A letter attributed to Osama bin Laden has been circulating on social media. It has ignited a new wave of a so-called Jihad among some radicalised Muslim circles. A reply written to his letter might never get to him, but might help his likeminded Muslims to realise the sensitivity of the time and not act unwisely.
Asif M Basit
To Osama bin Laden
(Last seen in Abbottabad, Pakistan; now known to be dead.)
Mr Bin Laden,
Many years after your death, your letter to the American public has come to the surface and been read by millions on Social Media. Whether the letter is genuine or not remains debatable. While I strongly feel that it cannot be real because, based on what we know of you, you never believed in the power of words; a gun would always hang on your shoulder; and that gun was the only mode of communication you believed in.
But a part of me says it actually could be real, given its threatening tone and terrorising character.
Whatever the case, I thought I should write a reply, which you may never get to read, but for those millions of Social Media users who have read it and might be influenced by your ideology.
You talk of Jihad as your only choice. Where did you get this notion of “Jihad” from? The Quran? The sunnah of the Holy Prophetsa? Because other than these two sources, no other ideology is acceptable as Islamic.
You quote the Quran to seek legitimacy for your terrorist motives, but the one to whom the Quran was revealed and who understood it the most, never used Jihad as a means to the genocide of disbelievers.
You try to justify your terrorist motives by painting your understanding of Jihad as defensive in the face of the Western offensives. For this, you found the Palestine-Israel conflict over the Holy Land to be your best choice.
To justify the struggle for Palestine’s liberation, you claim that although the land was promised to the Jews through the Torah, “it is the Muslims who are the inheritors of Moses and the inheritors of the real Torah that has not been changed”. You go on to say that since “Muslims believe in all of the Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad”, therefore “if the followers of Moses have been promised a right to Palestine in the Torah, then the Muslims are the most worthy nation of this.”
Mr Bin Laden, you are engaging in a debate on theology, history and the comparative study of religions. Did you ever invite your adversaries to such an academic debate in your lifetime? Of course, you did not! That is why I seriously doubt that this letter is even a product of your mind and pen. Today, are your followers inviting the “Jews” – a term that you see synonymous with Israel – to such theological or even political dialogue? Of course, they are not!
And while quoting the Quran, I wonder what kept you from acknowledging the fact that the Jews inhabiting the land of Palestine, in the name of Israel, are doing so according to a Quranic prophecy where Allah the Almighty clearly states that in the Latter Days, all Jews will be made to assemble in the Holy Land.
Also, while claiming Muslims to be the rightful heirs of the Holy Land, you chose to plainly ignore the Quranic ruling on the final inheritors. Because Allah the Almighty makes it clear that yarithuha ‘ibadi as-salihun – inherit it will those who are My righteous servants. (Surah al-Anbiya, Ch. 21: V. 106)
Let alone engaging your adversaries in dialogue and debate, did you even ever attempt to educate your own people, your coreligionists, on how to attain the status of “Allah’s righteous servants”? You kept calling them only to military Jihad (albeit on no justified grounds). You never bothered to inform or remind them of the greater Jihad that the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa referred to as Jihad al-Akbar – the greater Jihad of self-reform where one fights one’s own lower self against its lustful and worldly pursuits, when only this form of Jihad could, and can, elevate the Muslims in their status to become inheritors of the Holy Land.
You warn your American adversaries by saying that “the blood pouring out of Palestine must be equally revenged.” In saying this, you ignored, yet again, a basic prerequisite of Islamic military Jihad – a Muslim leader calling for Jihad. Or did you think you were that “Muslim leader”? Well! You remained in hiding most of the time – from the caves of Tora Bora to some secret hut in Abbottabad. You, hence, never qualified to be their amir or imam.
Then you were of Salafi disposition. Muslims adhering to other denominations like the Sunni, the Shia and Barelvi did not even take you as their leader – or even a Muslim to be strictly precise about their doctrines on takfir.
Then you go on to justify your Jihad by saying that Western powers “prevent our people from establishing the Islamic Shariah”.
In saying this, what Shariah were you referring to? Is there a unanimously agreed Shariah among the Muslims? Let’s stick to Palestine for instance. Does Hamas agree with the PLO’s definition of Shariah? Does Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) agree with Hamas’ understanding of the Shariah, or its implementation for that matter? The answer, of course, is no!
Let’s broaden it a bit more: Is your Salafi Islam aligned with that of Barelvis? Do the Barelvi and Salafi versions tally with the Sufi interpretation of Islamic Shariah? What country in the whole wide world is functioning on the model of Islamic Shariah? You should have given at least one example in such a lengthy letter. Alas, you could not even present Saudi Arabia, your dear homeland, as a prototype.
You also tell the Western civilians that their “governments steal our ummah’s wealth and sell [it] to you at a paltry price”. You say this as if it is the American people’s fault that the ummah’s wealth is sold or provided to them.
The British started exploring the rich oil fields of Nejd and Hijaz through agreements signed by none else but Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud – the founding father of Saudi Arabia – in the early 1920s. Muslim leaders of Hijaz and Nejd – your ancestors, if you like – gave away their vast reserves of oil to the Western companies in return for meagre means of subsistence.
Then, some shame seems to have suddenly struck you. That you are unjustifiably targeting civilians. At this point, you address them directly:
“You may then dispute that all the above does not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes they did not commit and offenses in which they did not partake.”
Then you go on to justify yourself by telling them that they are partners in crime with the Western governments by democratically electing them and by paying taxes that fund the Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
In the time of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam, civilians of contesting tribes chose not to accept Islam and remain behind their chiefs and warlords. Yet, the Holy Prophetsa never allowed the killing of civilians, especially women and children. This is why I say, and I repeat, that you seem to have your own Islam that has nothing to do with the Islam of Muhammadsa, the blessed Founder of Islam.
You forget all this, and go on to warn citizens of Western countries that they should “not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge”. Isn’t your stance far from the teachings of Islam and the practice of its Holy Foundersa?
I close by quoting just one more line from your letter:
“These governments give us a taste of humiliation, and place us in a large prison of fear and subdual.”
Having read my reply, would you not want to revise this line? Who has put the ummah through the test of humiliation, fear and subdual? Read my letter again and you might want to revisit your conclusions.
And before you or your admirers lash out at me, I must clarify that I have not written these lines to support the Western policies on war against any nation, Muslim or otherwise. I urge that Muslims should seriously think about reverting to the Islam brought by Prophet Muhammadsa – the Islam that does not incite violence but promotes peace, the Islam that teaches conflict resolution through peaceful and viable means.
You are no longer in this world. You died a death of humiliation in hiding, leaving behind a legacy of terror and violence. But I hope this reply will help those who agree, or ever agreed, with you in any way, to wake up from the deep slumber of, in your words, humiliation.
Muslims need a Messiah, not a terrorist.
A Muslim living in very difficult times