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A Quietist Jihadi


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 (ISBN-13: 9781107606562)

A Quietist Jihadi
Cambridge University Press
9781107022072 - A Quietist Jihadi - The Ideology and Influence of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi - By Joas Wagemakers

A Quietist Jihadi

Since ‘9/11’, the Jordanian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (b. West Bank, 1959) has emerged as one of the most important radical Muslim thinkers alive today. While al-Maqdisi may not be a household name in the West, his influence amongst like-minded Muslims stretches across the world, from Jordan – where he lives today – to Southeast Asia. His writings and teachings on Salafi Islam have inspired terrorists from Europe to the Middle East, including Abu Musʿab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaʿida in Iraq, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's successor as the head of al-Qaʿida Central.

This groundbreaking book, which is the first comprehensive assessment of al-Maqdisi, his life, ideology and influence, is based on his extensive writings and those of other jihadis, as well as on interviews that the author conducted with (former) jihadis, including al-Maqdisi himself. It is a serious and intense work of scholarship that uses this considerable archive to explain and interpret al-Maqdisi's particular brand of Salafism. More broadly, the book offers an alternative insider perspective on the rise of radical Islam, with a particular focus on Salafi opposition movements in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Joas Wagemakers is an assistant professor in the Department of Islam and Arabic at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

A Quietist Jihadi

The Ideology and Influence of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi

Joas Wagemakers

Radboud University Nijmegen

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Mexico City

Cambridge University Press
32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA
Information on this title:

© Joas Wagemakers 2012
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2012

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data

Wagemakers, Joas, 1979–
A quietist jihadi : the ideology and influence of Abu Muhammad
al-Maqdisi / Joas Wagemakers.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-02207-2 (hardback) – ISBN 978-1-107-60656-2 (paperback)
1. Maqdisi, Abu Muhammad, 1959– 2. Salafiyah. 3. Jihad. 4. Islam and state.5. Muslim scholar – Jordan. I. Title.
BP80.M3255W34 2012
297.8ʹ1092–dc23 2011039454

ISBN 978-1-107-02207-2 Hardback
ISBN 978-1-107-60656-2 Paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Note on Transliteration
The Salafi Ideological Basis
The Development of Radical Islam
Theoretical Framework, Methodology and Sources
Part I.   Al-Maqdisi's Life and His Place in the Jihadi Ideological Spectrum, 1959–2009
1         Wavering between Quietism and Jihadism
Al-Maqdisi's Childhood Years
Becoming a Quietist Jihadi-Salafi
Al-Maqdisi's Troubled Relationship with al-Zarqawi
2         Al-Maqdisi's Quietist Jihadi-Salafi ʿAqīda
Classical Jihad
Turning Jihad against Muslim Rulers
Global Jihad
3         Al-Maqdisi's Quietist Jihadi-Salafi Manhaj
Daʿwa or Jihad?
Jihad Strategy
Targets of Jihad
Part II.  Al-Maqdisi's Influence on the Saudi Islamic Opposition, 1989–2005
4         Saudi Arabia's Post–Gulf War Opposition
Wahhabism and the Saudi System
Al-Maqdisi's Framing of Saudi Arabia
Al-Maqdisi's Influence on Saudi Arabia's Post–Gulf War Opposition
Explaining al-Maqdisi's Influence
5         Al-Qaʿida on the Arabian Peninsula
The Rise of al-Qaʿida on the Arabian Peninsula (QAP)
Adopting al-Maqdisi's Frame
A Wahhabi to the Wahhabis: Explaining al-Maqdisi's Influence
Part III. Al-Maqdisi's Influence on the Development of al-walāʾ wa-l-barāʾ, 1984–2009
6         The Revival of al-Istiʿāna bi-l-Kuffār
From Jāhiliyya to Wahhābiyya: The Development of al-Walāʾ wa-l-Barāʾ
Reframing al-Istiʿāna bi-l-Kuffār
Explaining al-Maqdisi's Frame Resonance
7         ‘Salafising’ Jihad
Jihad as Barāʾ against ‘Infidel’ Walāʾ
Adopting a ‘Salafised’ Jihad
The Acceptance of al-Maqdisi's ‘Salafised’ Jihad
Part IV.  Al-Maqdisi's Influence on the Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi Community, 1992–2009
8         Guidance to the Seekers
The Jordanian Political Context
Al-Maqdisi's Arrival in Jordan
A Visionary in the Land of the Blind
9         The Leader of the Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi Community?
The Prison Experience and Beyond
Framing Jordanian Opponents
A New Generation of Quietist Jihadi-Salafis?


