Fawaz A. Gerges writes: Islamic State’s Islamist utopia has taken hold of the imagination of small Sunni communities almost everywhere, including in Brussels, where suicide bombers killed 32 people last month.
Its worldview, Salafi jihadism, is perhaps the most powerful weapon in its deadly arsenal. A traveling and expanding ideology, Salafi jihadism, or religious totalitarianism, has evolved into an influential social movement with a repertoire of ideas, iconic leaders, far-flung supporters, networks of recruiters and theorist enablers who provide members with theological sustenance.
Regardless of what happens to Islamic State, Salafi jihadism is here to stay and will likely gain more converts in politically polarized Arab and Muslim societies. The challenge is to shine light on this growing ideology and make sense of it.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi and his inner circle rely particularly on three Salafi jihadist manifestoes to justify what they do. The most well-known is “The Management of Savagery.” Circulated in PDF format under the pseudonym Abu Bakr Najji in the early 2000s, the manifesto provides a strategic road map of how to create an Islamic caliphate.
The second book is “Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Jihad” by Abu Abdullah Muhajjer, which calls on Salafi jihadists to do whatever it takes to establish a purely unified Islamic state.
The final book is “The Essentials of Making Ready” (for Jihad) by Sayyid Imam Sharif, aka Abdel-Qader Ibn Abdel-Aziz or Dr. Fadl. This massive work focuses on the theological and practical meanings of jihad in Islam, and it has become a central text in jihadist training. Fadl admitted that he wrote the book in the late 1980s as a manual for training camps of what subsequently became known as Al Qaeda. [Continue reading…]