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Ghazwa-e-Hind revisited: Husain Haqqani

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a highly recommended article on an often overlooked topic ]

Amb Haqqani


Amb. Husain Haqqani has a new piece up on the Hudson Institute site, Prophecy & the Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, which deals with the Ghazwa-e-Hind. I have quoted Haqqani before on this topic, since he is an eminently credible witness, unlike the propagandist Zaid Hamid.

Key intro para:

Radical Islamists invoke the Hadith (the oral traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) to prophesize a great battle in India between true believers and unbelievers before the end-times. These references in the Hadith to the Ghazwa-e-Hind (Battle of India) infuse South Asia with importance as a battleground in the efforts to create an Islamic caliphate resembling the social order that existed at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the Rightly Guided Caliphs (632-661 AD).

After discussing the Khorasan-to-Jerusalem and Euphrates-gold ahadith (the latter easily and often interpreted to refer to Middle Eastern oil, aka “black gold”), he turns to the Ghazwa traditions:

In one version of the Hadith, attributed to Thawban, a freed slave of the Prophet Muhammad, “[t]he Messenger of Allah said: ‘there are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the Fire: The group that invades India, and the group that will be with Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon him.’”4 Isa bin Maryam is the Quranic name of Jesus, whose return to earth alongside the Mahdi is held in Islamic tradition to be a seminal event of the end of time.

In another version, narrated by Abu Hurairah, “[t]he Messenger of Allah promised us that we would invade India. If I live to see that, I will sacrifice myself and my wealth. If I am killed, I will be one of the best of the martyrs, and if I come back, I will be Abu Hurairah Al-Muharrar.” Al-Muharrar translates as “the one freed from the fire of hell.”

We hear relatively little about the Ghazwa-e-Hind narrative in the west, so Haqqani then offers some recent historical context:

Just as the prophecies of Khurasan became popular during the wars in Afghanistan, the Ghazwa-e-Hind divinations became a staple of the Islamist discourse after the launch of jihad in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir in 1989. Throughout the 1990s, Pakistani official media also encouraged discussion of the Ghazwa-e-Hind Hadith to motivate jihadists. In fact, every major Pakistan-based jihadi group that launched terrorist attacks across the border claimed that their operations were part of the Battle for India promised by the Prophet. For these Pakistani groups, supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the target of jihad should be the modern state of India and its “occupation” of Kashmir.


This next para gave me pause and insight, quoting as it does a Deobandi source:

According to Maulana Waris Mazhari of the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary in Uttar Pradesh, India, the conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir was not jihad; the dream of establishing “Muslim hegemony throughout the entire world” was fanciful. “The term ghalba-e Islam, the establishment of the supremacy of Islam, used in the context of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet (Hadith), refers not to any political project of Muslim domination,” Mazhari wrote, “but, rather, to the establishment of the superiority of Islam’s ideological and spiritual message.”

Haqqani then goes into considerably more detail on Mazhari‘s views, saying for instance:

Mazhari saw the Ghazwa-e-Hind Hadith as an instrument of propaganda in “the proxy war engaged in by Kashmir by powerful forces in Pakistan in the guise of a so-called Jihad,” which he and other Ulema consider “nothing but deceit.”


Haqqani next turns to the various contemporary jihadist interpretations of the Ghazwa, starting with the shifts occasioned by the defeat of the Taliban and the death of Osama bin Laden:

The defeat of the Taliban and the arrival of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2001 shifted al-Qaeda’s major operations to Iraq and Yemen even though Osama bin Laden continued to hide in Pakistan. For some time, discussion of the epic battle for India diminished in the jihadi discourse while grand strategies for the expulsion of Western influence from the Middle East took center stage. The death of Osama bin Laden and the rise of ISIS, however, have revived global jihadist interest in Ghazwa-e-Hind.


The recent revival of interest in the Ghazwa-e-Hind prophecy reflects rivalry between competing jihadi groups. Al-Qaeda, now led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, faces the prospect of extinction as its Arab cadres defect to ISIS, led by Baghdadi. Zawahiri has worked to build alliances with Pakistani jihadi groups and make inroads in India’s Muslim population because it helps him remain relevant in the face of ISIS.

As to that rivalry between AQ and IS, Haqqani concludes his piece:

Al-Qaeda appears to be attempting to maintain support among radical Islamists in the subcontinent by directing its ire at India. Its leaders have been active in Afghanistan and Pakistan since the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad and maintain close ties to the Pakistani-supported Afghan Taliban and Kashmiri jihadi groups. By focusing on India, al-Qaeda hopes to retain the support of Pakistan-backed groups, which interpret the Ghazwa-e-Hind Hadith to mean re-conquest of Hindu India without hitting Muslim Pakistan. Even in Zawahiri’s statement about AQIS, Pakistan was mentioned only as a country that needed to be brought under full Sharia rule while Hindu India was portrayed as the enemy of Islam.

