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Boko Haram

Investigating the ideological background to the rise of an Islamist militant organisation

Stephen Ulph

Boko Haram Ideological background 2

Methodology ................................................................................................................................................... 3 Historical Contextualisation ............................................................................................................................. 5 Jihad on the archaic model ................................................................................................................................ 5 The Colonial period weakening the Islamic stamp .......................................................................................... 7 The post-Colonial period reclaiming authenticity ........................................................................................... 7 The issue of Islamic authenticity .................................................................................................................... 8 The trajectory of Islamic radicalization in Nigeria .............................................................................................. 9 First Phase: 1970s The Islamic Awakening .................................................................................................. 9 Second Phase: 1980s-1990s Intensification and radicalization ................................................................ 11 Third phase: post 1999 From pietism to militancy ................................................................................... 16 Historical Summary .......................................................................................................................................... 18 Ideological contextualisation - Boko Haram .................................................................................................. 20 A new name and a new intensification ............................................................................................................ 24 Following the Prophetic paradigm daw and hijra ...................................................................................... 25 Identifying the threat: modernity .................................................................................................................... 28 Boko Harams epistemological rebellion ..................................................................................................... 33 Identifying the target: the obstacles to Islamization ....................................................................................... 36 Institutions of the Nigerian state ................................................................................................................. 38 Muslim collaborators ................................................................................................................................... 40 Christian infidel ............................................................................................................................................ 42 The evolving casus belli .................................................................................................................................... 45 The justification for violence ............................................................................................................................ 46 Salvation through violence - The religious duty of Jihad ............................................................................. 46 Morality, criminality and scriptural support ................................................................................................ 50 The doctrinal position on non-combatant civilians ..................................................................................... 51 Suicide attacks ............................................................................................................................................. 54 Doctrinal fissures ......................................................................................................................................... 56 Boko Haram and the doctrine on truce .......................................................................................................... 58 Boko Haram and aspirations to universalism ................................................................................................... 61 Concluding remarks on ideological contextualisation...................................................................................... 66 Conclusions.................................................................................................................................................... 67 Annexes ......................................................................................................................................................... 73 Annex I: Al-wal wal-bar and the culture of hostility .................................................................................. 74 Annex II: Some Islamic doctrinal literature on western education .................................................................. 76 Works Cited ................................................................................................................................................... 84

Boko Haram Ideological background 3

Narratives on the rise of Islamic radicalism and the emergence of Boko Haram tend to focus on classic analyses on social inequality, political marginalisation and economic underdevelopment. While these factors are clearly highly operative in the admixture of drivers of radicalism there has been to date insufficient focus on the doctrinal ingredient underpinning the movement. In order to increase knowledge of the socio-cultural dynamics explaining the drivers of Boko Harams growing appeal among youth, the aim of the present off-site contribution to the project is to provide some ideological contextualization for the movement. This is of particular importance since there is to date no single authoritative analysis of Boko Haram as opposed to several competing theories about its origins, and possible future strategies. Given the growing threat that Boko Haram presents to Nigeria and the region, and its potential impact further afield, filling this analytical gap is now a matter of some urgency. Failure to provide an accurate diagnosis of the rejectionist ideology that underpins the rebellion of Boko Haram and like-minded groups leaves room for the cyclical re-manifestation of militant expressions of this rejection, manifestations no less violent than the present phase is witnessing. It should be said, however, that responses that are exclusively security-focused in conception run the risk of deepening and embedding Muslim rejection of the Nigerian state, not only in the north but wherever the message of this rejection finds sympathetic ears. There has also been a tendency either to seek out some specifically local determinants of Islamic extremism in Nigeria (or even West Africa more generally), or to discern the influence of some particular extraneous deviations. This type of approach can be seen in the following analysis:
On the whole, it can be seen that the nature of Islamic radicalisation in Nigeria, as indeed other parts of West Africa, is distinctly different from that of some other parts of the world when there have been cases of terrorist activities, including suicide missions. Indeed there has not be en a single case of suicide mission in Nigeria, despite the extent of religious instability in the country ... the peoples socio-cultural perceptions to life and violence makes issues like embarking on suicide mission an issue that is largely unthinkable. Indeed, the sacredness of ones life is something that many people in the country hold very important However the coming into the country of foreigners brings in another dimension into the equation and unless this is checked, it may open a completely new dimension to the politics of Islamic radicalization in Nigeria and, indeed, in the entire West African 1 sub-region.

Events over the last two years have demonstrated the limitations of such a standpoint. The ultimate aim of the study is to establish a clearer understanding of the ideological agenda of Boko Haram and contribute to the Field Study that is seeking to deepen the understanding of the movement who they are, what they want and why and how they are becoming increasingly successful at radicalizing youth. Understanding in this way the key ideological and cultural drivers to the movement will facilitate the identification of its points of tension and weakness elements which will be of use in the construction of a potential counter-radicalization strategy. To do this the study will analyse the relevant open-source documentation and examine how far the movements ideology and doctrine compares with the global picture of militant Islamist groups.

Abiodun Alao, Islamic Radicalisation and Violence in Nigeria, Country Report, p.86.

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Important note: In concentrating on the ideology of the Boko Haram movement, and its contextualisation, the attention will naturally be focused on elements of religious aims and aspirations, and cultural / doctrinal influences, rather than on the operative, practical factors of political or economic development on the ground, or the issue of early reactions to the operational behaviour of the security forces, which will also necessarily have influenced the emergence of the group. To do this, the focus of the study will depend much on historical elements relevant to the rise of Boko Haram in the fields of Islamic law and doctrine, and to which it claims loyalty. The study also deliberately embeds the numerous, but unsystematically delivered, expressions of Boko Harams doctrine within the broader literature of jihadism. This serves both to demonstrate the doctrinal pedigree of the movement and to explain the ideological context of individual statements that otherwise may seem perplexing. By taking this approach we aim to avoid an element that hampers many studies on the rise of Boko Haram: the undue restriction of its analysis to that of a terrorist phenomenon. As Roman Loimeier observes:
It is misleading to view Boko Haram exclusively as a terror organization. Such a narrow-minded approach is not particularly useful in fathoming the true character of the movement and understanding why Boko Haram has managed to attract considerable popular support in northern 2 Nigeria despite harsh police and army repression.

For it is not enough simply to write off the ideology of Boko Haram as a form of deviancy. Nor should the educational level of individual members influence our evaluation of the coherence of Boko Harams doctrinal standpoint and position in the spectrum of ultra-conservative religious thought. Examining the doctrinal pedigree of the Boko Haram programme irrespective of the individual capacities of its members to express it consistently, will help to inform our understanding of what are sincerely held religious beliefs in the mix of its militant radicalism and help nuance the construction of future de-radicalization programmes and prevent the application of wronglyconceived solutions.

R. Loimeier, Boko Haram: the development of a militant religious movement in Nigeria, Africa Spectrum , 47, 2-3 (2012), p.138.

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Historical Contextualisation
The Boko Haram uprising is not the rst attempt to impose a religious formula in Nigeria. Islamic radicalism, of which Boko Haram represents its most militant but by no means unique form, emerges from a long tradition of intense religious fervour that has characterised the north of the country in particular. We may observe manifestations of this tradition over the last 30 years, in the Maitatsine uprisings of 1980 (Kano), 1982 (Kaduna and Bulumkutu), 1984 (Yola) and 1985 (Bauchi); in the Kano metropolitan riot of October 1982; the Ilorin riot of March 1986; the University of Ibadan crisis of May 1986; the Kafanchan/Kaduna/Zaria/Funtua religious riots of March 1987; the Kaduna Polytechnic riot of March 1988; the Bayero University crisis of 1989; the Bauchi/Katsina riots of March/April 1991; the Kano riots of October 1991; the Zangon-Kataf riot of May 1992; the Kano civil disturbance of December 1991; and the Jos crisis of April 1994. Similarly, between 1999 and 2008, 28 other conicts were reported, the most prominent being the recurrent crises in Jos of 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008.
What has changed is that religious dissent is based in cities and not, as before, in the countryside. Moreover, dissent is increasingly violent, in part because it is urban and therefore in closer proximity to the urban centred authorities. What makes Boko Haram an original phenomenon in Nigerian history is neither targeted assassinations nor car bombings against ofcial buildings, but a sustained 3 campaign of terror attacks over several months.

In order to illustrate these points it would be useful, therefore, to take a brief overview of the trajectory of Islamic conservatism/radicalism in Nigeria. Jihad on the archaic model The history of the region now known as Northern Nigeria saw two broad tides of Islamization, the first dating from around the 12th century with the arrival of scholars and trader merchants from North Africa and the second from the 19th century in the form of the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio. Dan Fodios campaigns may usefully be described as a purification jihad, in that its primary focus was to ensure the strengthening of authentic Islamic practice against the threat of syncretism with elements derived from paganism. At stake was the question of how to lead an authentic Muslim life. The question of the authenticity of a Muslims life, and whether this can be legitimately maintained under a system that is not entirely Muslim, is in fact an issue with roots deep in history. In traditional Islamic jurisprudence the locus classicus are the discussions by Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) and alWanshars (ob.1508) on the dilemma of Muslims caught in lands re-conquered by non-Muslims. Ibn Taymiyya considered whether Muslims in these areas were still living in Dr al-Islm or now in Dr al-Harb (the Abode of War). What was the Muslim to do if he found himself in an environment that could no longer be considered wholly Muslim? Ibn Taymiyyas conclusion what that if he could not fight the infidel, the Muslim believer must leave. And if he could not leave he must, at the very least, refuse to co-operate with the state systems:
To aid those who remain outside the Shara of the faith of Islam is forbidden ... Any resident unable to practice his faith is obliged to emigrate if he can ... Aiding the enemy of the Muslims with the person or their wealth is forbidden them, they must refrain from doing so by any means possible by

R. Marchal, Boko Haram and the resilience of militant Islam in northern Nigeria, Noref Report, June 2012.

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absenting themselves, by acting evasively or by flattery. If the only way open to them is to emigrate, 4 then that is what they must do.

The Moroccan jurist scholar al-Wanshars5 took a harsher line even than Ibn Taymiyya, since his focus was on Muslims who appeared to be reconciled to non-Muslim rule. He noted with distaste the discontent voiced by recent refugees from from the Christian Reconquista of Spain, who grumbled over their present conditions, and found himself faced with that which the contemporary jihad propagandists fear most of all from the results of rubbing shoulders with non-Muslims:
the cursing of Dr al-Islm ... the predilection for polytheist allegiance and for living among Christians; the determination to reject hijra, their trust in the Disbelievers ... the dismissal of the standing of Islam ... [all these are] serious, destructive abominations and a m ortal blow [to ones 6 faith] verging on Disbelief God preserve us!

Citing al-Wanshars, Dan Fodio underlines that

Emigration from the lands of the unbelievers is obligatory on all Muslims cannot be disputed, and nobody is excused for neglecting it except the weak ... No one disputes that whoever remains, by choice, in dar al-harb is disobedient to Allah and His Messenger ... Consideration of blood relations and marriage should not be an excuse for anyone failing to emigrate, how much less wealth and dwellings.

Dan Fodios campaign is a near contemporary with another purification jihad, that of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhb in the central Arabian Peninsula. However, the Arabian jihad had a different character in that the fear of non-Muslim paganism in such an area was not relevant, so much as a fear of reversion to a pre-Islamic stage of jhiliyya (the age of ignorant depravity preceding the message of the Prophet Muhammad). This purification jihad was distinguished by a more intensified focus: that there are Muslims who may no longer be considered Muslims. This difference is significant for the struggle taking place between the various contemporary manifestations of Islamic radicalism in Nigeria, and the progressive transformation of militant activism from one form to another. The history of Islamic radicalism in Nigeria illustrates the transferral of purification jihad from the Dan Fodio model to the Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhb model. This is a dangerous transferral, since the trajectory from Wahhabism is one that leads directly to the ideology of takfr (declaring others to be disbelievers) espoused by groups such as Al Qaeda. While in the Jihads both of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhb and Usman Dan Fodio the reaction to contact with European modernity was an ingredient, the level of contact was not yet at a stage to constitute a major part of the problem. The mental universe of these jihads was still one which was pre-modern, and the focus of these jihads was the reform of Muslims. Elements of the Dan Fodio model in particular are useful for understanding contemporary manifestations of radicalism in Nigeria. Of these the most notable is his focus on bida Islamically inauthentic innovations which dominated the theme of his over 100 books and pamphlets. While such innovations were long criticized in classical Muslim treatises, Dan Fodio is the first Muslim to conduct a specific jihad against them. Secondly, in a frontier land with all the syncretizing blandishments of traditional African religion, equally notable is his focus on the necessity of hijra, a voluntary self-isolation

4 5

Ibn Taymiyya on Mardin Muslims, Vol.28.

Ahmad, ibn Yahy al-Wanshars (d. 1508) was a prominent North African jurist who wrote at a time of retreat for Islam following the fall of Granada in 1492 and the advance of Christian Spain and Portugal.

Al-Wanshars: ( The Most Noble Commerce, Expounding the Rulings Concerning One Whose Native Land has been Overrun by the Christians and Who Has not Emigrated, and the Punishments and Admonishments Accruing to Him). For a discussion on this interesting document see Jocelyn Hendrickson, The Islamic Obligation to Emigrate: Al-Wansharss Asn al-matjir Reconsidered (dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Emory University, 2009).

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designed to sever contact with an as yet Islamically inauthentic community and purify the practice of living and fighting as a Muslim.7 These elements are not unique to Dan Fodios jihad, but their integration into the history of Nigeria as the cultural underpinning of a successful Jihad (the only unambiguously successful Jihad of the modern period in the Islamic world) explain the prestige and resilience of the doctrine in the region in the face of the encroachments of modernity. The Colonial period weakening the Islamic stamp While the colonial phase of Nigerias history, from 1900 to independence in 1960, saw the extension of the British administrational practice of restructuring, rather than removing, local authorities, colonial rule introduced some significant political changes, with the semi-autonomous emirates inherited from the pre-colonial Muslim empires (the Sultanate of Borno and the Sokoto Caliphate) forcibly integrated from 1903 into the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. There were also some radical jurisprudential and cultural changes. These included the attempt to separate judicial from traditional powers, and the introduction of reforms that reduced the influence of traditional authorities. The operative domain of Islamic law was limited to civil cases, and later to the jurisdiction of local-level courts, while restrictions were placed on the application of punishments such as flogging. Just before independence in 1959 the British significantly emptied Shara law of much of its content on the grounds that some of its provisions were incompatible with the rights of all citizens in a religiously pluralistic society. The Northern Regions government came to accept a compromise code (the Penal Code) which was essentially an Anglo-Muslim legal system originating in India but transferred to Nigeria via the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The system allowed for a Shara court of appeal whose jurisdiction only covered Muslim personal law. This transfer, administered by Muslim judges and the Emirs councils, was a hybrid and not a restored version of Shara criminal law over colonized subjects, both Christian and Muslim. In the light of this, many northern Muslim leaders came to view these changes as prioritising Christian jurisprudence over their own Islamic legal heritage and many of them fiercely resisted the hybrid system, along with the educational system that underpinned it, as posing an unacceptable challenge to their social and cultural influence. Another feature altering the cultural fabric of the north was the introduction of the Roman script for writing Hausa, in place of the adjusted Arabic Ajami script8. This, plus the introduction of a European-style education system, had the inevitable effect of side-lining much pre-existing scholarship and diminished the status of clerics and others unschooled in English. The result of these changes is that in the region of the far north, with its tradition of religiously informed public authority, there remained a strong feeling that colonial rule was an alien domination that disrupted or eroded the regions legal, political and cultural values. The post-Colonial period reclaiming authenticity Since the colonial period Northern Nigeria has been marked historically as a region where political authority has sought legitimisation through re-establishing the Islamic authenticity deemed to have

The model ultimately rests on the precedent of the Prophet Muhammad who first emigrated (hijra) to Madna to found a community on pure Islamic lines, before applying the ideology towards defence and later expansive jihad. Dan Fodio emphasizes this feature of hijra in his main work on jihad, the ( the Exposition of the Obligation of Emigration upon the Servants of God [and the Exposition of the Obligation of Appointing an Imam and Undertaking Jihad]) written in 1806. It is a complete manual on Muslim warfare, firmly grounded in Muslim law and history and explains the factors necessitating jihad, the obligation of appointing a leader and following him, and the legal limits to be placed on warfare.

The European Roman alphabet was termed Boko (from English "book") and was made the official Hausa alphabet in 1930, gaining predominance in the 1950s, with the Ajami Arabic script now only used in Islamic schools and for Islamic literature. The use of the term Boko to refer to non-Islamic (usually western) education or secularism derives ultimately from this term for a foreign imposed alphabet.

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been compromised. Islam-oriented political activity has been a constant feature of the region and as a result it has been defined by its doctrinal conservatism. If, historically, Islam in Nigeria has broadly integrated with the local cultures of the country, the northern regions have consistently and historically expressed the most conservative form of Islam. There is, as Abiodun Alao notes,
a sort of hierarchy in the minds of Hausa Muslims, with the Arab Muslims coming on top, the Hausa 9 Muslims coming a close second and the Yoruba Muslims coming a distant third.

The hierarchy is generated by a perception that other manifestations of Islamic practice are in some way tainted, or adulterated, in that they have succumbed to notions of identity that compete with Islam itself.10 The issue of Islamic authenticity Whereas earlier campaigns pitched Islam against non-Islamic faith (whether traditional regional religions or Christianity), later intensifiers of radicalism emerged from an inter-Islamic conflict and the quest for Islamic authenticity. Conspicuous in these internal tensions were the periodic outbreaks of conflict between the Qdiriyya and Tjniyya schools of Sufi Islam,11 with full-scale riots breaking out in Sokoto in 1949 and again in 1956. Behind such outbreaks was the assumption by each of these sects that the other was not bringing an authentic message of Islam. The authenticity issue is an important concept to understand since it acts as a refinement to the issue of defence against religious persecution, and helps to explain why certain elements within a society that are ostensibly free to practice their faith, such as the Muslims in Nigeria, do not consider themselves to be enjoying this freedom. The question is how to determine what an authentic Islam is, and how this authenticity may be preserved in a fast-changing social environment. The lack of a formal, definitive abolition of anachronistic legal rulings stands at the core of the problem of modern Muslim radicalism. In every arena where Muslim militancy has manifested itself the same demand is made: the re-application of authentic Islamic social, religious and jurisprudential norms that predate the modern era and whose authority according to anti-progressive minds cannot be legitimately revisited or questioned. Where progressive movements of Islamic thought depend on the prestige of personalities, at such time as these personalities lose prestige (such as through the humiliation or subordination to colonial powers) the literalist reader of the text takes on the mantle of prestige. Threatened by the waxing influence of proponents of this approach, a competition by politicians takes place to outbid each other in Islamic authenticity, a process which inexorably leads to greater and greater radicalism, and renders the potential to rein in radicalism weaker and weaker with the passage of time. The nature of modern systems of politics and education has posed fundamental challenges to identity and authenticity. A form of modernisation shock has afflicted the region as the impact of new systems of law, of education symbolized by the books (Hausa: boko) of modernizing schools, and of the economic dynamics of the colonial and postcolonial period, has challenged the position of Islam itself and presented what is seen as an existential threat to Muslim identity.

A. Alao, Islamic Radicalisation and Violence in Nigeria, Country Report, p.12


Cf. Joseph Kennys observations: While Northern Islam has been firmly reformist and separatist with regards to anything non-Islamic, Yoruba Muslims have been accommodating. The Yoruba people are first of all Yoruba, secondly Muslims or Christians and lastly Nigerians. The spread of Islam in Nigeria: a Historical Survey, p.9.

For instance, the Qdiriyya opposed the ritual and doctrine of the Tjniyya such as a traditional crossing of arms while pra yer was being said. The Qdiriyya also objected to what they saw as the tendency among the Tjniyya to venerate the founder of the order Ahmad alTjn as the Seal of the Saints in a way that overshadowed the status of the Prophet Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets.

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These developments naturally brought forth a counter-reaction with the aim of maintaining the Islamic character by Islamizing modernity. However, as in other regions of the Muslim world grappling with similar problems, the problem of whether to Islamize modernity or modernize Islam, that is, whether the defence of Islamic culture is envisaged as a process of purging the region of elements perceived as extraneous to Islam, or as a process of updating Islamic doctrine (or Muslims interpretation of traditional doctrines), has most often been resolved by taking the easiest course: retrenchment to a model that predates modernity. It is this dynamic which has led to the development of radical currents in the Muslim north acting to derail the process of modernisation. The trajectory of Islamic radicalization in Nigeria The initiating dynamics of the process of change overcoming Nigerian Islam can be dated back to the 1930s with the agitation of local clerics who had studied at Cairos Al-Azhar University. These had tasked themselves with eradicating what they perceived as Islamic heresy in the practice of the predominating Sufi groups in Nigeria, the Qdiriyya, Tjniyya and Mourdiyya. Along with this doctrinal training came a re-invigorated consciousness of the negative influence that colonialism was having on Islamic practice, particularly with respect to the progressive restrictions being placed on the application of the Islamic Shara. Cairo, during this pre-Nasserist period, was the epicentre for a re-invigorated engagement of Islam reacting against the colonial domination, represented above all in the politico-religious programmes of the emergent Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, the influence of Colonial British indirect rule, and the priority it accorded to stability over all other considerations, had the effect of restricting the influx of modern educational methods as missionary education was curtailed. This had the effect of limiting the transfer of transformative capitalist technologies.12 Conversely, globalization wielded its influence over the region in another significant direction: the acceleration of trans-regional Islamism through increased communications and the appearance of global networks facitiltating the transfer of ideas, financing and collaboration in Islamist political projects such as the Sharaization of public life. These developments transformed the political and religious landscape of Nigeria and laid the foundation for the growth of radical Islamist movements. The upshot of this development was the progressive displacement of local Sufistic religious orientations by neo-Salafist discourses mostly originating in Egypt and the Gulf States. Antitraditionalist and anti-patriarchal currents of modernisation, for the northern regions of Nigeria, have thus been entering through a specifically Salafist Islamic educational filter, with all the ambiguous tensions which that implies for those aspiring to the fruits of modern education (Yan Boko). (On Salafism see below). It is useful to view the events taking place over the last 45 years as falling into three broad phases, all of them influenced by events taking place beyond Nigeria:
1) The decade of the 1970s, contemporary with the Islamic Awakening movement taking place over the Muslim world; 2) The 20-year period that stretches from the Iranian Revolution until 1999 and 3) The events of the turn of the 21st-century.

First Phase: 1970s The Islamic Awakening The decade of the 1970s saw a number of manifestations of the anti-modernity retrenchment model, the most conspicuous being the archaizing Maitatsine movement founded by Mohammed

Paul Lubeck, The Challenge of Global Islam for American Energy Security, Explaining the Enigma of Radical Islamism in Nigeria.

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Marwa. In its radical rejectionist reaction, one can discern in the Maitatsine model of Jihad a reenactment of the Nigerian experience as illustrated by the Dan Fodio model: a process that starts with hijra, continues with the establishment of a pure Muslim community and culminates with militant activism. We can also observe the archaizing model in the tendency towards Messianism. 13 By 1980 the tensions with state security and Kanos Islamic establishment escalated to the point of the Maitatsine movement being accused of heresy14 and culminated in the storming of Kanos major Friday mosque, an event which triggered a string of bloody riots.15 Nevertheless, the events of the Maitatsine uprising inspired as they were by a heterodox doctrine of Islam lie outside the trajectory of radicalism that led ultimately to the rise of Boko Haram. Instead, it was events from outside the Nigerian and West African sphere that sowed the seeds of what was later to manifest itself in the latter movements violence. For parallel with the rise of the Islamic authenticity movement in the Middle East known as the Islamic Awakening (see below), the 1970s in Nigeria saw the rise of a new type of Muslim radicalism, one that was intellectually far more developed and doctrinally rigorous. This type of radicalism was impatient with the Islamic establishments response to the challenges posed by modernity, and called for a return to Islamic textual authenticity, focusing more consistently upon the application of the Shara as a yardstick of this response. In 1978 the Jamat Izlat al-Bida wa-Iqmat al-Sunna (Group for the Eradication of Innovation and the Establishment of the Prophets Tradition), or Yan Izala movement, was formed in Jos by Shaykh Ismaila Idris (1937-2000) under the inspiration of the famous Muslim religious scholar Shaykh Abubakar Gumi (1922-1992), with support from the Muslim World League and Gulf Arab financing. What is immediately significant is the title, the eradication of innovation and the consolidation in its place of an Islam perceived as authentic for being established on the basis of the Prophets tradition. Of no less importance is the origin of the financial support: the Arabian Gulf states, a factor which stiffens the resistance of such a group against the appeals to Nigerian tradition. The life of Shaykh Abubakar Gumi itself illustrates the trajectory of radicalization in Nigerian Islam in step with the waxing influence of Saudi Arabian Salafism. Shaykh Gumi emerged as a vocal leader during the colonial era, where he felt the practice of indirect rule had weakened the religious power of Emirs and encouraged westernization. He later became enthralled with the teachings of the Mahdiyya movement led by Shaykh Said Hayatu and, after quitting his affiliation to the Sufi Qdiriyya movement, he briefly became a follower.16 His conception on purifying Islamic practice in


Dan Fodios writings mix messianism (the duration of the world: the Signs of the Hour, the characteristics of the Mahdi) with the necessity of differentiating Islam from infidels, indicating that his was a conception of messianic jihad.

Mohammed Marwa (ob. 1980) engaged in radical Islamic preaching in northern Nigeria but claimed to have had divine revelations that superseded those of the Prophet Muhammad. In 1979, he even rejected the prophethood of Muhammad altogether and portrayed himself as a prophet. Essentially, he saw himself as a mujaddid (restorer) in the image of Sheikh Usman dan Fodio. He rejected the hadith and the sunnah and regarded the reading of any other book other than the Qurn as a manifestation of jhiliyya. Due to the fact that the Quran mentions only three ritual prayers (not five, as established by the Sunna), the Maitatsine group stuck t o only three daily prayers. His visceral rejection of all manifestations of modernity (the use of radios, watches, bicycles, cars etc.) recalls, if anything, the Mahdism of Juhaymn al-Utayb, another mujaddid whose self-appointed status as Renewer of the Century tied in with the coming of the first day of the 15th century of the Islamic calendar (November 20th 1979), the day on which he chose to storm the Mosque at Mecca. While standing as a marker for renewed Islamic radicalism Juhaymn, like Maitatsine, in fact represents the last gasp of an earlier, more atavistic form of Islamic reaction to modernity, one that came to be replaced by the modern Salafi-Jihadi movements.

These massive riots overwhelmed the city of Kano and resulted in the deaths of some six thousand souls. Mohammed Marwa (Maitatsine), struck again in 1980 and the features of his appeal were the use of marginalized groups, inter-Islamic differences and alleged government connivance. The name Maitatsine (or more properly Maiyatsine), comes from the Hausa word meaning "the one who selects out one by one and condemns" and refers to his curse-laden public speeches against the Nigerian state, and his habit of ending his public preaching with the Hausa words: Wanda banda yarda ba Allah tatsine (May God curse whomsoever does not agree with me). After his death in 1980 remnants of his movement (the Yan Tatsine) pursued their violent activities right up to the early 1990s.

See R. Loimeier, Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria, Northwestern University Press, 1997, p.150.

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Nigeria from contamination by Hausa traditions gained him public prominence as he challenged the Muslim leadership of Nigeria and gained prestige through his command of the textual evidence. The British colonial administration prevented Shaykh Gumi from pursuing studies at al-Azhar (for fear of his falling under Muslim Brotherhood influence) but his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1955 nonetheless broadened his contacts with Salafist currents. The most notable of these were the Rbitat al-lam al-Islm (The Muslim World League) and their programmes for conservative Islamic legal reform across the Muslim world. He was able to employ his connections in Saudi Arabia for garnering moral and dogmatic support and funding to promote a grassroots education and media strategy for the promotion of Islamic reform.17 This crystallised in the formation of the Jamat Nasr al-Islm (the Association for the Support of Islam, JNI) in 1964. His approach opposing the traditional Islamic hierarchy of Nigeria, and in particular the practices of Sufism, is characterised by his 1972 work al-Aqda al-Sahha bi-Muwfaqat al-Shara (The True Belief in Accordance with the Shara) in which he states that each believer is a saint, on condition that their belief is free of Islamically heterodox practices. The work is an encapsulation of the growing influence of trans-national Salafism in Nigerian Islam, and these Salafist convictions led to his challenging of Nigerian Islamic religious authority and his heavy focus on Islamic purification from heresy (notably the Ahmadiyya movement18), along with the illegal innovations which Nigerian Sufist Islam had perpetuated. But his challenge of the latter caused tensions which resulted in splits in the organisation, in the context of which the Yan Izala movement was born. The Yan Izala movement targeted its activities not so much in the political so much as in the doctrinal sphere and it imported a distinctly peninsular Arab, Salafist attitude to current Islamic practice. They opposed, for instance, the celebration of the Prophets birthday, the visiting of tombs of venerated scholars, the education of women or any non-Islamically sanctioned rights granted to them. Although the initial impetus of the Yan Izala movement was reformist, the internal dynamic of the diagnosis of the reform programme the rejection of the established Islamic authorities, the pretensions to a higher authenticity that overrides traditional ties of culture and even family bonds in the drive to outlaw un-Islamic innovations, the barely concealed disdain for ordinary Muslims as jhil (ignorant in the sense of reverts to a pre-Islamic, pagan culture) inevitably provoked tensions. As the unsophisticated sermons of the masu waazi gained in stridency, mosques were occupied and Sufi beliefs and groups in particular came under target. When, predictably, the Qdiriyya and Tjniyya schools counter-organised against them with the formation of the Jamat al-Sfiyya, the scene was set for a decade of violent internecine conflict. Upon the death of Shaykh Gumi in 1992 the Yan Izala suffered an acrimonious split between two factions within the movement and accordingly lost much of its authority and credibility among Nigerian Muslims (the two factions eventually reconciled in 2011). Second Phase: 1980s-1990s Intensification and radicalization Another event taking place outside of Nigeria had a profound effect upon the Muslim consciousness in the country. This was the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This event demonstrated the potential for the humbling of pro-western powers and the rolling back of western influence. It also heralded a radical redrawing of the political order, one that was based on an Islamic order. The event both intensified the call for Islamization and at the same time complicated it. It led to the birth of a radical, pro-Iranian, group called the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) also known as al-Ikhwn al17

For his translation of the Qurn into Hausa he was awarded in Saudi Arabia the King Faisal International Award, Islams highest service honour. This translation, along with his works on Qurnic interpretation accelerated the dissemination of fundamentalist Islamic teachings in Northern Nigeria.

Shaykh Gumi is credited with causing the severe weakening of the movement and its split with the original Ahmadiyya, largely effected through his associations with the Saudi establishment and the prohibition of visas for Ahmadi members to perform the hajj. See R. Loimeier, Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria, Northwestern University Press, 1997, p.160.

