Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and the most honorable prayer and peace be upon the master of the first and the last, our master, Muhammad, the chosen, the trustworthy, and upon his pious and pure family, his faithful companions, and those who followed them in goodness until the Day of Judgment, may Allah Almighty be pleased with them all.
The question of ‘why people join terrorist groups’ is very important, since we all know that these groups adopt wrong ideologies and they manipulate the sacred texts so as to serve their agendas. But why are they still attracting many Muslims, especially Westerners?
If we analyze the speeches of the Islamic movements all over the world today, and in the near past, we will find that these speeches have several mutual points. One of the important points is that these movements start with a small basic point, which is ‘we need to learn our religion’. They might bring some sacred texts from the Qur’an and Sunna, such as, “Read (Prophet Muhammad) in the Name of your Lord who created, created the human from a (blood) clot. Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught the human what he did not know” (Surah 96, Ayah 1-5), and the hadith in which Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, said, “Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim, and he who imparts knowledge to those who do not deserve it, is like one who puts a necklace of jewels, pearls and gold around the necks of swines” (Sunan Ibn Majah, 224), and the hadith, “He who follows a path in quest of knowledge, Allah will make the path of Jannah easy to him. The angels lower their wings over the seeker of knowledge, being pleased with what he does. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth and even the fish in the depth of the oceans seek forgiveness for him. The superiority of the learned man over the devout worshipper is like that of the full moon to the rest of the stars (i.e., in brightness). The learned are the heirs of the Prophets who bequeath neither dinar nor dirham but only that of knowledge; and he who acquires it, has in fact acquired an abundant portion” (Riyad al-salihin, 1388). They quote many texts of prominent scholars which talk about knowledge and how it is one of the most important things in Islam. Therefore, the simple Muslim will be motivated to seek for knowledge. Then, these movements start teaching sessions in the mosques and over the Internet and they attract many students, with various ages. This practice is well known in the Muslim countries, especially during Summer holidays, and most of these sessions were independent, i.e. not related to ideological movements, but some of them were. But these independent sessions were like a threshold of the ideological ones. The psychological status of the student in these sessions will make him like a sponge greedily absorbing water, as he will take whatever they preach. Next, for these recruiters is to exaggerate the crisis in the Islamic world. They, the Islamic movements, will focus on the various disasters and problems from which the Islamic world is suffering. They will relate all of these problems to one point only, which is the distance between Muslims and the Islamic shariah, and it is all because of the sins they committed. They might bring some texts to confirm this point, such as, “If affliction befalls you, it is what your own hands have earned, but He pardons a lot” (Surah 42, Ayah 30). These movements would relate all of the corruption in the whole world to the sins people have committed and they quote the following Qur’anic ayah for that, “Corruption has appeared on land and sea with what the hands of the people earned. Therefore, they taste some of what they did in order that they return” (Surah 30, Ayah 41). They would focus on that point, the individuals are far from Allah, the societies are far from Allah, the rulers are far from Allah to create a grim image of reality in the minds of the students. That is the first step.
The second step is arguing that the best solution for all of our disaster is to rule by the law of Allah, and that is why He said, “Had the people of the villages believed and been cautious, We would have opened upon them the blessings from heaven and earth. But they belied, and We seized them for what they earned” (Surah 7, Ayah 96). There is a hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, which they use to prove their point, which is, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted” (Riyad al-salihin, 193). When we were far from our religion we saw these problems and corruption, thus, we need to go back to our pure religion. The critical question would be ‘how can we rule by the law of Allah in this world?’ The easy answer is ‘we first have to organize our work and duties’. These students will join the Islamic movements because they don’t have any other option to practice the law of Allah, as the mindset created through these teaching lessons would not lead but to this result. The movements might bring some false ‘freedom of choice’ and say to the recruits that ‘It is not obligatory to join us if you DON’T want to practice the law of Allah! but if you want that you have to join us’. The recruiters know very well that the student recalls the ayah, “Those who do not judge with what Allah has sent down are the unbelievers” (Surah 5, Ayah 44). Then the organizational ideologization journey starts with a series of elevating steps. This journey starts with a simple point of creating a type of confusion within the Muslim mind, and ends with the result of a Muslim who believes that all countries, rulers and people included, except for the recruiter’s group, are unbelievers. The good point is, relatively speaking, that these movements do not call for arms. They only argue and call for preparations, as they believe that some day Allah will make some kind of a miracle and there would be a chance to practice jihad and the Islamic law.
Now, when ISIS and other extremist groups came and called for the implementation of the Islamic law, these students saw and heard their allegations. As I said earlier, the Islamic movements were calling only for preparations until the destiny of Allah comes. ISIS said, ‘why do you prepare and wait? Come and practice, the Islamic State is here, the Caliph is here and the situation is perfect to implement the law of Allah and do your part in changing the reality of the world into something which pleases Allah and his messenger.’ As a result of all these preparations beforehand and their claims of the moment, ISIS is attracting thousands of Muslims, not only ideologized individuals, but normal and simple Muslims, because this type of speech is already present in books, booklets, satellite channels and social media. The Muslim youth become like a sheep which have already been fed and prepared by Muslim ideological movements, intentionally or not, and ISIS is taking them to the slaughter house. ISIS interprets the ideology held by the new recruit to move them into terrorist actions. The potential recruit is already primed: he already believes that all the leadership and countries are infidels. ISIS tell him to carry the weapon to kill the infidels, and that he has to start with the closest ones to him, his father, brother, and relatives, especially if they were part of the security forces or the political system of that country because they are more dangerous that the remote ones.
This is our reality in simple words, the preparatory Islamic movements educate the youth but they stumble upon the practice point, being impossible. Then ISIS comes and pick the fruits of these movements because it has the threshold of practice and changes them into evil by force, working with the strongest type of faith, and they wrongly engage in violence as they wrongly interpret the hadith in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (Sahih Muslim).
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all creatures.