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JustifyingWar: The Salafi-Jihadi Appropriation of Sufi Jihad in the Sahel-Sahara.

IN CONTEMPORARY WESTERN ACADEMIC LITERATURE ON ISLAM, SUFI movements are conventionally portrayed as peaceful alternatives to the exclusivist, literalist, and inherently rigid Wahhabi variant of Salafism. (1) Similarly, a number of counter-radicalization initiatives--for example, the Moroccan government's support of the Boutchichiyya Sufi movement, and the British government's support of the Sufi Muslim Council and British Muslim Forum--are premised on the idea that Sufism is an Islamic alternative and bulwark against Salafism and political Islamism. (2) Drawing upon this conventional wisdom, some scholars have further suggested that the legacy of Sufi history and theology in the Sahel-Sahara region constitutes a potential force to counter the rising tide of jihadism in the region. (3) The reality, however, can be more complex than this binary distinction suggests. During the jihadist campaigns of the 1800s in the Sahel-Sahara region, the Muslim scholars who led the armed movements identified themselves with the Sufi brotherhoods. In the Sahel-Sahara region today, core ideological concepts that animated the historical jihads of the 19th Century--including ideas about takfir (excommunication), Dar al-Islam (abode of Islam), Dar al-Kufr (abode of unbelief), hijrah (migration), and al-wala' wa-l-bara' (fealty and disavowal)--can be found in contemporary Salafist ideologies, and have been appropriated by present-day groups like Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda to justify their campaigns. (4)

Contemporary Salafis in the Sahel-Sahara region aim to delegitimize Sufism as a heterodox interpretation of Islam. At the same time, Salafis embrace the legacy of puritan reform of the Sufi scholars of the 1800s by effectively "Salafizing" their narratives without conjuring the Sufi legacies of the past jihadist campaigns. (5) Salafi-Jihadis further build upon this process of Salafization by extending it to the jihadization of Sufi history and theology. On the one hand, the Salafi-Jihadis embrace the religious interpretations of the Sufi scholars of the 1800s to justify their present-day jihads. On the other hand, they present themselves as the heirs of the jihadist legacy and resistance against colonial rule that was led by the Sufi scholars of the 1800s--a legacy highly revered by the Muslim population in the region.

This is the case with the two main jihadist nodes in the Sahel-Sahara region today: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its ally Ansar Dine in the Sahel; and Boko Haram and Ansaru in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. The appropriation of the history of pre-colonial jihad, in addition to the attempt to assimilate local conflicts in the region towards the cause of global jihadism, helps to explain the resilience and capacity of Salafi-Jihadi groups in the Sahel-Sahara region to survive longer than anticipated.

Genesis of Salafi-Jihadism in the Sahel-Sahara

THERE ARE TWO PREDOMINANT NODES OF JIHADISM IN THE SAHEL-SAHARA REGION today: AQIM and Ansar Dine, and Boko Haram and Ansaru. An examination of their relationship follows.

AQIM and Ansar Dine

AQIM evolved out of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC, per its French acronym), one of the only jihadist factions to survive the Algerian government's crackdown on Islamist rebels following the government's nullification of the Islamist victory in the 1992 elections. By 2000, the Algerian army had crushed or reached an amnesty agreement with much of the Islamist opposition. The GSPC, however, survived by distancing itself from more ultra-takfiri factions to maintain a level of support from the population, and by shifting south to the Sahel to avoid pressure from the Algerian counter-insurgent forces. There, the GSPC became notorious for large-scale kidnappings of foreigners. The GSPC also began receiving returned Algerian fighters who had fought in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, and after 2003 the GSPC benefitted greatly from sending and receiving foreign fighters to and from Iraq, which enmeshed the GSPC in the then burgeoning al-Qaeda global network, whose center of gravity was shifting to Iraq. By late 2006, internationally-oriented militants exposed to the narratives and fighting in the Iraq war began to supersede the Algerian nationalists in the GSPC. In an effort to bolster its jihadist credentials, the GSPC formally joined al-Qaeda and rebranded itself as AQIM under the leadership of Abu Mus'ab Abd al-Wadud. (6)

Since 2006, AQIM has carried out several large-scale operations in Algeria. However, much of its activity--per its name--has been in the broader Maghreb region, including supporting new al-Qaeda cells and front groups in Libya and Tunisia, such as Ansar al-Shariah, since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011. Former GSPC operatives in the Sahel region have also embedded deeply in clan and tribal networks in northern Mali, further south in Niger, and, more recently, in Burkina Faso. AQIM's focus on the Maghreb region necessitated it establish various local front groups and sub-affiliates in sub-Saharan West Africa to extend AQIM networks in a region where the physical terrain and human networks were relatively unfamiliar to AQIM's Algerian leadership.

The decisive moment for AQIM in sub-Saharan West Africa came after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. Malian Tuareg mercenaries--who supported Qaddafi in Libya--returned to northern Mali and reignited the Tuareg rebellion, which has been recurring in northern Mali over the course of several decades. AQIM capitalized on this by winning defections from the secular Tuareg militias, to AQIM's new front group in Mali, Ansar Dine, which has since 2012 been led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, Mali's former consul in Saudi Arabia, a veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War against Israel occupation, and a Tuareg Salaf-Jihadi himself. Ansar Dine for a time occupied Kidal and parts of Timbuktu, while another AQIM offshoot, Movement for Unity [Monotheism] and jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), controlled Gao, which together form northern Mali's three main cities. Although the French-led military intervention in northern Mali in 2013, code-named Operation Serval, dispersed AQIM, Ansar Dine, and MUJWA fighters throughout North Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region, Ansar Dine has remained highly effective operationally in Mali in harassing French and UN troops, as well as Malian security forces. Moreover, Ansar Dine has spawned more "localized" Salafi-Jihadi groups in Mali, such as its Katiba Macina (also known as Macina Liberation Front) in Fulani areas of Central Mali in 2014, and Ansaroul Islam in Fulani areas of northern Burkina Faso in 2016. (7) AQIM was also able to attack prominent hotels in Bamako, Mali's capital Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital, and Grand Bassam, near Cote d'Ivoire's capital of Abidjan, in late 2015 and early 2016, with the support of newly recruited Fulani militants. These attacks signified, that from AQIM's insurgent bases in Mali, it was capable of attacks cities that had previously been considered beyond the range of contemporary jihadist militancy in West Africa. In addition, these three attacks affirmed AQIM's pre-eminence in West Africa in context of Islamic State's then increasing efforts to pull recruits from AQIM to Islamic State and establish a foothold in West Africa.

Under Ag Ghaly's leadership, in March 2017 Ansar Dine, Katiba Macina, AQIM's Sahara Branch, and al-Mourabitun formed a new united group called Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims). (8) The video announcing this group, which was branded by a new media agency called al-Zaleqa--referring to an eleventh century battle in which black Africans assisted the original al-Mourabitun to conquer parts of Iberian Spain, or Andalusia--featured at one table Ag Ghaly, Katiba Macina leader Muhammad Kufa (in his first ever video appearance), the leader of AQIM's Sahara Region, Yahya Abu al-Hammam, AQIM Islamic law judge Abou Abderrahman al-Senhadji --who refers to his Berber roots--and Al-Has-an al-Ansari, the deputy leader of al-Mourabitun--presumably Belmokhtar was in hiding, injured or ill, or perhaps dead. The multiple ethnicities of these leaders, their merger together under one banner, and the video's distribution through AQIM media channels represented a culmination of AQIM's southwards expansion and localization in Mali and sub-Saharan West Africa. (9)

Boko Haram and Ansaru

Boko Haram, which refers to itself as Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna li-Da'wa wa-l-Jihad (Sunni Muslim Group for Preaching and Jihad), emerged in the 1990s when a Nigerian student in Khartoum, Sudan, Muhammed Ali, became a disciple of Usama bin Laden, pledged loyalty to bin Laden, and later received a sum of up to 3 million to establish a jihadist movement in Nigeria. (10) Ali lost some of this initial seed money when the preacher intended to lead the movement came under government suspicion, and fled to Saudi Arabia without returning. Nonetheless, Ali later found a different young Nigerian Salafi preacher with a history of involvement in radical Salafi movements, Muhammed Yusuf, as a suitable leader of the movement. Ali handed over money and the reins of Ali's own followership to Yusuf in 2002, who led the movement until 2009.