Boko Haram Ideological background 12

Muslimn (the Muslim Brothers), which was dedicated to replicating the Iranian example in Nigeria. It displayed all the typical features of contempt for symbols of statehood, the legal system, and its representative in the law enforcement agencies. Although ostensibly non-violent under the de facto leadership of the maverick scholar Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky19 (later a defector to Sha Islam), the IMNs campaign of street level activity, intensified by the celebration of acts of martyrdom, stamped the decade of the 1980s as one where fundamentalist violence accelerated. At the same time, the new challenges were rising to the growing domination of the Yan Izala over Islamic reform politics. While the party was turning into the largest Islamic movement not only in the region of Northern Nigeria, but also in the country as a whole and even in neighbouring countries, their reform policies were increasingly contested not only by representatives of the religious and political establishment, but by small, vociferous, radical groups dissatisfied with the pace and depth of change. Some even held that the proposed reforms were themselves un-Islamic or tantamount to another form of westernization. In addition, a loss of cohesion, grass-roots rebellion against its authoritarian style of leadership, financial mismanagement and compromises made with government policies, led to the stagnation of Yan Izala and stifled its development. Muslim youth began to look to new avenues to channel their energies. In 1994 there appeared a new group, the Jamat Tajdd al-Islm (The Renewal of Islam Group) which had split off from the Ikhwn movement when Ibrahim al-Zakzaki openly declared his allegiance to Shiism. The following year Jamat Tajdd al-Islm dissidents established their own organization in Kano under the leadership of Abubakar Mahmud, pointedly underscoring their Sunni credentials by subsequently declaring itself to be close to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Shara question and progressive radicalization During the brief period of the Second Republic (1979-83) the debate on the Shara intensified, and these years saw the first concerted attempt by Islamic fundamentalists to formerly challenge the secular nature of the Nigerian state. Efforts in this regard were spearheaded by the Izala movement, the radical fringe of the Muslim Students Society (MSS), and the Jamat Tajdd al-Islm. The campaign for the incorporation of Shara law into the Nigerian constitution had the effect of diverting radicalization energies away from inter-Muslim disputes to a platform around which the cause of Islamisation could unite. At a time during the late 1980s when Pentecostal Christianity was scoring successes even in Muslim majority areas in northern Nigeria due to the splitting of the Muslim vote among rival groups such as Yan Izala and the Tjniyya and Qdiriyya Sufi organisations the call to Shara enable these groups to shelve their differences and form an alliance of convenience. It provided the benchmark for Islamisation. With the collapse of the Republic and the establishment of the military government under Gen Ibrahim Babangida, the decision in 1985 to take Nigeria into the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (albeit with an observer status) signaled significant progress in the cause. It vindicated the politics of pressure and lent more and more justification to the strategy of militancy. When after the year 2000 12 northern Nigerian states voted to implement existing Shara legislation more forcefully by extending it to areas of the penal code, this represented a significant milestone and moment of victory for Islamist activism in northern Nigeria. It enabled Islamists to successfully define the cause of Islamic authenticity in terms of the level of Shara implementation in the public sphere in a way that their rivals, the leaders of the Sufi brotherhoods whose focus was on charismatic leadership and personal mysticism, could not match. Yan Izala activism underwent a resurgence as many second-generation members took up the cause of legal reforms and formed Yan Hisba militia groups (self-appointed guardians of public mores using violence to suppress evidence of

Many of Zakzakys views are eccentric. He believes that Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have never existed and terrorist attacks in the West are the work of Western intelligence services. He also claims that Tony Blair was responsible for the 7/7 bomb attacks in London. (See D. Brett, Profile of an African Hezbollah, MESI (Middle East Strategic Information) January 25 2009).

Boko Haram Ideological background 13

un-Islamic behaviour) while the reluctance of the authorities to implement the more draconian penal stipulations of the Shara, including capital sentences and physical hadd punishments, only served to provide rhetorical material for their de-legitimization. The introduction in some states of the Shara penal code underscored this growing fundamentalist drift.20 The evidence of success which this adoption implied only promoted the emergence of more radical Islamist groups focused on ensuring an ever more comprehensive implementation of the Shara. Unresolved issues associated with the Shara continue to sharpen the tension to this day. Successive administrations have been forced to strike an uneasy balance between two sections of the Nigerian Constitution. For instance, while Section 275 recognizes the legitimacy of a Shara Court of Appeal (subject only to the Supreme Court), Section 10 opaquely states that the government of the Federation or a state shall not adopt any religion as a state religion. Given that the levels of application of the Shara have become the yardstick for the progress of the Islamisation of the country, the Nigerian constitutional debate can be seen to have contributed to the process of Islamic radicalization and its attendant violence. The progressive Salafisation of Nigerian Islam If anti-modernism traditionally constituted an important vein of Islamic reform in Nigeria, the renewed, radical energy of Islamic radicalism in this later period came from the progressive Salafization of Islamic practice. Salafism is a more literalist, puritanical strain of Islam which lays claim to a more pristine, and hence authentic practice of Islam. It takes its name from the phrase al-salaf al-slih (the righteous ancestors) and purports to model its Islam upon the practice of this earliest community of these ancestors. It is, in essence, an inward-seeking solution to the physical evidence of Muslim decline. Salafism provides a specific diagnosis of why the Muslim world is failing to maintain its divinely ordained primacy in the global order21. Muslims were not always so weak, they observe, and being bearers of the True Faith from which all power derives their current weakness must only be due to their having progressively jettisoned the ingredients of the winning formula. Reclaiming the ancient primacy therefore means mining the past for the winning formulas. And if antiquity is where authenticity is to be searched for, the model for this must therefore be located in a re-authenticated Islam, one that dates from a time prior to any influence foreign to true Islam, whether this be on the political or cultural level. The acceleration of Salafist currents of thought came as a result of what has come to be known as alSahwa al-Islmiyya (the Islamic Awakening). This is a movement that in the late 1970s gained impetus on university campuses in the Arab world, powered by educational systems that had been bolstered by Muslim Brotherhood refugees from the Arab nationalism of Nassers Egypt. This reform movement pre-occupied itself with issues of Islamic authenticity proposing, in the face of the modernisation of Islam, the Islamisation of modernity. It was thus backward-looking in its perspective, seeking to awaken the consciousness of the Muslim to the foreignness of the contemporary world structures to the Islamic system and to unpick the intellectual, cultural and legal processes set in motion by the Enlightenment. It thus inevitably posed a challenge to the intellectual underpinnings of the modern nation state and the international norms and structures of law, with all the political implications which that entailed.

The codes emergence was initially a political matter: As Nigerias military government handed power to a fledgling democracy in 1999, the leading opposition party searched for an issue to distinguish itself from the ruling party. When the opposition governor of Zamfara State seized on the idea of implementing the Shara criminal code in his state as a campaign platform, he unleashed a popular force that he did not foresee. Nigerias federal system had allowed any state to enforce the Shara civil code since 1979 but only in cases between Muslims and only where all parties elect to use Shara instead of the secular courts.

The Egyptian historian al-Jabarti (1753-1825), at the time of Napoleons invasion, observed that the proper order of things as divinely ordained had been overturned.

Boko Haram Ideological background 14

Increasing awareness of the developments of the Islamic Awakening in the campuses of the core Muslim states of the Middle East fed into the consciousness of Nigerian students and led them to imitate the formula of deepening anti-modernism through the employment of highly contemporary, modern methods of communication, and ideologization. As is a sine qua non with a movement that claims to be reviving authenticity, the priority of the Salafist ideologues of the Islamic Awakening is to enforce conformity with what is held to be a pattern set by the Prophet Muhammad himself, embracing the course of his life (the sra) which is considered to hold the working paradigm for salvation. Adherence to the pattern set down by the Prophet in this way means adherence to the pristine triumphant formula the abandonment of which has caused untold calamities historically to the Nation of Islam. This paradigm is considered to be made up of three stages: daw, hijra and umma. The first two of these stages are:
the daw (proselytism) period amid the pagan Arab culture of ignorance (jhiliyya), the Prophet Muhammad, along with a small group of Companions (Sahba), issues in Mecca the call to the people to return to the One True God; the hijra (emigration) period as a result of opposition from the polytheists to the new message and the danger thus posed to the Prophet and the Sahba, the community declares its irreconcilable opposition to the jhiliyya, declares them infidels (takfr) and disassociates itself from them by migrating to another city, Yathrib.

We can see this paradigm enacted in the progressive development of the Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama wal-Hijra group (also known as the Shabb group) founded at the University of Maiduguri by Abubakar Lawan in 1995. A distinguishing feature of this originally pietistic group, but one that is entirely in keeping with the trajectory of pietism ultimately towards militant radicalism witnessed elsewhere in the heartlands of the Middle East, was its performance of the second of the phases of the Prophetic paradigm: the hijra. By migrating away from society and adopting an authentic Islamic lifestyle, one that included distinctive forms of dress, patterns of behaviour and, perforce, worshipping in separate mosques, the group was able to make use of the phase as a gestation period for the development of an activist ideology. The gestation period provided by the hijra is the key phase in the transformation from a pietistic to a militant Salafism. In practice, Salafism has always maintained an ambiguous position towards political thinking and political power. Their starting point of pre-modern Islamic authenticity precludes their engaging with the political system for fear that they would have to come into contact with doctrinally contaminating non-Salafist Muslims, or even secularists. While their ultimate purpose is to ensure the correct practice of Islam in an Islamic state, the means by which this political aim is to be secured has not been well defined in their thinking. The emphasis of Salafist work has traditionally been heavily weighted towards proselytism (daw), in that a call to Islamic propriety is seen to be a necessary precursor to all else. The problem of contamination was resolved by this recourse to hijra, whereby the true believer is removed from the polluting influence of the jhil (ignorant, pagan) world that surrounds him. Thus far, the activism of Salafist believers did not need to conflict either with what is perceived to be authentic Islamic doctrine, nor with the prevailing political state structures, beyond raising some tensions through their policy of noncooperation. However, recent decades have seen the emergence of trends within Salafism that have increasingly called for the establishment of an Islamic political order to achieve its quest for religious purity. The modern trajectory from quietism to activism traces the following logic:
our quest is for Islamic authenticity the location of that authenticity is in the model of the earliest Muslim community Islamic doctrine as expounded in the foundational texts must form the interpretative filter for all Muslim practices and structures

Boko Haram Ideological background 15

we must therefore reject the modern, man-focused, un-Islamic intellectual mindset this means the rejection of traditional symbols and structures of authority, be they doctrinal or political.

The principal ideological influence for this trajectory was provided by the Muslim Brotherhood, and by Sayyid Qutb in particular. Still basing itself on a return to pristine, pre-modern, uncontaminated values, the turning point from pietism to activism was again authenticated by recourse to the Prophetic paradigm. Now, following the daw and hijra periods, we pass into:
the umma (nation) period the eventual establishment and defense of a new, ideal community of 22 believers at Yathrib with the aid of the Ansr allies, and organized along the principles of the new faith, Islam.

This is where the clash occurs, since the rejection of traditional symbols and structures of authority and the formation of an alternative order must clash with the already existent, prevailing political order. The order, the activist believes, fails to grant the Muslim his freedom to worship. The modern secular state, according to Anwar al-Awlak,
allows a very restricted form of personal worship that does not truly accommodate for the comprehensiveness of Islamic practice ... The law of Allah is not recognized by this civil state and the Muslim is forced to accept rulings of courts of law that are contrary to the law of Allah. So, on the 23 whole, the modern civil state ... does not guarantee Islamic rights.

Under this prevailing order, any attempt at reform requires an organizational challenge to effect reforms to the states policies that are seen as contradictory to Islam, and since the state is failing to do this basic task, it is no longer legitimate and must be removed for a more legitimate one. For the Islamist activist the cause is held up as freedom of religion, but freedom construed in a particular way. The classic argument on this is made by Sayyid Qutb who stated that:
Islam has the right to move first (for Islam is not the creed of a people, nor the system of a nation, but a divine programme, and a world system) and has the right to destroy impediments, whether systems or circumstances, that shackle a persons freedom to choose. It is enough that it does not attack individuals to force them to embrace its creed, but attacks systems and circumstances to liberate individuals from corrosive influences that corrupt mans innate nature and prevent freedom of 24 choice.

This equation of liberty through hegemony is repeated almost to the letter by the Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa:
We wish to reiterate that our crusade is not for personal gain; it is meant to ensure the establishment of an Islamic state by liberating all Muslims from the excesses of the infidels ... It is erroneous to say that we are killing Muslims. We dont kill innocent Muslims. The fact is the bottom line of our struggle 25 is to set the Muslims free from enslavement. We only kill the unbelievers.

With its elaboration of new parameters for Islamic identity, and the rejection of the modern social order that is not founded upon these, Salafism cannot long avoid the implications of this tension and the trajectory from pietism to violence therefore has something of an inexorable character.

22 23 24 25

The city is subsequently renamed Madnat al-Nab the city of the Prophet, and is now known today as Medina. Anwar al-Awlaki, Inspire, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Fall 2010, p.35. Milestones, Section: The Rise of the Muslim Society and its Characteristics . I. Esene, We give thanks to Allah, Y! Daily, August 1 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 16

Third phase: post 1999 From pietism to militancy As is commonly encountered in Salafist-inspired groups such as Yan Izala, the Islamic authenticity contest inevitably led to the spawning of offshoots each claiming to be more authentic than thou those who saw the contradictions between Islamic purity to the letter as having been compromised by groups who espouse purity but who make various accommodations to an inauthentic, modern environment. This is a constant feature of the contradiction inherent to Salafism. Is the model of Islamic authenticity one that is to be adhered to in the letter, or in the spirit? If it is to be authenticity in spirit then what is the purpose of the Salafist designation? Surely the point of Salafism, the more radically-minded would argue, is that it does not make concessions to individuals interpretations of what the spirit of authentic Islam is. For we have the texts to tell us what that true spirit is. The logic of Salafism, therefore, is preprogrammed to generate ever more radical, centripetal, puristic formations in its urge to penetrate ever more deeply to the core, true Islam. The gravitational pull of activism, witnessed in the Middle Eastern manifestations that ultimately led to the rise of Salafiyya-Jihdiyya (Jihadi Salafism), therefore inevitably took place in this Nigerian Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama group too. When Abubakar Lawan departed for Saudi Arabia in 2002 to pursue his studies, a more militantly minded director took over and proceeded to divest the group of its pietist focus, arguing that its representative shaykhs were going soft on establishing pure Islam. This new leader of the Jamat Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama, Muhammad Yusuf (19702009) began his professional career as a Tsangaya (Local Qurnic School) teacher in Potiskum (Yobe state) before his family moved to Maiduguri where he at one point joined, but later abandoned, the Shiite movement, which at the time occupied prestige for its association with the worlds first functioning Islamic republic in Iran. While working at the popular Muhammed Ndimi mosque at Maiduguri, Muhammad Yusuf gathered together a following of young Muslims impressed by the Islamic lifestyle he was promoting. As numbers increased, a sub-sect was formed with the name Shabb al-Islm (Youths of Islam). These subsequently elected him as their amr. The events of 9/11 and the immense prestige attached to the militant programme of Al Qaeda fuelled the adoption of the Jihadi Salafist ideology that underpinned Islamist violence across the globe. This provoked tensions in the Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama group as enthusiastic youths clashed with their lecturers and preachers. The students levelled against them accusations of hypocrisy, for preaching the essence of jihad but shying clear of putting it into practice. When some senior scholars intervened to bring the youths to order, the focus turned towards radical rejection altogether of western values and education, and members began to moot the idea, once again, of migrating away (hijra) from a tainted to a purer religious community. While on daw work in Damagum, Muhammad Yusuf was drawn into this ideology of rejecting western education. Once assured of financial security by well-to-do students if he did so, he began to inject some extremist ideology into his sermons and steer their content toward the global victimisation of Muslims and the Qurnically expressed obligation for jihad. Muslim clerics expelled him from the Maiduguri mosque for propagating these radical views, but he went on to set up in 2003 a religious complex called Markaz in the remote town of Kanamma on the borders with Niger. The base was named Afghanistan in conscious imitation of the preparatory hijra phase that the proto-Al Qaeda ideologue Abdallh Azzm called for in the years leading up to the attacks on New York and included a mosque and an Islamic school. Students in tertiary institutions in Borno and Yobe states began to abandon their education and join the group. In the communications of the group the terms jhiliyya, daw, and hijra, alongside Sahba and Ansr, were words constantly encountered, indicating the role of Salafism in shaping their understanding. The disassociation from society that this hijra provided, enabled members to become more thoroughly indoctrinated in the case for militancy, with a view to progressing onto the umma phase of the Prophetic paradigm, complete with its own government and territorial boundaries, within which it could practice its own religious and political ideology unimpeded.

Boko Haram Ideological background 17

Having succeeded in recruiting enough supporters, Muhammad Yusuf proceeded to form a private army for his protection. He argued that to fight an effective Jihad the group had need of modern weaponry. Accordingly he initiated, along with his deputy Abubakar Shekau, a programme of militarized training for their supporters and spent heavily on acquiring arms and ammunitions. Some converts who were either students or graduates of sciences at university were trained in the making of explosive devices. From December 2003 the muhjirn (emigrants) of the Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama group embarked on the post-hijra programme of open jihadist violence and attacked symbols of government and security enforcement. From summer 2009, the conflict further escalated to the point of violent clashes between Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces in five northern Nigerian states, resulting in over 1000 fatalities, including Muhammad Yusuf himself who was killed 48 hours after his Markaz headquarters was pounded to rubble by federal troops. While the intensification of Boko Harams violence is commonly held to have paralleled the levels of violence employed by the security forces, a number of issues call into question this argument. These include evidence of the migration of Boko Haram members from all over Northern Nigeria to Bauch at the time of the massacre of its members; the calculated plan of attacks on police stations and prisons designed to systematically accumulate weaponry; explosions in Boko Haram members homes from botched attempts at bomb-manufacture and the deliberate killing of Muslims (for which they were labelled khawrij).26 The heirs to Muhammad Yusuf After the death of Muhammad Yusuf in July 2009 his closest followers, including his deputy Abu Shekau and third-in-command Mamman Nur, moved underground and continued operating clandestinely. The two deputies fell out when, during Shekaus recuperation from gunshot wounds suffered in the July 2009 clashes, Nur took over the leadership of the movement, gaining much support due to his more international perspective due to his contacts with Somalias Al-Shabaab movement. However, Shekaus fearful, strong-arm reputation secured his position as leader in July 2010.27 But this re-establishment of his leadership was achieved at the cost of the groups internal cohesion, as ideological fissures began to open up (See Doctrinal Fissures below). In July 2011 a group called the Yusufiyya Islamic Movement (YIM) distributed fliers in Kano denouncing attacks on civilians and calling on the evil group (i.e. Boko Haram) to desist. Mamman Nur and another Boko Haram leader, Abu Muhammad, formed a rival faction that proposed to open negotiations with the Nigerian government in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Shekau denounced this group as fake. Another group subsequently appeared under the leadership of another of Muhammad Yusufs followers Khalid alBarnawi (using the name Abu Usma al-Ansari). This is the Jamat Ansr al-Muslimn f Bild alSdn (The Group of Supporters of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks) known more widely as Ansaru (on this, see below: Doctrinal Fissures). Tensions were also fed by other factors. Even the policy on suppressing western schools had its doubters among Boko Haram members, some of them highly placed such as the spokesman for the group Abu Qaqa:


One of the arrested sect members in July 2009 said to journalists after a long recital of the verses from the Qurn that what they were doing constituted jihad, and that they had no regrets for their actions: We are actually making all these bombs and explosives to fight the police and those that are against us. We heard that the security people will be attacking us by the end of this month. And our leader, Muhammed Yusuf, had instructed us to commence emergency gathering and building of arms so that they will not take us unawares. We do not regret our action and we believe in our leader, Muhammad Yusuf, because with him ahead of us we are going to gain al-jannah (paradise). A.K. Ogori, Return of the Boko Haram, The Politico (Abuja), January 1 2011.

Jacob Zenn, Ansaru: A Profile of Nigerias Newest Jihadist Movement, Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 11 Issue 1, January 10 2013.

Boko Haram Ideological background 18

A lot of us who went to school saw this approach as too rigid since we could use the medium to propagate the faith faster, but we were fewer and scared of making our opinion known because that 28 could earn us the tag of traitors and therefore face the ultimate consequence.

There were also suspicions of ethnic favouritism toward the Kanuri members and discontent at Shekaus personal appropriation of funds that were more properly shared amongst the the needy and less privileged members, amongst widows of those that died in the Jihad, and for Zakat contributions. The cohesion of the group was therefore always illusory, and only artificially maintained by Shekaus intimidating authoritarianism:
We dont know how this money was spent and nobody dare d asked questions for fear of death ... Everyone lived in fear more of the leadership of the group even than of the security agencies ... Most of us were tired of fighting but we couldnt come out to say so because of fear of reprisal from Shekau on dissenting members. Several of our members that denounced the violent struggle were 29 slaughtered in front of their wives and children.

What appears to have been taking place was an explosion of the personal and ideological tensions that appeared immediately on the death of Muhammad Yusuf. The older generation of Yusufs followers were maintaining Yusufs extreme rejectionism (including the ban on western education and lifestyle), but at the same time they appreciated Yusufs pragmatic approach to dealing with the Nigerian government and propagating his version of Islamic reform. In contrast, the support base of Shekau came from the younger generation of 20-30 year-olds, who pushed for much a more extreme activism.30 Historical Summary Given the long tradition of Muslim conservatism in the North, the phenomenon of Boko Haram violence cannot be usefully regarded as exclusively a reaction to modern events or regional dynamics. Rather, it constitutes a manifestation of the progressive upswell of Islamic radicalisation in Nigeria, which is itself a manifestation of broader currents in the Muslim world. The progress of Islamist resurgence in Nigeria follows a characteristic pattern, in which we can discern a predictable trajectory towards radicalisation, from archaic jihads focusing on a charismatic leader (often a mahdi or mujaddid figure) aimed at purifying Islam from the threat of syncretisms with local non-Islamic practice, to reactions to challenges that have less to do with heterodox religious practice and more with facing up to the intellectual and cultural challenges of modernity, the political implications of the modern nation state and the threats which these present to an Islamic identity now perceived to be under siege. Muhammad Yusufs life story is a good illustration of the gravitational pull of jihadist extremism, once the decision has been made to reject a symbiotic formula of Islam with global modernity. All of the militant groups that have appeared in Nigeria (as opposed to the pietistic, reformist Muslim groups) demonstrate programmes that are something more than the defence of regional development, or the defence of the rights of Muslims in a pluralist state. Instead they indicate a desire to re-draw the map of the modern state and of modernity itself. In this respect, the history of the northern region replicates the broader dislocation undergone by the Muslim world in its confrontation with fast-developing currents of modernity.


From an interview conducted with Abu Qaqa and Kabiru Sokoto while in custody. I. Emewu, Abu Qaqa, Kabiru Sokoto open up, Sunnews, March 8 2012.
29 30

J. Ajani and K. Omonobi, How N41 tore Boko Haram apart Qaqa, Vanguard, February 14 2012.

Jacob Zenn, Can Nigeria Exploit the Split in the Boko Haram Movement?, in Northern Nigeria's Boko Haram The Prize in al-Qaeda's Africa Strategy, November 26 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 19

There is deep division as to what form this confrontation should take place is it outright rejectionism, or modernization with an Islamic core, or a radical redrawing of the map and dispensing with the starting points, in order to start with a tabula rasa on which to build a Muslim system that is comprehensive: religious, doctrinally and epistemologically pure? Nigerian Islam has witnessed the same Salafist-inspired solution that out-authenticates contemporary Islamic authority. It takes traditionalism further back beyond the regional cultural experience of West African regional Islam, beyond the indigenous reformers and mujaddids to a model that in essence takes no account of local history and practice and ignores modern developments in the nature of the state and of education, on the grounds that these are considered Islamically irrelevant. The gravitational pull of Salafist textualism, the absolutist adherence to the letter of the law rather than its spirit, inevitably ends with a violent group that sets as its task the tearing down of all structures that conflict with the text. The motivator of this violence is the repudiation of diversity, the disassociation with the other (see Annex: Al-wal wal-bar), the condemnation of Disbelief in Islam and the development of a practice of declaring fellow Muslims infidels (takfr). Such things are not extraneous importations but rather are inherent, organic growths potential within any conservative Muslim tradition that seeks a radical solution to decline. Given the fact that the developments in Nigeria are following a pattern typical to the broader Islamic world, it is therefore misleading to seek exclusively local, contemporary causes to the violence of Boko Haram and related radical Islamic sects. Boko Haram is essentially a product of an age-old tradition of Islamic fundamentalism in Nigeria, one that has come to be fuelled by increasingly absolutist views on Islamic purity and orthodoxy, and increasingly intransigent views on the role Shara plays as a definer of Islamic identity. By its reflection of Islamic pre-occupations on the global scale, Nigeria would still be subject to Islamic fundamentalist influences even without the specific programme of Boko Haram. ......... Nevertheless, while Boko Haram may thus be placed squarely within a trajectory of a progressive Islamist radicalization in Nigeria, of all these groups it is the one that has proved to encapsulate this reaction to the shock of modernity in its most violent form. The following section investigates how the group has manifested this trajectory.

Boko Haram Ideological background 20

Ideological contextualisation - Boko Haram

The Boko Haram formation of radical Islamic rejectionism emerged in the early 1990s and its selfdesignation as Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama wal-Hijra demonstrates the pedigree it aspired to. The significance of the name: The People of the [Prophets] Sunna, of the Community and of Emigration draws the battle lines. It means that its adherents are The People who follow the Prophets established paradigm and who adhere to the practice of the community of true Muslims and those who adopt the duty to withdraw from the polluting concourse of unbelievers. For the Salafist communities unbelievers does not only mean the non-Muslim infidel, but also infidel who fraudulently adopt the name Muslim. Needless to say, it also encompasses the entire Nigerian state, in its being no more than an un-Islamic, and hence artificial, construct. Boko Haram thus stakes its claim to present the true pattern of an Islamic community, and to be able to define who is, or who is not, a true Muslim. For it alone, according to its adherents, is al-Firqa al-Njiya, the Saved Sect, one that will of necessity be al-Tifa al-Mansra, the community granted victory by God. As a student of Sheikh Gumi, Muhammad Yusuf was a dedicated Sala and was also deeply inuenced by the writings of the medieval scholar Ibn Taymiyya31. While Muhammad Yusuf served as amr of Shabb al-Islm at the Ndimi and Daggash mosques, he specialised in teaching courses on the famous hadith collection by the 13th century AD scholar Muhy al-Dn al-Nawaw32 entitled Riyadh al-Slihn (Gardens of the Righteous)33, a collection of hadith that focuses on ethics, manners and conduct for a Muslim to follow. Included in this collection are passages extolling the virtues of jihad, and the superiority of those who make sacrifices for this cause over those who do not. Taking a sample from the work one may get a flavour of the mental universe Muhammad Yusuf occupied during this period and the textual authority lying behind the direction he subsequently took. In the section of the Riyadh al-Slihn on Striving in the Cause of Allah (hadith nos: 1290-1357) the basic Qurnic passages on jihd are highlighted:
Jihad is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know [Qurn II,216] Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties for (the price) that theirs shall be the Jannah (Paradise). They fight in Allah's Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injl (Gospel) and the Qurn. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success [Qurn IX,111] Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (Jannah), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward. Degrees of (higher)

Taq al-Dn Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328 AD). The uncompromising views of this scholar on Islamic purism and open defense of the practice of declaring as infidel those Muslims who do not live up to these strictures has provided the authenticating authority for the justification of violence by later fundamentalists. See below in section: Muslim Collaborators.

Ab Zakary Muhy al-Dn al-Nawaw (1233-1277 AD) is the foremost legal authority of the Shfi school of law, which predominates in the Middle East (with the exception of the Gulf outside the Hejaz region) and East Africa. This school minimises the legitimacy of the exercise of private judgement in the expositoin of legal principles, and prioritises the force of precedent as revealed in the Qurn and the Hadith. It does not admit the validity of recourse to analogical deduction (qiys) in the elaboration of a legal ruling, thus rendering difficult the adaptation of a ruling to the circumstances of a specific case.

Muhy al-Dn al-Nawaw, . For an English translation of this work see M.Z. Khan, Gardens of the Righteous, Riyadh al-Salihin of Imam Nawawi, Curzon Press, Islam International Publications, 1989.

Boko Haram Ideological background 21

grades from Him, and forgiveness and mercy. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful [Qurn IV 95,96] O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment? That you believe in Allah and His Messenger and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives: that will be better for you, if you but know! (If you do so) He will forgive you your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwellings in 'Adn (Eden) Jannah; that is indeed the great success. And also (He will give you) another (blessing) which you love: help from Allah (against your enemies) and a near victory. And give glad tidings (O Muhammad) to the believers [Qurn LXI,10-13]

After this are catalogued the related hadith of the Prophet. These indicate the duty of the act and the rewards due to the mujhid. The following are some typical commentaries penned on the moral and ethical superiority of militant jihad. For instance, the neglect of this duty is held to imply a more general moral laxity:
One who does not wage Jihad against the infidels, although he is fully aware that they are avowed enemies of Islam, he is bound to give up fighting against people who are guilty of sins and impious acts. [1286]

Consequently the believer should prioritise this act over other forms of Muslim belief and practice, not least because, unlike individual acts of piety, it has a bearing on the collective welfare of Muslims:
Jihad is far superior than voluntary Salt [prayer]. This is perfectly true because the benefit of Salt is restricted to the one who performs it while the benefits of Jihad reach a vast number of people because it is to safeguard the religion, raise the flag of Islam high and safeguard the Islamic territories. [1297]

Most commentaries, however, focus on the rewards that will accrue to the believer:
Good deeds of a Muslim who dies or is martyred on the frontier will perpetuate and will be credited to his account till the Day of Resurrection; and like all other martyrs, sustenance will be provided to him even after his death. [1291] Even Jihad for a short time is so meritorious that his entitlement to Jannah is ensured by it ... [1296] The Messenger of Allah said, "It will not happen that the feet soiled with dust while (doing Jihad) in the way of Allah, will be touched by the fire (of Hell)." The phrase "Feet soiled with dust" means participation in Jihad. That is to say, a person takes part in Jihad and yet goes to Hell is altogether impossible. What it signifies is that Jihad is a means of expiation of sins and that it guarantees the admission into Jannah, provided he is not guilty of major sins ... One who weeps for Fear of Allah and one who is covered with the dust of the battlefield in the course of Jihad, will in no case enter Hell ... The dust of the battlefield of Jihad and the smoke of Hell cannot combine at one place. [1303-4]

Consequently, the Muslim believer will wish that his act of dying for God will be repeated again and again:
He will be so resurrected on the Day of Resurrection as if he was wounded on that day. Blood will be dripping from his body which will be emitting the fragrance of musk. This condition will show the distinction and majesty of the Mujhid on the Day of Judgement. ... the Prophet's passion for Jihad ... is evident from the repeated expression of his desire for martyrdom - in fact an endless series of life for performing it again and again for the sake of Allah. A similar desire is also made by other martyrs. They pray to Allah that they be restored to life so that they can lay down their life again and again for His sake. [1294]

Boko Haram Ideological background 22

The same author al-Nawaw is also the compiler of other collections, including the Forty Hadiths (al-Arban al-Nawawiyya) which features, for instance, commentaries on hadith concerning the obligation to make hijra. Among the six sub-divisions of this obligation are:
Leaving the people of innovation ... It is not permitted for anyone to remain in a land in which the first community are being cursed... Leaving a land where the harm [that which is forbidden, sacrilegious] is predominant, since it is obligatory on every Muslim to seek hall [that which is permitted].

