Mujahideen (Arabic: مجاهدين mujāhidīn) is the plural form
of mujahid (Arabic: مجاهد), the term for one engaged in Jihad
(literally, "striving" or "struggling," especially with a praiseworthy
In an Islamic context, the
Mujahideen are holy knights of Allah who
are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Allah. Their
goals are to defend the weak, uphold justice, vanquish the oppressors
and establish peace, order and justice, as well as facilitate the
worship of Allah. They have been promised high ranks and status in
paradise. Should they fall in battle then their sacrifice is a
testament to their faith and belief in Allah. They are then forever
immortalised by acquiring the legendary status of a Shaheed (Martyr).
Honoured for their bravery and dedication to Allah, they are amongst
the elite ranked groups in Jannah (Paradise), who are only superseded
by the Prophets, Sahaba (Companions of the Prophets), and few other
ranks like the Siddiqeen (The Sincere Ones) and Zakireen (The Ones who
Remember Allah [perpetually]).
Its widespread use in English began with reference to the
guerrilla-type military outfits led by the
Islamist Afghan warriors in
the Soviet–Afghan War, and now extends to other jihadist outfits in
1 Early history
1.1 Modern western definition
Cold War era
3.1 Yugoslav Wars
3.1.1 Bosnian War
3.2 North Caucasus
4 Contemporary Jihadism
4.1 India and Pakistan
Iraq and Syria
4.3.1 Iraqi insurgency
4.3.2 Syrian civil war
5 See also
Further information: Islamic revival, Islamism, and Mahdist War
In its roots,
Mujahideen (an Arabic word) refers to any person
performing Jihad. In its post-classical meaning,
Jihad refers to an
act which is spiritually comparable in reward to promoting Islam
during the early 600s CE. These acts could be as simple as sharing a
considerable amount of your income with the poor, provided that the
poor in question are Muslim.
Modern western definition
The modern term of mujahideen referring to spiritual Muslim warriors,
originates in the 19th century when the local people of Afghanistan
fought against the invading British (although initially the British
derogatorally called them the Sitana Fanatics). It began in 1829 when
a religious man,
Sayyid Ahmed Shah Brelwi, came back to the village of
Sitana from a pilgrimage to
Mecca and began preaching war against the
infidels in the area defining the Northwest border of British India.
Although he died in battle, the sect he had created survived and the
Mujahideen gained more power and prominence. During the Indian Mutiny
of 1857, the
Mujahideen were said to accept any fleeing Sepoys and
recruit them into their ranks. As time went by the sect grew ever
larger until it was raiding and controlling larger areas in
Usman dan Fodio
Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi
Muhammad Ahmed Al Mahdi
Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosoewirjo
Basmachi opponents of Tsarism and Bolshevism in Central Asia (1916 to
the 1930s) called themselves mojahed.
Cold War era
The modern phenomenon of jihadism that presents jihad (offensive or
defensive) as the casus belli for insurgencies, guerrilla warfare and
international terrorism, dates back to the 20th century and draws on
Islamist doctrines such as Qutbism.
Main articles: Conflict in
Afghanistan (1978–present), Islamic Unity
Afghanistan Mujahideen, and Tehran Eight
Mujahideen fighters passing around the
Durand Line border in 1985
U.S. President Reagan meeting with
Afghan mujahideen at the White
Arguably the best-known mujahideen outside the Islamic world, various
loosely aligned Afghan opposition groups initially rebelled against
the government of the pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
(DRA) during the late 1970s. At the DRA's request, the Soviet Union
brought forces into the country to aid the government from 1979. The
mujahideen fought against Soviet and DRA troops during the Soviet War
Afghanistan (1979–1989). Afghanistan's resistance movement
originated in chaos and, at first, regional warlords waged virtually
all of its fighting locally. As warfare became more sophisticated,
outside support and regional coordination grew. The basic units of
mujahideen organization and action continued to reflect the highly
decentralized nature of Afghan society and strong loci of competing
mujahideen and tribal groups, particularly in isolated areas among the
mountains. Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied as
the political bloc called Islamic Unity of
Many Muslims from other countries assisted the various mujahideen
groups in Afghanistan. Some groups of these veterans became
significant players in later conflicts in and around the Muslim world.
