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The new AQ magazine: miracles from Khorasan

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- there's a similar report from Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, fwiw ]
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I have commented before on the use of miracle stories by Abdullah Azzam as quoted in Inspire magazine, and an African equivalent found in Gaidi Mtaani, the Shabaab magazine, to engage the devotion and loyalty of pious troops: Resurgence magazine continues the tradition.

Hasan Gul

Here for your edification from the new AQIS magazine Resurgence, are two examples, drawn from the life and martyrdom of Hasan Gul, known to the Washington Post, and likely many ZP readers, as Hassan Ghul.

The first as to do with the miraculous preservation of his life:

When Shaykh Khalid Habib, the military head of Al Qaida in Khurasan, was martyred, brother Hasan Gul was with him. The Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) was inside the car, while he was standing outside. He had just extended his hand to open the door of the car when a missile fired from a drone hit the car. Allah (swt) miraculously saved his life. He was thrown several feet away by the explosion. His shin bone was fractured as a result. Several days later, when I met him he showed me a coin that had been in the upper pocket of his shirt, just above his heart at the time of the drone attack. A small shrapnel of the missile had hit the coin, because of which the coin had been bent inwards. Allah (swt) prevented the shrapnel from piercing his heart with this small coin. Verily, when Allah (swt) decrees life for His slave, no one can give him death!

It seems plausible that the same mercy was extended to one of Cromwell‘s soldiers in the English Civil War, if one may trust James Waylen’s 1880 The House of Cromwell and the Story of Dunkirk:

An account of the pocket-Bible printed by Cromwell’s order for distribution among his men was some time back published by Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, Massachusets, who possesses one of the only two copies known to exist, the other being in the Brit. Mus. Library. .. That such a book was really in use, we learn from Richard Baxter who relates the story of a soldier receiving a shot near the heart, the fatal force of the bullet being arrested by its lodging in the Bible which he carried in his breast. And a very thin Bible it was too, being comprised in a sheet folded in 16mo. An entire Bible, even in the most compact form then known, would have been far too bulky and far too expensive.

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The second deals with the pleasant scent that Azzam had previously noted was a mark of the martyr — here’s the same motif as applied to Hasan Gul:

Last year in October, when he left his house on a motor bike, American drones assassinated him. His body was shredded to bits by a direct missile hit and his remains were scattered over a large area. When some Mujahid brothers reached the site of the attack, they faced the problem of searching for and gathering the bits and pieces of his body. However, Allah (swt) made this task easy for them. A large part of his body was easily found. An ethereal fragrance that was simply not of this world was coming from this dismembered part of his body. This extremely beautiful fragrance was smelt by all the brothers present at the scene. The brothers then decided to locate his body parts with the help of this scent. All the brothers had to do was to follow this fragrance to find a part of his body. All the parts of his body exuded this fragrance without any exception. Thus the fragrance of Hasan Gul’s blood led to the remains of his body. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him the company of the Prophets and the righteous. Ameen!

Again, I refer you to my post Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad for comments on similar reports in Catholic and Arthurian literatures.

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But let’s return briely to that Bible story — there’s really quite an extended history of these reports.

Consider the American Civil War veteran of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry Division, whose daughter wrote:

At another time a bullet hit the New Testament he was carrying in his shirt pocket and glanced off. This sweetheart, who later became his wife, had given him the New Testament when he entered the service.

Or the Army Cyclist Corps despatch rider whose life was saved by a still-extant “combined Bible, prayer book and hymnal” near Arras, France, in 1915:

bible-saved life

Or Pfc. Brendon Schweigart, who claims only that when a sniper’s bullet found the Bible in his shirt pocket in Iraq, it:

definitely prevented more serious injury, because if it wouldn’t have been there, it would have ricocheted off my bullet-proof plate and more than likely would have gone back into my chest, causing more damage.

Indeed, the “Bible stopped the bullet” tale has enough variants that Mythbusters once tested it with a 400-page Bible, albeit not one with a metal cover…

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Because, yes, metal-covered Bibles were given to GIs in World War II with the cover inscribed “May this keep you safe from harm” — no doubt with the hope and prayer that if need be, the metal covering would indeed prove a protective “breastplate of righteousness”:

Heart shield bible

In fact, the 1943 “Heart Shield Bible” depicted is on sale now on eBay, at a current asking price of $21.49.

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It’s no dcoubt a bit of a stretch, but I believe that when you “encourage” miracles by providing metallic holy pocket-books for protective use on the battleield, it’s an example of what Max Weber famously called the “routinization of charisma”.

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The new AQ magazine: Ghazwa e-Hind & more

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- while one prong of the AQ jihad marches on Jerusalem, the other has its sights set on India ]
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Resurgence cover and back

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Well, you only need to get as far as page 5 in the new, 117-page magazine Resurgence from As-Sahab Media (Subcontinent) — AQ with an eye on India, in other words — to read this:

The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Allah has saved two groups of my Ummah from the Hellfire: the group that will invade Al Hind (the Subcontinent) and the group that will be with Eesa (A.S), the son of Mariam.” It is also narrated on account of Abu Hurrairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) promised us the conquest of Al Hind (the Indian Subcontinent). If I am able to join it, I will spend on it my wealth and my life. If I am killed, I will be the best of martyrs and if I return, I will be Abu Hurrairah, the freed one (i.e. from Hellfire).”

That’s the Ghazwa, folks – prong #2 of the end times jihad from Khorasan (for these purposes, roughly speaking Af-Pak), in which a second victorious army sweeps down to take the subcontinent and place its banner atop Delhi’s Red Fort, while the first sweeps westward from the same region to take Jerusalem and much else besides.

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  • Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid is not always taken seriously when he talks about it
  • Ambassador Husain Haqqani however takes it seriously
  • as does Ahrar-ul-Hind
  • The Daily Mail says British intel is on it:
    17Fir08-09.qxp

  • and now, as seen in the para at the top of this post, AQIS makes it a focus of the first edition of its very own magazine
  • There’s a section on Khorasan, too, but I’ll deal with it separately. It’s about miracles.

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    A few more quick notes.

    It is mid-to-late October — and the magazine was announced as “coming soon” in this video from March:

    Note that the video voice over is that of Malcolm X. A quick word search suggests that Malcolm X is not, however, featured in the magazine itself.

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    The magazine at one point quotes Michael Hayden, ex-chief of both NSA and CIA,

    One of the points I am beginning to think through now is that those lines drawn after World War I by Mr. Sykes and Mr. Picot don’t matter the way they used to. At the end of this, we may see those lines go away.

    I haven’t been able to find a record of that statement in those words, but Hayden talked about Sykes-Picot at the Jamestown Foundation conference in December 2013, suggesting that the “dissolution of Syria” was one possible, unpleasant scenario to consider. He is quoted elsewhere as saying:

    It means the end of the Sykes-Picot (Agreement), it sets in motion the dissolution of all the artificial states created after World War I .. I greatly fear the dissolution of the state. A de facto dissolution of Sykes-Picot.

    The Resurgence quote makes it almost sound as though Gen Hayden liked the idea of the Sykes-Picot lines “dissolving”.

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    There’s a page on which Zawahiri takes on the IS / Daesh “caliphate” — addressing the footsoldiers both affiliated and perhaps considering affiliation:

    O’ My Mujahid Brother!

    The order of your ameer does not absolve you of responsibility. No Zawahiri, Jawlani, Hamawi or Baghdadi will be able to absolve you of your responsibility if you ever aggress upon your Mujahid brothers. On the Day of Judgment, each one of them will be in need of someone to save them from accountability ..

    Know that you will die alone, be buried alone, resurrected alone, stand in front of your Lord alone, and be answerable for your actions alone. Your Ameer will not be with you in any of these instances. So prepare yourself for that critical day.

    Let me tell you this: If I were ever to tell you to aggress upon hyour Mujahid brothers, disobey me; for I will be of no avail to you on the Day of Judgment.

    Zawahiri presumably still believes his supporters — in Jabhat an-Nusra eg — can defend themselves if attacked by IS jihadists, though ..

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    There’s probably more to note — as I said, the entire publication runs more than a hundred pages — but those are my first notes.

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    Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Shiraz Maher, & Edwin Bakker at van Lynden lecture panel

    Sunday, October 12th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a deep look into IS / Daesh from Amsterdam ]
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    This video contains some of the most fine-grained analysis of IS / Daesh and the situation in Iraq / Syria that I have seen so far:

  • Eye-witness report from the frontline by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad [0:7:00]
  • Discussion on the appeal of IS to foreign fighters by Shiraz Maher [0:22:15]
  • Implications for Western foreign policy by prof. Edwin Bakker [0:37:36]
  • Panel discussion on Western foreign policy, moderated by Ernesto Braam [0:53:15]
  • Audience Q&A moderated by Ernesto Braam [1:02:40]
  • The detailed description of the mix of local interests present in IS / Daesh provided by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in his initial presentation is very impressive indeed, as are his comments around 1.32.30 about the fifty or so factions working under the IS / Daesh name and umbrella..

    On another tack, one particular phrase he used [0.16.45] caught my attention:

    This is a new breed of militias .. the Shia al-Qaida.

    I recommend the entire 2 hour presentation.

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    A few further comments…

    To my ear, this was one of the key remarks from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad during the Q&A:

    The more you bomb, the more you radicalize.

    His remarks from abound the 1.08.00 minute mark up to that quote less than a minute later are chilling in the extreme.

    There’s an interesting question raised from the gallery at about the 1.16.30 mark, asking how US or European citizens volunteering to fight with the IDF differ from citizens of the same nations volunteering to fight in one branch or other of the jihad. Aren’t both of them instances of youth traveling to the Middle East to fight?

    Dr Bakker responds to this question at around 1.29.20 with a story about an uncle of his who fought in the Spanish Civil War. FWIW I imagine that this is an extremely touchy question, and would welcome ZP comments..

