Islam and the Other: The al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ Doctrine

By David Bukay*
Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 @ 1:33AM

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Given the U.S. capitulation to Iran, the growing American and European pressure on Israel to relinquish its national security and identity as the Jewish state in favor of the Palestinians, while Syria has become the training “melting pot” for Islamist terrorists the world over, it is vital to understand the Islamic worldview concerning others (non-Muslims), as vividly illustrated in the al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine.  Accordingly, Islam is superior, and to maintain its superiority Muslims are required to hate and fight ‘others’ who resist Islam’s domination of the world. – Rachel Ehrenfeld 


Prof. Bukay explains:

The al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine is portrayed as a defensive policy. Given that Muslims are peaceful tolerant human beings, while non-Muslims are aggressors, imperialist-colonialist occupiers, their victims and even their potential victims, i.e., all Muslims must fight to defend themselves and retaliate against the Kuffar (non-believer), who always instigate war.,

These clearly contradictory characteristics of Arab-Islamic political culture mean that Muslims can viciously attack at almost every possible opportunity while crying out they are victims of oppression and aggression. They can perpetuate obscene inhuman acts of violence, terrorize and intimidate, while they accuse the other of colonialism, apartheid, racism, and Islamophobia.

According to the al-Azhar Egyptian exegete, Sheikh Muhammad al-Sha‘rawi, Islam is in no way aggressive or violent. To the contrary, Islam reaches out through Da‘wah and good intentions.

This idea is so common among the Muslims that they wholeheartedly believe in it, and that is why Islamic propaganda, the Da‘wah, the political deceit of the Kuffar, is so successful. It also explains why Islam is the most ethnocentric religion and political culture. It differentiates the world between Dar al-Islam against Dar al-Harb; between the good and righteous society and the bad and unclean society; and between Dar al-Wilayah against Dar al-Kufr. It is Halal against Haram; it is al-Ma‘ruf against al-Munkar; it is the right against wrong; and it is the pious against the evil-doers; it is Paradise or Hell. There are no legitimacy, consensual recognition and acceptance of the other, unless he becomes Muslim or he is subdued to Islamic rule.

Moreover, everything in Islam is perfect, in-comparable and in-imitative: Allah is the one and only. Muhammad is the seal of all prophets, the perfect human and the most praised and blessed one; the man with Nur Allah (the light of Allâh) and ‘Isma (immunity of error) who was sent as a mercy to the world; “the excellent example” for the believers to be entirely imitated, wholeheartedly admired, and totally followed without any doubt or question. The Qur’an is the perfect replica of the mother book which exists eternally in heaven, a literary masterpiece so written that no human can imitate it. Islam is the perfect religious system, the only supreme ultimate true religion upon Earth; and Muslim believers are the favored, the best of all peoples that ever arose among mankind, with three objectives commanded upon them: to seize power over the universe, to subjugate the world under the Sharī‘ah, and to establish a world Islamic Ummah. The Islamic territory is the center of the world. Just as ancient cosmology placed the Earth at the center of the Universe, the Islamic universe is centered at the Ka‘abah.

That is where the doctrine of al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ operates. Literally it means the total loyalty to Islam and the total disavowal of and enmity toward the other. It has become one of Islam’s main foundations and of paramount importance, directly representing Iman, and is second only to Tawhid, the oneness of Allah. Total allegiance and love are only to be given within the Islamic community, and rejection, hate and enmity against the other is commanded, based upon Qur’anic foundations.

In his introduction to the book of Sheikh Muhammad al-Qahtani, al-Wala’ wal-Bara’, Sheikh Abdar Razaq Afīfī, Deputy President of the Department of Guidance and Member of Board of Great `Ulama’  of Saudi Arabia, declares:

The subject matter is of paramount importance and utmost interest: firstly, it is concerned with one of Islam’s main foundations, which has two major prerequisites of true faith: al-Wala’ is a manifestation of sincere love for Allah, his prophet and the believers; al-Bara’ is an expression of enmity and hatred towards falsehood and its adherents. Both are evidence of Iman. Secondly, it has been written at a very crucial time where Muslims are no longer aware of those qualities which distinguish the believers from the non-believers; their faith has become so weak; and they have taken the disbelievers as their friends, while displaying enmity towards the believers.”