Osama bin Laden, originally from a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, was
a prominent organizer and financier of an all-Arab
Islamist group of
foreign volunteers; his
Maktab al-Khadamat funnelled money, arms, and
Muslim fighters from around the
Muslim world into Afghanistan, with
the assistance and support of the Saudi and Pakistani governments.
These foreign fighters became known as "Afghan Arabs" and their
efforts were coordinated by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
Although the mujahideen were aided by the Pakistani, U.S., and Saudi
governments, the mujahideen's primary source of funding was private
donors and religious charities throughout the Muslim
world—particularly in the Persian Gulf.
Jason Burke recounts that
"as little as 25 per cent of the money for the Afghan jihad was
actually supplied directly by states."
The areas where the different mujahideen forces operated in 1985
Mujahideen forces caused serious casualties to the Soviet forces, and
made the war very costly for the Soviet Union. In 1989 the Soviet
Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan. Many districts and cities
then fell to the mujahideen; in 1992 the DRA's last president,
Mohammad Najibullah, was overthrown.
However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and
many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over
power in Kabul. After several years of devastating fighting, a village
Mohammed Omar organized a new armed movement with the
backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban
("students" in Pashto), referring to how most
Taliban had grown up in
refugee camps in
Pakistan during the 1980s and were taught in the
Wahhabi madrassas, religious schools known for teaching a
fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Veteran mujahideen confronted
this radical splinter group in 1996.
While more than one group in
Iran have called themselves mujahideen,
the most famous is the
People's Mujahedin of Iran
People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI), as of
2014[update] an Iraq-based Islamic Socialist militant organization
that advocates the overthrow of Iran's current government. The group
also took part in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran–
Iraq War (on the
side of Iraqis), and in the Iraqi internal conflicts.
Another mujahideen was the Mujahedin-e Islam, an Islamic party led by
Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani. It formed part of the National
Front (Iran) during the time of Mohammed Mosaddeq's oil
nationalization, but broke away from Mosaddeq over his allegedly
From 1947 to 1961, local mujahideen fought against Burmese government
soldiers in an attempt to have the mostly Rohingya-populated Mayu
peninsula in northern Arakan, Burma (present-day Rakhine State,
Myanmar) secede from the country, so it could be annexed by East
Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). During the late 1950s and early
1960s, the mujahideen lost most of its momentum and support, resulting
in most of them surrendering to government forces.
In the 1990s, the well-armed
Rohingya Solidarity Organisation
Rohingya Solidarity Organisation was the
main perpetrator of attacks on Burmese authorities positioned on the
Islamic insurgency in the Philippines
Islamic insurgency in the Philippines and Moro Islamic
In 1969, political tensions and open hostilities developed between the
Government of the Philippines
Government of the Philippines and jihadist rebel groups. The Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF) was established by University of the
Philippines professor Nur Misuari to condemn the killings of more than
60 Filipino Muslims and later became an aggressor against the
government while the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a splinter
group from the MNLF, was established to seek an
Islamic state within
Philippines and is more radical and more aggressive. The conflict
is ongoing; casualty statistics vary for the conflict however the
conservative estimates of the
Uppsala Conflict Data Program
Uppsala Conflict Data Program indicate
that at least 6,015 people were killed in armed conflict between the
Philippines and ASG, BIFM, MILF, and MNLF factions
between 1989 and 2012.
Abu Sayyaf is an Islamic separatist group
in the southern Philippines, formed in 1991. The group is known for
its kidnappings of Western nationals and Filipinos, for which it has
received several large ransom-payments. Some
Abu Sayyaf members have
studied or worked in
Saudi Arabia and developed relations with the
mujahideen members while fighting and training in the war against the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The 1990s are a transitional period between the
forming part of the proxy wars between the
Cold War superpowers and
the emergence of contemporary jihadism in the wake of the US "War on
Terror" and the "Arab Spring".