Ali was killed in clashes with the Nigerian security forces in 2004. Later, in July 2009, Yusuf and over 1,000 of his followers were also killed in a four-day series of clashes with Nigerian security forces. Yusuf 's deputy and successor, Abubakar Shekau, immediately went to work in connecting with AQIM, with whom Yusuf and his followers had quietly been developing relations in the mid-2000s. Shekau sent Khalid al-Barnawi and two other followers to meet with AQIM's brigade leader in Mali, Abu Zeid, in August 2009 to request training, funding, and other financial and strategic communications support from AQIM. (11)

AQIM's leader, Abu Mus'ab Abd al-Wadud, accepted the request, issued public statements in support of Boko Haram, and funneled at least $250,000 through Khalid al-Barnawi to Nigeria as an "investment." (12) AQIM also sent Boko Haram's requests to become an al-Qaeda affiliate to Bin Laden. (13) Although a formal affiliation was never established, cooperation occurred clandestinely, and al-Qaeda supporters made statements confirming an unofficial relationship between al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda support to Boko Haram in the years after Yusuf's death. (14)

The AQIM relationship with Shekau failed to mature into a more formal relationship because Boko Haram largely followed the same tactics as the ultra-takfiri Islamist rebels that the GSPC distanced itself from during the fighting in Algeria in the 1990s. In addition, Shekau wanted to focus almost exclusively on the "near enemy"--namely Nigerian Christians, government officials, oppositional mosques and preachers, and other places of "sin," such as beer halls, schools of Western education, or sports-watching parlors.

Under Khalid al-Barnawi's lead, and the patronage of former GSPC militants from Mali, Mauritanian, and Algeria, and with AQIM's "investment," a new faction, Ansaru, therefore emerged in northwestern Nigeria separate from Boko Haram in 2012. Like AQIM, Ansaru specialized in kidnappings of foreigners, especially engineers in northern Nigeria, and targeted Nigerian troops deploying to Mali at their base in Nigeria before Operation Serval in early 2013. (15)

Ultimately, however, Ansaru struggled to survive once AQIM was scattered throughout the Sahel region after Operation Serval. Shekau loyalists who saw Ansaru as "apostates" and traitors, and the Nigerian security forces, which obtained a series of intelligence leads on Ansaru hideouts, also both began killing Ansaru members in 2012. (16) While Ansaru has continued to survive until 2017, it has not been operational since 2013. Several key Ansaru leaders--not including Khalid al-Barnawi, however, who was arrested in April 2016--also integrated with Shekau, albeit hesitantly, and ultimately convinced Shekau to join Islamic State, which he did in March 2015. This led to Boko Haram's re-branding as Islamic State's West Africa Province. (17) West Africa Province fully integrated into Islamic State's global media system, but there were few other beneficial results for West Africa Province as result of joining Islamic State.

Indeed, by August 2016 the former members of Ansaru in West Africa Province cut off Shekau from communicating with Islamic State and succeeded in deposing him. The Islamic State named Muhammed Yusuf's son as the new leader of West Africa Province, and Shekau returned to lead Boko Haram. (18) Contradictions nonetheless remain in West Africa Province, with its leadership still opposing the ultra-takfirism of Shekau, and, although they never mentioned it, they also oppose same ultra-takfiri tactics that are employed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Fath al-Sham (since rebranded Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in February 2017), recognized Ansaru's existence in its magazine al-Risalah in January 2017, despite Ansaru's being in operational dormancy and AQIM still being focused on Mali and North Africa and, at least for the time being, showing disinterest in Nigeria as a result of its past difficulties with Shekau.

Salafizing History

THE SUSTENANCE OF AQIM AND ANSAR DINE, AND BOKO HARAM AND ANSARU, can be attributed to their linkages to al-Qaeda, operationally, financially and ideologically, as well as their independent successes on the battlefield. However, there are distinct historical narratives that both nodes use to package Sufi jihadist history into "Salafized" local narratives as part of their recruitment and narrative strategy. Their purpose is to legitimize contemporary jihadist campaigns through the appropriation of the legacy of the "Sufi Jihads" of centuries past, which are widely considered to be legitimate by the population of the specific regions where they operate today. The following cases exemplify this.

Ansar Dine

During the course of Operation Serval, Dr Iyad Qunaybi, a prominent Jordanian ideologue sympathetic to Salafi-Jihadism, delivered a video message titled "Mali and the Torch of Freedom," presumably intended to inspire fighters in Mali, and offer a perspective on the situation to the broader membership of jihadist groups. (19) In the video message, Qunaybi offered his support for Ansar Dine, but went further to explain Operation Serval in the context of Islamic resistance to French colonialism and the colonial history in Mali. He said:
Mali is one of the ancient capitals of Islam where the Islamic
University of Timbuktu was established nine hundred years ago.
Thus, it has one of the oldest universities in the world. Mali lived
under the light of Muslim countries for centuries, including the
Kingdom of Songhai until the Sultan of Maghreb entered an
alliance with Elizabeth I of England in Britain, followed by the
invasion of 1591, which led to the destruction of the Islamic
civilization and the enslavement of the Malian people, such as Ahmad
Baba al-Timbukti. (20) What many do not know is the fact that many
of the people forcibly enslaved by the Crusader West in Mali and
other African countries, were graduates of universities and Islamic
scholars such as 'Umar b. Sayyid al-Senegali who died in 1864 AD
and whose picture is kept in the American Historical Archive. (Dr
Qunaybi showed the picture of Umar b. Sayyid al-Senegali) (21)

France occupied Mali in the late nineteenth century and they executed
heinous crimes. They did not leave the country until they
planted their agents to ensure continued control over the country's
finance while at the same time plundering its riches. The successive
regimes oppressed the Muslim people, especially the Tuareg
Arabs of Northern Mali and neighboring countries. Thereafter,
liberal movements emerged demanding autonomy and better
living conditions, but they did not espouse Islamic agenda, which
explains why the international communities assimilated them
into the call for negotiations with the central government. However,
the negotiations always ended with false promises from the
puppet central government until the revival of Islam emerged
amongst the Tuareg groups. {....} From amongst these groups is
Ansar al-Din led by Iyad Ag Ghali, may God protect him, who had
previously tried diplomacy by acting as the consul of the State of
Mali in Saudi Arabia, but later retreated from that path and established
Jama'at Ansar Dine.While allying with other Islamic
groups, they worked together on the application of the shari'a and
the liberation of Mali from the dominance of France and their
client governments. (22)

The appropriation of the histories of pre-colonial armed jihads, and of Islamic resistance to colonial rule was also a constant theme in videos produced by Ansar Dine, such as one titled "The Conquest of Azawad":
Azawad, this remote section of the great Islamic desert has always
been under the dominion of the Muslims and the Islamic conquerors
who led conquests towards Europe and the South and
West of Africa like Ibn Tashfin and Tariq ibn Ziyad. The educational
and cultural tradition flourished in the area during the
reign of Askia and thereafter. Through the ages, the residents of
this pure Islamic area kept a strong hold on their true religion.
They were happy with shari'a and made judgements according to
Islamic law in every small and large issue until the beginning of
the crusader's occupation in the last century when they imposed
their own laws. The people of the land rebelled. They fought and
sacrificed themselves and their money in defense of their religion,
decency, honor and land. The occupying crusaders were able to
divide them, which led to religious wars amongst them. After a
long time of oppression and tyranny, Allah gave them relief. The
local lions of unification rose to support the religion and to raise
the banner of there is no god except Allah. (23)


Like Ansar Dine, AQIMhas also conferred legitimacy for its contemporary jihads by reconstructing the history of pre-colonial jihads and the Islamic resistance to colonial rule in Africa. In his message to the revolutionaries in Libya during the "Arab Spring," Abu Mus'ab Abd al-Wadud adopted rhetoric like Qunaybi, where he labeled the contemporary "revolutionaries" as the grandsons of 'Umar al-Mukhtar: (24)
My free brothers in Libya, the battle is heated and the emancipation
hour is ticking, and the winds of liberation and martyrdom are
blowing in Libya. Shaykh 'Umar al-Mukhtar had engaged the first
battle for liberation, and it is time for his grandsons today to finish
the march of jihad and engage in the second battle of liberation in
order to remove the corrupt and corrupting rulers the Crusaders
and the Zionists have enthroned on us to enslave us and steal our
wealth and fight our doctrines. 'Umar al-Mukhtar said it: "we don't
surrender; we win or we die." So either Libya will be liberated from
worshipping the servants to worshipping the Lord of the servants,
and move from the narrowness of life to the wideness of life, and
the afterlife, or martyrdom for the cause of Allah so you win the
great victory. (25)

