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SALAFI-JIHADISM: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This dissertation examines the development of salafi-jihadism as an idea within the broader salafist movement, using historical method. It argues that salafijihadism is principally defined by five essential ideas: taūhid, jihad, hakimiyyah, takfir, and walā’ wa-l-barā’. These are neither contentious nor particularly special ideas within normative Islam. What this dissertation does, however, is to examine each idea thematically while explaining what is unique, different, special, or new, about the manner in which the salafi-jihadi movement has interpreted it (as compared with other salafis). It does this by providing an overview of each idea, showing its development and ideational trajectory over time. It also demonstrates how intra-salafi debates have allowed the jihadi movement to create a distinct branch of thought within the salafi tradition.

Moreover, this dissertation argues that even within the salafi-jihadi movement some ideas produce greater differences of opinion than others, depending on how relevant they are for jihadi practitioners when compared with jihadi theorists. For example, even very conservative salafi-jihadi theorists such as Abu Hamza al-Masri or Abu Baseer al-Tartousi argue for strict limits on takfir whereas al-Qaeda has had to ‘operationalise’ these ideas in the battlefield and therefore applies the idea more liberally. This is true for takfir, jihad, and walā’ wa-l-barā’. Finally, this dissertation argues that the doctrine of salafi-jihadism is one that is principally borne of conflict. It is during moments of war and political crisis over the last three decades that this ideology has undergone its most significant periods of transformation, with the most concentrated period of development coming in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
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Award date2015

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