Its clerics also use the concept of bidah—an Islamic term that forbids invent- Peace, December 20, 2011, carnegieendowment/files/salafis_sufis.pdf.
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© 2016 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. All rights reserved. Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are the authorÕs own and do not necessarily re !ect the views of Carnegie, its sta”, or its trustees. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the Carnegie Endowment. Please direct inquiries to: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Publications Department 1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036 P: +1 202 483 7600 F: +1 202 483 1840 CarnegieEndowment.org #is publication can be downloaded at no cost at CarnegieEndowment.org/pubs. CP 253 This paper was published through a generous research grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
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Contents About the Author vSummary 1Introduction 3The Wahhabi Root 4A Hybrid Ideology 6TakÞrism to the Extreme 9The Islamic StateÕs Scholars of Jihad 12The Sahwa Link 15Justifying Savagery 17Storytelling and Jihad 18Conclusion 19Notes 21Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 29
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vAbout the Author Hassan ! Hassan ! is ! a resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a think tank in Washington, DC. He is also co-author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, a New York Times best seller chosen as one of the Times of London Õs Best Books of 2015 and the Wall Street Journal Õs top ten books on terrorism. He is an associate fellow at Chatham HouseÕs Middle East and North Africa Program in London, and a columnist and former deputy comment editor for the National in Abu Dhabi. His writing has appeared in the Guardian , Foreign Policy , Foreign A! airs , and the New York Times , among other outlets. His research focuses on Syria, Iraq, and the Arab Gulf states as well as Islamist and Sala ” groups. He received a masterÕs degree in international relations from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Follow him on Twitter @hxhassan.
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1Summary Forces throughout the Middle East are attempting to roll back the self-pro -claimed Islamic State, which seized territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014. But regardless of how the jihadi group fares militarily, its ideology remains a long- term challenge. # e Islamic StateÕs ideology is multifaceted and cannot be traced to one individual, movement, or period. Understanding it is crucial to defeating the group. A Hybrid Ideology ¥ # e Islamic State presents itself as the representative of authentic Islam as practiced by the early generations of MuslimsÑSala ” smÑand it draws on an especially strict brand of Sala ” sm in particular, Wahhabism. ¥ It is overly simplistic, however, to blame any one ideology for the Islamic StateÕs extremism. Its extremism is the product of a hybridization of doc -trinaire Sala ” sm and other Islamist currents. ¥ # e Islamic State relies on the jihadi literature of ideologues who support its stance as well as clerics who do not formally support the group. # ese clerics adhere to a set of ideas that signi ” cantly deviate from mainstream Islam, and many are direct heirs of the Sahwa , an intellectual religious movement that began in earnest in the 1970s. ¥ # e Sahwa blended Sala ” concepts with revolutionary ideas from political Islam in a broad sense, but primarily currents in $ uenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. # e intermarriage polarized and produced new and unpre -dictable religious currents .¥ Politically submissive Sala ” sm gave way to political tak “rism Ñexcommu -nication after one Muslim declares another an in ” del or apostate. # is ideology carries the banner of caliphate, jihad, and rebellion. ¥ # e Islamic State is part of a legacy of tak “ri schools and ideas to emerge from al-Qaeda. But the Islamic StateÕs ideological rigidity stands out. Its refusal to bend creates a culture of tak “rism within tak “rism .The Ideology in Practice ¥ # e Islamic State promotes a political ideology and a worldview that actively classi ” es and excommunicates fellow Muslims. ¥ # e group is adept at cultivating and exploiting preexisting sectarian ” s-sures in the Middle East. # e Islamic State taps into communal hatred and
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2!|!The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context religious concepts to recruit and justify its acts, or to foster sympathy and neutralize forces that actively reject it. It has proven particularly powerful in outbidding al-Qaeda for recruits. ¥ It uses clericsÕ material to justify the tak “r of the Saudi state and Muslim rulers across the Middle East, and to support the rejection of o % cial insti -tutions and forces. ¥ For the Islamic State, clerics o & er justi ” cations for its savagery, especially against fellow Muslims. And the group cites stories from early Islamic his -tory to justify its brutal practices to new recruits.
