Bin Laden's Death: A Beginning, Not the End

Even as we celebrate the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, we must understand that his death is not the end of this fight, and in fact, it may just be but the beginning.

In order to understand why this is so, we must understand that Al Qaeda and similar Islamic Terrorist Groups are not a recent phenomenon, spawned by hate of the United States or from the formation of Israel in 1948, as is commonly believed and propagated as fact.  To do so is foolish, naive, dangerous, and ultimately self-defeating.   What we must understand is that Al Qaeda and its "franchisees" -- imitators, spin-offs, etc. -- are in fact, nothing more than the current manifestation of an almost 1,200 year old theological movement within Islam itself, called the "Salafiyyah."

We have to understand them, their theology, their ideology, their motivations, their raison d'être, if we are ever going to stand a chance of defeating them.  With a 1,200 year history, they have no intention of stopping now, not even with the death of their charismatic propaganda leader, Osama bin Laden.  For as the saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

A first step in understanding what lead us to Osama bin Laden over the past 1,200 years, is to review what is known in Arabic as a "Silsila," or Dynastic Chain.  The following is a list of noted Islamic Jihadi Theologians and Ideologues, from the past through to modern times, who preceded Osama bin Laden for the most part, and who have provided theological inspiration for him.  It is important to understand several things about this list while reviewing it:

 -  It is not an all-inclusive list; there are other Jihadi theologians out there, such as Yusef al-Qaradawi who garner respect from the various Jihadi movements; however, this list is intended to illustrate the most direct links, from the founder of the "Salafiyyah" movement ibn Taymiyyah in the 14th century, through the Islamic "modernist" movement in the 19th century, and down to the modern-day Salafiyyah/Qutbiyyah Jihadi movement today, now epitomized by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

 - It would be a mistake however, to view this list as "linear" in terms of theology.  A close reading of the various Islamic ideologies shown below, will demonstrate that these individuals are not necessarily successors to each other chronologically, theologically, nor ideologically.  In fact, thought most of the below are proponents of Sunni Salafiyyah Jihadism, there is in fact, a Shiite among their number.

 - The most important thing to remember, is that each of these individuals, while often acknowledging their predecessors' role and influence upon their own ideologies, basically pick and choose, "cherry pick" if you will, which of their predecessors' beliefs they wish to emulate, and usually end up melding and shaping that ideology based upon their own interpretations, life experiences, and motivated reasoning.

Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal (780AD-855AD): the founder of the Sunni Hanbali "fiqh" or canonical school; one of the four major Sunni "fiqhs" (Shafi, Maliki, Hanafi being the other three); his primary contribution was the theological opposition to "bid'ah" or "innovation" in religious matters.

Abu-al-Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzi (circa 1201AD): Sunni; early respected Hanbali scholar and probably the most prolific Islamic writer of all time; and expert on "tafsir" or exegesis; i.e. commentary on the Koran and Hadith.

Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263AD-1328AD): Sunni Hanbali; started the "Salafiyyah" movement when Islam was under attack from the Mongols; theologically "great-grandfather" of the modern Jihadis; the most quoted Islamic scholar by modern Jihadis

Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab at-Tamimi' (1703AD-1792AD): Sunni, student of the works of Taymiyyah; founded the "Wahhabiyah" sect that established and rules Saudi Arabia until today.

Sayyid Jamāl-al-dīn al-Afghānī (1838AD-1897AD): Iranian Shiite pretending to be Sunni Afghani; ideologically rejected by today's Jihadis because he was a Shiite practicing "Taqiyah"; but he really is the modern "grandfather" of the anti-Western Islamic movements; not in theology, but in ideology!

Muhammad Abduh (1849AD-1905AD): Sunni Egyptian follower of al-Afghani; considered the father of Islamic modernism; is rejected by modern Jihadis because of his "modernism" approach; but clearly was important ideologically in promoting the causes of Pan-Islamism and Pan-Arabism; also a promoter of "Salafiyyah" doctrine.

Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865AD-1935AD): Sunni Syrian disciple of Muhammad Abduh; proposed the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate; not as well known as the others, but well-respected today by Jihadis.

Hassan al-Banna (1906AD - 1949AD): his father was a disciple of Muhammad Abduh, he was a disciple of Rashid Rida; founded the Muslim Brotherhood as a secret Sufi Islamic Society; melded the concepts of "Salafism" and Islamic "modernism" with rejection of the traditional ulema at Al Azhar in Cairo.

