Takfir wal-Hijra

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Takfir wal-Hijra
Active 1971-1978
Ideology Takfiri
Leaders Shukri Mustafa  
Allies Al Qaeda
Opponents governments of Arab countries

Takfir wal-Hijra (Arabic تكفير والهجرة, English "Excommunication and Exodus", alternately "excommunication and emigration" or "anathema and exile"), was the popular name given to a radical Islamist group Jama'at al-Muslimin founded by Shukri Mustafa which emerged in Egypt in the 1960s as an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood.[1] Although the group was crushed by Egyptian security forces after it murdered an Islamic scholar and former government minister in 1977, it is said to have "left an enduring legacy" taken up by some Islamist radicals in "subsequent years and decades."[2] Today, some believe, Takfir wal-Hijra has members or supporters in several other countries, allied to Al-Qaeda.[3] al-Takfir wal-Hijra alleged members were arrested in Ukraine in 2009.[4] In November 2013, Russian security forces detained 14 radical Islamists suspected of belonging to Takfir wal-Hijra.[5]


Takfir wal-Hijra has been described as

  • "a matrix of terrorist cells - allied to bin Laden but often more extreme than him"[3]
  • "a group ... which inspired some of the tactics and methods used by Al Qaeda and whose ideology is being embraced by a growing number of Salafist jihadists living in Europe"[6]
  • "a movement" that "began in Egypt in 1971" and by the 1990s had a "decentralised network" of "cells"[7]
  • a "radical ideology" and "web of Islamic militants around the world connected only by their beliefs", rather than "an organization per se".[8]
  • "networks" specializing in "logistical support to terrorist groups" operating across Europe that loosely follow a number of "core precepts" -- these being that "man-made laws" are "illegitimate", that "theft, kidnapping, forced marriages and even the assassination of anyone who [is] not part of the group" are justified.[9]
  • a name used to describe a wide variety of militant groups, that have little or no connection to each other.[10]

The takfir of the Takfiris refers to the belief (of at least some of the movement such as Ali Ismael, the sheikh of Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque at the time) that not only were Egyptian President at the time Gamal Abdel Nasser and his government officials apostates, but so was "Egyptian society as a whole" because it was "not fighting the Egyptian government and had thus accepted rule by non-Muslims".[9]

According to Dr. Mamoun Fandy, (an Egyptian-born professor of politics and senior fellow at the Baker Institute of Public Policy), followers are allowed to shave their beards, drink alcohol, visit topless bars and commit crimes against Westerners — all under the cloak of subterfuge. "They are the mothers and fathers of sleeping cells."[6] They believe that the ends justify any means and, that killing other Muslims can be justified in their cause and that Western society is heathen and it is their duty to destroy it.[6]

According to Paul Wilkinson, Shukri Mustafa's execution "ushered in the emergence of two wings within Al Takfir: one under the leadership of Abbud al-Zammut (considered one of the original founders) and one under the leadership of Ayman Al-Zawahiri", later second in command of al-Qaeda. Al Takfir wa'l-hijra grew substantially through the 1990s as Arab Afghans returned from Afghanistan to their homes throughout the Middle East and North Africa spread their doctrine and established a "decentralised network of believers ... throughout Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Sudan." [7]

Little is known about the current organization or hierarchy of the group. Hayder Mili of Jamestown Foundation states Takfir wal-Hijra has been responsible for "at least five attacks" on worshippers at Mosques in Sudan from 1994 to 2006, resulting "in scores of fatalities and hundreds of injuries".[9] Some news reports in which the name Takfir wal-Hijra have been mentioned include the killing of 16 Muslim worshipers in the Sudan in 1994. The slaughter of 20 people and wounding of 33 others while praying at a Sudanese mosque six years later.[6]

On December 31, 2000, in Northern Lebanon "hundreds of Takfiris" reportedly organized a "sudden attack killing civilians and clashing with the Lebanese army" in its biggest operation since the Lebanese civil war.[9] In 2005 a group calling itself Takfir Wal‐Hijra took credit for the killings of Christian civilians in the Dinnieh area of Lebanon.[11] Takfiris may also have been involved in the murder of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in November 2002 in Jordan.[9]

The 2004 assassin of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, Mohammed Bouyeri, left a note on Van Gogh's body contained references to Takfir wal-Hijra's ideology.[12] One Kassem Daher was accused of being a member of Takfir wal-Hijra when he was arrested by Lebanese authorities in 2000.[13] RPG-wielding militants identified as members of Takfir wal-Hijra carried out a 7 February 2011 attack in Rafah, Egypt, leading to a two-hour battle with Egyptian security forces and local tribesmen in which two people were reported injured.[14]