ISIS, on the other hand, has accepted the allegiance of groups that are violently opposed to both the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. ISIS affiliates appear to have opted for the alternative interpretation of Ghazwa-e-Hind, offered by groups such as the TTP, to pursue jihad in all parts of historic Hind. Indeed, in an ominous declaration, one South Asian ISIS member proclaimed, “[o]ur struggle is ongoing and Insha’Allah after defeating Pakistan Army, we won’t just stop in Pakistan rather we shall continue our advance into Kashmir and India until the laws of Allah are implemented globally and the whole world comes under the rule of one Muslim Khalifah.”

All in all, this is a fascinating and timely article, and I highly recommended it as a counterpoise to our usual concern with westward-facing jihad.

Those black banners / AQ flags, revisited

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — don’t let’s go overboard, eh? ]

I’d like to note up front that Liz Sly was talking about a pro-Morsi rally, and Leah very possibly about an anti-Morsi event…

In any case, these two tweets between them remind me that my own interpretation of “black banners” in terms of the army from Khorasan may well be due for retirement except when specifically indicated.


I’ve been writing here for a while about the black banners of Khorasan and their apocalyptic resonance, especially for those in Afghanistan and recruiting for AQ: today I’d like to suggest two qualifications.

The first is that there are a variety of black flags flown in various parts of the world for various purposes, and have been since the Prophet first flew his black flag, the Raya. It seems plausible that the Khorasan ahadith originated with the ‘Abbasids, in support of their own miltary activities, and certainly black banners taken together with those ahadith have been a powerful recruiting tool for AQ, as illuuminated in their respective books by Ali Soufan and Syed Saleem Shahzad.

But there are black flags and black flags, some plain black, some bearing the shahada, some with what looks to be a replica of the Prophet’s seal — and the one that is most commonly called “the Al-Qaida flag” is the one that originated with the Islamic State of Iraq — see Aaron Zelin‘s post on the matterr at al-Wasat. That post, btw, is likely the one that seeded my thoughts here.

My second point, then? A problem arises when we begin to think that any black flag seen, photographed, or reported in any Islamist context is “the AQ flag” — or indeed that any of the varieties of black flag reported hither and yon would qualify for that appellation.

In Iraq, the flag with seal, okay. A black flag with shahada in a Khorasan / Mahdist context — yes, and with Mahdist overtones. Otherwise — maybe, or maybe not so much.

So could we be a little more cautious, and more specific?

As for Cairo — I wasn’t there, and haven’t see a Liz Sly photo, so I don’t know which black flag or flags she saw. And yes, she was at a pro-Morsi rally. But as Leah notes, in recent days black flags have been less prominent, and Egyptian flags more in evidence — as indeed, this photo from an anti-Morsi rally on July 3 this year suggests:

If my guess is any good, then, black flags showing up in Egypt now presumably indicate MB or Islamist but not necessarily by any means AQ sympathies, while Egyptian flags would appear to indicate dissatisfaction with Morsi and his Islamist cohorts, combined with strong nationalist sentiment and pride.


Corrections, amplifications etc are welcome… This is a test post, really: a big question mark. I’ve an inquisitive mind to be sure — but as you’ll have seen in my previous post, I also admit to ignorance.

Oh —

And now I’m totally confused, too — El Cid just pointed me to Arch Enemy‘s Under Black Flags We March video. Eh?

Apocalyptic Fire in Azan #2

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — on end-times rhetoric and having no need of sun or moon ]

Detail from a Commentary on the Apocalypse by Beatus of Liebana


On the whole, the “signs of the end times” described in the installment of Maulana Asim Umar‘s Third World War and Dajjal, pp. 23-31, and now posted in the second issue of Azan on pp 83-89 are standard fare of the “wars and rumors of wars” type that could fit pretty much any time n history, including our own — “When the most despicable person of a nation would be its leader” would fit an astounding number of rulers across recorded history, depending on your point of view, including Nero and Diocletian, George III and Abe Lincoln, and a slew of Saddams, Mubaraks and Assads

There was one section, however, that struck me as a powerful piece of visionary apocalyptic, and I wanted to bring it to the attention of those interested in such things.

The Maulana writes [I’ve omitted the Arabic honorifics since I lack Arabic, and corrected one typo in Enlish]:

“Hazrat Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet of Allah said that the Day of Judgment would not occur before a fire erupts from Hijaz and lights up the necks of the camels of Basra.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

The incident mentioned in this Hadith has already occurred according to Hafiz Ibn Kathir (RA) and other historians. This fire appeared in 650 H on the Day of Jumu’ah in some valleys of Madinah Munawwarah and remained for about a month. The narrators have said that the fire suddenly erupted from the direction of Hijaz. The scene looked like a whole city of fire – containing a whole castle, tower or battlement etc. Its height was 4 “farsakh” (around 12 miles) and its width was 4 miles. The fire would melt any mountain it reached as if the mountain was made out of wax or glass. Its flames had the sound of thunder and the energy of river waves. Blue and red-colored rivers looked to be coming out of the fire. In such a (horrible) state, the fire reached Madinah Munawwarah. But the curious thing was that the wind that was emanating from the direction of the flames felt cool in Madinah. The scholars have written that the fire had encompassed all the jungles of Madinah such that in the Haram-e-Nabwi and in Madinah, all the houses were lit up as if from the sun. The people would do all their work in the night from the light (of the fire); in fact, the light of the sun and the moon would became faded because of the light of the fire.