Sayyid Qutb (1906AD - 1966AD): member of the Muslim Brotherhood and follower of al-Banna; combined his visceral hatred of the US (he stayed in the US for 2 years in the late 1940's in Colorado!) and all things Western, and synthesized it with Salafiyyah doctrine into his concept of "jahiliyyah"; basically, the whole world, including Muslim states, are un-Islamic.

Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi (September 25, 1903AD-September 22, 1979AD): Sunni Indian-Pakistani, a Hanafi, and later an adherent to the Deobandi Sufi philosophies; modern Arab Jihadis pay him lip service because of his avocation of Jihad, resistance to the West/Colonialism; his belief that all non-Muslims need to be subjugated to Islamic rule, and because he is the theological "grand-father" to their Pakistani & Taliban hosts and allies.

Muhammad Qutb (~1907AD-???); younger brother of Sayyid, more influential than normally given credit for; has been in Saudi Arabia since getting out of Egyptian prison in 1972, had sought to make his brother's philosophies appealing to a broader range of "moderate" Salafiyyah buy somewhat modifying Sayyid's concepts of "jahiliyyah" and "Takfir," as they apply to Saudi Arabia only!  Very influential over both Ayman Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden.

Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (1941AD-November 24, 1989AD): another Palestinian Jihadi, very influential; aggressively adopted the philosophies of Sayyid Qutb during his studies in Egypt; promoted the concept of "ribat," or defense of the Islamic borders against the infidels in places such as Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc.; also a promoter of Global Jihad; theological mentor to Osama bin Laden, and convinced him to go to Afghanistan.  Got into a strategic dispute with Ayman al-Zawahiri; Azzam believed the next target of Jihad, after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, should be against the Jews in "Palestine"; Zawahiri wanted to go after the secular and "non-Muslim" rulers of states such as Egypt.  Azzam was blown up by a bomb, along with his two sons in Pakistan.  It is assumed that Zawahiri was behind the assassination.

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (1938AD-present/incarcerated): the "Blind Sheikh," a member of the Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Group; does not get enough credit by Westerners, for his part in developing and influencing Zawahiri, bin Laden, etc., because he was arrested after the WTC '93 attacks, and imprisoned; yet was very influential for a formative Al Qaeda movement, in the Islamic Jihad & Islamic Group, bin Laden, Mohammed Atta and the Takfiris, etc.  It was his "fatwa" that led to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat.  He was a student of Abdullah Azzam in Cairo, Egypt.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (1959AD-present): born in Palestine, currently in prison in Jordan; has been influenced by: Ibn al-Jawzi; Ibn Taymiyyah; al Wahhab; originally mentor to Zarqawi; he later became concerned by the progressing "Takfiri" ideology of Zarqawi, and later spoke out against his indiscriminate attacks on all Muslims; he also repudiated the Takfiri theology in writing, though the Takfiris still consider him their ideological mentor.  He is the most quoted living/modern Islamic theologian by Osama bin Laden and other modern Jihadis.

Shukri Mustafa: member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 60's - 70's; took Sayyid Qutb's views, and made them even more extreme; broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood and founded the "Takfir wal Hijra"; or "Excommunication & Exodus"; basically everyone, including all other Muslims, who were not part of their group, was a non-believer; believed that "true Muslims" like himself and his followers should remove themselves from modern, corrupt society, and they tried to set up their own communities in the Nile Delta; executed for his part in the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat; influenced by not only Sayyid Qutb, but by the works of Maqdisi, though Maqdisi has now repudiated the group.  Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 hijacker, was a follower of the ideology.  Some have accused Ayman al-Zawahiri of being a "Takfiri"; though there have been overlaps between the group, and ideologies and theologies, and even their members (Atta!); recently, Zawahiri has spoken out against them and said they have gone astray.  The assassin of Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh, the "Detroit Five", and the Madrid Bombers, were either members of Takfiri cells, or influenced by the ideology.  Before he was executed, it is said that Shukri Mustafa was being hailed as a "Mahdi" in his own right.