However, according to Jane's World Insurgency and Terrorism, while Takfir wal-Hijra has been used to describe a wide variety of militant groups, these groups have little or no connection to each other or the original Jama'at al-Muslimin group. Regarding use of the term for local jihadists in Algeria and Sudan since the 1990s and in Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan and Somalia in the early 2000s:

... there is little or no evidence to suggest any connection between these incidents, or to indicate the existence of a national or international group operating under the name Al-Takfir wa al-Hijra, and it seems more likely that the name has become a label of convenience for governments to assign to any local jihadist group. This is underlined by the fact that, while takfir is an essential concept for militant Islamists to justify fighting fellow Muslims, the word takfiri is generally used as a derogatory description for extremists that kill Muslims without sufficient religious justification, and would seem an unlikely choice of name for any group looking to attract a broad following."[10]

Name Takfir wal-Hijra[edit]

The label Takfir wal-Hijra ("excommunication and exodus") was a derogatory one used by the official Egyptian press media when talking about the cult group Jama'at al-Muslimin. The word takfir means to judge and label somebody (specifically one or more self-proclaimed Muslims, in this case contemporary Muslim society) to be a kafir (non-Muslim infidel). Hijra means flight or emigration or leaving, specifically the migration of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca where they were being persecuted, to the city of Medina. Thus, Takfir wal-Hijra referred to Muslims who judge a society to be infidel, and see it as their duty to separate from it until such a time as they can return in strength to conquer and Islamicize it, as Muhammad did to Mecca.

Since few Egyptian Muslims (and no one in the government) agreed with Jama'at al-Muslimin's founder Shukri Mustafa that Muslims in Egypt deserved to be "excommunicated" (Takfir), and that true Muslims were compelled to be in "exodus" (Hijra), the cult's idea of Takfir wal-Hijra made it unique to most Egyptians. On the other hand, most Egyptians hesitated to use the title the group used for itself -- Jama'at al-Muslimin or Society of Muslims—as it implied that it was the society of Muslims, and those not members were not part of Muslim society and not true Muslims. Consequently, Takfir wal-Hijra, was the name given to the group by its detractors. Not surprisingly, Shukri and his followers strongly objected to being called that, but Takfir wal-Hijra, not Jama'at al-Muslimin, became fixed in the popular consciousness.[15]


  1. ^ The Salafist Movement | Bruce Livesey| pbs.org
  2. ^ Islamist Terrorism and Democracy in the Middle East By Katerina Dalacoura
  3. ^ a b "The secret war," The Guardian (30 September 2001).
  4. ^ Zawadzki, Sabina (October 26, 2009). Pearce, Time, ed. "Ukraine detains three suspected Islamic militants". Reuters. 
  5. ^ Russian security forces detain 14 suspected radical Islamists| By Alla Eshchenko and Laura Smith-Spark| CNN| November 27, 2013
  6. ^ a b c d "Al Qaeda's New Front" Frontline PBS News, 25 January 2005
  7. ^ a b Homeland security in the UK: future preparedness for terrorist attack since 9/11 By Paul Wilkinson, p.47
  8. ^ Gleis, Joshua L. (Spring 2005). [file:///C:/Users/mc-staff/Downloads/gleis_national+security+implications+al-takfir+wal-hijra.pdf "National Security Implications of Al‐Takfir Wal‐Hijra"] Check |url= value (help) (PDF). Al Nakhlah, The Fletcher School Online Journal for issues related to Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization: 1. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Mili, Hayder (June 29, 2006). "Jihad Without Rules: The Evolution of al-Takfir wa al-Hijra". Terrorism Monitor. 4 (13). Retrieved 18 December 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Jane's World Insurgency and Terrorism
  11. ^ National Security Implications of Al‐Takfir Wal‐Hijra| Joshua L. Gleis
  12. ^ Murder for the sake of Allah- Blasphemy vs.Jihad in Holland, Militant Islam Monitor
  13. ^ Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Summary of the Security Intelligence Report concerning Mahmoud Jaballah, February 22, 2008
  14. ^ Amid Egypt Turmoil, More Clashes in Sinai, New York Times 08-02-2011
  15. ^ Understanding Terror Networks By Marc Sageman, (University of Pennsylvania Press) p.28