Accueil arrow Foreign analyzes arrow Influences of Abu Ala Maududi on islamo-jihadi thoughts of Abdullah Azzam the father of modern jihad movement


Dr Farhan Zahid








Dr Farhan Zahid
Ph D, Counter-Terrorism and Security Analyst (Pakistan).





Marc Sageman, a prominent terrorism expert, describes Muslims as latecomers to modern terrorism. He further seconded that Islam like all other religions professes peace but like every other religions, Islam also has violent radical sects, voicing violent extremism on the name of religion[1]. David Rapoport also listed Islamist terrorism as fourth and the current wave in modern history of terrorism. He explained the wave as, "Islam is at the heart of the wave. Islamic groups have conducted the most significant, deadly, and profoundly international attacks. Equally significant, the political events providing the hope for the fourth wave originated in Islam, and the successes achieved apparently influenced terror groups elsewhere[2]."

Radical Islamist ideologues Abul Ala Maududi, Syed Qutb, Abdul Salam Faraj and Abu Mohammad al-Maqidisi had been producing jihadist texts since the first quarter of twentieth century but their works did not get wide prominence until the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and US involvement in that conflict. Founder of Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Abul Ala Maududi may be termed as the most prolific as far as his influence on other ideologues was concerned.

Before 1979, there had been incidents involving violent Islamist organizations but their impact was minimal. Now it's a fait accompli that it was the US role during Afghan War and material support rendered to jihadist organizations that eventually strengthened and boasted them.  Four countries could be directly or indirectly involved in allowing the jihadi movement to take its roots, namely : Egypt, where the jihadi movement started during late 1960s after the execution of Syed Qutb by the hands of Jamal Nasir's military regime; Saudi Arabia, which bankrolled the jihadi movement and granted asylum to most of Egyptian Islamist ideologues; Pakistan, where Islamist military regime of General Zia ul Haq allowed jihadis to receive training at camps in Pakistan and then fight against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan; and finally the United States, for providing training of trainers and providing necessary equipment for the violent Islamist movement. The CIA-ISI-GID troika was instrumental in training, funding, arming and facilitating not only the Afghan Islamist groups but also Arabs and other radical Muslims who flocked to Pakistan and received training at the camps established during that period.[3]

During Afghan War period (1979-89), the potential jihadists were provided with the best opportunity to actually implement and execute jihadist agendas. It was during that period that jihadists from Indonesia to North America had flocked to Pakistan and taken advantage to training camps in border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and in tribal areas of Pakistan. Islamist officials at the helm of affairs in Pakistan were too generous to include them in training programs and there they received state of art training, indeed taught first to Pakistani instructors by US trainers (training of trainers/ToT Programs). Pakistan had truly become the epicenter of Islamist radicals who flocked to the country for ‘jihad, glory and honor'. It is pertinent to note here that before Afghan War the center for Islamist movements and jihadist ideologues was Egypt, and it was from Egypt that most of stalwart jihadist turned to Pakistan.

According to Steve Coll, by 1986 Afghan Cell headed by Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf of Pakistani intelligence had been able to construct a network of training camps for Afghan Islamist guerillas near Afghan border. "Between sixteen thousand and eighteen thousand fresh recruits passed through his camps and training courses each year.[4]". According to one Pakistani intelligence source, "some 5,000 Saudis, 3,000 Yemenis, 2,000 Egyptians, 2,800 Algerians, 400 Tunisians, 370 Iraqis, 200 Libyans, and scores of Jordanians were fighting in Afghanistan against the Soviet forces[5]."[6]. Those camps continued to produce fresh graduates even after Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Department (GID), headed by Prince Turki al-Faisal, played a pivotal role after the Siege of Mecca incident of 1979.[7] After that incident the disgruntled Saudi Wahabi jihadists had started to pose a new and crucial problem for the Kingdom. In this connection, the potentially radical Saudi youth were provided with the opportunity to participate in that war and were given preferential treatment. Keeping in view of the jihadi threat within after the Siege of Mecca incident, the Saudi GID became actively involved in the Afghan War against the Soviets, alongside CIA and ISI. The Saudis dispatched fresh recruits to Pakistan and then to facilitate them to reach at the battlefields required a wide network. In this regard, the Saudis were lucky enough to have Professor Abdullah Azzam by their side. Azzam, a former Muslim Brotherhood activist - and contemporary of Shaikh Omar Abdul Rehman (instigator of Twin Tower Bombings, 1995), Mohammad Qutb (brother of Syed Qutb), Ayman al-Zawahiri and Islambouli Brothers (main conspirators in Anwar Saadat's assassination in 1981) - became a central figure and in years to come and also to become the strategic founder of Al-Qaeda[8].