Ayman al-Zawahiri (1951AD-present): joined the Muslim Brotherhood by the age of 14; former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he melded into Al Qaeda; influenced by his uncle, Mahfouz Azzam, a former disciple of Sayyid Qutb; has said his mission in life is to "put Qutb's vision into action"; also influenced by Mohammed Qutb, brother of Sayyid while in Saudi Arabia; and influenced by the "ribat" (Islamic frontier) concept of Jihad by Abdullah Azzam, whom he probably had murdered; cooperated with the Islamic Group to attack western tourists in Luxor, Egypt in 1997.  Major influence on Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (1966AD-2006AD): originally a petty thief, street thug, and sexual predator, went to Afghanistan in the late 1980's and met Osama bin Laden; returned to Jordan in the 90's and founded "Tawhid wal Jihad," "Monotheism & Holy War," in order to overthrow the Jordanian government, and make Jordan part of the Islamic Caliphate; "Tawhid wal Jihad" was a Takfiri-inspired organization, and drew their ideological inspiration from Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi; Zarqawi later, infamously, took his Takfiri ideologies and strategies to Iraq, and used them to indiscriminately murder all fellow Muslims who did not agree with him, and specifically targeted the Shias in Iraq.  He was killed by a US airstrike in 2006.

Osama bin Laden (1957AD-2011AD): the head of Al Qaeda, has been influenced theologically and ideological by: Ibn Taymiyyah, Sayyid Qutb, Mohammed Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, Mohammed al-Maqdisi and Ayman al-Zawahiri.  Tried at one point, to recruit now-reformed Saudi Sheik Abdul-Mohsen al-Obaikan, to be spiritual head of Al Qaeda; al-Obaikan has now purportedly "reformed," and speaks against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.  He was killed by US Special Forces in Abottabad, Pakistan in April 2011.

Dale T. Armstrong is a Former United States Marine Corps Major Intelligence Officer.  He has spent the greater portion of the past thirty-five years studying and writing about intricacies of Islamic fundamentalism and its many sects, movements, and Sufi Tariqa.  He attended the American University in Cairo, studied Arabic, was in Northern Iraq for Operation Provide Comfort,  and was Awarded the Legion of Merit Medal as a Marine Corps Captain, for a successful Counter-Intelligence Operation against the Iraqis during the Gulf War.
Even as we celebrate the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, we must understand that his death is not the end of this fight, and in fact, it may just be but the beginning.

In order to understand why this is so, we must understand that Al Qaeda and similar Islamic Terrorist Groups are not a recent phenomenon, spawned by hate of the United States or from the formation of Israel in 1948, as is commonly believed and propagated as fact.  To do so is foolish, naive, dangerous, and ultimately self-defeating.   What we must understand is that Al Qaeda and its "franchisees" -- imitators, spin-offs, etc. -- are in fact, nothing more than the current manifestation of an almost 1,200 year old theological movement within Islam itself, called the "Salafiyyah."

We have to understand them, their theology, their ideology, their motivations, their raison d'être, if we are ever going to stand a chance of defeating them.  With a 1,200 year history, they have no intention of stopping now, not even with the death of their charismatic propaganda leader, Osama bin Laden.  For as the saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

A first step in understanding what lead us to Osama bin Laden over the past 1,200 years, is to review what is known in Arabic as a "Silsila," or Dynastic Chain.  The following is a list of noted Islamic Jihadi Theologians and Ideologues, from the past through to modern times, who preceded Osama bin Laden for the most part, and who have provided theological inspiration for him.  It is important to understand several things about this list while reviewing it:

 -  It is not an all-inclusive list; there are other Jihadi theologians out there, such as Yusef al-Qaradawi who garner respect from the various Jihadi movements; however, this list is intended to illustrate the most direct links, from the founder of the "Salafiyyah" movement ibn Taymiyyah in the 14th century, through the Islamic "modernist" movement in the 19th century, and down to the modern-day Salafiyyah/Qutbiyyah Jihadi movement today, now epitomized by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

 - It would be a mistake however, to view this list as "linear" in terms of theology.  A close reading of the various Islamic ideologies shown below, will demonstrate that these individuals are not necessarily successors to each other chronologically, theologically, nor ideologically.  In fact, thought most of the below are proponents of Sunni Salafiyyah Jihadism, there is in fact, a Shiite among their number.