Like many good ideas, the one to write the PhD thesis on which this book is based started over dinner. In 2005, the co-supervisor of my thesis, Roel Meijer, and I were at a restaurant discussing my intention to write a dissertation about radical Islam in the Middle East, but I was not entirely sure what to do yet. Roel, who was quite aware of my fascination with the dynamics of Islamist ideology, suggested I do something with Jihadi-Salafism. Although I do not recall his mentioning the name ‘Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’, of whom I had never heard at the time, I distinctly remember his saying: ‘Perhaps you should check out this website.’ The URL he suggested was, of course,, al-Maqdisi's website and the biggest online library of Jihadi-Salafi literature. When I got home and found it, I was immediately struck by the huge number of sources available, and I just knew I had to do something with this site. This book is the product of the idea that was born that night.

My fascination with ideology and its development and flexibility is rooted in an inexplicable interest in beliefs and dogmas I have had for a long time. For years I have been intrigued by the intricate details of theological and ideological debates, whose participants often claim to be the only true followers of a certain tradition, all the while quoting the same books and scholars but coming up with entirely different practical solutions. This interest was, of course, directed towards Islamic and Islamist thought during my studies at university. In that sense, this book is something I had long wanted to write, probably even before I realised it myself.

Dinners and long-held fascinations aside, however, it should also be mentioned that this book would probably not have been written had it not been for the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States. Not only were thousands in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania murdered in these attacks, but they also had a deep impact on the lives of millions of others affected by the attacks’ foreign and domestic policy implications and – importantly – on academia. The aftermath of ‘9/11’, as my generation will always remember it, spawned a great number of think tanks, centres and institutes dedicated to the study of terrorism and – in this case – its radical Islamist underpinnings. In a way, this book is also a result of this trend, although I feel slightly uneasy putting it like that. While I am certainly very interested in radical Islam and terrorism, I have never considered myself a ‘terrorism analyst’. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with terrorism analysts; many of them do an excellent job of keeping us safe and writing first-class publications. It is just that I have always been more interested in the words and ideas than in the guns and bombs, and would have been happy to apply my time to non-radical beliefs and ideologies. I therefore also hope that this book will not be viewed as dealing only with terrorism and radicalisation – although these subjects are certainly mentioned in the pages to come – but really as an effort to dissect the contents, (ideological) context and impact of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi's ideas.

Combining my fascination for ideas with my realisation that this book would not have seen the light of day without ‘9/11’ turned out to be much easier than I had initially thought. As someone who was profoundly shocked and filled with abhorrence by the attacks in 2001, I assumed it would be difficult ever to talk to al-Maqdisi, who so openly applauded this wanton killing and generally held beliefs that were diametrically opposed to my own. It turned out, however, that this was not the case. Not only was al-Maqdisi a very friendly and hospitable person – his radical beliefs notwithstanding – but meeting the man whose ideas have occupied such a major part of my life over the past few years was quite exciting, and ensured that we had a connection that overcame any ideological animosity I had for him. It would be wonderful if this book could in some way contribute to a greater understanding of radical Islam as my reading of al-Maqdisi's work helped me understand him better. While a better grasp of Jihadi-Salafism can be used for various purposes – both good and evil, depending on one's perspective – a bit more understanding is never wasted, especially in today's world. That would definitely be a nice result of an idea that simply started over dinner.


