The Takfiri position on Weapons of Mass Destruction (part 1)

1st November 2018

Ben Wallace, the Home Office minister, recently delivered a chilling warning to the country. Speaking, at last month’s National Security Summit, he advised that the threat of chemical weapon attacks on Britain’s streets is getting closer and “is real”. Wallace set out the position, starkly, and in one eloquent statement:

“The only limits to the ambition of our adversaries is their imagination”

These remarks are unfortunately not an exaggeration. I was not shocked when I read them. Indeed, I am concerned that conventional suicide operations will be overtaken by those involving means which are generally classed as Weapons of Mass Destruction (“WMD”) in the foreseeable future.

Takfiri jihadists have already produced a theological, jurisprudential justification for the use of WMDs. There has been some indication that attempts have been made to produce and deploy chemical weapons in practice, although that evidence is ambivalent. What is absolutely certain is that the Takfiri groups have written extensively on this topic. We know the position on the issue of Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawhari, Naser al-Fahd, and Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir. The latter is the author of the Jurisprudence of Blood, which our report Tackling Terror challenges on theological grounds in some detail.

In his book Jurisprudence of Blood, Al-Muhajir dedicated an entire chapter to a discussion of the legitimacy of possessing and using such weapons. This fixation on the theoretical argument for the use of WMDs, which can cause mass casualties without putting the bomber at risk, indicates that in time the use of suicide attacks will wane or be completely abandoned. What these groups hope to achieve is mass casualties, and if this can be achieved more effectively through the use of WMD, then there is no reason for them not to choose this technique over the now conventional method of “suicide operation”.

The Takfiri desire to commit mass killing was summarised by al-Muhajir in his hate-filled and inflammatory message:

“[The Lord] has, through the greatest of his guidance, made it legitimate for his servants that wage Jihad in his path to shoot the warring (harbi) unbelievers, kill them, fight them by every means that may snatch away their souls, drive their spirits from their bodies, cleansing the earth of their filth and removing their scourge from mankind, whatever that means may be”

According to al-Muhajir, WMD can achieve these levels of mass casualties:

“ …..Thus, the central aim for which we strive – and we do so with all available strength – is the acquisition of weapons – weapons of mass destruction – for there is no escaping the obligation to defend against these defiant perverters of faith and end the aggression of the malodourous filth against Islam and its people. For as long as this duty cannot be discharged without such weapons, then the acquisition of them is a duty and this is clearly evident to the greatest possible extent.…..”

I fully appreciate that these passages may appear strange and eccentric, to put it mildly. However, they provide a useful illustration of the Takfiri mindset. It is important to understand why they have come to this conclusion. The answer is that theology plays an essential role in their process of reasoning.

So what is the position of Islamic law on this subject? The answer, in summary, is as follows:

  • There definitely no discussion of this topic in the Qur’an.
  • There is equally no clear position in the hadith.
  • Al-Muhajir accordingly resorts to reasoning by false analogy. In other words, he simply attempts to find something similar to WMD in the analysis of the classical Muslim jurists of the Golden Era, relating the types of weapons and military tactics, and then tries to deploy it in order to sanction the use of WMD.

For example, the classical jurists discussed whether it is permissible to use flooding, burning and poisoning wells and other similar techniques in a war zone or not. As you can imagine, these jurists differ amongst themselves greatly. A significant number of jurists forbade such tactics, even in the context of the battlefield, because they understood and deplored the risk of killing non-combatants.

We should note, however, that the methods discussed above cannot be compared to the reality of the impact of WMD, which present a much greater risk to non-combatants. Nevertheless, al-Muhajir improperly takes the position that this reasoning applies to the use of any weapon that kills indiscriminately, and argues falsely that this reading reflects the position of the majority of traditional readings.

In summary, the idea that WMD are permissible and the intention to use them is sadly no longer a fantasy. The vision has been translated into ideas. I fear that is only a matter of time before those ideas are put into practice.

My next article will demonstrate that the Takfiri reading of the authorities is wrong, and is unsupported by the vast majority of modern and classical Muslim jurists.