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Saturday, September 12, 2015

ISIS and History: Trying to Explain the Inexplicable. Sects and Scholars.


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The News is History. History is the News.


Sects and Scholars


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History In The News is returning to look at the so-called Islamic State in terms of its own history but also in terms broader developments since the early middle ages. In order, perhaps, to shed a little light on the darkness of what seems otherwise terrible and inexplicable. For little is understood about ISIS, its success against all odds and the improbable establishment of a geographic domain in defiance of the West and of the modern Middle East.


I want to start by looking at the terror group's claims to Islam and what other Muslims have to say about Islam and ISIS.

2000 years later.

It's difficult to look at a map of the world and recall that the entire Islamic world from Morocco to the Indus comprises the remains of a collapsed empire. Modern Muslims didn't choose this, they live in it. On this shadow of a former world the West imposed modern ideas and artificial borders serving its own interests. Western backed experiments with secular rule have failed or ended with repressive local dictatorships- regimes which have kept order but which haven't created much to call their own. In the end, the cost has been heaviest for Islam and Islamic civilization. The West has done its damage, most recently in the Iraq war of 2013-2011. But now the militant Islamist reaction against everything western is damaging Islam itself in new and terrible ways. A reaction which has reached its nadir with ISIS. 

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The Umayyad Empire.

A look at ISIS is a look into nihilism. The group seems to have no real content. In the New York Review of Books of August 13, there appeared an excellent piece, The Mystery of Isis, the byline consisting only of  "Anonymous." The author, an experienced Middle East hand, apparently fears retribution. But there wasn't anything insulting about ISIS that hasn't already been written. More remarkable was the lengthy and systematic demonstration that all the theories about ISIS and its survival have proven false. Reading it, I found myself looking for a payoff and there was none. Brilliantly, there was no answer.

 Near the conclusion, the author writes,

"The thinkers, tacticians, soldiers, and leaders of the movement we know as ISIS are not great strategists; their policies are often haphazard, reckless, even preposterous; regardless of whether their government is, as some argue, skillful, or as others imply, hapless, it is not delivering genuine economic growth or sustainable social justice. The theology, principles, and ethics of the ISIS leaders are neither robust nor defensible. Our analytical spade hits bedrock very fast.
I have often been tempted to argue that we simply need more and better information. But that is to underestimate the alien and bewildering nature of this phenomenon. To take only one example, five years ago not even the most austere Salafi theorists advocated the reintroduction of slavery; but ISIS has in fact imposed it. Nothing since the triumph of the Vandals in Roman North Africa has seemed so sudden, incomprehensible, and difficult to reverse as the rise of ISIS. None of our analysts, soldiers, diplomats, intelligence officers, politicians, or journalists has yet produced an explanation rich enough—even in hindsight—to have predicted the movement’s rise." -Anonymous

Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Religions of the Sword.

Muslims outraged by ISIS tend to say that ISIS is not Islamic and has nothing to do with Islam because Islam is a religion of peace and the terror group's atrocities run counter to the spirit of the faith and its teachings. But to say that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam is like saying that the late Reverend Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in the United States had nothing to do with Christianity. Reverend Phelps preached a particular form of fundamentalist, sectarian Christian hatred much as ISIS murders and exterminates in the name of a fundamentalist form of Islam. Reverend Phelps didn't kill people but his demonstrations targeted gay people, the bereaved families of dead soldiers and so on in a way that was intended to cause extreme suffering.  

The late The Rev. Fred Phelps

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ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

      So ISIS has no more to do with the Muslim spirit of peace than Reverend Phelps had to do with the Christian spirit love. But ISIS is a phenomenon of Islam as Reverend Phelps was a phenomenon of Christianity. Christianity and Islam both contain doctrines of conquest with violence as well as injunctions to love and understanding. The Koran and the Judeo Christian Bible alike contain verses calling for violent division and passages urging peace and fellow feeling. Even the words of Jesus convey violent damnation along with acceptance and humility.

        The texts of Islam and of Judeo-Christianity are civilized and also barbaric. It depends on what you choose to emphasize.  

        So, to maintain that ISIS is Islamic or is nor Islamic gets us nowhere.

         The important thing is that it has something to do with Islam. Trying to decipher what in Islam ISIS has used to justify itself and how other Muslims view ISIS in terms of Islam is like trying to start a discussion in a brawl. There's a lot of emotion, a lot of name calling and a lot of blame. Also, I suspect, a good deal of fear.

ISIS: a sort of  historical descent.

            To begin with, ISIS does have a line of historical descent, in terms of groups, sects and scholars. I say historical  (and not religious) because I'm only referring to its religious claims and the claims of what many Muslims say about ISIS. I'm not one to say what is and is not Islamic.

           Starting from the time of Mohammed, it moves chronologically something like this:  Karijites, Takfiris, Ibn Hanbal, Safism, the cult of the Mahdi, Ibn Tayamiyya, Wahhabism and more recently, the scholar Maqdisi. All of these names and terms have, in one way or another, been entangled with ISIS. In fact ISIS claims most though not all of them.

The Companions of the Prophet

            In a little more detail,the Karijites were 'separatists' or 'secessionists.' During the time of the Prophet and after his death they tried to out-do Mohamed in purity and refused to accept anyone's authority but their own, not even the authority of the Caliphate. A little later arose the phenomenon of the Takfiris- those who take it upon themselves to excommunicate others- effectively to cast them out of Islam. In the eighth century Mahdism or the cult of a Muslim Apocalypse claimed to predict the arrival of a savior during end times. Also in the eighth century, the scholar Ibn Hanbal made the first significant attempt to return Islam to its foundations in the Quran. In other words, fundamentalism.  Around the ninth century, Salafism distinguished itself from the main schools of Islam, dictating practice according to the ways of the Salaf, or ancestors from the early times of the Prophet. Around 1300, the scholar Ibn Tayamiyya radicalized the ideas of Hanbal with Takfiri principles, in other words declaring excommunication and even war on those who were not purely Islamic. He also stressed the ways of the ancestors, the Salaf  and gave Salafism doctrinal backing. In the eighteenth century Wahhabism stormed out of the Najd of central Arabia to put an end to all the impurities that it saw attaching to Islam, in particular the worship of images, idols and saints. Wahabbism is seen as a strict, Saudi Arabian form of Salafism. The contemporary Salafi scholar Abu Mohamed Maqdisi preaches in the tradition of Ibn Tayamiyya. Maqdisi is also the spiritual guide of Al Qaeda and mentor to 'Al Qaeda in Iraq' leader, Aby Musab al Zarqawi. But Maqdisi distanced himself from the murderous Zarqawi for being too Taqfiri or too much of an "excommunicator." Maqdisi has also rejected the yet bloodier and more extreme 'Islamic Caliphate' or ISIS.  

The Karijites
         Many Muslims disdain ISIS as a band of Karijites. ISIS doesn't seem to have referred to itself as Karijite since the word is usually a term of abuse. However it does refer to a group of secessionists in the early days of Islam. The first Karijite was Huruqus ibn Zuhair. After Mohamed defeated a Bedouin tribe near Mecca in 630, he offered them booty as an incentive for converting to Islam. One of Mohamed's followers, Ibn Huruqus, criticized Mohamed for making the offer and Mohamed predicted, correctly, that Huruqus would betray his memory.

        Years later, in 657, when the sects of Sunni and Shia Islam had split apart, the forces of the Shia under Ali Ibn Talib and the Sunni army under Ibn Muwawiya fought the battle of Siffin at Raqqa, Syria. The fighting ended in a draw and negotiations for peace. Ibn Huruqus, once again the dissenter, declared to his chief, Ali, that it was wrong to negotiate because only Allah could decide on peace.This time his objection ended in a full scale secession as he took his party of Karajites, literally meaning 'separatists,' or 'deviants' to Narawhan, Iraq, in the region of the Shia. When one of Ali's governors attempted to persuade them through discussion, they killed him along with his pregnant wife. The Karihites spread terror around Narahwan subjecting the locals to religious interrogation, killing them if their answers were unsatisfactory. In 661 they assassinated Ali himself, in the mosque at Kufa, Iraq.  

The Battle of Siffin

          No  one was good enough for Huruqus, not even Mohamed. His Karihites rejected the aiuthority of Mohamed's tribe, the Qurayshi; of his son in law Ali and the Shia;  of his companion Abu Bakr and of the Calipahte. Perfection alone qualified you for leadership, sin was grounds for disqualification, even death.

             Here is an excellent diagram of Muslim sects from Mohamed to the present day, where you can see the Karijites branching off near the very beginning:

              In the manner of the Karijites, ISIS accepts no current religious authority. According to a report in The Guardian, ISIS in its original form, The Islamic Staten of Iraq, was so desperate for recruits after the Sunni rebellion against them an the US troop surge of 2007-2008 that the group lowered its qualifications for entry from thorough knowledge if Islam to barely any qualifications at all. Following suit, the fully evovled ISIS meets disagreement and difference not with debate but with extermination. In an Op Ed piece in the New York Times the Saudi researchers, Nawaf Obaid and Saud Al-Sarhan write that "ISIS follows an ideology that is a continuation of a crude sect known as the Kharijites, or the ones that “deviated” from the Muslim community during the reign of the fourth Caliph Ali."  But ISIS, as far as I can tell, has never touted the ancient secessionists. Perhaps even for ISIS the connotations of Karijite make for bad press.

               However it has to be said that the setting of the Battle of Siffin (where Hurukus and his followers seceeded) is eerie- it took place at what is modern day Raqqa, Syria, the capital of ISIS' alleged Caliphate. And the ISIS magazine Dabiq cites a  hadith (or commentary on the Koran) by the scholar Ibn Hanbal that plunder taken in war is a gift of God- which might in turn be linked to Huruqus' censure of Mohamed for offering loot, 'a gift of God' in return for conversion.


 ISIS parades in Raqqa.

               Outraged Muslims are right to compare ISIS to the Kaijites. What doctrine ISIS seems to have is almost Karijite. Perhaps it's the sheer anarchy in Syria that has brought them further back, in spirit, to the dark days of earliest Islam. The excitable journalist Graeme Wood brings this up in his piece What ISIS Wants, in The Atlantic (in which he stumbles into the mire by giving a pat answer to the unasnwerable question as to whether ISIS is 'Islamic,' by saying that it is.) Citing Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, Wood writes that "the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war...'Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings...' This, at least, seems about right. Beheading , apparentl, is justified by the Quranic verse:  “So, when you meet (to wage jihad in God’s cause) those who disbelieve, smite at their necks until you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly.”

                Oddly, Wood never mentions the Karijites. But there, almost exactly, is where ISIS wants start over: during the unyielding wars for the Caliphate right after Mohamed's death. Adam Hoffman (writing for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation) quotes an ISIS statement that "with this declaration of [a caliphate], it is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to the caliph Ibrahim [al-Baghdadi] and support him (may Allah preserve him). The legality of all [other] emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the [caliphate's] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas." Islamic scholars have agreed that ISIS hasn't the religious or intellectual qualifications to make such a pronouncement and that a Caliphate can only be reached through consensus on the part of Muslim authorities around the world. Even ISIS scholar Turki al Binali has warned hi superiors that if ISIS doesn't obtain the approval of leading Islamic Scholars, its caliphate may not survive.

            ON the other hand, why should ISIS care about contemporary, international Islam if we're all back in Syria and Iraq around 661 AD?