One of the many great pleasures of writing a book is that you can do it on your own, free to set your own agenda and work according to your own timetable. Still, throughout the course of doing research and writing these chapters, I have had a lot of help from many people who must be mentioned here. First, I would like to thank the Institute of Historical, Literary and Cultural Studies (HLCS) at Radboud University, Nijmegen, for awarding me a grant that allowed me to do this research. I am grateful for this opportunity and, considering how much I enjoyed doing my research, I still have a hard time believing that HLCS not only enabled me to do it but even paid me for it into the bargain.

I would also like to thank the two supervisors of my PhD thesis that underlies this book, Harald Motzki and Roel Meijer. They gave me the freedom to do research without having to report on my findings every two weeks, and were always willing to comment on my work – including the articles I continued to bother them with – and their advice was very useful and has improved my writing considerably. The two different kinds of research that Harald and Roel represent – philological research on the beginnings of Islam and historical research on contemporary Islamism and the modern Middle East, respectively – have both greatly contributed to this book in their own ways. If, after reading this book, anyone should remark that traces of Motzki and Meijer can clearly be seen in its text, I would consider it a great compliment.

I should also mention the Department of Islam and Arabic at Radboud University, Nijmegen. Shortly after I started working there, we were told that the department would be dissolved, but because of the tireless efforts of several people, particularly Lieke de Jong and Kees Versteegh, we survived. Even throughout this difficult period it was always a joy to work at this department, and I would like to thank all of my colleagues there for creating such a pleasant working environment. The same can be said of my colleagues of the research project on Salafism in which I participated, Carmen Becker, Martijn de Koning, Roel Meijer, Zoltan Pall and Din Wahid, whose research was not only very interesting but also provided me with new perspectives on my own work. I should especially mention Martin van Bruinessen, who often took time out of his busy schedule to listen to our stories and whose extensive experience and judicious advice were useful to all of us.

Several people, including Joseph Alagha, Egbert Harmsen, Thomas Hegghammer, Stéphane Lacroix, Marie Juul Petersen, Madawi al-Rasheed, Guido Steinberg and Quintan Wiktorowicz, have given me some excellent advice on field work in the countries that I visited and often shared contacts that allowed me to get started, for which I thank them all. I am also grateful to Hasan Abu Haniyya, Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, David Commins, Bernard Haykel, Will McCants, Saud al-Sarhan and Paul Schrijver, who have contributed indirectly to this book by commenting on articles I wrote or by providing me with certain documents that I was unable to find myself.

In England, I was always welcomed by my friends Dave and Christine Miller and their sons Daniel and Andrew. Although my support for Arsenal sometimes clashed with their preference for Tottenham Hotspur, we had some very good times together, and I thank them for their hospitality and great sense of humour. In Jordan, I benefited greatly from the personnel at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (IFPO) in Amman, particularly Leila El Jechi, who always had time for my questions. Similarly, my stay in Saudi Arabia would have been much less effective without the help of the staff at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) in Riyadh, especially Yahya b. Junayd and Awadh al-Badi, whose advice and contacts helped me find the literature and people I was looking for. I am thankful for all of their help, and hope I will be able to benefit from their expertise again in the future.

During my field work, I talked to lots of people. Many of them are mentioned in this study, but some would only be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, which, of course, I respect. I thank all the people I interviewed for their time and expertise, particularly Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who was kind enough to welcome me into his home and give me the best meal I had in all of my stay in Jordan. Without all of them, this book would obviously not have been the same. Several people have also been of tremendous help for me in locating other people. I would especially like to thank Marwan Shahada, who proved indispensable and sacrificed a lot of his time to help me; Fuʾad Husayn, whose car will never be the same again after driving me through the hilly Jordanian countryside; and Hasan Abu Haniyya, from whose insights and experiences I benefited a great deal. Moreover, he and his wife, Huda, never failed to welcome me into their home for a chat. I am grateful for all of their help and hospitality.

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