The Meaning of Jihad

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The Meaning of Jihad

Testimony of Al-Fadl regarding discussion with Osama Bin Laden

Court transcript

By: Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl

Date: February 6, 2001

Source: Testimony of Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl provided in the case of The United States of America v. Usama (Osama) Bin Laden, et., al., 2001.

About the Author: Testimony provided by former al-Qaeda member Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl.


In 2001, a United States court in New York conducted the trial of four men accused of murdering 224 people in the bombing of two American embassies in Africa in 1998. They were found guilty and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.

The case was based on the testimony of two key witnesses, Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl and L'Houssaine Kherchtou. These men had both been long-term members of the al-Qaeda network and had intimate knowledge of the way in which the organization operated. A third man, Ali Mohamed, a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces, also testified after pleading guilty to similar charges relating to the bombings.

Ali Mohamed provided evidence of Osama Bin Laden's role in the terrorist attacks, testifying that he had conducted surveillance of Western embassies in Africa under Osama Bin Laden's instructions, providing the al-Qaeda leader with photographs, diagrams, and reports of the embassies' security arrangements. He also reported that he had even witnessed Osama Bin Laden use one of the photographs to pinpoint the exact location of a future bombing.

The trial testimony provided an insightful picture of the operations of al-Qaeda. It documented the group's early movement from Afghanistan to Sudan and highlighted their plans to use violence against Islamic governments, such as Saudi Arabia, that failed to follow extreme Islamic principles.



New York, N.Y.

February 6, 2001

10:00 a.m.

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, your Honor. The government calls as its first witness, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl.

Q: Can you tell us what happened, the circumstance under which you met Abu Hajer al Iraqi and Usama Bin Laden at this guesthouse?

A: I met them during the prayer, after prayer and usually they talk with new people and they tell them about jihad and what's going on with that.

Q: If you can identify what you recall that Usama Bin Laden told you about jihad after the prayer during that meeting.

A: He talk about the Soviet Union army come to Afghanistan and kill people and we have to help them, we have to make jihad out of them and you have to be patient, you have to follow the rule of the emir.

Q: And do you recall anything in particular that Abu Hajer al Iraqi said that day during the meeting after the prayer?

A: He say similar what Bin Laden talk about, but he make lecture for all new people about Jihad Fardh al Ein.

Q: Can you explain your understanding of what Jihad Fardh al Ein is?

A: Jihad Fardh al Ein mean when the enemy come to Muslim war or Muslim country and the people live in that country, they cannot push the enemy back and they ask for other brother or other Muslim to come and join them. That means any Muslim in the war, he should go over there and push the enemy out of the country.

Q: And during the time when there's a Jihad Fardh al Ein, if a person is busy in personal matters with their family, with school, are they allowed not to go to the Jihad Fardh al Ein?

A: If it's Jihad Fardh al Ein means your family, your kids, your money, your business, you have to forget everything, just focus on jihad.

Q: And is there a time of Jihad where it's optional if you actually go to do the fighting? Do you have a choice other than jihad, something different than Jihad Fardh al Ein, where a person has the option not to go and fight but instead to take care of their other business?

A: Yeah, we have another kind, it's called Jihad Fardh al Khafiya.

Q: Can you tell us what Usama Bin Laden said he was going to do after the Russians left Afghanistan?

A: He thinking about making group.

Q: Can you explain to us anything else you recall about what he wanted this group to do?

A: To be ready for another step because in Afghanistan everything is over.

Q: And did he explain at that time what that other step was?

A: They say we have to make Khalifa.

Q: Can you explain to the jury what a khalifa is?

A: Khalifa mean we need one Muslim leader for the whole Muslim in the war.

Q: Continue with what else you recall Usama Bin Laden stated he wished to do after the Russians left Afghanistan.

A: He say also we want to change the Arab government because there's no Muslim government in the war, so we have to make Muslim government.

Q: Can you tell us what Abu Ayoub al Iraqi said?

A: He said we going to make group and this is group that under Farook, and it's going to be one man for the group and it's going to be focused in jihad and we going to use the group to do another thing out of Afghanistan.

Q: And did Abu Ayoub al Iraqi tell you what the name of this group was?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you tell the jury what the name of the group was?

A: Al Qaeda.

