However, according to Hanifi, Sheikh al-'Alarm's
"close contact" was his brother, who held the post of Mufti
and chief chaplain of the Muslim soldiers serving the French
in the Army of the Levant. AI-'Alami, a special roving muqaddam.
of the Tijaniya tariqa, travelled extensively in the
Arab East in the early decades of the 20th century establishing
branches of the Tijaniya and setting up zawiyas in Egypt, the
Sudan, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Arabia.
Al-'Alami had a great impact upon al-Qassam and his closest
disciples in Hanifi. According to Hanifi, only al-Qassam, Hanifi
himself, and three others were initiated into the Tijaniya tariqa
by al-'Alami (Sheikh Ali, the brother of al-Qassam, Sheikh Salih
al-Wouli, and Sheikh Mohammed Abdul-Ghani). They were instructed
by al-' Alami in standard Tijaniya practice: to dhikr the tahlil
and to recite the tijani wird known as "salat al
fath" fifty times after each prayer invoking blessings
upon the Prophet, the particular contemplative route of the
Although al-Qassam was subsequently given the ithim (spiritual
authority) as a muqaddam Tijaniya by Sheikh al-'Alami,
thereby empowering al-Qassam to initiate others into the tariya,
Hanifi says no other followers of al-Qassam were initiated nor
were any others told about the relationship between al-Qassam
and the Tijaniya. But it was around this small inner core of
Tijani's that al-Qassam would build the new movement of mujahidin.
There were other differences between al-Qassam
and al-Qassab. Both sheikhs believed in the inevitability of
jihad against the colonial occupation of the Muslim world,
but whereas al-Qassab concentrated on developing a following
among the middle classes who he believed in turn would lead
the Muslim masses, Al-Qassam found himself more and more drawn
to the uneducated working classes who responded to his warm
and modest personality, as well as to his preaching, first at
the Gerini mosque and then after a few years at the Istiqlal
Mosque built by the Jamiat Islamiya to serve the spiritual needs
of the growing number of Muslims employed in the new industrial
district growing up in and around Haifa's railroad yards.
Because of his easy accessibility in contrast
to many of the other `ulama, al-Qassam would frequently be stopped
on the street on his way to teach at the Madrassa Islamiya for
advice and religious guidance, so he was frequently late for
his classes. As director of the Madrassa, al-Qassab insisted
that al-Qassam should keep regular hours, but since that was
becoming increasingly impossible, al-Qassam resigned his teaching
Al-Qassam intensified his contacts with the people of Haifa.
He became an "outstanding personality" at the Mawlid al-Nabi
festivals held according to Syrian custom whenever a family
has some good fortune to celebrate - the birth of a child, his
or her memorisation of a portion of the Quran, graduation, promotion
- in a metaphysical sense, "the birthday of the Prophet". AIQassam
would recite the mawlz'd."38"
At the mawlids, at his Friday sermons, and
his less formal lessons in the mosques following asr (afternoon)
prayers, al-Qassam studied the men who seemed most concentrated
in their prayer and invocations and most responsive to his preaching,
and he visited them in their homes for more discussion and more
observation. Invariably, these were men without formal education,
illiterate railway workers, construction workers, stevedores,
artisans and small shopkeepers. Al-Qassam formed them into perhaps
a dozen circles, each circle unknown to the other. He taught
them to read, using the Quran as text and all the time he preached
the duty- and inevitability of jihad.