        Middle East hand Robert Baer has written, "A takfiri's mission is to re-create the Caliphate according to a literal interpretation of the Qur'an."  In which case ISIS would definitely describe itself as Takfiri.  In fact ISIS has its own "Creed and Methodology of Takfir."  Takfir doesn't refer to a sect but to a kind of behavior. It means to excommunicate or to cast out. To divide the world between saved and damned, believers and unbelievers. It means uncompromising exclusion, usually violent. Takfiri has been used to describe at least one of the early Caliphs. The term seems to have been in use in the early days of Islam and was used  (and has been ever since) to condemn the the Karijites (unabashed Taqfiris). Muslim individuals and sects deemed too fanatical or judgmental have, in modern times, been condemned as Takfiris. However the term doesn't carry the negative weight of Karijite. Writes Mohamed Haniff Hassan, on his blog, counterideology2, "One of the many criticisms directed against ISIS is its permissiveness in the practice of takfir (declaring a Muslim as apostate) which makes its status as a takfiri group deserved. This equates ISIS to the Kharijites who remain traditionally denounced and despised by Sunni and Salafi Muslims."

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The ISIS Apocalypse

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          Around 745, about a century after the foundation of the first Umayad Caliphate, the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasids. In support their new ideology, the Abbasid Caliphate developed the doctrine of an apocalypse. They added to the scriptural Second Coming of Jesus (part of the Quran) the arrival of the Mahdi, or 'rightly guided one' who would lead an army from Khorasan, or Afghanistan, eastward, waging war and Takfir, purging the world of evil, all of it culminating in an epic battle complete with Satan and an Antichrist and making way, in the end, for the day of judgment and the Quranic arrival of Jesus. For ISIS, according to Hoffman, the setting of the apocalyptic end times is Syria and it's around the city of Dabiq (for which their magazine is named) near Aleppo, that the forces of the new Caliphate of a purified Islam will defeat the forces of the 'New Rome' or the West. The drama and romance, the touted historicity and prophetic fulfillment of ISIS's particular war on sacred battlefields has swelled its recruitment. And the group's capture of land around Dubiq made ISIS fighters nearly hysterical. It also appears that the 'End Times,' if the End Times are now, permit the most extreme forms of violence.

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Covers of 'Dabiq', the ISIS magazine.
           At this point we might look at ISIS' similarity to Nazism. The Nazis invented what might be called a parasitic ideology. That is, an ideology which preys on other ideologies adding nothing if its own. Nazism was cobbled with elements of capitalism, Bolshevism, socialism, racial theory, traditional antisemitism, Norse mythology, bits and pieces of Nietzsche as well as references to Frederick the Great, The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and so on to create a thought system tailored  to the particular needs of Hitler's Reich but void of any philosophical foundation. ISIS, as I will try to show, preys on several Muslim ideas and systems of thought. For example, it uses the Abbasid apocalypse as Hitler exploited Norse mythology or Medieval German history. Among other teachings it uses those of the generally revered Ahmad ban Hanbal.

Ibn Hanbal

             It's not surprising that the revolutionary spirit of the early Abbasid Caliphate that produced the Muslim Apocalypse also produced the scholar Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, (780-855). Hanbal launched the first major reform of Islam with the Hanbali Code by which he determined that Islamic law, meaning Sharia law, had to derive directly from the Quran and the Sunna, (laws based on Mohamed's own words) and not from the legal frameworks that had since gathered around the original law as written in the Quran.  Almost all modern radical Sunnis, reformist or Islamist and jihadi, refer ultimately to Hanbal, as do many mainstream Sunnis. Again, the violent and the peaceful often refer the same sources. The word of Hanbal has been used repeatedly by Muslim scholars to condemn ISIS and by ISIS to support its own practices. As already seen, ISIS has quoted Hanbal on plunder being a gift of God. There are Muslims who believe that Hanbal declared Takfir against certain sects and others who say that he was tolerant and never declared Takfir.

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           Hanbal was a source for one strain of Islam which appeared around 800 AD. Salafism stressed practice according to the ways of the ancestors, or the Salaf, those closely associated with Mohamed for the first three generations. The Salafi or People of the Traditions (of the prophet), the ashab al-hadith- according to Oxford Islamic Studies Online "insisted on the authority of the traditions (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, as against the informed “opinions” (ray) on which many contemporary juristic schools based their legal reasoning." Salafis are insulted by the claims of ISIS to the Salafist tradition. Graeme Wood, in What ISIS Wants observes that ISIS leader "Baghdadi is Salafi. The term Salafi has been villainized, in part because authentic villains have ridden into battle waving the Salafi banner. But most Salafis are not jihadists, and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State. They are, as (scholar Bernard) Haykel notes, committed to expanding Dar al-Islam, the land of Islam...Their first priority is personal purification and religious observance, and they believe anything that thwarts those goals—such as causing war or unrest that would disrupt lives and prayer and scholarship—is forbidden."  

Mohammed and his companions on the way to Mecca.

            Distancing Saudi Salafis from the Salafist claims of ISIS, Saudi researchers Obaid and Al Sarhan write, "The version of Salafism applied in Saudi courts and religious institutions was formulated by one of the four leading Muslim jurists, the ninth-century scholar Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Hanbali law stands firmly against sedition, shedding of blood, and forcible conversion."  

           Even Al Qaeda chief Zawihiri and A Qaeda's official scholar Abu Mohamed Maqdisi profess militant, Jihadist Salafism while repudiating the Salafist claims of ISIS. As always the problem is the group's excesses and atrocities. Maqdisi, once the mentor of Al Zarqawi, the homicidal leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq who slaughtered Shia and other Muslims, advised Zarqawi that he was going too far. Zarqawi was using Taqfir to excess, declaring it along with a death sentence on his coreligionists of for their "sins" or imperfections- the same intolerance practiced by the Karijites. Maqdisi finally distanced himself from Zarqawi.     

            Like the Nazis, it appears, ISIS picks and chooses whatever it finds useful, in this case anything to help start the war all over again from the days days of the early Caliphate and without doctrinal or ethical restraint. 

            ISIS, like Nazism has one particular advantage - boldness and simplicity. Both are presented as something straight forward and uncomplicated with powerful, simple images.

The Ashari School

       Around 900 AD, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari founded the Ashari School of Islam which was distinct from the Hanbali school for its moderation. The Asharis were reluctant to use Takfir and  the Al Azhar University in Cairo which follows the Ashari school has refused to use Takfir even against ISIS. But only, it seems, on doctrinal grounds, not on moral grounds. The Grand Mufti of Al Azhar is the most respected living authority in Sunni Islam, at least in terms of mainstream Sunni tradition. ISIS however, is bringing out the Takfiri in everyone, even Al Azhar which, although it claims not to believe in Takfir (excommunication), has lashed out at ISIS with its own bloody-minded appeals to scripture. In February or this year, according to Al Arabiya, "Al-Azhar...has called for the killing and crucifixion of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), expressing outrage over their murder of a Jordanian pilot. In a statement after the burning alive of Moaz al-Kassasbeh, the Cairo-based authority called for the “killing, crucifixion and chopping of the limbs of ISIS terrorists.” Head of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayib, expressed his "strong dismay at this cowardly act". This "requires the punishment mentioned in the Koran for these corrupt oppressors who fight against God and his prophet: killing, crucifixion or chopping of the limbs."

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Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari in Islamic script.

          If moderate Islam has lost Al-Azhar, one wonders if it has lost Al Ashari Islam as well. By 1300, The next great authority on Sunni Islam was already where the Al Azhar University has ended up today.

 Ibn Tayamiyya

       Unlike Ashari and even Hanbal, Ibn Tayamiyya (1263-1328) seems to have been unambiguously Takfiri, and probably would have accepted the description. His modern apologists explain his exhortations to violence by the age in which he lived. As Hanbal had seen the dawn of  Abassid Caliphate, Tayamiyya saw its demise. In the mid13th century the Caliphate was overrun by the Mongols of Jinghiz Khan who captured and sacked Baghdad in 1258 ending Abbasid rule.

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Ibn Tayamiyya

            The Mongols converted to Islam but went on killing Muslims. At the same time they retained their own Mongol Yasa law code- instead of Sharia. For Sunni Islam the experience was traumatic and called for another revolution after the Abbasid one, at least a doctrinal revolution. Tayamiyya created precedent not only by declaring Takfir and Jihad  against the falsely Islamic Mongols, but with his highly influential Mardin Fatwa reversed their conversion rendering them apostate, Takfiri, along with any Muslim who failed to observe Sharia or fouled the practice of Islam with alien customs. Muslims took heed and fought the Mongols, enshrining Tamiyya's use of Takfir (excommunication) as a political weapon to enforce Sharia. He also forbade the use of idols, shrines and images and ensured continued Hanbali reference to the law of the Quran. Taymiyya's theology gave Islam absolute political authority. With the Mardin Fatwa, crucially, he gave Muslims permission to declare Takfir and Jihad against other Muslims and within Muslum countries.

            Ahmad Ibn Tayamiyya is a chief if not the dominant source of  Islamic jurisprudence for all  Sunni jhadi radicals down to Osama Bin Laden and ISIS. Taymiyya also endorsed Salafism, effectively making it official. Thanks to him Salafism remains a form of Sunni Islam broadly practiced throughout the Middle East with peaceful as well as jihadist and Takfiri interpretations. The crux of the matter is that Tayamiyya has been given respectability by many peaceful Muslims who follow his ordinary teachings on Sharia. According to Shukur Khilkhal, "The truth of the matter is that these (Tayamiyya's) doctrines are taught regularly in schools and universities in many Arab countries. It is worth mentioning that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the current leader of IS (ISIS)— who proclaimed himself a caliph of Muslims in Mosul — studied these doctrines in the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Baghdad."  

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The Mongol siege of Baghdad

       In an article named, 'The Scholars of Isis,' The website 'Islamic Philosophy' notes, "The average Sunni layperson will now have no problem saying how wonderful “Sheikh Al Islam” Ibn Taymiah is, yet are they aware of their statements? (Quoting Tayamiyyah on a fatwa) “They are more evil than most of the people of desires, and they are more deserving of being killed than the Khawaarij.” (That is, even worse than Karijites). The piece goes on to refer to the use by ISIS of a line from Tayamiyyah during their video of the burning alive of a Jordanian fighter pilot : “So if horror of commonly desecrating the body is a call for them [the infidels] to believe [in Islam], or to stop their aggression, it is from here that we carry out the punishment and the allowance for legal Jihad”

       But there are also matters of interpretation. Taymiyya wrote the Mardin Fatwa in response to Muslims suffering under Mongol rule in his home town of Mardin (on the modern day border between Syria and Turkey). Recently, Islamic Scholars became concerned about the widespread use of the Mardin Fatwa by Jihadis against other Muslims and held discussions at the eponymous Mardin Conference in 2010. That was before the rise of ISIS. The scholars concluded that the calligraphy of the Fatwa had been deliberately falsified to declare Tafir and war on other Muslims when in fact it had merely stated that in conquered territories like Mardin the rights of Muslims and non Muslims should be respected alike. The conference doesn't seem to have ended the controversy and you can guess where ISIS stands on the issue.