The al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine originates from the Arab social life of the tribal system, in which division and fragmentation were and still are the most salient in Arab socio-political history. What is important is that the tribal identity was passed on to the Ummah, and its social frameworks are essentially tribal. The construct of love and loyalty to the extended family and the Hamulah, and the suspicion and hatred of the other, has evolved into the Islamic Ummah, to become a super-tribe, according to religious linkages.

Ibn Taymīyah, the medieval exegete and one of the most cited authorities by Wahhabi jurisprudence and Salafī-Jihadi groups, has referred to the issue:

“Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, and hates for the sake of Allah, and whoever seals a friendship for his sake, or declares an enmity for his sake, will receive the protection of Allah. No one may taste true faith except by this, even if his prayers and fasts are many.”

Abd al-‘Aziz bin Baz, former Chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia, had issued a Fatwah before the second Gulf war, prohibiting seeking help from the Kuffar in Jihad. He also urges Muslims that Allah has made it obligatory to hate the non-Muslims and to show animosity towards them. Allah calls the People of the Book to believe in him and his messenger, and whoever rejects this call is a Kafir.

Ayman al-Zawāhirī mentions in the introduction to his book: “We believe that the greatest challenge facing Islamic belief in this age is the threat of deviation from allegiance to believers and animosity of the kuffār.”

al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ and the Kuffar

The issue of the Kuffar, infidels, is one of the most important in the Qur’an. The amount of verses devoted to the Kuffar is huge: 64% of the total Qur’an (Meccan: 68%; Medinan: 57%); Sirāh – 81%; Hadith – 37%. That is, 60% of the Shari‘ah is devoted to the Kuffar.

The Qur’an makes it clear that Islam is not about universal brotherhood, but about the brotherhood of believers only under Islamic Ummah, and the total denunciation of the other. There are over 400 verses in the Qur’an alone that describe the torment in Hell-fire that Allah has prepared for the Kuffar. The Qur’an dehumanizes the Kuffar, treating them as vile animals and beasts, the worst of creatures and demons. They are perverted transgressors and partners of Satan to be fought until religion is Allah’s alone. They are to be beheaded, terrorized, annihilated, crucified, punished and expelled, burn in Hell-fire, and plotted against by deceit. The believers must fight the Kuffar as a constant matter.

Since Allah’s word must be superior, and man-made laws are deemed to be sinful and tyrannical, they must be replaced by the Shari‘ah. According to Ibn Taymiyah: “Since lawful warfare is essentially Jihād and since its aim is that the religion is entirely for Allâh [2:189, 8:39] and the word of Allâh is uppermost [9:40], therefore, according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. Whosoever contends with Muhammad it means heresy that deserves death.”

As Bernard Lewis has put it: Islām is still the ultimate criterion of group identity and loyalty. It is Islām that distinguishes between self and other, between insider and outsider, between brother and stranger… the ultimate definition of the other, the alien outsider and presumptive enemy, has been the Kafir…  .

The Qur’ān and other religions

The Qur’ān says that all other religions as such are cursed by Allâh. All those who worship idols, or false gods to Allâh, or invent lies about him, or deny Allâh, or change even one word of Allâh’s Book, or do not believe in Muhammad — are to be “seized wherever found and slain with a slaughter.”

Judaism and Christianity are rejected and not “acceptable” to Allâh, after he has sent his final messenger to the entire world.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ by the Tawhīd

A second aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is when the Muslims solemnly declare the Tawhīd: La Illāh ila-llâh (there is no god but Allâh), it means they clearly state that all other religions are denied, sinful and unlawful. It is the affirmation of Tawhīd; the belief of the heart and the confirmation of the tongue; it is obedience and submission. There is no ruling more apparent and significant as the ruling of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ in the Qur’ān — after requirement of Tawhīd. According to Ibn Taymiyah: “It is not possible to achieve complete happiness by loving Allâh, except by the full rejecting all other things. This is what the words, “There is no god but Allâh” mean; this is the spirit of Dīn.”

Tawhīd will never be achieved on earth until the believers apply the doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’, by completely following of Muhammad’s way of life, al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm.”