Q: During the time you were in the Sudan and attending the lectures at the guesthouse in the Riyadh section and the Thursday meeting at Soba farm, did you ever learn of the al Qaeda position towards the United States?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you tell the jury how you learned what al Qaeda's view or position towards the United States was?

A: Well, I was in the guesthouse and they talk after Iraq government took Kuwait. After few months, they say American army now, they should leave the Gulf area.

They say the fatwah, it say we cannot let the American army stay in the Gulf area and take our oil, take our money, and we have to do something to take them out. We have to fight them.

Q: Who actually said this after the fatwah was formed that you heard?

A: Bin Laden by himself and Abu Hajer al Iraqi and Saad al Sharif.

Q: And can you tell us how you heard about the next fatwah?

A: I was in the guesthouse and in a Thursday meeting and they say it's new fatwah because we proved more about the American army in Gulf area.

Q: Tell us as best you can recall what they said about America at that time.

A: They say they got another proof for the fatwah and they say Prophet Mohamed say don't allow true religion in our islands.

Yes. After that, also, we got another fatwah because they say the American army come to the home of Africa in Somalia.

Q: Can you tell us how you learned of that fatwah?

A: Also I was in the guesthouse and Abu Ubaidah al Banshiri, he talk about that. He says the American army in home of Africa in Somalia and now they already took off Gulf area and now they go to Somalia, and if they successful in Somalia, the next thing it could be south of Sudan and that's going—they going to take the Islamic countries.

Q: Did you ever hear of a discussion within al Qaeda of whether or not innocent people could be killed?

A: I remember in, yes, I hear that.

Q: When did you hear it?

A: During the Somalia fatwah.

Q: Can you tell the jury what discussion was had about whether or not innocent civilians could be killed?

A: I remember Ibn al Tamiyeh, he said—

Q: Let's stop. Would you just briefly explain to the jury who Ibn al Tamiyeh is?

A: He's a scholar for Islamic history 1700 or 1800 years ago.

Q: Can you tell us now what Abu Hajer al Iraqi said about Ibn al Tamiyeh?

A: He said that our time now is similar like in that time, and he say Ibn al Tamiyeh, when a tartar come to Arabic war, Arabic countries that time, he say some Muslims, they help them. And he says Ibn al Tamiyeh, he make a fatwah. He said anybody around the tartar, he buy something from them and he sell them something, you should kill him. And also, if when you attack the tartar, if anybody around them, anything, or he's not military or that—if you kill him, you don't have to worry about that. If he's a good person, he go to paradise and if he's a bad person, he go to hell.

Q: Was there any further discussion at a later time about whether it was appropriate to kill, to allow innocent civilians to be killed?

A: Also, I remember they say if you—if the people want to make explosives for building and it's military building and sometimes it could be civilian around the building and you don't have any choice other than that, you should do it and you don't have to worry about that.


Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl's testimony provides a unique insight into the religious dogma of the al-Qaeda group. Al-Qaeda represents an extremist faction of the religion in which the concept of jihad is fundamental.

Al-Fadl's close relation with Islamic fundamentalist movements, and his links with Osama Bin Laden, allowed him to provide an unusual narrative of the moments in which al-Qaeda was born. He detailed that after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989, Osama Bin Laden was "thinking about making group," which was "to be ready for another step because in Afghanistan everything is over." However, Al-Fadl indicated the groups higher aim, that of making a Khalifa, which would mean "one Muslim leader for the whole Muslim in the war." Even at these early stages, al-Qaeda was preparing to operate in a global theatre.

Al-Fadl's testimony painted a picture of an organization run by Osama Bin Laden, which was "focused in jihad." He was also able to document the group's disintegrating attitudes towards America. He explained that after the Americans occupied Kuwait in 1992, Osama Bin Laden expressed outrage at their presence in the region. Al Qaeda's views towards the U.S. became even more aggressive after American military action in Somalia.

Al-Fadl's testimony documents the development of al-Qaeda's strategy for terrorism. Al-Fadl relates that in conversations with Al Qaeda group leaders, it was explained that the group's plans included attacks on civilians.



Bergen, Peter. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden. Free Press, 2002.

Web sites

Frontline. "The U.S. Embassy bombing trial." <> (accessed July 7, 2005).

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The Meaning of Jihad

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