality. [But true] jihad is [a command that is] in force until Judgment Day, and jihad is not limited to any given organization, like these [people] think. It is a law that is in force until the end of time.

Al-Hayat:“Some of the organizations denied that there are groups that kill based on nationality, [and said that what they do] is in the framework of their war with the West or with the Arab regimes.

Sayyed Imam: “This is not true. The Al-Qaeda organization, and bin Laden, declared more than once that they target Americans indiscriminately, and this is what they did on September 11. This is killing on the basis of nationality.

“Then those who sympathize with them carried out the Madrid bombings in 2004, and they killed people indiscriminately. Likewise, there were the bombings in the London Underground in 2005, and [the perpetrators] killed Britons indiscriminately.

“All of this is killing on the basis of nationality, and I discussed the proofs of the wrongness of this in the Document, as well as the fact that one’s being [a citizen] of a given country is not proof of being an infidel or a believer, and is not proof that [someone’s] blood or property is made licit…”


For Years, Al-Zawahiri Provided Justifications for the GIA’s Killing of Civilians, Women, and Children, and Its Kidnappings and Rapes

Al-Hayat: “What was the reason for publishing the Document, given that the jihad groups to whom it is addressed had, for instance, publicly dissociated themselves from the Algerian GIA when they became convinced that it was exceeding all bounds in [spilling] blood?”

Sayyed Imam: “I did not address the Document to any particular group, as I already despaired of reforming them in 1992… I write for everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims, people today and those not yet born.

“As for those who say that ‘they dissociated themselves from the Algerian GIA,’ this is an expression that indicates the ignorance of the religion of the one who says it, and it indicates his not having studied Sunni [articles of] belief. This is because a Muslim is not allowed to dissociate himself from another Muslim if he errs, but rather he dissociates himself from his wrong action. Dissociating oneself from someone’s person is what one does with infidels.

“The ignorant person should be careful with his words, and should study his religion before he criticizes someone else. I have already drawn attention to this useful lesson in the Document, since his saying that they dissociated themselves from the Algerian GIA is an implicit pronouncement of apostasy against them.

“As for his saying that they dissociated themselves from this group, that is not the truth. The truth is that the person who is shouting from London, he and his sheikh Al-Zawahiri – when they went out of business in Egypt, they were dependent on [finding] something that would give them a continued presence in jihad activity, and [so] they encouraged the GIA in their publications Al-Ansar and Al-Mujahidoun.

“This went on for years, and they kept providing justifications for this group’s killing of civilians, women, and children, and its kidnappings and rapes.

“This is what I described in the Document as ‘the jurisprudence of justification’ – like how they provide justifications today for bin Laden’s crimes.

“Then, when things came to a head, they dissociated themselves from the GIA, after they had put it in a bad situation and extolled it and its activities. They and this group [the GIA] are like what Allah said (Koran 59:16-17): ‘[They are] like Satan who says to man “disbelieve,” and when he disbelieves, says “I dissociate myself from you, for I fear Allah Lord of the worlds.” The end of both of them is to be eternally in the fire, and this is the reward of the unjust.’

“Also, this dissociation did not last long. It was only a few years before the Algerian group returned to the fold of the Al-Qaeda organization, calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb…” [7]

Summary of the Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World

In the second installation of the Al-Hayat interview, published December 9, 2007, Sayyed Imam provided his own summary of his new work, Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World:

“The Document, after the introduction, contains 15 articles and four notices:

“Article 1: Elucidation of the truth of the Islamic religion and the fact that it is obligatory on all humanity, and that its shari’a already includes everything that created beings need to make right their [portion in] this world and the next, until Judgment Day.

“Article 2: Elucidation concerning the conditions for being obligated [to perform a commandment], in addition to [the condition of] mental competence: one must know that the matter is obligatory, and one must be capable of carrying it out. It is not permitted to venture any action until one knows what its status is in the shari’a, as Allah said (Koran 17:36): ‘Pursue not that of which you have no knowledge’.

“This is especially true in jihad, which entails the taking of lives and property that are normally inviolable. And it is not permitted to undertake to carry out that which one is not in a position to do, because Allah said (Koran 2:286) ‘Allah only imposes on someone that of which he is capable’. A Muslim incurs no sin for [failing to do] that of which he is incapable, and his reward will be given in payment for his right intention.”