           Still, Taymiyya's injunctions to kill are undeniable. He's probably the scholar most often cited by ISIS and is quoted liberally in recordings of ISIS sermons.  Middle East Eye journalist Mohamed Ghilan writes that Tamiyya is "a source of many legal rulings that form the basis of ISIS behaviour today."  While holding the West and the corrupt, secular tyrannies it has supported responsible for much of the mess, Ghilan emphasizes that "what ISIS militants choose to turn a blind eye to is that Ibn Taymiyyah was a refugee during the Mongol invasions, and his rulings permitting torture and mutilation of the dead were reactionary rulings that have to do more with what he witnessed the Mongols do to Muslims at the time. In fact, his legal justifications for issuing such rulings explicitly stated this very reason." Nevertheless, the rulings were never reversed, at least not effectively. And Taymiyya's influence last endured down to the present day in Salafism and its offshoot, the more modern Sunni reform movement, Wahabbism.


         Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) led a campaign out of the Najd in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, to purify Islam of what it deemed to be pagan accretions of alien custom and in particular, cults, saints, idols and images. The movement grew out of Salafism progressing by continual warfare throughout the peninsula until it became the religion of the Saudis and with them, the state religion of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is considered to be a strict form of Salafism.  

The Najd in the central Arabian peninsula, the place of origin of Wahhabism.

        ISIS, of course, feeds off Wahhabism as it does on so much else in Islam. According to Mintpress,"Much of IS’s (ISIS's) educational “curriculum” finds its roots in Saudi textbooks, especially at the middle school and high school levels. Arabic, literature, history, civic education, cultural values, and norms of behaviour—whether in a home or societal setting—are all taught according to a particular interpretation of Sunni Islam. The Wahhabi-Salafi-Hanbali interpretation also permeates religion or theology classes, especially those that focus on elements of Sharia, fiqh (jurisprudence), or the Hadith. The biological and physical sciences are taught from a pre-ordained creationist perspective, which rejects modernity in favour of traditionalism."

         But once again, ISIS is seen as a libel on an older faith and an embarrassment. Graeme Wood quotes Bernard Haykel: " 'The Wahhabis were not wanton in their violence.' They were surrounded by Muslims, and they conquered lands that were already Islamic; this stayed their hand. 'ISIS, by contrast, is really reliving the early period.' Early Muslims were surrounded by non-Muslims, and the Islamic State, because of its takfiri tendencies, considers itself to be in the same situation." ISIS has exploited Wahabbi ideas in order to destroy treasures of ancient history like those in Mosul, Iraq and in Palmyra, Syria. The blog reports that "Islam forbids idolatry and in the mind set of Wahhabi extremism this translates to ‘all statues are forbidden’. This is how ISIS justifies the destruction of ancient statues, in spite of the fact no one worshiped those statues. The destruction of ancient tombs can also be explained by Wahhabi doctrine which is hostile to burial sites for fear they may become a site for veneration or worship."

         Al Qaeda, interestingly, seems to have left many if not most ancient sites unmolested but in ISIS we have the unimaginable: institutionalized barbarism and the erasure of history propped up by  scripture, commentary and traditions purloined from scholarly traditions, traditions revered by many peaceful Muslims. ISIS is stealing scripture from the faithful just as it is stealing the early days of the Caliphate from Islam.

          In yet another misfortune ISIS has blackmailed many Muslims into silence about its religious credentials, Muslims who are intimidated by the so-called Caliphate's claims to Hanbal, the Salaf, Taymiyya, Wahhab and so on with the result that they're afraid to speak out for appearing Takfiri or apostate.

          For westerners, there's so much to admire in the history and culture of Islam and sometimes a reborn Caliphate combining the best of Islam doesn't seem such a bad idea. Nothing could defile such an image better than ISIS. I don't look at atrocity pictures, but I've seen some by accident and the so-called Islamic Caliphate does not evoke the colours of Islamic art or any garden of paradise, much less the imageless grandeur of Mohammed or Allah-  but rather the pink and black of burned flesh.

The Beginning and the End.

       Everything with ISIS seems to begin and end with earliest Islam, their genuinely Karijite attitudes and conduct, their abuse of Takfir, their reenactment of the end days leading up to an eighth century Muslim apocalypse. But also their adherence to the bloodiest edicts of a Muslim scholar who, together with his fellow Muslims, was traumatized by one of the worst scourges in human history, the Mongol Invasions. Is it any surprise that ISIS has come to resemble the Mongols who themselves had the effect of brutalizing aspects of Islamic teaching which ISIS  has in turn chosen to exploit? Is it any surprise that like the Mongols who took what they wanted of Islam, like the Nazis who collected bits of ideology from everywhere, ISIS has preyed on Islam, taking whatever suits it?

     These are the reflections of a baffled westerner. The judgements aren't mine but the judgements of Muslims. Of this fraudulent caliphate,al Qaeda scholar Abu Mohammed Maqdisi has himself asked: "Is this caliphate going to be a safe haven for all the vulnerable people and a shelter for every Muslim? Or will this name become a hanging sword over Muslims who disagree with them? Will this lead to the abolishment of all Islamic emirates that came before their declared state, and will it invalidate all the other groups that are engaging in jihad for the sake of God in all fields before them?" 

     And we should also ask, is ISIS capable of destroying everything for everyone in its domain, indeed in the whole Middle East? Not to mention much of our collective past.

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Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Syria: before and after 
destruction byISIS

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The Hanbali Reform Movement of early Arabia.

780-855- Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, sounder of the Hanbali code of Sharia law. He holds that a decision in Sharia must be referred directly to the Quran and the sunna- not to the legal framework that had grown up around them. In other words, he held that the law itself had already been written in the words of the Quran.

-in subsequent centuries, the Hanbali Code loses strength everywhere except at Najd in central Arabia.

1042-1147-North Africa and Spain

Almoravids impose Islamic rule over an area comprising modern Morocco, Mauretainia, northern Mali, western Algeria and Spain.

Ibn Taimiya Revives the Hanbali Code in the Middle Ages.

1300- (crica) in a revival, Ahmad Ibn Taimiya upholds the Hanbali Code as a means of reform and of condemning the cults of tombs and saints, and urging the continual interpretation (itijihad) of law in light of the Quran. He sees the Shia, with all their excess ritual, as the enemy within. He upheld the Sunni Caliphs over the Shia Imams because be believed that seizing and weilding secular power was all that mattered in a leader- and the Caliphs had done that most effecrively.

1328- death of Ibn Taimiya.

1250-1517- The Mameluke Caliphs of Cairo adopt the Hanbali Code.

The Wahhabi Movement of the 18th Century.

1703- Abdul al-Wahhab is born at Najd, a main centre of Hanbali Islam in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.

1725 (circa) -Al-Wahhab (1703-1787) founds Muwahidun (unitarian) movement- an attempt to purify Islam of medieval superstition, to stop the translation of Sharia into jurisprudence and to get rid of the cult of saints. The Muwahidun follow the Hanbali school as taught by Tarq al Din ibn Taimiya (qv). Wahhab's oponnents call his followers 'Wahhabis', the name that stuck.

-Wahhab makes attendance at public prayer obligatory, forbids the building of minarets,

Ibn Saud, Wahhabism and the Origins of the House of Saud

-having failed to spread his movement, Al Wahhab allies himself with a tribal chieftain, Mohammed Ib Saud.

1726-65- Mohammed Ibn Saud, ruler of the Diraiya Emirate embraces Wahhabism, has his subjects convert on pain of death.

1745- Muhammad Ibn Saud becomes ruler of Najd, the central plateau and oasis region of Arania, founds the House of Saud.

-in alliance with followers of Saud, Wahabbis mount a campaign against idolatry, corruption and adultery. On the authority of the Hadith, they ban dancing, music and poetry, silk, gold, ornaments and jewelery.

1766-1803- Mohammed's son, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, continues to uphold Wahhabism.

1773- Abdul Aziz ibn Saud takes Riyadh.

1802- in a campaign against the Shia, the Wahhabis attack the Shia holy city of Karbala.

1810- the Whhabi Ibn Sauds ruule most of Arabia.

1803-1814 Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz of the House of Saud tries to spread Wahhabism to the frontiers of Syria and Iraq.

The Ottoman Sultan sends the Egyptian Pasha to Crush Wahhabism.

-the Ottoman Sultan is outrages by what he sees as descecration of the holy pplaces of Arabi by the Sauds and their Wahhabism.

1814-18- Sent by hte sultan, Muhammad Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, crushes the Wahhabist movement and executes Abdullah Ibn Saud.


1838-97- Jamal al-din Afghani. Helps develop Salafism- an Islamic ideology based on the example of the salaf- the ancestors of early Islam. He promotes the Pan-Islam movement in an attempt to revive a mythical 'pure' Islam free of ethnic and political rivalries.

1849-1905- Muhammad Abdu- a follower of Afghani (b. 1838) emphasized the influence of the Salaf on Sharia law.

1865-1935- Muhammad Rashid Rida, follower of Abdu (b. 1849) researched what Mohammed and 'the pious ancestors' had done and taught so that it could be applied to contemporary conditions. He preferred the Salaf to the four Sunni legal schools.

19th century in Mali-
-French colonial advance provokes the Fula and Toucouleur (Tukolor ) jihads which spread across region. Various theocratic states formed.

Fall and Revival of Wahhabism

1881- House of Saud expelled from the Riyadh region. But it revivies under Abdul Rahman Ibn Al Saud and spreads Wahhabism

1891- Abdul Rahman Ibn Al Saud of the House of Saud is overthrown at Diraiya by the House Of Rashid which has Ottoman backing.

-the Deobandi and Ahl-i-Hadith movements rise in northern India- in an attempt to rally and purify Islam against British and western colonial forces. Both are opposed to the Shia.

1894- Mali- Tuareg rebels declare a jihad against the French following their occupation of the city of Tombouctou in January

1902 -Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Rahman al Saud re-conquers the Najd from the Ottomans, reviviing Wahhabism militarily and politically through the Ikhwan Wahhabist movement. Wahabbis mount new attacks on hypocrites, laxity, non-blievers. The criteria for belief is strict adherecne to the Sharia.

1905-6- Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman takes east central Arabia.

1913- Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, commander of the Whhabist Ikhwan army invades the Shia region of Al-Hasa and attempts to impose Wahhabism.

Mohammed Qutb

1906-66- Sayyid Mohammed Qutb. Muslim ideologue. Born in Asyut, Egypt. Trained as a teacher in Cairo.

1920s- Salafis teach that since Mohammed was chosen by the community, leadership of Islam cannot be hereditary.

1925- Ibn Saud's Ikhwan Wahhabists destroy the Jannat al Baghi cemetery in Medina, a Shia holy place where the daughter of the Prophet and the 3nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Shia imams are buried.

1926- The Ikhwan resorts to the systematic killing of Shia.

1927- May 20- British lay down treaty of Jeddah giving the Hijaz and Jajd to Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud. The Ikhwan, sends a Wahhabi recolt against Ibn Saud for using telephone,s radios, cars etc.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi Domestication of Wahhabism.

1928- Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan al Banna in Egypt for moral and social reform.

1930s- House of Saud becomes rich on oil wealth, moderates its belief in Wahhabism; the pogroms against the Shia are stopped; instead the Shia suffer discrimination and marginalization.

1932- the vast desert region whose heart is the Najd bcomes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

-in Mecca, the Supreme Religious Council continues to be the official head of Wahabbism.

1939- Muslim brother hood becomes a political movement in response to the Arab uprising against the British in Palestine (1936) and Egyptian protest against the the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty (1936). The brotherhood declares that the Quran and the Hadith are sufficient as a social political code for any time and place.

1940- the Muslim brotherhood has 500 branches each with a mosque and social services.

1948- Qutb is sent to university in Colorado, USA by his ministry. He is appalled at what he sees as America's decadence and depravity.