Boko Haram

The slain leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria also attempted to hybridize the narratives of pre-colonial jihads and the Muslim resistance against colonial rule in Africa with the narratives of contemporary jihadism in Africa. In one of his lectures before his death in 2009, Muhammed Yusuf labeled the Nigerian security forces as a remnant of colonial regiments, while narrating an event that took place between the Italians and 'Umar al-Mukhtar:
You may hear one of them saying that he is a security or police officer
and his main duty is to protect lives and to ensure peace and
stability: "You see we are Christians who were transferred here to
protect your lives." It is a lie; you came here to kill us. That was the
same way 'Umar al-Mukhtar replied the Italians. They invited him
to a meeting, but he refused to attend. They invited him again but
he refused to go to them. [...] Then they told him that they brought
new civilization to this land. They said they are not here to humiliate
the people; rather they want them to be civilized, to progress,
to learn to understand the world and enjoy it. 'Umar al-Mukhtar
replied them by asking, "Who owns the land?" They replied him that
it belongs to him and his people. Then he said: "We do not want your
new civilization." They told him: "We want to integrate your land
to the world so that trade will flourish." He told them: "We have our
own system of trade." He later gave them a condition that they can
go across the water, settle [temporarily], and be permitted to enter
the land for trade, but not be permitted to settle there. They
(Italians) disagreed with him. What they wanted was to settle in the
land while 'Umar Mukhtar was to be crowned as the king.

They promised to give him 50,000 Italian lira of that time. (26) They
also promised to build a house for him but he said: "What about
the other people?" They said: "But you are the king." He said: "I am
fighting because you have humiliated the other Muslims. How
can I enjoy myself while the other Muslims are being humiliated?" (27)


Ansaru reiterated this same pattern of hybridization in its call for jihad in West Africa. Specifically, Ansaru sought to revive the jihadist legacy of Shaykh 'Uthman Ibn Fudi:
O descendants of 'Uthman Ibn Fudi and al-Hajj 'Umar al-Futi,
rise as one man, as there is no good in us if our honor is violated,
our religion and symbols are held in contempt, and the best of our
brothers and sons are killed, while we are quiescent, unmoving,
since the root of humiliation is only demolished by a shower of
lead. (28)

Notwithstanding his expansion of the Tijaniyya Brotherhood in all the regions he was militarily involved, Shaykh 'Umar Tal al-Futi was most likely cited by Ansaru because of his marital ties to Shaykh Muhammad Bello, the son of 'Uthman Ibn Fudi, and because he had argued that recourse to arms would be necessary if an Islamic state was to be established in the Sahel-Sahara region, a position similar to Ansaru. To justify his military project, 'Umar Tal al-Futi declared that the:
battle against infidels is the task to which I have committed myself
--until the power of Islam replaces that of unbelief. As Ulama,
it is we who have the responsibility of propagating the religion of
god, of restoring the prestige of Islam in Futa Jallon, Segou, Nioro
and Karta, because unbelief is rampant there. Once this battle is
won, it will be easy to combat the Christians. Surely, the Islam in
which we believe does not countenance compromise with infidels.
Whoever revels in their company is one of them. (29)

In the wake of Boko Haram's territorial expansion and declaration of Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria in 2014, Boko Haram, which by then had incorporated former Ansaru members, also adopted the colonial history of Hausaland as a frame of reference to legitimize its campaign:
The enemies of Islam--the Jews, Christians, polytheists, and their
hypocrite minions--invaded the Sudanese state of 'Uthman Ibn
Fudi until they occupied the Muslims' lands, defiled Islam's sacred
places, and exchanged Islam's law for the Crusaders' constitution
and the rule of ignorance [Scene of Ibn Fudi and fighters
riding on horses in battle]. This extended from their trashy ideas,
but they were not satisfied, so they conscripted soldiers to protect
themselves. This situation spurred revolutionary hearts from the
people of faith to strive to return Allah's law to Allah's land, so they
established small states in many locations, which expanded at
times and grew at times. Finally, Allah made it easy for our fighting
brothers in the Islamic State to establish the caliphate's kernel
in the Levant [Scene of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's sermon at the
great mosque, Mosul]. And in the same way, Allah made it easy for
the fighters in the Sudan to establish courts that rule by Allah's
law. (30)

These above passages are useful for anyone seeking to understand the ideational dimensions that undergird contemporary Salafi-Jihadi groups in the Sahel-Sahara region. While Salafi groups in the region are "Salafizing" the puritan reform of the Sufi scholars of the 1800s by vindicating them from what they consider to be extraneous innovative practices (bida'), the Salafi-Jihadis are also incorporating in this process of Salafization some of the theological discourses of the Sufi scholars that provide legitimacy to their campaign. At this juncture, it is important to critically examine some of the theological discourses of the Sufi scholars of the 1800s that provide credence to the goals and visions of the contemporary Salafi-Jihadi groups in the Sahel-Sahara region.

A Case Study from Nigeria

NOT ONLY DO AQIM, ANSAR DINE, BOKO HARAM, AND ANSARU LEGITIMIZE THEIR jihads using historical comparison, but they also seek to reinterpret Sufi jihadist religious interpretation from centuries past in terms of contemporary Salafi-Jihadi ideology. This can most precisely be seen in the way Boko Haram and Ansaru leaders have come to portray themselves as the bearers of the legacy of 'Uthman Ibn Fudi, despite distinct theological and methodological differences between Ibn Fudi's reform movement and the indiscriminate violence of Boko Haram. (31)

Despite the differences in their methodology, Ibn Fudi and Boko Haram employed similar discourses to legitimize their respective pre-colonial jihad against the Hausa rulers and the contemporary jihad against the secular leaders of Nigeria, with particular respect to the theological discourses of hijrah, Dar al-Kufr, Dar al-Islam, and al-wala' wa-l-bara'.

Hijrah from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam

Ibn Fudi's Bayan Wujub al-hijrah 'ala 'L-'Ibad wa Bayan Wujub Nasb al-Imam wa Iqamat al-Jihad (The Exposition of the Obligation of Emigration upon the Servants of God and the Exposition of the Obligation of Appointing an Imam and Undertaking Jihad), a famous text of Islamic legal theory of jihad based on the Maliki school of thought provided an explanation of the theological and jurisprudential arguments to his jama about the obligation of jihad in Hausaland at the start of what became known as the "Sokoto Jihad." (32)

The central theme of Bayan Wujub al-hijrah is the exposition of the obligation of emigration from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam. (33) Ibn Fudi's theological judgement on hijrah is based on the idea that Muslims must emigrate from the lands where the rulers are non-Muslims, or where the shari'a of Prophet Muhammad has been rendered ineffective by the rulers who profess Islam, to a land where the shari'a reign supreme. He based this theological position on a principle in Islamic jurisprudence, "hukm al-bilad hukm sultanihi, in kana musliman, kana al-bilad bilad al-islam, wa in kana kafiran, kana al-bilad bilad al-kufr yajibu al-firara minhu ila ghayrihi." This means that the ruling of a land is that of its ruler, if the ruler is a Muslim the land is a land of Islam, and if he is a non-Muslim the land is a land of unbelief, and fleeing from it to another land is obligatory. (34)

There are other classical Islamic jurists before Ibn Fudi that wrote extensively on the Islamic jurisprudence on Dar al-Kufr and Dar al-Islam. Ibn Fudi cited some of these jurists in his Bayan Wujub al-hijrah. For example, Ala l-Din Abi Bakr b. Mas'ud al-Kasani (d. 1191), a Hanafi jurist, made the prevailing laws being implemented in a land as a condition to judging the classification of a land into Dar al-Kufr or Dar al-Islam. al-Kasani stated that, "Verily, every state is attributed, either to Islam or to kufr. And the state is only attributed to Islam if its rulings are implemented in it, and it is attributed to kufr if its rulings are implemented in it." (35) According to Abu al-Hasan 'Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Habib al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a Shafi'i jurist, "Dar al-Kufr becomesDar al-Islamif its inhabitants embrace Islam, and consequently, such land is governed by shari'a." (36) Similarly, al-Qadi Abu Ya'la al-Hanbali also stated that, "Every Dar wherein the laws of Kufr have mastery over the Laws of Islam, then it is Dar al-Kufr." (37) While explaining the hadith of prophet Muhammad, which was also cited by Ibn Fudi, "I am free from every Muslim who resides with the polytheists," Abu Muhammad 'Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Sa'id ibn Hazm (d. 1064), a Zahiri jurist, stated that "the hadith refers to Dar al-Kufr or Dar al-harb because the Dar is only attributed to the one who is in control of it, the one who rules it and the one who owns it." (38)