Such stipulations form the doctrinal background to the hijra of the Shabb al-Islm under Muhammad Yusuf. In another of al-Nawaws works on law, Rawdat al-Tlibn, there are severe strictures expressed against Disbelievers, and equally against Muslims who fail to declare as kfir those who profess a faith other than Islam:
Anyone who does not believe that whoever follows another religion besides Islam is an unbeliever (such as Christians), or doubts that such a person is an unbeliever, or considers their sect to be valid, 34 is himself an unbeliever (kfir) even if he manifests Islam and believes in it. A person who even doubts in the takfr of people who profess a faith other than Islam, he is a kfir by consensus of scholars even if he claims to be Muslim or acts like them. A person who authenticates or praises or appraises the faith/s of those who profess a religion other than Islam he is a kfir by the consensus of scholars even if he claims to be Muslim or acts like them. A person who does deeds concerning which the Muslim Nation unanimously agrees that they are done only by a kfir is a kfir by the consensus of scholars, even if he claims to be a Muslim or acts like them. Such deeds include things like ... walking to churches, synagogues, temples and so on, along with their congregations ... Joining their choirs and/or singing their religious songs, and other such things.

Al-Nawaws severity concerning the issue of disbelievers has elicited lively debate between Muslim modernists and more traditionally minded believers35 but the circle of Muhammad Yusuf would have no difficulty with applying al-Nawaws understanding of the conditions governing the declaration of takfr with the reality they saw in contemporary Nigeria:
Whoever denies something necessarily known to be of the religion of Islam is declared an apostate and disbeliever unless ... for some similar reason was unable to learn his religion properly. He should be apprised of the truth. But if he continues as before, he is judged to be a non-Muslim. This is the same as with any Muslim who believes it permissible to commit adultery, drink wine, kill, or do other 36 deeds that are necessarily known to be unlawful.

The rejectionism promoted by Muhammad Yusuf and his followers was further intensified by the absorption of sermons of radical preachers such as those of the London-based scholar Abdallah alFaysal the Jamaican known for his ideology of jihad,37 for his condemnation of western education as a major source for adulterating the purity of Islam and for his insistance upon the need to Islamise


Rawdat al-Tlibn, 10,70. This is not only the position of the Shfi school of jurisprudence represented by al-Nawaw, but is also the recorded position of all three other Sunni schools: the Hanaf the Mlik and the Hanbal.

See, for instance, Shaykh Faraz Rabbanis discussion of Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Kellers support of the universal validity of religions at http://spa.qibla.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=2534&CATE=124 .
36 37

Al-Nawa, Sharh Sahh Muslim, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, Beirut 1995, I,134.

Of his infamous taped lectures the UK prosecutors cited passages such as: Our methodology is the bullet, not the ballot; Those who want to go to paradise, it's easy, just kill a kfir [unbeliever] ... by killing that kfir you have purchased your ticket to heaven.

Boko Haram Ideological background 23

western knowledge in such a way that the school curriculum in Islamic societies should reflect the values of Islam.38 Between 2004 and 2007 a confrontational theological pamphlet-war broke out between the noted Islamic scholar Jafar Mahmud Adam and Muhammad Yusuf. Jafar Mahmud Adam wrote off Yusufs theological standpoints as ignorant and stupid, and in fact dangerous for the political fate and ambitions of Muslims in Nigeria. He advocated the importance of Western and secular education for Muslims on the grounds that this alone would equip Muslims to effectively fight the western enemy. Islamization by degrees, step-by-step, instead of confronting the Nigerian state head-on, was likely to be a more effective and ultimately successful method.39 The response of Muhammad Yusuf was unequivocal: western education boko was forbidden or sacrilegious harm and from the public declarations made by spokesmen for the group, the ideology propounded by Muhammad Yusuf can be broadly summarized as the following: That Democracy is infidelity, and that all politicians are therefore infidels That the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria is not to be accepted by any Muslim That the structures and symbols of the secular state (such as, for instance, the National ID card, the voters card or a driving license) are forbidden to Muslims That the implementation of the Shara under democratic system of government disqualifies that system from being Islamic That western education is prohibited in Islam because it teaches evolution, Marxism, Leninism, and many other aspects that are in conflict with Islamic established truth. All students of western education are therefore infidels That working under government as a soldier, a policeman, a customs or immigration official, are engaged in civil defense constitutes a form of idolatry That joining civil service is prohibited since the source of salaries is not purely hall and includes bank transactions, VAT collected from breweries and so on That Muslims have no excuse to remain living in a democratic system.

As a result of these standpoints, the group has variously come to be dubbed as the Ysufiyya school, the Nigerian Taliban, or Boko Haram, indicating in each case a belief in its peculiarity as opposed to its actual doctrinal position which conforms to hard-line Salafist positions taken across the Muslim world. Indeed, such features are familiar to students of the ideology of Salafiyya-Jihdiyya in the Middle East, since the essence of the ideology is the rejection of cultural specificity. (It should be noted that the name Boko Haram is not a name generally employed by the militants themselves, but is a derogatory term for the group used by outsiders, and dates from when the security forces first moved against the sect in Bauchi and Borno states in July 2009). If there is a point of departure from the traditionalist purist trajectory, for instance, as espoused by the Maitatsine, it is in Boko Harams employment of aspects of modernity, such as symbols of citizenship: passports and visas for travel, or of modern technology such as the airplane, telephones, the internet and, indeed, modern weaponry. Muhammad Yusufs critics, such as Jafar Mahmud Adam, archly pointed out this inconsistency in a well-circulated audio interview, saying that he had met with Yusuf and that he had convinced him that the Boko Haram ideology was misguided. To
38 39

A.K. Ogori, Return of the Boko Haram, The Politico (Abuja), January 1 2011.

Andrea Brigaglia points to a significant sermon issued in cassette tape by Jafar Mahmud Adam, with the Hausa title: Boko da aikin gwamnati ba haramun ba ne (Western education and work for the government are not forbidden). A Contribution to the History of the Wahhabi Dawa in West Africa: The Career and the Murder of Shaykh Jafar Mahmoud Adam, Adam Islamic Africa, 3, 1, 1-23.

Boko Haram Ideological background 24

support his argument Shaykh Jafar cited the roles of medical doctors, nurses, science laboratory experts and pharmacists to provide healthcare services, water engineers to provide water supply, builders, road workers; vehicles, ships and even aircraft manufacturers and pilots all of which Muslims need in order to travel to Saudi Arabia from various parts of the world for the purpose of performing the hajj, one of the pillars of Islam. Shaykh Jafar claimed that Yusuf had agreed with the position in private but changed his position in public when amongst his followers. Yusuf, however, denied shifting his position. Yet in fact the departure from the position espoused by the Maitatsine movement is the same departure that was undertaken by the Al Qaeda group from the earlier model expounded by Juhaymn al-Utayb, with their dispensing with the latters absolutist rejection of anything western, in favour of the adoption of the fruits of Western culture (technology, medicine, science and armaments) as opposed to the cultural and epistemological elements of that culture which brought about these fruits. Muhammad Yusufs followers were entirely untroubled by any charges of hypocrisy since, like Al Qaeda, they argued that the use of the products of western science was entirely acceptable in Islamic terms on the grounds that: a) the knowledge source of this is ultimately Islamic science having been stolen from the Muslims in the Middle Ages, and: b) this science can be turned on the infidels themselves.40 In his interrogation before his death in 2009 Muhammad Yusuf answered such questions. The cotton in his western style trousers, he argued comes from God, and as for the computer in his house and the syringes,
These are purely technological things, not Bokoand westernization is different .

There followed inevitably an intensification of the hard-line position towards a Salafiyya-Jihdiyya formula. Open conflict between the two groups first broke out in December 2003 and appears to be marked in April 2007 with the death, under mysterious circumstances, of Jafar Mahmud Adam. What is of particular significance in the events of July 2009 is that the casus belli was not, as in most other cases of religious disturbances in Nigeria, as a result of Christian-Muslim antagonism or even a reaction to a specific provocation, but was rather the result of a considered doctrinal decision taken in Bauchi to embark upon the next logical step following on from hijra the progression onto a phase of expansion through militant means. A new name and a new intensification The nature of this new phase was given concrete form in the new name for the movement agreed upon by the 20-man shra (council) following the death of Muhammad Yusuf: Jamat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Daw wal-Jihd al Minhaj al-Salaf the Community of the People of the Sunna for the Propagation [of Islam] and for Jihad according to the Method of the Salaf. The community is now not merely one of internal reform, but of expansion. The word hijra is dropped from the selfdesignation; there is now no longer the call towards self-isolation since the hijra (migration) phase has now ended. Now is the time for open armed action against the enemies of Islam. Accordingly, over the past years the focus of violence has expanded from targeting symbols of the jhil Nigerian state its security apparatus, police stations and prisons to symbols of Disbelief and to the infidels themselves. Attacks against Christians have featured more widely, not only for their

The argumentation is typical of radicals who grapple with this conundrum. The usual formula for resolving the dilemma is that if Muslims lag in technology and science in comparison with the western infidel world, they reason, it can only be that they were maintaining mental habits that were dimming the Muslims eyes to the perennial truth of Islam from which all knowledge in any case is held to derive.

"Boko Haram", Mohammed Yusuf being interrogated before his execution, Sahara Reporters, August 3 2009. The incident report (The last interview of our supreme leader Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf; during interrogation by infidel security operatives of the Nigerian state ) was also posted on the Boko Haram website yusufislamicbrothers.blogspot.co.uk.

Boko Haram Ideological background 25

position as an obstacle to the full Islamisation of the states identity, but also for the unifying clarity of the definition of enemy that these provide. The internal reform of Islamic practice the earlier focus of radical groups is by necessity controversial and runs the risk of public disaffection, or the doctrinal charge of causing fitna (civil strife) among the Muslim community an accusation that was levelled at Yan Izala in the 1980s. Targeting Christians resolves this conflict and closes ranks against a common enemy. Once again, one should note the care taken in this nomenclature with preserving the concept of Islamic authenticity as they understood it, through their use of the phrase al Minhaj al-Salaf according to the Method of the Pious Ancestors (Salaf). That is, they are making the claim that nothing that they are doing is departing from the sanctified tradition of Islam in its doctrine and its history. Given that Boko Haram spokesmen are vociferous in their claim to be as the groups self-definition has it for the Propagation [of Islam] and for Jihad according to the Method of the Salaf it will be useful to examine the Salafist doctrines they aspire to and how closely Boko Haram fits with this ideological mould. Following the Prophetic paradigm daw and hijra Daw As demonstrated earlier, the revolt of Salafist Islam against modernity is expressed in terms of three phases: daw (proselytism), hijra (migration) and umma (state). This sequence, modelled on the pattern of salvation, is a constant point of reference and validation for Salafist literature, and serves time and again as an interpretative sub-text to their activism. The pattern remains the ideal and conditions the vocabulary of their struggle. In fact the vocabulary of this daw hijra umma model appears again and again in the discourse of the jihadis and can be spotted in their media statements that are replete with the arcane vocabulary of ghazawt, jhiliyya, kuffr, mujhidn, ansr (allies), murtaddn (apostates) or historically evocative names such as (the Battles of) Badr and Uhud, all reflecting the antique terminology hallowed by their association with the prototype.42 The terms also populate the various denominations of the jihad movements wherever they emerge al-Muhajiroun, Takfr wa-Hijra43, Ansr al-Islm and many others. The name of the Algerian group al-Jama al-Salafiyya lil-Daw wal-Jihd (the Salafist Group for Call and Combat) pressed all the buttons for this legitimizing model, as does the new name for Muhammad Yusufs movement, the Jamat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Daw wa-l-Jihd al Minhaj al-Salaf. The Salafist notion of the necessary prioritisation of daw was clearly noticeable in Boko Harams early phase, with its concentration on opposing elements considered to be contaminating to authentic Islam. What Boko Haram as a movement of Islamic radicalism is attempting to achieve is to rescue and re-orient society away from a deteriorated practice of a true Islamic way of life. As we have seen, the reform movements in the region, dating as far back as Dan Fodio, all focused on this issue of purity from the contamination of either local syncretisms with non-Muslim faiths, or developments within the body of Muslim believers that were considered to be bida innovation which in the mindset that considers the true paradigm for a Muslims life to have been established

The jihadists attention to the details of history almost suggests a propitious function for the names. Bin Ladens first camp in Afghanistan was named Bayt al-Ansr and the foundation of al-Qida al-Sulba itself was a conscious imitation of the house of Arqam Bin Abi Arqam, said to be where the early Muslims, the Sahba, received education and guidance from the Prophet on waging the struggle against the Arabian pagans.

Takfr wa-Hijra, under Shukri Mustafa actively put the model into practice by forming communities in caves away from the sinful jhili cities of Egypt.

Boko Haram Ideological background 26

in the past - is considered to equate with, and actually carries the same meaning as, heresy.44 This explains the focus of these earlier reform movements, and the preoccupation of the Yan Izala with combating Sufi practices, in line with the position taken on these by peninsular Arab Wahhabi Islam. But the daw is not merely focused on what it sees as a deterioration within the Islamic tradition, it is also heavily focused on challenges hailing from outside. The salvific, corrective endeavour also embraces the task of re-orientating Nigerian Muslims away from what it feels is the disastrous trajectory that modern society as a whole has taken since the European Enlightenment on the path to modernity, a modernity that is man-made instead of one that is divinely ordained.

Hijra The imperative to renew Islamic practice is not considered to be fulfilled simply by a proactive campaign of proselytism and calls to reform. There is the issue of contamination, and the understanding that one cannot live authentically as a Muslim purely on an individual basis one has to live a true Islam collectively. Given the sea of jhiliyya all about them the only recourse to avoiding the parlous state of hypocrisy is to remove themselves from the source of contamination and migrate to one where Islam is truly practised. If such a society does not exist then the Salafist logic dictates that they should construct an alternative society from scratch (and, of course, they have a noble president for this in the form of the Prophet himself who emigrated from pagan Mecca to set up the worlds first Islamic society at Yathrib later named Madnat al-Nab , the city of the Prophet , or more commonly: Medina). Muhammad Yusuf of course had a modern, vivid precedent in mind for this process in the hijra of the Arab Muslim mujahidn to camps in Afghanistan since the rationale of this obligation was explained by the chief ideologue of the Afghan Jihad, the Palestinian scholar Abdullah Azzm:
The first, obligatory, hijra is from the Abode of Kufr to the Abode of Islam. It is incumbent upon all Muslims if they find themselves unable to establish their religious rites in the Abode of Kufr, or if the oppression of the tawght becomes intense and they are unable to grow their beards or make daw to God, or struggle in His path, or maintain Islamic control over their families or children, or if life has become corrupt or society or society decrepit, or the face of the earth become rotten hijra is your 45 duty even if you are in Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem].

This stage of the enterprise is particularly ennobled, since it is the epitome of sacrifice, a symbol of ones ransoming oneself46 and
a clear announcement of intent to follow the path to Almighty God, a general declaration and major 47 proclamation that the mortal soul has begun to free itself from the world below.

It therefore acts as a litmus test for the commitment of the true Muslim, that he has duly exchanged his ties of loyalty to his country and his kin for a higher bond. The muhjir (migrant), unlike his cowardly fellows, has responded to one of the five principal commands issued by the Prophet to


The Christian, Greek term hairesis (heresy) has a different meaning, signifying another opinion or an opinion other than what is considered orthodox. It does not incorporate a time element.

, , : , , , , , , , . Azzam, Introduction, 15.


, ... , , Azzam, Introduction, pp.12,15.


, Azzam, Introduction, p.15.

Boko Haram Ideological background 27

gather together, listen to the call, obey it, make the hijra and fight jihad in Gods path. He has embarked on the road to paradise, and for this fact alone he will be richly rewarded.48 Significantly, it was this physical act of hijra which alerted the broader Muslim community in Nigeria to the orientation and commitment of Muhammad Yusufs followers. It was noted that Muhammad Yusuf sought to emulate the experience of the Taleban in Afghanistan and establish an Afghanistan in north-eastern Nigeria. In 2003 he set up his new society near Kanamma, an isolated area close to the Niger border and, as a mark of his perception on the source of Islamic authenticity and in loyal reproduction of the Prophets model, resolved only to speak Arabic. On this issue of imitating the Prophetic paradigm, David Cook makes the interesting observation that
the site was chosen because of its distance from major centres and was probably viewed by the group as a location for hijra ... It is interesting that they are said to have kidnapped a number of villagers to induce them to join the group, and to force those who would not to dig a ditch around their camp 49 (just as Muhammad did at the battle of the Khandaq in 627).

Media reports began to include statements made by members of the group, that their mission was
to clean the [Nigerian] system which is polluted by Western education and uphold Shara all over the 50 country

and that since the Nigerian state was filled with social vices,
the best thing for a devout Muslim to do was to migrate from the morally bankrupt society to a secluded place and establish an ideal Islamic society devoid of political corruption and moral 51 deprivation.

In this Boko Haram are actually only a following an established precedent, and answering to the legal requirement of the law. In the context of the Nigerian region Usman Dan Fodio himself in his work An Exposition on the Obligation of Hijrah Which is Placed Upon the Slaves of Allah and an Exposition on the Obligation of Appointing an Imam and the Raising of Jihd52 argued that
If unbelievers become Muslims, they have to emigrate if they are in a place where they come under the jurisdiction of the unbelievers, for if they do not emigrate, they will be disobedient to Allah and 53 his Messenger although their Islam will still be valid.

The permanence of the obligation is implied by his citation of Imm al-Qastilln:

As long as a land of unbelief exists in the world, emigration from it is obligatory, for the law applies 54 wherever the relevant circumstances exist.

But ultimately the argument is based, like all traditionalist interpretations on the issue, on scripture. The principle sources are the following hadiths of the Prophet:


Azzam cites the Hadth (Sahih al-Jmi al-Saghr, 1624) : , Azzam, Introduction., 12. Though loathed by Satan (Introduction, 12) the muhjirs reward is three abodes in Paradise (Introduction, p.13).
49 50

David Cook, Boko Haram: A Prognosis, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, December 16, 2011. in northeastern city, Reuters, 26 July 2009, http://www.

Ardo Hazzad, Nigeria clashes kill over 50 reuters.com/article/newsMaps/idUSTRE56P24N20090726.


Olajide O Akanji, The politics of combating domestic terrorism in Nigeria, in Wafula Okumu and Anneli Botha (eds), Domestic terrorism in Africa: dening, addressing and understanding its impact on human security, Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, 2009, 60.
52 53 54

Dan Fodio, Usman. . Dan Fodio, The Exposition. Shihb al-Dn Ab Bakr al-Qastilln, Al-Irshd al-Sri li-Sharh al-Bukhr: .

Boko Haram Ideological background 28

Emigration will not stop until repentance ceases and repentance will not cease until the sun rises in 55 the West. I am not responsible for any Muslim who stays among polytheists and Anyone who associates with a polytheist and lives with him is like him .
57 56

And the famous Qurnic passage which Dan Fodio himself make reference to:
As for the Book [the Qurn], there is the word of Allh: Surely those whom the angels cause to die while they are wronging themselves, the angels will say, In what circumstance were you? They will say. We were weak in the earth. The angels will say. Was not Allhs Earth spacious, so that you might have emigrated in it? As for such, their abode will be hell. The commentators of the Qurn have said, And in this verse is a proof of the obligation of emigrating from the land of the kuffr. Jall al-Dn Abd al-Rahmn al-Suyt said in [his commentary] at-Takmila, explaining the meaning of the Words of Allh wronging themselves, [to mean], by remaining among the unbelievers and 58 neglecting the command to make hijra.

This standpoint on hijra, as a means of avoiding the polluting contact with non-Muslims, is a wellestablished orthodox Islamic doctrine. Identifying the threat: modernity For radicals whose purification message is construed as protecting their faith and culture from attack, the act of enmity does not lie exclusively in acts of aggression. Enmity may also involve acts of omission: the failure to ensure the Islamic propriety of human society. In 2002 the world community was made aware of a coming clash when the scheduled holding of the Miss World contest played to the perceptions of traditionalist Muslims that the Islamic character of their society was coming under threat, and the response inter-religious riots in which over 200 people were killed, many houses of worship torched, and a fatwa calling for the beheading of a Nigerian journalist for blasphemy59 evidenced the fertile ground in which Boko Harams radicalism would embed itself. Indeed, on May 4 2012 Boko Haram referenced this very incident in a statement explaining their attack on the ThisDay newspaper offices:
because the paper was used in dishonouring our prophet, Mohammad during a beauty pageant in Kaduna in November 2002 ... This lady that committed this crime, the judgement on her is to be killed at any opportunity; and the media house is also supposed to be driven out of existence whenever there is a chance to do so.

But if the above incident is a single, unlikely to be repeated, false step, the Amina Lawal case pointed to a much more deeply rooted conflict. In March 2002 a Shara court in Funtua sentenced Amina Lawal to death by stoning for adultery and for conceiving a child out of wedlock. On September 2003 the sentence of death by stoning for adultery was overturned by a five-judge panel of Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal. However, for conservative Muslim opinion the impression left was that this

Related by Abu Dwd on the authority of Muwiyyah. And according to Ibn Abdu-s-Salaam: ( Emigration will be obligatory at the end of time just as it was obligatory at the beginning of Islam.)

The context is the Prophet hearing of the deaths of Muslims resident among polytheists as a result of a raid: Some people sought protection by having recourse to prostration, and were hastily killed. When the Prophet heard that, he ordered half the blood-wit to be paid for them, saying: I am not responsible for any Muslim who stays among polytheists. (Sunan Abu Dad: Book 14, Hadth 2639).
57 58 59

(Sunan Abu Dad: Book 14, Hadth 2781). Dan Fodio, The Exposition. The Qurnic verse cited is: Srat al-Nis (IV), 97.

The blasphemy consisted of the journalist Isioma Daniel suggesting, in an editorial, that the Prophet Muhammad would probably have chosen one of his wives from among the contestants, had he been alive to see it.

Boko Haram Ideological background 29

was due to outside, un-Islamic pressure. Building on such perceptions, Boko Haram diagnosed that the problem was the lack of public consciousness of how the structures political and intellectual of society are warring against Islam. Again, the perception is not unique to Boko Haram, since their standpoint responds to some specific ideological prerequisites set down by such figures as the Egyptian ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood Sayyid Qutb, and his brother Muhammad Qutb, who diagnosed colonialism of the mind as the chief danger posed by the West. This danger was
the diversion of Muslims from holding to their Islam which is the most dangerous thing the enemy has perpetrated. And they have succeeded in this. This is what we might call the intellectual onslaught or the psychological attack or what you will. This is what we are suffering f rom the most today, even if 60 we are able at least at some points to resist the military, economic or political onslaught.

This issue of the claimed assault by the arrogant on the cultural front resonates deeply in the mindset of the Muslim world, and it forms the backdrop to the deep rebellion that Islamist ideology embodies wherever it manifests itself. A good illustration of this is the posting on Boko Harams one time website www.yusufislamicbrothers of the essay Islam and Islamic Ideology by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
The West, in its all-round offensive, has ... targeted our Islamic faith and character. In the light of its stocks of scientific tools that everyone needed, the West undertook the massive and persistent export of laxity and disregard for religion and ethics to us ... Indubitably, this ethical quagmire will, in not too-distant a day, engulf the present Western civilization itself and wipe it out totally. At the present juncture, the world of Islam is in a calamitous condition because of this hostile onslaught ... In studying the external factors that have led to the present condition, I believe that the assault by the arrogant on the cultural front is most effective ... This condition is incompatible 61 with Islamic dignity and far removed from remedies to the pains and grief of the Muslim ummah.

The intellectual onslaught is a central feature of the programs of all radical Islamic groups in Nigeria that make claims to an ideology, and accounts for the focus of Boko Haram in targeting wide-ranging aspects of modernity including contemporary systems of education. It will therefore be useful to take a look at the role of education in the trajectory of radicalisation in Nigeria. Education in northern Nigeria Analysts of Boko Haram tend to point to shortcomings in the forms of education in the region. They highlight the existence of two parallel forms of education: the Qurnic school (madrasa) education and boko (western/modern book) education. In the traditional Qurnic schools that equate to primary education pupils learn chapters of the Qurn through repetition. There is often no syllabus, as the entire Qurn is considered as the syllabus. The lessons offered to students are therefore often of a very basic standard. It is estimated that up to 10 million mendicant Almajiri62 students attend these schools, travelling from teacher to teacher, and these vulnerable youth are considered by some to form the social roots of such groups as the Maitatsine and Boko Haram, although the evidence for this is not conclusive. For in addition to these schools providing a very basic level of Islamic training there are also wellorganised Islamic schools designed to impart a more comprehensive Islamic education to those

Muhammad Qutb: ( The Struggle Between Western and Islamic Thought), Minbar al-Tawhd walJihad, n.d. 7.

H.A. Khamenei, Islam and Islamic Ideology, http://www.islamicmovement.org/old/ideology.htm and posted on the Boko Haram website http://www.yusufislamicbrothers.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/there-is-no-authority-except-that-of.html Friday 17 June 2011.

The term comes from the Arabic word al-muhjir migrant.

Boko Haram Ideological background 30

who have already gone through the boko education. Observers have pointed to the role of the Yan Izala movement in improving the quality of education within the framework of Islamic tradition and allowing for elements in its Islamic syllabus that answer to the needs of contemporary society. This twin education issue, it should be said, is not unique to Nigeria. Islamic education across the Muslim world wrestles with this same twin-track phenomenon. The problem is that in the Muslim world the nature of education and the nature of knowledge have not been resolved. Is the accumulation of knowledge an endeavour undertaken by mortals, by themselves, through discoveries affected by themselves? Or is it a process of uncovering through a pious, assiduous discovery of the Divine Will? Is knowledge a finite body of data to be ingested assiduously, or is it an attitude of mind? This is the fundamental difference. Modern western education follows the latter course, seeking to inculcate habits of analysis, questioning and promoting the employment of doubt. In traditional Islamic education, on the other hand, the concept of doubt is considered inappropriate, since Islam is seen to be the origin of knowledge, and the teacher does not see his role as one of inculcating doubt, but rather of inculcating certainty, the certainty of absolute truth. Since this knowledge ultimately has a divine origin, the student has merely to ingest the words of the teacher often literally in the sense of rote learning of Qurnic texts in Arabic. One either knows these absolutes, or one does not. Such an attitude breeds loyalty to persons, to groups, to doctrinal / ideological standpoints in the face of contradictions from daily experience. Such a perception accounts for the ambiguity if not hostility towards western, modern systems of education which makes entirely different demands on the intellect. Western education for as long as it remains un-Islamized insofar as it competes with the premise of Islamic certainty, must therefore be a priori faulty, and can only lead to an estrangement from the Truth. Therefore, far from being a problem of lack of proper Islamic education, the nature of traditional Islamic education in itself, in its most authentic form (which all Muslim reform organizations seek to establish) provides the justification for erecting barriers to knowledge transfer. The Yan Izala experience of education is an example of this dilemma, and of the contradictions that are inherent in negotiating this twin-track approach to knowledge. Despite its efforts to redress the education gap it has suffered from internal weakening as the younger generation that has passed through this system has discovered that the modern Islamic education offered by these Yan Izala schools (or sponsored university education in Saudi Arabia) has not enabled them them to find employment. Another group, the Saudi-funded al-Muntad al-Islm (Islamic Forum) organization headed by Jafar Mahmud Adam, started to develop a network of modern schools combining Islamic and Western education, but came up against stiff opposition not only from the leading representatives of the Sufi orders but also from radicals who rejected boko education even if this were offered by a conservative Muslim state such as Saudi Arabia. As in the Middle East, the educational sector in northern Nigeria particularly at its tertiary level provides the arena of tension between conflicting starting points on the nature of knowledge, so that university campuses are now marked by Islamic radicalism which in turn is creating hotbeds of extremism. Many fundamentalist leaders and groups have roots in these tertiary institutions and maintain strong ties to them. The problem of education modernising, or merely westernising? Following the standpoint typified in Muhammad Qutbs statements above, the focus of the Boko Haram sect is to treat anything that can be labelled western as incompatible with Islam. Western influence on Islamic society, whether it be conventional banking, taxation, jurisprudence, civic and government institutions, and particularly western education according to Boko Haram is the cause of the faiths current weakness.

Boko Haram Ideological background 31

The equation being made is that the education system is diverting Muslims from authentic Islam, a position that finds its justification in their eyes by the enthusiasm expressed by heterodox Muslim groups, such as the Ahmadiyya, for western education as a means to break the monopoly of Sunni Islam. However, the conundrum of this position has led other members of the group to clarify, in the face of media focus on Boko Haram as anti-education, on the broader implications of their opposition to western influence as transmitted through the education syllabus. After Muhammad Yusufs death Mallam Sanni Umary voiced his objection to the caricature:
Boko Haram does not in any way mean Western education is a sin as the infidel media continue to portray us. Boko Haram actually means Western Civilisation is forbidden. The difference is that while the first gives the impression that we are opposed to formal education coming from the West, that is Europe, which is not true, the second affirms our belief in the supremacy of Islamic culture (not education), for culture is broader, it includes education but is not determined by Western education. In this case we are talking of Western ways of life which include: constitutional provision as it relates to, for instance, the rights and privileges of women, the idea of homosexuality, lesbianism, sanctions in cases of terrible crimes like drug trafficking, rape of infants, multi-party democracy in an overwhelmingly Islamic country like Nigeria, blue films, prostitution, drinking beer and alcohol and many others that are opposed to Islamic civilisation.

The focus of Boko Haram is therefore more correctly upon those who operate within western-style frameworks and institutions or who are in some way representatives of western culture or even westernized people or westernized elites. But the issue of education is an important focus nonetheless for Boko Haram, in that what is being taught in the education syllabus is very much the issue. As Abubakar Shekau reiterated in his January 11 2012, Message to Jonathan:
Everyone knows there are things that Allah has prohibited in the Qurn that is being taught in the western educational system,

and in his explanation of the position of Boko Haram, he stated:

We are not fighting Western education itself, what we are opposed to are the various un-Islamic things slotted into it and the system upon which the study of Western education is rested. These are the reasons why we say its not permissible to study it.

