A Glossary for Reading Zawahiri's Letter to Zarqawi
NOTE: I originally posted this at IBC. I usually only post short stuff there as an outlet to sudden blogging urges, and I save my more extensive posts for here. But I didn't realize this post was going to be so long when I started. Posts at IBC tend to get pushed aside pretty quickly in favor of the next day's post. So I thought I would mirror it over here, because I like it and I think it is even useful.
Some people might not be Islamic/Middle Eastern scholars like me or Juan Cole, so I thought I ought to provide an explanation for terms that Westerners are not familiar with:
Praise and blessings be upon the Messenger of God, his family, his Companions, and all who follow him It is traditional for extremist Islamists like Zawahiri or Faiza Jarrar to offer gratuitous praise to a lot of people who have been dead for 1300 years. He also offers praise at this time for maniacs like Zarqawi who bring the good news message of the butcher knife to the hapless Iraqis, idolatrous infidel NGO workers, and anyone doing anything to improve living standards in Iraq.
Sunna of His Prophet The religion of Islam. It is also the supposed religion of the "turncoat deviants" (see below).
Greatest Criminals and Apostates In the Heart of the Islamic World "Criminals" are the Western soldiers. "Apostates" (in this case) are the Iraqis working for a free, prosperous, democratic Iraq whether they be Kurds, Sunni Arabs, or Shi'a Arabs.
Hadiths of the Messenger of God The Quran and other traditions surrounding Muhammed's activities and sayings.
Caliphate Essentially, a Muslim state run by a civil and religious leader considered to be a successor to Mohammed a representative of Allah on earth: the Muslim pope with a territory-expanding army. During the 90s, the was what Saddam was marketing himself as. Since there can only be one caliph (ala the movie Highlander), al-Qaeda didn't line up at the time to join Uncle Saddam's great religious plan.
Levant Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan; all the regions to the east of the Mediterranean between Turkey and Egypt. Also, a type of leather, but I don't think Zawahiri means that since I don't think he cares whether his dreamed caliphate is founded in heavy coarse-grained leather. It also means "to leave hurriedly with unpaid debts" which is more likely what that Ba'athist, rejectionist, anti-American poser Raed did when he sneaked off to live in one of America's swankiest cities.
Hijaz Essentially, Saudi Arabia around Mecca and Medina. Let his reference to this area be instructive to those who say OBL's only initial beef with the US was the troops protecting SA from Saddam. Israel is also too darned close to those holy cities and for some reason that is the US's doing.
Idolatrous Infidels Westerners, and I suppose the teensy Christian communities in Iraq. We'll have no truck with this "People of the Book" nonsense. I mean, we we're not crazy about the theologically error-prone majority of Muslims. Nope. It's safer just to sort them all in the pile of bodies labeled "Kaffirs" and move on.
Traitorous Apostates Sunni Muslims (whether Kurd or Arab) working with the Idolatrous Infidels to build a free, stable democracy in Iraq.
Turncoat Deviants Iraqi Shi'a.
Spearhead of Jihad What used to be the murder spree against democracy in Afghanistan and is now the same thing moved to Iraq.
Tenets of the Secularists, Detractors, and Inferiors Essentially, free and tolerant democracy. Secularists are of course those who don't want muttawi harassing them on the streets. Its anybody's guess who the "detractors" and "inferiors" are, but chances are YOU are one of them.
Pure Way of the Prophet Piles of dead turncoat deviants and traitorous apostates.
Sublime Goal of the Prophet For Zawahiri to get the heck out of Kashmir and to start heading up that caliphate in the Levant.
Imam al Husayn bin Ali Grandson of Mohammed and, ironically, a central figure to Shi'a Muslims. While escaping from Caliph Yazd, he and 200 followers were trapped near Kufa and slaughtered on the October 10th, 680. The wickedly Turncoat Deviants see his death as having sacrificial value.
Abdallah bin al-Zubair (Zubayr) A fellow tribal leader with Ali and the son of one of Mohammed's "companions". He chose not to join Bin Ali. But after Ali's massacre, Mecca was in general free-for-all insurrection. In the course of things Bin al-Zubayr went to Mecca and led an insurrection against the Syrian caliphate. He was massacred there.
Abul Rahman bin al-Ashath An 8th century military commander of the Umayyad Empire that lead an insurrection against al-Hajjaj. He was defeated and fled to what is today Turkey.
Typical of the confusing Muslim history of this era, al-Hajjaj was also a Muslim and so were the Umayyad caliphs. However, al-Hajjaj, conquered Mecca and maintained control over it with legendary cruelty: the original Saddam Hussein. The Umayyad caliphs and their agents typically play the role of the enemies of of the good-guys in Muslim history.