One May Not Steal in Order to Fund Jihad; One Who Lacks the Necessary Resources is Exempt

“Article 3: One who lacks the resources is not obligated to fight jihad, even in cases where jihad is an individual obligation (fardh ‘ayn). Jihad was an individual obligation in the Tabuk raid, and Allah excused those who stayed behind due to lack of resources, [as He said] in Koran 9:91: ‘There is no blame on those who cannot find what to expend.’ And the Prophet said, in a hadith whose authenticity is agreed upon, that Allah wrote [i.e. decreed] reward for this raid for those [who stayed behind due to lack of resources] in payment for the sincerity of their intention.

“One who lacks resources [to fight jihad] is forbidden to acquire money through forbidden means, like burglarizing those whose property it is forbidden to take, in order to make use of these funds for jihad. It is not permitted to do that which is not permitted in order to carry out that which is not required of him due to his inability. If he violates this, then his jihad, if he carries it out, is not accepted [by Allah], since the Prophet has said: ‘Allah is good and accepts only the good,’ as told by Muslim [i.e. in Muslim Ibn Al-Hajjaj’s compendium of hadith].”

Jihad Requires the Permission of One’s Parents and Creditors

“Article 4: It is not permitted to go out to fight jihad without the permission of both parents and the permission of one’s creditors, because acting rightly with one’s parents is an individual obligation (fardh ‘ayn), and they have rights over their son, and [thus] he should not go out to jihad without their permission. This appears in an authentic hadith.

“Likewise, Allah does not accept martyrdom as atonement for a mujahid‘s debts, and he should not go out [to fight jihad] without the permission of his creditor.

“This has become pandemic in our times. We find parents who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspapers as a fatality or a prisoner.”

“Allah Permitted One Who Is Weak to Hide and Disguise His Faith”

“Article 5: Elucidation [of the fact] that protecting Muslims from ruination is one of the purposes of the shari’a, and for this reason Allah permitted one who is weak to hide and disguise his faith. Allah [also] permitted emigration.

“Allah considered equality of force between the Muslims and their enemy [as a condition] and did not obligate the Muslims to persist in fighting if the enemy [numbers] more than double [the Muslims]. In addition, Allah permitted peace treaties (sulh) and cease-fires (hudna) with the infidels, either in exchange for money or without it – all of this in order to protect the Muslims, in contrast with those who push them into peril.

“Article 6: Elucidation [of the fact that] it is not permitted to fight the rulers in Muslim countries today in order to implement the Islamic shari’a, due to [the Muslims’] incapacity to do this, and due to [its entailing] more damage than benefit. Exposition of this is to be found in the second notice at the end of the Document.” [See translation below.]

It Is Forbidden to Harm Tourists, Even If it is Known that They Are Infidels

“Article 7: On the prohibition of doing harm to tourists who come to Muslim lands, even if it is established that they are infidels, and all the more so when there may be Muslims among them.

“I gave six reasons for this, and they are summed up in what Abu ‘Omar Bin ‘Abd Al-Barr wrote in Al-Istidhkar: that anything the infidel thinks is a guarantee of safety (aman) when he comes to us is a [valid] guarantee of safety, in the view of all of the jurisprudents. Al-Shafi’i expounds on this in [Kitab] Al-‘Umm, vol. 4, p. 196, and the essence of what he says is that the infidel does not distinguish between those of us from whom he may receive a guarantee of security and those of us from whom he may not. In any event, if an infidel comes to us with an invalid guarantee of security, what is required is not killing him; rather, one must convey him to where he is safe (i.e., to send him off and expel him to wherever he wants where he will be safe), as Allah said (Koran 9:6): ‘Then convey him to where he is safe’.

“Article 8: One who enters the Abode of War (dar al-harb) under a guarantee of safety from its people is prohibited from [undertaking] acts of belligerency. He is not permitted to betray them with regard to their lives, their honor, or their property. This is a matter of agreement among the scholars, as I said when I spoke of ‘perfidy towards the enemy’ in connection with the events of September 11, 2001. Allah said (Koran 5:1) ‘Oh those who believe, fulfill [your] obligations’. This [i.e. keeping one’s obligations] is obligatory with Muslims and with infidels. The Prophet said: ‘Perfidy is not right in our religion’.”