1948-49- members of the Muslim Brotherhood fight in the Palestine War, recruiting Egyptian officers and gaining military experience. The Brotherhood turns against Egypt which is blames for the 1948-49 war.

1948- Egypt declares martial law and bans the Brotherhood.

-Egyptian premier, Fahmi Nokrashi Pasha, is assassinated by the Brotherhood.

1949- Hassan a Banna, leader of the Egyptian Brotherhood is assassinated.

1950- with the lifting of martial law, the Brotherhood enters mainstream Egyptian politics.

1951- Qutb returns to Egypt but his anti-American views get him expelled from the education ministry. He joins the Muslim Brootherhood. In his writings he says that America should be placed under a sentence of death.

1952- the Brotherhood supports Egypt in rejecting the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty and participates in the Cairo riots.

1952- the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) overthrows the regime in Egypt.

Egypt bans the Muslim Brotherhood.

1954- Egypt's RCC bans the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb and other members are held in a concentration camp. He writes his defining work, Maalim Fi Al Tariq- "Signposts on the Road"- which divides all social systems into "The Order of Islam" and "The Order of Ignorance." The book remains a text book for radical Islam.

23rd Oct.- after Brotherhood members attempt to assassinate President Nasser, the plotters are hanged, many are imprisoned or driven into exile in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

1957- birth of Osama Bin laden, son of a bricklayer from South Yemen. Bin Laden's father settles in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and becomes a wealthy construction magnate.

Qutb Becomes Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

1964- Qutb and cohorts are released from detainment in Egypt. "Signposts on the Road" is smuggled out of Egypt. Though he is non-violent, the Muslim Brotherhood promotes him into the leadership to avenge their persecution in Egypt.

-Nasser tries to include the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab Socialist Union to combat Communism.

-repeated attempts by the Brotherhood to assassinate Nasser.

1966-Sayyid Muhammed Qutb is put on trial in Egypt. He states that the nations of the Middle East are a western fabrication and that actually Islam has no nations, only a Community of Believers.

-Sayyid Muhammed Qutb and other Brotherhood leaders are executed.

Muslim Brotherhood gains from 1967 War with Israel.

1967- Egypt decisively defeated in war with Israel.

1968- popular feeling that Egypt had received divine retribution for Arab Socialism causes Nasser to grant a general amnesty to the Muslim Brotherhood.

-new Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, attempts to integrate the Brotherhood into the mainstrem.

1975 (circa) Saalafis active in Kuwait where they want a republican, democratic regime.

Egypt's Sadat Bans the Muslim Brotherhood causing it to Radicalize.

1976- fearing the expanding power of the Brotherhood, President Sadat bans it from Egyptian elections. 15 Brotherhood members are elected as members of other parties causing a radical wing to split off in protest.

-the Muslim Brotherhood radicalizes and turns against Sadat's modernization and pro-Israel and pro-West policies.

Uprising against Saudis; beginning of Careers of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri.

1978- Ayman Zawahiri graduates as as a surgeon from Cairo's University's medical school.

-Bin Laden graduates with a degree in civil engineering from King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia.

1979- armed uprising against rulers of Saudi Arabia at the Grand Mosque- assisted by Salafis from Kuwait. The young engineering graduate, Bin laden, regards them as true Muslims. Salafis have since become active in Kuwait politics.

1979- Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin sign the Egyptian-Istaeli peace Treaty. But his new peace costs Egypt membership in the Arab League.

-due to the unpopularity of the treaty at home, Sadat becomes increasingly autocratic.

Roots of the Al Nusra Front.

1980- Abu Musab al  Sur (aka Mustafa Setmariam Nasar and the intellectual godfather of Al Nusra) joins the Combatant Vanguard organization, a radical offshoot of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood which is at the forefront in the Islamic uprising in Hama, Syria.

Abdullah Azzam's 'Bureau of Service' in Pakistan for Afghan Jihad- antecedent to Al Qaeda.

1980- Abdullah Azzam founds Maktab al Khidmat (Bureau of Service) in Peshawar, Pakistan.

-Pakistani ISI and American CIA camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border join in training non-Afhgan Mujehadeen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. They use US army training manuals translated into Urdu, Arabic and Persian, stressing nationalism and Islam.

-Bin Laden visits Peshawar and lobbies family and friends to support the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan.

-Osama Bin Laden goes back to Saudi Arabia, raises large sums from family connections and returns to Pakistan with members of the family business, the Saudi Binlandin Group.

Bin laden leads non-Afghan Mujehadeen in Afghan war against the Soviets.

-Bin laden becomes leader of the non-Afghan Mujehadeen, working alongside the CIA and the ISI.

1980s- Somalia fights Islamic fundamentalists in its north and the Patriotic Front in the south.

Zawahiri arrested in Assassination of Sadat.

1981- Oct 6- a radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood assassinates President Sadat. Ayman al Zawahiri is among those jailed in the plot.

 Al Sur- the Grandfather of Al Nusra.

1982- Al Sur joins in the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood at Hama which is crushed by Syrian President Hafez al Assad, killing tens of thousands.

1984- Egyptian President Mubarak maintains elections ban on Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim Brotherhood members get elected as members of the Neo-Wafd party.

-the Muslim Brotherhood, uses highly educated members to dominate syndicates of lawyers, doctors, journalists and engineers.

-Zawahiri is released from prison in Egypt.

Bin Laden Works for Pak-Afghan Bureau of Service.

-in Pakistan, Bin Laden comes under the influence of Abdulla Azzam, head of the jihadi Bureau of Service. He vets non-Afghan volunteers, supervises road construction and refurbishing caves for storage. He also engages in guerilla sorties.

1986- Bureau of Service sets up a branch in the US at the farooq Mosque in Brooklyn.

-Bin laden oversees construction of a sophsiticated tunnel complex for storage, supplies and refuge at Khost on the Afghan-Pakistan border. The complex is near Tora Bora.

Zawahiri joins the Anti-Soviet Afghan Struggle.

-Zawahiri travels to Pakistan to join the medical corps of the Mujehadeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. He is stationed in peshawar where he sets up a branch of Islamic Jihad.

1987- The Muslim Brotherhood gains singificant power in the Egyptian parliament by allying itself with socialist parties. Brotherhood deputies demand an end to the Israeli-Egyptian treaty, to all ties with the United States and the application of Sharia law.

1988- Bin Laden and Azzam make 'MAK' or The Service Bureau offical. Bin Laden wants to advance non-military operations world-wide- while Azzam prefers a military strategy.

Al Qaeda is new name for the Service Bureau upon murder of Azzam and victory in Afghanistan.

1989- February- Bin Laden declares withdrawal of Soviets from Afghanistan a victory for the Jihad.

November- Azzam assassinated; Pakistan's ISI is a suspect. Bin Laden, assisted by Muhammad Atef and Abu Ubaidah al Banshiri, takes over, renaming Maktab al Khidmat 'Al Qaeda'- 'The Base', with a plan to expand the Soviet Jihad into an international Jihad from headquarters in Peshawar. The prime target is US interests world-wide with Al Qaeda launching its own attacks or sponsoring similar outfits to attack Al Qaeda targets.

Al Mohammed, trained as a US commando at Fort Bragg, leaves the US and joins Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and pakistan.

Bin Laden abandons Afghan Civil war for Saudi Arabia.

-Bin Laden resturns to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, discouraged by the inter-ethnic Afghan civil war.

1990- When Iraq invades Kuwait, Bin Laden offers to set up a citizen militia to defend Saudi Arabia but the kingdom rejects his offer.

Bin Laden Repudiates US bases in Saudi Arabia for First Gulf War.

1991 -the US responds to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait by setting up military bases to protect Saudi Arabia's oil fields at Hama. Bin Laden swears to avenge what he sees as US violation and occupation of Saudi Arabia.

-Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood supports Saddam Hussein.

Bin Laden Sets up Al Qaeda in Sudan; active also in Mogadishu and the Balkans.

1991-1996- Bin Laden, based in Sudan, sets up a series of corporate entities, running Al Qaeda as if it were a corporation. It is ruled by a Shura or Council of Twelve, with four executive committees: military (commanded by Muhammed Atef) business, Islamic Studies , Media, and Public Relations.

-Al Qaeda begins launching international operations from Sudan.

1992-93- Bin Laden intervenes in civil war in Somalia. His lieuenant, Atef, trains Somai tribes opposed to UN intervention.

Al Qaeda appears in Somalia in midst of clan war.
1992-3-  as part of Osama Bin Laden’s Sudan-based al Qaeda support for Somali Muslims, 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atef trains Somali tribal guerillas opposed to UN intervention

-Ban Laden accused by US of complicity in American defeat in Mogadishu.

-the Deobandi movement, originally a Sunni anti-colonial force born in British India, has spread from Bagladesh to Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Deobandi teaching leads to the formation if the Taliban.

1993- Al Qaeda has about 1,000 members, mostly Afghan veteran Jihadis.
It supports 5,000 Arab fighters defending Muslims in the Balkans during the Bosnian Civil War (1992-1995)

First World Trade Centre Attack Fails. Al Qaeda spreads globally.

-Al Qaeda-linked bomb blast at World Trade Centre, New York.

-Al Qaeda has agents in Albania, Britain, Pakistan, Holland, Malasia, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Enirates.

-Al Qaeda forms loose associations with similar outfits in Ageria, Chechnya, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa, Lebanon, Libya, the Phulippines, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Yemen, Syria and Tunisia.

1994- Al Zawahiri joins Bin Laden in Khartoum Sudan, becomes his mentor.

-Saudi government revokes Bin Laden's citizenship and freezes his assets of $20-25 million

-attempt on Bin Laden's life. He founds the Committee for Advice and Reform. The CAR is intended to promote preaceful reform in Saudi Arabia.

1995- finally allowed to campaign openly in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood runs 150 candidates, all of whom lose.

-Islamabad- truck bombing kills 18- Egypt holds Zawahiri responsible.

-CIA sets up a "Bin Laden station".

Bin Laden Expelled from Sudan. Zawahiri heads Egyptian wing of Al Qaeda.

-1996- Sudan expels Bin Laden for his verbal attacks on the king of Saudi Arabia and puts him under surveillance in order that Sudan be removed from the U.S. list of terror states.

-botched Egyptian operations by the EIJ (Egyptian islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al Zawahiri), the Egyptian wing of Al Qaeda, get the EIJ expelled from Sudan.

Al Qaeda Returns to Afghanistan. Victorious Taliban Gives protection to Al Qaeda.

1996- Bin Laden moves Al Qaeda headquarters from Somalia to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, though Jalalabad is still outside Taliban control.

-Shalh Kaled first suggests an attack on New York's World Trade towers to Bin Laden.

Sept. -- Taliban takes Kabul and Jalalbad in civil war. Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, gives protection and freedom of action to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda after Bin Laden swears loyalty; but also to accommodate, former anti-Soviet Jihadists who had been expelled from their home countries and unemployed Jihadists from the recent Bosnian, Kashmir and Chechen wars. A veteran Al Qaeda unit fights alongside the Taliban.

-Al Qaeda's 3,000 fighters are known as the Taliban's 55th Brigade. Al Qaeda has 45,000 adherents in 60 countries.

-Al Qaeda announces plans to expel foreigners from Islamic lands.

1997- Zawahiri joins Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda Bombs US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.

1998- August- Al Qaeda bombs US embassies inNairobi and Dar As Salaam, killing 227.