In his book Ahkam Ahl Adh-Dhimmah (Laws for the People of the Covenant), Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr (d. 1350), also known as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, said:
The majority have stated that Dar al-Islam is that which the Muslims
have arrived in and upon which the rulings of Islam have
been implemented. And that upon which the rulings of Islam have
not been implemented is not Dar al-Islam, even if it is attached to
it. As this At-Ta'if was very close to Makkah, yet it did not become
Dar al-Islam with the Conquest of Makkah. (39)

Similarly, Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn Abdullah al-Shawkani (d. 1839), the Yemeni jurist, also stated that "If the commands and the prohibitions in the Dar are for the people of Islam, then this Dar is Dasr al-Islam {...} And if it were the opposite, then the Dar is the opposite." (40)

In summary, it is evident from the above passages that two conditions can be deduced as the criteria that these scholars adopted in defining Dar al-Islam or Dar al-Kufr: the authority or ruler governing a land; and the type of law being implemented in a land. (41)

Based on these criteria, Ibn Fudi classified the lands of Bilad al-Sudan into three categories: first, the lands where unbelief predominates and Islam is rarely found; second, the lands where Islam predominates and unbelief is rare; and third, the lands where unbelief either from the rulers or subjects is rare and Islam predominates. According to Ibn Fudi, the first category of lands in Bilad al-Sudan include the lands of Mossi, Gurma, Bussa, Borgu, Yoruba, Dugumba, Kutukuli, Tabanghu, Ghambi, and Bubula. These lands in the first category are all "Dar al-kufr al-asli," meaning that it was never Dar al-Islam at any time prior to or during the jihad of Ibn Fudi. In his discussion of the first category of lands, Ibn Fudi added that his "judgment of these lands is passed with reference to the majority." As for the third category of lands, Ibn Fudi argued that these lands are unknown in Bilad al-Sudan.

The field of contention in Ibn Fudi's classification is the second category of lands where Islam predominates and unbelief is rare, which included Borno, Kano, Katsina, Songhay, and Mali. Ahmad Baba (d. 1627) had classified all these lands as the lands of Islam in his "al-Kashf wa'l-bayan." (42) Ibn Fudi acknowledged the judgment of Ahmad Baba, but he argued that during his own era these lands are all Dar al-Kufr since the spread of Islam is only limited to the masses but even though the rulers profess Islam, Ibn Fudi argued that they are polytheists. He declared takfir on them on the basis that they do not rule according to the shari'a, and they intermingle Islamic practices with non-Islamic practices and rites, which he called "takhlit" (mixing).

Ibn Fudiarrived at this judgment while relying on a previous legal ruling passed by Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Maghili (d. 1504). Askia al-Hajj Muhammad (d. 1538) had asked a similar question about Sunni Ali (d. 1492), the king of Songhay in his series of questions to al-Maghili. (43) In his response to Askia's questions, al-Maghili said "If, then, his behavior is as you have stated (i.e. He professes Islam but engages in acts of polytheism), he is an unbeliever as are also all those who act like him." (44) John Hunwick speculated that al-Maghili derived this ruling from the work of Iyad b. Musa al-Yahsubi (d.1149),the judge of Ceuta. (45) In his analysis of Ibn Fudi's book "Ta'lim al-Ikhwan bi l-umur allati Kaffarna biha muluk al-Sudan alladhina Kanu min ahl hadhihi l-buldan" (Instruction for the brethren in those matters in which we have designated the kings of the Sudan as unbelievers, those of them who were from the men of these lands), Bradford G. Martin pointed out how Ibn Fudi's ideas on takfir of the Hausa rulers follow the doctrinal rulings laid down by Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Maghili in his two books Misbah al-arwah fi usul al-falah, and Ajwibat al-Maghili'an asilat al-Amin al-Hajj Muhammad Askiya. (46) The doctrinal rulings from al-Maghili, which gained authority throughout the Western Sudan, played an important role in Ibn Fudi's proselytism of the concept of hijrah from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam and his subsequent declaration of jihad in Hausaland.

Today, the Islamic jurisprudence of the classification of lands into Dar al-Kufr and Dar al-Islam is one of the theological focal points that contemporary jihadist groups in the Sahel-Sahara region have adopted to legitimize their campaigns against the governing regimes in the region. In his book "Hadhihi 'Aqidatuna wa-Manhaj Da'watina" (This Is Our Creed and the Method of Our Preaching), the slain leader of Boko Haram, Muhammad Yusuf, argued that his "preaching forbids working under the government that rules by some [source] other than what Allah has revealed, according to French, American or British law or any constitution, or system that is contrary to Islam and contradicts the Book and the Sunna." (47) Elsewhere, Yusuf argued that the lands in the region that have abandoned ruling with Islamic law are Dar al-Kufr and thus it is obligatory to overthrow the government and install a Muslim leader. Yusuf responded to the question, "What if the Muslims do not have the power [to install a Muslim leader]?," by saying Muslims must do two things: "they must emigrate [to lands of Islam] since they are powerless; or they must explore all means to acquire power to overthrow the unbelieving or apostate leader and install an Islamic caliphate." (48)

Although coming into existence almost a century after the decimation of the Sokoto Caliphate by the British colonialists, there seems to be a parallel between the argument put forth by Ibn Fudi in his declaration of jihad against the Hausa rulers, and Boko Haram's claim that even the Muslim rulers in Nigeria have apostatized from Islam because they do not govern according to the shari'a.This point can be deduced from Abubakar Shekau's criticism of the constitution in 2009:
I need you to pay attention to this book. (Shekau holds up a book
about how the Nigerian constitution is written, followed by thunderous
applause and shouts of "Allahu akbar!"). Are you seeing this
book? Ok. The title of this book is how our laws are made. That is
how the laws of the country [Nigeria] are created. Now look at this
again and you will see the constitution. It reads: how powerful the
constitution is, that is, it is above all other form of law. What this
means is that, it is above all laws, including the law of Allah. If you
read what is written in the constitution, you will be surprised. Let's
go through a little. Surprise--"the constitution of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria is the most powerful law of the land." It says, "this
constitution is meant to guide Nigeria and Nigerians in everyday
proceedings." The truth about this constitution is found in the
introductory part of the 1979 constitution, which is still in force. It
speaks about the supremacy of the constitution. It states that this
constitution is supreme and shall have binding force of all authorities
and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria
(shouts from the listeners saying, "It's a lie, lie, lie!"). In another
section, it says, if any other law is inconsistent with the provision
of this constitution, the constitution shall prevail. (Shekau holds
up the book, with the cover picture showing the picture of the
mace above the picture of the Qur'an). (49)

Because the Salafis in Nigeria have successfully "Salafized" the narratives of Ibn Fudi while shying away from his affiliation to the Qadiriyya brotherhood, Boko Haram leaders do not pay strict attention to the denunciation of Sufi Brotherhoods, which have now become mostly pacifist. Rather, Boko Haram leaders focus on reviving the memory of the Dar al-Islam established by Ibn Fudi prior to British colonialism as a means of gaining legitimacy in their competition with their Salafi counterparts. This line of thought is also evident in a statement from 2009 by Mamman Nur, who influenced the formation of Ansaru in 2012, but later reintegrated with Shekau and paved the way for Shekau's pledge to al-Baghdadi before turning back on Shekau and deposing him from Islamic State's West Africa Province. Nur said:
The time we went to Sokoto, we saw the original flag with which
they waged the jihad of "there is no god but Allah" in the museum.
(50) It was our forefathers who waged it at the time when the
Europeans came. They fought at that time. They have folded the
flag. It is folded, and in fact they will not even open it for you to
see the inscription, "there is no god but Allah." It has been folded and
kept in the museum. At that time, they had honor, pedigree, and
power. When they heard they [the British] had brought western
education, they said: "By Allah we will not accept it!" They waged
jihad against this. They waged jihad against this western education
but yet today you are forcibly enrolling your son into western
education?! And seeing it as the epitome of civilization? And saying
that your heart is in good condition so you attend western education?
Our forefathers, it was against western education that
they waged jihad--against the Europeans. It is because of democracy
that they killed them. It is because of democracy that they
[Europeans] killed [Muhammad] Attahiru I, (51) and all of them were
fought and killed. (52)