 - The most important thing to remember, is that each of these individuals, while often acknowledging their predecessors' role and influence upon their own ideologies, basically pick and choose, "cherry pick" if you will, which of their predecessors' beliefs they wish to emulate, and usually end up melding and shaping that ideology based upon their own interpretations, life experiences, and motivated reasoning.

Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal (780AD-855AD): the founder of the Sunni Hanbali "fiqh" or canonical school; one of the four major Sunni "fiqhs" (Shafi, Maliki, Hanafi being the other three); his primary contribution was the theological opposition to "bid'ah" or "innovation" in religious matters.

Abu-al-Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzi (circa 1201AD): Sunni; early respected Hanbali scholar and probably the most prolific Islamic writer of all time; and expert on "tafsir" or exegesis; i.e. commentary on the Koran and Hadith.

Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263AD-1328AD): Sunni Hanbali; started the "Salafiyyah" movement when Islam was under attack from the Mongols; theologically "great-grandfather" of the modern Jihadis; the most quoted Islamic scholar by modern Jihadis

Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab at-Tamimi' (1703AD-1792AD): Sunni, student of the works of Taymiyyah; founded the "Wahhabiyah" sect that established and rules Saudi Arabia until today.

Sayyid Jamāl-al-dīn al-Afghānī (1838AD-1897AD): Iranian Shiite pretending to be Sunni Afghani; ideologically rejected by today's Jihadis because he was a Shiite practicing "Taqiyah"; but he really is the modern "grandfather" of the anti-Western Islamic movements; not in theology, but in ideology!

Muhammad Abduh (1849AD-1905AD): Sunni Egyptian follower of al-Afghani; considered the father of Islamic modernism; is rejected by modern Jihadis because of his "modernism" approach; but clearly was important ideologically in promoting the causes of Pan-Islamism and Pan-Arabism; also a promoter of "Salafiyyah" doctrine.

Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865AD-1935AD): Sunni Syrian disciple of Muhammad Abduh; proposed the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate; not as well known as the others, but well-respected today by Jihadis.

Hassan al-Banna (1906AD - 1949AD): his father was a disciple of Muhammad Abduh, he was a disciple of Rashid Rida; founded the Muslim Brotherhood as a secret Sufi Islamic Society; melded the concepts of "Salafism" and Islamic "modernism" with rejection of the traditional ulema at Al Azhar in Cairo.

Sayyid Qutb (1906AD - 1966AD): member of the Muslim Brotherhood and follower of al-Banna; combined his visceral hatred of the US (he stayed in the US for 2 years in the late 1940's in Colorado!) and all things Western, and synthesized it with Salafiyyah doctrine into his concept of "jahiliyyah"; basically, the whole world, including Muslim states, are un-Islamic.

Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi (September 25, 1903AD-September 22, 1979AD): Sunni Indian-Pakistani, a Hanafi, and later an adherent to the Deobandi Sufi philosophies; modern Arab Jihadis pay him lip service because of his avocation of Jihad, resistance to the West/Colonialism; his belief that all non-Muslims need to be subjugated to Islamic rule, and because he is the theological "grand-father" to their Pakistani & Taliban hosts and allies.

Muhammad Qutb (~1907AD-???); younger brother of Sayyid, more influential than normally given credit for; has been in Saudi Arabia since getting out of Egyptian prison in 1972, had sought to make his brother's philosophies appealing to a broader range of "moderate" Salafiyyah buy somewhat modifying Sayyid's concepts of "jahiliyyah" and "Takfir," as they apply to Saudi Arabia only!  Very influential over both Ayman Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden.

Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (1941AD-November 24, 1989AD): another Palestinian Jihadi, very influential; aggressively adopted the philosophies of Sayyid Qutb during his studies in Egypt; promoted the concept of "ribat," or defense of the Islamic borders against the infidels in places such as Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc.; also a promoter of Global Jihad; theological mentor to Osama bin Laden, and convinced him to go to Afghanistan.  Got into a strategic dispute with Ayman al-Zawahiri; Azzam believed the next target of Jihad, after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, should be against the Jews in "Palestine"; Zawahiri wanted to go after the secular and "non-Muslim" rulers of states such as Egypt.  Azzam was blown up by a bomb, along with his two sons in Pakistan.  It is assumed that Zawahiri was behind the assassination.