Azzam, a professor of theology at Jeddah University, could truly be called as the father of modern day jihad movement. A Palestinian by descent, Azzam studied at prestigious Al-Azhar University, Cairo, from where he received doctorate in theology. Azzam's credentials, social background, and zeal, were significant for making him a brand new jihadist ideologue. He moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1981, and opened up Maktab-ul Khidmat (Services Office) for facilitating the arrival of radical Islamist youth in Pakistan from Arab countries. Maktab was their base camp in Peshawar. It was Maktab that later transformed into Al-Qaeda upon Azzam's death in Peshawar in 1989.[9]

Azzam's writings hold the key in painting the fresh picture of militant jihadism. Although many of his ideas were borrowed ones from the writings of earlier Islamist ideologues but Azzam's influence was unmatched. He was himself there at the ‘base camp' of jihad, practically professing it to ‘holy warriors' and preaching ‘virtues' of militant jihad against ‘infidel' Soviets elsewhere in the world.[10]

Azzam's philosophy was jihadist from the beginning and throughout his stay in Peshawar during Afghan War as facilitator of Arab mujahedeen he focused on no other issue. Altogether he co-founded three Wahabi/Salafist militant organizations during his career as jihadist.

First, he was instrumental in setting the stage for Al-Qaeda, which he called Al-Qaeda al-Sulba (the solid base). His plan was to establish a platform of jihadist worldwide or we could say Jihad International. He envisioned Afghan War as the beginning of a worldwide conflict led by Islamist forces with eventual target of liberating Palestine or in simple words global jihad[11].

Second, he was amongst the founding members of Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas at Gaza in 1987, which he considered as the Middle Eastern wing of his Al-Qaeda al-Sulba. Shaikh Ahmed Yassin and Mahmoud Zahar were former members of Muslim Brotherhood like Azzam and espoused same jihadist tendencies. To this day Azzam's Islamist jihad ideology is the main driving force for Hamas.[12]

Third, he provided seed money and laid the foundations of Lashkar-e-Taiba with Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Professor Zafar Iqbal at Kumar province of Afghanistan in 1987, The LeT is now a formidable Wahabi/Salafist terrorist organization and a major non-state armed actor based in Pakistan[13].

One thing common amongst these three major terrorist organizations is Saudi financial support. Within short span these small groups have turned into serious regional and global security threats.

Azzam's militant jihadism could be seen in action by examining any Wahabi/Salafist/Deobandi Islamist organization worldwide. Whether its Nigerian Boko Haram, Philippine Abu Sayaf Group, Somali Al-Shabab, Algerian GIA/SGCP/AQAM (Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb), Indonesian Jammah Islamiya, Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in Iraq or cluster of Pakistani Islamist violent non-state actors, Azzam is considered as an ideologue. Azzam later died in a mysterious bomb blast in Pakistan in 1989[14].

Azzam wrote some highly influential treatises on militant jihadism. He played an active role for convincing Saudi grand mufti Bin Baz to support his Fatwa against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which he titled Defense of the Muslim Lands: The First Obligation after Faith, published in 1980. The Fatwa (religious decree) was the first of series of jihad related texts written by him. In his Fatwa, Azzam declared jihad mandatory for all Muslims across the world in order to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet yoke. He called for jihad for which he deemed no permission was required for youth to participate in and thus its essential for them to join hands with other ‘holy warriors' in Afghanistan. In his second treatise, "Join the Caravan", 1987, Azzam called for establishing a ‘solid base' (Al-Qaeda al-Sulba) to liberate Afghanistan and then to move forward to free Muslims lands from the clutches of ‘infidel enemies'. Two other treatises "The Signs of The Merciful in the Jihad of the Afghan", and "Lovers of the Paradise Maidens", were stories of holy warriors died in Afghan War. The stories were narrated by Azzam in spectacular manner; fantasies about holy warriors and how they were helped by angels and maidens, during jihad and how they smelled after embracing ‘Shahada'.

Azzam presented worldwide proponents of Islamism new ideas for waging jihad. As explained earlier his ideology has become a trademark of jihadist forces across the globe. Azzam postulated militant jihadism as :


  • "No negotiations, no conferences and no dialogues, jihad and the rifle alone." Most of jihadist groups today espouse this ideology and prefer to die rather than working things out. This is a fundamental trademark of Pakistani Islamist jihadi groups[15]
  • Azzam considered the US and the West as primary enemies of Islam and Muslim world, he didn't hesitate to take war to them as it would only in matter of time and stage[16].
  • "Blood must flow. There must be widows; there must be orphans." Uninterrupted and continuous jihad, culminating into global jihad, which is indeed primary motive of Al-Qaeda and its associated Islamist jihadi groups in Pakistan and elsewhere[17]
  • "One hour in the path of jihad is worth more than 70 years of praying at home." Therefore jihad is considered a must for every Muslim irrespective of age, Azzam called this phenomenon, Fard-e-Ayn (fundamental duty).
  • Azzam, in his writings, is not as explicit as Maududi and Qutb on Jahiliya and Takfir but does not consider Muslims not joining his call of jihad as ‘good or pious Muslims'. 

