Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi

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Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi
أبو محمد المقدسي
Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.jpg
Personal Details
Born Essam Muhammad Tahir al-Barqawi
1959 (age 56–57)
Nablus, West Bank (then occupied by Jordan)
Nationality Jordanian
Ethnicity Arab (Utaybi)
Era Modern
Occupation Cleric
Religion Islam
Denomination Salafi
Main interest(s) Preaching militant Islam and opposing any form of democracy
Alma mater University of Mosul

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (Arabic: أبو محمد المقدسي‎‎), or more fully Abu Muhammad Essam al-Maqdisi (‎أبو محمد عصام المقدسي), is the assumed name of Essam Muhammad Tahir al-Barqawi (‎عصام محمد طاهر البرقاوي), a Salafi jihadi Islamist Jordanian-Palestinian writer. He is best known as the spiritual mentor of Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the initial leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, an ideological and methodical split emerged between Maqdisi and Zarqawi in 2004 due to Zarqawi's takfeer proclamations towards the Shia populations in Iraq. Maqdisi opted for a more cautious approach towards targeted Shia killings, attempting to stop Zarqawi's radical ideological movement before Zarqawi's methods become counter-productive.[1]

The writings of Maqdisi still have a wide following; a study[2] carried out by the Combating Terrorism Center of the United States Military Academy (USMA) concluded that Maqdisi "is the most influential living Jihadi Theorist" and that "by all measures, Maqdisi is the key contemporary ideologue in the Jihadi intellectual universe". The Tawhed jihadist website, which he owns,[2] continues to operate; the USMA report describes it as "al-Qa`ida's main online library".


Maqdisi was born in 1959 in the city of Nablus, West Bank.[3] At a young age his family emigrated to Kuwait.[3] He later studied at the University of Mosul in Iraq. It was during this time he began to take on an Islamist world view.[3]

He began to travel around Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in order to visit with numerous religious students and sheikhs.[3] However he came to believe that many of these religious figures were ignorant of the true state of affairs in the Muslim world.[3] He then began to study the writings of the controversial medieval philosopher Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn Qayyim.[3] While in Medinah he read the writings of the founder of the Wahabi sect Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab and was strongly influenced by them.[3]

Maqdisi travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan and met many of the jihad groups there at the time. He also confronted the members of Takfir wal-Hijra and wrote a book refuting their extreme views. In 1992 he returned to Jordan. He began to denounce the Jordanian government and what he believed were the man-made laws being implemented there. He was also the first prominent Islamist scholar to brand the House of Saud as unbelievers or takfir, and to hold the adoption of democracy as tantamount to apostasy.[4] His teachings gained many adherents and this earned him the attention of the Jordanian government, and he was arrested and imprisoned. During the years 1995-1999 both he and al-Zarqawi were in prison together and he exerted a strong influence on al-Zarqawi, shaping his Islamist ideology. Their strategic plans were described by Fouad Hussein in his book Al-Zarqawi: The Second Generation of Al Qaeda[5].

After they were released from prison al-Zarqawi departed for Afghanistan while Maqdisi stayed in Jordan. He was later rearrested on terrorism charges for conspiring to attack American targets in Jordan. He was released again in July 2005, but arrested again after he gave an interview to al Jazeera. In 2009 he defended himself against "younger extremists accus[ing] him of going soft" by quoting the American Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which identified him "as a dangerous and influential jihadi theorist." [6]

Maqdisi served a five-year term in a Jordanian prison for allegations of jeopardising state security and recruiting jihadists to fight in Afghanistan. He was released in June 2014 by the Jordanian government, in a move speculated to be motivated by their opposition to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[7] On 21 September 2014, he advocated for the release of British hostage, Alan Henning. Al-Maqdisi said, "Henning worked with a charitable organization led by Muslims which sent several aid convoys to help the Syrian people. Is it reasonable that his reward is being kidnapped and slaughtered? ... He should be rewarded with thanks." "We call on the (Islamic) State to release this man (Henning) and other aid group employees who enter the land of Muslims with a guarantee of protection... according to the judgment of Shariah law," he said."[8]

Maqdisi has also told those thinking of fighting for the Yemeni government against the Shia insurgency of the Houthis, that they should instead keep well out of the war against the Houthis because Yemeni’s must not help Yemen’s pro-Western government, which deserves to be overthrown.[9]


  • This is our Aqeedah
  • Millat Ibrahim
  • Democracy is a Religion
  • The Obvious Proofs of the Saudi State’s Impiety
  • ...So, Do Not Fear Them!
  • Expecting the Best from Allah
  • Delighting The Sight by Exposing the Doubts of Contemporary Murjiah
  • Meezaanul-I'itidaal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allawi, Ali A. "The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace." Yale University Press, 2007.
  2. ^ a b USMA Militant Ideology Atlas, summary
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Democracy: A Religion!, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Al Furqan Islamic Information Centre, Australia, 2012 Revised Edition, pp. 8-12.
  4. ^ A Virulent Ideology in Mutation: Zarqawi Upstages Maqdisi, Nibras Kazim, September 12, 2005 hudson.org
  5. ^ "Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs". www.atimes.com. Retrieved 2015-11-19. 
  6. ^ "Credentials Challenged, Radical Quotes West Point" By ROBERT F. WORTH, New York Times April 29, 2009
  7. ^ "Jordan releases anti-ISIL Salafi leader". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "Wife of British ISIS hostage issues plea to husband's captors". Fox News. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Yemen's war: Pity those caught in the middle

Further reading[edit]

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