Over the course of the conflict Boko Harams position on education has, however, been consistent or indeed has hardened, judging from sentiments voiced in a video released by Shekau following the gunning down of 29 students at a school in Yobe province on July 6 2013:
Teachers who teach Western education? We will kill them. We will kill them in front of their students, and tell the students to henceforth study the Qurn ... We are going to burn down the schools if they are not Islamic religious schools for Allah ... We are going to burn all schools, they are schools 63 purposely built to fight Islam..

From adopted positions such as this, and the fact that almost the entire educational system and its contents relating to socio-political and economic aspects of life, or to academic activities, emanated from the West, the whole of this educational system (which in the Hausa language is referred to as boko) came to be identified as a western, Islamically inauthentic, importation. Education is either to be shaped within an Islamic framework, or it is to be rejected outright. Conversely the products of that culture, if they are not perceived to carry with them an ideologically corrupting influence on Islam, are exempt:


Monica Mark, Boko Haram leader calls for more schools attacks after dorm killings, The Guardian, July 14 2013. It should be noted, however, that some voices in Boko Haram have denounced the killing as the work of others.

Boko Haram Ideological background 32

Guns are not products of Boko (non-Islamic education)... we also can make guns, we even made and used gunsWe get them from where we get them. God said we should get them (weapons), the Holy Prophet said we should get them.

Shekau, in the same Message to Jonathan elaborated further:

We have not prohibited anything, there is nothing we have forced on anyone, the only thing we asked for is to come and follow the ways of Allah, that is how we can live peacefully, that is when we can have peace of mind, that is how Allah has said, if we do not do that, we wont have peace of mind, that is what we said.

The focus on western educational institutions boko as institutions of contamination and therefore as something forbidden harm to Muslims, whether in the form of Nigerias secular school system, or Yan Izalas superficially Islamized version of it, is therefore not some manifestation of parochialism. Behind the statements of Boko Haram spokesmen, and buttressing their views, lies an entire school of Islamic thought. Muhammad Yusuf, for instance, had studied at the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia where he came across the type of thinking espoused in the Saudi Arabian Wahhabi scholar Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayds work: The Secular, Foreign and Colonialist Schools: Their History and Dangers.64 The introduction to this work gives a flavour of the standpoint:
The life of the Muslim nation over the last 1300 years was based on the principle of al-wal walbar, (loyalty and disavowal) loyalty towards Islam and the Muslims and disavowal of disbelief and the infidels, and on the principle and love and hatred for Allahs sake a love for Islam and the Muslims and hatred for disbelief and the infidel. Between these and the infidel there is a barrier of faith ... It is no wonder that they should greet with refusal that which Islam refuses, in addition to 65 what it rejects and destroys its existence. One of these things being refused are foreign, colonial, evangelisation schools imported by Christian propaganda missions for the purpose of sinking their colonial claws into the body of the Islamic nation. The first step made in preparation for this was the rise of self -colonisation: rational, intellectual and cultural colonialism through education starting from Kindergarten, and expanding to the education of girls, the spread of schools, to higher education in colleges and universities, and the intensification of their expansion in Muslim countries.

However, this work does not confine itself to opposing the Christian missionary legacy in schools as an administrational element, but extends to the effect of these schools in destroying the Islamic consciousness:
If a people adopts an imported education system based on a belief other than their own, or ethics which are not their own, it leads to results that are reflected in belief and ethics, in politics and society, in mindsets and deviations that conflict with those upon which his own in faith, belief and behaviour are built, leading to the shaking of ones belief and to apostasy in thought and religion. The life of the nation descends into divisions and fragmentations, to clashes and conflicts An imported education system works against the rock of unity and society, splitting it up into state of anarchy and conflict that is difficult to control, so that it all becomes the beginning of the end.

Abu Zayd also elaborates on how western education has historically affected the Islamic world:
The Christianizing school which opened in Istanbul in the year 1863 lead to a movement of rebellion against the Ottoman state under the leadership of the atheist, secular and westernised leader Atatrk ... This spelt the destruction of the Islamic state.

Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayd l Ghayhab: :( The Secular, Foreign and Colonialist Schools: Their History and Dangers). 1st Ed. 2000. Available for download at http://www.saaid.net/book/open.php?cat=83&book=349 .

For an explanation of the doctrine of al-wal wal-bar, a doctrine which is most important for the understanding of Islamist radicalism, see below, Annex: Al-Wal wal-Bar.

Boko Haram Ideological background 33

Indeed, this work has served as the theological basis for his rejection of a natural science-based (Western and secular) view of the world which has come to mark out the statements of Boko Haram. (For more detail on the issue of the incompatibility of western education as understood by Boko Haram, see below: Annex the Islamic doctrinal literature on western education). Despite some high-profile attacks and threats of attacks on instructions of education (leading at one point to Maiduguri University declaring in July 2011 that it would cease activity) Boko Harams primary focus, in conformity with the broader Salafist movement, is with content. Boko Harams epistemological rebellion The focus of their objections is more than the risk of Muslims being misled into conversion to Christianity, or even the risk of Muslims absorbing the Wests libertarian characteristics, but rather that they could be misled into accepting false conceptions of knowledge itself. During his interrogation in 2009 Muhammad Yusuf outlined the position of the group. Answering the question posed that Allah said in the Qurn iqra (read), that people should seek knowledge, his response was:
Thats correct, but not the knowledge that contravenes the teachings of Islam. All knowledge that contradicts Islam is prohibited by the Almighty ... sihiri (sorcery or magic) is knowledge, but Allah hath forbidden it; shirk (Polytheism or sharing or associating partners to Allah) is knowledge, but Allah has 66 forbidden it; astronomy is knowledge, but Allah has forbidden it.

What makes this rebellion different in substance from anything else that Nigeria has encountered, is that Boko Harams rebellion is not defined by political, territorial or economic pre-occupations, nor by the reversal of colonial policies as far as they touch on these issues, so much as by the motivation to reverse the occupation and colonialism of the mind, the derailment from an Islamically authentic trajectory which its adepts claim to have taken place. And what makes the argumentation all the more intractable is that, in essence, the derailment occurred not in recent history, but during the Middle Ages, for Boko Haram looks to a pre-modern mental universe. Voices of this derailment can be heard in some of the pronouncements of the Boko Haram leadership pronouncements which many analysts have failed to accord their true significance. For example, in a state security interrogation, Muhammad Yusuf proclaimed: All knowledge that contradicts Islam is prohibited by the Almighty. What did he mean by this? What kind of knowledge might this be? In an interview with the BBC just before his death in 2009, Yusuf clarified his position:
There are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam. Like rain. We believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain. Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism.

This is not the individual delusion of a half-educated youth, but the consistent reflection of an epistemological position of considerable authority and pedigree, albeit an anachronistic one in the contemporary era. His explanation of the western conception shows his familiarity with the scientific explanation for rain, but he goes on to state that he must reject it for religious reasons.67 These reasons are Islamically sound for a conception of Islam that seeks its soundness exclusively in Islamically authentic doctrines which is what Boko Haram claims it is doing. In these respects Muhammad Yusuf shows his strong affiliation to Salafism of the Wahhabi variety, since his cosmological beliefs can be paralleled in the text of Wahhabi fatws, such as the fatw of
66 67

The interview is available on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePpUvfTXY7w R. Reilly, Causes of Rain and Sources of Violence in Nigeria, The Catholic Thing, January 14, 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 34

former Grand mufti of Saudi Arabia Ibn Bz: F Jaryn al-Shams wa-Sukn al-Ard wa-Takfr Man Khlaf Kalmah (On the Motion of the Sun and the Stasis of the Earth and on Declaring as Infidel Anyone who Opposes His [i.e. Gods] Words) and that of Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Uthaymn: AlAdilla al-Qurniyya al an al-Shams hiyya allat Tadr hawla al-Ard wa-Laysa al-Aks (The Qurnic Proofs that it is the Sun that Revolves around the Earth and not Vice Versa). The issue of the origin of rain brought up by Muhammad Yusuf has much to do with the explanation given by the Qurnic verse: We send the fecundating winds, then cause the rain to descend from the sky, therewith providing you with water. [Sura XV,22]. As for Darwinism, there is a fast growing industry of work by Muslims geared to refuting the theory.68 The problem is that the verses of the Qurn which touch on scientific matters, that is, on the physical universe, match with Aristotle and with the Ptolemaic geocentric theories of the world or, in the field of medicine and the origins of life, with Galen (particularly in theories of embryology) theories which had become established almost 1,000 years before the Qurn appeared. Subsequently all these theories have been disproved or substantially altered by modern scientific observation. However, the implications of calling the Qurns knowledge into question are religiously weighty, and therefore the solution to this conundrum has been searched for either by having recourse to the argument of the Qurn featuring metaphorical language on these issues or, more troublesomely, by denying the validity of modern science altogether (generally employing the argument of the unsafe, false human origins of scientific knowledge). Boko Haram, as a constituent sub-section of traditionalist Islam, has clearly taken the second path. And since this is a characterising feature of the Boko Haram rebellion, it is worth examining at length the argumentation on dismissing modern epistemology and the social and political implications of this dismissal, since this will be of major importance in the approach taken to de-radicalisation. The tawhd of knowledge As much as the Islamic pre-occupation is with tawhd (exclusive one-ness) in the matter of theology and the nature of God (in contradistinction to the common Muslim conception that Christianity has compromised this monotheistic unity with the doctrine of the Trinity) the tawhd pre-occupation also extends to the physical universe. There can only be one force not a Prime Mover in the sense of an initial Agent that is the cause of all things but a single, direct force that is the cause of each and everything that initiates, moves, or reacts, at every moment, in every place. If, on the other hand, you accept that rain comes from the evaporation of water due to the effect of the sun, are you not suggesting that the sun is the cause of rain? Is this not usurping the role of God as the cause? What makes an arrow propel through the air to hit the target? Is it not God who propels it from first to last, or are we to believe that it is propelled by some force of physics and caused by the release of tension from the energy stored up by an archer when he pulls the string of his bow? If it deviates on its course, is this due to Gods momentary intervention, or merely the effect of another rival god, the force of nature in the shape of air currents acting on its trajectory? For this is the dilemma: If God is not the cause of everything, can He be considered omnipotent? In other words,
If God does not directly cause the rain or the flight of the arrow and instead these are caused by intervening natural forces (secondary causes in technical philosophical terms), are not those natural


The most notorious being Harun Yahya, author of the glossy Creationist encyclopedia: Atlas of Creation. There are, however, some rare cases of Islamists who have accepted the theory after taking the trouble to study it. See, for example, Inayat Bunglawala, Darwin and God: Can they co-exist? The Guardian, July 3 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jul/03/darwinismmuslimscientistsha .

Boko Haram Ideological background 35

forces acting in competition with God? If A must cause B in the physical world (as in condensation 69 causing rain), does this not exclude God or at least limit his freedom?

The claim to such knowledge is surely therefore blasphemously pretentious in the eyes of Boko Haram. The term for this epistemological position is Occasionalism70 and it should be noted that this is standard Asharite doctrine the doctrine that predominates in Sunni Islam. This is the point of Muhammad Yusufs statement, which one should take seriously in order to understand fully the nature of the rebellion of Boko Haram and like-minded groups that are wrestling with the implications of modernity. In fact the issue of Islam and modernity is a widely debated topic in the Islamic world. Consider the comments of the American Muslim Shaykh Nun Ha Mim Keller:
Whoever believes in this causality (as virtually all evolutionists do) is an unbeliever ( kafir) without any doubt ... A Muslim should pay careful attention to this point, and distance himself from believing either that causes (a) bring about effects in and of themselves; or (b) bring about effects in and of themselves through a capacity Allah has placed in them. Both of these negate the oneness and soleness (wahdaniyya) of Allah. To ascribe efficacy to anything but His action ... is to ascribe 71 associates to Allah (shirk).

This statement eloquently represents the dilemma which a group such as Boko Haram is facing, the epistemological revolt against a modernity which they feel Islam has had no part in shaping. It is, as the Tunisian intellectual Lafif Lakhdar explains, the narcissistic wound of a society which has never taken part, at any stage, in the production and direction of this modernity. Boko Haram is an embodiment of this wound, and has merely expressed the dilemma ineptly. As Nigerian intellectual Muhammad Qaddam Sidq Isa underlines,
I believe Boko Haram would have been effective had they focused on enlightening their audience and alerting the public on those so-called Boko [i.e. western] theories, which are not in tune with Islamic principles ... After all, all over the world there are individual and institutional initiatives by various Muslim individuals and organizations aimed at refining the contents of knowledge from wrong 72 theories particularly in natural and social science fields.

The implications of the religious undermining of the cause-and-effect relationship that underpin the fields of natural science and all science are not merely academic. They have real, bloody consequences. For if there is no natural cause-and-effect order in the world, no rational, reasonable order, but instead everything is subject to Gods will irrespective of this order (on the grounds that belief in this order would impinge upon His omnipotence), then there is no naturally based order to support moral behaviour either. On what grounds, this argument runs, should reasonableness become the standard for what is moral and immoral? How are mere humans to decide this? For what appears to the individual as moral and justified, or immoral and to be condemned on the basis purely of his view of the world or what is logically right or wrong, has no value. All that does have value is what the omnipotent God has so ordered. And how do we know what God has ordered? through reading His words as
69 70

R. Reilly, Causes of Rain and Sources of Violence in Nigeria, The Catholic Thing, January 14, 2012.

Occasionalism is the belief that in the natural world, what is perceived as cause and effect between objects is mere appearance, not reality. Instead, only Allah truly acts with real effect; all seemingly natural observances of causation are merely manifestations of Allahs habits (not rules, since He may change them at any time), for Allah simultaneously creates both the cause and the effect according to his arbitrary will.
71 72

Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Islam and Evolution, a letter to Suleman Ali, 1996. http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/evolve.htm

Mohammad Qaddam Sidq Isa, To be fair to Boko Haram, Daily Trust, 23 December 2011. http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/index.php/opinion/28369-to-be-fair-to-boko-haram . The author goes on to argue that Islam is the only religion that boasts of divine principles of various scientific theories, which can never be contradicted by any substantiated scientific finding and points to the work of the US headquartered International Institute of Islamic Thought which proudly adopts Towards Islamization of Knowledge and Reform of Islamic Thought as its mission and slogan ... Its office in Nigeria ... is within the premises of BUK old campus.

Boko Haram Ideological background 36

revealed in the Qurn and the Hadith. If it is not there, there is no instruction, no guidance to be had. An individual, on the other hand, cannot make his own deduction based on what he feels is right or wrong, or by judging from his own human experience, but all must rather be based exclusively on what the Text indicates, or on what certain scholars have deduced the Text would indicate by analogy from what the scholar can see written down in front of him. They need look nowhere else for justification. If the infidel are to be killed, they are to be killed just find the Text. We shall see this process at work in the way that violence inflicted upon unarmed noncombatants comes to be justified by Boko Haram, as it is by all militant Islamist groups (see below: The doctrinal position on non-combatant civlians). It is, in essence, a form of moral abdication, from the active exercise of an individuals conscience to the passive consultation of a written text. Therefore, as agents applying the will of God (as the Boko Haram members claim for themselves) the letter of the divine Text as they understand it not humanity, not human-determined reasonableness is what determines or justifies their actions. And this is how a group such as Boko Haram can square the circle of lethality with piety, of committing outrageous acts of violence upon innocent non-combatants with the gratification that comes from carrying out a divinely ordained mission, so that Abubakar Shekau could claim, with all the authority and certainty that religious sincerity affords him:
This work that we are doing is not our work, it is Allahs work, we are doing Allahs work.

Because there are, under this scheme, no objective standards of good or evil, even with God, and no place for the exercise of the rational faculties (since God Himself is not to be limited in His power through being comprehended rationally), the only method of determining and maintaining ethical behaviour is to establish, and enforce, a rulebook of divine authorship whose dispensations are not to be questioned, altered or adapted the Shara.74 This is why the reinstitution of the Shara is so critical to Boko Harams programme - there can be no other alternatives except a complete reconstruction of Islam itself in its pristine form, an Islam untainted by contamination from other systems of knowledge and morality.

Identifying the target: the obstacles to Islamization The formula for a Muslim polity is therefore drawn up and fixed. Due to the focus on the purported political model of al-salaf al-slihn there are no unambiguously Islamic alternatives of a more modern polity that can compete textually with the formula demanded by Boko Haram. It also follows that the political, legal and social structures existing in Nigeria, which are plainly not configured according to this formula, are standing in the way. In the mindset of radical Muslims, what would appear to other Muslims as elements that are neutral to the practice of Islam come to be perceived as obstacles to the proper, full practice of Islam. They are not organic growths capable of reform but actively constitute elements that would de-Islamize Muslims. It follows, under this logic, that they are manifestations of anti-Islamic aggression and carry within them the ammunition to destroy Islam in Nigeria. They must therefore be removed in their entirety. On August 9, 2009, shortly after the killing of Muhammad Yusuf, the following statement, replete with reference to this anti-Islamic aggression, was made by acting leader of Boko Haram Mallam Sanni Umaru:
73 74

Abubakar Shekau, speaking in a video message Message to President Jonathan, January 2012.

Cf the comments by the 18th scholar Muhammad al-Sans (1787-1859): It is impossible for the Most High to determine an act as obligatory or forbidden... for the sake of any objective, since all acts are equal in that they are His creation and production. Therefore the specification of certain acts as obligatory and others as forbidden or with any other determination takes place by His pure choice, which has no cause. Intelligibility has no place at all in it, rather it can be known only by revealed law Shara.

Boko Haram Ideological background 37

For the first time since the killing of Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, our leader, we hereby make the following statements... 1) That we have started a Jihad in Nigeria which no force on earth can stop. The aim is to Islamise Nigeria and ensure the rule of the majority Muslims in the country. We will teach Nigeria a lesson, a very bitter one; 2) That from the Month of August, we shall carry out series of bombing in Southern and Northern Nigerian cities, beginning with Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu and Port Harcourt. The bombing will not stop until Sharia and Western Civilisation is wiped off from Nigeria. We will not stop until these evil cities are turned into ashes; 3) That we shall make the country ungovernable, kill and eliminate irresponsible political leaders of all leanings, hunt and gun down those who oppose the rule of Sharia in Nigeria and ensure that the infidel does not go unpunished; 4) We promise the West and Southern Nigeria, a horrible pastime. We shall focus on these areas which is the devil empire and has been the one encouraging and sponsoring Western Civilisation into the shores of Nigeria; 5) We call on all Northerners in the Islamic States to quit the follower ship of the wicked political parties leading the country, the corrupt, irresponsible, criminal, murderous political leadership, and join the struggle for Islamic Society that will be corruption free, Sodom free, where security will be guaranteed and there will be peace under Islam; 6) That very soon, we shall stir Lagos, the evil city and Nigerias South West and South East, in a way no one has ever done before; It is either you are for us or against us

An onerous encounter between the forces of Good and Evil was prescribed by Boko Harams spokesperson Abu Qaqa in a press conference convened on March 20 2012 in the context of media talk of negotiations with the Nigerian government. To dismiss such talk, he referred to the forthcoming dismantling of the state as the completion of unfinished business, a natural jihad for all Nigeria that had been but temporarily interrupted by the colonial administration of the British:
We are calling on all Muslims in this part of the world to accept the clarion call and fight for the restoration of the Caliphate of Usman Dan Fodio which the white man fought and fragmented. The white man killed prominent Islamic clerics and emirs and also replaced the white Islamic flag with the 76 Union Jack. We want all our people to come together and restore our lost glory.

The cause is the restoration of lost glory through the restoration of the jihad. This, for Boko Haram, constitutes practicing ones faith unimpeded, a freedom that was sabotaged by the colonial powers. But how, Boko Harams critics ask, are Muslims being de-Islamized in contemporary, independent Nigeria, half of whose population is Muslim living under a constitution that guarantees the right that
Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and 77 observance


Boko Haram resurrects, declares total Jihad, Vanguard, August 14 2009. http://www.vanguardngr.com/2009/08/boko-haramressurects-declares-total-jihad/

Translation from phoned declaration to journalists, Andrew Walker, http://theratshead.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/boko-harams-abuqaqa-gives-press.html


The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chapter IV: Fundamental Rights, Section 38(1).

Boko Haram Ideological background 38

and moreover, a country that has made several concessions to Islamic particularities in law under a secular system? Shekau gave his reasons consistently:
We will not enter into any agreement with non-believers or the Nigerian government ...The Qurn teaches that we must shun democracy, we must shun western education, we must shun the Constitution ... the West is trying to destroy Islam and is working to tactically make the Qurn 78 insignificant and unimportant.

This answer of the radical mindset is the same in every arena of jihadism. It is encapsulated in the words of the late Yemeni-American ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki who, as mentioned earlier, dismissed the claims of the modern state to be guaranteeing religious freedom:
They allow a very restricted form of personal worship that does not truly accommodate for the comprehensiveness of Islamic practice ... The law of Allah is not recognized by the civil state and the Muslim is forced to accept rulings of courts of law that are contrary to the law of Allah. So, on the 79 whole, the modern civil state ... does not guarantee Islamic rights.

Under this argument the Muslims freedom of choice is being denied him, that is, by the existence (following the argumentation of Sayyid Qutb) of secular institutions that stand in the way of the unimpeded universal application of Divine Law. The imperative is therefore to remove these institutions that obstruct the Muslims freedom, and to
issue strikes against political forces that enslave Man to anyone other than to God that is, that place him under anything other than Gods Shara and dominion and which prevent him from hearing the 80 declaration and embracing the creed in a freedom un-curtailed by the authorities.

Institutions of the Nigerian state These political forces Abubakar Shekau consistently defined in a number of addresses. For instance, on January 11 2012 in his Message to President Jonathan he stated:
Everyone knows that democracy and the constitution is paganism and everyone knows there are some things that God has forbidden in the Qurn;

How is the Nigerian Constitution pagan? To understand this we have to familiarise ourselves with a new language of political relations, one that is built upon the vocabulary of faith. To the radical believer, there is Truth and there is Falsehood. Truth is not divisible, and there is only one vessel of that Truth (Islam). All else, every other faith, system, belief or practice is part of one and the same, equally indivisible, Falsehood. Religious pluralism therefore is part of that Falsehood, since it merely reproduces the practice of the Meccan polytheists in the era that pre-dated the coming of Islam. Under this conception the Tght81 (tyrant) oppressed the cause of Truth by permitting the symbiosis of many faiths. Islam came to remove that. If this situation reappears in the form of legislation on pluralism, then that constitutes merely a relapse into pre-Islamic paganism. While Boko Haram has made use of grievance arguments against the behaviour of the security apparatus of the Nigerian state, the hostility is essentialist, due to the perception that the security apparatus is a part of the Tght state that is impeding Islam. On July 6 2011, on the anniversary of the killing of Muhammad Yusuf, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zaid expressed the essentialist enmity behind the justification for violence based on the hostile actions of the state:
78 79 80

Shekau speaking on a video release: Nigerian extremist: Burn schools, kill teachers, Associated Press, July 13 2013. Anwar al-Awlaki, Inspire, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Fall 2010, p.35.

" " " " - - . . Malim, Section: .


The term originally denoted a pre-Islamic idol, and thence by extension any object or individual that prevented mankind from doing good. In jihadist thought it is used to denote the unjust ruler who is opposing Gods rule by ruling through a system other than that prescribed by God, and thus all heads of state of Muslim countries which are not governed by Shara law.

Boko Haram Ideological background 39

We as a group dont kill people who are innocent. What we are trying to tell people is that, in regaining the pride of the people in Islam, people have to endure in losing their properties and sometimes lives are also involved and this can fall on everyone, including us This is a government that is not Islamic. Therefore, all its employees, Muslims and non-Muslims, are infidels. This is a government which naturally fights Islam because Muslims were killed in Zagon Kataf, in Jos and Southern Kaduna but the perpetrators have never been prosecuted by the so-called existing laws of the land. Mosques were destroyed and punishment for this is death. Therefore, we have the right to kill them all. But if there are people who profess Islam and do not take part in Government or 82 Western Education, their blood and wealth are sacred unless otherwise [sic].

On August 1, 2012 Abu Qaqa restated the aim of the group:

We wish to strongly warn people to desist from collaborating with security agents. The fact is that we are the warriors of the Almighty and even the security forces are finding it difficult to contain our activities. We want to stress that in our struggle, we only kill government functionaries, security agents, Christians and anyone who pretends to be a Muslim but engage in assisting security agents to 83 arrest us.

This focus was again stressed on October 2nd 2012 when in a Hausa language video Shekau openly declared war on the whole apparatus of northern leaders and administrators:
This message is for those in authority (emirs, governors, and government officials). Wallahi you have no resting place again and no resting time again, either we are here or we are not.

The targeting of individuals associated with the secular state is typical of the radical jihadist programmes, and an examination of the pattern of killings reveals the consistency of the targets in each case those elements considered to constitute obstacles to their religiously oriented programme. The argumentation is the same in each arena of Islamist militancy. For instance, in his work AlDmuqrtiyya Dn (Democracy is a Religion)84 the Jordanian Salafi-Jihadist ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi frames the casus belli for armed opposition against the secular state in terms of a religious war against a false god. The argumentation runs as follows:
God is the only true Legislator Democracies impiously do not apply the law, the Shara, as given to mankind by God Worse still, democracies instead legislate other systems in place of this Shara This means they arrogate to themselves the functions of God Almighty They therefore invent and serve another god Democracies are therefore by definition polytheistic cultures, irrespective of the purported religious denomination of its collaborating subject peoples, Muslim, Christian or Jewish.

It is important to resist the temptation to see the above as metaphorical language. Al-Maqdisi, in common with Boko Haram, does not have recourse to metaphor for such core points of belief. In a reform movement as deep and thoroughgoing as theirs, there is no non-religious space in the discourse. The language is literally meant and faith is the filtering lens through which all phenomena, not merely doctrinal issues, are viewed. On April 24th 2011, Shekau distributed Hausa language leaflets that read:

Stay away from Christians, Boko Haram warns Muslims in Nigeria, Modern Ghana, July 6 2011, cited in David Cook, Boko Haram: A Prognosis, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, December 16, 2011.
83 84

I. Esene, We give thanks to Allah, Y! Daily, August 1 2012. Minbar al-Tawhd wal-Jihd al-Tawhd wal-Jihd, n.d. Translation by Abu Mohammad al-Maleki, November 2004.

Boko Haram Ideological background 40

We do not believe in any system of government, be it traditional or orthodox, except the Islamic system and that is why we are fighting against democracy, capitalism, socialism and whatever. We will not allow the Nigerian Constitution to replace the laws that have been enshrined in the Holy Qurn, we will not allow adulterated conventional education (Boko) to replace Islamic teachings. We will not respect the Nigerian government because it is illegal. We will continue to fight its military and the police because they are not protecting Islam. We do not believe in the Nigerian judicial system and we will fight anyone who assists the government in perpetrating illegalities.

Boko Haram has justified its attacks on gubernatorial candidates, clerics, the security services, election rallies and churches in precisely this language of faith. In his leaflets, Shekau went on:
We want to reiterate that we are warriors who are carrying out Jihad in Nigeria and our cause is based on the traditions of the Holy Prophet. We would never believe in any system of government apart from the one agreed by Islam because we believe that it is the only way that can liberate the Muslims. We do not believe in any system of government, be it traditional or orthodox. That is why 85 we are fighting against democracy, capitalism, socialism and the rest.

The logic of the rejection continues. Not only is the modern state as such illegitimate, so also is the international system that is built upon it; it must therefore be overthrown, wherever and in whatever form it manifests itself. This visceral rejection has taken the form of attacks on polio inoculation workers and beheadings of three South Korean doctors in February 2013, but the rejection works at the level both of national and supra-national institutions, in the systems of international law, aid agencies and human rights organizations (this has been the avowed position, for instance, of jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda). Such a perception lies behind the bombing on August 26 2011 of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. Abu Qaqa spelled out the rationale for this:
The UN represents unbelief ... it is the forum of all global evil ... 86 government whom we are fighting. and supports the Nigerian

Muslim collaborators When it reappeared in 2010, the violence of Boko Haram targeted those they considered to have assisted the authorities in identifying them and to have facilitated the July 2009 massacre of its members in Bauchi state. At the time the regional government had sought, and obtained, from the ulam a fatwa which served to license the authorities to kill Boko Haram members without recourse to the judicial process. The initial victims of this campaign of revenge were local traditional figures of authority, but the group soon issued regular threats that it would go after all those that aided the authorities in persecuting them, resulting in the exodus of a number of implicated ulam. The antagonism is, of course, more widely founded. The introduction of Shara law in the 12 northern Nigerian states was deemed insufcient by Boko Haram, and Muhammad Yusuf and his supporters argued that Muslim northern leaders were irredeemably tainted by their pro-western orientation. In early 2012 Abu Qaqa, while in custody, underscored the groups disdain for the countrys traditional Muslim hierarchy:
We had a grand plan to Islamize Nigeria starting with the North. We felt that a lot of Muslims are not practising the religion faithfully as they should. Part of the plan was to reduce the powers of the Sultan to traditional rulership functions only, while all religious authority would be vested with our leader who would be based in Yobe ... We believed there were so many things wrong with the 87 present arrangement of combining both religious and traditional authorities in one man.

85 86 87

Boko Haram gives conditions for cease-fire, Daily Trust (Abuja), April 25 2011. Ahmad Salkida, Face of UN House bomber, Blueprint (Abuja), September 5 2011. I. Emewu, Abu Qaqa, Kabiru Sokoto open up, Sunnews, March 8 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 41

Any regional emir that resisted them, he outlined, would live to regret the action. But the furor was directed not only at their activities in support of the Nigerian government and security apparatus, but also at their doctrinal positions they had adopted towards the group. Boko Haram demanded, and in some cases obtained, public apologies from prominent Muslim figures for actions such as levelling accusations against Boko Haram for being Khrijs. This is a particularly strong condemnation since it is associating the Boko Haram with a group whose sectarian excesses are deemed to have placed them beyond the pale of Islam.88 Once Boko Haram embarked upon its campaign of selective killings, the ulam realized their vulnerability and never again condemned the group publicly or repeated the accusation of Khrijism. Boko Haram also issued a warning that they would target anyone who publicly condemned its activities. The mounting toll of victims included Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Garbai the brother of the Shehu of Borno and one of Nigerias most important Islamic leaders, Ibrahim Ahmad Abdullahi Bolori, a prominent Maiduguri cleric who had criticized Boko Haram, and Ibrahim Birkuti, a cleric in southern Borno State who was also well known for his criticisms of the sect. This last figure is interesting in that his own doctrinal position is Wahhabist, and indicates the sweeping rejection of the Islamic establishment that Boko Haram represents. Indeed, the targeting of Muslims goes much deeper than active collaborators with the Nigerian state. Boko Harams vision of Islam in Nigeria differs sharply from even the most traditionalist vision (hence their rejection of the Yan Izala schools), on the grounds that while the reforms proposed by figures such as Abubakar Gumi may have scored successes in reform, the very starting point of their efforts to create a modern, yet still Muslim, northern Nigeria is contested by Boko Haram as illegitimate, since they merely constitute attempts to re-draw the doctrinal map according to intellectual trajectories deriving from the West. This purist identity position is an exceedingly valuable stiffener to Jihadist resolve. It justifies for them the taking of extreme actions, in the name of defending Islamic monotheism, not only against outright infidel, but those whose behaviour, while it may not constitute Unbelief, nevertheless weakens the faith. Fellow Muslims, Shekau declared,
understand us ... I have no objective than to help the religion of God, that is all I can explain... We follow the tenets of the Qurn and anybody that thinks he can fight God shouldnt think his prayer or praying in the mosque can save him! Any Muslim that cheats and hides under the cloak of religion, if we know such person, we wont hesitate to eliminate him. Yes, I am saying so because it doesnt take five minutes to kill just as were being killed. We follow the teachings of the Qurn. This is what God 89 has told me to explain. Allhamdulillah!''

