zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » On the “head of infidelity” and the tale of Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf

On the “head of infidelity” and the tale of Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf

[ by Charles Cameron — linking some late notes of OBL with his 1996 Declaration of War ]

photo credit: Maqam of Abdul-Rahman,
Nate Mathews, The Azanian Sea

I was reading David Ignatiusaccount of the forthcoming Abbottabad papers a couple of days ago, and was struck by a phrase bin Laden used in describing Obama:

Before his death, Osama bin Laden boldly commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Obama and Gen. David Petraeus.

“The reason for concentrating on them,” the al-Qaeda leader explained to his top lieutenant, “is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make (Vice President Joe) Biden take over the presidency. … Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour … and killing him would alter the war’s path” in Afghanistan.

Obama is the head of infidelity — that had quite a ring to it.

And so, as I was rereading the text of bin Laden’s 1996 Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places this morning, I couldn’t help but notice his early use of the same phrase in that context:

And the story of Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf about Ummayyah Ibn Khalaf shows the extent of Bilal’s (may Allah be pleased with him) persistence in killing the head of the Kufr: “the head of Kufr is Ummayyah Ibn Khalaf…. I shall live not if he survives” said Bilal.

Here’s the story of the Companion Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf as bin Laden recounts it, in the paragraph immediately preceding the one just quoted:

Abdul-Rahman Ibn Awf -may Allah be pleased with him- said: (I was at Badr where I noticed two youths one to my right and the other to my left. One of them asked me quietly (so not to be heard by the other) : O uncle point out Aba-Jahl to me. What do you want him for? , said Abdul Rahman. The boy answered: I have been informed that he- Aba-Jahl- abused the Messenger of Allah (), I swear by Allah, who have my soul in His hand, that if I see Aba-Jahl I’ll not let my shadow departs his shadow till one of us is dead. I was astonished, said Abdul Rahman; then the other youth said the same thing as the first one. Subsequently I saw Aba-Jahl among the people; I said to the boys do you see? this is the man you are asking me about. The two youths hit Aba-Jahl with their swords till he was dead. Allah is the greatest, Praise be to Him: Two youths of young age but with great perseverance, enthusiasm, courage and pride for the religion of Allah’s, each one of them asking about the most important act of killing that should be induced on the enemy. That is the killing of the pharaoh of this Ummah – Aba Jahl-, the leader of the unbelievers (Mushrikeen) at the battle of Badr. The role of Abdul Rahman Ibn Awf, may Allah be pleased with him, was to direct the two youths toward Aba-Jahl. That was the perseverance and the enthusiasm of the youths of that time and that was the perseverance and the enthusiasm of their fathers. It is this role that is now required from the people who have the expertise and knowledge in fighting the enemy. They should guide their brothers and sons in this matter; once that has been done, then our youths will repeat what their forefathers had said before: “I swear by Allah if I see him I’ll not let my shadow to departs from his shadow till one of us is dead”.

Bin Laden clearly saw himself, from the time of his Declaration through to the end in Abbottabad, as a modern-day Abdul-Rahman ibn Awf, directing the persevering and enthusiastic youth…

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