The binary division of the world into Dar al-Kufr and Dar al-Islam has also been adopted by other groups in the Sahel-Sahara region to provide legitimacy to their violent campaigns. In his exclusive interview with Ansar Mujahideen English Forum, Sandah Ould Bouamama, the press officer of Ansar Dine, stated that the Government of Mali is an apostate government ruling with secular legislations and it is incumbent for the Muslims in the country to migrate from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam--in the then "Islamic State of Azawad" in northern Mali. (53) Bouamama further stated that Ansar Dine opposes all other movements such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Azawad National Liberation Front (FNLA) that "seek to establish a secular state (Dar al-Kufr), and are prepared to combat terrorism and reject what they call the religious Islamic state." (54) Bouamama also stated that there were Nigerians in the rank-and-file of Ansar Dine and MUJWA, which was supported by other media reports and a joint al-Murabitun-MUJWA video featuring an Ansaru member. This suggests the cross-fertilization of theological ideas between Mali-based and Nigerian militants deepened on the fields of battle.

Similar to Bouamama, during his broadcasted audio message to the people of Timbuktu after the city fell into the control of Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly also alluded to the same binary division of the world. (55) In his message, Iyad Ag Ghaly preached that the disabling of the shari'a in Dar al-Islam and its replacement with man-made laws taken from the Jews and Christians in Dar al-Kufr resulted in oppression, aggression, immorality, disobedience, poverty, and deprivation. (56)

Al-wala'wa-l-bara' and Jihad

The theme of al-wala'wa-l-bara' is the fourth and fifth chapter of Ibn Fudi's Bayan Wujub al-hijrah. Chapter four, which is titled Fi Tahrim Muwalat al-Kafirin' (On the Prohibition of Befriending the Unbelievers), started with an explanation of al-bara'. (57) Ibn Fudi explicitly prohibited any union of friendship or alliance between the Muslims and followers of other religions--in this case between the Hausa rulers and all those labelled as unbelievers. Ibn Fudi's sole intention was to unite the ranks of his followers on a clear-cut ideological basis and to also encourage them to perform migration from the city-state of Degel and other neighboring states to the city-state of Gudu to join the jihad.

Ibn Fudi backed his arguments with citations of the verses of the Qur'an, the Sunna and Ijma' (consensus). In interpreting the definition of a Muslim in Hausa land, (58) Ibn Fudi cited Qur'anic verses--3:28, 4:144, 5:51, 5:57, 8:73, 58:22, 60:1, including their tafsir (interpretation), which have an important clause and a strict ruling of "takfir" on Muslims who befriend or support the followers of other religions even if there is a common blood relation or kinship. This is followed by a series of explanation of the reasons for the necessity of disavowal by Muslims from the followers of other religions. The failure to abide by this prohibition is equated with the spread of oppression, persecution, and corruption on earth, owing to the strength of unbelief and the weakness of Islam.

In chapter five titled "Fi Wujub Muwalat al-Muminin" (On the Obligation of Befriending the Believers), Ibn Fudi expounded on the meaning of al-wala', a phrase that refers to the loyalty, fealty or allegiance of a Muslim towards other Muslims. The basis of Ibn Fudi's theological judgement on the concept of al-wala' can be found in the Qur'anic verses 9:71, 49:10 and 8:1, the hadiths, and the ijma of the Sunni scholars he cited and, most importantly, by the explanation of al-Nafrawi in his "Fawakih," where he defines al-wala' as showing love and sincere affection for Muslims, and avoiding whatever can create aversion such as rancor and envy. Towards the end of this chapter, Ibn Fudi reiterated his discussion of al-bara' and argued that Muslims should openly distance themselves from the followers of other religions.

He cautioned, however, that such treatment should not be extended towards the dhimmis, whose lives and properties have been protected through their payment of jizya to the Dar al-Islam.

By connecting al-wala'wa-l-bara' to the Qur'an, the Sunna and ijma, Ibn Fudi portrays the concept as an explicit divider for defining a Muslim and non-Muslim: the meaning of a Muslim is not limited to those who observe the Islamic rituals but also extends, most importantly, to those who totally eschew what Ibn Fudi classified as "acts of unbelief." According to this understanding and based on the earlier explanation of the definitional criteria of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufr, Ibn Fudi arrived at the conclusion that the lands being governed by the Hausa rulers are all Dar al-Kufr, since the rulers are "infidels." This criterion therefore means that Muslims who had conflicting loyalties, or who failed to refrain from being loyal to the Hausa rulers or supporting them, would be excommunicated and fought against as followers of other religions. Once the jihad against the Hausa rulers was legally justified, the doctrine of al-wala'wa-l-bara' endorsed the framing of the term "Muslims" to be used only for the followers and supporters of Ibn Fudi. This resulted in a situation where all those who were not with "Muslims" were against "Muslims" and all those against "Muslims" were non-Muslims. Muslims were often in effect fighting Muslims. (59)

The theme of al-wala'wa-l-bara is perhaps the most important theological focal point that features recurrently in the writings and sermons of the contemporary jihadist groups in the Sahel-Sahara region. In his Kanuri-language sermon called "This is Our Creed" delivered prior to his 2009 declaration of Jihad, Abubakar Shekau said:
People of Yerwa (Maiduguri), I call on you. If you see an unbeliever
in your midst, investigate him. If he is not a visitor, but belongs to
the city, inform him that we are Muslims living in a Muslim city,
and we are proud to be Muslims in a Muslim city. However, since
we are Muslims, living in a Muslim city and are proud of Islam,
how can our children and those of the unbelievers be going to
same school? How can we and the unbelievers participate in the
same political system, and go to the same judge to obtain justice? (60)

Mamman Nur reiterated the same reasoning as Shekau in his criticism of the Salafi clerics in 2009, where he argued against their position that if Muslims do not participate in secular political systems, they would face ostracism and aggression:
What is the use of seeking status from them? For example, those
who have doubts, what do they say? If we do not enter and join
them, they will not allow us to pray. If we do not enter and join
them, our admonition and sermons will be banned--is that not
what they say? If we do not enter and join them, they will kill us.
Now, if we leave the unbelieving government, then they will impose
an unbelieving governor, an unbelieving councilor, or an unbelieving
chairman upon us. Should we sit and allow unbelievers
to rule over us? Since we have told you, it is only because we saw
your name was Abu Bakr, 'Abd Allah, 'Uthman and 'Ali--that is
why you wasted our time. If only we peeped and saw that the
Governor's name is John, the Chairman's name is Joseph, that
official's name is Peter, then the talk is over. The talk would have
been declared to be over for a long time. It is the love we have for
you that made us wait until now. It is the need to make you understand
--that is what made us to wait until now. The desire for
you to come and let us go together is what made us to wait until
now. Whether you like it or not, whether you love them or not, we
will commence the jihad! If you are not aggressive, you left us and
go, we will be aggressive towards you. This task is obligatory. (61)

Shaykh Usa Abu Muhammad, one of the commanders of Ansar Dine, also cited the principle of al-wala'wa-l-bara as a major factor that prevented their cooperation with the secular Tuareg MNLA during Ansar Dine's occupation of northern Mali in 2012. (62) Sandah Ould Bouamama reiterated the same principle in his interview with Ansar Mujahideen Forum when he stated that "there will be no concession on the loyalty to the believers even if they are very far and on disavowal from the unbelievers, even if they are close relatives." (63) The loyalty to the believers was the chord that paved way for a working relationship between Ansar Dine and AQIM, as demonstrated in the audio recording of Abu Mus'ab Abd al-Wadud to the "mujahidin in Sahara Azawad," where he commended Ansar Dine and offered his advice to them on the matters of jihad and how to deal with opponents of the movement. (64)

