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The Al Qaeda Reader: The Essential Texts of Osama Bin Laden's Terrorist Organization [Kindle Edition]

Raymond Ibrahim
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The global war on terror is not just a military conflict but a war of ideas. Indeed it is in some respects primarily an ideological struggle.  Yet it is a war we cannot win without a broader understanding of al-Qaeda's goals and motives.

What do our enemies believe?  What motivates their war against the West?  What is their vision of the ideal Islamic society?  Surprisingly, more than five years after 9/11, there is very little understanding of these questions. 

Despite our tendency to dismiss Islamic extremism as profoundly irrational, al-Qaeda is not without a coherent body of beliefs.  Like other totalitarian movements, the movement’s leaders have rationalized their brutality in a number of published treatises.  Now, for the first time, The Al Qaeda Reader gathers together the essential texts and documents that trace the origin, history, and evolution of the ideas of al-Qaeda founders Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. 

This extraordinary collection of the key texts of the al-Qaeda movement—including incendiary materials never before translated into English—lays bare the minds, motives, messages, and ultimate goals of an enemy bent on total victory. Al-Qaeda’s chilling ideology calls for a relentless jihad against non-Muslim “infidels,” repudiates democracy in favor of Islamic law, stresses the importance of martyrdom, and mocks the notion of “moderate” Islam.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these works is how grounded they are in the traditional sources of Islamic theology: the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet. The founders of al-Qaeda use these sources as powerful weapons of persuasion, reminding followers (and would-be recruits) that Muhammad and his warriors spread Islam through the power of the sword and that the Koran is not merely allegory or history but literal truth that commands all Muslims to action.

In addition to laying bare al-Qaeda’s ultimate motives, The Al Qaeda Reader includes the organization’s propagandist speeches, which are directed primarily at Americans, Europeans, and Iraqis. Here, al-Qaeda’s many "official" accusations against the West are meticulously delineated, from standard complaints such as the Palestinian issue and Iraq to wholly unexpected ones concerning the U.S.’s exploitation of women and the environment.

Taken together, the Theology and Propaganda sections of this volume reveal the most comprehensive picture of al-Qaeda to date. They also highlight the double-speak of bin Laden and Zawahiri, who often say one thing to Muslims in their religious treatises ("We must hate and fight the West because Islam commands it") and another in their propaganda directed at the West ("The West is the aggressor and we are fighting back merely in self-defense").

Westerners from across the political spectrum will be fascinated and enlightened by The Al Qaeda Reader’s insights into the nature of Islamic texts and the ways in which al-Qaeda has used these texts to manufacture hatred against our civilization and our way of life.


Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Raymond Ibrahim is a historian of the Middle East and Islam. He works for the Near East section of the African and Middle Eastern division of the Library of Congress, where he discovered many of the never-before-translated Arabic texts that make up the bulk of The Al-Qaeda Reader.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Al-Qaeda’s Declaration of War Against Americans

Praise be to Allah, who revealed the Book [Koran], controls the clouds, defeats factionalism, and says in His Book: “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them–seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them” [9:5]. And prayers and peace be upon our Prophet,Muhammad bin Abdullah, who said: “I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped–Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my commandments.”

Never since Allah made the Arabian Peninsula flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas has it been stormed by any force like the Crusader hordes that have spread in it like locusts, consuming its wealth and polluting its fertility. All this is happening at a time in which nations are attacking Muslims in unison–as if fighting over a plate of food! In face of this critical situation and lack of support, we are all obliged to discuss current events, as well as reach an agreement on how [best] to settle the matter.

No one argues today about three well-established facts, known to everyone; we enumerate them as a reminder, so that the one remembering may remember.

1. For over seven years America has been occupying the lands of Islam in its holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula–plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead with which it fights the neighboring Muslim peoples.

While some people may have argued in the past over the realities of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula now acknowledge it. There is no clearer evidence than America’s ceaseless aggression against the Iraqi people–all launched right from the Peninsula, though its rulers collectively refuse having their land used for this end. But they have been subdued.

2. Despite the awful devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people at the hands of the Crusader-Jewish alliance, and despite the astronomical number of deaths–which has exceeded 1 million–despite all this, the Americans attempt once again to repeat the horrific massacres, as if the protracted sanctions imposed after the brutal war, or the fragmentation and devastation, was not enough for them.

So now here they come [again] to annihilate what is left of this people and humiliate their Muslim neighbors. [6]

3. Now if the Americans’ purposes behind these wars are religious and economic, so too are they also to serve the Jews’ petty state [Israel], diverting attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and the murder of Muslims there. There is no better evidence of this than their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region–such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan–into mini—paper states, whose disunion and weakness will guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal Crusader occupation of the Peninsula.