But how can practising Muslims be targeted like this? What possible validating precedent can be found for Boko Haram that would allow them to maintain their doctrinal self-confidence and moral high ground? The answer lies in the historical trajectory of the most intransigent school of Islamic law, Hanbalism, which Boko Haram looks to for its authority. The key document is the infamous fatw by Ibn Taymiyya concerning the issue of whether those who declare themselves to be Muslims can be fought against. The context of the fatw90 (the encroachments of non-Muslims on Muslim

The term khrij means exiter or seceder, and refers back to an incident in early Islamic history in which there was a military stand-off on the question of the succession following the death of the Prophet Muhammad. A party of Als supporters obj ected to his conceding to the idea of arbitration since it implied that his authority was therefore not divinely ordained, absolute and non-negotiable. Remaining intransigent on the issue, this party exited (kharaj) the arena and engaged in warfare against the mainstream communities. From this is taken the term to refer to them: khrij (or khawrij in the plural).
89 90

Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan January 11 2012.

Ibn Taymiyya, : 28/542. The historical context is Ibn Taymiyyas fatw promulgated at the request of the Mamluk authorities who were alarmed at the advancing Mongol forces, headed by Mahmud Ghazan Khan, a Muslim. Ibn Taymiyya declared the Mongol Sultan an infidel, along with those Muslims who fought in army, on the grounds that the Mongols here were ruling by man-made laws (their traditional Yasa code) rather than exclusively by the Shara. This meant that they were living in a state of jhiliyya, or preIslamic ignorance, and were thus outside the fold of Islam.

Boko Haram Ideological background 42

lands) is constantly cited by Islamic radicals as constituting a direct parallel with the predicament of Muslims today a qualitative decline in the practice of Islam and the internal inroads made by an encroaching jhiliyya and they profess that they are acting upon the license granted them by the orthodox standpoint expressed by the Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya:
Every group of people that stops complying with any of the Shara laws ... it is obligatory to fight them until they comply with all of it ... for fighting is obligatory until the whole of religion is for Allah ... Any group of people that stops from some of the obligatory prayers, or stops fasting, or hajj or rejects the prohibition on spilling [Muslim] blood ... or drinking intoxicants or committing adultery or gambling ... or rejects fighting jihad against the Unbelievers, or imposing the jizya tax upon the People of the Book ... such a group is to be fought. For there are people who claim to be Muslims ... who make the twin confessions of faith [i.e. that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah] when it is required of them, and hold high esteem for the Prophet Muhammad, yet most pray only a little ... They obligate themselves with Islam, but do not fight those who leave it ... They do not fight the Unbelievers and do not impose upon the Christians and Jews the jizya and humiliation. They judge according to what has been placed for them, agreeing with Islam sometimes, and disagreeing with Islam other times ... Fighting against these types of people is obligatory by the consensus of the Muslims, and no one who knows the religion of Islam and knows its reality doubts this fact.

The implications of this fatw were developed further by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhb, the founder of the Wahhabist sect. He intensified the position of intransigence to the point that ordinary Muslims, despite their observance of the basic forms of the faith, may no longer be considered Muslims. By failing to observe all the implications of Islam they become kuffr (infidels). As such, having rejected Allahs true religion, these were worthy only of destruction. This is the same logic that stands behind the targeting of Muslims by the Boko Haram movement. Christian infidel While early on in the conflict ideas were entertained that Boko Harams references to Christians were made in the context of the conflict with the secular state, rather than a religious war as such, in a posting on the mansoorah website on 27 December 2010 following the church bombings in Jos, Boko Haram made its position clear:
A statement regarding Jos and Borno attacks In the name of Allah the mighty, Who has power over everything, Who made fighting the disbelievers an obligation until justice is established on earth. May peace and blessings continue to be upon the last messenger who wage (sic) jihad, the best of it. O Nations of the World, be informed that verily the attacks in Suldaniyya (Jos) and Borno on the eve of Christmas was carried out by us , Jama'atu ahlusSunnah Lidda'awati wal Jihad, under the leadership of Abu Muhammad, Abubakar bin Muhammad Shekau (May Allah preserve him), to start avenging the atrocities committed against Muslims in those areas, and the country in general. Therefore we will continue with our attacks on disbelievers and their allies and all those who help them, until Allahs deen [faith] triumph by His Grace and Will. O Muslims! Do not forget that Allah has enjoined us to make provisions for fighting the disbelievers, and for that we are reminding you that the disbelievers of the world are fighting Islam and Muslims. So you must stand and strive to protect your religion and life. With Peace Jama'atu ahlus-Sunnah 91 Lidda'awati wal Jihad is waging Jihad in the country called Nigeria.

The Christians were considered complicit, therefore, in the persecution of Muslims:


Islamist sect website claims Nigerian bombings, Agence France Presse, December 28, 2010.

Boko Haram Ideological background 43

We hardly touch anybody except security personnel and Christians and those who have betrayed us. 92 Everyone knows what Christians did to Muslims, not once or twice.

The association of Boko Harams policy with oppressive acts of Christians might appear to provide an interpretative logic to their actions undertaken against symbols and institutions of Christianity. But the evidence from the centre refutes this. During an interview after being taken into custody in March 2012, Abu Qaqa admitted:
The plans to attack churches and schools were not in reaction to any provocation. They had been there. You know why the churches had to go. Those schools we targeted, for instance, were not teaching the children according to the ways of the faith. So these were part of the initial plans to 93 allow only Islamic schools and wipe away all so-called secular schools.

That Christianity, and not just the actions of individual Christians was the target, was fleshed out fully in Shekaus Message to President Jonathan in January 2012:
My message to my Muslim brethren is that they should know that this war is a war between Muslims 94 and infidels. This is a religious war. Our hands are opened to anyone that has agreed to walk with us, but our hands are tied [i.e. closed] to anyone that says he wont follow Allah, even if they love us, Allah did not say we should love them back, but that we should persuade them and preach to them to love Allah, before we can walk together in honesty ... You Christians should know this, that the Prophet s (Jesus) followed Allah and he is a disciple of Allah, a servant of Allah and not an equal (replacement) of Allah. The religion you are practicing, Christianity, is not a religion of God. It is infidelity and has been prohibited by Allah, so therefore, what you are practicing is not a religion ... We shall fight with you in the way that the Islamic religion has allowed us to fight, which is why, as the head of this community I am telling you to repent, that is my first calling to you. All Christians should relax and repent, that is my calling to 95 you. This work that we are doing is not our work, it is Allahs work, we are doing Allahs work.

Six months later, in the aftermath of the bombings of churches that left almost 50 dead, Abu Qaqa laid out the conditions for peace:
Today Almighty Allah has given us victory against Christian Churches in Kaduna and Zaria which led to the deaths of many Christians and security operatives ... For peace to reign in the land, all Christians must convert to Islam. Allah has tasked all Muslims in Qurn chapter 9 verse 29 to continue to attack Jews and Christians who refused to believe in Him and His messenger, Prophet Muhammad.

The Qurnic reference in Abu Qaqas statement is to the famous verse in Srat al-Tawba:
Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.

This somewhat Quixotic conundrum of attempting a religious war in a state that counts half of its inhabitants as Christians, has led some to suggest a tactical blunder has taken place. As Dr. Aliyu Tilde suggests:
If I were a consultant to Boko Haram, I would have advised it against taking this measure on both religious and political grounds ... attacking Christians sends different messages, all negative to the image of the group ... One, some may think that the group is losing in its battle against the Nigerian authorities. Two, that attacking armless [sic] and innocent Christian worshippers could be interpreted
92 93 94 95

Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan January 11 2012. I. Emewu, Abu Qaqa, Kabiru Sokoto open up, Sunnews, March 8 2012. Islamist sect website claims Nigerian bombings, Agence France Presse, December 28, 2010. Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan January 11 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 44

as going for easy targets, instead of the difficult ones ...Thirdly, it may also be seen as a cheap way of conscripting the entire Nigerian Muslim community into the conflict after the group failed to earn its support. In a nutshell, it is a political blunder that it should not have ventured into. ... Attacking Christians does not solve any problem since it exposes Muslims to retaliatory attacks in the 96 communities where they are a minority.

Alternatively, others have seen a considered strategic reason for Boko Harams position: that their attempt is to make the country ungovernable by creating a state of war through the fostering of religious conflicts. According to a Nigerian journalist who has interviewed senior Boko Haram members:
It is a strategy by Boko Haram to bring the government to its knees by creating a war situation. They know that the most important area that can bring down law and order is religion. So they are attacking Christians. When the Christians decide to retaliate they dont know who is a Boko Haram 97 member, so Christians will just retaliate against Muslims and that will further polarize the country.

But such acts do not constitute the beginning and end of their programme.98 What is central to their motivation is the entirely consistent, richly documented doctrinal literature underpinning the Salafist-Jihadist ideology which leaves little room for deviation from an unequivocal position as regards the infidel. According to this material the imperative is divinely delineated, and the groups ultimate success is assured by obedience to the directives of the faith. It also explains what may appear to be some contradictory positions. Speaking in January 2012, soon after a Christmas Day bombing of a church that claimed up to 40 lives, Abu Qaqa insisted that the rights of the countrys 70 million Christians would be protected under the group's envisioned Islamic state, on the grounds that even the Prophet Muhammad lived with non-Muslims and gave them their dues. He pointed the finger at the true culprit:
Its the secular state that is responsible for the woes we are seeing today.

Muslims, on the other hand, are the true guarantors of religious freedom since, the somewhat unusual argumentation runs, Christians are at present being prevented by the secular government from making a true choice for faith. Sayyid Qutb best puts the case for this Islamic theology of liberation:
Islam never aimed to force people to embrace its creed, but the fact remains that Islam is not merely a creed. As we have said, Islam is a general call to liberate Man from enslavement to Man. So it aims at the outset to bring down regimes and governments founded upon a basis of the rule of Man over Man, the servitude of a human being to a human being. It then leaves individuals free truly free to choose the creed that they desire merely through their choice subsequent to the removal of 99 political pressure from them.

This political pressure is the impediment placed by the secular government before the full Islamization of the state. The political, legal and social primacy of Islam would remove these pressures, and they would apply to all. There are no exceptions, Abu Qaqa continues,
Even if you are a Muslim and you cant abide by Shara we will kill you. Even if you are my own father, 100 we will kill you.

96 97 98

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde, Discourse 338. The New Challenges of Boko Haram, January 16 2012. Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Salkida, Abuja, May 29 2012, cited in Spiraling Violence, p.51.

Such tactics could, theoretically, be linked with the Disruption and Exhaustion phase described by the al-Qaeda strategist Ab Bakr Nj in his work Idrat al-Tawahhush, (The Management of Barbarism), but the tactic is crude enough to be elaborated independently.

S. Qutb, Malim, Section: . Monica Mark, Boko Haram vows to fight until Nigeria establishes Sharia Law, The Guardian, January 27, 2012.


Boko Haram Ideological background 45

This is how the conundrum of religious freedom secured through the imposition of the rule of a particular faith is resolved. The evolving casus belli The evolution of Boko Haram follows the typical trajectory of militant Islamist groups: from a phase of progressively intensifying daw to sharply radicalising hijra, conceived of as following the pattern of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. From the position of ideological freedom provided by this hijra phase the new (or, in this case, renewed) Muslim community establishes the umma that administers itself according to the divine directives of the Shara, as detailed earlier. Again, it is useful to see its articulation in the writings of Sayyid Qutb. For the daw phase:
Islam must ... be free on the earth to bring down the current condition that is opposed to it, so as to make a general call both by the issuing of declarations and activism ... against political forces that enslave Man to anyone other than to God that is, that place him under anything other than Gods Shara and dominion and which prevent him from hearing the declaration and embracing the creed in a freedom un-curtailed by the authorities.

This period is illustrated by the first seven years of Boko Harams existence when its operations were relatively peaceful, and typically amounted to criticisms of northern Muslims for participating in what the group considered to be an illegitimate, non-Islamic state. Then, for the hijra / umma phase:
It should then set up a social, economic and political system that allows for a liberation movement 101 actually to take off following the removal of ruling forces.

As described earlier, not only is the modern state as such illegitimate, so also is the international system that is built upon it, its national and supra-national institutions, its systems of international law, its aid agencies and human rights organizations. An integral part of this phase of disassociation with the structures of jhiliyya (and one which equally emulates the sra of the Prophet) is the militant warfare required to establish the umma, defend it and expand it and that phase is the phase of the jihd.102 For Sayyid Qutb this stage is a self-evident follow-on:
Anyone who understands the nature of this faith from what has gone before will understand the inevitability of Islams liberty to act in the form of Jihad by the Sword alongside the jihad by 103 declaration .... Just as we could not call the jihadi Islamic movement a defensive movement , we cannot do other than change the understanding of the term defence to see it instead as defence of Islam itself. This defence is against all factors that shackle Islams freedom and impede its liberty of action. These factors are just as easily embodied in beliefs and conceptions as they are in political systems, all based as they are on economic, class and race barriers, such that predominated over the world at the time 105 of Islams rise, and forms of which predominate still in the current jhiliyya of the modern age!

101 102

S. Qutb, Malim, Section: .

To give just one example of how typical this thinking is, in his work Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet, Ayman al-Zawahiri interprets his own sra according to the pattern: the call for Shara in Egypt, the hijra away from the jhili apostate regime at Cairo to form vanguard groups and training bases, pending the exportation of jihd onto a global arena to strive for the establishment of the Islamic umma.
103 104

S. Qutb, Malim, Section: .

Sayyid Qutb is unequivocal about the legitimacy of aggressive jihad against non-Muslims. In the same passage he underscores that, Anyone who understands the nature of this faith ... will understand that this is not a defensive movement in th e narrow technical sense of defensive war understood today by the defeatists in the face of the pressure of present situation and the cunning attack of Orientalists to depict the movement of Jihad in Islam as some reactive, worldly liberationist movement...

S. Qutb, Malim, Section: .

Boko Haram Ideological background 46

The organicness of this position comes from the assumption that the most pressing religious obligation is to have all mankind recognize the truth of Islam. This means that the infidels who obstruct the progress of Islam are the ones who are responsible for the persistence of violence and the absence of world peace. It is they who force Muslims into taking these defensive measures to protect the truth of Islam. This organic trajectory is closely followed by Boko Haram, as becomes evident from a statement posted by Baba al-Hausawy on a website which the group constructed for themselves in 2010:
The people are asking questions on the things happening about the blessed Jihad we are performing. Whoever knows us is aware that we are Muslims striving to follow the Quran and the tradition of our beloved prophet (Hadith) based on the pure understanding of our pious predecessors with the leadership of the Ummah and our general Ummah. This government of disbelief and apostasy decided to get rid of us, they went on with their plan and killed those they were able to kill and arrested those they were able to arrest and placed the rest on wanted list. We were vetoed from performing our Religion after we were oppressed. And as such, it became an obligation on us to stand 106 up and perform Jihad.

The progression onto the jihd phase is therefore not conditional upon external pressures, but is an essential part of the reform paradigm that is being conscientiously followed:
identify the enemy and guard humanity from the threat of neo-jhiliyya clarify the nature of anti-Islamic enmity and the obstacles they are placing to full Islamization follow the Prophetic paradigm of daw followed by hijra diagnose the reason for failure: the missing obligation of jihad apply the Prophetic paradigm of daw followed by hijra followed by jihd and apply this solution.

The justification for violence Salvation through violence - The religious duty of Jihad One of the basic features of the jihadist mindset, and one which has important implications for counter-terrorism policy, is that it turns defeat and death into evidence of constant victory. The mujhidn are not fatally influenced by their performance on the field because, as far as they are concerned, this is a personal sacrifice for the sake of the collective Nation, and this sacrifice is therefore itself part of the victory. The more that fall on the field, the more suicide-martyrs that blow themselves up, the greater the evidence that God is on their side, and therefore every death, every martyrdom, is yet further evidence that they are winning. On January 11 2012, Shekaus Message to Jonathan spelled out this equation:
Anyone that cheats religion should not play with the cloth of religion, if we see any of such person we shall kill them I swear we shall kill them, killing them is nothing to us, it is like going for the 5 am morning prayers, and if they find us too they do kill us, but we accept this in good fate, they should even kill us more, Allah should let us be killed in his name, it is a great honour, that is what we are 107 looking for, Allah should let you kill us too, our desire is to kill and die and go to paradise.

The reward of paradise as a motivator for martyrdom has been the focus of much media commentary. There are, certainly, other more fleshy rewards, as detailed on the cell-phone of a Boko Haram suspect confiscated at the point of his arrest:
106 107

A.K. Ogori, Return of the Boko Haram, The Politico (Abuja), January 1 2011. Translation from the Hausa of YouTube video: Boko Haram declares war on Nigerian Christians, www.naijapals.com .

Boko Haram Ideological background 47

70 members of your family shall marry you [with] 72 virgins in paradise, [it] gives you a crown of respect, which even the prophet will be impressed with.

But the main aim is nonetheless to gain the favour of God:

Keep your soul in the green birds of paradise and your wish [will be] to return to the World and die as 108 he died because of the good blessings and reward you encounter after such noble last deed.

This last point is very significant. The struggle itself, the act of violence in the name of Islam, constitutes the strategic aim for it provides the badge of the warrior hero. Muhammad Farag, author of The Missing Obligation109, held that jihad was a salvific action of such central importance that Islam itself can be reduced to the question of whether or not Muslims fight.110 He saw jihad as a panacea for the Muslim world, and its abandonment as the principal reason for the lowliness, humiliation, division and fragmentation in which the Muslims live today. The action therefore becomes the purpose. Inflicting injury upon the enemy, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi asserts, is one of the purposes and goals of life for a Muslim. The Prophet himself, he maintains, held that this was one of
the great goals for which they were created, the greate st of which are: worshipping Allh Alone, and granting victory to His religion by inflicting injury upon the enemy. So for this reason the Muslim is 111 alive.

The permanence of the struggle is certainly key to the self-image of the mujhid. Boko Haram spokesman Musa Tanko put it succinctly in July 2010 in an interview to the media:
We believe what we are doing is divine worship and ideology cannot be defeated through 112 repression.

It could be argued that the doctrine of far ayn, the individual duty of the Muslim to wage jihad, implies that the life of the Muslim is conceived of as this permanent struggle. This is because expansionist jihad is a collective religious duty. If this is not carried out, the whole Islamic umma is held to be sinning. For Sayyid Qutb the struggle is certainly central to Islam:
Jihad is not something accidental to the particular period which witnessed the advent of Islam. It is a 113 permanent need, inherent in the nature of the Islamic faith.

According to the influential Al Qaeda ideologue Sayyid Imam (Dr. Fadl), this struggle is never-ending and is not waged from specific causes or by specific groups, for
[true] jihad is [a command that is] in force until Judgment Day, and jihad is not limited to any given 114 organization ... It is a law that is in force until the end of time.

108 109

Boko Haram: Bombers Promised 72 Virgins in Heaven, PMN News, December 6 2012.

Muhammad Farag, ( the Missing Obligation, or Neglected Duty), written in 1981. The work represents one stage on from Sayyid Qutb in the trajectory towards global jihad under Al-Qaida in that, doctrinally, he extends the source material for justification of violence beyond the Qurn to the Hadth literature. He goes so far as to posit Jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam, a fard ayn (compulsory religious duty) that must be satisfied directly and immediately.

It is not a modern equation; Ibn Taymiyya also evaluated the level of a given persons Islam with that persons being willing to fight for Islam. : Ab Muhammad al-Maqdis, ( Reflections on the Fruits of Jihad) Minbar al-Tawhd wal-Jihd, May 2004, p.57.
111 112 113

Aminu Abubakar, Nigerian Islamist sect threaten to widen attacks, AFP, March 29 2010.

Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Quran, vol.3, pg.281 (translated and edited by Adil Salahi & Ashur Shamis) United Kingdom: The Islamic Foundation, 2001. Interview with Muhammad Salh for al-Hayat (London), December 10, 2007: . . A typical commentary on a Salafist forum illustrates this permanence: Jihad will continue until the end of time, whatever period of time a person is in, there will always be Jihad happening. There is actually hidden wisdom behind it, but it

Boko Haram Ideological background 48

It is life-long, and the battle is only final as enacted in each mujhids final self-sacrifice, to achieve his final peace in the world after death. This is the message that Shekau delivered on April 13 2012:
You people of Government and security agencies are busy boasting and priding yourselves with the killings and attacks on us ... How we wish that Muslim faithful will sit down and ponder over the Qurnic verses, he will understand [that] any time that an unbeliever catches one or kills one, he will definitely laugh at the follies of such [an] unbeliever. We have given the assurance and have committed faith in God that nothing can be done to subdue us. With all glory to God, our divine desire is that all of us should be killed as martyrs on the path of God, so as to enable us be blessed with the rewards of Allah as promised in His holy book, al-Qurn ... We pray Allah to continue to support us on this mission and make us to continue in this mission with no purpose other than His worship. We have prayed that God should give us the privilege of being amongst those killed in the path of the struggle for the establishment of His dominion. I want the world to know that even if I was trampled upon, with my head pressed to the ground and people are beating are mobbing me, I still remain the exalted in the sight of Allah; If I am but a sincere believer ... Allah has said that He is the one allowing it to test our faith in Him, so that those that have professed faith in God will be able to know who from amongst them are truly the sincere believers. It is from all these arrests and killings of our people that we have witnessed in the recent times, we will 115 be able to know those who are of weak faith and those that are the true believers in Allah.

From the statements issued by their spokesmen, Boko Haram fighters are confident not only that their cause is divinely sanctioned, but the way they are conducting this cause is also according to the stipulations of the Book:
We only do it the way God wants it, for there is a way He has told us to fight, and there is a way He has told us not to fight, and all of this is in the Qurn, one in the srat Anfl, and the other in srat Muhammad, it is explained there, we have seen how God did it, we have seen how those before us 116 did it, Glory be to God, this is what has been laid on my heart to say to you. Glory be to God.

Shekaus reference to the Srat al-Anfl (the Chapter of the Spoils of War Qurn VIII) is a common one for radicals to make. This sra contains a number of broad directives issued by God to Muhammad and the Muslims on how to conduct themselves during warfare:
Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do. And if they turn away, then know that Allah is your Befriender - a transcendent Patron, a transcendent Helper! And know that whatever ye take as spoils of war, lo! a fifth thereof is for Allah, and for the messenger and for the kinsman (who hath need) and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if ye believe in Allah and that which We revealed unto Our slave on the Day of Discrimination, the day when the two armies met. And Allah is Able to do all things. [Qurn VIII, 3941] O ye who believe! When ye meet an army, hold firm and think of Allah much, that ye may be successful. (45) And obey Allah and His messenger, and dispute not one with another lest ye falter and your strength depart from you; but be steadfast! Lo! Allah is with the steadfast. [Qurn VIII, 45-46] If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember. And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them (their treaty) fairly. Lo! Allah loveth not the treacherous. And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah's Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of
might not be apparent to you right now, but the more you learn about Allaah and His existence, the more you will understand why certain things have been prescribed. Posted on November 12th 2009 on the Islamic Awakening forum: http://forums.islamicawakening.com/f18/jihad-relevant-for-present-past-30191/ .
115 116

Video address by Shekau posted online on April 12 2012. Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan January 11 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 49

(armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them. Whatsoever ye spend in the way of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged. And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, is the Hearer, the Knower . [Qurn VIII, 57-61] O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty steadfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred steadfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence. Now hath Allah lightened your burden, for He knoweth that there is weakness in you. So if there be of you a steadfast hundred they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a thousand (steadfast) they shall overcome two thousand by permission of Allah. Allah is with the steadfast. It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. [Qurn VIII, 65-67]

Shekaus reference to the Srat Muhammad is to the following verse:

Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). [Qurn XLVII,4]

The use of scriptural justification is not a Boko Haram innovation. Indeed, for Sayyid Qutb the Qurn itself is not a holy book like the Christian Bible, but rather a manual for action, approached as a soldier on the battlefield reads Todays Bulletin117. We have stopped everything apart from saying we should stay on the path of truth and peace and live right in the sight of God, Shekau claimed. Such a divinely sanctioned cause is naturally sure of the support of the divinity in their sacrifices and struggles:
Allah worked in His miraculous way, he has said that if you follow Him he will give you power, and this is what has happened, That is why Jonathan, you should know that this is beyond your power. It is not our doing but that of God. It is beyond you ... Before God created the earth, He knew what was going to happen and He has promised in the Holy Book that He will help His followers. So it is beyond your power. It is not us doing it all these things that you see are happening, it is God that that is doing them. Because you people have disregarded Him, because you people have refused to follow Him, because you people have abused (taken advantage) of Him, because you people have 118 made fun of His religion. That is why Jonathan, this is way beyond your power.

The divinely vouchsafed paradigm of daw hijra jihd set by the Prophet Muhammad himself is the ultimate guarantor of their success, and it is this deep lesson from sacred history that affords the Boko Haram mujhid his supreme confidence:
We are optimistic that we will dismantle this government and establish Islamic governance in Nigeria. Let the federal government and its agents do what they can; and we in return, will also do what we can. For the noble Prophet Mohammed was also tried and tested during the war of Uhud; he persevered and, at the end of the day, he emerged victorious. The fact is that, we dont have an element of doubt in our minds that one day, we will surely emerge 119 victorious from this onerous encounter.

117 118 119

See Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, p.13, Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1990 Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan January 11 2012.

Abu Qaqa speaking at a press conference in March 2012. Translation from phoned declaration to journalists, Andrew Walker, http://theratshead.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/boko-harams-abu-qaqa-gives-press.html

Boko Haram Ideological background 50

Morality, criminality and scriptural support In their firm belief that theirs is a divinely ordained mission, Boko Haram members can brush aside criticisms made by other Muslims (let alone non-Muslims) as to their ethical behaviour. This is because their acts, as they conceive them, are founded upon meticulous adherence to the scriptures. Against accusations of violating Islamic principles, Boko Haram justifies its activity not only in the language of faith, but with recourse to textual authority itself. As Shekau stated in April 2011:
We want to reiterate that we are warriors who are carrying out Jihad in Nigeria and our cause is 120 based on the traditions of the Holy Prophet.

In his Message to Jonathan eight months later Shekau gave explicit expression to the divine mission that Boko Haram is fulfilling:
To say we are not practicing religion, we are not bla bla bla, these are all your talk; we know what we have set our foot upon, what we have read, what [the] book of the Qurn we hold [says], Glory be to God ... We are only following God, and only on Gods commandments are we walking ... this work we are doing is a command from God, and everything we are doing is written in the Book of God, which we 121 are following.

Shekau went on to dismiss the criticisms levelled at the group:

As far as even saying we are a cancer, which is an imbecilic disease, No, we are not cancer and we are not a disease, and we are not wayward people with wicked intentions ... Everyone knows that the constitution is infidel. Everyone knows there are things that Allah has prohibited in the Qurn that is being taught in the western educational system. We have not prohibited anything, there is nothing we have forced on anyone, the only thing we ask for is to come and follow the ways of God, that is how we can live peacefully, that is when we can have peace of mind, that is how God has said, if we 122 do not do that, we wont have peace of mind. That is what we said.

He restated this position again in March 2013 in a video message denying the conclusion of a ceasefire agreement or having had any dialogue with the Federal Government. The charge of criminality was rejected, and indeed held to be an act of impiety against those whose cause was divinely sanctioned and who thus enjoyed the moral high ground:
We are telling the world that whoever kills any of our members in the name of being criminals would surely be avenged unless such person repents now ... We are workers in the vineyard of Allah. We are not out to cause destruction, but correct the ills of the society. And Allah is more powerful than all, 123 and He has the might.

However, for Boko Haram the totality of their rejection of the Nigerian state system, its laws and judiciary also has the advantage of allowing them leeway to commit acts that in any society would be regarded as criminal. For example, in July 2011 Abu Qaqa conceded to journalists that Boko Haram has carted away huge sums of money from three banks, but went on to explain that:
We took the measure because the mode of operations of the banks was not based on Islamic 124 tenets.

120 121 122 123 124

Boko Haram gives conditions for cease-fire, Daily Trust (Abuja), April 25 2011. Abubakar Shekau, Message to President Jonathan January 11 2012. Translation from the Hausa of YouTube video: Boko Haram declares war on Nigerian Christians, www.naijapals.com . N. Maram and H. Odiogor, Boko Haram: We did not declare ceasefire Shekau, Vanguard, March 4 2013. Hamza Idris and Yahaya Ibrahim, Boko Haram: Why we are attacking banks, Daily Trust (Abuja), July 14 2011.

Boko Haram Ideological background 51

This recourse to an alternative ethical scheme is granted them, as they see it, by the Qurn itself. In this respect the role of the scriptural texts is critical, since it immunises them from criticism from other Muslims and grants them resilience. It does this, effectively, in three ways: a) it identifies the Boko Haram specifically as a salvific religious mission; b) it not only portrays but understands its opponents in religious terms; c) it justifies its acts of violence through the language and citation of scriptural texts, the Qurn, the Sunna and the Sra (biography) literature. Recourse to scriptural texts is therefore not a matter of justification after the act but rather is pivotal to maintaining morale. It provides them with solutions to ethics-based challenge (such as the issue of what constitutes a civilian) by allowing them to turn it on its head and on this basis abdicate judgement to one founded upon textual authority. If an individuals independent moral judgement is a product of his imperfect human brain, they would argue, it follows that the exercise of making a decision based on such a moral case is a priori flawed. Shekaus statement after the murderous terrorist attack in Kanu in January 2012 indicates the logocentric moral universe he was operating in:
I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.

The doctrinal position on non-combatant civilians There are serious implications to this abdication as can be seen, for instance, in Boko Harams position concerning civilians caught up in acts of violence. Abu Zaids December 2012 statement mentioned above contained what appeared to be an acknowledgement of civilian inviolability:
What is holding us back is the innocent civilian population, but as soon as people stay clear from security agents we will launch a full-scale attack We as a group dont kill people who are innocent. What we are trying to tell people is that, in regaining the pride of the people in Islam, people have to endure in losing their properties and sometimes lives are also involved and this can fall on everyone, including us.