The same principle of al-wala'wa-l-bara was also invoked in the Islamic legal ruling opposing the participation of the Mauritanian government in Operation Serval. The Islamic legal ruling entitled 'Haqiqat al-Harb 'ala al-Muslimin fi Shimal Mali' (The Reality of the War on Muslims in Northern Mali) was signed by 39 Muslim scholars in Mauritania, including Mohamed Salem Ould Mohamed Lemine al-Majlissi, a jihadist thinker repeatedly arrested and detained by Mauritanian authorities in connection with AQIM attacks. The ruling stated that the conflict in Mali is an extension of a series of colonialist campaigns in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia with the ultimate aim of separating Muslims from their religion, and imposing the new world order (al-nizam al-'alam al-jadid). In his analysis of the Islamic legal ruling, Alex Thurston pointed out how the 39 signatories of this Islamic legal ruling framed the conflict in Northern Mali as an effort by "the enemies of the religion ('ada' al-din)" to "occupy Northern Mali (ihtilal shimal Mali)." Based on this judgment, they forbade Muslims from aiding a Western-led military intervention that might harm Muslims in Northern Mali, and would also violate the principle of al-wala'wa-l-bara essential to the preservation of Islam. (65)

There are methodological variations between the groups that existed during the pre-colonial jihads and the Muslim resistance against colonial rule in the Sahel-Sahara region, on the one end, and the contemporary jihadist groups in the region, on the other end. Nonetheless, contemporary jihadist groups have been able to effectively replicate the theological and jurisprudential discourses produced by the classical Sahel-Sahara scholars on jihad in their own sermons and writings, in the contemporary era. This is what gives legitimacy and sustenance to the contemporary jihadist groups in the Sahel-Sahara region. Despite the variation in time, the theological discourses of the contemporary jihadist groups are crafted in a way that fits with the ideational narratives that have not only been transmitted from generation to generation, but have also been institutionalized and taught through Islamic schools, history texts, official curriculums and official and semi-official religious institutions in the Sahel-Sahara region.


THIS ARTICLE FOCUSED ON THE TWO MAIN JIHADIST NODES IN WEST AFRICA --AQIM and Ansar Dine, and Boko Haram and Ansaru. It showed that they rose in al-Qaeda structures (with Boko Haram eventually becoming Islamic State's West Africa Province and then breaking away from Islamic State, while formerly al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansaru members paradoxically came to lead West Africa Province). However, both nodes have exploited distinct historical narratives and theological justifications to legitimize their jihads today: this hybridization of the past and present is aided by the Salafis "Salafization" of Sufi history and theology. The history and theology of the jihads of centuries past and the jihads today are evidently similar enough that both nodes have succeeded in exploiting history and theology for their own purposes.

If anything, this article presents a precautionary tale. Salafism is the fastest growing strand of Islam in Africa today. (66) Over the years, Salafism has established strong inroads in Africa through the funding of patrons in Saudi Arabia, the establishment of several Salafi religious centers across Africa, as well as the presence of vibrant Salafi-funded media, such as Sunnah TV, that is deeply entrenched at the grassroots level in various African societies. These elements of power have increased the general acceptance of Salafism over other strands of Islam, specifically Sufism. Salafism appears linked to jihadism in areas where an accompanying historical narrative can be revived to justify the violence of contemporary Salafi-Jihadis, such as North Africa, the Sahel, and Nigeria, as well as Somalia. In areas where Salafi influence is growing but the historical narratives are slightly more attenuated, such as Senegal, or the Kenya-Tanzania Swahili Coast, there is not yet a high-level of Salafi-Jihadi violence. If, however, al-Qaeda (or Islamic State) can revive a jihadist history and overcome the attenuation, the key two elements to inspire Salafi-Jihadi movements in these areas would exist: "Salafized" historical narratives and Salafism itself.

In this regard, it is important to recall that ten years ago--in 2007--prominent scholars considered Salafi-Jihadi movements "to have had little impact on Africa" and that "Jihadism and extremism have made very limited inroads in sub-Saharan African countries overall." (67) Ten years from now--in 2027--it may appear equally naive to look back at the scholars of 2017, who are yet to recognize the explosive Salafi-Jihadi potential for regions of Africa rapidly witnessing an increase in Salafi influence. For these regions, al-Qaeda and other groups in the global jihadist movement may yet be able to recreate historical narratives to justify jihad today.


(1.) Stephen Schwartz, The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony (New York: Random House, 2008), pp. 1-34.

(2.) Mark Sedgwick, "The Support of Sufism as a Counterweight to Radicalization: An Assessment" in Marco Lombardi et al (eds.), Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism Among Youth to Prevent Terrorism (Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2015), pp. 113-119; Mark Sedgwick "Sufis as 'Good Muslims': Sufism in the Battle Against Jihadi Salafism" in Lloyd Ridgeon (ed.) Sufis and Salafis in the Contemporary Age (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015); Fait Muedini Sponsoring Sufism: How Governments Promote "Mystical Islam" in their domestic and Foreign Policies (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

(3.) Jonathan N.C. Hill, Sufism in Northern Nigeria: Force for Counter-Radicalization (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2010), pp. 1-56; Jonathan N. C. Hill, "Religious Extremism in Northern Nigeria Past and Present: Parallels between the Pseudo-Tijanis and Boko Haram," The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs (2013) 102:3, pp. 235-244; Olabanji Akinola, "Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria: Between Islamic Fundamentalism, Politics, and Poverty." African Security (2015) 8:1, p. 4. This policy suggestion is akin to the "Good Muslims" and "Bad Muslims" appellation that the British colonial authorities adopted in repressing those Islamic groups who were perceived to threaten the status quo. See Jonathan Reynolds, "Good and Bad Muslims: Islam and Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria." The International Journal of African Historical Studies (2001) 34:3, pp. 601-618.

(4.) For an overview of the different jihads spearheaded by Muslim scholars in the Sahel-Sahara region from the 1800s. See Roman Loimeier, Muslim Societies in Africa: A Historical Anthropology (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), pp. 108-134.

(5.) An example of the "Salafizing" of the narratives of the Sufi scholars is evident in the career of Abubakar Gumi, who is generally regarded as the originator of anti-Sufism in contemporary Nigeria. See Abubakar Gumi and Ismaila Abubakar Tsiga, Where I Stand (Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1992), p. 3; 50-52; Muhammad Sani Umar, "Changing Islamic Identity in Nigeria from the 1960s to the 1980s: From Sufism to Anti-Sufism," in Louis Brenner (ed.) Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), pp. 154-178.

(6.) Jean-Luc Marret "Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb: A 'Glocal' Organization, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism," (2008) 31:6, p. 543; Stephen Harmon, "From GSPC to AQIM: The evolution of an Algerian islamist terrorist group into an Al-Qa'ida Affiliate and its implications for the Sahara-Sahel region," Concerned African Scholars, Bulletin No. 85, Spring 2010.

(7.) "Burkina Faso, The Jihadist Threat Continuously Rising in the Far North--A new Ansar Dine Branch in Gestation, Ansaroul Islam," Menastream, January 3, 2017, available at

(8.) Al-Mourabitun has been under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar since 2013 and previously merged with MUJWA briefly before separating in 2015 due to MUJWA's collaboration with Islamic state.

(9.) Jacob Zenn and Dario Cristiani, "AQIM's Resurgence: Responding to Islamic State," Terrorism Monitor, Volume 14, Issue 5, Jamestown Foundation, March 3, 2016, available at

(10.) Risalah Magazine, Issue 4, Jabhat Fath al-Sham, January 2017, available at:

(11.) "Letter from 'Abdallah Abu Zayd 'Abd-al-Hamid Abu Mus'ab 'Abd-al-Wadud," Bin Laden's Bookshelf--ODNI, released January 2017, available at

(12.) "Boko Haram Gets N40million Donation From Algeria," Sahara Reporters, May 13, 2012. Available at

(13.) "Praise be to God the Lord of all worlds," Bin Laden's Bookshelf--ODNI, released March 2016, available at 0the%20Lord%20of%20all%20worlds.pdf.