Many of his followers were former tenant farmers
recently driven off their land either by the land purchases
and Arab labour exclusion policies of the Jewish National Fund,
or by their inability to meet the rising rents in the Palestinian
land boom stimulated by the continuous Zionist purchases."39"
In Haifa all of the effects of sudden development and the peculiar
characteristics of the settler-colonisation of Palestine were
compounded. As the major port, railroad centre and (by the early
1930's) oil refinery for the Arab East, Haifa, more than any
other city in Palestine, attracted the drifting Palestinian
labour force. The jump in Jewish immigration in the early 1930's
which stimulated a boom in building and allied trades in Haifa
further intensified this effect, drawing in still more unskilled
labour from the countryside."40"
Crowded into shantytowns, largely ignored by the traditional
urban Palestinian leaderships who were locked into an almost
all-consuming political struggle between the big families for
the leadership of Palestinian Arabs, victimised by an inflation
that often required more than half the wages of an unskilled
worker to pay the rent of a decent room, and thrust into a rapidly
secularising environment, the Palestinian workers'
|. .. feelings were intensified by the spectacle
of the handsome new boulevards erected in the more desirable
parts of the towns by and for
the [Jewish] immigrant population, and by the acres of
Jewish working men's quarters erected by Jewish building
societies. Sometimes too, he had the experience of being
driven from work by Jewish pickets and he resented the
fact that the British Mandate] Government paid the Jewish
workman double the rate it paid him for the same work."41"
The same transformation of Palestine by British colonial
rule that was creating this new, displaced Palestinian Muslim
working class was also preparing the country for the establishment
of a Zionist settler society and state. The traditional Palestinian
elite were incapable of responding to either phenomenon. At
worst, the avarice and petty political rivalries of the big
family notables, and the decadence of the religious leadership
contributed directly to the settler colonisation of Palestine;
at best, by opposing Zionist settlement while refusing to
directly confront the British colonial authority protecting
that colonisation, they limited the effectiveness of their
opposition."42" This was
the social and political order in which al-Qassam began his
preparations for jihad.
Al-Qassam taught his disciples how to read using the Quran
as his textbook; so he taught them the doctrine of jihad,
but with the most important passages illuminated by hadith
which he quoted to them from memory. "43"
To the degree that the informants for this study were able
to recall his commentaries, certain themes stand out that
reflect either upon the circumstances of his particular time
and struggle, or provide an explanation for the subsequent
behaviour of his disciples.
The core of the doctrine was contained within surah-al-hajj,
|And strive for Allah with the endeavour
that is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid
upon you in religion any hardship; the faith of your father
Abraham (is yours). He hath named you Muslims of old time
and in this (scripture) that the messenger may be a witness
against you, and that ye may be witnesses against mankind.
So establish worship, pay the poor due, and hold fast
to Allah. He is your Protecting Friend. A blessed Patron
and a blessed Helper!
Al-Qassam explained this verse to mean that the mujahid
has been chosen by God, and the perfect, effective jihad requires
ihsan - the sincere perfection of all aspects of ibadat (ritual
duties) agida (creed), iman (faith), and Islam (submission
to God's commands). The perfect mujahid helps the poor, feeds
the hungry, comforts the sick and visits his relatives, and
all of these good deeds must be crowned by constant prayer.
Therefore the mujahid must concentrate upon his prayer. To
illustrate this sense of sincerity and its relation to prayer,
al-Qassam quoted from the hadith describing ihsan: "It is
to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, and while you
see Him not yet truly he sees you"."44"
The mujahid achieved this sincerity by practising the "greater
jihad " which al-Qassam also described as the jihad al-nafs
(the jihad against the self). al-Qassam made frequent use
of this hadith, but on two levels. In his public sermons he
preached that striving to be honest, truthful, to respect
other people, their trust and their family honour, was jihad.
To deprive oneself of haram (forbidden) pleasures was jihad,
and he preached that only when the Muslims practised jihad
al-nafs could they live at peace with their neighbours.
To the mujahidin the importance of the greater jihad and of
the quality of sincerity that he wanted them to achieve in
their religious life was primarily for of good character.
Good character, al-Qassam taught, was more important than
bravery in jihad. When God praised the Prophet, it was not
for his bravery but for his good character (akhlak karimah)
or ethical standards. A man of good character will never accept
humiliation but will fight; therefore the virtues precede
bravery or militancy as a prerequisite to fighting ft sabilAllah;
therefore, the greater jihad is greater than the lesser jihad.