-Wshington places Bin Laden on its 10 most wanted list with a $5 million rewaerd on his head. and demands the Taliban hand him over. Mullah Omae refuses.

Union Of Islamic Courts in Somalia.

1998-2000  four sharia courts in Somalia bond together.

2000- the Union of Islamic Courts. Is founded in Somalia.

Bin Laden Releases Fatwa against Americans and Jews.

1999: Jordanian Sunni militant Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi flees his country after a failed hotel bombing and moves his group, known then as Tawhid and Jihad, to Afghanistan.

-Bin Laden releases a Fatwa calling for attacks on US citizens. Zawahiri joins his Islamic Jihad with Bin Laden's World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews. Zawahiri is in charge of ideology. Charter members are Abu Yasser Rafia Ahmad Taha, Mir Hamza and Faz ul Rahman. Among ists grievances are the UN sanctions against Iraq, US military bases in Saudi Arabia, the existence of Israel and its domination of the Palestinians. Its aims are the killing of any American or Israeli, the liberation of Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque and the Holy Mosque in Mecca andto overthrow all the regimes in Muslim countries that supported western interests.

-Nov. 4- a US grand jury returns a 238 count indictment for murder and other charges against Bin Laden and Zawahiri.

-Bin Laden gives the go-ahead to Sheikh Khaled to organize abd lauch the attack on the WTC in New York.

1999- 20 members of the Muslim Brotherhood arrested for plotting to overthrow the government and ifiltrating professional syndicates.

-9/11 plans finalized by the Al Qaeda military committee.

Early Stages of 9/11 Attacks.

-a group of highly educated, disciplined Islamists living in Hamburg and with experience of the West travel to to Afhganistan to meet Bin Laden to plan the attack on the the WTC.

Syrian forerunners to Al Nusra.

2000 -Syrian Jihadists fighting alongside Al Qaeda leader Zarqawi in Herat, Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda Bombs USS Cole in Yemen.

2000- October- Al Qaeda bombs the USS Cole, docked in Aden, Yemen. US holds Bin Laden responsible.

-the Muslim Brotherhood wins 17 seats in the Egyptian parliament.

Dec. -the US has the UN Security Council demand that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden on pain of an arms embargo on Afghanistan. Mullah Omar refuses.

2001- Abu Mohammed Jolani (Golani) (later to lead Al Nusra) under the command of Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al Zawahiri.

2001- Feb.- public trial in US of 4 conspirators in bombing of Kenyan and Ethiopian embassies enlarges Bin Laden's following in the Muslim World.

-Al Qaeda 9/11 hijackers begin arriving in the US

-the hijack leader, Mohammed Atta meets Binalshibh in Spain to work out final details of WTC attack.

Al Qaeda Executes 9/11 Attack on World Trade Towers.

2001- Sept 11- Al Qaeda operatives fly two passenger planes into the twin towers of the World Trade centre in Manhattan, killing about 3,000. A third plane is crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashes in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.

-the US names Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri as conspirators in the 9/11 plots. In vain, the US demands that Mullah Omar hand over Bin Laden.

2001-   Sept-- 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks on New York-: President Musharaff Sides with Washington against Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, under severe pressure from Assistant Secretary of State Armitage. This, however, gains Pakistan badly needed international loans.

Oct 7- Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri release a 20 minute statement claiming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

Nov. Mohammed Atef, Al Qaeda military commander killed by drone strike in Afghanistan.

Dec.12 - Zacarias Musawi, a Moroccan born French citizen is the first suspect to be charged in the 9/11 attacks.

Zarqawi, the Progenitor of ISIS.

2002- Al Qaeda operative Musab al Zarqawi arrives in Iraq and founds Hai al Jamià Baghdad. Syrians who had been with Zarqawi in Herat, Afghanistan are sent to build network branches in Syria and Lebanon. Zarqawi would later exercise control from Iraq.

Yemen Cracks down on Al Qaeda.

-US and Yemen agree that mountain homeland of the Bin Ladens is a prime region for terror training camps.

2002- Feb. Yemen expels over 100 Islamic scholars, many of them English and French nationals in a a move against Al Qaeda suspects.

Execution of Daniel Pearl.

2002- Feb 1- Wall Street Journalist Reporter Daniel Pearl decapitated in Karachi by a Pakistani Al-Qaeda-linked organization led byAhmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

March 2-- Abu Zubaydah, Al Qaeda's chief field and recruitment officer and Bin Laden's number 3 man, is arrested in Pakistan.

April 11- 18 are killed in attack outside a Tunisian synagogue when Al Qaeda explodes an oil tanker.

June 11- Jose Padilla is arrested landing in US from Pakistan and accused of hatching a 'dirty bomb' plot.

Sept 11- Ramzi Bimalshibh, a high-ranking Al Qaeda member and one of the 9/11 plotters is arrested in Karachi.

Oct. -the supertanker Limburg is heavily damaged off the coast of Yemen in attack. Al Qaeda is suspected.

The Bali Night Club Bombing and US and Allied Invasion of Afghanistan.

Oct 12- Indonesia's Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiya carries out massive attack on a Bali nightclub killing 202.

Nov.- US and NATO invasion of Afghanistan. Taliban driven from Kabul. US discovers video tape in which Bin Laden names 9 of the 9/11 hijackers during a meeeting with radical Jeddah cleric Khalid Harbi.

-Bin Ladin escapes to Tora Bora and tribal area of Waziristan.

Nov. 28 -Al Qaeda claims responsibility for an attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombassa, Kenya, killing 16

9/11 Planner Sheikh Khaled Arrested

2003- March 1- Khaled Sheikh Mohammed- Bin Laden's architect of 9/11 is arrested in a CIA-Pakistani operation in Islamabad.

-Washington asks the Pakistan's ISI to hand over al Qaeda militants, but the ISI only hands over foreign Al Qaeda foot soldiers.

-Mounir Moutassadek is found guilty by a German court in Hamburg of helping to to mount the 9/11 attacks. He gets 12 years.

US Invasion of Iraq.

 2003- US Invasion of Iraq: "The link between al-Nusra and the AQI is logical and should not be surprising. Al-Nusra is formed of fighters who took part in the post-2003 armed campaign against US forces in Iraq, jihadists who essentially crossed into Iraq from Syria to commit terrorist atrocities against US and Iraqi targets. Most of AQI's (Al Qaeda in Iraq) fighters were foreign jihadists from neighbouring countries, in particular Syria. Al-Nusra's leader, Jawlani, has himself acknowledged that he fought in Iraq alongside AQI."-, April, 2013.

-Syria becomes the pipeline for sending jihadists into Iraq for the Zarqawi network, with safe houses kept by Syrian jihadists.

August- Al Qaeda in Iraq begins a campaign of suicide bombing.

Al Qaeda-linked Attacks in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Istanbul

May 12- at least 34 killed in an Al Qaeda attack on foreign luxury compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

May 16- Salafiya Jihadia, an al-Qaeda-linked Moroccan cell, kills 45 in suicide bombings on international targets in Casablanca, Morocco.

June 27 -Ali Abdul Rahman al Gamdi arrested in Riyadh suicide attacks.

Dec. 15- 23 killed in suicide attacks on two Istanbul synagogues.

Dec 20- 27 killed in double suicide bombing on the British Consulate and a British bank in Istanbul.


-2003-2004- winter. The Pakistan army launches assaults against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Waziristan

2004--March and June offensives against al Qaeda in the Afghan border area.

Abu Musab al Zarqawi prepares to lead Al Qaeda in Iraq.

2004- Feb 9- US discovers plot for Al Qaeda entry into Iraq by Abu Musab al Zarqawi and plans to turn Sunni and Shia against one another.

2004: Zarqawi renames his group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and steps up a deadly campaign against U.S. and Iraqi targets. AQI’s ranks swell as Arab jihadists enter the country to fight against the U.S., and the group also becomes notorious for abducting foreigners and filming their execution.

The Madrid Train Bombings.

March 11- Madrid train bombings by a group linked or sympathetic to Al Qaeda kill 191.

April 15- A Bin laden tape offers a truce to all European countries that withdraw from the US's alleged war against Muslims.

May 17- head of the Iraqi Governing Council killed in Al Qaeda attack. US traces Zarqawi to a number of attacks incuding beheading of a US hostage.

Al Qaeda Attacks and Hostage Beheading in Saudi Arabia.

May 30- 22 killed by Al Qaeda-linked group in foreigners' compound at Khobar, Saudi Arabia before the compound is stormed by Saudi commandos.

June 18- US hostage Paul Johnson beheaded by Al Qaeda group in Saudi Arabia. Abdul Aziz al Muqin, head of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, killed by security forces.

Algeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Yemen.

June- Abdelmalik Droukdel announces his arrival with a truck bomb at the Algeria’s most important electrical production facility and focuses on associating the GSPC with Al Qaeda. . “The Algerian military says he cut his teeth in the 1990s as a member of the Armed Islamic Group’s feared Ahoual or “horror” company, blamed for some of the most gruesome massacres of Algeria’s civil war.” NYT

-GSPC (al-Qaeda-linked Salafist Group for Call and Combat) declares war on all foreign nationals and interests in Algeria.

July 30-2004 -capture of Ahmed Khalfin Ghalani, Al Qaeda operative linked to 1998 Kenya US embassy bombing.

Sept 26- Amjad Farooqi, wanted in connection to AlQaeda murder of Daniel Pearl, killed in shoot-out with Pakistani Police. Farooqi is closely linked to Aby Faraj Al Libbi, Al Qaeda chief for Pakistan.

Sept 29- 2004- A Yemeni court senteces two Al Qaeda operatives, Al-Bashiri and Al Badawi to death for the attack on the USS Cole. Four others get prison sentences.

Zarqawi's Allegiance to Bin laden.

-Oct- Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, leader of "Monotheism and Jihad" swears allegiance to Osama Bin Laden.

Oct 29- days prior to US elections, Bin aden realeases video tape warning of more attacks on th US.

2004-2005- Pakistan- due to losses in the Waziristan offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda, Pakistan makes various peace deals with local Taliban-supporting tribes. The Taliban effectively control Waziristan.

-after Amjad Farooqi is killed in shoot out with police in Karachi, Matiur Rehman takes his place as Al Qaeda planning director. Matiur Rehman us alleged to have been involved in bombing of the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi.

-2005- Abu Musab al-Sur, noted jihadi theorist followed by Al Nusra-  " al-Suri was arrested in Pakistan (2005), but for some reason was released and handed over to Syria when the rebel uprising began (2011). It is believed that he freely resides somewhere within Syria’s borders and his teachings are heavily influencing the strategies of the Al Nusra Front".- SOFREP, March 24, 2013.

-Zaraqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq becomes the Mujahedeen Shura Council after various armed factions are integrated.

2005: Senior AQI figure Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Abu Du’a) – later described by Iraqi law enforcement as an Islamic law PhD, and the group’s “spiritual leader” during this period – is arrested and held at the U.S. military-run Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. (Reports differ on whether he was held for one, four or five years, and details of his release remain hazy.)

2005- 14 April -Kamil Bourgass, Al Qaeda suspect found guilty of murdering a police officer and threatening to spead ricin in Birtain, gets 17 year sentence.

-violence escalates in Iraq, some of it sectarian, most of it still involving the US military campaign against allied Sunni, Baathist and Al Qaeda militants.

April 22- Al Qaeda suspects go on trial in Madrid court for helping to plan 9/11 bombings.

May 4- Faraj Al Libbi, Al Qaeda's number three after Zawahiri and head of operations in Pakistan is arrested by pakistani police.

