Jihadis Who Battled Gadhafi Now Dig in Against Assad

Dozens of Egyptian Islamist fighters who aided the 2011 Libyan rebel assault on Colonel Muammar Gadhafi are joining the fight against Bashar al-Assad. Mustapha Amarah reports on the jihadists who've individually entered Syria, and on the discussion in neighboring countries about allocating charity funds to the Syrian needy.

al-monitor Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons in the El Amreeyeh neighbourhood of Syria's northwest city of Aleppo August 28, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Zain Karam.

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zakat, libyan revolution, libyan fighters, jihad in syria, jihad, internationalization of the syrian crisis, fatwa

Aug 29, 2012

Sources in the Gamaa Islamiya political party have confirmed that scores of fighters who had fought beside Libyan rebels in the war against the Gadhafi regime have moved to Syria to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The sources said that some of those have been killed in recent battles.

Mohammad Refaat, brother of Egyptian martyr Ahmed Refaat and who used to live in the governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh in Egypt, provided details about his brother’s death. He said that his brother went to fight alongside the Libyan mujahideen in Libya, where he learned martial arts. He later returned to Egypt and stayed for a while in his hometown, then suddenly traveled to Syria to fight the Assad forces, “until we learned the news of his death.”

Magdy Salem, prominent jihadist leader and head of the Egyptian Islamic jihadist group the Vanguards of Conquest, admitted that some cadres of the jihadist organization are in Syria to support the Free Syrian Army. However, he stressed that it is an individual choice taken by some jihadists and not a general direction by the organization.

Salem noted that there is major Egyptian dereliction in failing to support the Syrian revolution. He said that Egypt and its revolutionaries must support the Syrian people's struggle to rid themselves of bloody dictatorial rule. He ruled out the recurrence of the situation in which fighters returned from Afghanistan or Albania, since traveling to Syria is still limited and cannot be compared to what happened in the 1980s, when the Mubarak regime persecuted Islamists and tried to eliminate them.

On a separate note, a number of Al-Azhar scholars supported the idea of the rich allocating their zakat (Islamic charity) money this year to the Syrian people. Hamid Abu-Taleb, member of the Islamic Research Academy and adviser to the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, said that it is permissible to allocate the zakat money to Syria’s poor and refugees in Turkey, Jordan and other neighboring countries.

Abu Taleb said that since the refugees had left their money behind and have become poor and needy, it was permissible to pay zakat money to them. Abu-Taleb warned against taking advantage of this ruling by collecting the money to buy weapons. He stressed that the zakat money allocated to Syria’s poor should not be spent to fund wars or compensate those wounded during fighting.

He explained that, according to the Prophet Mohammad, the money should be taken from the rich and distributed among the poor. But if there is a surplus of zakat money and the poor can dispense of it, it may be transferred from one place to another, Abu-Taleb said. Zakat can also be re-given to people poorer than oneself, as is the case with the poor and refugees of Syria. 

Amina Naseer, professor of religion and philosophy at Al-Azhar University, said that zakat should primarily be given to people in need within the local community, and not be moved out of the country except when necessary. But in Syria, the people are suffering from hunger, fear and a lack of security. Thus, the religious edict requiring the allocation of zakat money to them is justifiable according to Shariah law.

Naseer added that the situation in Syria today is abnormal. The poor have been simultaneously inflicted with fear, poverty and hunger, and there is no problem if part of the zakat is sent to them as they are suffering.

Yasser Burhamy, deputy head of the group the Salafist Calling, said that it was permissible to allocate zakat money to the people of Syria, on the condition that it is received by the poor, needy and those who are struggling.

For his part, Ahmed Karima, professor of Shariah at Al-Azhar University, said that according to the rules of zakat, the money is not to be moved outside a country until its domestic beneficiaries receive amounts sufficient for their need. If the country’s poor, street children and disabled get their fill, the surplus may be transferred to another country. But, he said, the people of Egypt are in greater need than Syria, and this fatwa concerns Egypt.

Karima said that it is necessary to issue a joint fatwa on the issue of Islamic countries granting zakat to the people of Syria, to avoid mistakes. Individual fatwas on a major issue such as Syria are unacceptable, he added. 

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