Al Qaeda’s Satanic War Against Society—“Hirabah” Is Its Name

TrueSpeak Institute
Jim Guirard, President
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Al Qaeda’s Satanic War Against Society—“Hirabah” Is Its Name

From its inception in the form of unauthorized and un-Islamic fatwas (religious edicts) in 1996 and 1998, Osama bin Laden’s so-called “Jihad Against America and the West” is nothing but a pseudo-Islamic scam.  It is no more “holy” or “godly” than the genocidal haters and killers who concocted and are fomenting it.

As Islamic Law scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA explains in his highly acclaimed new book, “The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists,” these radicals “entirely ignore the Qur’anic teaching that the act of destroying or spreading ruin on this earth is one of the gravest sins possible—fasad fi al-ard, which means to corrupt the earth by destroying the beauty of creation. This is considered an ultimate act of blasphemy against God. Those who corrupt the earth by destroying lives, property and nature are designated as mufsiduun (corruptors and evildoers) who, in effect, wage war against God by dismantling the very fabric of existence… the crime is called Hirabah (waging war against society).”

This Hirabah’s (this unholy war’s)  more appropriate name is The Al Qaeda Apostasy—a perversion of authentic Islam which (in the name of Allah, of course) threatens to turn that religion into nothing but a perpetual killing machine of all Christians, all Jews and all Muslims who happen to disagree.  Beneath its false labels it is a plainly satanic, cultic violation of many of the fundamental precepts of Qur’anic Islam—including such sinful transgressions and such de facto desecrations of the Qur’an as:

o Wanton killing of innocents and noncombatants, including many peaceful Muslims

o Decapitating the live and desecrating the dead bodies of perceived enemies

o Committing and enticing others to commit suicide for reasons of intimidation

o Fomenting hatred among communities, nations, religions and civilizations

o Ruthless warring against nations in which Islam is freely practiced

o Issuing and inspiring unauthorized and un-Islamic fatwas (religious edicts)

o Using some mosques as weapons depots and battle stations, while destroying others

o Forcing extremist and absolutist versions (and perversions) of Islam on Muslims, when the Qur’an clearly says that there shall be “no compulsion in religion”

o Distorting the word “infidels” to include all Christians, all Jews and many Muslims, as well—when the Qur’an calls them all “Children of the Book” (the Old Testament) and “Sons of Abraham,” and calls Jesus one of Islam’s five main Prophets

o Deliberate misreading, ignoring and perverting of passages of the Qur’an, the Hadith and the Islamic Jurisprudence (the Fiqh)

All of this constitutes a gigantic apostasy (or blasphemy, choose your word) against the “peaceful, compassionate, merciful and just” Allah who is repeatedly so described by the Qur’an.  And, of course, the penalty for blasphemy in Islam is death.  Ask poor old Salman Rushdie who has been under an Iranian fatwa of death for over a decade—for allegedly mistranslating certain verses of the Prophet in his famous book, “The Satanic Verses.”

It is noted at this point that many authentic Muslim Scholars and Jurists—particularly those who participated in the recent anti-terrorism summit sponsored by King Abdullah bin al-Hussein of Jordan—have strongly condemned the excesses of “takfir” : namely, the many and uniformly baseless accusations of apostasy being leveled by al Qaeda and like-minded terrorist movements against any and all of their perceived enemies.

But the mere fact that these “takfiri” practices might be unIslamic in their extremism, this very well-intentioned “Amman Message” should not be regarded as prohibiting truthful and provable charges of apostasy against those whose ruthless transgressions—such as those ten listed above—so clearly identify their godless perpetrators as the “Abdul-Shaitan” (the Servants or Slaves of Satan) they truly are.

But, wonder of wonders, Osama bin Laden’s multiple perversions of Islam—which are a thousand times worse than Rushdie’s alleged offenses—are shielded from valid charges of apostasy by the existing halo of so-called “Jihad.”  While that halo is a patently false one, it is made to seem true by the fact that so many of us (its intended victims) mindlessly parrot bin Laden in calling it a holy and Godly “Jihad.”

Surely, if it were something else, its harshest critics (particularly our Public Diplomacy and Psychological Operations experts on the subject) would be calling it by some other more truthful Islamic term—particularly if that much needed name were the exact opposite of the so-called “holy” and “godly” war it is universally alleged to be.