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ by the prayer

The third source is from prayer. In each of the five daily prayers, Muslims declare the total allegiance and submission to Islām and objection to the other, as appears in Surat al-Fātihah, 1:5-7: Ihdīna al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm; Sirāt alldhīna Na‘amta ‘Alayhum, Ghayr al-Maghdūb ‘Alayhum walal-Dālilīn: “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, not of those against whom there is wrath, nor of those have gone astray.”

Those who have incurred Allâh’s wrath are the Jews, and those who go astray are the Christians. al-Tabari (838-923), in his The Commentary on the Qur’ān (Tafsīr), cites Surat al-Ma’idah 5:60 which name the Jews as those with whom Allâh is angry with, turned into apes and pigs; and al-Mā’idah 5:77 which name the Christians as those who go astray from the right path. Muhammad al-Hilali and Muhammad Khan cite Hādīth by al-Timirdhi and Abu Dawūd, Narrated by Adi bin Hatim: “I asked Allâh’s Messenger about the statement of Allâh ‘not (the way) of those who earned your anger,’ he replied: ‘They are the Jews; ’and ‘not those who went astray,’ he replied: ‘they are the Christians.’

This refutes the current Islamic propaganda that Jews and Christians, being Ahl al-Kitāb are not Kuffār. Only under Islamic rule and control they are Ahl al-Dhimma, People of Protection. Otherwise, they are Kuffār like all the other.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and the supremacy of the Muslims

Another aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is based on the Qur’ānic declaration that the Muslims are the best of all peoples ever raised up for mankind, and their reward is a luxurious life in Paradise. Islām is the perfect religious system, beyond and above all other religions, consisting of Allâh’s wisdom from the beginning of history to the end of the world. It clearly declares that its aim is to subjugate the world under the Sharī’ah, until Islam is the only religion upon earth and that its utmost goal is the establishing of a world Islamic Ummah under the Khilāfah. In fact the Da’wah is the invitation to all humanity to believe in Islam and to accept it as the only supreme religion. Heaven and earth belong only to Allâh, and in fact would have collapsed if had not created and governed by Allâh. From here comes the notion that Islām means to kill and be killed for the sake of Allâh.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and the ‘Just war’ (Siyār)

The last aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is related the issue of war and peace. Since the world is divided into two distinct realms: Dar al-Islām and Dar al-Harb, the normal and only justified relationship is a state of infinite war. There is no peace in Islām toward the other but temporary, as elaborated by Majid Khadduri. Islām has no concept of “Just War,” since any war directed against the Kuffār, whatever its grounds and circumstances, is morally justified and religiously legitimized. A lasting peace between Dar al–Islām and

Dar al–Harb is impossible, until Dar al–Harb no more exists.

Jihād reflects the normal relations existing between the believers and the Kuffār. There are no unbelievers or disbelievers in Islāmic scriptures but only Kuffār. That is why the Islāmic wars are Futuhat, in the sense of opening the world to the call of Islām, whereas the Kuffār wars are Hurub. Any territory conquered throughout history by Islām is Waqf, never to be returned, while any territory conquered by the Kuffār is considered occupation that must be returned by force. By this reasoning all territories of the Kuffār must be reoccupied and subdued by Jihād. Territorial expansion through war is not aggression but fulfillment of the Qur’anic commands to disseminate Islām. Hudnah does not imply the abandonment of Jihād, but means a period of suspension as a dormant status from which the leader may revive the Jihād at any time at his will.

Where in all other religions peace is defined as the absence of war and mutual recognition and respect, Islām sees war as the means of creating peace, which is subjugating all others and enforcing an Islāmic order. A Pax Islamica covering the globe is the aim of Jihād, and therefore it is a just war. Moreover, where in all other religions peace can exist apart from religion, for the Muslims, peace is a permanent theological state rather than a political one. A political peace will never be considered in Islam as anything but a temporary truce to gain strategic advantage. A true peace must be theological, and it means that non-Muslims must concede the superiority of Islamic law.