On Killing Civilians

“Article 9: Prohibition against killing civilians. The prohibition against killing those civilians who are visibly Muslims is emphasized in the Prophet’s saying, ‘Every Muslim’s life, property, and honor is inviolable to other Muslims’, as told by Muslim [i.e. in Muslim Ibn Al-Hajjaj’s compendium of hadith].

“Those whose condition is unknown [i.e. when it is not known whether or not they are Muslim], it is not permitted to attack them, even in a state of fighting, until the truth of their condition is known, because Allah said (Koran 4:94): ‘Oh you who believe, when you go forth to fight jihad, distinguish’ [Muslims from non-Muslims].”

On Takfir

“Article 10: Some guiding rules of takfir [pronouncing other Muslims apostates] in the shari’a. I state [in this article] that takfir is a shari’a law, and not a forbidden innovation. There is original heresy [i.e. when one is born a non-Muslim] and there is newly-occurring heresy (apostasy).

“When a Muslim does something that makes one an apostate, he should not be judged an apostate until one has examined his action (word or deed) [to see] whether it is explicit or ambiguous, and whether the proof text that indicates his apostasy is explicit or ambiguous. Then one must examine the conditions [required for declaring him an apostate] and the impediments [that would prohibit declaring him an apostate] with regard to this individual, in accordance with the principle of ‘the ruling is applied to the case when the condition is present and the impediment is absent.’

“Then, there is a difference between abstract takfir (ruling only on the cause), and takfir against the individual (after considering the conditions and the impediments), which is to be referred to a Muslim judge (qadi).

“Once [someone’s] apostasy has been proven, it is obligatory to propose to him that he repent. No subject should carry out any of the Koranic punishments (hudud) except on his slaves; he is not permitted to do this against free men like himself. If this were not the case, anarchy would ensue, and people would kill one another on the slightest suspicion.”

Egypt‘s Christians Are Not Dhimmis, But Citizens

“Article 11: On the impermissibility of doing any harm to the Christians in our land, and elucidation of the fact that they are not dhimmis but citizens. The principle regarding them is ‘treat them as they treat you’ (al-mu’amala bi’l-mithl).

“It is obligatory to act kindly towards one’s neighbor, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Violation of this is a cardinal sin. All of them fall under what Allah said (Koran 60:8): ‘Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who did not fight you over religion and did not drive you from your homes; Allah loves those who deal justly.’ This is in addition to the Prophet’s particular injunction regarding the Copts of Egypt, due to their being tied [to us] by blood relations and relations of marriage. [8]

“Article 12: [This article deals with] the question of the individual jihad that Allah mentioned (Koran 4:84): ‘Fight [jihad] for the sake of Allah, and impose this only on yourself.’ This [verse] expresses permission and not obligation, and I provide the proof of this. The permission is subject to some stipulations, among the most important of which are: asking the permission of the Emir or the ruler, if there is one; that he not harm other Muslims, as the Prophet said in an accepted hadith, ‘[Refrain from doing] harm to others or to oneself’; that he not carry out aggression that Allah has forbidden by killing Muslims or non-Muslims whose lives are inviolable or by destroying their possessions, as Allah said (2:190): ‘Do not be aggressors, for Allah does not love the aggressors.’

“Article 13: [This article contains] advice to the Muslims in general, [dealing with] a number of issues, such as the obligation to study religion, to seek one’s livelihood, things that are permitted, and staying away from wrong actions and sins, and so on.”

Jihad is In Force Until Judgment Day; The Islamic Caliphate Is Coming Before the Mahdi

“Article 14: Advice to the rulers of Muslim lands, the most important [part] of which is [that they should] implement the Islamic shari’a, by which there is good for the land and for the people, and in which there is the glory of this world and salvation in the next world. [They should] then take care to reduce corruption and iniquities [committed by the government against the people, mazalim], raise the level of religious instruction, and care for those who engage in it.

“Article 15: [This article contains] the good tidings that Islam, the Muslims, and their triumph will remain until Judgment Day is nigh, that jihad is [a commandment that is] in force until Judgment Day is nigh, and that the Islamic Caliphate is coming before the appearance of the Mahdi, and other good tidings, together with their proofs…”

Sayyed Imam then summarizes the four additional notices in the Document:

“Notice 1 is about my Islamic writings, and that they are merely the passing on of religious knowledge to the people, and are not fatwas. The laws stated in my writings are in the abstract and can only be applied to particular cases by a qualified scholar, which I am not. I take back anything in my writings that is [found to be] contrary to an opposing true and sound shari’a proof.

