Al-Qaeda’s Leader Reiterates the Group’s Ideology, Intent to Strike the West

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 7, 2017


On 5 January 2017, the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave a speech, “To Other Than Allah, We Will Not Bow: Brief Messages To A Victorious Nation, Part 5”. Today, al-Qaeda channels put out an English translation. The emphasis of the speech was restating al-Qaeda’s creed and methodology, specifically as it differs from that of the Islamic State (IS). One noticeable point was al-Zawahiri’s admonition against IS’s genocidal approach to the Shi’a: lay Shi’is should not be harmed, al-Zawahiri says; rather, their leaders should be killed for misguiding them and the masses converted to Sunnism. Al-Zawahiri also reiterates that al-Qaeda remains focused on the West and determined to carry out terrorism against it—regardless of whatever short-term strategic calculations currently have al-Qaeda de-emphasizing this aspect of its worldview and conduct. The speech is reproduced below with some transliteration editions and some sections bolded for emphasis.

In the Name of Allah. All praise is due to Allah. And may prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah and his companions and those that follow him. Dear Muslim brothers everywhere. May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you. To proceed:

It was by the grace of Allah upon the mujahideen—including al-Qaeda—that they sacrificed to represent the real threat to the greedy senior criminals on this earth. And with the grace of Allah they had a major role in awakening the Muslim nation, and even the rest of the oppressed on the world. By demanding their rights and confronting polytheism, oppression, injustice, and aggression.

A campaign was therefore launched against the mujahideen—including al-Qaeda—to discredit, intimidate, and alienate them. One of those who participated in this campaign were, unfortunately, the liars of Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi). Those [i.e. the Islamic State] who lie about us claimed that we do not disbelieve in idols (Taghut) and that we crawl behind the majority, and praise Muhammad Morsi, and that we describe him as being the hope of the umma [Islamic community], and one of its heroes. They even went beyond that and claimed that I have said that Christians are partners in government. I, however, said that they are partners in the homeland, meaning in agriculture, trade, and money, and that we preserve their sacredness concerning it on the basis of our religious guidelines [the shari’a].

But they insisted on lying, so much so that they even claimed that we do not make takfir on [excommunicate] the Shi’a. This despite the fact we sent them [the Islamic State] the document, “General Guidelines for Jihadi Operations,” a year before it was published, and they did not comment on it with so much as a word. I have sent them messages numerous times to refrain from bombings on markets and hussayniyat and mosques, telling them that they should instead focus on the army and security forces and politicians and the Shi’a militias.1 They did not object to a word. But when we stood in the face of their greed, their trespassing concerning the shedding of blood, they claimed that we do not make takfir on the Shi’a and that we prevent the fight against them. I quoted the statements of the Sunni Imams concerning the lay Shi’is [whose blood is not to be shed], and I wrote instructing them to attack the army, police, and Iraqi security forces, who mostly are from the Shi’a, as well as the Shi’a militias. I even wrote this subject in darker colours and underlined it, so that no one could use weak sight as an excuse. But what is the solution for weak insight!

Likewise, a campaign was launched to alienate us [from other insurgent groups], saying that you should go away from al-Qaeda so that America does not consider you to be terrorists, so that their airstrikes do not hit you, and you do not carry the consequence of the war against al-Qaeda. As if the pleasure of America is the goal or path to victory in jihad! As if al-Qaeda became a criminal because they are hostile to America and their corrupt agents in our countries. And as if America did not exterminate the Muslims before the establishment of al-Qaeda and after it.

America exterminated nearly five million people in Vietnam, and caused the deformation of more than half-a-million babies due to Agent Orange, which America dropped and which made different types of cancers appear. Before that, in the Second World War, their fire bombs—without their atom bombs—killed nearly 400,000 people in Japan, and then in Hiroshima and Nagasaki their atomic bombs killed more than 150,000 people in order to accelerate the end of the war, even though the defeat of Japan was already confirmed.2 In Hamburg their incendiary bombs killed 60,000 in just one night, in Dresden on another night 135,000 were killed, and when the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked about the death of half-a-million of children due to the sanctions against Iraq she answered infamously, “It was worth it”. America and its allies dropped 320 tons of depleted uranium on Iraq in the first Gulf war. As for Afghanistan and the second Gulf war, nobody knows how much of it they dropped.

