I first noticed the term al wala wal bara (or al wala’ wa’l bara’ if you go in for diacritics) cropping up on the internet two or three years ago. It is variously defined as “Loyalty and Disavowal” or “Loving and Hating for Allah” or simply “Islamic Apartheid”. Usually it appears without references so I tried to track some down. This blog post is basically a list of the most useful sources I could find, which I hope may be of interest to the reader. If you know of any better, please let me know.
It appears here as an aside in an open letter to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster written by Denis MacEoin. What caught my eye was the very definite tone of the last sentence which came as a surprise from the usually very measured Professor MacEoin:
“It also does not help if we ignore another basic Islamic doctrine, something called Al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ — meaning something like ‘loyalty and enmity’, as it has been translated in several English-language Muslim publications issued in the UK. While the real meaning is more complex, what it amounts to is an assertion that Muslims must have as little as possible to do with non-Muslims. Muslims should not celebrate Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries or anything else with their non-Muslim workmates or neighbours. They must not take part in interfaith gatherings where they may be called on to compromise their faith. They must expose the falsehoods of Christianity and Judaism (based on passages in the Qur’an that treat both the Old and New Testaments as hopelessly corrupt); deny the sonship and godhood of Jesus; reject the crucifixion; condemn monks and priests, and so on. This doctrine has been widely preached and published in this country. It represents a significant challenge to your own interfaith work. Even the most moderate and companionable Muslims find it impossible to deny these things, because to do so would mean denying the veracity of the Word of God.”
Here is a fairly uncompromising run down of the doctrine, with supporting Koranic verses, from an Islamic website.
Raymond Ibrahim writes about Islam from the dual perspective of an American citizen with an Egyptian Coptic heritage. Here is his summary of al wala wal bara with a link to an apposite article in ISIS’s in house magazine Dabiq entitled Why we hate you and & why we fight you.
Here is David Bukay, professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Haifa, linking the doctrine specifically to Salafi-Jihadi groups, quoting one of their ideological forebears the mediaeval scholar ibn Taymiyah:
“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.”
Here are nearly 300 pages on the subject by Salafist Shaykh Muhammad Saeed al‐Qahtani. If you can plough through this lot you are a better man than I, but part 3 p.61 A word about the so-called Inter-faith Movement gives a flavour, and would provide a salutary counterview for those who engage in Interfaith Dialogue if they were to read it. They won’t, of course.
And finally here is an article by the Muslim blogger Da Masked Avenger. It is a revue of Shiraz Maher’s book Salafi-Jihadism – The History of an Idea.
Among other things, Da Masked Avenger points out the five central concepts of the Salafi-Jihadi movement – Jihad [holy war], Takfir [excommunication], Al-Wala wal Bara [loyalty and disavowal], Tawhid [monotheism] and Hakimyah [political sovereignty of God] – and quotes the following as “probably the book’s most defining passage”:
“Whilst all of these ideas exist within normative Islamic traditions, and there is nothing particularly unique or special about them, what makes them relevant in this context is that the contemporary Salafi-Jihadi movement has interpreted and shaped them in unique and original ways. Explaining what they have done to those ideas and how they have done it is the overriding aim of this book.”
I found the section of Maher’s book on al wala wal bara well worth the read. It details the historical uses made of the concept (basically its increasing weaponisation) from the days of Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), after whom Wahhabism is named, until today.
This is from Maher’s conclusion:
“The concept of al-wala’ wa-l-bara’ has undergone a series of profound changes over the last three decades. Originally deployed as a tool of social dissent and rebellion by political actors in Saudi Arabia, its ability to create popular agitations around key issues quickly became apparent. During this time the idea was largely a xenophobic one – counselling against alliances with supposedly hostile and alien cultures. Instead it urged exclusivity among Muslims, where believers should rely on one another while shunning everyone else. The inherently political nature of al-wala’ wa-l-bara’ became apparent during this time revealing how Salafi-Jihadis, much like those from other religious traditions, occupy their time searching for authenticity in the space between scripture and meaning.
….it is clear that the evolution of al-wala’ wa-l-bara’ has been driven and shaped principally by conflict. It is an indelible characteristic, present at every turn and stage of its conceptual development. Having emerged as a tool of political mobilisation during the incipient phases of the modern Saudi state, whenever subjected to the stresses of political unrest and conflict it has mutated into an evermore doctrinaire and demanding idea.”