July 7, 2005 London Underground Bombings.

July 7- Al-Qaeda inspired group brings off London underground bombings, killing 56.

July 21- four more London underground bombings fail to detonate. Within days, four suspects are identified and arrested.

Sharm-al-Sheikh Bombings

July 23- 61 killed in AlQaeda-linked bombings in the Egyptian Red Sea rfesort of Sharm al-Sheikh. One suspect is killed by police in a shootout with Islamists.

August 19- rockets are fired at the Jordanian port city of Aqaba and at the nearby Israeli port city of Eliat.

Sept. 26- Madrid Court sentences 18 men to prison terms for planning the 9/11 attacks.


 (July 2005)- Matuir Rehman involved in another plot on Musharraf- disrupted by police.

Nov. 2005- Hamza Rabia, Al Qaeda International Operations commander killed by drone attack in North Waziristan.

-Dec. 2005- Abu faraj al-Libbi- al Qaeda leader No. 3- involved in an attempt on Musharraff at Rawalpindi. Libbi is arrested in Mardan. Matiur Rehman is wanted in connection ith the same plot.

Algeria: GSPC links up, merges with Al Qaeda.

Dec 8- the extremist Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) plans to set up an Al-Qaeda branch in the Maghreb countries as a base for attacks to be launched on the countries that support US administration.

2006- January- Al Qaeda in the Maghreb is officially formed from the Algerian GSPC, the Moroccan GICM (responsible for the Casablanca and Madrid bombings in 2003 and 2004 respectively), and other Tunisian elements.

2006- January 19- Bin Laden releases tape offering US the choice of a truce or new attacks.

Sacred Shia Al Askiriya Mosque blown up by Al Qaeda to iginite Sectarian war in  Iraq

February- Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives blow up the Al Askiriya Mosque in Samarra, sacred to Iraqi Shia, deliberately setting off an ethnic bloodbath between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

May 3- Zakarais Moussaoui is sentenced to life in US court. He is the sold person charged in the 9/11 attacks.

Zarqawi killed in targeted US air attack near Baghdad.

June 7- Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Al Zarqawi is killed in a targeted US air strike northeast of Baghdad.

July 12- British-Pakistani terrorists arrested for plan to bomb 12 airliners during an Atlantic crossing. 


July- Osama Bin Laden announces al Qaeda will oppose with force any intervention in Somalia where he backs the idea of an Islamic state.

Sept 3- Al Qaeda in Iraq's number 2 man, Jama Al Saedi is captured by Iraqi authorities. Al Saedi planned the bombing of the Al Askiriya shrine.

Al Qaeda in the Maghreb.

Sept 11- Ayman Zawahiri of Al Qaeda announces the formation of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb.

Zawahiri announces creation of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM)  from merger.

Sept 14- Ayman Al Zawahiri announces the merger of the Algerian militant group, the GSPC with Al Qaeda, creating Al Qaeda in the Maghredb (AQIM)

ISI before ISIS.

2006- Oct 6- Al Qaeda in Iraq becomes the Islamic State Of Iraq (ISI) founded as an umbrella group for Sunni militant organizations including Al Qaeda. After the death of Zarqawi, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi take the lead of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al Zawi heads Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Oct. 2006: AQI renames itself Islamic State of Iraq, and its leader is identified as Hamid Dawud al-Zawi (aka Abu-Omar al-Baghdadi), an Iraqi.


-Oct. -many of the British Pakistanis later suspected in the August 2006 attempted airline bombings in London travelled to Muzaffarabad as humanitarian earthquake relief in Jamiat ud Dawa, whose umbrella organization is Lashakr e Toiba. Membrs of the al Qaeda-linked Jundullah, a Pakistani terror group took them to training camps in Waziristan before returning to relief camps.


Dec 2006 to January 2007- (Dec. 23, Jan 3) Algerian Salafist groups engage Tunisian police and army units with 14 terrorists and some police killed.


Dec. 4- US General John Abizaid visits Adis Ababba. The United States, worried about assistance being given to Somali Islamists by Al Qaeda, has covertly backed Ethiopia.

2007: AQIM  in the Sahel.

February- news reports point to Al Qaeda training camps in the Sahel from Senegal to Ethiopia with plans to attack targets in Europe.

Feb 13- GSPC  claims responsibility for car bombings in Boumerdas and Tizi Ouzou, on the Berber region of Kabylia in eastern Algeria. (This was a center of resistance during the Algerian war).

-Feb 16 - in the mountain region of Qashra near the town of Skikda, Alergian police kill 26 and arrest 35 militants in response to the Feb 13 car bombings.

Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (GSPC) : terror operations in Algeria and Morocco.

Feb 20- Moroccan police search for Hmam Bilal et Bel Hachmi and Mohamed Rida who are accused of having ties with groups including the Algeria-based al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb,

March 11- suicide bombing in Casablanca internet cafe.

2007- March 15- Mohammed Sheikh Khaled admits to planning the 9/11 attacks and 30 others at a hearing at Guantanamo Bay.

March 27- at a hearing at Gunatanamo Bay, Australian convert to Islam David Hicks, confesses to support for terrorist operations.

April 10- three suicide blasts kill and wound police in raid on Casablanca safe house.

April 11- Algiers- bombings of the police station and prime minister’s office claim 17 lives. Claimed by Al Qaeda.

April 14- two suicide bombings on US diplomatic offices in Casablanca.

April 27- high Al Qaeda operative, Al Hadi Al Iraqi, is captured by the US on his way to take over Al Qaeda operations in Iraq.


-March-April- 250 killed in clashes between South Waziristan tribesmen and al Qaeda militants.


2007-  Syrian government cracks down on the late Zarqawi`s Syrian jihadists and safe houses. The fighters leave Syria for refuge in Iraq.

IRAQ: us troop surge against Al Qaeda.

2007: Anbar-based tribal “awakening” campaign against ISI (AQI) and other militants and “surge” of troop reinforcements sent in by President Bush helps to stem the tide of violence, marking a turning point in the Iraq conflict.-U.S. General Petraeus adopts sophisticated, modern counterinsurgency methods against Sunni insurgents as part of the troop surge. US marines make tactical alliances with Sunni Sheikhs and other former nsurgents in Anbar province who are tired of al Qaeda's excesses and violations of Islam. The Anbar Salvation Front becomes the first of several local Sunni paramilitary organizations to aly itself with the U.S..

-in the fall, despite the success of the Sunni local self-defense organizations in Anbar and Diyala, fighting al Qaeda alongside U.S. forces, al Qaeda manages to assassinate come of their leaders.


June 11- suicide truck bomb kills soldiers at military barracks near Algiers. GSPC claims responsibility.

Life Sentences for the London underground bombers.

July 11- four men arrested in the July 21 2005 London underground bombings receive life sentences.

Sept 6- suicide blast kills twenty prior to vistit of President Boutefilka near Algiers.

Sept. 7-8- 50 die in two conseutive bombings in Algeria. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb claims responsibility.

Sept 8- GSPC claims responsibility for bombing of military barracks, killing 37 at Dellys, Algeria.

Oct 7- Zareg Zoheir, mastermind of GSPC suicide bombings killed by Algerian police.


2007- Pakistan rejects US claims that al Qaeda members are hiding in Pakistan.

Oct 18- Pakistan PPP parry leader Benazir Bhutto survives bombing attack as she arrives in Karachi, returning from exile.

Three get life in Madrid train bombings.

Oct 31- Madrid Court sentences three men to life in the Madrid train bombings.

Dec. 12- suicide bombings on Algeria's supreme court and on an Algiers UN agency kill 40.

Dec. 27- Benazir Bhutto is killed in a bombing attack on her motorcade while campainging in Islamabad, Pakistan. Pakistani authorities say Waziristan Al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is responsible.

2008- Jan. 29- Abu Haith Al Libi, Al Qaeda military commander killed in drone strike in North Waziristan.

March 31- at Guantanamo Bay, Al Qaeda operative Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is charged with crimes in the 1998 Kenya Embassy bombing.

 Change of Tactics by Al Qaeda.

2008- having alienated Sunnis in Iraq and driven their fighters into the arms of the Americans, Al Qaeda changes its strategy and rhetoric to attract local support.  Al Nusra's local effectiveness in Syria is an indirect result.

-second in command of  ISI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) is killed by US military in Mosul.

Khaled, architect of 9/11 in trial in US.

June 6- Mohammed Sheikh Khaled, self-confessed planner of the 9/11 attacks, tells a US tribunal at Gunatanmo Bay that he wants to die as a martyr.

July 6- Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni and Osama Bin Laden's former driver, is convicted of war crimes at a tribunal in Gunatanamo Bay.

-July 28- Abu Khebab al Masri, Al Qaeda expert on weapons of mass destruction killed in drone strike.

Aug, 22-26 Shabab Islamist militia takes the port of Kismayo, Somalia's 3rd largest city, leaving 70 dead with plans to join Al Qaeda. 

-Fall- Najibullah Zazi and three others receive al Qaeda training in Afghanistan; will soon plot to attack subway stations in New York City.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula arises from merger.

2009- Jan-March- the Yemeni and Saudi affiliates of Al Qaeda merge into Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, affiliated by the Yemen-based US-Muslim preacher, Al Awlaki. The Yemeni and Saudi affiliates of Al Qaeda merge into Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. AQAP formed from a merger of al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi branches and led by Nasir ul-Wuhayshi. The Saudi group had been effectively suppressed by the Saudi government, forcing its members to seek sanctuary in Yemen. It is believed to have several hundred members.

Feb. -Yemeni government Announces release of five Al Qaeda suspects on condition of good behaviour.


2009 January - Ethiopia completes the withdrawal of its troops. Fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked radical Islamist al-Shabab militia take control of the town of Baidoa, formerly a key stronghold of the transitional government.

 March 19- Osama Bin Laden releases tape in which he urges Islamists to overthrow President Ahmed.

Al Qaeda in the Maghreb.

2009 May - Algeria begins sending military equipment to Mali in preparation for a joint operation against Al Qaeda in the Maghreb 


2009 June - Somalia's security minister and more than 20 other people are killed in a suicide bombing at a hotel in Beledweyne, north of the capital Mogadishu. Al Shabab, working closely with Al Qaeda, declares responsibility. President Ahmed declares a state of emergency as violence intensifies. Somali officials appeal to neighbouring countries to send troops to Somalia, as government forces continue to battle Islamist insurgents.


July- Lebanese army arrests 10 suspected Al Qaeda operatives believed to be planning attacks on UN peacekeepers in the south of Lebanon.

Al Baghdadi, head of Al Qaeda in Iraq killed near Tikrit.

(Dec 2009)-  the Islamic State of Iraq, sometimes called an al Qaeda franchise, claims responsibility for a mass of bombings in Baghdad killing 127, as well as other killings in August and October killing 240.

2010- January- according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Al Qaeda is planning to destabilize Pakistan and ingite a nuclear war between Pakistan and India.

2010- April 18- leader of ISI or Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Omar al Baghdadi, killed outside Tikrit.

Failed Times Square bombing.

May- Faisal Sahazad is arrested in a failed attempt to bomb Times Square using a van packed with explosives.