All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on Allah, His Messenger, and the Muslims. Ulema throughout Islamic history are unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty whenever the enemy tears into the lands of the Muslims. This was related by Imam bin Qudama in al-Mughni; Imam al-Kisa’i in al-Bada’i; al-Qurtubi in his commentary; and the Sheikh of Islam [Ibn Taymiyya] in his chronicles, where he states: “As for defensive warfare, this is the greatest way to defend sanctity and religion. This is an obligation consensually agreed to [by the ulema]. After faith, there is nothing more sacred than repulsing the enemy who attacks religion and life.”


On that basis, and in compliance with Allah’s order, we hereby issue the following decree to all Muslims:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual obligation incumbent upon every Muslim who can do it and in any country–this until the Aqsa Mosque [Jerusalem] and the Holy Mosque [Mecca] are liberated from their grip, and until their armies withdraw from all the lands of Islam, defeated, shattered, and unable to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the Word of the Most High–“[F]ight the pagans all together as they fight you all together” [9:36] and the Word of the Most High, “Fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and [all] religion belongs to Allah” [8:39].

And the Most High said: “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and on behalf of those oppressed men, women, and children who cry out, Lord! Rescue us from this town and its oppressors. Give us from Your Presence some protecting friend! Give us
from Your Presence some defender!” [4:75].

By Allah’s leave we call upon every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and seize their money wherever and whenever they find them. We also call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on the Devil’s army–the Americans–and whoever allies with them from the supporters of Satan, and to rout those behind them so that they may learn [a lesson].

Allah Most High said: “O you who have believed! Respond to Allah and the Messenger whenever He calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah comes between a man and his heart, and that it is He to whom you shall [all] be gathered” [8:24].

Allah Most High said: “O you who have believed! What is the matter with you? When you are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, you cling so heavily to the earth! Do you prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, in comparison to the Hereafter. Unless you go forth [and fight], He will punish you with a grievous torment, and put others in your place. But He you cannot harm in the least; for Allah has power over all things” [9:38—39].

Allah Most High said: “So do not lose heart, nor fall into despair. Have faith and you shall triumph” [3:139].


Sheikh Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden
Ayman al-Zawahiri
, Commander of the Jihad Group in Egypt
Abu Yasir Rifa’i Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group [7]
Sheikh Mir Hamza, Secretary of the Organization of Islamic ulema in Pakistan
Fazlur Rahman, Commander of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh


This statement is more commonly known as The World Islamic Front’s Declaration to
wage Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders, issued February 23, 1998, in the Arabic
newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

Product Details

  • File Size: 528 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000UOJTY4
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
100 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed! September 15, 2007
Format:Paperback
I'm just blown away when somebody creates a product, in this case a book, that so perfectly fits the requirements of its time.
I picture 302 million Americans turning to each other on 9/11/2001 and saying, "What?" "Al WHAT? The U.S. is the 'Great Satan'? What are these people talking about? What do they think we've done to them? What kind of religion encourages suicide & mass destruction?
"The Koran says people of different religions can live together. It says suicide is forbidden. It says not to kill women and children in war. It talks about kindness, taking care of the poor, and always considering the ethics of one's behavior. How, then, do they justify committing suicide, blowing themselves up in the midst of crowds of women, children, innocent bystanders, and fellow Moslims in the process?
"What in the WORLD is going on here?"
This book homes in on the basic thinking of al Qaeda and the Jihadists--how they justify their actions according to the basic texts of their religion, even though many other Moslems disagree with their interpretation.
What's fascinating is how logical they are. They are not irrational. Theirs is a very legalistic religion in which every possible human action is categorized according to the Koran and the Hadith--bad or good! We know from experience that basic humane attitudes tend to lose their power when excessively legalistic thinking takes over.
What a relief to get some answers to the questions we've been asking ourselves and each other for the past 6 years.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading December 20, 2007
By deep
Format:Paperback
As Sun Tzu in his 'Art of War' said: to win a war, know your enemy. To win the 'war on terror', this book would be on my list of required reading. Some generals during the Vietnam war didn't know about the tunnel warfare or choose to ignore them as insignificant, Hitler's Mein-Kamph and Mao's Red book were ignored as rubbish. Unfortunately, in the same vein, the 1400 year history of Muslim onslaught, starting from Mecca-Medina in Saudi-Arabia and spreading to all corners of the world, is not studied. The experience of peoples who fought against the Muslim onslaught for centuries and are still fighting, is not utilized and learned from. e.g. there are many Indian authors who have written a number of well researched books that are ignored.