But there was also some ominous conditioning attached:

Mosques were destroyed and punishment for this is death. Therefore, we have the right to kill them all. If there are people who profess Islam and do not take part in Government or Western Education, 126 their blood and wealth are sacred unless otherwise [sic] .

As in other arenas of militant Islamist jihadism, the conditions concerning civilians inexorably harden as the struggle extends. At the present stage of the conflict the position on this important matter of civilian casualties remains at a crude level, one of visceral acts of revenge:
Our women and children have also been arrested ... They should know that they also have wives and children. We can also abduct them. It is not beyond our powers ... Soldiers raided an Islamic seminary in Maiduguri and desecrated the Qurn. They should bear in mind that they also have primary and 127 secondary schools and universities, and we can also attack them.

However, as the conflict broadens and other groups enter the fray seeking to learn from the mistakes of Boko Haram and attempting to nuance their message in order to retain sympathies and religious credibility, this issue will become a core focus of discussion. It will likely follow the

125 126 127

From a video message issued on 26 January 2012. Shekau leading Boko Haram from the shadows, Vanguard, January 28 2012. David Cook, Boko Haram: A Prognosis, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, December 16, 2011. Shekau, speaking in an audio message posted on YouTube on Friday 27 January 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 52

trajectory of argumentation on Islamic law taken by other groups, such as Al Qaeda. The typical course of the argumentation is as follows: On the one hand radical militants have to face Qurnic statements that appear to prohibit the practice of targeting civilians:
God does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes. God loves just dealers. [Qurn LX,8]

But the issue is complicated by conflicting starting points and selectivity on definitions. For instance: 1. What is it that constitutes innocent? 2. What constitutes a civilian, and is there a parity between Muslims and non-Muslims in this respect? 3. Are there circumstances that restrict the generality of the condemnation on actions that cause fatalities to the above? Since issues of Islamic legal propriety constitute the core pre-occupation of radical Islamist militants such as Boko Haram or those that take their place, counter-terrorism efforts will need to become acquainted with the potentials and limitations of the argument from Islamic law. 1) On the question of innocence: One tactic adopted by radicals is to attempt to establish a form of guilt by association. Sayyid Qutb used this when he argued for the culpability of Muslims who associate themselves, even peripherally, with a jhil (pre-Islamic, pagan) institution thus laying the groundwork for collateral Muslim casualties. Under this category fall those who fail to disassociate themselves from institutions or people who collaborate with the tght government. This was demonstrated in the August 10 2013 attack on the mosque at Konduga where the association with clerics who have condemned religious extremism was enough to render them targets. To recap Abu Qaqas August 2012 statement on the aims of Boko Haram:
We want to stress that in our struggle, we only kill Nigerian government functionaries, security agents, Christians, and anyone who pretends to be a Muslim but engages in assisting security agents 128 to arrest us.

Shekau also adduced this qualification when dismissing talk of a ceasefire in March 2013:
God knows that we dont kill unjustly except those that conspired against u s or those that directly fight us, or the government that is waging war upon Allah and His Prophet. We will continue waging 129 war against them until we have succeeded in establishing an Islamic state in Nigeria.

There is also an intensification and radicalisation inherent in Abu Qaqas formula. In the opinion of Sayyid Qutb, for instance, a jhil institution was not just an obvious wing of regime power, or even an organ of government, but included all institutions that affect the social order, that is, all public organizations and facilities. Anything, that is, that possessed influence over jhil society, and allows society to run without reference to Islamic conditions as the radicals see them. This is the line of thinking that led to Boko Harams attacks in February 2013 on health workers administering polio vaccinations, on educational institutions such as the commando style raids on the school of Health Technology and the Adamawa State University in Mubi in October 2012 in which 46 students were murdered by AK47 fire, poison bows and arrows and the killings of school students in Maiduguri in June 2013 and again in Potiskum on July 6 2013. Following this last incident the Boko Haram

I. Esene, We give thanks to Allah, Y! Daily, August 1 2012.

N. Maram and H. Odiogor, Boko Haram: We did not declare ceasefire Shekau, Vanguard, March 4 2013.

Boko Haram Ideological background 53

spokesman Abu Zinnira declared that the group has added youth in Borno and Yobe to its list of targets, with the explanation that:
We have established that the youth in Borno and Yobe states are now against our course. They have connived with security operatives and are actively supporting the government of Nigeria in its war 130 against us. We have also resolved to fight back.

2) As to the definition of the civilian: Jihadist propagandists in all arenas claim that Islamic jurisprudence in any case does not recognize the term civilian, and indeed, in the text-saturated mind of Jihadi-Salafists such as Boko Haram, the language of civilian or citizen is simply disqualified from the discussion:
The term civilians has no function in the Shara, and there are no rulings associated with it. Rather, in the Shara there is the classification of harbs as between those one can kill adult males and those one cannot kill women and children, the elderly, the infirm ... These are terms drawn from our 131 Shara, whereas the expression civilians or innocents merely show the influence of the media.

This is a conceptual universe that admits of no language other than its own, where in place of universal values a distinction is made between those who are granted hurma (protection) and those who are not. It is a highly effective way to license violence since it allows the propagandists to tramline the reader onto a trajectory that has an unassailable logocentric logic to it. This is particularly in evidence in the matter of: 3) Circumstances that restrict the generality of the condemnation on targeting civilians. Again, while the contest for Islamic legitimacy is not yet at this stage of sophistication in the case of Boko Haram militants, the defence against accusations of un-Islamic behaviour will inevitably be countered by recourse to the argument that the universal interest takes precedence over the particular. For example, from 2005 to his death in mid-2006 al-Zarqawi was faced with a barrage of criticism for his controversial tactics in Iraq, and was forced to issue a defence of the behaviour of the mujhidn as conforming closely to religious parameters:
I wish therefore to recall the judgment of the Shara concerning such incidents wherein Muslims may be killed as a consequence, although not through intention.

His case was that Islam establishes a hierarchy of values in all domains and that the cause must take precedence over the fate of the individual under the principle of darra [overriding necessity], and that the collateral killing of Muslims was acceptable in the defense of an idea:
While, admittedly, the killing of a number of Muslims whom it is forbidden to kill is no doubt a grave evil, it is allowed to commit this evil, and indeed it is even required, so as to ward off an even greater 132 evil: that is, the evil of suspending the Jihad.

That is, the evil of the temptation of heresy and idolatry, and the evil of abandoning a higher duty, is greater than the evil resulting from the unintentional killing of Muslims, a conclusion which he based on the statements in the Qurn:
And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for the fitna [seductive sedition] is worse than slaughter [Qurn II,191]

An example of collective punishment instituted on this basis was the killing, on June 17 2013 of over a dozen civilians for their geographical or familial association with members of a youth vigilante group targeting Boko Haram members, declaring your ch ildren brought this fate upon you.
131 132

Ab Umar al-Frq, The Ruling on the Targeting of Tourists, Sad al-Malhim, Issue 9, p.12. Al-Zarqawi, Ibn Al-Alqami's Grandchildren are back, posted passim to Islamist websites on May 18th 2005.

Boko Haram Ideological background 54

Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater with Allah; for fitna [seductive sedition] is worse than killing. [Qurn II,217]

The Sunna is also mined for support, and the principal argument which militants adduce for their justification is the famous Hadith of Jaththma which details how the Prophet disregarded, for tactical reasons, the injunction against the killing of civilians.133 The issue came to be developed (mainly restricted to Muslim non-combatant casualties) as the debate on tatarrus (shielding), the use by the enemy of (Muslim) women and children as a human shield (turs) to discourage attacks. The direction taken by Islamic law was that actions against the enemy which may involve the death of Muslim non-combatants could be undertaken if there was the definitive certainty of the predicted benefit for the Muslims.134 This is already implied by the comments of Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zaid in July 2011:
We want to warn that if soldiers do not withdraw from Maiduguri within two days, we would 135 confront them. We want to advise the civilians to look [for a] safer place and stay [away].

and if they do not, the mujhidn are exonerated since

sometimes lives are also involved and this can fall on everyone, including us.

The argumentation of militants such as al-Zarqawi was not exceptional and has a fairly consistent body of literature to underpin it, should the militants choose to limit their vision to the argument from the letter of Islamic law. There are important implications here for de-radicalization programmes, since even those who argue within the universe of the Text for the absolute prohibition on the targeting of noncombatants, sooner or later come up against a troublesome barrier that has to be negotiated carefully, on the grounds that, according to the radical shaykh Abd al-Azz al-Jarb:
anyone who questions the killing of innocents must needs remonstrate against God Himself, when he struck the infidel states with destructive earthquakes and volcanoes, among the debris of which are women, the elderly and children And anyone who speaks of the generalised and unconditional prohibition on killing innocents must needs accuse the Messenger himself, the Companions, and 137 those after them, since they also killed innocent people.

Suicide attacks Alongside the doctrinal justification Islamist militants have found for the killing of non-combatants, the practice of suicide bombings has been successfully justified to their satisfaction. The phenomenon of suicide bombing tends to be a difficult concept for commentators to accept and resolve. For instance, the earliest incidences of suicide bombing in Afghanistan were met with incredulity, on the grounds that the country operates under the Hanafi school of law and that


The hadth of al-Sab ibn Jaththmah runs as follows: The Messenger of Allh was asked about whether it was permissible for some people to attack the disbelievers at night, at the risk of injuring their women and children? He replied, They are from them. I also heard him say, There is no protection except for Allh and His Messenger. Al-Bukhr (3013) and Muslim (1745).

Cf. the position taken by al-Ghazl: An enemy shielding themselves with a group of Muslim prisoners so that if we shot at the shield we would be killing a protected Muslim who had committed no crime yet if we refrained from [attacking them] we would be yielding control to the Disbelievers over all the Muslims, and they would kill them and kill the prisoners too, so one might say that the prisoner dies in any case. Ab Hmid al-Ghazl, , ed. M. Abd al-Shf, Beirut, 1992, section 174/1.
135 136 137

Daily Trust (Abuja) July 13 2011. David Cook, Boko Haram: A Prognosis, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, December 16, 2011.

See Al-Jarb, ( Foundations for the Legitimacy of the Destruction Wrought on America ) Minbar alTawhid wal-Jihad, November 10th 2001, at the of Section 15.

Boko Haram Ideological background 55

therefore such things cannot be carried out by Afghans.138 Cultural factors were similarly deemed to preclude the possibility of such actions taking place in Nigeria, as demonstrated by the comments of social scientist Alade Fawole:
There is Islamic radicalisation in Nigeria, but the manifestation is not along widely recognised lines. It is not radicalisation that manifests in the form of suicide missions, bomb blasts, plane hijacks or other similar trends. And it is not likely that radicalisation in the country will ever follow these patterns because Nigerians love life so much that they will not lay it down for any cause. It may interest you to know that nobody in Nigeria has ever committed suicide in the pursuit of a cause. It is just not our 139 style.

The first incidence of a suicide bomber on June 16 2011 not only demonstrated the wishful thinking in this approach but also at a stroke removed the argumentation of despair or poverty motivating the act, or its being the result of a manipulated deception140. The suicide bomber of the Nigerian Police Force headquarters in Abuja, Mohammed Manga, turned out to be a well-to-do businessman who was able to leave behind a will of N4 million to his five children, and who enthusiastically urged fellow believers to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Allah. Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zaid was also careful to provide a photograph of the smiling Manga minutes before his death and to underline to his media contact that he was calm and never hesitated or showed fear, and that
everyone at the scene that night on the eve of the attack was envious, wishing it was their chance to 141 act and gain entry into paradise.

Just as in other arenas of militant jihadism, cultural attitudes to a phenomenon such as suicide bombing do not carry the weight of religious motivation. More importantly, doctrinal objections to the act of suicide also do not appear to have represented an insurmountable obstacle. It is worth looking briefly at the doctrinal debate to see what this holds for the future of such tactics, and understand how the debate for doctrinal justification is carried out. The preference, in the doctrinal universe of Salafism, for arguments basing themselves on the text (logocentrism) rather than universalist evaluations on the basis of conscience means that the debate inevitably focuses on conditioning factors, such as the religious identity of the victims (are they permitted if the targets are non-Muslim?) and the motivation of the perpetrators (is it suicide from an act of despair, or martyrdom, from an act of self-sacrifice for the Umma?). How these questions are approached determines the fate of the perpetrators soul in the afterlife, and therefore the motivation of the potential bomber. The purpose not the act itself of the suicide bomber is the core theme of the literature on what is termed inghims or self-immersion into enemy ranks. This refers to the deliberate choice of an individual to plunge into the heart of the enemy where the motivation is to do battle but where, nevertheless, there is little likelihood of him emerging alive. The issue was anciently debated, and a number of famous scholars wrote in support of this tactic. The 11th century AD scholar Al-Ghazali in his monumental work Ihy Ulm al-Dn (The Revivification of the Religious Sciences) asserted that
there is no disagreement that it is permissible for the Muslim to single-handedly attack the ranks of the infidel and fight, even if he knows that he will be killed ... What is permissible is only to go forward

The argument turned on the difference between the Hanbali and Hanafi schools of Islamic law, the first of which condoning suicide attacks in emergency situations, with the latter firmly forbidding it as lacking any precedent for it in the early days of Islam. Since the Taleban are predominantly Hanafi, the assumption was that only the Arabs among them can be carrying out such attacks. But the issue was largely resolved by the argumentation (for instance, proposed by Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi) that Muslims should term these operations istishhd (martyrdom seeking) and not intihr (suicidal).
139 140

Citation from A. Alao, Islamic Radicalisation and Violence in Nigeria, Country Report, p.4.

The disbelief in the possibility of active assent persists. Cf. the article by Michael Olugbode, Revealed: Boko Haram Not Using Suicide Bombers, ThisDay, 23 May 2013.

Ahmad Salkida, The Story of Nigerias First Suicide Bomber, BluePrint Magazine, June 26, 2011.

Boko Haram Ideological background 56

when he knows that he will not be killed before he kills first, or when he knows that he will break the morale of the disbelievers when they see his audacity and make them believe that the rest of the Muslims also do not care a whit, but love shahda in the path of Allah, whereupon the disbelievers 142 power will be checked.

A full treatment of this issue, and one which is circulated by Jihad propagandists to defend their case, is the work by Ibn Taymiyya, the Basis for Self-Immersion into Enemy Ranks Is it Allowed?143 which outlines the case for the permissibility of the tactic faute de mieux, on the grounds that there must be some benefit for the Muslims as a whole, rather than an act merely conceived for the perpetrators own purposes (including his desire for celestial reward). This benefit for the Muslims, however, can be rather broadly defined, and can equally include the terrorising effect on the enemy, as al-Ghazali outlined above with the breaking of their morale. Needless to say, contemporary radical scholars have filled the gap left by Ibn Taymiyya to encourage the recruitment of willing participants. One basic tactic in the debate is to rename suicide (intihr) as martyrdom-seeking (istishhd), but the more important task is to re-habilitate the personal, individualist motivation of the bomber as Islamically acceptable. One of the most influential scholars to take on this task was the Saudi radical theorist and ideologue for Al Qaeda Ysuf ibn Slih alUyayr, who composed a treatise devoted to this crucial issue: On the Permissibility of Self-Sacrificial Operations The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Self-Sacrificing Operations: Suicide or Martyrdom? 144 In this work al-Uyayri argues that martyrdom operations are permissible even if the intention of the Muslim was only to achieve his own death rather than score any strategic benefit for the Muslims. His intention is enough. After a detailed analysis of the scriptural texts, we conclude he argues,
that one who kills himself because of his strong mn and out of love for Allh and the Prophet, and in the beneficial interests of the Dn, to raise high the Word of Tawhd then this is a praiseworthy deed.

Clearly, from the proliferation of suicide bombings since June 2011, the argument has been made to the satisfaction of the Boko Harams militant rank-and-file, as the highly individualised, personal reward expected by the perpetrator was spelled out on the mobile phone text mentioned earlier, which, in addition to the 72 promised virgins, listed the reasons:
Do a deed which Allah by His grace and mercy saves you from the punishment of the grave and a dangerous bridge, at the speed of light. Save you[rself] from the greatest fear. Allow you [to be] save[d] from hell fire.

Doctrinal fissures It is, however, a point of considerable contention theologically, since the circumstances of modern life and the technology of contemporary suicide attacks fits awkwardly with the medieval Shara stipulations regarding its legitimization.146 The awkwardness has manifested itself in internal
142 143

Al-Ghazali: VII:26.

Ibn Taymiyya, , Minbar al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, from the edition by Ashraf al-Dn Abd al-Maqsd, Adw alSalaf, Riyadh, 2002 and edited by Muhammad Azz Shams in lam al-Fawid, Makka. An analysis of this document has been made by Rebecca Molloy: Deconstructing Ibn Taymiyyas Views on Suicidal Missions, Sentinel, Vol II, Issue 3, March 2009, pp.16-19.
144 145

Al-Uyayr: trans. At-Tibyn Publications.

Boko Haram: Bombers Promised 72 Virgins in Heaven, PMN News, December 6 2012. The dangerous bridge is the bridge of Sirat across the river of fire, over which every individual has to try to cross. For sinners, the bridge appears as thin as a hair and as sharp as the sharpest knife or sword. Sinners will fall into the fire below and arrive at their final destination place: Hell.

To give one example of problems facing the jihadi suicide bomber: How, ask legal scholars, can the actions of al-Qaeda inspired suicide bombers come under the permitted category of daf al-sil (repelling the attacker) while he passes the night with this intent and sleeps

Boko Haram Ideological background 57

wrangling in the Boko Haram group. On July 20, 2011 the Yusufiyya Islamic Movement (YIM) distributed flyers in Maiduguri which highlighted a desire to distance itself from the various labels ascribed to us, as the Boko Haram:
The Yusufiyya Movement has come to mean different things to different people in the last few months. This confusion and misinterpretation have made it necessary for us to come out publicly with the clear truth with regards to our concept, struggle, aim and ultimate objective.

It stated its concern in the light of genuine concern by individuals and groups to the mass suffering of innocent citizens that
some people with evil motives have infiltrated our genuine struggle with a false Holy War that is outright un-Islamic. We call on this evil group to desist, failing which we shall have no option than to expose and hunt them. We therefore distance our group from all the bombings targeted at civilians and other establishments and equally condemn them and pray that Allah exposes those who perpetrated them and attributed them to us This is necessary in the light of genuine concern by individuals and groups to the mass suffering of innocent citizens caught in the crossfire between our 147 members and the Nigerian troops.

There followed some anxious clarifications from Shekau that Boko Haram did not target innocent civilians:
We are just fighting those who are fighting us, soldiers and police and the rest; and anybody, even if he is a learned Muslim teacher, if we confirm that he exposes us to the government, his children will become orphans and his wife will become a widow, God willing. That is our way.

Shekaus comments highlight the public relations damage produced by civilian deaths. A further clarification marked another backdown. Referring to the bombing of a Maiduguri beer parlour in June 2011 that killed 25 people, he insisted:
You people should know that we do not kill those who drink alcohol. We had heard that it was purely soldiers who gathered there to drink, and we confirmed it, that was why we went there and killed them. Its mere propaganda that we attacked a beer joint so that people would accuse us of 148 killing innocent people.

Pressures such as these likely contributed to the birth of the splinter group Jamat Ansr alMuslimn f Bild al-Sdn (The Group of Supporters of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks) known as Ansaru. Over the period of late 2011 to early 2012 Boko Haram had carried out a spate of suicide bombings as a result of which many Muslims were killed. On 2 June 2012 the self-proclaimed Ansaru leader Abu Usmat (Usma) al-Ansari149 issued a tape in Arabic announcing its foundation and defining its beliefs. The Ansaru group, he stated,
considers anybody that accepted the kalimat al-shahda [i.e. the confession of faith in one God and in the Prophet Muhammad as the messenger of God] as a Muslim who must not be killed except if he or
with his explosive belt on him?146 If this is the case, then he is making light of his own soul the property of God and that therefore those who carry out these actions which kill the soul are nothing less than rebels to the Divinity.
147 148

Y. Ali and A. Joseph, Security agents close in as Boko Haram splits, The Nation, 21 July 2011.

Jacob Zenn, Can Nigeria Exploit the Split in the Boko Haram Movement?, in Northern Nigeria's Boko Haram The Prize in al-Qaeda's Africa Strategy, November 26 2012.

Held by some to be an alias for Khalid al-Barnawi one of the three top leaders of Boko Haram, a native of Nigerias Borno State who is alleged to have trained with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria in the mid-2000s and then carried out kidnappings of foreigners in Niger and Nigeria. The identity of the group remains obscure, and some counter-terrorism popular groups (Muslim and Christian) hold that it is simply a renaming of the group for the purposes of retaining dwindling public opinion. And conducting talks with the government. In this case it would answer to the concerns of Bin Laden (as discovered from papers uncovered following the raid on the house in Abbotabad) as to the disastrous decline in popularity of Al Qaeda in the Islamic world and his desire to rebrand the organisation. See Freedom Onuoha, Jamaatu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan: Nigerias Evolving Terrorist Group, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, 14 March 2013.

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she has committed an act that is punishable by death as stated in the holy Qurn. Islam forbids the 150 killing of innocent people including non-Muslims. This is our belief and we stand for it.

The sin of killing a fellow Muslim, he argued, was second only to the sin of accepting laws other than the Shara. A few days later Ansaru issued a statement that while it would complement the work of its brothers in Boko Haram, it would nevertheless distance itself from the group when it did bad things. As David Cook observes:
There are close parallels in the splintering between Boko Haram and Ansaru and the Algerian paradigm of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 1997. In this latter case, the GIAs indiscriminate killings of civilians led to the breakup of the parent group and the establishment of a new strategy that was to avoid indiscriminate killings, at least 151 initially.

By distancing itself from the programme of Boko Haram that considers all non-Muslims to be enemies that must be killed, the Ansaru claim that they abhor the killing of innocent non-Muslims except in self-defence against those who attack Muslims. But from the actions subsequently taken by the group, which included the slaughtering of Westerners, such as the seven British, Lebanese, Italian and Filipino hostages working with a Lebanese construction company abducted and subsequently killed on March 9, 2013, it would appear that this principled stand is weakly upheld. Once again, the problem comes down to what constitutes a civilian, and what constitutes innocent. The excuse given by Ansaru was somewhat opaquely defined, that it was in response to:
the transgressions and atrocities done to the religion of Allah by the European countries in many places such as Afghanistan and Mali.

A similar open season on westerners was behind the abduction of the French engineer Francis Colump in December 2012, where the pretext was
the stance of the French government and the French people on Islam and Muslims.

The focus on westerners would appear to solve the problem (if such a problem really exists) for the Ansaru and for Boko Haram.153 Boko Haram and the doctrine on truce The recent spate of discussions on a cease-fire have cast the spotlight on the vulnerability of Boko Haram militants towards issues relating to Islamic legal propriety. It also suggests the existence of hawks and doves within the movement that are jostling for control. The bomb attack s on schools appears to have polarised elements within the group and led to the deposing of Shekau due to what the spiritual leader of Boko Haram, Imam Liman Ibrahim, described as overly harsh activities
150 151 152

T. Mamu, Another Islamic Sect emerges to counter Boko Haram?, Desert Herald, June 2 2012. D. Cook, Boko Haram: Reversals and Retrenchment, CTC Sentinel, April 29 2013.

This was explained as the law the government created which prohibits the wearing of niqab (veil) by French Muslim women [which was] a denial of their religious rights and France's major role in the [planned] attack on the Islamic state in northern Ma li ... We inform the French government that this group will continue launching attacks on the French government and French citizens... as long as it does not change its stance on these two issues.

F. Onuoha believes that even this resolution of the problem may be short-lived. A radical shift from its original ideology and modus operandi, he argues, could be brought about by either endogenous or exogenous factors, or both. The endogenous factors could possibly be the change in the leadership of the sect as a result of natural death or decapitation of its top leaders and commanders. The exogenous variable relates to developments external to the internal workings of the sect, such as aggressive crackdown on its members by Nigerian or even foreign security forces. In the event of this, the [Ansaru] may begin to consolidate its ties with other Sahel jihadists in a bid to acquire expertise, weapons, training and funding. If it succeeds in this, the possibility of [Ansaru] redefining and reordering its target selection as well as employing other dramatic terror tactics such as targeted assassination, drive-by shooting and suicide bombing will increase. See Freedom Onuoha, Jamaatu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan: Nigerias Evolving Terrorist Group, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, 14 March 2013.

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departing from Qurnic dispensations.154 Citing the license given by the Qurn to the contracting of cease-fire agreements such as: And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it [Qurn VIII, 61], a truce of 60 days was agreed with the government at Abuja. Despite the continued pace of acts of violence optimistic speculation has nevertheless followed that this development could lead to a further splintering of the Jihadist group as the conflict between moderates and extremists intensifies. It would therefore be useful to examine from the ideological point of view what can be read into such developments and how much is to be expected from the reconsideration of tactics and the conclusion of cease-fire agreements. To take one example that points to how much we are dealing with a trend, rather than a specific group or set of personalities, one of the Boko Haram spokesmen, Abu Zaid, declared unequivocally that all members of the sect have sworn to be faithful, and that no member dared undermine the broader cause that Boko Haram aspires to, adding that:
If our leader Abubakar Shekau decides to undermine this Jihad we shall not hesitate to kill him.

That is because there are considerable problems associated ideologically with ceasefires and truces. Shekau himself expanded on this issue when denying, in a video message, that any dialogue or discussion of a truce had taken place with the Nigerian government:
We are stating it categorically that we are not in any dialogue or ceasefire agreement with anyone ... [There] is no dialogue or truce in Islam. In Islam there are conditions prescribed for us to go into dialogue, and there are also situations in which we cannot go into dialogue. What we are doing now is 156 what is prescribed for us by God and His holy Prophet.

Elsewhere, in a video clip released on July 24, 2011, Shekau demonstrated how much leeway that which is prescribed for us by God in the scriptural texts was leaving them in making their own judgements on the matter:
We know that in the Qurn there are verses where it is said: If you are offered reconciliation, you should accept it, but there are verses in the Qurn where it is said: If you are offered reconciliation, dont accept it. We know where those verses apply We know them all; we ha ve read them in the Qurn. We are fully aware that in Islam there is a provision for reconciliation, but there are conditions for reconciliation. Only a Muslim knows when to reconcile with a non-Muslim; it is not the non-Muslim who should impose conditions for reconciliation on the Muslim.

Shekau is most likely here referring to the two Qurnic passages often cited on this question:
And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He, is the Hearer, the Knower [Qurn VIII, 61] Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them. Whosoever maketh friends of them - (All) such are wrong-doers. [Qurn LX, 9]

The problem centres on what it is that constitutes those who war against you on account of religion. Boko Haram would have no difficulty in applying this to the secular state, whether or not this state had engaged in hostilities against the community. By identifying themselves as the sole Muslims fighting for Islam, as a result of which their enemy have driven you out from your homes, the formula that Allah forbiddeth ... that ye make friends of them becomes applicable. Consequently, as Abu Qaqa stated in an interview with a western newspaper in January 2012:

The beheadings, the killings, the recent death of students ... this is not the way of the Holy Qurn. We could tolerate it no longer. Stephen Davis and Phillip van Niekerk, Terrorist Leader Deposed in Nigeria, Huffington Post, August 1 2013.
155 156

Boko Haram We have 100 Volunteer Suicide Bombers http://www.pointblanknews.com/News/os5244.html .July 17 2011. N. Maram and H. Odiogor, Boko Haram: We did not declare ceasefire Shekau, Vanguard, March 4 2013.

Boko Haram Ideological background 60

We will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees ... Once we see that things are being done according to the dictates of Allah, and our members are released [from prison], we will only put aside our arms but we will not lay them down. You dont put down your 157 arms in Islam, you only put them aside.

Boko Haram is waging a war for the expansion of Islam, whether this be construed as an expansion of true Islam over the ruins of an Islam that has reverted to jhiliyya, or as an expansion of Islam at the expense of non-Muslims. Since jihad warfare by Muslims is by nature just, in the Muslim conception, for its being merely a fulfillment of the Qurnic command to disseminate Islam and free others from the bondage of Satan, there is no call for terms such as amnesty, which would imply some sort of wrong-doing on their part. Consequently the amnesty offered to Boko Haram in April 2013 elicited bemused surprise. Shekau dismissed the offer and argued that it was Boko Haram that would be the ones to grant or withdraw a pardon:
We are surprised that today it is the federal government saying it will grant us amnesty. Oh God, is it we who will grant you amnesty or you are the one to grant us amnesty? What have we done? If there is room for forgiveness, we are not going to do it until God gives us permission to do it. Have you forgotten your sin ... We emerged to avenge killings of our Muslim brothers and the destruction of 158 our religion.

There are implications in this starting point for the prospects of concluding a truce, since the ideological justification for it is thin. Given that Boko Haram dismisses the position taken by modernising Muslims, their point of reference can only be pre-modern, medieval jurisprudence. And this is not encouraging; the Shfi school of law under which Muhammad Yusuf trained stipulates an upper limit of 10 years for a truce (modelled on the Prophets agreement at the Treaty of Hudaybiyya) and maintains that a treaty that fails to stipulate a time limit is invalid. Given that the jihad is a means of creating universal peace, a pax Islamica, by subjugating all others and enforcing Islamic order, a permanent truce is out of the question morally. All one can talk of is a temporary suspension of hostilities. Abu Zaids statement issued in December 2012, the anniversary of the murder of Muhammad Yusuf, reflects this view:
The only dialogue in this crisis is as follows: stop abiding by the constit ution in our land then there should be a time limit for ceasing fire to gauge Government commitment in keeping to its promise, 159 which cannot be more than ten years.

A truce, therefore, can only be provisional pending resumption of hostilities when the mujhidn feel they have the ability to do so. The Hanaf school of law actually permits Muslims to terminate a truce arbitrarily, stating that
The imam may denounce the armistice whenever the continuation of warfare is more favourable for 160 the Muslims than the continuation of peace.

Essentially, contracting a long-term truce and thereby accepting alliance with a non-Muslim power contradicts everything that Boko Haram considers Islam stands for. For what, in this case, would happen to the doctrine and practice of jihad that is held to constitute an act of divine worship and for which reason the Muslim is alive? For as long as the demand of Boko Haram is not met the Islamisation of Nigeria there can be no cease-fire. Such is the position outlined by Abu Qaqa who stated that Boko Haram would continue its campaign of violence until the country is ruled by Shara law, and indeed that
157 158 159 160

Monica Mark, Boko Haram vows to fight until Nigeria establishes Sharia Law, The Guardian, January 27, 2012. FG, not us, needs amnesty Boko Haram, Vanguard, 12 April 2013. David Cook, Boko Haram: A Prognosis, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, December 16, 2011. Rudolph Peters, Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History (The Hague: Mouton, 1979), p35.

Boko Haram Ideological background 61

People underrate us but we have our sights set on [bringing Shara to] the whole world, not just Nigeria.

