Salman Abedi, albeit a deranged, disenfranchised and psychopathic individual, was a practising Muslim and was very likely driven to do what he did by Islamic teachings – these teachings do not certainly represent the entire religion, but they still have a considerable effect on many practising Muslims.
Not all teachings of Islam are inherently bad; nor do they promote violence. However, there are some prominent Islamic theologians who have a large impact on Islamic thought, and it is them, and their teachings which should be denounced – not all of Islam itself, which has branches, like Sufism, that certainly promote and instill good values.
This is a highly contentious and controversial statement – one that many people do not want to admit. If we are looking to progress as a society however; it is important to tell things as they are.
Abedi, who’s dad was an extremist, was a highly devout Muslim as he clearly lived his life according to ultra-conservative Islamic beliefs.
The mosque he attended was a Salafist mosque, owned by the Muslim Brotherhood, and once you combine this with the many extremist elements in his family, along with the extremist connections, we can start to form a mosaic as to why he might have committed the attack that he did.
Indeed, suicide bombings committed by Islamicists like Abedi do so in the very name of Islam. When you turn to the East, and see these types of attacks happening on a daily basis; we must understand that they are done by radicalized Muslims who believe, that by killing innocents, they are committing the will of Allah, as it is sometimes necessary to commit jihad in order to accomplish their main goal, which is to install a Caliph, who will impose Sharia as a way of life.
These extremist beliefs are not isolated within the 20th and 21st century. These beliefs can actually be traced back to the 12th century, to a man by the name of Ibn Taymiyyah, who justified violence against Mongol rulers who were indeed, practising Muslims. Indeed, the Mongols observed Ramadan, prayed 5 times a day, yet by Taymiyyah’s standards, they were not real Muslims, as they failed to uphold Sharia Law.
Taymiyyah, a very influential and highly studied Muslim who held a large variety of beliefs, is alleged to have said that, “Every party that resists the manifest and definite laws of Islam from these people or others, then it is obligatory to fight them until they comply with its laws.” This, and other similar statements by Taymiyyah, are often quoted in the ISIS magazine known as Dabiq and his statements are often used as justification for ISIS’ actions.
Indeed, some even consider him to be the original ‘founder’ of ISIS.
Taymiyyah also influenced a very prominent Salafist in Mohammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who in the late 18th century, was angered with what he believed was a secularization of Islam. Because of his perceived belief of deviation from Islam, he called for a return to governance by the Qu’ran and a strict, rigid adherence to Islamic principles in order to return to true Islam. This new Islamic movement came to be known as Wahhabism. This branch of Islam was adopted by the Saudi Arabian government; in which Wahhabism, later came to be known as an offshoot of Salafism. Salafism and Wahhabism are extremely similar to the fact that they adhere to an extremely puritanical form of Islam. The difference lies in the fact that Salafism is more all-encompassing and can be considered to be an even more extreme form of Islam than Wahhabism.
Wahhab had a large influence on many Muslims, one of them being Abed Al-Maududi, who was the founder of Jamaat-E-Islami, the largest Islamic organization in Asia. He believed that:
‘Islam is not a “religion” in the sense this term is commonly understood. It is a system encompassing all fields of living. Islam means politics, economics, legislation, science, humanism, health, psychology and sociology.’
Essentially, Maududi believed that governance under Sharia law was necessary for humanity to progress as a society. In order to return to governance by Sharia, Maududi believed that all actions, including jihad are necessary.
“Jihad is as much a primary duty as are daily prayers or fasting. One who avoids it is a sinner. His every claim to being a Muslim is doubtful. He is plainly a hypocrite who fails in the test of sincerity and all his acts of worship are a sham, a worthless, hollow show of deception.”
According to Maududi, jihad is:
“In the language of the Divine Law, this word (jihad) is used specifically for the war that is waged solely in the name of God against those who perpetrate oppression as enemies of Islam. This supreme sacrifice is the responsibility of all Muslims.”
Maududi, an extremely prominent Islamic scholar, influenced Sayyid Qutb, arguably the most influential Sunni theologist of the 20th century.
Qutb, who at one point was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (a prominent Salafist organization that often encourages the idea of jihad), was born in Egypt and went to America to complete his university education. He became very disgusted by the women in America, who he believed were overly sexualized; leading him to believe that many were corrupted by modernity’s devotion to reason; where instead, their devotion should be lying in Allah. His disillusionment influenced him to return to Egypt to obtain his doctorate, and he began writing and preaching his own original, Salafist form of Islam. He, and many others in the Muslim Brotherhood became an existential threat to a Nasser-ruled Egypt, and he was imprisoned for his actions, where in prison, he penned his most influential, and extremist book, Milestones.
