Osama bin Laden vs Classical Jurisprudence

There is certainly much in classical jurisprudence within the Islamic faith that matches the Jihadist movement. The nominal core of living Islamic values as put forward by the Qur’an exists in both but as always with different interpretations of some core issues. Osama bin Laden adds in further contradictions ranging from the more superficial speeding to fundamental questions of how to bring forth a united Islamic state. This post will look into a few of these issues and discuss just how compatible from classical Islamic jurisprudence Jihadists found themselves.

The first point that has to be acknowledge is that Osama bin Laden and many Jihadists live pious lives that have been contrasted in many ways with those Arabian leaders bin Laden sought to discredit. Indeed, Wright quotes his mother in her assessment that “he loved adventure and poetry and little else but God” and while a few cases this sense of adventure did lead to his friend Khalifa stating “Really, he put us in danger many times” which clearly has issue with respect for the safety of others and self, bin Laden proved to be a devout Muslim in his strict adherence to pillars such as prayering despite not being surrounded by the same conviction in others.

His following of the law of Islam extends to his use of Jihad to protect Islamic lands and people. “Unlike [them], bin Laden has demonstrated that he can [forgo] the temptations of wealth, that he dares to strike powerful wrongdoers, and that he refuses to bend before superior might” which bin Laden shows has Qur’anic importance through a barrage quotes from the Qur’an that strengthen his definition of Jihad as a “defensive struggle” that demands the “individual obligation by all Muslims when the Umma has come under attack” (Lawrence, XVII and XX). His aggression to foreign invaders is completely justified under classical jurisprudence as protecting the faith

Taking 9/11 as a crucial step in the Jihadist’s and bin Laden’s dissociation from what classical jurisprudence would allow. As previously mentioned, Jihad is meant to defend the interests of as opposed to Harb which is an offensive move. Not only did bin Laden and the Jihadists betray the banner they flew in attacking a foreign city but they endangered the Umma which presents a much more serious crime. Any belief that the US would withdraw from Saudi Arabia after facing attacks on their own soil clearly “ignored the special conditions that had given them victory” against Russia and could not be defended in any rational debate (Lawrence XXI).

Another fundamental difference is the way Jihadists’ and specifically bin Laden’s “emphasis falls far more on the glories of martyrdom than the spoils of victory” (Lawrence XXII). Classical jurisprudence acknowledges and embraces the human desire for self-preservation to a much larger extent and would have taken much more care to balance serving the ongoing strength of Islam with providing a doctrine that serves the masses’ own needs.

Clearly Osama bin Laden and the Jihadists managed to found their belief upon the Qur’anic principle that lead classical jurisprudence however some fundamental differences indicate that many of bin Laden’s actions would have been objectable to the classical jurists.

Bruce Lawrence, Messages to the World, Verso

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2006

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Osama bin Laden vs Classical Jurisprudence

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