Al-Qaeda saw its formative period during this time, and jihadism
formed part of the picture in regional conflicts of the 1990s,
including the Yugoslav Wars, the Somali Civil War, the First Chechen
Bosnian mujahideen and Bosnian War
During the Bosnian war 1992–1995, many foreign Muslims came to
Bosnia as mujahideen. Muslims around the world who shared mujahideen
beliefs and respected the author of
Islamic Declaration come to the
aid of fellow Muslims. Alija Izetbegovic, author of Islamic
Declaration and in his younger days author of poem "To the Jihad" 
was particularly happy about the presence of Mujahedeens in Bosnia and
gave them full support. El Mujahid members claimed that in Bosnia
they only have respect for
Alija Izetbegovic and the head of the
Bosnian Army Third Corps, Sakib Mahmuljin. The number of
foreign Muslim volunteers in Bosnia was estimated at about 4,000 in
contemporary newspaper reports. Later research estimated the
number to be about 400.[better source needed] They came
from various places such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Iraq and the Palestinian Territories; to quote the
summary of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
The evidence shows that foreign volunteers arrived in central Bosnia
in the second half of 1992 with the aim of helping Muslims. Mostly
they came from North Africa, the Near East and the Middle East. The
foreign volunteers differed considerably from the local population,
not only because of their physical appearance and the language they
spoke, but also because of their fighting methods. The various
foreign, Muslim volunteers were primarily organized into an umbrella
detachment of the 7th Muslim Brigade, which was a brigade of the Army
of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, based in Zenica. This
independent subdivision colloquially known as El-Mudžahid, was
composed exclusively of foreign nationals and not Bosnians (whereas
7th Muslim Brigade
7th Muslim Brigade was entirely made up of native Bosnians) and
consisted of somewhere between 300 and 1,500 volunteers. Enver
Hadžihasanović, Lieutenant Colonel of the Bosnian Army's 3rd Corps,
appointed Mahmut Karalić (Commandant), Asim Koričić (Chief of
Staff) and Amir Kubura (Assistant Chief for Operational and Curricula)
to lead the group.
Some of the mujahideen funnelled arms and money into the country which
Bosnia direly needed due to a United Nations-sanctioned arms embargo
restricting the import of weapons into all of the republics of the
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, many of the
mujahideen were extremely devout Muslims of the strict
which contrasted sharply with the widely renowned secular society and
liberal attitude Bosnian Muslims harbored. This led to friction
between the mujahideen and the Bosnians. Furthermore, some mujahideen
wanted to fight a war of extermination, or use Bosnian territory as a
base for terrorist operations elsewhere.
Foreign volunteers in Bosnia have been accused of committing war
crimes during the conflict. However, the ICTY has never issued
indictments against mujahideen fighters. Instead, the ICTY indicted
some Bosnian Army commanders on the basis of superior criminal
responsibility. The ICTY acquitted Amir Kubura and Enver
Hadžihasanović of the Bosnian 3rd Corps of all charges related to
the incidents involving mujahideen. Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber
noted that the relationship between the 3rd Corps and the El Mujahedin
detachment was not one of subordination but was instead close to overt
hostility since the only way to control the detachment was to attack
them as if they were a distinct enemy force.
The ICTY Trial Chamber convicted Rasim Delic, the former chief of the
Bosnian Army General Staff. The ICTY found that Delic had effective
control over the El Mujahid Detachment. He was sentenced to three
years of imprisonment for his failure to prevent or punish the cruel
treatment of twelve captured Serb soldiers by the Mujahideen. Delic
remained in the Detention Unit while appellate proceedings
Some individuals of the Bosnian Mujahideen, such as Abdelkader
Mokhtari, Fateh Kamel, and Karim Said Atmani, gained particular
prominence within Bosnia as well as international attention from
various foreign governments. They were all North African volunteers
with well established links to
Islamic Fundamentalist groups before
and after the Bosnian War.