Domestic realm: al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and al-Mansūrah

However, the issue of Walā’ wa-Barā’ also has a domestic framework. Salafi-Jihadi groups and Wahhabi Muslims believe they are the Saved Sect (al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah), the only group that has the correct Islamic beliefs. They are the real Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamā‘ah, while all other manifestations of Islam have deviated from the ‘straight path’ (Sirāt al-Mustaqīm), and by this are destined for hell as ‘apostates’. This principle is the basis of the Takfīr doctrine the Jihadists use to identify their domestic Muslim enemies and to justify the use of violence against them: “… This community will be split up into seventy three sects, seventy-two of them will go to Hell and one will go to Paradise, and it is the majority group.”

In his al-‘Aqīda al-Wāsitīyah,  Ibn Taymīyah discusses the issue of al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah, combined with al-Walā’ wal-Barā’: to hate the Kuffār and to actively fight against them. Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s concept of Takfīr includes the command that anyone who does not show sufficient levels of Walā’, as allegiance to ‘true Muslims’ and/or adequate Barā’, as rejection of ‘non-Muslims’, is at risk of committing apostasy. The Salafi-Jihadi groups adopted this concept to mean that they have the divine right to judge other people’s levels of Walā’ to Muslims and Barā’ of non-Muslims, and to kill them.

Another Jihadist forum quotes ‘Abd al-Qādir bin ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, the mentor of Ayman al-Zawāhirī: The most important duties of al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah in this age is to wage Jihād against the apostate rulers who have changed the rules of Allāh and who govern Muslims using heretical man-made laws… the Salafi-Jihādi are al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah who has been promised victory against its enemies and the enemies of Islām.

Abū Qatāda, the Jordanian-Palestinian preacher, has written on the subject of al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah, to prove the doctrine reinforces Jihadists’ self-belief of being righteous; strengthens their mutual solidarity; and allows them to fight opposition to their views. It creates a sense of exclusivity, and strengthens self-righteousness and self-importance. On one of the popular Jihādi internet forum it is narrated:

Who are al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah? al-Bukhārī says they are the people of knowledge. Other scholars say they are Ahl al-Hādīth. al-Nawawī says: they are those who enjoin good and forbid evil.

This has also to do with the issue is Tāghūt (false deity. The term probably originated from the Hebrew word Ta‘ūt, wrong, mistaken). Salafi-Jihādi ideology places great emphasis upon justifying violence through the concept of Tāghūt. Muslims have an obligation to struggle against Tāghūt on the mere assumption that it is against Allâh or what Allâh has revealed. This approach of Tāghūt depends on religious rulings issued by Wahhābi clerics, yet it is defined as anything that is the antithesis of Islamic monotheism. ‘Abd al-Majīd bin Muhammad al-Munī‘, a leading scholar for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, explained that in order to achieve Tawhīd, which is the highest requirement of every Muslim, one must explicitly reject Tāghūt, otherwise he is an apostate.

Tāghūt is at the heart of the Salafi-Jihādi struggle against Arab-Muslim regimes that do not comply with their Islamic conceptions, and it gives a religious rationale for their terrorist attacks. These are also based on the Hādīth: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” Salafi-Jihadi groups can accuse any ruler who implements a political system that conflicts with their exact interpretation of Islam as being Kafir. The doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is used to separate and to distance the Muslims from infidels, and at the same time to declare other Muslims as being Tāghūt, yet to violently impose their ideology, as being al-Ta’ifah al-Mansūrah.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and the al-Fitrah doctrine

On the face of it, these are two contradictory doctrines. While al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is divisive, al-Fitrah (human nature) is inclusive; while al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ rejects the other, al-Fitrah annexes the other. However, a close examination proves that the latter affirms the essence of the former as a totalitarian approach. Both picture the world through the superiority of Islam: al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ by denying the other, being inferior, and al-Fitrah by proving its superiority through the other’s affiliation to and origination from Islam and admitting its inferiority.

The Fitrah doctrine is the Islamic concept of human nature, as the right action of submission to Allâh. Fitrah is associated with the Dīn of Islam, as the way Allâh created mankind and universe, and as of knowing Allâh and submitting to him. By this, Islām is called Dīn al-Fitrah, the religion of human nature, because its laws and its teachings are relevant to all the universe and human beings. Since Shirq and Kufr represent the rejection of oneness of Allâh, it is obligatory upon the Muslims to hate them. Tawhîd is intrinsic to man’s Fitrah, because Allâh in his infinite wisdom intended for man to know him as the one and only.