“Notice 2 is an elucidation of the shari’a reasons and practical reasons that make clear that fighting against the rulers in Egypt is not permitted. Among the shari’a reasons are the imbalance [in forces between the rulers and the mujahideen] and the incapacity [of the mujahideen]. Among the practical reasons are the incapacity of popular movements to bring about regime change in Egypt throughout history… [see translation below]

“Notice 3 is a refutation of the dubious argument that this document is a call to desist from supporting the mujahideen. Correction of mistakes is an obligation and is not a withdrawal of support. The Prophet said: ‘I am free of guilt before you for what Khaled [Bin Al-Walid] has done’ [9] … Was the Prophet withdrawing support [for jihad]?

“Notice 4 is a refutation of the dubious argument that ‘there is no loyalty to a prisoner’… The summary of what I said on this matter is that ‘what is important is the proof [contained in] what is written, and not where it was written’. Whoever has an objection to anything I have said based on a shari’a proof, I am ready to consider it [i.e. his objection] and discuss it, and I am ready to accept the truth, even when it is contrary to what I have said…” [10]

On the Shari’a Reasons and the Practical Reasons that Call for Not Clashing with the Egyptian Authorities

The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World consists of 15 articles and four notices; in the second notice, published on November 22, 2007, in the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida daily and translated here, Sayyed Imam explains the reasons for his ruling forbidding taking up arms against the Egyptian government:

“This notice is a clarification of what I mentioned in the sixth article on the prohibition on fighting against the rulers.

“Allah willed that I would have a relation with one of the Islamist groups [i.e. the Egyptian Jihad] at a certain time for the sake of working towards imposing Islamic shari’a rule in Egypt, this as the obligation of any Muslim.

“After studying the matter from the shari’a perspective and after consulting with scholars and studying the reality [of the situation], I came to the conclusion in the year 1412h/1992 that clashing with the ruling authorities and their [security] forces in Egypt would never achieve this shari’a benefit [i.e. the imposition of shari’a law].

“I tried to turn this Islamist group [i.e. the Egyptian Jihad] away from conflict and to give it a da’wa direction – this was before it embarked on any clashes in Egypt [11] – but they did not agree to this, so we went our separate ways, and I broke off relations with this group, and all of the Islamist groups, in early 1993.

“I want to relate to the distinguished reader the shari’a and practical facts on which I based my decision on the futility of entering into clashes with the Egyptian authorities for the sake of imposing shari’a rule, and their consequent impermissibility in the shari’a, due to the vast harms they entail while not achieving the hoped-for benefit. [I wrote this] so that whosoever wishes may benefit from it.”

Jihad Requires Preconditions that Do Not Exist Today

“1) From the shari’a perspective: clashing with the ruling authorities in the name of jihad is not permitted, due to the absence of many of the conditions for it, the existence of a number of impediments, and the predominance of harms [they entail], on both the particular and the general levels.

“Allah said (Koran 33:21): ‘In Allah’s Prophet you have an excellent example, for he who looks to Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.’ And the Prophet did not wage jihad, nor did Allah command him with jihad, until after jihad’s formative elements were present, and these are among the conditions for its being an obligation and the preconditions for its success – and they do not exist [at present] in most countries. Among them are:

” – An abode of emigration (hijra) and support. This is not [just] a hide-out. The Prophet did not emigrate to Medina until after its population swore allegiance to Islam and pledged [to give the Muslims] safe haven, support, and a place that would be inviolable… and he didn’t emigrate to it until he sent someone to investigate the situation in Medina and of its population on the ground… None of this exists [today].

” – Parity in numbers and equipment. This… is among the conditions necessary for making persistence [in battle] obligatory and for victory to be likely. When there is no parity between the two sides of the conflict, jihad is not obligatory, since inability cancels out obligation. This is the situation of the Islamist groups in most Muslim countries.

” – Safeguarding the Muslims’ children, women, and families. This is impossible [today], and one who enters into conflict [under such conditions] causes harm to his family. In the Al-Ahzab raid, the Prophet placed the families in a fortress in Medina. [Today] this is impossible. In the fourth article I cited Al-Shafi’i’s Kitab Al-Umm, where he writes that if someone fears that his family [will be exposed to harm] from the enemy if he goes out to fight jihad, then he is not permitted to go out [to fight jihad]. The proof of this is what Allah said (Koran 33:13): ‘And a party of them asked the Prophet for permission [not to fight], saying “our houses are exposed,” but they were not exposed, and they only wanted to flee.’ The meaning of this verse is that if the houses were [in fact] exposed to the enemy, they could ask for permission [to stay behind] without reproach.

” – Expenses necessary for jihad. When this is impossible, the obligation of jihad falls… and it is not permitted to steal money from those whose property is inviolate under the pretext of funding jihad, as explained previously. It is not permitted to do that which is forbidden in order to carry out that which is not obligatory.

” – A group to whom one can turn [in time of need]. This does not exist [today]…

” – Differentiating the ranks [i.e. differentiating combatants from non-combatants] is difficult, and this leads to killing people whose lives are inviolate, and Muslims, whom one is not allowed to kill in the confrontation…

“When the preconditions for jihad and its formative elements are not in existence, and the impediments to it are in existence, it is not permitted by the shari’a to persist in the option of confrontation with the authorities in order to impose shari’a law, and one must turn to the other shari’a options that are feasible, such as da’wa, reform, and so forth. This is especially true given that previous experience has made clear the grave damages caused by this confrontation, on both the particular and the general levels, and the principle is that ‘warding off damage takes precedence over obtaining benefit’…

Popular Uprisings Have Never Been Able to Accomplish Regime Change in Egypt

“2) From the practical point of view: The incapacity of the Islamist groups to change the ruling regime in Egypt by way of confrontation can be understood by looking at history. Taking history into account is a shari’a obligation, as Allah has censured those who do not take it into account, and the fundamental principles say that censure is only incurred for the abandoning of an obligation.

“Allah said (Koran 22:46): ‘Have they not traveled in the land, and they have hearts with which to understand and ears with which to hear? It is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts within their breasts that are blind.’ And the sheikh and historian ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Jabarti wrote in his history book ‘Aja’ib Al-Athar: ‘Studying and reading history adds to one’s comprehension,’ since studying history provides one with a concise summary of the extensive experiences and knowledge of one’s predecessors.

“Throughout history, the regime in Egypt has only changed in one of two ways. The first way is that of foreign invasion, like the Persian and Roman invasions, the Islamic conquest, the Ottoman invasion, and the British occupation of Egypt. The second way is that of change from within the ruling government. For example, Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi fought against the Fatimids when he was their governor. He put an end to their state and turned Egypt from a Shi’ite state into a Sunni one. Or like the great Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha, who seized rule in Egypt in 1805 when he was an Ottoman officer. He seized rule and started Egypt on the path to modernization. Or like Gamal ‘Abd Al-Nasser, who seized rule in Egypt in 1952 and brought about profound political, economic, and social change in Egypt.

“Throughout history, regime change in Egypt has only occurred in these two ways, and the Islamist groups are incapable of either of them. They are not part of the ruling class, and they cannot invade from abroad – not to mention that they do not possess what everyone acknowledges as the elements necessary for conventional warfare, or even for guerilla warfare.

“Sheikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya wrote: ‘Egypt remained an abode of apostasy during the ‘Ubaydi Fatimid era – 200 years according to the scholars – until Salah Al-Din Yousef Bin Ayyub transformed it’ – that is the gist of what he wrote. There were great Sunni scholars in Egypt at that time, and they did not do a thing, and did not change that regime. [Likewise,] never in history have the popular movements – and among them, the Islamist groups – changed the regime in Egypt.

“Since taking history into account is an obligation… one must not try something that not only brings no benefit, but entails preponderant damage.”

“Wisdom Requires Situating Things in Their Proper Place and Not Confusing Them”

“The jurisprudential principle states that ‘the easier [option] is not rendered void when the more difficult [option is not feasible].’ There are many legal proofs for this, like the verse (Koran 64:16): ‘Fulfill your duty to Allah as much as you can…’, and the hadith, ‘Do as much as you can of what I have commanded you,’ and the hadith related by ‘Omran Bin Husayn on how to pray when one is sick… ‘Pray standing, and if you cannot do this, pray sitting, and if you cannot do this, then pray [while lying] on the side,’ as recorded in Bukhari’s [compendium of hadith].