In 2015, former Human Rights Minister and Federation BiH Vice
President Mirsad Kebo talked about numerous war crimes committed
against Serbs by mujahideen in Bosnia and their links with current and
past Muslim officials including former and current presidents of
federation and presidents of parliament based on war diaries and other
documented evidence. He gave evidence to the BiH federal
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Main article: Insurgency in the North Caucasus
Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya
Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya and Islamic
The term mujahideen has often been used to refer to all separatist
fighters in the case of the First and Second Chechen Wars. However, in
this article, mujahideen is used to refer to the foreign,
non-Caucasian fighters who joined the separatists’ cause for the
sake of Jihad. They are often called Ansaar (helpers) in related
literature dealing with this conflict to prevent confusion with the
Foreign mujahideen have played a part in both Chechen wars. After the
collapse of the
Soviet Union and the subsequent Chechen declaration of
independence, foreign fighters began entering the region and
associating themselves with local rebels (most notably Shamil
Basayev). Many of the foreign fighters were veterans of the
Soviet-Afghan war. The mujahideen also made a significant financial
contribution to the separatists’ cause; with their access to the
immense wealth of Salafist charities like al-Haramein, they soon
became an invaluable source of funds for the Chechen resistance, which
had few resources of its own.
Most of the mujahideen decided to remain in
Chechnya after the
withdrawal of Russian forces. In 1999, foreign fighters played an
important role in the ill-fated Chechen incursion into Dagestan, where
they suffered a decisive defeat and were forced to retreat back into
Chechnya. The incursion provided the new Russian government with a
pretext for intervention. Russian ground forces invaded
in December 1999.
The mujahideen were deemed responsible for the decapitation of six
young Russian conscripts caught in
Dagestan during a rebel incursion.
The beheading was filmed and then posted online. The six Russian
conscripts were caught behind enemy lines after the small and
unprepared Russian unit retreated during a rebel advance onto
Dagestan. The mujahideen were then killed by Russian special forces
during a gunfight a short time later.
The separatists were less successful in the Second Chechen War. The
Chechens were unable to hold their ground against better prepared and
more determined Russian forces. Russian officials claimed that the
separatists had been defeated as early as 2002. The Russians also
succeeded in killing the most prominent mujahideen commanders, most
Ibn al-Khattab and Abu al-Walid.
Although the region has since been far from stable, separatist
activity has decreased, though some foreign fighters remain active in
Chechnya. In the last months of 2007, the influence of foreign
fighters became apparent again when
Dokka Umarov proclaimed the
Caucasus Emirate being fought for by the Caucasian Mujahadeen, a
Islamic state of which
Chechnya was to be a province.
This move caused a rift in the resistance movement between those
supporting the Emirate and those who were in favour of preserving the
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
Further information: Jihadism
India and Pakistan
Kashmir conflict and War in North-West Pakistan
An outfit calling itself the
Indian Mujahideen came to light in 2008
with multiple large scale terror attacks. On November 26, 2008, a
group calling itself the
Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for
a string of attacks across Mumbai. The Weekly Standard claimed,
"Indian intelligence believes the
Indian Mujahideen is a front group
Lashkar-e-Taiba and the
confuse investigators and cover the tracks of the Students Islamic
Movement of India, or SIMI, a radical
Islamist movement with aim to
establish Islamic rule over India. In the Indian state of Jammu
and Kashmir, Kashmiri Muslim separatists opposing Indian rule are
often known as mujahideen.
Several different militant groups have since taken root in
Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Most noticeable of these groups are
Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Jammu and Kashmir
Liberation Front (JKLF),
Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
(HuM). A 1996 report by
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch estimated the number of
active mujahideen at 3,200.
The members of the
Salafi movement (within Sunni Islam) in the south
Indian state of
Kerala is known as "Mujahids".