Through sources such as this book and others, one would discover a lot of important information. e.g. in no particular order:
1) Same or similar strategies and tactics were used over and over again for 1400 years.
2) One would be surprised and find a simple and straightforward Muslim declaration that 'war is deception'. Considering this, everything we hear or read becomes suspect, specially: treaties, promises, safe-passages, proclamations of being brothers-in-arms, excuses for non-performance and such.
3) Everything is part of war: One would be surprised to see how various distinct elements of life are fused tightly together in Islam : religion, war to convert every non-Muslim to Islam (jihad), politics, finance, business, law etc.
4) Our practices such as: spending huge resources on trying to catch specific terrorists or getting into the cycle of tit-for-tat killing (10 terrorists for 10 innocent people killed by them) - these are exercises in futility.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Al Qaeda, in its own words... May 3, 2008
Format:Paperback
To the very considerable extent that the confict between the West and al Qaeda is a war of ideas, 2007's "The Al Qaeda Reader" is essential for understanding al Qaeda's point of view. Raymond Ibrahim has done American readers a great service in translating and editing a selection of al Qaeda documents on theology and propaganda. As Ibrahim notes in his introduction, "This volume of translations, taken as a whole, proves once and for all that, despite the propaganda of al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, radical Islam's war with the West is not finite and limited to political grievances - real or imagined - but is existential, transcending time and space and deeply rooted in faith."

"The Al Qaeda Reader" is divided into sections, beginning with a glossary of Arabic terms and important figures in Islam, then plunges into four documents on al-Qaeda's version of Islamic theology. These four documents make very clear that al Qaeda has no interest, indeed, cannot conceive of a live-and-let-live accomodation with the West. Al Qaeda instead offers the West three choices: Convert to Islam, agree to live under Islamic authority, or die. Al Qaeda believes that Islam demands offensive jihad of all its adherents, and this belief justifies all its tactics, whether suicide bombers or the slaughter of innocent non-combatants. Further, al Qaeda has no use for democracy, which it sees as a direct contravention of the authority of Allah and of the Sharia.

The second part of the book is a selection of propaganda statements made by al Qaeda leaders, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. Its principal value is to show the extent to which Al Qaeda leaders are capable of spinning a potent combination of half-truths and fantasy in dealing with the West and with its own followers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I didn't give this more stars because this book is ...
I didn't give this more stars because this book is not "entertainment". The data presented in this book is. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Robbi
4.0 out of 5 stars To what lengths?
I do not know if Bin Laden had a vision as to how many lives he would take because of his beliefs. I was also reading elsewhere that Luis Dumont did much torture and waterboarding... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Liberty Dog Productions
4.0 out of 5 stars Dood read
I recommend this book if you are interested in this subject. I am studying al-Qaida and find it helpful in my research. Read more
Published 12 months ago by no name
5.0 out of 5 stars For those truly wishing to understand our enemy
Incredibly insightful! An absolute must-read for anyone wishing to truly understand the motivations, guidance, contradictions, ideologies, and vulnerabilities of one of our most... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Analisa Posada
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a tip for people who don't really know much about Islam
The extremist movement is all fueled by incorrect information. Islam was not spread by the sword. Muhammad only picked up the sword in self defense, for if he was lost, Islam would... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Top book
The essential book on Al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden and his men, i recommend this book for anyone studying counterterrorism or security studies.
Published 18 months ago by Jamie Michael Norris
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
When I started researching the ideology of the people who were involved in the World Trade Center attacks, it was easy to find statements in support and against it, then I noticed... Read more
Published on October 27, 2011 by A. Somers
5.0 out of 5 stars Usul al-fiqh!
The concept of Usul al-fiqh is mentioned in this book and I am very much interested in it. I hope to do something by pursuing that interest!
Published on September 7, 2011 by Irfan Samad
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Essential Still
This book is an essential compilation for those not only seeking to understand the motivations of Al Qaeda but also the motivations of the jihadist movement as a whole. Read more
Published on July 19, 2011 by S. Robison
4.0 out of 5 stars Important information to have
It's important to read these books so that we understand just where our enemies are coming from, and this is exactly what this book does. Read more
Published on November 2, 2010 by Matthew Smith
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Book makes ridiculous exagerrated claims
1) You should cite sources for your numbers here. It's pretty ridiculous of you to claim exaggeration and back them up with numbers that are neither supported nor verifiable. I have much more reason to believe Ibrahim's numbers than yours.

2) Talk about ridiculous. Saddam fought to a stalemate... Read More
Mar 2, 2008 by Wayne C. Parker III |  See all 3 posts
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