Qutb believed that, “(Islamists) must live life according to the Qu’ran and its precepts. Its principles must be strictly adhered to and Islam must not be just a religion but a guide for politics as well.”
According to Qutb, ‘the most important deviation of jahili societies, whether Muslim or non Muslim, is their refusal to implement Shari’a. Shari’a is a socio-religious concept that disregards man-made laws and unifies politics and law with religion.’
Living according to Sharia requires a total rejection of all man-made social systems. Accepting no debate or dissension, this totalitarian system demands complete loyalty in every sphere of human life. For Qutb, anything less is heretical.
Taking his extremist beliefs one step further, he believed that the United States, “must be destroyed to rid the world of jahiliyyah, the pagan ignorance of Allah, which has once again infected the minds and souls of Muslims across the globe.”
Furthermore, Qutb believed it was not enough to live according to Sharia, he said that, “The foremost duty of Islam in this world is to depose jahiliyyah from the leadership of man, and to take leadership into its own hands.”
In order to correlate Abedi’s actions with Qutb’s writings, take a look at this pithy summation of his beliefs:
‘Modernity‘s devotion to reason is not only antithetical to the faith of Islam—it also intends to destroy Muslim faith. In order for their faith to survive, Muslims must first reject modernity so that they can proceed to defeat it. Any means to achieve this end, including all levels of violence, are justified.’
Qutb, who is arguably the most influential Islamicist of the 20th century, is considered to be the ideological grandfather of groups like the Mujahideen, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. He was a Salafist and at one point, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosque attended by Abedi, was a Salafist mosque, run by the Muslim Brotherhood. It is likely the mosque promoted the teachings of Sayyid Qutb.
Qutb also served to be a large influence in Abdullah Azzam – the founder of the Mujahideen, which was the precursor to Al-Qaeda.
Azzam joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950’s, studied the readings of Qutb and al-Banna (original founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) and in the 60’s participated with the PLO in anti-Israel resistance. He later devoted himself to studying Islam where he received his doctorate in 1973.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Azzam, garnering the support of the Islamic community, issued a fatwa, called Defense of the Muslim Lands, where he declared it an obligation to kill all occupiers of Muslim land. He convinced Osama bin Laden to further his cause of jihad and bin Laden, backed by a wealthy family, eventually funnelled millions of dollars into furthering Azzam’s fatwa, where thousands of Muslims were sponsored to travel overseas and fight against the Russian occupiers in Afghanistan. Once Azzam was killed, bin Laden assumed leadership of the group of foreign fighters, where it soon metastasised into what we know today as al-Qaeda. Bin-Laden himself, was also highly influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb.
There were many other influential Islamic theologians and jihadists such as Ayman al Zawahiri (current leader of Al-Qaeda), Anwar al Awlaki and S.K. Malik, all of whom perpetuated the idea of jihad against the kuffar (the unbeliever), and who called for a return to governance by Sharia Law. These men were all influenced by people like Maududi, Qutb and Taymiyyah.
Furthermore, all these figures mentioned above were/are Salafists who adhered to the strictest forms of Islam, which includes: praying 5 times a day, observing Ramadan and all other Muslim holidays, and refraining from drinking or eating pork etc.
So to did Salman Abedi, who in a previous article, was said to have been influenced by Al-Qaeda. Abedi was also a Salafist, essentially, an extremely devout Muslim who was very highly influenced by his Islamic beliefs. Indeed, as mentioned earlier the mosque attended by Abedi, was a Salafist, Muslim-Brotherhood backed mosque.
Therefore, it is incorrect to say Abedi was a terrorist, but not a Muslim, when it is very likely that Islamic teachings drove him to do what he did- as evidenced by the examples in this article.
Certainly, were Salman Abedi to refrain from blowing himself up and murdering 22 innocent people, from an outsider’s perspective, would he not be considered a Muslim? The Manchester Mayor is well-intentioned in his actions; however, he is incorrect as it is highly illogical to try to separate the two.
When George Kennan wrote his famous doctrine on identifying, addressing and serving to eliminate the threat of Communism, he stated in it that “we must first understand the threat (Communism), and then we must craft a strategic response.”
By failing to properly understand the threat; we are left unable to create a strategic response.