Azzam summed up reasons for initiating militant jihad as, "We then are calling upon the Muslims and urging them to proceed to fight, for many reasons, at the head of which are the following:

1. In order that the Disbelievers do not dominate.

2. Due to the scarcity of men.

3. Fear of Hell-fire.

4. Fulfilling the duty of Jihad, and responding to the call of the Lord.

5. Following in the footsteps of the Pious Predecessors.

6. Establishing a solid foundation as a base for Islam.

7. Protecting those who are oppressed in the land.

8. Hoping for martyrdom.

9. A shield for the Ummah, and a means for lifting disgrace off them

10. Protecting the dignity of the Ummah, and repelling the conspiracy of its enemies

11. Preservation of the earth, and protection from corruption

12. Security of Islamic places of worship

13. Protection of the Ummah from punishment, disfiguration and displacement

14. Prosperity of theUmmah, and surplus of its resources

15. Jihad is the highest peak of Islam

16. Jihad is the most excellent form of worship, and by means of it the Muslim can reach the highest of ranks[18]."

One of the primary ideologically-driven forces amongst Islamist violent non-state actors of Pakistani descent is Azzam's militant jihadism, coupled with Maududi's doctrines on apostasy (Takfir). All Pakistani jihadi groups subscribe to Azzam's anti-American and anti-western diatribe; and plan, implement and execute it in the same fashion as described by Azzam and his predecessor Islamist ideologues.

Youssef Aboul-Enein, an expert on jihadist ideologies, describes Azzam alongside Maududi and Qutb as modern manifestations of Ibn Taymiyyah, professing indiscriminate violence with underline personal political objectives[19].

As Aboul-Enein described Azzam's ideology a manifestation of previous ideologues, hence we could easily assess their connections with like-mindedness. Since Azzam's militant jihadist ideology of Azzam is predominant over Islamist parties and groups so we could easily deduce it as the main driving force found in Al-Qaeda and Islamist parties of Pakistan.

Philip Jenkins in his essay on Pakistani Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami points out areas of influence on Azzam's mindset, which Jenkins believes, are Maududian by origin:

  • The ideas Maududi presented for an upcoming civilizational clash between Islam and other religions
  • Maududi's description of past Islamic warriors and the way he stylized and glorified them
  • Maududi's concept of Jahiliya and the ultimate battle between good and evil
  • Supremacy of jihad and ‘heroic image' of Islamic parties and groups
  • Presenting Islam as the only solution and a form of revolution
  • ‘Absolute confrontation between Muslims and non-Muslim worlds'
  • Theocratic society with Sharia laws (Maududi believed in theo-democracy)
  • Global Islamist revolution which also is the cornerstone of Azzam's literature
  • Totalistic and in more clear words fascist version of Islam[20].


The concept of militant jihad is an idea inspired by Maududian jihad writings. Azzam's inspiration of Maududi and implementation of Maududian ideas paved the way for a casus belli for the whole adventure. Azzam may have been more respected among jihadi circles but Maududi is highly respected among jihadi ideologues as they have clear idea about from where Azzam drew inspirations.

  • [1] Marc Sageman, Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009, p.28
  • [2] David C Rapoport, "The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism", Current History, (December 2001), pp. 419-25.
  • [3] Robert D Billard Jr., "Operation Cyclone: How the United States Defeated the Soviet Union", Undergraduate Research Journal at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Volume 3.2, October 2010
  • [4] Steve Coll, Ghost War s: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 2001, Penguin Publisher, 2004, p.144
  • [5] Mohammad Amir Rana, Safdar Sial, and Abdul Basit, Dynamics of Taliban Insurgency in FATA, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (2010), PIPS Publication, p. 13.
  • [6] Interviews with retired intelligence officers confirmed the figures but requested for anonymity.
  • [7] Khalid Hasan, "The Siege of Mecca", Khalid Hasan Online, available at :
  • [8] Op. cit., Coll, p.156
  • [9] "Profile: Abdullah Azzam", Global Security, available at :
  • [10] LCDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, "The Late Sheikh Abdullah Azzam's Books, Part I: Strategic Leverage of the Soviet-Afghan War to Undertake Perpetual Jihad", Center for Combating Terrorism (CTC) at West Point, 2008, p. 6.
  • [11] LCDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, "The Late Sheikh Abdullah Azzam's Books: Strategic Leverage of the Soviet-Afghan War to undertake Perpetual Jihad, Part-I", Combating Terrorism Center, Guest Commentary, p. 4.
  • [12] Chris Suellentrop, "Abdullah Azzam: The Godfather of Jihad", Slate Magazine, April 16, 2002.
  • [13] Testimony of Ashley J Tellis, "Bad Company-Lashkar e-Tayyiba and the Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy in Pakistan", United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, March 11, 2010
  • [14] Aryn Baker, "Who Killed Abdullah Azzam?", Time Magazine, June 18, 2009, available at:,28804,1902809_1902810_1905173,00.html
  • [15] Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, Join the Caravan, available at :
  • [16] Op. cit., LCDR Youssef Aboul-Enein
  • [17] Op. cit., Azzam, "Join the Caravan"
  • [18] Abdullah Azzam, "Join the Caravan", p. 5, available at :
  • [19] LCDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, "The Late Sheikh Abdullah Azzam's Books: Strategic Leverage of the Soviet-Afghan War to undertake Perpetual Jihad, Part-I", Combating Terrorism Center, Guest Commentary, p. 8.
  • [20] Philip Jenkins, "Clerical Terror: The Roots of Jihad in India", The New Republic, December 24, 2008.

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