Now, more than four years after the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, it is high time that we discover the correct Islamic word for such sinful atrocities and proactively begin using that name—rather than continuing to lip-sync with Osama bin Laden, at the risk of our lives and those of our children and grandchildren.

The Word Is “Hirabah”—Forbidden War Against Society

Of course, there is a word for the genocidal kind of warfare which violates all of the Qur’anic prohibitions listed above, despite our sophomoric inability to have found it by now.

As confirmed above by Professor El Fadl, it is the ancient word Hirabah (pronounced hee-RAH-bah), which the Islamic Jurisprudence (the Fiqh) defines as a forbidden “war against society”—or what in modern parlance would be called “genocidal terrorism” or “crimes against humanity.” 

In his seminal article on Hirabah in the Fall 2001 issue of Muslim World, the renowned University of Michigan scholar of Islam, Prof. Abdul Hakim (a.k.a., Sherman Jackson), long ago confirmed this interpretation with remarkable clarity as follows: 

“In the end, however, Hirabah assumes its place as an effective super-category hovering above the entire criminal law as a possible remedy to be pressed into service for the more sensational, heinous or terrifying manifestations of these and other crimes.  In this capacity, Hirabah appears, again, to parallel the function of terrorism as an American legal category.  Its function is not so much to define specific crimes but to provide a mechanism for heightening the scrutiny and/or level of pursuit and prosecution in certain cases of actual or potential public violence.

“In sum, we may conclude that it is terror, or the spreading of fear and helplessness, that lies at the heart of Hirabah.  From this perspective, Hirabah speaks to the same basic issue as does terrorism in American law.  As mentioned earlier, however, Hirabah actually goes beyond the FBI definition of terrorism, inasmuch as Hirabah covers both directed and coincidental spreading of fear….  Hirabah, as it turns out, [once was and should be seen again as] the most severely punished crime in Islam, carrying mandatory criminal sanctions.”

But, looking back in history, we discover that the widespread killing and pillaging of entire communities and tribes by ruthless barbarians, brigands and Crusaders gradually subsided in the Middle Ages.  And the powerful Islamic word which had been used since the 10th and 11th centuries to condemn such atrocities—but which is not in the Qur’an—gradually faded from use, as well.

Obviously, it must now be rediscovered and resuscitated. Hand in hand with the root word “Irhab” (Terrorism), it must become the keystone of both truth-in-language and truth-in-Islam in the war against al Qaeda-style suicide mass murder and related forms of hatred and violence now posing as “holy.”

A powerful step in that rediscovery of the truthful Hirabah fame of reference can be found in the September 30, 2005 keynote address to the Association of Muslim Social Scientists by the distinguished Professor Abdullah Schliefer of the American University in Cairo:

“Indeed one of the good signs I promised earlier to allude to is the imperative – felt by both many Islamist as well as all traditional Muslims—to unambiguously denounce terrorism. To make it increasingly clear in a series of declarations over the past year that nothing can justify the intentional targeting of unarmed civilians, and that what has been described by extremist Islamists as “jihad” is in fact Hirabah, a classic Islamic legal category that can best be translated as ‘terrorism’ ...

“In his critically important essay, “Domestic Terrorism in the Islamic Legal Tradition” – which appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of Muslim World—Dr. Sherman Jackson noted that in the classic legal literature defining Hirabah, its is the elements of intimidation, of the terroristic spreading fear and a sense of helplessness in the community, that is central.” 

As Dr. Schliefer explains, “Jackson quotes the 11th century Spanish Maliki jurist Ibn Abd al Barr who defines the agent of Hirabah as:  “Anyone who disturbs free passage in the streets and renders them unsafe to travel, striving to spread corruption in the land by taking money, killing people or violating what God has made it unlawful to violate is guilty of Hirabah… be he a Muslim or a non-Muslim, free or slave, and whether he actually realizes his goal of taking money, or of killing or not.

“And it is clear, in his extensive review of all of the classic legal sources from all of the schools of Islamic law, that the very impersonality of Hirabah, of terrorism, in which there is invariably no personal relationship between the terrorist and his victim, is what makes it more criminal than homicide … and in the eyes of the classical jurists, it is why the terrorist deserves to be sentenced to death regardless of the status of the victim, be he or she Muslim or non-Muslim.”

Looking to the future, it is only by the assertive and insistent use of this truthful term, along with four or five others which follow from it, that the false and blasphemous language of so-called “Jihadi martyrdom” (which portrays a bunch of holy guys destined for Paradise as a reward for murdering all variety of so-called “infidels”) can eventually be defeated. These other essential words are as follows:

irhab (terrorism) and such derivatives as irhabi (terrorist), irhabist (terroristic), irhabism (terrorism), etc.—all of which are easy alternatives to the Jihad-jihadi-jihadist-jihadism misnomers which now so thoroughly distort both the Arabic and English lexicons

mufsidoon or mufsiduun or mufsiddin (evildoers)—the Islamic word for those who are fomenting and waging unholy Hirabah and who, therefore, cannot be either the mujahiddin (holy warriors) or the “shahiddin” (martyrs) they so arrogantly claim to be

Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire)—which is authentic, Qur’anic Islam’s destiny for unrelenting and unrepentant mufsidoon who will not cease their evildoing and who will, therefore, not be destined for Paradise but for Shaitan’s Eternal Hellfire

tajdif (blasphemy) and/or murtadd (apostasy)—which is what these Jahannam-bound mufsidoon are engaged in when they ruthlessly kill innocents and noncombatants, foment hatred, commit and entice others to commit suicide, condemn everyone but themselves as “infidels,” etc.

khawarij (outside the religion)—a condemnation which can apply either to individuals or to activities which are so unIslamic, so extremist and so unrelenting as to invite charges and conviction of apostasy or blasphemy

istihlal (sin of “playing God”)—the cardinal sin of ignoring Qur’anic truths and concocting one’s own self-serving perversion of Shar’ia (Islamic Law)

shaitaniyah (satanic)—which is the fundamental character of the willful and mortally sinful Osaman Apostasy described at the beginning of this essay

Logically, now that our scholarly experts, our public diplomacy spokespersons and our national leaders know the word Hirabah and the name mufsidoon for those who are fomenting and waging this forbidden “war against society,” we should be using these truthful Islamic words aggressively and without fail.

Cold War Parallels

To continue a mindless repetition of al Qaeda’s preferred labels of “Jihad by mujahiddin on their way to Paradise” and to go about condemning al Qaeda sinners as “Jihadists” (holy warrior-ists) is as naïve and as self-destructive as it was when we mindlessly parroted such preposterous Soviet, Maoist and Castroite labels as “people’s democracies” and “progressive fronts” and so-called “wars of national liberation.”

Truth be known, there were no such “wars of national liberation,” because no liberty was ever involved. And today, there is no so-called “Jihad,” because there is neither any holiness nor any “peaceful, compassionate, merciful and just” Will of Allah of the Qur’an involved—but only the al Qaeda Apostasy, Qur’anic Islam’s punishment for which is death in this life and Jahannam (eternal Hellfire) in the next. 

As outlined above, this is reminiscent of the subtle but deadly Cold War problem identified in the 1970s and 80s by Dr. Fred Charles Ikle and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as “semantic infiltration”—which the late Senator defined as follows:

“Simply put, semantic infiltration is the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality. The most totalitarian regimes in the world would call themselves ‘liberation movements.’  It is perfectly predictable that they should misuse words to conceal their real nature.  But must we aid them in that effort by repeating those words? Worse, do we begin to influence our own perceptions by using them?”

Of course, we do! The problem is as real and as deadly dangerous today as it was then.  Bin Laden and his murderous kind say “Jihad and Holy War,” and we repeat these false words thousands of times over—thus endorsing and confirming their claim to a holy and godly purpose. They say “mujahiddin” (holy warriors) and “shuhada” or “shahiddin” (martyrs) on their way to Paradise and we dutifully copy-cat those words, as well.  Back in Cold War days, that sort of naiveté was called “useful idiocy” and should still be.

Recall, please, how the perfidious Soviets and their surrogates, Fidel Castro in particular, successfully co-opted the powerfully positive word “liberation” and turned it into a lovely but patently false label for adding colonies—euphemistically known as “satellites,” of course—to the Evil Empire. 

Truth be known, those bloody wars of Soviet colonial conquest (properly defined) had absolutely nothing to do with either national independence or personal liberty—no more than today’s so-called “holy wars” of al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, Islamic Jihad and their pseudo-Islamic clones have anything to do with godliness or holiness.