(14.) See "A Gift to the people of Tawhid in Nigeria" by Al-Kata'ib Media available at:; "Fursan al-Shahada" by al-Furqan Media Islamic State in Iraq available at:; "Message of Condolence to the Mujahidin by Abubakar Shekau" available at:

(15.) See; Jacob Zenn, Ansaru: "Who Are They And Where Are They From?, CFR-Africa in Transition," July 1, 2013, available at

(16.) Ansaru leader, Abu Yusuf Usamatul al-Ansari, decried the killing of Ansaru members by Shekau in the video debut on the group which appeared on June 2, 2012 in Hausa and English language. See;

(17.) "New Boko Haram Leader, Al-Barnawi, Accuses Abubakar Shekau Of Killing Fellow Muslims, Living In Luxury," Sahara Reporters,

(18.) "New Issue of The Islamic State's Newsletter," August 3, 2016, available at; "New Audio Message from Abu Bakr Al-Shekau: "Message to the World," August 5, 2016, available at

(19.) For a detailed background on Dr Iyad Qunaybi and his influence as an ideologue in the Salafi-Jihadi circles see Joas Wagemakers, "Who is Dr Iyad Qunaybi?," Jihadica, June 15, 2016 available at:

(20.) For a biographical information on Ahmad Baba b. Ahmad al-Timbukti See John Hunwick and Alida Jay Boye, The Hidden Treasures of Timbuktu: Rediscovering Africa's Literary Culture (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008), pp 133-134.

(21.) Umar b. Sayyid was captured in Futa Toro present-day Senegal in 1806/7 and was exported and sold as a slave in South Carolina. In his autobiography, Umar narrated how he was enslaved and transported through the sea to Charleston. See John Hunwick, "I Wish to be Seen in Our Land Called Afrika: Umar b. Sayyid's Appeal to be Released from Slavery (1819)," Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 5 (2003-2004), p. 66.

(22.) See "New video message from Dr. Iyad Qunaybi: 'Mali and the Torch of Freedom,'"(accessed January 24, 2017). Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, another prominent Jordanian Salafi-Jihadi ideologue, offered a similar narrative with Dr Iyad Qunaybi in his article titled "Faransa wa Mali" Available at:

(23.) See "New video message from Ansar ad-Din: 'The Conquest of Azawad'" (accessed January 7, 2017). See also "al-Andalus Media presents a new video message from al-Qa'idah in the Islamic Maghrib's Shaykh Abu 'Ubaydah Yusuf al 'Anabi: 'The War on Mali'" (accessed January 7, 2017).

(24.) For biographical information on 'Umar al-Mukhtar see Ahmad Mahmud, 'Umar al-Mukhtar: al-halqa al-akhira min al-jihad al-watani fi Tarabulus al-Gharb (Cairo: Matba'at 'Isa al-Babi al-Halabi, 1934), pp. 5-56. See also Hala Khamis Nassar and Marco Boggero, "Omar al-Mukhtar: the formation of cultural memory and the case of the militant group that bears his name," The Journal of North African Studies (2008) 13:2, 201-217.

(25.) See Abu Mus'ab Abd al-Wadud "Support for the Free, Descendants of 'Umar al-Mukhtar," (accessed 24 January 2017). See also Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb "Support and Backing for the [Libyan] Revolution of our Family, the Free, Descendants of 'Umar al-Mukhtar," (accessed 24 January 2017); Hamid b. 'Abdullah al 'Ali "Why has the Syrian Regime Killed 'Umar al-Mukhtar's Descendants With al-Qathafi (Gaddafi)" (accessed January 24, 2017). Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi, a prominent Jordanian Salafi-Jihadi ideologue, reiterated the same phraseology in his video to the Libyan revolutionaries see "Message to the Descendants of 'Umar al-Mukhtar" (accessed January 24, 2017).

(26.) From the historical records, 'Umar al-Mukhtar was indeed offered 50,000 lira (al-Razi, 'Umar al-Mukhtar [Beirut: Dar al-Madar al-Islami, 2004], pp. 119-29), so Yusuf had access to accurate information on this incident.

(27.) Author's Translation of the "Exegesis of Surat Al-Tawba (Qur'an 9 Verses 9-16)" by Muhammad Yusuf available at: (accessed December 12, 2014).

(28.) Author's Translation of "New statement from Jama'at Ansar al-Muslimin Fi Bilad al-Sudan: "Innocence of the Mujahidin From the Blood of the Innocent Muslims" (accessed December 24, 2014).

(29.) Khadim Mbacke, Sufism and Religious Brotherhoods in Senegal edited by John Hunwick (New Jersey: Markus Wiener, 2005), pp. 30-35. See also Loimeier, "Muslim Societies in Africa," p. 119-121.

(30.) Author's Translation of the "Application of the Rulings of Islam in the Islamic State in Africa" by Jama'at Ahl al-Sunna li-Da'wa wa-l-Jihad available at: (accessed 11 February 2015).

(31.) See Abdulbasit Kassim, "Defining and Understanding the Religious Philosophy of jihadi-Salafism and the ideology of Boko Haram," Politics, Religion and Ideology, (2015) 16:2-3, pp. 173-200.

(32.) 'Uthman Ibn Fudi's brother, 'Abd Allah Fudi wrote a book with similar contents titled "Diya al-Mujahidin' (The light of the fighter of jihad)." Ibn Fudi's son, Muhammad Bello, also wrote similar book titled "Infaq al-Maysur fi ta'rikh bilad al-Takrur (A Little Light on the History of Hausa land)."

(33.) For a detailed theological assessment of the doctrine of hijrah in Islam see Muhammad Khalid Masud, "The Obligation to Migrate: The Doctrine of Hjrah in Islamic Law," in Dale F. Eickelman and James Piscatori (eds.) Muslim Travellers: Pilgrimage, Migration, and the Religious Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 29-49.

(34.) 'Uthman Ibn Fudi, Bayan Wujub al-hijra 'ala 'l-'ibad Wa Bayan Wujub Nasb al-Imam Wa Iqamat al-Jihad, ed. and trans. Fathi Hasan Masri (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1978), p. 50; 'Uthman Ibn Fudi, "Wathiqat ahl al-Sudan wa ila man sha' Allah min al-Ikhwan fi al-Buldan," in Mukhtarat min mu'alafat Shaykh 'Uthman Ibn Fudi al-hujam al-thani (Gusau: Iqra'a Publishing House, 2013), p. 269; 'Uthman Ibn Fudi, "Tanbih al-Ikhwan 'ala ahwal ard al-Sudan," in Mukhtarat min mu'alafat Shaykh 'Uthman Ibn Fudi al-hujam al-thalith (Gusau: Iqra'a Publishing House, 2013), p. 18. See also Muhammad Khalid Masud, "Shehu Usuman Dan Fodio's Restatement of the Doctrine of Hijrah," Islamic Studies (Spring 1986) 25:1, pp. 59-77.

(35.) Ala l-Din Abi Bakr b. Mas'ud al-Kasani, Bada'i' as-sana'i' fi tartib ash-shara'i' (Cairo: al-Imam Press, n.d.), Vol. 9, p. 4375.

(36.) Abu al-hasan 'Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Habib al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah (Cairo: Mustapha al-halabi, 1973), pp. 49-50.

(37.) Al-Qadi Abu Ya'la Al-Hanbali, al-Mu'tamad fi usul al-din (Beirut: Dar Al-Mashriq, 1974), p. 276.

(38.) Abu Muhammad 'Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Sahid ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1988), Vol. 11, p. 200.

(39.) Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Ahkam ahl adh-Dhimmah (Beirut: Dar Al-'Ilm Lil-Malayin, 1983), Vol. 1, p. 366.

(40.) Muhammad ibn 'Ali ibn Abdullah al-Shawkani, al-Sayl al-Jarrar al-Mutadaffiq 'ala hada'iq al-Azhar ed. Mahmud Ibrahim Zayid (Damascus and Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 2000), Vol. 4, p. 575.

(41.) These same criteria apply to the discourse on Dar al-Kufr and Dar al-Islam in contemporary jihadi literature, see Abu Musab al-Suri, "Dawat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyyah al- 'alamiyya" (n.p., 2004), pp. 983-984; Faris al-Zahrani, "al- 'alaqat al-dawliya fi al-Islam" (Part 1-3), available at:;;

(42.) See Ibn Fudi, "Tanbih al-Ikhwan," op. cit., p. 23.

(43.) For biographical information on Sunni Ali and Askia al-Hajj Muhammad see John Hunwick, Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Saadi's Taarikh Al-Sudan Down to 1613 and other Contemporary Documents (Leiden: Brill, 1999) pp. 91-117.