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3Introduction Since the self-proclaimed Islamic State swept through large swaths of north -western Iraq and eastern Syria in the summer of 2014, the origins of its sectar -ian and ultraextremist ideology have been debated in the region and beyond. 1 # e enslavement of hundreds of Yazidi women in Sinjar, 2 the slaughter of at least 1,500 Shia soldiers in Tikrit and hundreds of Sunni tribesmen in Syria and Iraq, 3 and the beheading of Western hostages and Syrian and Iraqi civil -ians triggered a collective soul-searching that soon turned into a religious and political blame game. 4 A Saudi commentator typi ” ed the debate when he said on Twitter that the Islamic StateÕs Òactions are but an epitome of what we have studied in our school curriculum. If the curriculum is sound, then [the Islamic State] is right, and if it is wrong, then who bears responsibility?Ó 5Understanding the ideological appeal of the Islamic State is crucial to defeat -ing it. Top U.S. military commanders have repeatedly emphasized the impor -tance of ideology in ” ghting the group. As Major General Michael Nagata, a former commander of the U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, has noted, ÒWe do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it.Ó 6 Field commanders battling the Islamic State in Syria have likewise reported that ideology impedes e & orts to mobilize forces against the group. Muslim ” ghters often refuse to take up arms against the Islamic State on religious grounds, even if they would not join the group themselves. # is is especially the case for e & orts backed by Western powers. Ideology can therefore have practical implications in the ” ght against the Islamic State. # ere is little consensus on the factors to blame for the Islamic StateÕs violent and confrontational ethos. Some maintain that the Islamic State is the natural heir of a long history of such behavior. 7 Others attribute its rise and bru -tality to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and to IranÕs expanding role in support -ing Shia militias in the region. Some commentators point broadly to political Islam as the precursor to the Islamic StateÕs intolerance, 8 while others reduce the Islamic State to an entity whose sectarianism is driven solely by political opportunism fueled by regional political players. 9 In fact, the Islamic StateÕs ideology is multifaceted and cannot be traced to one individual, movement, or period. And relying on the titles of books and writings used by the Islamic State can distort, not inform, the understanding of The Islamic StateÕs ideology is multifaceted and cannot be traced to one individual, movement, or period.
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4!|!The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context its ideology. Instead, it is important to closely examine how the group selects, understands, and teaches its ideas. In isolation, Sala ” sm and political Islam do not produce an Islamic State member or catalyze extremism. 10 On the contrary, both Sala ” sm and political Islam have safeguards that may inhibit the kind of extremism adopted by the Islamic State. Similarly, political or moral outrage alone does not drive people to the Islamic State. # e group has $ ourished in a context of political oppression, governance failures, and sectarian ” ssures, but this same political context can, and often does, lead individuals to insurgent groups that hold moderate views. # is paper explores the Islamic StateÕs ideology and sectarianism in context, drawing on primary sources and direct testimonies from Islamic State clerics and members in Syria and Iraq. It discusses broader themes relevant to the groupÕs ideology to explain the origins of the Islamic StateÕs violent and exclu -sivist vision. Until the illusion that the groupÕs ideology is traceable straight to Sala ” sm is dispelled, the world will not be able to understand the Islamic StateÕs appeal, or to defeat it. The Wahhabi Root # e Islamic State presents itself as the representative of authentic Islam as practiced by the early generations of Muslims, commonly known as Sala ” sm. Many postcolonial and modern Islamic movements describe themselves as Sala ” st, including the o % cial brand of Islam adopted by Saudi Arabia known as Wahhabism, named after founder Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the eighteenth-century cleric who helped establish the ” rst Saudi state with the assistance of Muhammad Ibn Saud. Wahhabism is the intellectual legacy of the thirteenth- century Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, as interpreted and enforced by Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his succes -sors. Marked by extreme traditionalism and literalism, Wahhabism rejects scholastic concepts like maqasid (the spirit of sharia law), a principle that many other Islamic schools uphold; kalam (Islamic philosophy); Su ” sm (Islamic spirituality); ilal (the study of religious intentions in the Quran and hadith , sayings attributed to the Prophet); and al-majaz (metaphors). 11 Its clerics also use the concept of bidah Ñan Islamic term that forbids invent -ing religious practices unsanctioned by the religionÑto label many practices, largely Su ” and Shia, as polytheistic. Wahhabi clericsÕ ” xation on bidah creates a slippery slope that sometimes leads to the declaration of a fellow Muslim as an apostate. Adopting saints or their graves as wasila (means or intermediaries) to worship God, for example, is considered something that automatically leads an individual out of Islam. Circumambulating graves, slaughtering animals The Islamic State presents itself as the representative of authentic Islam as practiced by the early generations of Muslims, commonly known as SalaÞsm.
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