Note that all these heroes lived and died during what's known in the West as "the Dark Ages". To the jihadis, a hero doesn't count for anything unless he died at least 800 years ago. Gene Roddenberry, had a better ear for this kind of thing:
When people in the TV show Star Trek would rattle off names of great people, he would deliberately throw in something recent like "That man is considered a great philosopher on this planet; in the vein of Plato, Lincoln, and Duraben of the Indleblatt system."
The Hour of Resurrection The moment of the bodily resurrection of believers. According to the Quran, this happens sometime after Jesus comes back, defeats the anti-Christ and his followers, ends all wars, and brings in an era of peace. Until then, we need to butcher every unbelieving S.O.B. Christian we can catch.
Shura methodology Literally, this means "consultation". This is supposed to be how Arabian tribes before Mohammed selected leaders and made major decisions: by "consulting" with the Muslim community. Zawahiri states that for al-Qaeda in Iraq to rule their Iraqi caliphate without the popular support of the people ("minimum support", really) would be contrary to Shura.
Of course, Zawahiri also says that the Taliban, for which al-Qaeda was the military armed force, did not do much consulting with the Muslim community in Afghanistan. Nor does there seem to be much consultation with the people in ultra-religious Saudi Arabia and Iran. I don't recall Hezbollah being to interested in input from those who disagree with them (or as they are technically referred to: "traitorous apostates"). There is a principle in Islam that embodies this paradox: it's called irony.
Sharia amirate Sharia kingdom or Islamic theocracy. Zawahiri says Iraq's Islamic theocracy would be "a political endeavor in which the mujahedeen would be a nucleus around which would gather the tribes and their elders, and the people in positions, and scientists, and merchants, and people of opinion, and all the distinguished ones who were not sullied by appeasing the occupation and those who defended Islam." Hmmm...no doubt the Iraqis that fit that bill will be top-shelf indeed. Too bad for the "scientists, merchants, and people of opinion" who don't make the cut.
Ulema The mullahs taken as a whole. Zawahiri tells Zarqawi not to make too much of doctrinal differences (for the time being) regardless of how contemptible they might be (good advice for to guys like Zarqawi, I'd say). The reason for this, Zawahiri says, is that "there may be...a heresy or an inadequacy in [a sect] which may have something to give to jihad." That is, "they can still die for us in our struggle for control of Iraq."
Umma The worldwide Moslem community taken as a whole including traitorous apostates, turncoat deviants, and heretics who have fallen into error.
Matridism The ("heretical" per Z.) Maturidiyyah school of the Sunni sect, founded by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi in the 10th century. One of the four schools of the Sunni Muslim sect. The Sunnis believe that the rightful first successor to the Prophet was his father-in-law, Abu Bakr, rather than Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law. This split occurred in the 7th century.
Asharism The ("heretical" per Z.) Ash'ariyyah, founded by Abu al-Hasan 9th and 10th centuries and continued to be developed into the 11th century. As this site describes it, "an attempt not only to purge Islam of all non‑Islamic elements which had quietly crept into it but also to harmonize the religious consciousness with the religious thought of Islam."
Salafism Wahhabbism, the religion of OBL and Zawahiri and God. It was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab in the 18th century and stated that every sect founded after around 950 AD is tainted and heretical. They don't like to be called Wahhabbis and they don't like to be called a sect. They are pure Islam; true Islam. They have the knife, who are you to argue about it?
Hanafism A Sunni legal school on which the Ottoman empire was based in the fifteenth century. Zawahiri notes that it was a doctrine of wicked Matridism.
Incidentally, although Zawahiri is willing to overlook (for now) the error of some Muslims, since he thinks he has to as most Muslims are Matridi or Ashari, he assures us that that doesn't mean he is for cottoning the "hypocritical traitors who are in allegiance with the crusaders", but says we shouldn't talk so much about that.
About this point, Zawahiri goes right over the top in showing off his oh-so-intricate knowledge of every Muslim in history. That's when I realized, "Oh my gosh! Zawahiri is a smarty-pants." ...or to use another term: he's an annoying nerdy git. He's one of those guys who is so anxious to prove that he's the one who knows everything so don't bother trying to debate him. Remember Al Gore in the first 2000 Presidential debate? That's Zawahiri. The plank up this guy's butt has a plank up it's butt.
I'm laughing my head off imagining Zarqawi (I presume it is Zarqawi even though Zawahiri "cleverly" tries to throw us off track in case the letter were intercepted or found) sitting in his smelly garage apartment, having to change houses every night, trying to organize the next car bomb, NOW having to read this pompous diatribe from a guy who is hiding so far back in a cave that he can't even get T.V. (but somehow is swallowing every Internet boilerplate rumor about Iraq) telling him how to run his insurgency, pushing his lame writings on him, while he hits him up for money! "Hey can you toss me a $100,000 or so?"
Serves him right!
Mullah Muhammad Omar The reclusive leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which banned the sale of birds in the market because they insisted on being so unIslamic as to sing. Zawahiri says that although Omar is one of the heretical Hanafists, yet "he stood in the history of Islam with a stance rarely taken." Brother, you can say that again.
Izz Bin Abdul Salam A 7th century Shafi'i scholar. Zawahiri says he was also a hated Ashari, which I guess could just as well be true although it seems anachronistic to me.
al-Nawawi (Abu Zakariyya Yahiya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi) A 13th century Syrian scholar. Also an Ashari (according to Zawahiri).
Ibn Hajar (Imam Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-'Asqalani) An 8th century Egyptian scholar. When he was 9 years old, he memorized the Qur'an. Unfortunately, an Asharist, although once again: anachronistic?.
Nur al-Din Bin Zanki Predecesor of Saladin who united Syria against the 2nd Crusade in the 12th century. Asharist.
Salahal-Din al-Ayyubi Saladin. Say no more. Asharist. Kurdish (which is a double whammy).
Sayf al-Din Qatz I'm not entirely sure about this one, but I think he is referring to Saif ad-Din Ghazi I who helped defend Damascus during the Second Crusade in the 12th century. He "fell into errors, sins, and heresies".
Rukn al-Din Baybars Administrative official in the Mamluk Sultanate, a 14th century Egyptian Islamic kingdom who oversaw the creation of an ornate version of the Quran and restored a mosque. He seized the throne from his Sultan, naming himself Baybars II, and was executed 11 months later when his boss came back. He died theologically in error.
al-Nasir Muhammad Bin-Qallawun Baybars's boss who executed him (see above). He finished the Madrasa of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun in Cairo. He ruled for thirty years after taking his throne back from Baybars II. What is significant to Zawahiri is that he unfortunately "fell into errors, sins, and heresies".
Muhammad al-Fatih Sultan of the Ottoman Turks who conquered Constantinople in the 15th century. Theologically in error.
Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiya A 13th century Sunni scholar who spent much of his life in a Cairo prison for teaching that God was a corporeal being. Despite that, Zawahiri gives him his props for urging Bin-Qallawun (see above) to go on jihad.
Jamil al-Rahman The leader of the Afghanistan Wahhabi party Jama`at Ahl-al-Kitab wal-Sunna (in 80s-90s Afghanistan, "party" means army) who split off from the Hezbi Islami party in 1985. He was assassinated by an Egyptian gunman in 1991, and al-Kitab, subsequently defeated by the the Hezbi Islami, fell apart. Z. says al-Rahman was killed and his "movement shattered" because it failed to address "the realities on the ground." Hmm...it was an assassin. Granted he didn't see that one coming, but...whatever.*
You know what, Zawahiri? Here's a news flash from the ground:
IT'S NOT THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY!!
* Kat from The Middle Ground takes a shot at what Zawahiri was getting at:
Al-Sharq al-Awsat An Arabic language newspaper in London.
Here Zawahiri is warning Zarqawi that his puritanical purification of the ranks might end up getting him betrayed or killed by one of their own allies, destroying their efforts, if he does not refrain from enforcing his version of Islam wherever he goes and on all who come to contribute to the effort.
Abu Rasmi I don't want to speculate about who Abu Ramsi is. It is not an uncommon name. I could presume it is someone Z. thought was connected but that doesn't narrow things much. What is significant about this guy however, (laughing) is that Zawahiri gave him one of his books to try to get it published. Nothing came of it. Now Z. has lost his original manuscript and wants to get the book back. Anyone want to take bets on the likelihood that Ramsi chunked the book in the trash as soon as he was out of eye-shot?
Zarqawi: Hey, Zawahiri just sent me a letter (rolleyes). Can you send him his stupid manuscript back to him? He's lost his copy and he's driving me up the wall about it.
Ramsi: Yeah, right! Like I'm gonna carry that jihadi confetti through customs. I tossed it.
Z: He says you told him you were going to try to get it published?
R: He wouldn't get off my case about it, what would you do? Finally, I said 'Fine. Give it to me and I'll show it around.' But I didn' t mean it. No one's going to publish that crap. Anyway, you should have seen it. If you wanted to bottle pomposity, you could squeeze it from those reams.
Z: You're telling me? I told you he sent me a letter, right? He wanted me to know all the books he's been writing lately. If he really wants to do something for the cause, why doesn't he drag his aging can over here and strap on a martyrs vest. Oh. By the way. He's asking for money again.
R: Dead beat.