Some people of Makkah (at the time of the fire) bore witness that they saw the fire while they were in Yamama and Basra.

A strange quality of the fire was that it used to burn the stones to coal but it would not have any effect on the trees. It is said that there was a large stone in a jungle – half of it was in the limits of Haram-e-Madina and half of it was outside the limits. The fire burnt to coal the half of the stone that was outside the limits of the Haram-e-Madina. However, it cooled when it reached to the other half and hence, this half remained safe.

The people of Basrah bore witness that they saw the necks of camels light up from the light of the fire…

[The Beginning and the End: Ibn Kathir (RA)]


You know my interest in semblances and parallelisms. Compare:

in fact, the light of the sun and the moon would became faded because of the light of the fire

in that narrative with:

the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it

in Revelation 21:23.

I am not arguing that there is an echo between the two accounts, nor that they describe the same phenomenon — simply that the rhetoric of each has a similar poetic intensity. This just happens to be one of those occasions when there are more things in heaven than are dreamed of in your natural sciences.

Boston special issue promoted in Azan #2

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — for the record, there’s a Boston “special edition” of Azan, though I’ve only seen the ad! ]

The second issue of Azan magazine is out, and not all that exciting — but just as I did last time, I’ve scanned it for bits that interest me, and come up with a couple — but first I’d like to note is the teaser on p. 49 (below) for a “special issue” on the Boston bombings, dated 15/5 on the cover and claiming to have been published “soon after the attacks”:

I haven’t seen it, but there’s corroboration. SITE appears to have found a copy and announced it in this tweet on May 25th:

So somewhere between Azan #1 and Azan #2, there would seem to have been an out of series issue. Since it concentrates on Boston, however, and not Khorasan, there’s probably not much in it along my line of interest, so knowing it’s out there only piques my curiosity just a tad.

Sisyphus on the treadmill of memes

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — Khorasan, black banners, the Ghazwa-e-Hind — when will the updating ever stop? ]


It looks as though I first realized that “the black banners of Khorasan” was a meme I should be “eyes out” for was in July 2007, when John Robb pointed us to a piece by Syed Saleem Shahzad on events at the Red Mosque

For the al-Qaeda leadership sitting in the tribal areas, the situation is fast evolving into the promised battle of Khorasan. This includes parts of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan from where the Prophet Mohammed promised the “end of time” battle would start.

That reference to Khorasan in turn led me back to a slightly earlier Washington Post piece where the Khorasan / black banners motif was clearly set forth, along with a pointed comment from Andrew Black, co-founder of Thistle Intelligence Group:

The battles today, like those against the Soviet occupiers, are also fought with religious verve. The Taliban and al-Qaida fight under a black flag connoting the participation of Islam’s prophet in their battle for Khorasan, the ancient name for the region centered around Afghanistan.

Khorasan increasingly features in the militants’ videos and the name was taped to the leg of a suicide bomber who killed 24 people in Pakistan’s Northwest Province this spring.

“One should not underestimate the theological importance of Khorasan to aspiring mujahedeen; particularly those who are only able to initially view the conflict through the Internet,” said Black.

Hamid Gul was in Shahzad’s piece too, talking about the Red Mosque and the Red Fort — and here, too, I likely made my first acquaintance with the motif of the Ghazwa-e-Hind, symbolized by the wish to plant Pakistan’s flag on Delhi’s Red Fort:

It is a pity that our army was preparing youths to seize Lal Qala [the Red Fort of Delhi] and they ended up seizing the Lal Masjid,” Gul said.

Both these memes have been around longer than I have, but back then they didn’t seem to be attracting much attention in the west.

Now they’re cropping up all over — and I’m (to switch metaphors in mid-stream) paddling hard to keep up.


The black flags are alive and well this week, as shown in this video of the graduation of a new batch of the Free Army fighters in Syria:

Khorasan too, as seen in the image from the new magazine Azan at the top of this post — but where does Azan itself come from?

B Raman writes:

It is not yet clear who has started “Azan”. One suspect is the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is the Pakistani Taliban. The other suspect is Al Qaeda headquarters in the South Waziristan area of Pakistan.

I’m interested in this question, because Azan had an overview of the various fronts of contemporary jihad, and an image that invokes both Khorasan and Jerusalem isn’t exactly “local” in focus. And that brings me to that other meme of interest here — the Ghazwa-e-Hind — which as I pointed out recently ius also mentioned in Azan, though not a huge focus there.

But if Azan is indeed a TTP product, then this info from Mr Orange:

would indicate they find the Ghazwa of more than passing interest…

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