The Doctrinal Crisis within the Salafi-Jihadi Ranks and the Emergence of Neo-Takfirism


A Historical and Doctrinal Analysis


In: Islamic Law and Society
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  • 1 Hebrew University


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Salafi-jihadis, the foundation of many of today’s (most notorious) terrorist organizations, has achieved a significant impact on world affairs within less than three decades. It has given rise to many organizations such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Yemen and North Africa. In this article, I argue that an important change is occurring within the Salafi-jihadi camp. Material published on jihad websites in the last few years reflects an imminent and noteworthy split within the Salafi-jihadi movement. Evidence suggests that the Salafi-jihadi community has split into two groups in Jordan (Salafi-jihadis and Neo-Takfiris), and that some of the views expressed by Neo-Takfiris coincide with those upheld by Takfiris in Egypt between the 1960s and the 1980s. A similar split may be occurring in other locations as well. I describe the emerging rift, examine its causes and assess its essence. At the root of the fragmentation observed to date, I argue, is a profound legal and ideological debate that has the potential to impact Salafi-jihadi organizations worldwide. 


  • 12

    As Anouar Boukhars points out, “by the late 1990s, the city of Zarqa became a hub of militancy with a fast-growing network of Islamists, jihadists and their sympathizers... Another central hub for a number of jihadist organizations was the town of Salt.” Anouar Boukhars, “The Challenge of Terrorism and Religious Extremism in Jordan,” Strategic Insights, 5:4 (April 2006), 2-3, se1.isn.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/32258/.../boukharsApr06.pdf.

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  • 15

    Wagemakers, A Quietist Jihadi, 200-201.

  • 40

    Anouar Boukhars, “The Challenge of Terrorism and Religious Extremism in Jordan,” Strategic Insights, 5:4 (April 2006), 3. See also a report by the International Crisis Group: “Jordan’s 9/11: Dealing with Jihadi Islamism,” Middle East Report No. 47 (November 2005), 5-9, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3801&l=1.

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  • 46

    See MEMRI JTTM, “Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi Calls on Salafi-Jihadis to Denounce Extremism within Their Camp,” http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/report.htm?report=3368¶m=AJT. According to Abū Rummān and Abū Hanīyah, Salafi-jihadis in Jordan often “grow beards, line their eyes with kohl (a cosmetic used to darken the eyelids), let their hair grow long, and wear long gowns that reach below their knees, loose baggy pants, and a skullcap.” Al-salafiyya al-jihādiyya fī’l-urdunn baʻd maqtal al-Zarqāwī, 89.

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  • 58

    Abū Maryam al-Kuwaitī, Al-Radd ‘alā shubuhāt Abī Mārīya, 98-9.

  • 62

    Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam, 95.

  • 66

    Al-Maqdisi, al-Risāla al-thalāthīniyya, 40.

  • 71

    Abū Maryam al-Kuwaitī, al-Radd ‘alā shubuhāt Abī Mārīya, 168-9.

  • 75

    Al-Maqdisi, al-Risāla al-thalāthīniyya, 175, 182.

  • 76

    Sayyid Aḥmad, al-Nabī al-Musallaḥ: al-Rāfiḍūn, 102.

  • 77

    Al-Maqdisi, al-Risāla al-thalāthīniyya, 177-8.

  • 85

    Al-Maqdisi, al-Risāla al-thalāthīniyya, 403.

  • 93

    Abū Maryam al-Kuwaitī, al-Radd ‘alā shubuhāt Abī Mārīya, 44. See abubaseer.bizland.com/verdicts/read/901-925.doc question number 901, where sheikh al-Ṭarṭūṣī was asked about people who claim that jihad to repel the apostate in Iraq is no longer a duty.

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  • 94

    Abū Maryam al-Kuwaitī, al-Radd ‘alā shubuhāt Abī Mārīya, 107. A similar claim is made by Muḥammad Salāmī, another Neo-Takfiri writer, in his article “Al-Taṣawwur qabl al-ḥaraka” in which he states that the goal of “inner jihad” against the apostate is to cleanse the Islamic camp, a prerequisite for the establishment of the caliphate. http://www.twhed.com/news-5.html.

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  • 95

    Wagemakers, A Quietist Jihadi, 216.

  • 97

    Al-Maqdisi, al-Risāla al-thalāthīniyya, 300-5.

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