All of this was used by America—and is still used by America—against the Buddhist Vietnamese, the Communists, and Christian Germans, and against the army of the nationalist, secularist army of Saddam. They do not have any connection with al-Qaeda, nevertheless there is no difference between them, as long as they stand in the way of their greedy ambitions. So the bombardments are not limited against al-Qaeda. Rather they are targeted against everyone who goes against the greedy ambitions of America.3 If America didn’t have any mercy with Muhammad Morsi, the one who agreed with everything it wanted, then will it have mercy with a mujahid who calls for the rule of the shari’a and the liberation of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and the remaining Muslim lands,4 even if he is from other than al-Qaeda?

So the matter is crystal clear, we must not be prisoners to the terrorism of Western propaganda and politics, nor to the deceit of their hustling agents and those liars with (hidden) objectives, who accuse al-Qaeda of all types of betrayal, including being agents of America, created in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, and agents of Saudi Arabia, created by their money. The Rawafid [the Iranian government in this case], the modern day Safavids, accused us of being agents of America and Israel. Their propaganda instruments said in an outright lie that the raid of 9/11 is a Zionist conspiracy and a U.S. pretext to attack Iran, which still has not happened fifteen years after the raids. Rather, the relationship between them is even strengthened, and they [America and Iran] became allies against the Muslims in Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant. And the propaganda instruments of the gates and the servant of American bases in the Gulf said that we are agents of Iran who seek to achieve its interests. Eventually they warned against us because we are enemies of America, and the one who walks with us inherits our crimes.

When Shaykh Usama bin Ladin—may Allah have mercy on him—sought to unite the mujahideen, they accused him of becoming a hard-line extremist under the influence of those who made takfir on the government and armies. On the contrary, they themselves—according to the modern day Khawarij [the Islamic State]—became apostates, who deviated from the methodology of Usama bin Ladin, after praising him and begging to be mentioned in his speeches, because, according to their slanders, we diluted our statements in showing the apostasy of the [Arab] rulers, and we crawled behind the majority, we did not make takfir on the Shi’a, we supported Muhammad Morsi, and we differentiated between the armies of the tyrants before the revolution and after it. With this, they surpassed their ancestors by lying deliberately and repeatedly, which their ancestors saw as disbelief.

Thus, we have lies which contradict each other and one fabrication against another in a sea of crashing lies. And if the most noble of creation (Peace and Blessing be upon him) was accused of being a poet and a magician and possessed—and the hypocrites and the Rawafid after them slandered his pure wives, and the Rawafid made takfir on the majority of the companions, and if the Khawarij made takfir on the companions and killed them, and if Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf was a role model for the retirees of Saddam’s army officers and secret service who affirmed the Caliphate of Ibrahim al-Badri, who used to kill his opponents in Kufa because they did not testify to their own disbelief—then will we be safe from the slanders which the Prophets were not spared from (peace be upon them), nor the noble companions (may Allah be pleased with them), nor those that followed them.

If a slander of treachery and deceit has reached you about me,

Then the slanderer is more treacherous and deceiving.


Therefore, I would like to summarize and explain here, in quick points, what the message al-Qaeda is to the Muslim nation and the entire world. But before I begin I want to point out three things.

First, we are not infallible, rather we are human beings and are correct at times and make mistakes at times. We must listen to advice. We have a right over our nation to receive advice and guidance, provided that it is based on realistic sincerity and shari’a evidence. In any case, we will benefit from the advice, inshallah, whether we are convinced of it or not. We want to establish a dialogue between those who serve Islam—and especially the people of jihad—concerning the most correct methodology and most guided methods to support the religion.