2010- President Saleh says he will open talks with Al Qaeda militants provided they renounce violence.
2010- June 19- Four al Qaeda gunmen dressed in women’s clothing attacked an intelligence headquarters in Aden and freed several suspected al Qaeda militants. On June 21 Yemen announced the arrest of the attack’s mastermind. Security forces investigating the attack made several arrests on June 25 in Aden during house-to-house searches. On July 11, AQAP claimed that its Martyr Jamil al Anbari Brigade carried out the attack. An AQAP statement stated the attack killed 24 officers and soldiers, deviating from the government’s report of 11 killed. AQAP also denied that the government had captured those responsible for the attack


2010   Jul 24, French-backed Mauritanian military operations against al Qaeda fighters in the Sahara desert wound up after four days of hunting Islamists deep inside Mali.

2010-  Sep 17, The Mauritanian army launched an offensive against the North African branch of al-Qaida in neighboring Mali. At least 12 militants died and five Mauritanians were killed in the operation, which was launched  inside northern Mali with permission

-Sept. -Najiibullah Zazi arrested for attempting to bomb subway  stataions in new York City.

Conviction of would-be London Airline bombers

-Sept- conviction by a London court of the three Al Qaeda-linked bombers who conspired to blow transatlantic passenger jets out of the air using smuggled liquid explosives.

- Sept- Drone missile strike in Pakistan kills Ilyas Kashmiri, Al Qaeda military commander and head of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Kashmir insurgent group. Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami.

Taliban Severs Ties with Al Qaeda.

-Taliban has severed its last ties with al Qaeda. 100 Al Qaeda fighter remain in Afghanistan.

Aug 12- Osama Bin Laden's former cook and driver, Ibrahim al Qosi, is sentenced to 14 years in prison for providing material support to terrorism. A plea bargain is pending.


Oct- government troops under US pressure fighting Al Qaeda in difficult, rugged terrain of South Yemen, particularly in the Abyan region.

Al Qaeda Massacres Christians

October 31, 2010- 52 are masscred in an Al Qaeda hostage taking and attack on a Syrian Christian chruch in Baghdad.

Maliki Alienates Sunnis in Iraq.

New elections in Iraq sow the seeds of future discontent. Iraqiyya, a secular and religiously mixed bloc led by Ayad Allawi, a former British exile, win a narrow majority of votes, but the Shia bloc run by current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, regains power after forming a governing coalitiion with Iranian-backed parties. Rather than handing key security positions to his opponents as promised, Mr Maliki concentrates power in his own hands, alienating the Sunni community.

Dec. 4- Osama Bin Laden believed to be in Ghazni province, Afghanistan.

Dec 8- Salh al Somali, coordinatior of Al Qaeda in Afhganistan and Pakistan witg Al Qaeda abroad is killed in a drone strike.

Underwear Airline Bomber Trained in Yemen under Al Qaeda.

-Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the Christmas attack on a US airliner by
the 'underwear bomber.' Sana'a asks for the West's support in the war on terror.

Dec 25- Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab, the "Underwear Bomber", arrested for attempting to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He had been trained in Yemen by 'Al Qaeda in the Arabian

 US State Department Concerned about Al Qaeda in Yemen.

2011 January - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits to express "urgent concern" at al-Qaeda activities in Yemen.

2011 Suicide Attacks in Iraq.

January 2011 Iraq suicide attacks were a series of three consecutive suicide bombings in Iraq which left at least 133 dead.

Al Badri succeeds Al Zawi as head of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

 Apr. 2010: Al-Zawi is killed in a U.S. airstrike; Al-Badri, viewed as secretive and ambitious, is promoted to the leadership.

 April 26, 2011: NATO reveals that Abu Hafs al-Najdi, also known as Abdul Ghani, a regional commander in Afghanistan in charge of suicide bombings and cash flow, was killed by an airstrike earlier in the month.

April 25, 2011: The Al unnah Al Nawabiah Mosque in Montreal was among nine houses of prayer or Islamic institutes worldwide considered by the U.S. military to be places where "known al-Qaeda members were recruited, facilitated or trained," according to leaked classified American intelligence documents.

 US Special Forces Kill Osama Bin Laden.

April 26, 2011: NATO reveals that Abu Hafs al-Najdi, also known as Abdul Ghani, a regional commander in Afghanistan in charge of suicide bombings and cash flow, was killed by an airstrike earlier in the month.
May 1, 2011: Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda is killed when CIA paramilitaries and a Navy SEAL team attack his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Syria- the Al Nusra Front- Independant fromAl Qaeda.

Aug. 2011: Al Qaeda in Iraq leader  Al-Badri threatens on an AQI website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq to avenge the death of bin Laden three months earlier.

US Assassinates Al Qaeda Preacher Awlaki

Sept- US-born al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki is assassinated by US forces.


Oct. 2011: State Department lists al-Badri as a specially designated global terrorist, offers a $10 million reward for information leading to his location.

 2011- Syrian Jihadists begin to return from Iraq for the Syrian uprising. Some form 'Al Nusra' which means.

Oct- in Homs and Rif Dimashq jihadists discuss Al Nusra's founding and objectives. . 'Al Nusra' means "The Support Front for the People of the Levant [Greater Syria]" At its founding, it had no affiliation with Al Qaeda.

2011- Dec.- veteran jihadists of deceased Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, leave Iraq, crossing the border to Syria to join in the Arab Spring rebellion against the Assad regime. Jabhat Al Nusra (JN) claims to fight on behalf of the Syria's increasingly oppressed Sunni majority and against Syria's ruling Shia Alawite sect and its allies which include Shia Iran and the Shia Hezbollah organization and militia in Lebanon.


2011- Dec 13- Yemeni security forces arrested six “well-known” al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives in Yemen; among the operatives was high-value target and leader of AQAP in al Jawf governorate, Musaed al Barbari. A stockpile of weapons and “training manuals” were found in his possession. The suspects, including Barbari, Mohamed Hussein Musayyib, Mohammad Abdulkadir Ahmed al Shihri, Nader Ahmad Mohamed al Qubati, Mohamed Muthana Ali al Amari, and Abdul Munaim Hamid Ali Abu Ghanem, had been planning attacks targeting high-ranking security officials, foreign embassies, and government buildings in Yemen. Also, the suspects had been “actively recruiting fighters” to join Ansar al Sharia militants fighting in Abyan and Shabwah governorates. Separately, three fugitives who escaped from al Mansoura Central Security prison in Aden on December 11 were captured

Iraq: Maliki moves against  Sunni VP al-Hashemi.

December, 2011- Mr Maliki issues an arrest warrant for Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice-president, who flees abroad. The government claims Mr Hashemi has been using his bodyguards for terrorism campaigns, but Iraq's Sunnis see it as a sectarian smear campaign against his political rivals. Mr Maliki replaces competent military leaders who had worked with the Americans with political cronies, undermining the military's strength just when the US is pulling out its forces.

Syria: Al Nusra (JN).

Dec. 23- suicide car bombs kill 44 in Damascus. Al Nusra claims responsibility.

2102- Jan- al Nusra meetings continue in Rif Damashq and Homs.

2012- Jan 6- Al Nusra suicide bombing carried out by Abu al-Baraa al-Shami in Midan District of Damascus kills 26.

-in late January, ``the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl Ash-Sham, or the Support Front for the People of Syria, announced its formation and goal to bring down the regime of President Bashar Assad.`` -TIME.

2012- Jan 23- In its inaugural video Al Nusra claims an attack on a government  security installation in Idlib. "We are Syrian mujahideen, back from various jihad fronts to restore God's rule on the Earth and avenge the Syrians' violated honour and spilled blood," a masked man declared in the video. (BBC)

2012- 10 Feb Al Nusra (JN)  suicide bombings kill 28 in Aleppo.

2102- March 17- two car bombs in Damasucs kill 27.

2012- March-April- JN expands after many leading jihadists from Lebanese Fatah al-Islam and Palestinian groups joined the leadership and were able to secure sponsorship of key jihadi ideologues including Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, Sheikh Abu Muhammad. JN may be responsible for bombings carried out on this date.

2012- May 29- On 29 May 2012, a mass execution was discovered near the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor. The unidentified corpses of 13 government soldiers had been discovered shot to death execution-style. JN (Al Nusra) later claimed responsibility.

2012- June 17-  Walid Ahmad al-Ayesh, described by Syrian authorities as the "right hand" of the Al-Nusra Front, was killed when Syrian authorities discovered his hiding place. He was reportedly responsible for the making of car bombs that were used to attack Damascus in the previous months. (Wikipedia)

2012- June 27-  JN blows up a pro-government TV station in the town of Drousha, just south of the capital Damascus.

 Yemen Captures Al Qaeda Strongholds.

2012 June - The army recaptures three al-Qaeda strongholds in the south - Shuqra, Zinjibar and Jaar.

 AQI leader al Badri helps to establish al Nusra.

2012: Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Al-Badri starts focusing attention on the jihad against President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, where he reportedly helps to establish an al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, under the leadership of a former Zarqawi deputy. 


2012- Summer- Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Helpers)- is founded by Chechen fighters as a Jihadi group for foreign fighters.
Al Qaeda Offensive in Mali

June 30, 2012- Armed Islamists destroy ancient tombs of Muslim saints that offend their puritan views in the desert city of Timbuktu and threaten to wipe out every religious shrine there. They impose sharia, the strict and often brutal Islamic law.

-summer of 2012, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine, another radical Islamist group, took advantage of the instability and an increasingly weak military in Mali and captured Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao, cities in the north. They implemented and brutally enforced Shariah, or Islamic law.

Al Nusra in Syria.
2012- July 15 (circa)  JN executes popular TV news presenter Mohammed al-Saeed

2012- August 12-  a JN leader, Wael Mohammad al-Majdalawi, killed in a government operation in Damascus.

Al Qaeda  offshoot Kills US Ambassador in Bengazi, Libya. 

September 2012-  militants armed with antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades fired upon the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other embassy officials. U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the U.S. believed that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group closely linked to al-Qaeda, orchestrated the attack.

Iraq's Sunnis and the Arab Spring.

Fall, 2012- Belatedly inspired by the Arab Spring movements in neighbouring countries, Sunnis begin a series of mass civil rights demonstrations, alleging that they are treated as second-class citizens by Mr Maliki's government. While their grievances get a limited hearing in the wider world - Sunnis, after all, enjoyed privileged lives during the reign of Saddam Hussein - Western diplomats in Baghdad concede that they have some grounds for complaint. In particular, the protesters allege harassment by the security forces and discrimination in getting government jobs.

2012- Oct 3- three car bombs explode in central Aleppo killing 44.

2012- 12 Oct- attacks on a Syrian air defense base near Aleppo; they reportedly destroyed buildings and sabotaged radar and rockets after overrunning the base in cooperation with the al-Fajr Islamic Movement.

-attack on the the Hanano barracks in Aleppo city killing 11 government soldiers. 

-attack on the the Suluq barracks in Raqqah wherw they claimed killing 32 soldiers.

-other attacks in October, 2012: the military base at Wadi Deif and Taftanaz air base. 

Progress of Al Nusra. 

-JN seized three army checkpoints around Saraqeb at the end of October 2012, forcing the Syrian Army to withdraw from the area the next day. In the battle, 28 Syrian soldiers were killed as well as five Nusra fighters. Some of the captured soldiers were summarily executed after being called "Assad dogs". (Wikipedia)

2012- early November- car bomb kills 2 in a rural development center in Sahl al-Ghab in Hama.
 -Islamist militias in Aleppo, including the Al-Nusra and Al-Tawhid groups refuse to join the Coalition of opposition groups denouncing it as a "conspiracy"
-suicide bombing in Mezzeh neighbourhood of Damascus kills 11 people.