“On the basis of this principle, if changing [things] by force is difficult, then the obligation devolves onto changing [things] through words; and if this is difficult, the obligation is limited to condemning [the wrong] in one’s heart, which is obligatory in any case…

“Changing [things] through words is Islamic da’wa, in its various forms and according to one’s ability. Allah said (Koran 2:286): ‘Allah only imposes on someone that of which he is capable…’

“The alternative is not to kill civilians, foreigners, and tourists, to destroy property, and [to commit] aggression against the lives and property of those who are inviolable under the pretext of jihad. All of this is forbidden. Wisdom requires situating things in their proper place and not confusing them. Allah said (Koran 2:269): ‘He grants wisdom to whom he pleases, and he to whom wisdom has been granted has been given a great good; and none but men of understanding remember’.

Those Who Issue Fatwas and Are Not Competent To Do So Bear Liability for the Damage

“I repeat that taking history into account is obligatory, and Allah has censured those who do not… What popular movements did not succeed in accomplishing in the past, they will not succeed in accomplishing in the present. This is due to Egypt‘s nature as a centralized state, whose rule extends to the depths of the country and its extremities… because it is a ‘river state.’ The fact that rule extends to the extremities insures that popular opposition is [always] nipped in the bud. States and peoples [all] have their particularities that remain with them always…

“When jihad was decreed, it was [in order] to put an end to harm to the religion and its people [i.e. Islam and the Muslims]; if it brings worse harm, then it is not obligatory, since ‘[one] harm is not cancelled out by a similar [harm] or one that is worse’…

“It is my view that those who are not specialists in judicial rulings and in military affairs who set off clashes and push their brothers into unbalanced military confrontations bear liability for all the losses incurred by their brothers and other inviolable persons. One who is not known to be a doctor and [nevertheless] practices medicine is liable for the damage he does; likewise, one who issues a fatwa without being competent to do so bears liability. Even if he escapes the liability in this world, its consequences in the next world remain.” [12]



[1] ‘Ali Othman Taha is currently Second Vice President of Sudan.

[2] This is a reference to the attempted assassination of then-Prime Minister of Egypt ‘Atef Sidqi in 1993.

[3] According to Sayyed Imam’s son Isma’il, Abu Talha was the Jihad member who typed up Sayyed Imam’s book Al-Jami’ fi Talab Al-‘Ilm Al-Sharif and informed him of the changes that Al-Zawahiri introduced in the text without Sayyed Imam’s permission. Al-Jarida (Kuwait), November 27, 2007.

[4] Hisham Abaza was the commander of the Jihad’s military wing, Tala’i Al-Fath; he was released from prison in December 2007 (after this interview was published) after having expressed his acceptance of the ideas in Sayyed Imam’s new book. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), December 24, 2007.

[5] Al-Hayat (London), December 10, 2007.

[6] From here on the interviewer’s questions are largely based on a response to Sayyed Imam’s new book posted on the Internet by Hani Al-Siba’i, a pro-Al-Qaeda Islamist living in London who heads the Maqreze Center for Historical Studies. The response, titled “Ta’liq Awwali ‘ala Wathiqat Tarshid Al-‘Amal Al-Jihadi” (“Initial Response to the Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity”), was posted on on November 18, 2007; it was reprinted in the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm on November 23, and a summary was printed in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on November 19. While the interviewer, Muhammad Salah, does not mention Al-Siba’i by name, it is clear that Sayyed Imam understands to whom he is referring, as he calls him “the person who is shouting from London.”

[7] Al-Hayat (London), December 10, 2007. In late 2006 the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) joined Al-Qaeda, and in January 2007 changed its name to the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 332, “‘The Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb‘: The Evolving Terrorist Presence in North Africa,” March 7, 2007,

[8] In the Document, Sayyed Imam explains that the ‘blood relations’ is a reference to Hajar, the mother of Isma’il, and the ‘relations of marriage’ is a reference to Maria, Muhammad’s Coptic wife. Al-Jarida (Kuwait), November 28, 2007.

[9] This refers to an incident in which the famous Muslim commander Khaled Bin Al-Walid killed members of the Banu Judhayma tribe, to whom he had been sent with the aim of converting them to Islam.

[10] Al-Hayat (London), December 9, 2007.

[11] He is apparently only referring to the Egyptian Jihad as it existed in Pakistan (and in fact this is the only period in the group’s existence for which he acknowledges being associated with them); the previous incarnation of the Jihad had already undertaken armed activities in Egypt, most notably the assassination of President Anwar Al-Sadat.

[12] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), November 22, 2007.





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