Second, what we choose of practical methods to give victory to Islam, like our call to our nation that we must prioritize our jihad against the false god of today, America, is only a scientific theory, it is not a sacred revelation, and we accept from our mujahid and Muslim brothers consultation, advice, and guidance. We adapt to the practical reality wherever it is, as long as we are compliant with the orders of the shari’a and refrain from its prohibitions.

Third, we have explained our methodology and our message numerous times, and our brothers expanded this—from the Islamic Maghreb to the Indian subcontinent—and enlarged it. They have presented evidences and refuted suspicions, and they have left a blessed production and a daw’a [missionary] legacy and a commendable science. We have likewise summarized and focused our daw’a and message in summaries like the document, “Victory of Islam,” and, “General Guidelines for Jihad.” But it is not a problem to re-summarize our message to our nation and the entire world again, because a reminder benefits the believers (Quran 51:55).

I say—while seeking the help of Allah—that the elements of our message to our nation and the entire world are:

First, the call towards the unification of Allah the Almighty (monotheism), and singling out Allah the Almighty for worship and governance with His shari’a and supplications and rituals.

Second, the call to the rule of the Islamic shari’a, its principles, beliefs, and laws, and rejecting the rule of others than Him, whether they be from the governments of masses which gives sovereignty to the people [democracies] or the governance of the international system which was established by the prevailing forces after the Second World War and named the United Nations.

Third, to unite the umma around the testimony of tawhid (monotheism), which is shown by the Noble Qur’an and the Pure Sunnah and the biography of the righteous Caliphs and the noble companions—may Allah be pleased with them—and the three blessed generations [al-salaf al-salih] about which the Messenger of Allah—may peace and blessings be upon him—said, “The best people are those of my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.”

Fourth, the revival of the duty of jihad among the Muslim nation to liberate their countries from the occupation of indigenous disbelievers and their apostate agents. This includes the rejection of all treaties, conventions, or international resolutions that give the disbelievers the right to seize the lands of the Muslims, like the seizure of Palestine by Israel, the seizure of Central Asia and the Caucasus by Russia, the seizure of Kashmir by India, the seizure of Ceuta and Melilla by Spain, and the seizure of Eastern Turkistan by China. And we invite our mujahid nation to make the jihad against the modern day false idol, America, and its allies, their first priority as much as they can afford,5 taking into account the circumstances of each Jihadi arena and what achieves its interests.

Fifth, attached to this matter is making every effort to free the Muslim prisoners.

Sixth, work to stop the systematic looting of Muslim wealth.

Seventh, support and aid the Muslim peoples in their revolutions against the corrupt oppressive tyrants, educate the people about the necessity to govern with the shari’a and complying with the Islamic laws, and inciting the people who did not rise to revolt to follow the example of those who preceded them, to rid the Islamic world from proxy governance.

Eighth, calling towards the unification of the mujahideen and bringing them closer, and urging them to cooperate, collaborate, and coordinate in the face of the Secularist-Zionist-Crusader-Safawi-Chinese-Hindu campaign.

Ninth, the pursuit of a Caliphate on the Prophetic methodology, which is based on the appointment of Muslims and their contentment, which establishes justice and mutual consultation, wages jihad against the enemies of Islam, restores the rights of and supports the oppressed, does not recognize national states, nor national associations, nor the borders imposed by the occupiers, and believes in the unity of Muslim lands and the association of Muslim brotherhood that is settled between them.

Tenth, refraining from harming Muslims and everything which is forbidden by the shari’a from aggression, to bombing, killings, kidnapping, and the confiscation of money or property.

Eleventh: give victory to the oppressed and the weak Muslims or believers who are wronged and oppressed, and aid and encourage everyone who supporters them, even if he is not a Muslim.

If these are crimes then they are our pride and honour, and this is what we store for the Day of Resurrection.

