“The Neglected Duty” by Abdel Salam Faraj

While Sayyid Qutb’s writings were a precursor for militant ideas in Egypt, Abdel Salam Faraj took Qutb’s ideas a step further by explicitly calling for Jihad against the Muslim ruler who does not implement Sharia. He described violent Jihad as an obligation of every Muslim when Sharia is not implemented. His book, Al-Farida Al-Gha’eba (“The Neglected Duty”) represents a comprehensive exposition of the rationale for fighting internal enemies and killing fellow Muslims (Scott, 2003).           

The Neglected Duty calls for the establishment of an Islamic state based on Sharia. All Muslims are required to participate in this effort, if necessary through war. The establishment of this Islamic state will provide a territorial nucleus for its expansion and the eventual re-establishment of the Caliphate which will then conquer the world.

Faraj argues that unbelievers are not only non-Muslims, but also those Muslims who do not adhere to Sharia. He evokes the ideas of classical Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) to state that an unbeliever is someone who does not believe or does not adhere to any of the prescripts of Islam, even if he pronounces the Islamic confessions of faith. This applies to any and all of the laws of Islam and is a standard for the ruler and ruled alike.

For Faraj, Jihad is similar to other religious duties that a Muslim performs such as prayer and fasting. He even calls it the sixth pillar of Islam. Notably, Faraj dismisses the argument that the battlefield of Jihad should be the liberation of Jerusalem and instead states that priority should be given to the near enemy over the far enemy. Faraj alleges that unbelief has pervaded in Egypt and that laws were made by infidel rulers and describes Egypt as Dar al-Harb (the abode of war). He supports his argument by evoking a Quranic verse which says: “Whosoever does not rule by what God sent down, those are non-believers.” [Cite] He equates Sadat to the Pharaoh of the Quran who oppresses the people of Moses. He also argued that the more than 140 Quranic verses promoting peace and the making of pacts with non-believers are abrogated by one verse command the Prophet to fight the non-believers on the rationale that the peaceful verses cam when the Prophet’s community was weak.

A fatwa published in January 1982 by Jad al-Haqq (d. 1996) (also here), Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and later Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, titled Nakd Al-Farida Al-Ghaeba (A Critique of the Neglected Duty) refuted Faraj’s positions. Al-Haqq criticized Faraj’s main points, his use and understanding of Quran and Sunna, and his Arabic linguistic abilities. Haqq stated that man-made law which is required by circumstances must be tolerated. He disagreed with the establishment of the Caliphate as it is not a religiously stipulated institution. Regarding the definition of “unbelief,” he argued that any person who gives witness that there is no God but Allah and believes in the Prophet and his revelation is a Muslim. Haqq also denied that unbelief had pervaded Egypt. Regarding the obligation to fight unbelievers, Haqq argued that the Quranic verse Faraj used to support military jihad (cited above) applies only to the Arab polytheists who had broken a treaty they had made with the Prophet. Regarding Faraj’s use of the following Qur’anic verse: “Whoever does not judge by what Allah revealed, they are the unbelievers.” Haqq argued that the “what” in the verse does not mean “everything” but means “one thing.” Therefore, the verse implies that only a ruler who does not rule according to anything at all from Sharia is an unbeliever. Haqq also refuted Faraj’s definition of jihad. He referred to verses from the Quran that stress tolerance and “no subversion in religion.” He noted that jihad, in the sense of holy war, was launched during the time of the Prophet but only against the polytheists who wanted to destroy the message of Islam. Haqq concludes that the only viable jihad today is defensive, and emphasized the importance of peaceful jihad, such as through learning. Throughout the fatwa, Haqq made references to Faraj’s deficiency in classical Arabic and how this made him ill equipped to interpret Qur’an (Scott, 2003).

Next: Rationalizing Jihadi Work in Egypt and Abroad by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif