Fatawā of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden authored two fatāwā in the late 1990s. The first was published in August 1996 and the second in February 1998. At the time, bin Laden was not a wanted man in any country except his native Saudi Arabia, and was not yet known as the leader of the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda. Therefore, these fatāwā received relatively little attention until after the August 1998 United States embassy bombings, for which bin Laden was indicted. The indictment mentions the first fatwā, and claims that Khalid al-Fawwaz, of bin Laden's Advice and Reformation Committee in London, participated in its communication to the press.
Bin Laden's 1996 fatwā is entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places". This document is sometimes called the Ladenese epistle, a term derived from bin Laden's nasab. It is a long piece, and complains of American activities in numerous countries. It was faxed to Arabic-language newspapers internationally but particularly in England. It first appeared in the London-based Arabic paper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
The 1998 fatwā reached Al Quds Al Arabi by fax, and was signed by five people, four of whom represented specific Islamist groups. The signatories as a group were identified as the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders".
- Osama bin Laden
- Ayman al-Zawahiri, "emir of the Jihad Group in Egypt", probably meaning Islamic Jihad
- Ahmed Refai Taha, alias Abu Yasser, of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (in Egypt). This endorsement was retracted because of the enormous unpopularity of terrorism in Egypt following the Luxor massacre of tourists and Egyptians by al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. Taha explained his signature to fellow members of the Islamic Group saying he had only been asked over the telephone to join in a statement of support for the Iraqi people.
- Mir Hamzah
- Fazul Rahman, "emir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh", probably Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh or HUJI-B; HUJI itself is in Pakistan.
This fatwā complains of American military presence in Saudi Arabia, the sanctions against Iraq, and American support for Israel. It purports to provide religious authorization for indiscriminate killing of Americans and Jews everywhere. It appeared in February 1998 and the embassy bombings followed in August.
World Islamic Front
The World Islamic Front is the organization that issued the World Islamic Front Statement of 23 February 1998, "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders", listing the actions of Americans that they claim conflict with "God's order", and stating that the Front's "ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." Terrorism experts consider the "World Islamic Front" synonymous with al-Qaeda.
The 9/11 Commission uses the text of the 23 February 1998 fatwa as evidence that linked Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Qaeda to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Effects of the World Islamic Front Statement
The 23 February 1998 fatwa is the first known official order of the World Islamic Front. The fatwa calls upon each individual member of the existing Ummah to, "in accordance with the words of Almighty God, 'fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together,' and 'fight them until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God.'" The fatwa is widely regarded by terrorism experts as the founding document of the World Islamic Front.
- "[Text of] Bin Laden's  Fatwa". PBS News Hour. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
- "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders [Text of the 1998 fatwa]". Federation of American Scientists. August 23, 1998. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
- Copy of indictment Archived September 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine USA v. Usama bin Laden et al., Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies
- Bergen, Peter, Holy War, Inc., 2001, p. 4
- Lewis, Bernard (November 1998). "License to Kill: Usama bin Ladin's Declaration of Jihad". Foreign Affairs. 77 (6): 14–19. doi:10.2307/20049126. JSTOR 20049126. Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- al-Zayyat, Montasser, The Road to al-Qaeda, The Story of Bin Laden's Right-Hand Man, (University of Michigan Press. 2004. p.89)
- World Islamic Front Statement, The Washington Post, 23 February 1998.
- Original Arabic text Archived 2016-06-26 at the Wayback Machine of the fatwa.