In the latest denial of a truce, delivered on July 13 2013, Shekau insisted that neither he nor any of his representatives had sat with anyone to reach such a truce and he pointed out that for dialogue to be possible democracy must be suspended, the constitution jettisoned and western education scrapped. He went on to insist that his group would never give up until the federal government surrenders, underlining that
We will never dialogue with these infidels [unbelievers] except on the conditions Allah laid down in 161 the Qurn.

It is thus difficult to see how the conditions for a truce could be met, or how they could be observed even if contracted. Boko Haram and aspirations to universalism It is in the nature of radical Islam to make the claim that their activities are universal in scope and global in application. Radical Islam does not recognise the modern nation state, nor does it show an interest in local ethnicities or practices of Islam influenced by regional cultures. In that sense the identification with the struggle of Muslims around the globe is axiomatic. More importantly, in this study of the doctrine powering the Boko Haram movement there is little benefit in attempting to discern a doctrinal influence (as opposed to a tactical influence) hailing from a group such as Al Qaeda since the concept of a particular jihadist group influencing religious doctrine would be abhorrent to Muslims of any stripe. For the radicals and their traditionalist conception of faith, Islamist doctrine is not something that is in the process of development since it is conceived to be already fully formed.162 The whole purpose of the jihad is that differing groups aspire to one and the same doctrine, the Islamic doctrine of al-firqa al-njiya, the uniquely saved sect. Al Qaeda, much like Boko Haram is but a militant manifestation of this doctrine. Nevertheless, from statements issued by various spokesman of Boko Haram, the model of Al Qaeda has for long enjoyed prestige and exercised a fascination. In a statement dated August 9, 2009, Mallam Sanni Umaru delivered to the press the following declaration:
Boko Haram is an Islamic Revolution whose impact is not limited to Northern Nigeria. In fact, we are spread across all the 36 states in Nigeria, and Boko Haram is just a version of the Al Qaeda which we align with and respect. We support Osama bin Laden, we shall carry out his command in Nigeria until 163 the country is totally Islamised which is according to the wish of Allah.

Similar, rhetorical, statements of solidarity have periodically surfaced. In July 2010 Shekau took the opportunity to offer condolences to Al Qaeda in Iraq over the death of leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and to talk up Boko Harams profile as Nigerias wing in the transnational jihadi movement. He addressed his comments to leaders of Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups in Algeria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen and sent
condolences on behalf of the mujahideen in Nigeria to the mujahideen in general, in particular to those in the Islamic State of Iraq, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Yahya Al-Libi, Abu Abdullah Al-Muhajir, the Emir of the Islamic State in Somalia, the Emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic


Shekau also pointedly reiterated the phrase: They expelled us from houses, conjuring up the image given at [Qurn LX, 9] above of those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes.

The Qurnic verse [V,3} would be adduced to dismiss this: This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed my favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as a religion.

A. Alao, Islamic Radicalisation and Violence in Nigeria, Country Report, pp. 45.

Boko Haram Ideological background 62

Maghreb, the Emir of the Mujahideen in Pakistan, in Chechnya, Kashmir, Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula, and our religious clerics whom I did not mention.

before signing off with the threat:

Do not think jihad is over. Rather jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury!

Threats against American and western targets were also launched at the time by the spokesman Musa Tanko:
Islam doesn't recognize international boundaries, we will carry out our operations anywhere in the world if we have the chance, the United States is the number one target for its oppression and aggression against Muslim nations, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan and its blind support of Israel in its killings of our Palestinian brethren []"We will launch fiercer attacks than Iraqi or Afghan Mujahedeen against our enemies throughout the world, particularly the US, if the chance avails itself within the confines of what Islam prescribes.

Although he added:
But for now our attention is focused on Nigeria which is our starting point.

Under this conception of a waxing global Islamic revolution, statements from Al Qaeda-linked groups have also reciprocated rhetorical solidarity with their Muslim brothers in Nigeria, and have even pledged offers of assistance. But such assistance could only be operational or tactical. In 2010 the leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel (also known as Ab Musab Abd el-Wadoud), made such an offer of assistance:
We are ready to train your children to use weapons and will supply them with all we can, including support and men, weapons, ammunition and equipment, in order to defend our people in Nigeria and 165 respond against the aggression of the Christian minority.

This overture was reciprocated on October 2 2010 when Shekau pledged the groups allegiance to Droukdel.166 One might, for instance, note that the official name of Boko Haram Jamat Ahl alSunna lil-Daw wal-Jihd al Minhaj al-Salaf closely reflects the self-designation of the Algerian group al-Jama al-Salafiyya lil-Daw wal-Qitl (The Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat) and therefore indicates at least a parallelism of interests. As regards the mother entity of modern jihads Al Qaeda, documents found in the house where Usama bin Laden was killed indicate that some level of working relationships were being developed with other arenas of the jihad, Nigeria included. They show that Boko Haram leaders had been in contact with them, something which Abu Qaqa confirmed in comments made to the British media in January 2012:
Al-Qaida are our elder brothers. During the lesser Hajj [August 2011], our leader travelled to Saudi Arabia and met al-Qaida there. We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we 167 want from them we ask them.

One tactical issue that can exert some influence on observing the provisions of Shara law is experience on the ground in administering territory over which these provisions are imposed. Given that the activities of Boko Haram have yet to rise beyond the level of guerrilla attacks, lessons of this
165 166

Aminu Abubakar, Nigerian Islamist sect threaten to widen attacks, AFP, March 29 2010.

Andre Le Sage, The evolving threat of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Strategic Forum, No. 268, July 2011, 1-16.

Mathieu Guidere, The tribal allegiance system within AQIM, CTC Sentinel, Vol.4 Issue 2, 9-11. Some evidence of verbal communications made between AQIM and Boko Haram came to light shortly after the attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja August 26 2011.

Monica Mark, Boko Haram vows to fight until Nigeria establishes Sharia Law. The Guardian, 27 January 2012.

Boko Haram Ideological background 63

nature have been drawn from the outside, perhaps from figures such as Mamman Nur following his return from Somalia.168 Experience of that country in applying Shara law is likely to have imported some ideological lessons. Other important lessons would certainly have been derived from the successes of the Malian group Ansar Eddine which, for almost a year, was able to hold onto a significant piece of northern Mali, including important cities such as Timbuktu and Gao, and to actually put into practice a programme of political, legal and cultural Islamisation.169 The lessons, however, make for some sober reading, judging from the advice offered by the AQIM leader Droukdel. In January 2012, following the routing of Ansar Eddine forces from Timbuktu, a confidential document was discovered entitled Instructions concerning the Islamic jihadi project in Azawad.170 In this document Droukdel addressed his fellow Commanders and Members of the Shra Council of the Organisation and the Ansr al-Dn in the Great Sahara in Mali and no doubt drawing from the bitter experience of his group in Algeria alerted his correspondents to the need to make greater efforts to engage with public opinion in any territory that falls under its control:
One of the wrong policies that we think you carried out is the extreme speed with which you applied Shara, not taking into consideration the gradual evolution that should be applied in an environment that is ignorant of religion, and a people which has not applied Shara in centuries. And o ur previous experience showed that applying Shara this way, without taking the environment into consideration, will lead to people rejecting the religion, and engender hatred toward the Mujhidn, and will consequently lead to the failure of our experiment.

Droukdel specifically criticises fighters for destroying shrines and for being too hasty to implement the hadd punishments (the Islamic penal code):
This behaviour, even at an individual level, is contradictory to the policy of the Salaf, so your officials need to control themselves.

This is a remarkable statement for Jihadi-Salafists to make, since the implementation of the hadd punishments is the most visible demonstration of the transformation they are attempting to effect and, moreover, is understood to enjoy cast-iron authentication from the Qurn. Droukdel attempts to avert one of the basic errors from these earlier failed jihads: the inability (due to purist absolutism) to form broader alliances with other Islamist movements:
We should be sure to win allies, be flexible in dealing with the realities, and compromise on some rights to achieve greater interests...Not every concession to the enemy is forbidden nor does it mean accepting Kufr (Disbelief) and evil. It is not necessarily an evil act to respond to their demands. The logic in this is to achieve greater gains with the least concessions.

For these, after all, are still early days in the jihad:
It is very important that we view our Islamic project in Azawad as a small newborn, with many phases ahead of it that it must pass through to grow and mature. The current baby is in his first days, crawling on his knees, and has not yet stood on its own two legs. So is it wise that we start now to lay burdens on it that will inevitably prevent it from standing on its own two feet, and perhaps even smother it?

The author is acutely aware of the public relations problem, not only with respect to Muslims on the ground but also policy makers in the West. He advises fighters to adopt a more measured tone and to avoid inflaming opinion unnecessarily:
168 169 170

Gabe Joselow, Boko Haram seen linked to other African terror groups, VOANews.com. December 27 2011. David Cook, Boko Haram: Reversals and Entrenchment, CTC Sentinel, April 29 2013.

The document //// ( Instructions //// concerning the Islamic Jihadi Project in Azawad - the full title is unclear, and the text is incomplete) was discovered among documents left behind by al-Qaeda fighters retreating from Timbuktu. The translation is by Associated Press: Mali Al-Qaidas Sahara Playbook.

Boko Haram Ideological background 64

You must adopt mature and moderate rhetoric that reassures and calms. You must avoid any statements that are provocative to neighbouring countries and avoid repeated threats. It is better for you to be silent and pretend to be a domestic movement that has its own causes and concerns. There is no need for you to show that we have an expansionary, jihadi, Qaida or any other sort of project.

Pragmatism should be the order of the day, since in the final analysis this is what the Prophet Muhammad himself practised:
The smart Muslim leader would do these kind of things in order to achieve the word of God eventually to support religion. Remember how the Prophet contracted the Hudaybiyya agreement with the (polytheist) Quraysh, because that was in the greater interests of the Muslims. That is how we should walk on the path of jihad.

As regards Muslim public opinion he gives the following remarkable instruction, one which again goes to the heart of the jihadist programme for reshaping relationships between individuals under the new order:
You should avoid issues of takfr and the issue of sects and other issues that the mind of the youth cannot understand. The general motto at this stage should be defending Muslims from those who want to victimize them, and this means that you should limit the circle of confrontation and your enemies.

These are remarkable admissions of failure and of the difficulties posed by the doctrines themselves, rather than the obstacles put in their way by the secular system. It is therefore worth studying these and other lessons from failed jihad attempts in order to ascertain the likely trajectory of pro-jihad policies in the future when the Islamist radicals galvanised by the Boko Haram movement become more sophisticated.171 This type of study is entirely possible. For instance, a case study on Syria highlights the problems of radical jihadism on the ground, and the efforts made by ideologues to learn the bitter lessons of applying the doctrine too rigorously and too soon. It demonstrates how:
The lesson provided by this experience, and therefore one of the opportunities for counter-ideology, is that it is difficult for an ideologically purist movement of the rigor of jihadism to contract relationships as such with other parties ... This, along with the historical inattention given to public 172 relations, are held responsible for weakening the appeal of the mujhidn in the broader community.

In fact, the ideological vulnerabilities of jihadism are apparent on a more existential level:
Jihadism requires establishing a culture in the face of tradition and the prevailing intellectual environment. This is a demanding task and requires considerable intellectual investment. But the problems of scholarly authority are particularly acute in Jihadist circles. Abu Musab al-Suri highlighted this fatal flaw, noting how members of militant groups were not sufficiently instructed in Islamic doctrine and, as the government forces fought back, whatever level of knowledge was available was progressively thinned out. The implications of this lack of trained doctrinal resource made themselves felt on two fronts: firstly on the propaganda and public relations front, and secondly (and uniquely to this form of revolutionary conflict) on the strategic front where doctrinal propriety not only influenced, but was impacted, by militant operations. With the failure of the jihadist rebellion in the 1980s the inevitable process of revision is exposing jihadism to scrutiny, as it

171 172

Stephen Ulph, Jihadi After Action Report: Syria, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point Academy, USA, November 2006.

Abu Musab al-Suri, ( Observations on the Jihadi Experience in Syria) which is part of a larger work entitled: ( The Islamic Jihadi Revolution in Syria). He notes the failure to develop a public relations campaign to communicate Mujahid Revolutionary Theory, and the fact that there was no organized public relations campaign.

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focuses on rebuilding through doctrinal training. This fact allows counter-ideology to map and 173 measure this form of re-armament as it develops.

It will be useful to observe over the next period whether similar lessons are being learnt on the ground in the statements repudiating the influence of Shekau on the activities of Boko Haram. One extra implication of the Droukdel communiqu is the evidence it provides of a cross-border conception of the jihadist struggle. Ansar Eddine demonstrated some practical connections with the broader international arena of radical Islam, and some level of ties with Al Qaeda. When Boko Haram was temporarily squeezed in February 2013, Shekau is believed to have briefly sought refuge with the Ansar Eddine group in northern Mali. It is, therefore, highly possible
that with his return to Nigeria, he brought more of a mainstreaming of Boko Haram within worldwide 174 Salafi-Jihadism.

This mainstreaming, and the conscious attempt to emulate Ansar Eddines international connections (or those of Mamman Nur), may also be implied by Shekaus issuing of a video on November 2012 for the first time in Arabic. For all the universalism of the jihadist cause, Arabic remains the language of prestige and credibility in the global jihad movement, not only since it is the language of Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri, but also, of course, due to its associations with the sacred texts. Shekaus commentaries in 2012 seemed to lay increasing emphasis on Boko Harams position on the global Jihadist map:
The world should witness, and America, Britain, Nigeria and other crusaders, meaning America and Britain, should witness, and the Jews of Israel who are killing the Muslims in Palestine should witness that we are with our mujhidn brothers in the cause of Allah everywhere ... in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Pakistan, Kashmir, Iraq, the Peninsula of Muhammad [Saudi Arabia] Allah's peace and 175 prayer be upon him Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, and other places that I did not mention.

Whether or not this call to internationalise the struggle is a rhetorical exercise, or is actively promoted in the face of waning influence at home176 (bringing with it the risk of tensions with those who will wish to remain more locally focused), the promotion and progressive establishment of Salafist Islam in the country, and its
decades-long process of the delegitimization of local Islamic identity in Northern Nigeria and in neighbouring countries ... makes those Muslims who accept such a discourse more amenable to al177 Qaidas global Salafi Islamist agenda.

Boko Harams communications latterly have threatened attacks not only against the Nigerian state, but also against outposts of Western culture, and it is in this sense that, as Abu Qaqa insisted in a press conference in March 2012,
the issue of Boko Haram is now a global phenomenon.

Stephen Ulph, Jihadi After Action Report: Syria. A number of works are worth consulting on this issue: cf, for example, Abu Baseer alTartousis analyses: ( Reasons for the Failure of some Jihadist Movements in the Transformation Operation); ( When the Mujhidn Suffer Torment); . (These Things I Fear for the Jihad and for the Mujhidn); ( Jihd Groups, Errors and Compromises).
174 175

David Cook, Boko Haram: Reversals and Entrenchment, CTC Sentinel, April 29 2013.

In the video Shekau also lists Muhammad Yusuf al-Njr The Nigerian alongside Abdullah Azzam, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Usama bin Laden and Abu Yahya al Libi. In order to make this same claim to international importance.

Although it remains extremely deadly in that regionespecially to the Christian populationit does not seem to have broadened its appeal during the past year. Indeed, northern Muslim politicians who were suspected of supporting Boko Haram during 2011-2012 have carefully distanced themselves from the group, especially as Boko Harams message has become more toxic within the context of Nigerian politics David Cook, Boko Haram: Reversals and Entrenchment, CTC Sentinel, April 29 2013.

Michael Tanchum, Al-Qaidas West African Advance: Nigeria's Boko Haram, Malis Touareg, and the Spread of Salafi Jihadism, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, VI:2 (2012).

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Concluding remarks on ideological contextualisation The reports circulated indicating splits within the Boko Haram movement, with accounts of the deposition of Shekau from the leadership shortly before reports of his death on the grounds of activities that conflict with the stipulations of the Qurn and the Sunna give evidence that in the spectrum of radical Islamist opinion in Northern Nigeria pressures towards adopting a more moderate, Islamically acceptable position are building up, and that the sharper end of radical Islamist violence is beginning to create enough problems for itself to cancel out its strategic gains. Whatever the fate of the proposed short-term cease-fire agreements, as the militant Islamist rebellion develops in Nigeria and the raw edges of the Boko Haram violence give way to doctrinally and ideologically more considered responses to the secularism of the Nigerian state, the efforts of de-radicalization will continue to come up against the textually-bound mental universe of the radicals. Textualism the recourse to scriptural authority constitutes the only true source for moral evaluation that exists for Jihadi-Salafists and the only debating arena they consider acceptable. By reducing the currency of debate to texts, where the terms of reference are their definitions of the Tght, the modalities of takfr or the conditions of al-wal wal-bar, the extremists can arm themselves with a near unassailable resilience to moral challenge. If the arena remains in the logosphere like this, the contest will almost inevitably favour their standpoint. Without a serious effort to address this ideology and its religious embedding, counter-terrorism will therefore be condemned to retroactive responses to a mindset that is constantly wrong-footing its opponents for their poor understanding of its trajectory. It is therefore vital to shed the reticence to familiarise oneself with the vocabulary of Islamic faith something which strategy analysts are traditionally loath to do and understand the way the Boko Haram radicals view the world and express themselves in it. Only once this stage is reached can there be credible talk of elaborating a method of undermining the ideology that is powering the violence.

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Summary of observations

Boko Haram is more than a phenomenon of terrorism, it is rooted in northern Nigerias specific historico-religious development and is a militant manifestation of a much larger problem that may be characterised as modernity shock Responses to this shock have historically taken the form of pietistic withdrawal (hijra) and militant activism (jihad) the latter generally following on seamlessly from the former Militant activism has historically either been of the archaic type of jihad, or the contemporary form of jihad The violence of a group such as Boko Haram is not the product of a specific importation of a takfr doctrine, but the result of the progressive Salafization of Islamic reform, whose internal logic inexorably leads to violence Boko Haram is an interesting illustration of a reaction to the modernity shock that has passed through all of these phases, from hijra to jihad in both its archaizing and contemporary forms Nigeria would still be an outpost of Islamic fundamentalism even without Boko Haram The solution, if this is to be more than temporary containment, lies in a resolution of the crisis of the modernity shock, which will require massive levels of investment in education

Boko Haram is not in its essence a local, Nigerian issue A study of the doctrinal development of the Boko Haram movement, together with an understanding of the recent history of Nigeria, demonstrates that the phenomenon of Islamic radicalism as practiced by Boko Haram cannot be satisfactorily explained as a product of economic and political disparity held over from the colonial period or of the post-independence period, nor can the emergence of the radical movement be written off as a foreign importation by external agents. Boko Haram sits within the trajectory of a strain of Islamic activism calling for asla (authenticity), not only vis--vis the pluralism of the Nigerian state but also vis--vis other Muslim trends (such as Sufism) which compete with it for the allegiance of the public. What marks out the pedigree of Boko Haram is that its ideological influence, as is evident both from their media announcements and the doctrinal influences which they acknowledge and circulate, is not one that is conditioned by local issues, but one that makes a point of appealing to universal precepts, and universal demands made upon Muslims to ensure primacy and combat cultural contamination. Fellow Muslims, understand us, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared in January 2012:
I have no objective than to help the religion of God, that is all I can explain... We follow the tenets of the Qurn and anybody that thinks he can fight God shouldnt think his prayer or praying in the mosque can save him! ... We follow the teachings of the Qurn. This is what God has told me to 178 explain. Praise be to God!''

Local factors? There is no doubt that local factors of political corruption and economic mismanagement provide the initial impulse among disaffected youth towards seeking a radical reaction, and that issues of communal identity are pushing this disaffection towards seeking an identity-based solution.


Video message to President Jonathan, January 12 2012.

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But while this disaffection may manifest itself in church burnings and the provocation of sectarian violence, the focus of this violence is not circumscribed by a Muslim-Christian contest. Rather, the contest is on an altogether broader scale, and the contribution of local factors serves to demonstrate for the adherents the justification of fighting for a more universally conceived cause. The clue to this broader scale is in the popular designation given to the movement Boko Haram and the implication held by this group, and like-minded groups, that Islam is in retreat due to the very nature of the modern state, as evidenced in Nigeria and its contemporary education system. The somewhat loose translation of western education is forbidden actually masks a broader agenda, that western book-learning as such is forbidden, that is its culture and civilisation as such, rather than merely the educational methodology which it pursues. For Boko Haram leader Mallam Sanni Umaru,
Boko Haram does not in any way mean Western education is a sin as the infidel media continue to portray us. Boko Haram actually means Western Civilisation is forbidden.

while subsequently Shekau insisted:

We are not fighting Western education itself, what we are opposed to are the various un-Islamic things slotted into it.

The un-Islamic things amount to more than the risk of Muslims absorbing the Wests libertarian characteristics, but rather the risk of succumbing to an altogether more insidious form of colonialism than one of mere land and wealth that is, the colonialism of the mind. The danger was explicitly spelled out by a Declaration cited in one of Boko Harams scholarly authorities:
Over several periods they hastened to attack the Muslims with armed raids, then began to sow doubts into the Muslim mind concerning their creed, their Qurn and their Prophet, in what may be termed an intellectual or cultural onslaught, until it has turned now to openly attacking Muslims through their younger generations and the minds of these through opening schools and colleges 179 which are of an atheistic stamp.

A universal cause Understanding Boko Haram in the sense of western civilisation is forbidden is also more useful as it indicates the abiding pre-occupation of the group: not the cause of the freedom of Muslims to practice Islam in the Nigerian state, as if it were some call for religious liberty, nor for local cultural and legal autonomy, but rather one of a deeper challenge to the very starting points upon which Nigeria as a country is based: secular modernity and its manifestation in the nation state. Shekau stated this pre-occupation succinctly:
Everyone knows that democracy and the constitution is paganism and everyone knows there are 180 some things that God has forbidden in the Qurn

In short, the target is modernity itself, as represented by the domination of western culture, conceived to be illegitimate as the product of un-Islamic faith, or no faith at all (the conflation of the two is common). As such the prohibition is not locally focused, one to be imposed upon Nigerian Muslims, but construed on a level that is far broader than Nigeria and the fate of Muslims in the country. A strong indication of this is in the official self-definition of the group: The People of the Sunna Group for Islamic Propagation and Jihad Following the Methodology of the Salaf181. This definition

Declaration of the Saudi Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ift on the ruling concerning the opening of foreign schools in a Muslim country cited in Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayd l Ghayhab: :( The Secular, Foreign and Colonialist Schools: Their History and Dangers), pp.61 ff.

Message to President Jonathan, January 12 2012.

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should be considered at face value and taken seriously since it serves as an indicator of the sole interest and focus of the group. That focus is Islamic authenticity. The above self-definition is deliberately wordy, since it encapsulates a manifesto: They are a group that considers itself to be true representatives of the Islam as intended by the Prophet Muhammad, based on his sayings and actions, and they are concerned with propagating this message by militant force if necessary against any obstacles placed in its way and are justified in so doing by reference to the authoritative example of the beliefs and actions of the Prophet and of the earliest Muslim community.

Boko Haram is a predictable manifestation of a broader current Boko Harams radicalism is the culmination of a number of factors internal to Islamic doctrine, under the influence of developments happening across the Muslim world in what has come to be known as The Islamic Awakening. This is a movement that in the late 1970s emerged on university campuses in the Gulf States, powered by educational systems that had been bolstered by Muslim Brotherhood refugees from the Arab nationalism of Nassers Egypt. The reform movement pre-occupied itself with issues of Islamic authenticity proposing, in the face of the modernisation of Islam, the Islamisation of modernity. It was thus backward-looking in its perspective, seeking to awaken the consciousness of the Muslim to the foreignness of the contemporary worlds structures to the Islamic system and to unpick the intellectual, cultural and legal processes set in motion by the Enlightenment. It thus inevitably posed a challenge to the intellectual underpinnings of the modern nation state and the international norms and structures of law, with all the political implications which that entailed. The intellectual reformist currents of the Salafist revival later came to be fully instrumentalised in a politically activist direction by a number of leading scholars such as Ab Muhammad al-Barqw, known as al-Maqdis, to produce the inexorable trajectory to violent Jihadi-Salafism, as represented subsequently by Al Qaeda.182 Nigeria, as a Muslim state somewhat removed from this centre of gravity, was a relative late-comer to this militant politicisation of reform, but the same Salafist materials underpinning the Islamic Awakening constitute the reading matter and the guiding influences of the Boko Haram movement, while the Jihadi-Salafist instrumentalisation of them provides the ideological training and justification for its militancy.

Boko Harams linkages are intellectual more than tactical The universalism of the Jihadi-Salafi cause was signalled by a number of statements by Boko Haram leaders, and this naturally included positive references to the achievements of Al Qaeda. Commentators have noted how in August 2009 Mallam Sanni Umaru declared in a message sent to the press:
Boko Haram is just a version of Al Qaeda , which we align with and respect. We support Usama bin Ladin, we shall carry out his command in Nigeria until the country is totally Islamised, which is according to the wish of Allah.

Abubakar Shekau went on to threaten attacks not only against the Nigerian state, but also against outposts of Western culture and, in a published manifesto, linked the jihad being fought by Boko Haram with jihadist efforts globally, especially that of the soldiers of Allah in the Islamic State of Iraq. While saluting fighters in the Maghreb region of northern Africa, the Islamic state in Mali,

181 182

Jamat Ahl al-Sunna lil-Dawa wal-Jihd al Manhaj al-Salaf.

For an illustration of this trajectory see S. Ulph: Towards a Curriculum for the Teaching of Jihadist Ideology, Chapter III, The Salafist Spectrum.

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Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and our brothers and sheikhs in usurped Palestine, Shekau warned that:
the world should witness, and America, Britain, Nigeria and other crusaders, meaning America and Britain, should witness, and the Jews of Israel who are killing the Muslims in Palestine should 183 witness that we are with our mujahidn brothers in the cause of Allah everywhere.

The issue of Boko Haram, summed up the spokesman Abu Qaqa in a press conference, is now a global phenomenon.184 Nevertheless, in light of this universalist nature of the Boko Haram cause, the exercise of searching for ideological linkages with specific Islamist militant groups operating elsewhere on the African continent is not as useful as one of exploring the intellectual linkages, that is the doctrinal underpinning shared by all such Salafist-oriented groups irrespective of any level of physical contact between them. Intellectual commonality outweighs the contribution of physical contact for the purposes of ideological or military training, and the relationship of Boko Haram to a group such as Al Qaeda speaks of an ideological training held in common rather than one that is contingent one upon the other. That is because the ideological trajectories of either group are the same, and are the logical consequence of the progressive application of Salafist, reformist doctrine which tasks itself with the restoration of a pre-Nahda Islam,185 a form of Islam considered to be authentic for its being untainted by western intellectual, social and ethical influences. Since Salafism provides the DNA programming to the development of Jihadi-Salafi doctrine wherever it manifests itself, the doctrinal justification on which the call to violence depends will of necessity be similar, if not identical (to the point of recourse for justification to the same foundational texts and the same contemporary Jihadi-Salafist scholars). Despite common perceptions, far from attempting to internationalise their localised conflict by connecting up with other extremist militant groups, the Boko Haram movement constitutes an example of a local manifestation of a globalising conflict, a conflict that is of a total nature in that it maintains both political and epistemological wings to its act of rebellion.

A rebellion that goes in deep To understand these political and epistemological wings is to avoid the error of seeing the discourse of Boko Haram as one merely xenophobic in motivation. It stems, rather, from a deep conviction and diagnosis of what is perceived to be a universal evil, one from whose grip the world, and not merely Nigeria, must ultimately be rescued. That evil is eloquently summed up by one of Boko Harams authorities as being represented by
modern sciences which are founded upon erroneous, worthless theories that are not for us, which are built upon ignorance and waywardness, and which contradict the sound teachings of the religion of 186 the Prophets.

Any knowledge, be it western or eastern or whatever, that contradicts what Islam maintains to be the Truth, is therefore prohibited for Muslims to learn and disseminate. The cause undertaken by

183 184 185

Video declaration made available on November 29 2012. Regarding Negotiations With the Nigerian Government, statement issued on March 20 2012.

The nahda here refers to the resurgence of Islam under the influence of late 19th century reformers who attempted to reconcile Islamic doctrine with contemporary patterns of modernity. Abd al-Rahmn ibn Nsir al-Sad: ( Summary of Advice Insisting upon Holding to Ones Faith and Warning of Foreign Schools), ed. Dr. Abd al-Salm ibn Barjas l Abd al-Karm, Dr al-Imm Ahmad, 1st Ed. 1426 (2005).

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Boko Haram is to reverse this occupation and colonialism of the mind, and to repair the derailment from an Islamically authentic trajectory which its adepts claim to have taken place. Voices of this derailment can be heard in some of the pronouncements of the Boko Haram leadership pronouncements which many analysts have failed to accord their true significance. For example, in a state security interrogation, Muhammad Yusuf proclaimed: All knowledge that contradicts Islam is prohibited by the Almighty. What kind of knowledge might this be? In an interview just before his death in 2009, Yusuf clarified his position:
There are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam. Like rain. We believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain. Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject 187 the theory of Darwinism.

This is not the individual delusion of a half-educated youth, but the consistent reflection of an epistemological position of considerable authority and pedigree, albeit an anachronistic one in the contemporary era. The implications of refuting the Qurn are religiously enormous, and therefore the solution to this conundrum has been searched for either by having recourse to the argument of the Qurn featuring metaphorical language on these issues or, more troublesomely, by denying the validity of modern science altogether (using in general the argument of the unsafe, false human origins of scientific knowledge). Boko Haram, as a constituent sub-section of traditionalist Islam, has clearly taken the second path.

Radicalisation and suppression The ideological underpinning to Boko Haram is therefore not flimsy. It has both the gravitas and authority of a 1400-year tradition, insofar as the ideologues make claim to this tradition, and the attractiveness of internal coherence. It also offers the seduction of a heroic cause. Once the youthful mind has been connected in with a religious, ethical program one that offers a total response with all its exhilarating features of a discovery of long-concealed truth, a youthful rebellion to a discredited older generation, and a self-image as hero-knights in an act of redemption, the road to radicalisation and to total solutions lies open. There are serious implications to this connection. It means that no amount of improvement to economic circumstances or conditioned concessions to legal and cultural autonomy under the umbrella of the modern Nigerian state will have a significant impact on the radicalisation process. This is because such elements are irrelevant to the cause of those who seek to establish a different mental universe from the one they are living in at present. This alternative mental universe is not responsive to an alteration of conditions for better or for worse or the offering of concessions undertaken by the prevailing mental universe in which the modern Nigerian state operates.

Nigerias long-term organic struggle ahead of it Given the intractability of the cause, its self-contained frame of reference, and its imperviousness to any degree of partial concessions on the part of the Nigerian state, the only solution is a securityresponse that reduces the threat of radical violence to politically acceptable levels.

The issue of the origin of rain has much to do with the explanation given by the Qurnic verse: We send the fecundating winds, then cause the rain to descend from the sky, therewith providing you with water. [Sura XV,22].