Say to America, For other than Allah we will not bow,

We will strive on the Path of Allah, We will not succumb nor fear,

We will not go back, Even if the fearful do,

Who begs for the world, And who strives and longs,

We will announce it to everyone, Those who sees and hears,

That it is a criminal war, And aids are gathered for it,

And steals the bread of its people, Humiliating or suppressing them,

It prescribes the religion of disbelief, It calls for it and they kneels for it,

Until the shari’a will rule, To it we call and to it we submit,

We will liberate Masjid al-Aqsa, As well as the Two Holy Mosques,

And every country of our nation, And our prisoners, and we will not decline,

Without the rightly guided Caliphate, Which will unite us all,  

And we will rub the nose of America, And all those that follow it,

And we will hear them say it with dislike, To other than Allah we will not bow.

Our final prayer is all praise is due to Allah the Lord of the worlds. And peace and blessings be upon our master Muhammad and his household and companions. May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you







[1] The treatment of the Shi’a, specifically the Shi’a masses, is a long-running dispute between al-Qaeda and IS. In July 2005, al-Zawahiri wrote to IS’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) to complain about IS’s conduct against Shi’is. Al-Zawahiri conceded that al-Qaeda “central,” no less than IS, understood that the Iraqi Shi’a had conspired with the Americans to topple Saddam Husayn and that Twelver Shi’ism was a “religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad of heresy in a campaign against Islam,” but “the majority of Muslims don’t comprehend” the need for attacks on Shi’i civilians, especially their mosques and the shrine of Imam Ali, who is revered by Sunnis, too. “Is the opening of another front now in addition to the front against the Americans and the government a wise decision? Or, does this conflict with the Shi’a lift the burden from the Americans by diverting the mujahideen to the Shi’a, while the Americans continue to control matters from afar? And if the attacks on Shi’a leaders were necessary to put a stop to their plans, then why were there attacks on ordinary Shi’a?” al-Zawahiri asked rhetorically, mixing moral questions and strategic ones. “[C]an the mujahideen kill all of the Shia in Iraq? … [W]hy kill ordinary Shi’a considering that they are forgiven because of their ignorance? And what loss will befall us if we did not attack the Shi’a? And do the brothers forget that we have more than one hundred prisoners—many of whom are from [al-Qaeda’s] leadership, who are wanted in their countries—in the custody of the Iranians? And even if we attack the Shi’a out of necessity, then why do you announce this matter and make it public, which compels the Iranians to take counter measures? And do the brothers forget that both we and the Iranians need to refrain from harming each other at this time in which the Americans are targeting us?”

[2] It is an old argument of Soviet fellow travellers and Chomskyists (there is a considerable overlap) that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the opening acts of the Cold War, rather than the closing scenes of the Second World War—an intimidatory gesture to Joseph Stalin rather than a necessary means of breaking the will of a society committed to war and death. It is not true, of course. On the American side, President Harry Truman was faced with a Tokyo regime that remained unbowed despite the devastation inflicted on Japan with conventional munitions, and was in the planning stages of a land invasion that would have taken as many Japanese lives as the atomic bombings—plus a terrifying number of American military casualties, a prelude to which had been seen at Okinowa. So far from trying to frighten the Soviet Union away from an American conquest, Truman sought Soviet entry into the Pacific War to minimize American casualties (the Soviets only declared war on Japan between the two bombings). On the Japanese side, both bombs were needed for the peace camp to prevail.

[3] There has recently been as serious escalation in the number of U.S. strikes against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, al-Qaeda’s rebranded presence in Syria (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra). To the limited extent there is any strategic thinking behind this related to the insurgency, it seems to be an effort to push the mainstream rebels and even the non-mainstream Syrian insurgent forces away from JFS, and this is what al-Zawahiri is responding to.

[4] In al-Qaeda’s conception, “Muslim lands” includes Iberia, the Balkans, Austria, parts of Poland, and anywhere else that was ever part of Islamdom.

[5] Al-Zawahiri underlines that whatever “localist” focus al-Qaeda’s branches have at this moment, they remain intent on using terrorism against the West. A strategic decision to avoid such attacks has been taken, for now, but once al-Qaeda has ensured itself against retaliation it will recommence such attacks.

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