(44.) John Hunwick, Shari'a in Songhay: The Replies of al-Maghili to the Questions of Askia al-Hajj Muhammad (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 69-76; p. 121; Charlotte Blum and Humphrey Fisher, "Love for Three Oranges, or, the Askiya's Dilemma: The Askiya, al-Maghili and Timbuktu, c. 1500 A.D.," The Journal of African History, (1993) 34:1, pp. 73-76; Loimeier, "Muslim Societies in Africa." p. 112; Umar Mukhtar Bunza, "The North African Factor in 'Tajdeed Tradition in Hausaland, Northern Nigeria,'" The Journal of North African Studies (2005) 10:3-4, pp. 325-338; Ousman Murzik Kobo, "Unveiling Modernity in Twentieth-Century West African Islamic Reforms" (Leiden, Brill, 2012), pp. 37-41.

(45.) Hunwick, "Shari'a in Songhay," p. 118.

(46.) Bradford G. Martin, "Unbelief in the Western Sudan: 'Uthman dan Fodio's "Ta'lim alikhwan,"' Middle Eastern Studies (1967) 4:1, pp. 50-97. For a detailed study of Misbah al-arwah fi usul al-falah see John Hunwick, Jews of a Saharan Oasis: Elimination of the Tamantit Community (New Jersey: Markus Wiener, 2006), pp. 14-32.

(47.) Muhammad Yusuf, "Hadhihi 'Aqidatuna wa-Manhaj Da'watina" (Maiduguri: Maktabat al-Ghuraba, n.d.) p. 108.

(48.) Author's Translation of "The History of the Muslims" by Muhammad Yusuf. Available at:

(49.) "Hadhihi 'Aqidatuna" (This is Our Creed), by Abubakar Shekau. Translated by Atta Barkindo Available at:

(50.) From the period of the state established by Ibn Fudi and his successors (1812-1902).

(51.) The last independent caliph of the state established by Ibn Fudi.

(52.) Author's translation of "Lecture on Returning to the Path of the Quran and Sunna by Muhammad Mamman Nur and Muhammad Yusuf," March 15, 2009. Available at: (accessed December 14, 2014). See also Zacharias P. Pieri and Jacob Zenn, "The Boko Haram Paradox: Ethnicity, Religion, and Historical Memory in Pursuit of a Caliphate," African Security (2016) 9:1, pp. 74-77.

(53.) See New Open Meeting With Ansar ad-Din's Sandah 'Uld Bu A'mamah (accessed January 5, 2017), pp. 20-21; 31.

(54.) Ibid., p. 9. Bouamama is referring to the interview of Mossa Ag Attaher (MNLA Coordinator for Diplomatic Action in Europe) published on July 30, 2012 by the Tuareg media outlet Toumast Press. In the interview, Mossa Ag Attaher explains that secularism is the main pillar of the movement and that the MNLA stands against the implementation of shari'a law. For a transcript of the interview see

See also Anna Mahjar-Barducci "The MNLA's Fight for a Secular State of Azawad" available at;

(55.) Ibid., p. 7.

(56.) See, (accessed December 14, 2014) See also, pp. 4-5 (accessed December 14, 2014).

(57.) This theme is also the subject matter and the title of a book written by 'Uthman Ibn Fudi, "al-'Amr bi muwalat al-Muminin wa al-Nahy 'an muwalat al-Kafirin'" in Mukhtarat min mu'alafat Shaykh 'Uthman Ibn Fudi al-hujam al-thalith (Gusau: Iqra'a Publishing House, 2013), pp. 286-292; see also Ibn Fudi, al-Masa'il al-Muhimma', op. cit., p. 302-303.

(58.) For Ibn Fudi's definition of a Muslim see Uthman Ibn Fudi, "Siraj al-Ikhwan fi ahamm ma yahtaju ilayhi fi hadha al-zaman," trans. Abubakar Buba Luwa in Selected Writings of Sheikh Othman Bn Fodiyo (Gusau: Iqra'a Publishing House, 2013), vol. 2, pp. 234-235; "Uthman Ibn Fudi, 'Nur al-albab," trans. Muhammad Isa Aliyu in Selected Writings of Sheikh Othman Bn Fodiyo Fodiyo (Gusau: Iqra'a Publishing House, 2013), vol. 3, p. 5. See also Robert Raymond Martenson, "The Life and Work of Usmaanu Bii Fooduye with Special Reference to the Religious Nature of the Encounter Between the Hausa Muslim and Fulbe Muslim Communities," PhD Diss., Hatford Seminary Foundation, Minnesota, 1977, pp. 60-89.

(59.) The implication of this interpretation becomes clear when it is extrapolated to the historical debates between the leaders of the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kanem Bornu Empire over the legality of declaring Kanem-Borno as a lawful target of jihad as depicted in the correspondence between the erudite Kanem-Borno scholar Shaykh Muhammad El-Amin Al-Kanemi and Shaykh Muhammad Bello, the son of Ibn Fudi. While citing the book "Ajwibat al-Maghili'an asilat al-Amin al-Hajj Muhammad Askiya," Ibn Fudi stated the three reasons for fighting the ruler of Kanem Borno and his followers: their partial acceptance of Islam; their hostility towards those who embrace Islam; and their support and assistance to unbelievers fighting against the Muslims. See "Uthman Ibn Fudi, 'Najm al-ikhwan yahtaduna bihi fi 'umuri al-zaman," trans. Muhammad Isa Aliyu in Selected Writings of Sheikh Othman Bn Fodiyo Fodiyo (Gusau: Iqra'a Publishing House, 2013), vol. 3, p. 312-314. Murray Last and M.A al-Hajj provided a more detailed account of the dispute between the leaders of the Sokoto jihad and the Kanem Borno Empire see Murray Last and M.A. al-Hajj, "Attempts at Defining Muslim in 19th-century Hausaland and Bornu," Journal of Historical Society of Nigeria 2,(1965), pp. 232-233. See also Bradford G. Martin, "Unbelief in the Western Sudan," op cit., pp.51-57; Louis Brenner, The Shehus of Kukawa: A History of the Al-Kanemi Dynasty of Bornu (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973) pp. 40-42; Mervyn Hiskett, The Sword of Truth: The Life and Times of the Shehu Usuman Dan Fodio (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973); p. 109-110; Loimeier, "Muslim Societies in Africa," p. 118-119; Lamin Sanneh, Beyond Jihad: The Pacifist Tradition in West African Islam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 219-224.

(60.) "Hadhihi 'Aqidatuna" (This is Our Creed), by Abubakar Shekau. Translated by Atta Barkindo Available at:

(61.) Author's translation of "Lecture on Returning to the Path of the Qur'an and Sunna" by Muhammad Mamman Nur and Muhammad Yusuf, available at:

(62.) See New video message from Ansar ad-Din: "The Conquest of Azawad," (accessed January 7, 2017). For details of how Ansar al-Din ousted the MNLA from the city of Gao see Azawad News Agency presents a new newsletter from Ansar ad-Din in Mali: "News Report, Issue #1" (accessed January 5, 2017). See also New statement from Majlis Shura al-Mujahidin in Gao: "To the People of the Cities in Northern Mali About the Reason for Its Fight With the MNLA (the Secular Movement)," (accessed January 5, 2017), and al-Murabitin Foundation for Media Production presents a new statement from Jama'at at-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad Fi Gharb Ifriqiyya's Shari'ah Committee: "This Is Our 'Aqidah" (accessed January 7, 2017).

(63.) See Ibid., New Open Meeting With Ansar ad-Din's Sandah 'Uld Bu A'mamah p.11.

(64.) See New audio message from al-Qa'idah in the Islamic Maghrib's Abu Mus'ab 'Abd al-Wadud ('Abd al-Malik Drukdil): "To the Mujahidin in Sahara Azawad" (accessed January 7, 2017) See also (accessed January 7, 2017).

(65.) See Alex Thurston, "A Mauritanian Fatwa against the French-Led Military Intervention in Mali," Maydan, January 13, 2017 available at:

(66.) Ousmane Kane, "Moderate Revivalists: Islamic Inroads in Sub-Saharan Africa," Harvard International Review 29, no. 2 (2007): 64-68.

(67.) Ibid.

By Abdulbasit Kassim and Jacob Zenn
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