    And here’s a key Q&A remark from Shiraz Maher around 1.22.30:

    What should a de-rad program look like? … Some kind of deal needs to be struck: some form of pardon, in return for cooperation, cooperation that leads to active intelligenve, that leads to us gaining a better insight about the threat…

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    I’m particularly interested in this video because I hold a high opinion of Dr Edwin Bakker of Leiden University, having followed his Terrorism and CT Coursera course three times now, the last two times as a TA.

    I recommend his comments here, his analytic work in general, and his Coursera class in particular.

    Interestingly enough for my own purposes, Dr Bakker’s final slide juxtaposed these two images, one from Zhitomar in the Ukraine, the other drom IS / Daesh in Syria, to good effect — in what regular readers here will recognise is essentially a DoubleQuote in the Wild:

    Zhitomir, Ukraine

    and

    Iraq_bodies

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    All in all, a most enlightening panel.

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    Al-Nusra and Daesh: a joy, a grief and a prayer

    Thursday, October 9th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- reading the Quran & hadith concerning the fates of Fr Hanna Jallouf, Alan Hemming, and Peter Kassig ]
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    L-to-R: hostages  Fr Hanna Jallouf, Alan Hemming, and Peter Kassig

    L-to-R: hostages Fr Hanna Jallouf, Alan Hemming, and Peter Kassig

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    I rejoice that Jabhat al-Nusra has released the Franciscan priest Fr Hanna Jallouf, remembering Qur’an 5.82:

    Thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love to the believers are those who say ‘We are Christians’; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud;

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    I grieve because IS / Daesh has executed the aid worker Alan Henning, remembering Quran 60.8:

    God forbids you not, as regards those who have not fought you in religion’s cause, nor expelled you from your habitations, that you should be kindly to them, and act justly towards them; surely God loves the just.

    As a sizeable group of British imams put it:

    Mr Henning was a volunteer who travelled to Syria to help innocent civilians.

    Acts of humanitarianism are an essential element of religious practice for all Muslims, and of course they are just as significant to other people too. Islamic teachings call for charity and selflessness. Most importantly, acts of beneficence do not, and cannot, exclude non-Muslims.

    In Islam, concern for fellow humans and the duty to help everyone is a religious obligation. Anyone undertaking a humanitarian act is paving his or her way to receive help from heaven, should be commended and held in the highest esteem.

    In contrast, the senseless kidnapping, murder and now the despicable threats to Mr Henning at the hands of so-called ‘Muslims’ cannot be justified anywhere in the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions).

    The un-Islamic fanatics are not acting as Muslims, but as the Prime Minister has said, they are acting as monsters. They are perpetrating the worst crimes against humanity. This is not Jihad – it is a war against all humanity.

    **

    And I pray for the life of Peter Kassig, a Muslim convert now captive and under threat of death by IS / Daesh, remembering Quran 16.125:

    Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.

    and the hadith found in Sahih Bukhari, vol 1, bk 2, # 25:

    Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

    Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah.”

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    Language as tripwire: the Khorasan Group and the active and passive voices

    Thursday, October 9th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- first in a series in which the language makes a difference ]
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    There is this business of the so-called “Khorasan Group”.

    Two paragraphs of CENTCOM’s news release, Sept. 23: U.S. Military, Partner Nations Conduct Airstrikes Against ISIL in Syria, mention the phrase “Khorasan group”. The first of these reads:

    Separately, the United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans – sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group – who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.

    Notice the use of the passive voice: the group is “sometimes referred to as” the Khorasan Group. This is either skillful linguistic obfuscation or bureaucratic linguistic ineptitude, and I tend to vote for the latter, because so few people know how to write decent Ebglish any more, while those that do can easily be paid to forget.

    The passive voice doesn’t tell us who does the referring — who refers to the group as the Khorasan Group. It might be Americans in intelligence circles, in the Department, in the media — it might be other Syrians, intercepts from Jabhat Nusra communications or AQC — or the “group” themselves.

    As recipients of the CENTCOM news release, however, and by means of that passive voice construction, we just don’t know.

    **

    And perhaps it matters.

    Perhaps it matters because the place named “Khorasan” has a distinctive meaning in Islamic eschatology. It is the place of origin of the army with black banners that will sweep victoriously down to Jerusalem, either led by the Mahdi or coming to his aid. While there is a province in Iran still called Khorasan, a far greater area including parts of Iran (Masshad, eg), Afghanistan (Herat, Balkh), Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan was designated Khorasan in earlier times, and both AQ and Iran have used the hadith about the army from Khorasan in support of their own activities.

    Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since that CENTCOM press release two weeks ago, and I’m not going to link to all the wise and foolish articles that have explored the nature of the group — but journalist Jenan Moussa has seen internal memos of the group that was attacked under the name “Khorasan Group”, and the name is not one they have viven themselves:

    So why is the Administration using a loaded apocalyptic term to describe what seems in effect to be a group of AQC fighters sent to fight under the aegis of Jabhat al-Nusra?

    Language matters, place-names matter, and the use of the passive voice only confuses what should be clearly understood.

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