In addition to the words of wisdom from Professors Hakim, El Fadl and Schlieffer cited above, here are quotations from three more (of about twenty-five) distinguished scholars of Islam and of Middle Eastern affairs—with many more to come—who are have embraced this truthful Hirabah (unholy war, “war against society”) frame of reference, and sharply rejecting the false and un-Islamic language of so-called “Jihadi martyrdom:”

o PROF. AKBAR AHMED (Chair of Islamic Studies, American University) “Properly understood, this is a war of ideas within Islam—some of them faithful to authentic Islam, but some of them clearly un-Islamic and even blasphemous toward the peaceful and compassionate Allah of the Qur’an…..  As a matter of truth-in-Islam, both the ideas and the actions they produce must be called what they actually are, beginning with the fact that al Qaeda’s brand of suicide mass murder and its fomenting of hatred among races, religions and cultures do not constitute godly or holy “Jihad”—but, in fact, constitute the heinous crime and sin of unholy “Hirabah”…..  In its worst excesses, particularly in the wanton killing of innocents—both non-Muslim and Muslim alike—as a method of terrorizing the entire community, such ungodly “war against society” should be condemned as blasphemous and un-Islamic.”

o DR. AKHTAR EMON (President, Arabic Language Institute Foundation)  “Hirabah represents an Unholy War against innocent civilians.  The truth stands clear from falsehood.  Hirabah can never be confused as ‘Jihad’ (Holy War), as much as al-Qaeda would like to label their heinous acts against humanity as Jihad…. Hirabah is forbidden and sanctioned not only by the teachings of Qur’an, but also by the Bible and Torah—all three Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) agree on this, and so also other major faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Bahai’s, and the New Age religions addressing “mind, body and soul”…. TrueSpeak efforts are highly commendable in educating the world citizenry with truth-in-language and expanding the lexicon, e.g., to distinguish a good guy with a bad guy (mufsidoon), a good act with an act of blasphemy (tajdeef), etc.”

o DR. ROBERT D. CRANE (former Chairman, Center for Understanding Islam, and currently working in a hospice for the dying in south Chicago): “Today there are many alienated extremists who rely on their own resort to violence in protest against perceived injustice, rather than relying on the jihads of akbar, saghrir and kabir with the help of Allah and ecumenical cooperation in peacefully building a better world. In effect, these extremists rely on and worship themselves. They are exhibiting the most serious crime condemned in the Qur’an, which is the root of almost all the other crimes—namely, arrogance. This leads them to commit the crime of hirabah and to justify it in the name of Islam. There can be no greater evil and no greater sin. If there is to be a clash of civilizations, a major cause will be the muharibun [a synonym for mufsidoon] those who commit inter-civilizational hirabah.”

A Ticket to Hellfire, Not to Paradise

As these scholarly words of authentic Islam suggest, we will be missing the proverbial boat if we continue to focus so much on trying to make America look GOOD in the Muslim and Arab worlds and so little on the need to make the “mufsidoon Saddam” and the “mufsidoon Osama” (Saddam’s and Osama’s evildoers) look BAD in the eyes of the Arab Street and the world at large—namely, like the sinful blasphemers against the “peaceful, compassionate, merciful and just” Allah of the Qur’an who they actually are.

Of course, this antidote to the Al Qaeda Apostasy is best delivered in Islamic religious words—just like the seductive al Qaeda mantra is. As explained above, the latter proposes to impressionable and religiously motivated young Muslims that they “Join the Jihad, become mujahiddin and martyrs, enter into Paradise.”

But imagine, please, how much more difficult it will be for al Qaeda and its murderous ilk to inspire and to sustain the suicidal zealotry of young Muslims—or the approval of any truly devout and faithful Muslims whatever—once these genocidal irhabis come to be viewed by the Umma (the Muslim World) as mufsidoon (evildoers) engaged in Hirabah (unholy war) and in murtadd (apostasy) against Allah and, therefore, on their way to Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire), instead.


A Washington DC-area attorney, lecturer, writer and anti-Terrorism strategist, Mr. Guirard was longtime Chief of Staff to former US Senators Allen Ellender and Russell Long of Louisiana. His TrueSpeak Institute is devoted to truth-in-language and truth-in-history in public discourse.


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