Yet, the highest important Islamic use of Fitrah is the belief and the declaration that all mankind from eter­nity are Muslims. Allâh, having created humankind, made a covenant with them that they will all believe only in Islam and obey only him and his messenger. All babies who come to the world were born Muslim, and only their cruel inconsiderate parents have changed their religion. The proof comes from the Old and New Testaments: all Jewish and Christian patriarchs and prophets were Muslims who preached Islam from the outset, and clearly testified that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allâh and the ‘Seal of all Prophets.’

In Sūrat al-Baqarah (2), Abraham prayed: “make us submit, oh Allâh to your will.” Later on one finds Jacob’s sons declaring: “We shall worship your Allâh and the Allâh of Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, the one and only Allâh; and to him we submit.” And later on, Jesus declares: “I am indeed a slave of Allâh. Allâh is my lord and your lord, so worship him alone.” Then he asked: “Who will help me in the way of Allâh?’ And his disciples answered: we shall be the helpers of Allâh. We believe in Allâh; and you are our witness that we submit and obey.” In Sūrat al-`Imrān one finds: “Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their offspring, and what had been revealed to Moses and to Jesus and to all other prophets by Allâh. We submit to and obey.” In Sūrat al-Nisā’, one learns that Jesus, son of Mary, was only an apostle of Allâh. The same is with Adam, Noah, Moses, and Joseph.

But there is more concerning the Fitrah: in its outrageous impudence, Islām declares that there are proofs of Muhammad’s prophethood in the Old and the New Testaments. They quote Deuteronomy 18:17-9 and 34:12 that promise the coming of Prophet Muhammad as the seal of all prophets. However, the utmost is found in Deuteronomy, 33:2, when they quote: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran.” Sinai is the place where the Moses spoke to Allâh and received the Taurât; Seir, the place where the Jesus received Divine Revelation; and Paran is a mountain range in Mecca in which Allâh manifested himself to mankind for the last time through his revelation to Muhammad. This is the proof of Muhammad’s superiority on all other prophets. Muslim exegetes also quote from Isaiah, 42:1-4; Psalms, 72:8-17; and Micah, 4:1-2 as other proofs to Muhammad’s superiority above all other prophets, and in fact all humanity.

This is the basis of Islamic Messianic conversion. Aslim – Taslim was the strategy, the slogan-message that Muhammad sent to the non-Muslims, literally meaning “submit and you will be safe”. This was accepted by all Muslim leaders: Da’wah Qablal-Jihd: the call to submit to Islam before Jihad. Nowadays, the Da’wah, the propagation arm, works effectively to conquer the world by conversion, and the al-Fitrah doctrine has become the means to achieve it. The huge monstrous mosques built in the West are one strategy, but the call to Islam is operated by al-Fitrah.


The doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ signifies critical importance to understanding the Islamic worldview and its conceptions towards the other. Befriending believers and battling infidels are critical pillars in Islam. It is so important that is it second only to Tawhid, the oneness of Allâh. Faith is incomplete without it, including renouncing and fighting domestic Jahili rulers. It is the criterion of distinguishing between the believers and the enemies of Islam. That is why Tawhid will never be achieved on earth until the believers apply al-Wala’ wal-Bara’, by totally following Muhammad’s way of life, al-Sirat al-Mustaqim.

According to the Fitrah doctrine, it is the deep Islamic belief that Islam has the obligation to rule the world and to impose its Shari‘ah on humanity. The Kuffar who resist Islam and do not accept it by their own free choice are responsible for the persistence of violence and the absence of world peace. If only they were to accept the unavoidable reality and submit to the Da`wah of Islam, then the Muslims would not have to use al-Bara’ and would not have to resort to Jihad to kill them. Submission is the only solution to world peace and it is in the best interest of humanity.

He who wishes to understand why they hate us so deeply; why Islam is a murderous automatic machinery system of hatred against the other; why this venom is so thoroughly implanted in every Muslim from infancy — al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine is the source and the answer.

The other side of hatred towards all those outside Islam is fear; deep, huge, immense fear. But this is an issue that cannot be dealt with here.

* David Bukay is a Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Haifa.


Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, ACD/EWI Exclusive, Al Qaeda, Iran, Islamic Banking, Middle East Conflicts, Shari'a

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