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The physical removal of Boko Haram from the scene, or rather its reduction to manageable levels, while welcome in the short-term, nevertheless will not significantly alter the phenomenon of Islamic radicalism in Nigeria. This radicalism is generated by an intellectual and doctrinal mindset that is not only historically indigenous to the country but is also a constituent part of the current resurgence and contest for ascendancy of political Islam across the Muslim world. This contest pitches the authority of traditional Islamic doctrines against progressive forces seeking to indigenize fastdeveloping modernity within an Islamic cultural terrain, and the delineation of the borders of this terrain is the object of fierce dispute. Boko Haram, essentially, is an organic product of an unresolved cultural struggle that is intensifying and which, in the light of the more conducive environment for Islamism provided by the aftermath of the Arab Spring, looks set to accelerate. In the light of this, the only permanent solution to the problem will be a concerted, educational effort towards the support of currents of a modernising, enlightened Islam in order to dismantle the textual universe of Salafist Islam. To do this requires a massive investment in educational resources which it is unlikely that the Nigerian state will be able to take on, and which in the light of the international nature of the epistemological conflict, cannot be undertaken in isolation. We are left with the reality that Islamic radicalism in Nigeria is here to stay, and that its effect will only be removed by a long-term process of educational attrition which will take generations to achieve.

Boko Haram Ideological background 73


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Annex I: Al-wal wal-bar and the culture of hostility

Jihadisms search for an enemy is primarily focused on Muslims in the contemporary era. However a cornerstone of the ideology is the maintenance of enmity against the fear of contamination and the challenges posed by accommodation with infidels, by the threat of mutual affection and the consequent threat of harmony and assimilation. In his work On The Necessity of the Straight Path for Opposing the Denizens of Hell, Ibn Taymiyya preached that the starting point for a Muslims life was the point at which a perfect dissimilarity with the non-Muslims has been achieved.188 The work is one of the most influential authorities of the practice of al-wal wal-bar (Loyalty and Renunciation), which is designed to protect against the contamination, and derives its authority from its thoroughgoing mining of sources justifying and promoting the practice from the Qurn, the Hadith, the opinions of the Companions and the four legal schools of Islam. Al-wal wal-bar is a doctrine which:
divides humanity into believers and infidels, and seeks to establish that the only relationship 189 between them can be one of hatred and enmity.

It is therefore a polarizing doctrine by which radicals maintain their control over what constitutes the authenticity of a Muslims Islamic faith, gauged according to his expression of love for anything or anybody defined as Islam or Muslim, and his hatred for the infidel. The concept is based upon unambiguous Qurnic foundations:
Say: If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Say: Obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers. [Qurn III,31-2] O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. [Qurn V,51] There is a goodly pattern for you in Abraham and those with him, when they told their folk: Lo! we are guiltless of you and all that ye worship beside Allah. We have done with you. And there hath arisen between us and you hostility and hate for ever until ye believe in Allah only. [Qurn LX,4]

In fact the issue of the Muslim's relationship with the infidel is one of the most important in Islam 190 and the polarity of al-wal wal-bar is considered to form a foundational prerequisite of faith. The true Muslim under this scheme does not assimilate into the enemys society or imitate its ways on even the most trivial level such as imitating unbelievers in their physical appearance (because imitating them in appearance points to liking them on the inside191), greeting unbelievers, sending them condolences at a time of grief, employing a non-Muslim or agreeing to be employed by a nonMuslim (because it cedes authority and demeans the believer to the unbeliever).192
188 189

Ibn Taymiyya, . Ed. Abu Khalid Walid Manisi, Minbar al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, 1994.

Cf. Anon.: ( Essay Regarding the Basic Rule of the Blood, Wealth and Honour of the Disbelievers), Tibyan Productions. The state of constant enmity is Qurnically authorised: cf. Qurn: LXI,4; X,2; VIII,40; II,193.

The amount of attention devoted to the infidel is huge: 64 percent of the total Qurn addresses that relationship while 81 percent of the Sra and 37 percent of the Hadith focus on this as well. In sum, nearly two thirds of Shara is devoted to the infidel. D. Bukay, Islams Hatred of the Non-Muslim, Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2013, pp.11-20.

The General Presidency for Teaching Girls, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, collected by Freedom House from Masjid al-Farouq, Houston, 12/15/03. See, Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques, Center for Religious Freedom Freedom House, Washington 2005, p.86.

The General Presidency for Teaching Girls, p.85.

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The concept naturally derives from the understanding of Islam as a faith at war193, and the jihadist is able to function intellectually through this by abdicating moral thinking in deferring to textual authority:
Al-walaa wal baraa is what Islam is all about; no Imaan is complete without it. So if you go along with the Kafir and keep your mouth shut you will end up committing the crime of not hating for sake of 194 Allah. Which crime is easier to handle, a crime against Kafir people or a crime against Allah?

In practical terms, the doctrine has been progressively ignored by the broader Muslim community, but there is no legitimate means by which it can be repudiated. Militant activist groups such as Boko Haram are able to use it as a yardstick for the practice of true Islam and effectively silence the misgivings of non-radicalised Muslims, thus increasing their room for manoeuvre. Just how crucial this tool is for Jihadism is demonstrated by Ayman al-Zawahiri in his book Knights under the Banner of the Prophet, where he states:
Making the masses of the Islamic nation understand al-wal wal-bar will require a long time, and our enemies will not give us that time. Therefore, we must use jihad in Palestine as a means of 195 making the Islamic nation understand al-wal wal-bar.

The one therefore takes precedence over the other. This question of re-awakening Muslims to their forgotten obligation to love and hate for Allah forms an essential platform for the jihadists claim to be restoring Islam to its true place, whether through militant violence or through non-cooperation in civic life, or the severe conditionality placed on acquiescence to a non-Shara legal system, or even the active promotion of Islamophobia.196


Al-Wala wal-Bara doctrine originated in the pre-Islamic Arab tribal system from which it was passed on to the umma (Islamic community). The constructs of love and loyalty were extended to the family and the hamula (clan) while suspicion and hatred was directed toward those outside the clan, the "other" who did not embrace Muhammad's teachings. The Islamic umma has evolved into a super-tribe by way of religious linkage. D. Bukay, Islams Hatred of the Non-Muslim, Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2013, pp.11-20.

Abu Haithem Al-Hijazee, Setting The Record Straight: Was Islam Really Spread By The Sword?, January 2007 (The author argues that it was).

Citation from Lafif Lakhdar: European Muslims Should Adopt Universal Values (MEMRI, October 2007). Ayman al-Zawahjiri has also authored himself a work specific to this doctrine: ( Al-Wal wal-Bar, an Inherited Doctrine but a Forgotten Reality) December 2002.

To openly display [hostility] in any way that would get the message across that our enmity is for them, and that if we wer e to gain the upper hand, we would not leave them on the face (of the Earth). Shaykh Abdalazz al-Jarbu: (The Announcement of the Obligation to Emigrate from the Land of Disbelief to the Land of Islam ), Minbar al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, July 2001.

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Annex II: Some Islamic doctrinal literature on western education

Since the Boko Haram group has become defined by its rejectionist position on international western education it would be useful to examine some Islamic doctrinal background to this position. This annex therefore collects together some characteristic materials of the genre. One of the texts most influential to Muhammad Yusuf was the work by the Saudi scholar Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayd l Ghayhab, the one-time head of the international Islamic Fiqh Council and member of the Saudi Arabian Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Ift. The work in question is :( The Secular, Foreign and Colonialist Schools: Their History and Dangers) published in 2000197. This text specifically served as the theological basis for his rejection of a natural science-based (Western and secular) view of the world. In his work Abu Zayd outlines in broad terms the dangers posed by foreign schools and colleges whose syllabuses are based on methodologies divergent from the traditional Islamic curriculum:
The Muslim Nation constitutes the good example to be followed by all nations of the earth. If foreign education should infiltrate it, it will afflict it with alienation from its faith, with the removal of its ethics, its language and its morals, with the denigration of its past and contemporary history, the fragmentation of its unity and its systems of life, with divisions in place of community, with disharmony in place of concord. It will take is leadership from a new generation which at the very least will only be Islamic in name, in the contraction of marriages, the registration of births but foreign in language, tastes, opinions and mindset something which will contribute to the killing off the spirit of the [Islamic] Nation and the obliteration of its essence. This oppressive wave that has spread over the Islamic world has called in foreign education to refine its youth is in truth and nothing but a conspiracy against the faith, ethics, manly virtues, language and history. May God curse the oppressors who desire it in their deviance, for in the next life they shall be accounted as Disbelievers!

A particular focus of Abu Zayds objections to Western education is the downgrading in these institutions of the status of the Arabic language in the syllabus:
The imposition of a foreign language as the language of instruction of school subjects in itself constitutes a storming of the fortress of Islam the Arabic language by the very fact of expelling its role as a symbol for the people of Islam ... The deep and feeling concerning the inadequacies of this language for the teaching modern sciences, and then the breaking of the link between these sciences and Islam and its Arabic language ... In the final analysis this is demanding that a generation be diverted from the Heritage of the Islamic world which is written in the Arabic language, at the forefront of which are the two noble revelations of the Book and the Sunna.

What results from this dethronement of Arabic, according to Abu Zayd, is an attitude that implies that western education is in some ways superior to traditional Islamic education in its presentation of knowledge and science. The purpose of this expulsion of Arabic is:
to lay siege upon the mentality of the Muslim generation and isolate it from its history, burdening it with the history of Europe and America for example, for in its instruction, subjects, teachers and syllabuses he sees nothing, for instance, but the history of Europe, how they are superior to all other peoples, how its civilisation is mother to the world, and how in truth it dominates the world ... The result is that foreign education is destructive to Muslim generations, and builds up in them a historical culture unconnected with Islam or Muslims. The cultural and nationalist attack undertaken by schools

Available for download at http://www.saaid.net/book/open.php?cat=83&book=349 .

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is the preparation for an attack against the religion, since they are bastions of propaganda for religions and sects which Islam has erased and annulled, but which infidels such as the Christians still profess.

This is also the view of Ab al-Hasan al-Nadw who writes in his book (The Conflict between Islamic Thought and Western Thought) of the problems incurred from importing educational syllabuses and teaching materials from abroad:
Regarding the importation of professors and teachers from Europe and America the least that can be said of them is that they will not allow the continued formation of the new generation in the creed of the [Islamic] Nation. The increasing interest in foreign languages, and the granting them more than they deserve, means that they grow at the expense of the Arabic language and means the presence of teachers do not believe in the aims of the [Islamic] Nation and its view on life.

The argumentation of Al-Nadws book (which is listed by Abu Zayd as an important analysis of the problem) is of interest for anyone studying the mindset of Muhammad Yusuf. For instance, on the subject of the Western system of education he writes:
It is clear to the experienced researcher that a system of education possesses a spirit and conscience like a living being has a spirit and a conscience. The spirit and conscience of an education system reflects objective beliefs and their personality, the purpose of their science and the study of the universe, and their view on life and ethics. This is what grants an education system an independent personality and its own spirit and conscience. This spirit operates entirely in its own framework throughout all the fields: literature, philosophy, history, the arts, the sciences of civilisation even economic and politics so that it is difficult to separate these things from this spirit. Not everyone is able to distinguish between its sound and unhealthy elements it is on the other hand easy for someone possessing the force of independent judgement and strong critical capacity to sort out the useful from the harmful, to apply the principle of take that which is pure and leave behind that which is muddy and make a distinction between that which is original and that which is superfluous, so that he may draw from of its essence and spirit. This is easy enough in the natural sciences, while at the same time it is a difficult and subtle thing in literature, philosophy and the civilisational sciences especially if a people holds specific beliefs and adopts an independent philosophy and a particular pattern of life, or an independent history that is not made up of embers of the past but is a beacon of light to forthcoming generations and which considers the personality of the Messenger [Muhammad] and the era in which he lived to be the paradigm superior to all values and the exalted example for the life of mankind. If a people of this description adopts the education system of a people fundamentally different in their values and their standards a constant conflict takes place which never leaves this people for a single phase of its life, but drags them into constructing one thing and destroying another, to believing one thing and denying the credibility of another, to exalting one thing and despising another. In such a state an intellectual conflict has to take place, a shaking of ones belief, a deviation from religion and finally an acceptance of new values and thinking to take the place of former values and ways of thinking. This is a natural process which has to take place like some natural law and which cannot be circumvented by any amount of well-meaning attitudes or concerns or the positive motivations of parents or lateral or external precautions. It can, at the most, be put off for a while or its progress slowed down, but never halted or removed. When a tree sprouts and grows according to its nature and bears fruit in due course, a man may have the ability not to plant the tree or look after it by tendering it and watering it, but he is not able to stand up against a flourishing, ripening tree and force it to bear a different kind of fruit. This is the case with the Western system of education, it carries its independent spirit and individual conscience which manifests the creed of its exponents and the mentality of its founders, it is the result of a natural progression lasting thousands of years and is an expression of the mentality of Westerners and the sum of their capacities and values. Whenever this educational system comes to be applied in a Muslim country or an Islamic society, before anything else a mental conflict takes

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place which leads step-by-step to a shaking of belief and intellectual apostasy, and finally to religious 198 apostasy. This is natural to all of those who seek it (bar those whom God has protected from this).

It is not just the identity of the founders or the teachers which constitute the problem of westernising schools, nor the prestige that becomes attached to the culture of the founders of the system, but the nature itself of the sciences that are being taught. In his treatise: ( Summary of Advice Insisting upon Holding to Ones Faith and Warning of Foreign Schools)199 Shaykh Abd al-Rahmn ibn Nsir al-Sad underlines how:
One must distinguish between useful modern sciences which do not wield any damaging influence upon religious beliefs, and modern sciences which are founded upon erroneous, worthless theories that are not for us, which are built upon ignorance and waywardness, and which contradict the sound teachings of the religion of the Prophets. For so many of these sciences are injurious due to their ugly influences and results, and so many of them have ruined those who are less discerning ... How can anyone who has any faith or reason hand over his child and the apple of his eye to foreign schools well-known for their enmity to the Islamic faith, or indeed any faith, and which have been founded for the sole purpose of steering people away from the religion of the one true God? How can a reasonable man consign his charge, as yet empty of religious teachings and praiseworthy ethics, to those who would stuff his brain with atheism and doubt? ... or those who would teach the damaging sciences? For one finds many of those who graduate from foreign schools ... claiming that they have come to know what they did not know before, and that they are the knowledgeable ones while others are ignorant and illiterate even though all the time they are the ones who of all people are the most ignorant of the religious sciences ... Those fathers who send their children to foreign schools have forfeited not only their faith but their life on earth too, for they will surely undergo some of their punishment in this world before the next life. Woe to them on both accounts ... And it is one of Gods mercies to peninsular Arabs that they are safe from heretical innovations, that they keep to the school of the Salaf and their sound belief, safe God be praised from the beliefs of atheist materialists.

In his work ( The Call to Reform)200 the rector of al-Azhar University, Shaykh Muhammad al-Khidr Husayn, highlighted the perils of students in western-system schools suddenly faced with challenges to their inherited opinions:
During the course of his studies there, or in attending some of the lectures, he comes across areas of contention against which he can find within himself no arguments of defence. When the student comes across these points of contention they dominate his mind so that he sees blackness on the face of truth and returns to his country convinced that his parents are wallowing in some ancient delusion. This is the punishment for those who make light of Gods guidance.

The Muslim brought up in these institutions, according to Abu Zayd, therefore becomes effectively emptied of real Islam:
One influence of this is the emergence of a class of hypocrites who bear the label of Islam outwardly in name, in the contracting of marriages, the registration of births, the conducting of funeral services and burials in Muslim cemeteries, but who harbour atheism within and demonstrate permissiveness and corruption in their behaviour.


Ab al-Hasan al-Nadw , ( The Conflict between Islamic Thought and Western Thought in Islamic Lands), Dr al-Nadwa lil-Tawz, Lebanon, 2nd ed. 1968, pp.177-179. Abd al-Rahmn ibn Nsir al-Sad: ( Summary of Advice Insisting upon Holding to Ones Faith and Warning of Foreign Schools), ed. Dr. Abd al-Salm ibn Barjas l Abd al-Karm, Dr al-Imm Ahmad, 1st Ed. 1426 (2005).

Muhammad al-Khidr Husayn: ( The Call to Reform in the Light of the Book and the Sunna and the History of the Nation), Dr al-Rya, 1st Ed. 1417 (1996).

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or even loses it altogether:

They either apostatize to a worthless religion such as Christianity, or apostatize to another religion: agnosticism God preserve us! The destruction takes several forms: the destruction of the Islamic creed and the destruction of Islamic morals, for these colonial schools were the first to insert the fitna [sedition social upset] of the mingling between the two sexes and all the spread of corruption, of forbidden things and the destruction of chastity and modesty that this causes, and even gets to the point of refusing to accept girl students who are veiled. The result is the destruction of Islamic unity, which promotes chaos, the destruction of the Islamic state which produces an infidel ruling system, or the destruction of the Islamic creed which leads to atheism.

It is a disgraceful thing argues al-Muhibb al-Din al-Khatb in an address on evangelizing schools (also quoted by Abu Zayd in his work):
that parents should hand over his child, or rather his brother to an evangelising school to keep for several years, one that takes on a child sound in his belief, culture and faith, and then after a period hands him back to his family, his [Islamic] Nation and his country as some distorted child, while what he once possessed is taken from him and replaced with that which is corrupting and of no use or benefit to him.

Shaykh Al al-Tantw writing in Majallat al-Risla (issue 743) makes an open call that:
Arab governments should lay down laws to close every English or French or American foreign school, else our work will be voided and come to nothing. These schools will turn out our sons as enemies to us and allies to our enemy.

In similar vein Shaykh Hasan Msht, one of the scholars of the grand Mosque in Mecca, writes in his treatise entitled ( The Islamic Shara Ruling on The Education of Muslims and their Children in Foreign Schools):
Be aware that if you allow your children to enter these schools you have permitted them to enter churches and to attend infidel religious services and listen to attacks made on the faith of Islam and all things that the Shara forbids to the impressionable, and which common human virtue also prohibits.

History, for Abu Zayd, has shown evidence of the political damage that ensues when Muslim countries yield to the pressure to import foreign systems of education:
The Christianizing school which opened in Istanbul in the year 1863 lead to a movement of rebellion against the Ottoman state under the leadership of the atheist, secular and westernised leader Atatrk ... This spelt the destruction of the Islamic state ... It was the Christianizing school that opened in Beirut in the year 1823 that introduced the thought of Arab nationalism, which came to dominate the leadership of the Islamic East.

Abu Zayd sums up the level of damage to the Islamic world posed by these institutions:
they are a powerful force of evil that dominates the Islamic world for the purpose of weakening and undermining Islam in the hearts of its people they are centres armed with the latest mechanisms of corruption, ranging from permissiveness to atheism they are centres for launching raids more serious than military attacks upon the [Islamic] Nation and its younger generations there are mechanisms for the robbing of beliefs and ethics they lend support to securing the aims of the enemies of Muslims

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they are lances against the Islamic Nation, casting doubt on its abilities and finally putting paid to them they prime future generations of the Muslim public towards the rejection of Islam they overturn the adept from loyalty to his faith, language and history they empty the Muslim mind of its constituents and surrender him to whoever wishes to lead him; this naturally squeezes out the possibility of any conditions emerging for an Islamic resurgence they seek out, in general, various forms of intellectual and religious pluralism, and mutually hostile affiliations, so as to promote conflict and cause political and sectarian divisions to explode. In so doing they aim to shatter Islamic unity and threaten the peace of Islam in all of its constituents. God protect us in His mercy!

After detailing at length the intellectual, cultural self-confidence and ultimately religious damage to Muslims posed by the existence of western schools, Abu Zayds conclusions and recommendations to Muslims are unequivocal:
It is incumbent upon every Muslim to detest that which is forbidden whenever he sees it and to strive to eradicate it to the best of his ability. He who does not detest that which is forbidden or abhor it shall not prosper ... Let no believer henceforth be in any doubt as to the nature of foreign schools and their negative influence on Muslims at the individual, group or national level, that it is one of the most abhorrent things and it is incumbent upon him to hate it, abhor it an openly declare his repudiation of it. It is not permitted for Muslims to put disbelief, error and worthless sects such as the Jews, Christians, the Zoroastrians, atheists and suchlike in a position to propagandise for their worthlessness or permit them to open offices and institutions for this purpose, including educational institutions at all levels, from nurseries to universities. This is because such things permit apostasy from Islam and acquiesce in those things which oppose the true faith. This gives prominence to Disbelief to the detriment of Faith, and such is contrary to the purposes of Muhammad's message ... Similarly, any principle or belief that opposes Islam constitutes a blow against Islam, its rulings and its laws ... Muslims are advised to cleanse their lands of all defilement and in their defence expel everything that is worthless, thereby protecting Islam from attack ... In our view these foreign, international, colonial schools are nothing but dark houses that are 201 comparable to the mosques of mischief and with their infidel methodologies and Western structure they are in conflict with Islamic schools, they promote the division of believers and the fragmentation of their unity ... They are lairs for disbelieving nations who fight against God and His Prophet making encroachments with their syllabuses and their teachers by opening up such dark houses and embracing the children of Muslims. All this in the name of spreading knowledge, culture and refining the human intellect. But God sees all and every Muslim sees that they are liars. One must also pay attention to the form and content of syllabuses and study books to ensure that they accord with the true Islamic belief and are of benefit to the [Islamic] Nation on the individual and community levels ... Let these people know that every dirham earned from this type of education destructive to Islam and the [Islamic] Nation, is prohibited and forbidden ... It is not permitted for a Muslim to afford any form of help whatsoever to schools that are destructive to Islam and the [Islamic] Nation, or cooperate with them or promote them, since Almighty God said: Help not one another unto sin and transgression [Qurn V,2] ...


The term is pointedly taken from the Qurnic phrase masjid al-dirr: [Qurn IX,107-8]: And as for those who chose a place of worship for mischief and disbelief and in order to cause dissent among the believers, and as an outpost for those who warred against Allah and His messenger aforetime, they will surely swear: We purposed naught save good. Allah beareth witness that they verily are liars. Never stand (to pray) there.

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It is not permitted for a Muslim who believes in God and the Final Day to cast his children into perdition in the lap of foreign schools ... For such as these have yet to have knowledge of Islam and will be confronted with Disbelief, atheism, evil and corruption, let alone the influence of these things upon the instincts of impressionable little ones ... For they hand these ones over to these schools clean only to receive them back polluted ... since they may well enter as a Muslim and exit as a Disbeliever ... He who enters his childhood to a school willingly and by choice knowing that in its syllabuses and activities it aims to extract Muslim children from their faith and cast doubts in them concerning their creed is himself an apostate from Islam, as all scholars concur in their writings. O Muslims, beware of these international, colonialist schools, safeguard your children from them, from the apostasy, corruption, fornication and rebellion they cause!

Fatws and Declarations Abu Zayds takfr of the parent is actually not an individual initiative, nor is it confined to the Saudi, Wahhbist school, but is the official verdict across the Islamic world, as indicated by the following declaration by the Al-Azhar Board of Senior Scholars:
He who sends his child into one of these pestilential places, after the exposure of its purpose and the demonstration of the fearful activities committed therein, is despising his faith, and indeed is departing from the fold of Islam, if he is cognizant and approving of these results which the evangelizers intend. [Sahfat al-Islm, No. 1, 1352]

On Monday 26 June 1933 the Committee of Senior Scholars at the University of al-Azhar examined the issue in detail, concerned at the proliferation of evangelizers who:
employ all manner of stratagems and appear before those were weak in intellect as if they were Messengers of mercy, erecting hospitals taking in the sick and curing them free of charge, and erecting schools taking in children of the poor and educating them for no fee, and building shelters accepting the needy and providing alms for them works which appear to be merciful but which conceal deceitfulness and deception since in these schools they are teaching Muslim children things which are against the Islamic religion and against Muhammad (peace be upon him) and against the Noble Qurn and they sprinkle these throughout their lessons like some poison in the mix.

The result of their deliberations was the following fatw issued by the professors of the faculty of Islamic law under the presidency of head of faculty His Excellency Shaykh Mamn al-Shanw:
We have examined the wise conclusion promulgated by the Committee of Senior Scholars at al-Azhar al-Sharf concerning evangelization and the evangelizers and have found it to have diagnosed the sickness and determined the remedy. We support this conclusion and see it as the decisive remedy for halting the hostile actions of the evangelizers. We add our voice to the voice of the Committee of Senior Scholars calling for the powers that be to promulgate decisive legislation that will block the path to those buffoons and reassure Muslims, the needy and the weak concerning their faith and their children. We call upon the [Islamic] Nation, as did the Committee of Senior Scholars, not to enter their sons and daughters into the schools, refuges or hospitals of the evangelists, since they rob them of the most precious thing they have, which is their faith, and this is a most patent loss. O Muslims, contribute to building hospitals, refuges and schools so as to house your brothers and their sons and those of you who are needy, and do not make them resort to entering under duress (albeit apparently willing) the Fire that is being kindled for them. And say (unto them): Act! Allah will behold your actions, and (so will) His messenger and the believers [Qurn IX,105].

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The position taken by the Saudi Arabian religious authorities, however, is the most intransigent. In a Declaration of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ift on the ruling concerning the opening of foreign schools in a Muslim country202, the following conclusions were reached:
The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ift has been made aware of books, questions and enquiries concerning the phenomenon of the spread of foreign schools and colleges in Muslim lands, by which is meant those schools which have been founded on a basis other than the fear of God and His favour, but rather on the basis of European syllabuses that have no connection with Islam, its [Arabic] language or its history. It is plain to every Muslim whom God has enlightened with His perception how vehement is the hostility of Jews and Christians towards Muslims, and how these machinate night and day against Islam and its people, and work their plans and snares to drive a wedge amongst Muslims and draw them away from their true faith into the people of blandishment and waywardness! Over several periods they hastened to attack the Muslims with armed raids, then began to sow doubts into the Muslim mind concerning their creed, their Qurn and their Prophet, in what may be termed an intellectual or cultural onslaught, until it has turned now to openly attacking Muslims through their younger generations, and the minds of these, through opening schools and colleges which are, on the one hand, of an atheistic stamp and on the other hand permissive in character. These schools have been actively concerned in form and content with attracting the largest number of the Muslim public in order to lead them into error and seduce them, and have been assiduous in multiplying and calling for such schools to be built so that in every Islamic country they have come to form beacons and loudhailers turning out Muslim boys and girls, through whom the [Islamic] Nation imbibes forms of doctrinal and ethical disintegration in their efforts to cast the [Islamic] Nation into the lap of its enemy may God preserve us and keep us! In the light of the above, it is not permitted for Muslims to open foreign schools or colleges, nor to encourage their construction or approve of such, nor to enter Muslim children into them since they constitute means for the destruction and demolition of the Islamic faith and ethical norms. This is a plain detriment and established source of corruption that must be defended against and any pretexts advanced in their favour blocked ... It is not permitted to build or to lease terrain or properties for foreign schools and colleges since this constitutes offering a help to sin and transgression, and Almighty God has said: Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment. [Qurn V,2] ... It is incumbent upon all Muslims, whether leaders or the flock, to take care to teach their male and female children true Islam with respect to the creed, rulings, ethics and matters. It is not permitted to empty syllabuses of education and instruction of these things, nor to place the Islamic faith in competition with other worthless creeds, denominations or viewpoints.
Signed: President: Abd al-Azz ibn Abd Allh ibn Muhammad l al-Shaykh Members: Abd Allh ibn Abd al-Rahmn al-Ghadyn; Slih ibn Fawzn al-Fawzn; Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayd

The quality of the school is of no importance, since the Fatw no. 4172, dated 4/12/1401 [October 3 1981] of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ift in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia outlines the prohibition:
Question: What is the ruling concerning one who causes his son or daughter to enter and register the into a French or English school, which run counter to the teachings of the faith, with his claim that he is a Muslim and he is choosing a good future for them?

. 0221/2/3 . Text from Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayd l Ghayhab: :( The Secular, Foreign and Colonialist Schools: Their History and Dangers), pp.61 ff.

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Response: it is incumbent for a parent to bring up his male or female children with an Islamic education since they are under his care and he is responsible for them on the Day of Resurrection, it is not permitted in to enter them into the schools of the Infidel for fear of the fitna that would ensue and for their corrupting influence over religious belief and ethics.

The ban on attending such schools is absolute, and the claims made by Muslim parents that the Christian school makes scrupulous efforts not to inculcate cultural inferiority or attempt to Christianize by any means available to them, do not impress the legislative authorities. According to the following fatw the Muslim is not to be misled: Fatw (no. 30220, 26 Muharram 1424 / 30 March 2003, under the category al-wal walbar):
Question: Is it permitted me to send my children to Christian schools? Is it allowed to send children to Christian schools in the light of the excellence of the instruction, discipline and manners that they inculcate there ... With nuns overseeing the education, while the instructional materials teaching the Islamic faith are delivered by a Muslim teacher, and there is a delegated Muslim director as general overseer and most of the students are Muslims, and the nuns there exhibit no form of racism nor teach them any Christianity? Response: Children are one of Gods graces for which He should be thanked, and they should be protected from everything that is materially or spiritually undesirable. The first thing that should be preserved is their faith ... And there is no doubt that, anyone who sends his children to foreign schools has been remiss in this task. For these schools have their short-term and long-term aims and methodologies and means designed to secure these aims. Do not be deceived by the teaching of some Islamic subjects there, or by the audio broadcasts of the noble Qurn ... or by the organisation and discipline ... All this is but a means to inject poison into the honey and to pull the wool over the eyes of the easily duped so that they send their sons there. For which reason we say to the honourable inquirer, it is not permitted for a Muslim to send his sons to foreign schools, Christian or otherwise. Muslims should instead found schools that will engage in educating their sons in those studies of their faith and the world about them which they need; this is a collective duty that they must undertake. If they neglect to do this it constitutes a sin to be imputed against all those who are 203 able but who fail to do so.

Of particular relevance to the Boko Haram bombing of Christian schools as such, is the following fatw (also mentioned by Abu Zayd in his work) concerning a request made by Filipino guest workers in Saudi Arabia to lease a building to use as a school for the education of their own children: Fatw no. 20262, dated 3/3/1419 [June 28 1998] of the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ift in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia204:
Following the committees study in response to the request for a fatw, its reply is that it is not permitted to you to lease the above-mentioned villa as a school in which a faith other than the faith of Islam is to be taught, since this constitutes offering a help to sin and transgression, which God Almighty has forbidden with his words: Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment. [Qurn V,2].
Signed: President: Abd al-Azz ibn Abd Allh Ibn Bz Vice-president: Abd al-Azz ibn Abd Allh ibn Muhammad l al-Shaykh Members: Abd Allh ibn Abd al-Rahmn al-Ghadyn; Slih ibn Fawzn al-Fawzn; Bakr ibn Abdallh Ab Zayd

203 204


. .4141/3/3 ) 26202(

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