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (1938AD-present/incarcerated): the "Blind Sheikh," a member of the Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Group; does not get enough credit by Westerners, for his part in developing and influencing Zawahiri, bin Laden, etc., because he was arrested after the WTC '93 attacks, and imprisoned; yet was very influential for a formative Al Qaeda movement, in the Islamic Jihad & Islamic Group, bin Laden, Mohammed Atta and the Takfiris, etc.  It was his "fatwa" that led to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat.  He was a student of Abdullah Azzam in Cairo, Egypt.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (1959AD-present): born in Palestine, currently in prison in Jordan; has been influenced by: Ibn al-Jawzi; Ibn Taymiyyah; al Wahhab; originally mentor to Zarqawi; he later became concerned by the progressing "Takfiri" ideology of Zarqawi, and later spoke out against his indiscriminate attacks on all Muslims; he also repudiated the Takfiri theology in writing, though the Takfiris still consider him their ideological mentor.  He is the most quoted living/modern Islamic theologian by Osama bin Laden and other modern Jihadis.

Shukri Mustafa: member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 60's - 70's; took Sayyid Qutb's views, and made them even more extreme; broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood and founded the "Takfir wal Hijra"; or "Excommunication & Exodus"; basically everyone, including all other Muslims, who were not part of their group, was a non-believer; believed that "true Muslims" like himself and his followers should remove themselves from modern, corrupt society, and they tried to set up their own communities in the Nile Delta; executed for his part in the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat; influenced by not only Sayyid Qutb, but by the works of Maqdisi, though Maqdisi has now repudiated the group.  Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 hijacker, was a follower of the ideology.  Some have accused Ayman al-Zawahiri of being a "Takfiri"; though there have been overlaps between the group, and ideologies and theologies, and even their members (Atta!); recently, Zawahiri has spoken out against them and said they have gone astray.  The assassin of Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh, the "Detroit Five", and the Madrid Bombers, were either members of Takfiri cells, or influenced by the ideology.  Before he was executed, it is said that Shukri Mustafa was being hailed as a "Mahdi" in his own right.

Ayman al-Zawahiri (1951AD-present): joined the Muslim Brotherhood by the age of 14; former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he melded into Al Qaeda; influenced by his uncle, Mahfouz Azzam, a former disciple of Sayyid Qutb; has said his mission in life is to "put Qutb's vision into action"; also influenced by Mohammed Qutb, brother of Sayyid while in Saudi Arabia; and influenced by the "ribat" (Islamic frontier) concept of Jihad by Abdullah Azzam, whom he probably had murdered; cooperated with the Islamic Group to attack western tourists in Luxor, Egypt in 1997.  Major influence on Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (1966AD-2006AD): originally a petty thief, street thug, and sexual predator, went to Afghanistan in the late 1980's and met Osama bin Laden; returned to Jordan in the 90's and founded "Tawhid wal Jihad," "Monotheism & Holy War," in order to overthrow the Jordanian government, and make Jordan part of the Islamic Caliphate; "Tawhid wal Jihad" was a Takfiri-inspired organization, and drew their ideological inspiration from Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi; Zarqawi later, infamously, took his Takfiri ideologies and strategies to Iraq, and used them to indiscriminately murder all fellow Muslims who did not agree with him, and specifically targeted the Shias in Iraq.  He was killed by a US airstrike in 2006.

Osama bin Laden (1957AD-2011AD): the head of Al Qaeda, has been influenced theologically and ideological by: Ibn Taymiyyah, Sayyid Qutb, Mohammed Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, Mohammed al-Maqdisi and Ayman al-Zawahiri.  Tried at one point, to recruit now-reformed Saudi Sheik Abdul-Mohsen al-Obaikan, to be spiritual head of Al Qaeda; al-Obaikan has now purportedly "reformed," and speaks against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.  He was killed by US Special Forces in Abottabad, Pakistan in April 2011.

Dale T. Armstrong is a Former United States Marine Corps Major Intelligence Officer.  He has spent the greater portion of the past thirty-five years studying and writing about intricacies of Islamic fundamentalism and its many sects, movements, and Sufi Tariqa.  He attended the American University in Cairo, studied Arabic, was in Northern Iraq for Operation Provide Comfort,  and was Awarded the Legion of Merit Medal as a Marine Corps Captain, for a successful Counter-Intelligence Operation against the Iraqis during the Gulf War.