At the same time al-Qassam insisted that the "conscientiousness
and logic" that could only be acquired by secular sciences
in the West was present, as the method of jihad, within Islam
as a gift of God. This idea of jihad as in Islamic science
which had, according to Abu Is'af, in its manner of 'exposition
something of the nature of "mathematical probability", was
based al-Qassam on four verses (LI:39-43) from surat-al-najm:
|That man hath only that for which he strives
for, And that the fruit of his striving will be apparent,
Then will he be rewarded with a reward
And afterward he will be repaid for it with fullest payment,
And that thy Lord, He, is the goal.
There was nothing the disciples could not master. The light
machine gun, al-Q,assam declared, was a mentality as well
as a weapon.
The justification for jihad was "to elevate the Word
of God" but oppression and humiliation were intolerable
facts. They must fight fiercely for they are the defenders
alluded to in XLII:40-42 to whom no blame will attach; it
is their enemies who have come to oppress, who are the wrong
doers, the aggressors. In battle the mujahid must concentrate
upon fighting well and save his human sympathies for when
he takes prisoners.
Al-Qassam continuously returned to the theme that it is not
a necessary condition that the Muslims be as strong in number
and weaponry as their enemy when fighting starts. Quoting
verses VIII: 65 and IV: 104, al-Qassam taught that the basic
condition is faith. He who believes that God is with him and
fights to prevent the transgressor from transgressing has
arrived at the central doctrine, even if he knows he is going
to die, because martyrdom inspires the other Muslims to continue
the struggle and the martyr's death is kindling wood for jihad
The mujahid seeking martyrdom is of the spiritual elite or
the "vanguard" (tali'a)45 which al-Qassam illustrated
by quoting the hadith: "This religion will not cease
to endure with a company of the Muslims fighting on its behalf
till the last hour comes". According to the (Zuaranic
verse IV : 84 the mujahid is responsible for himself. It is
not a condition that he cannot fight until he has all of the
people behind him. The mujahid must be the vanguard and light
the way for those who will follow. Whatever the number, however
small it may be, the mujahid must trust in God and be sure
that victory will come and that he will be victorious. AI-Qassam
frequently quoted the many hadiths bearing upon the rewards
awaiting the shahid in paradise and this fate was understood
as one of the dimensions of victory, as well as that of triumph
in this world. The mujahid's love of martyrdom will secure
his victory in either dimension, according to verse IV: 104,
because the enemy has only the love of life.
Al-Qassam taught his disciples that surat-at-tazvba was the
surah of jihad, and he frequently recited IX: 6 when giving
strict orders to the mujahidin that if they took prisoners
they were not permitted to torture or humilate them. al
38) Mahmud Sursawi ("Abu Yusuf"), private interview, Beirut,
August 1973. Sursawi's father. Abu Mahmud, was an early disciple
and member of the Haifa mujahidin. The mawlid recitation consists
of a long poem eulogising the Prophet, of which a number of versions
are in cirulation.
39) Palestine: Report on Immigrationm, Land, Settlement
and Development by Sir John Hope Simpson, 1930. London: HMSO,
pp. 35-36, 52-56.
40) Nevil Barbour, Nisi Dominus (Beirut: Institute for
Palestine Studies Reprint, 1969), p.333.
41) Ibid., p.134. The "experience of being driven
from work by Jewish pickets" is an allusion by Barbour to
the "conquest of labour" campaign undertaken to prevent
Jewish firms from hiring Arab labour and to force the Mandate
government into hiring on a parity basis although the Jewish percentage
of the population was still insignificant compared to the Arab
population (Barbour, pp. 139-141, 100-101).
42) The political history of the Palestinian struggle against
Zionism and in particular the inability of the traditional leaderships
to lead that struggle with dedication, perseverence and intelligence
is discussed in Kayyali, Palestine: A Modern History, and by Naji
Allush, Al Muqawama al-arabiya fifilatin (Beirut: PLO Research
43) Unless otherwise noted, the section on al-Qassam's
oral teachings are a composite of the recollections of Abu Is'af,
Abu Ibrahim al-Kabir, Muhammed Hanifi, "Abu Adnan" Sursawi,
and Muhammed al-Qassam.
44) An-Nawawi, Forty Hadith, p.30.
The Islamic Quarterly, London
Second Quarter 1979