-by the end of 2012- Al Nusra units have become the shock troops of the armed Syrian opposition, the best armed, funded, trained and disciplined of all the rebel groups, Al Nusra can turn the tide wherever rebel lines run into trouble.

 Dec. 11: The Obama administration declares Al Nusra with alleged ties to al-Qaida as a terrorist organization. A group of 29 opposition groups, including both fighting units and civilian organizations signed an online petition calling for demonstrations in its support. 

2012- Dec. -US lists al-Nusra as a terrorist organisation, A group of 29 opposition groups, including both fighting units and civilian organisations signed an online petition calling for demonstrations in its support. 

2012- Dec. Al Nusra reported to have entered Lebanon: "Senior Lebanese security officials have confirmed that there has been a noticeable increase in jihadist elements associated with al-Qaeda within Lebanon. This increase is naturally linked to armed elements in Syria and the stated and covert positions taken by some Lebanese political forces towards the conflict in Damascus. However, the same security apparatus has revealed in an exclusive interview that their investigations have determined that the most recent statement made by Al Nusra was authored in north Lebanon. The email address responsible for posting the statement on the internet was traced to Tripoli, the capital of the North Governorate and close to the Syrian border." Al-Monitor, Dec. 24, 2102.

2012- Dec. 23- JN declares "no-fly-zone" over Aleppo, using 23 mm and 57 mm anti-aircraft guns.

Continued Marginalization of Sunnis in Iraq.

December, 2012- The arrest of Rafaie al-Esawi, a finance minister who is one of the last prominent Sunnis in government, galvanises the protests further. The growing sense of alienation with the government provides a ready source of new recruits to al-Qaeda, which has re-energised in western Iraq thanks to its campaign against President Bashar al-Assad in neighbouring Syria. While many Sunnis do not share al-Qaeda's extreme religious vision, they are willing to help it fight Mr Maliki's government.


December 20: The UN Security Council unanimously approves sending an African-led force to help reconquer northern Mali from the Islamist militants. However the Council says all possible diplomatic avenues must be exhausted before force can be used.

French Offensive Against Al Qaeda in Mali

2013 January - Islamist fighters capture the central town of Konna and say they will push further south. President Traore asks France for help and Paris responds by sending troops and carrying out air strikes on rebel bases.

January 2013- militants pushed into the southern part of Mali, crossing into the area controlled by the government. France sent about 2,150 troops to Mali to push them back. By the end of January, French troops pushed the militants out of Gao and Timbuktu, forcing them back to northern Mali.

Al Qaeda Operation on Gas Plant in Almenas, Algeria.

January 16, 2013, Islamic militants entered neighboring Algeria from Mali and took dozens of foreign hostages at the BP-controlled In Amenas gas field. Algerian officials said the militants were members of an offshoot of al-Qaeda called Al Mulathameen and were acting in retaliation for France's intervention in Mali. On Jan. 17, Algerian troops stormed the complex and attacked the kidnappers. By the end of the standoff on Jan. 20, 29 militants and 37 hostages were killed. Three Americans were among the dead.

 Syria: Al Nusra

2013- January- JN takes over the distribution of flour in Aleppo in the wake of the hoarding and sale of flour by the Syrian Free Army.  "The Nusra Front is outside the FSA and has a reputation for discipline and honesty." BBC.

2013- February- Al Nusra fighters were involved in fighting in Safira with regime reinforcements, preventing these forces from reaching their destination of the city of Aleppo. (Al Jazeera)

"Danish reports say at least 30 Danish Muslims have gone to fight with al Nusra in Syria. Senior European intelligence officials have told me that there is a wave of angry young Muslim men from all across Western Europe going to Syria to join al Qaeda and fight Assad." The Daily Beast, Feb 23, 2013.

 -As of early 2013 al-Nusra is estimated to have around 5000 members. (Wikipedia) 

Iraq: Spate of Al Qaeda Bombings.

2013- Jan 16- Bombings in Kurdish Iraq Kill More Than 20. 

2013 February - About 35 people are killed in two attacks. At least 19 died in a suicide bombing of an anti-al-Qaeda militia in Taji, north of Baghdad, and at least 16 people died in a raid on a police station in Kirkuk, northern Iraq.


2013- March- JN has claimed responsibility for 57 of the 69 suicide attacks in Syria during the conflict. (Wikipedia).

2013- March 13- Anti-regime activists took to the streets of rebel-held Mayadeen in eastern Syria on Wednesday for a third straight day to demand that jihadist Al-Nusra Front fighters leave the town.

March, 2013- Jihadists rebels control large parts of the three provinces that make up northeastern and are working to install the foundations for an Islamic state.Extremist rebels — mostly from large armed groups Ahrar al Sham and Jabhat al Nusra took the provincial capital of Raqqa, Syria’s sixth largest city and the first to fall into rebel hands. 

Iraq: Dramatic Increase in Anti Shia and Al Qaeda Attacks.
2013 March - A series of coordinated car bomb and suicide attacks hit government buildings in Baghdad, killing at least 24. Attacks and explosions by al-Qaeda, mainly in Shia neighbourhoods in and around Baghdad, kill 50 people on eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion.

2013- March 16- Car Bombs Kill 56 Civilians in Iraq. On the eve of the ten year anniversary of the U.S. invasion, over a dozen bombings took place throughout Baghdad, killing at least 56 people and wounding over 200

2013 April - At least 31 people are killed and more than 200 others wounded in explosions in cities across the country, including Kurdistan.

Power Struggle as ISIS claims authority over Al Nusra.

2013- April 8- Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi,  leader of 'The Islamic State of Iraq' (Al Qaeda)  releases video stating that  JN leader Abu Mohammed al Golani had been sent into Syria to announce the union of JN and 'The Islamic State of Iraq' and that the latter had already been supplying JN with finding and strategy for several months. From now the entire organisation was to bear the name, "The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham."

2013- April 9- JN leader Golani denies any such merger exists but that AN and Al Qaeda are still allies.

Aharar Al Sham Distances itself from Al Nusra; Al Nusra Splits.

From The Economist: "Hitherto the most prominent of the extreme Islamist groups has been Jabhat al-Nusra, which may have 7,000 or so fighters. But recently it has been bogged down in a power struggle with al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. After Jabhat al-Nusra’s leaders, led by Abu Muhammad al-Golani, refused to submit to his rule, the group split: a more extreme branch merged with the Iraqi brethren, forming the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. It has recently clashed with other Syrian groups, something Ahrar al-Sham has so far avoided. As Jabhat al-Nusra’s clout has weakened, Ahrar al-Sham’s has grown stronger." (July 20, 2013)

2013- April 20- The Syrian National Coalition rejects any association with Al Qaeda:
“We reject the thoughts of al-Qaeda. Syria is a country where moderate Islam prevails,” said Moaz al-Khatib, head of the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition. “The bottom line is that al-Qaeda’s ideology doesn’t suit us, and rebels in Syria have to take a clear stance about this.” His call has been heeded. “We don’t support the ideology of al-Nusra,” said Louay Meqdad, spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army. “When we in Syria launched our jihad (holy war) against the sectarian regime... we did not do so for the sake of any allegiance to a man here or another there,” said the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, an umbrella group of some 20 rebel brigades, including some of the most prominent. “Pledging allegiance to someone who does not understand our reality does not serve our people or nation.” (Al Arabiya, April 22, 2013)
The Boston Marathon Bombing.

April 15, 2013- Two bombs exploded at and near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three and maiming dozens. Two suspects, the brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who were inspired by Al Qaeda, were hunted down, the former killed, the last seriously wounded. 

April 22, 2013- Two men of Muslim background arrested in Toronto and Montreal before executing a plan to bomb a Via Rail Train between Toronto and New York City.

 Iraqi Army Attacks Iraqi Sunnis.

April, 2013-  Iraqi troops antagonise the Sunni community further when they attack a protest camp in the town of Hawijah in northern Iraq, killing 53 people. While the Iraqi government claims that the camp had become a haven for al-Qaeda militants, who had fired on them first, the raid prompts fighting that spills across northern Iraq. Gunmen briefly sieze one town and declare it to be "liberated" from government rule.

2013 May - Anti-Shia sectarian attacks continue, with 70 people killed in one day.

Al Zawahiri  Defends al Qaeda's Al Nusra from claims of merger by ISIS.

May 2013:  Al  Qaeda in Iraq leader Al-Badri declares merger of AQI and al-Nusra under the name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or alternatively, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The perceived power grab is rejected by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who declares that al-Nusra is the only al-Qaeda affiliate engaged in the anti-Assad campaign. Al-Badri ignores al-Zawahiri’s instructions to focus on Iraq, and instead continues operations in both countries.

Somalia- Al Shebab

2013- June 28: UN reports that the Al-Shabaab spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has turned himself in to pro-government officials in the central town of Adado. Local elders assert that he and his militia are stationed in the central Galmudug region, having fled from their own comrades in Al-Shabaab-controlled territory after a bout of infighting. According to the Shabelle Media Network, legislators and elders flew in to the town in an attempt to persuade Aweys to negotiate with the government. However, the elders indicate that their efforts were unsuccessful

ISIS strengthened with jailbreak.

July, 2013- The new joint Syrian-Iraqi al-Qaeda offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Shams (ISIS), gains a major coup when it breaks nearly 500 fellow militants from Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad. That ISIS can break its way into what is supposedly the most secure jail in the country shows how well-organised it has become. Many escapees rejoin ISIS's ranks.

2013- July Ahrar Al Sham (ISIS) now numbers about 15,000, the largest Jihadist umbrella group in Iraq. Some Ahrar al-Sham units that have been involved in heavy fighting include the Qawafel al-Shuhada and Ansar al-Haqq Brigades (both in Khan Sheikhoun, Idleb Province), the al-Tawhid wal-Iman Brigade (Maarrat al-Noum an, Idleb Province), the Shahba Brigade (Aleppo City), the Hassane bin Thabet Brigade (Darat Ezza, Aleppo Province), and the Salahaddin and Abul-Fida Brigades (both in Hama City) (Wikipedia)

December, 2013- Human Rights Watch issues a report criticising the Iraqi government over the scale of its use of the death penalty, often in cases where confessions have been extracted by torture. A disproportionate number of those on death row appear to be Sunni insurgents.

Jan. 2014- ISIS sends gunmen into the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, west of Baghdad. The Iraqi army surrounds both cities but does not go for an all-out assault for fear of large civilian casualties that would alienate locals still further. Five months later, both cities remain outside of Iraqi security forces' control.

Winter/spring 2014: ISIS/ISIL battles al-Nusra and other rebel groups for control of territory across northern Syria. Thousands die in this conflict within the wider Syrian civil war. The State Department says the group likely makes up “a significant portion of the estimated 26,000 violent extremist fighters in Syria.

June 5,  2014, ISIS/ISIL forces launch an attack against the Iraqi city of Samarra, but are expelled by Iraqi airstrikes.

Jun. 9-10, 2014 ISIS/ISIL forces capture control of most of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and free hundreds of prisoners, including some of its fighters. Iraqi forces reportedly flee. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declares a state of emergency.

June 11, 2014-  ISIS/ISIL forces take control of an oil refinery at Baiji then move further down the highway to Baghdad and seize Tikrit, just 95 miles north of the capital. Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

June, 2014- ISIS takes over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, also threatening Baghdad. Five years from being all but vanquished, al-Qaeda's writ in Iraq is as strong, if not stronger, as it was before.

 thanks to BBC Timelines and: