Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri
Leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Usama bin Laden's right-hand man

NameDr. Ayman Muhammad Rabie al-Zawahiri (19 June 1951- )
Also Known As Also spelt Zawaahiri or Zawahri
The Doctor.
The Teacher
Abu Mohammed Nur al-Deen, Abu Mohammed, Nur
Abu Abdallah
Abu Fatima
Muhammad Ibrahim
Abu al-Mu'iz, Abdel Muaz
BiographyDr Ayman al-Zawahiri was born in Egypt on the 19th of June, 1951. He is regarded by some as the brains behind Usama bin Laden, who is the spiritual leader or figurehead of al-Qaeda.

Like bin Laden, al-Zawahiri was born into well-connected, establishment family, part of his country's elite. Al-Zawahiri studied a degree in medicine at Cairo's al-Azhar University, graduating as a paediatrician. While at University, al-Zawahiri became involved in Salafi political groups and joined a jihad cell. He also came into contact with Muhammad Qutb, brother of Sayyid Qutb, and with the academic Abdullah Azzam, a seminal figure in the foundation of al-Qaeda.
1 Ayman al-Zawahiri, Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, in Rubin and Rubin, Anti-American Terrorism and the State, p47. Given that al-Zawahiri's book puts polemics above accurate history, it seems fair to assume that he found the trip providential (as suggested by his comment that it was "predestined"), but that his understanding of the theoretical value of the base in Afghanistan was more retrospective than these quotations suggest.
2 The term jihadi/rejectionist is a specific designation used in the thesis from which some of this content is taken. A definition will be provided on this webpage in the future.
3 The prison sentences of Al-Zawahiri and several hundred other activists ended in 1984. Most went on Hajj to Saudi Arabia, then on to Afghanistan. See Gilles Kepel, Bad Moon Rising: A Chronicle of the Middle East Today, 2003, p12.
In 1980, al-Zawahiri travelled to Peshawar with another doctor, ostensibly to provide medical services to the mujahideen. Speaking retrospectively, al-Zawahiri has claimed that another motivation for his 1980 trip to Peshawar was

to get to know one of the arenas of jihad that might be a tributary and a base for jihad in Egypt and the Arab region

and to

[find] a secure base for jihad activity in Egypt [... due to the activity of] the security forces and because of Egypt’s flat terrain, which made government control easy, for the River Nile runs in its narrow valley between two deserts that have no vegetation or water. Such a terrain made guerrilla warfare in Egypt impossible.1
This reference to Afghanistan as a solid base (al-qaeda al-sulbah) for operations against foreign countries shows that the specific interpretation of Muhammad's hijra that distinguishes al-Qaeda from earlier groups may have been already forming in 1980, assuming al-Zawahiri has not simply imposed a contemporary interpretation for polemical purposes.
In 1981, Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj's al-Jihad organisation, and many Islamists were rounded up. Television footage from this time shows a young al-Zawahiri shouting from a prison cell crowded with bearded prisoners. It is difficult to determine from the evidence at hand how al-Zawahiri came to be the head of his own organisation, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). The historical record of the hasty coalescence of al-Jihad and its demise after Sadat's assassination is patchy and filled with contradictions. What can be said is that al-Zawahiri emerged from prison in 1984 as the leader of EIJ, a very radical jihadi/rejectionist group.2 Although it is unclear whether EIJ split from al-Jihad or was simply known by a different name, al-Zawahiri does appear to have been disillusioned with the failure of Faraj's model, as his group diverged substantially from Faraj's ideological course.
In Afghanistan, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri struck up an alliance and friendship, and there has been significant interaction between EIJ and al-Qaeda. The two groups have now essentially merged, with much of the leadership being composed of EIJ's hard-core veterans. Whether because, as some claim, bin Laden leaves matters of theory to al-Zawahiri, because they have developed the programme of al-Qaeda together, or because they deliberately present a unified front in their propaganda, the two now appear to hold a consensus on ideological matters.
  • FBI Most Wanted File
  • Rewards for Justice Wanted File.
  • MEMRI: Ayman Muhammad Rabi' Al-Zawahiri: The Making of an Arch Terrorist by Nimrod Raphaeli.
  • efreedomnews.com: Ayman Zawahiri: Bio of al-Qaida's #2.
  • Kashmir Herald: The Man Behind bin Laden: How an Egyptian Doctor Became a Master of Terror. A biography with historical background, written by Lawrence Wright and originally published in the New Yorker. March 2003.
  • CNN/People: Ayman al-Zawahiri Profile.
  • Atheism.about.com: Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri Biography and Profile.
  • Another biography. This rather colloquial historical biography of Zawahiri is very informative, but PWHCE must warn readers that the host site, rotten.com, is most well known as a publisher of offensive material including images that some will find disturbing.
  • Publications
  • Bitter Harvest, 1991.
  • Knights Under the Prophet's Banner: Meditations on the Jihadist Movement - published in installments in Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Review and quotes. Article.
  • BBC/Al-Jazeera: Brief post-11 September video statement. The page also includes a statement by suicide bomber Ahmad al-Haznawi.
  • AFP: October 2001 broadcast. This document also contains statements by bin Laden and Suleiman Abu Gheith.
  • IslamOnline: Guantanamo tape article, August 2003. A news story on a recent statement by al-Zawahiri. The site, IslamicAwakenings, is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • CNN: Audiotape Charges US Doesn't Want Reforms - this article quotes the Zawahiri tape broadcast on Al-Arabiya on the 11th June 2004. In this tape, Zawahiri claims the Americans have no intention of creating true democracy, and implies that al-Qaeda can deliver democracy.
  • Researchers may also find Montasser al-Zayyat's The Road to Al-Qaeda: The Story of Bin Laden's Right-Hand Man, (Pluto Press, London, 2004) useful. The book is a response to Zawahiri's rhetorical attacks on al-Zayyat.
  • Interviews
  • Al-Zawaahiri interview, 11 October 2002 also posted on Yahoo Groups. Azzam Publications translation.
  • Waaqiah.com interview. (Since hacked - now out of order.)
  • Rense/Al Majahllah: Al-Majallah Interview with Zawaahiri, December 2001. Bear in mind that the Rense.com website is well known for publishing conspiratorial material.
  • Articles
  • Janes: Ayman Al-Zawahiri: attention turns to the other prime suspect, by Ed Blanche.
  • Houston Chronicle/Washington Post: Ayman Zawahiri: The ideologist.
  • Al-Jazeera: Al-Qaida blasts US notion of 'freedom', 10 February 2005.
  • CNN: New al-Zawahiri tape lashes U.S. policy, 20 February 2005.
  • CNN: Bin Laden Deputy Sends Message, 18 June 2005.
  • See AlsoUsama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj, Al-Qaeda's Revolutionary Model, The Evolution of al-Qaeda.

    Previous: Sheikh Dr Abdullah Azzam | Next: Usama bin Laden

    For comments and to contribute material for publication, please e-mail admin@pwhce.org.
    Comments are also welcome at Trevor Stanley's weblog

    ^^^ Top ^^^


    Copyright ©2003-2005 Trevor Stanley, PWHCE