Muhammad abd al-Salam Faraj
Founder of Jama'at al-Jihad, the group that killed Anwar Sadat.


NameMuhammad abd al-Salaam Faraj
Also Known AsMohamad 'Abdus Salam Farag and other spelling variations
BiographyMuhammad abd al-Salaam Faraj was an Egyptian engineer who was one of Egypt's most important Islamic revolutionary theorists and organisers.
His contribution to the Qutbist/Jihadi theory of Islamic revolution was ultimately unsuccessful in that his group was quickly crushed without overthrowing established authority in Egypt, much less establishing an Islamic state. However, Faraj's ideas are important to subsequent revolutionary models.
Faraj is clearly part of the post-1966 Salafist movement, being inspired by Maulana Maududi and Muslim Brother Sayyid Qutb and their interpretation of Ibn Taymiyyah's writings. He rejected many of his contemporary Salafis, including the Muslim Brotherhood for seeking integration with the political process and Shukri Mustafa's Takfir w'al Hijra (Excommunication and Migration, aka Jama'at al-Muslimun, Group of Muslims) for allegedly shirking the duty of jihad.
Indeed, considering Faraj's theory of revolution as an antithesis to Shukri Mustafa's is a useful way of understanding it and the synthesis that came afterwards. Both men were in the stream of radicals who had interpreted Qutb's Milestones literally, and both therefore rejected the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood's line that fighting Israel took precedence over overthrowing the Egyptian regime, which led the MB to collaborate with the regime. However, after Takfir w'al-Hijra was destroyed by Egyptian security forces, the jihadi community was looking for an alternative methodology for revolutionary organisation.
Mustafa, following Qutb, taught that the nascent Muslim Group experienced a period of weakness, and that it therefore needed to separate itself from infidel society in a hijra (migration) until it was strong enough to launch a jihad - an idea shared by many contemporary Muslim Brothers. His cult-like organisation's response to external threats can therefore be summed up by the following statement:
If the Jews or anyone else came, our movement ought not to fight in the ranks of the Egyptian army, but on the contrary ought to flee to a secure position. In general, our line is to flee before the external and internal enemy alike, and not to resist him.1
1 Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt, pp83-84.
The elements of Mustafa's model that Faraj opposed are contained in that statement. In his 1981 book Al Farida al Ghaiba (The Neglected Obligation/Forgotten Duty/Missing Commandment), Faraj posits Jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam, a fard 'ayn (compulsory religious duty) that must be satisfied immediately.2 Faraj claimed that apostates had denied and hidden this duty, leading the Muslim world into its current malaise. He rejected the idea of the 'period of weakness' and physical separation from infidel society, instead advocating infiltration of society, government and security forces and militant engagement with the regime. Faraj claimed that the advocates of physical hijra were doubly sinful, because they failed to perform the duty of jihad, and they feared the infidel above Allah. Those followers of Faraj who continued to believe a separation from infidel society was necessary generally considered this separation to be purely spiritual, not physical.2 Lawrence Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism, p86.
Splitting away from a group called Jama'at al-Jihad (Group of Holy Struggle), Faraj formed his own group of the same name in 1981. This group rapidly expanded, absorbing other cells (including former Takfir w'al Hijra cells), and began carrying out terrorist attacks against the state. The culmination of this terror campaign was the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at an army parade. The assassin was an army officer, Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who was able to get close to the President because he was part of the parade. This attack, which was personally sanctioned by Faraj, demonstrated the effectiveness of his policy of infiltration of the regime.
However, because Al-Jihad had not put significant time and effort into setting up a clandestine underground network, it was easily rounded up by the security forces. Al-Jihad's campaign began and ended in 1981, and Faraj himself was executed in April 1982.33 Johannes Jansen, The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, p124.
Faraj's theory was too ambitious and underestimated the regime's ability to recover and retaliate. Therefore, while his ideas gave the jihad movement food for thought, his theory was discredited and Islamic radicals found it harder to operate in Egypt thanks to Faraj's premature attacks on the regime.
Faraj's legacy lies in the synthesis of his model with that of Shukri Mustafa by ideologues such as Ayman al-Zawahiri.4 These groups preach preparation for jihad through physical migration to areas beyond the reach of domestic or foreign security forces (such as Taliban Afghanistan, Pakistan's North West Frontier Province or mountainous northeastern Iraq) in conjunction with infiltration of both eastern and western 'infidel' societies and jihadi attacks on the infidel 'enemy'.4 Amongst those arrested after Sadat's assassination, Ayman al-Zawahiri is now a leader of al-Qaeda.
Bibliography
  • Lawrence Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction, revised and updated edition, Greenwood Press, Westport Connecticut, 2003.
  • Johannes J G Jansen, The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, Hurst & Company, London, 1997.
  • Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharaoh, translated from the French by Jon Rothschild, University of California Press, London and Berkeley, 1985.
  • PublicationsAl Farida al Ghaiba - The Neglected Obligation/Forgotten Duty/Missing Commandment
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    See Also: Maulana Maududi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Sayyid Qutb, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Shukri Mustafa, Al-Qaeda's Revolutionary Model, The Evolution of al-Qaeda

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