Mujahideen was an
Islamist organisation operating in
Bangladesh. The organization was officially banned by the government
Bangladesh in February 2005 after attacks on NGOs, but struck back
in mid-August when it detonated 500 bombs at 300 locations throughout
Iraq and Syria
Iraq War and Iraqi insurgency (
The term mujahideen is sometimes applied to fighters who joined the
insurgency after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Some groups also use the
word mujahideen in their names, like
Mujahideen Shura Council and
Following the U.S. invasion of
Iraq as part of the George W. Bush
administration's post 9/11 foreign policy, many foreign Mujahideen
joined several Sunni militant groups resisting the U.S. occupation of
Iraq. A considerable part of the insurgents did not come from
instead from many other Arab countries, notably
Jordan and Saudi
Arabia. Among these recruits was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian
national who would go on to assume the leadership of
Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Syrian civil war
Syrian civil war
Syrian civil war and Islamic State in
Iraq and Syria
Various Islamic groups, often referred to as mujahideen and jihadists,
have participated in the Syrian civil war. Alawites, the sect to which
Bashar al-Assad belongs, are considered to be
heretics in some Sunni Muslim circles. In this sense, radical Sunni
Jihadist organizations and their affiliates have been anti-Assad.
Jihadist leaders and intelligence sources said foreign fighters had
begun to enter Syria only in February 2012. In May 2012, Syria's
U.N. envoy Bashar Ja'afari declared that dozens of foreign fighters
from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Britain, France elsewhere had been
captured or killed, and urged Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to stop
"their sponsorship of the armed rebellion".
and intelligence sources said foreign fighters had begun to enter
Syria only in February 2012. In June, it was reported that
hundreds of foreign fighters, many linked to al-Qaeda, had gone to
Syria to fight against Assad. When asked if the United States
would arm the opposition, Hillary Clinton expressed fears that such
weapons could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda or Hamas.
American officials assumed already in 2012 that Qaidat al-Jihad
Al-Qaeda in Iraq) has conducted bomb attacks against Syrian
government forces, Iraqi Foreign Minister
Hoshyar Zebari said that
Iraq members have gone to Syria, where the militants
previously received support and weapons from the Syrian government in
order to destabilize the US occupation of Iraq. On 23 April, one
of the leaders of Fatah al-Islam, Abdel Ghani Jawhar, was killed
during the Battle of Al-Qusayr, after he blew himself up while making
a bomb. In July 2012, Iraq's foreign minister again warned that
members of al-Qaeda in
Iraq were seeking refuge in Syria and moving
there to fight.
It is believed that al-Qaeda leader
Ayman al-Zawahiri condemned
Assad. A group thought linked to al-Qaeda and calling itself the
al-Nusra Front claimed for a suicide bomb attack on 6 January 2012 in
the central Damascus neighbourhood of al-Midan killed 26 people, most
of whom were civilians, as well as for truck bombs that killed 55
people and injured 370.
A member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Lebanon admitted that his
group had sent fighters to Syria.
The Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) was
designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the Department
Haram has been active in
Nigeria since it was founded in 2001. It
existed in other forms before 2001. Although it initially limited its
operations to northeast Nigeria, it has since expanded to other parts
of Nigeria, and to Cameroon,
Niger and Chad. Boko
Haram seeks to
implement sharia law across Nigeria.
Somali Civil War
Somali Civil War and Al-Shabaab (militant group)
Al-Shabaab militants made gains (2009-10) in guerrilla-style attacks
The currently active jihadist groups in Somalia derive from the
Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya group active during the 1990s.
In July 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin
Laden urged Somalis to build an
Islamic state in the country and
warned western states that his al-Qaeda network would fight against
them if they intervened there. Foreign fighters began to arrive,
though there were official denials of the presence of mujahideen in
the country. Even so, the threat of jihad was made openly and
repeatedly in the months preceding the Battle of Baidoa. On
December 23, 2006, Islamists, for the first time, called upon
international fighters to join their cause. The term mujahideen is
now openly used by the post-ICU resistance against the Ethiopians and
Mujahideen is said to have non-Somali foreigners in
its ranks, particularly among its leadership. Fighters from the
Persian Gulf and international jihadists were called to join the holy
war against the Somali government and its Ethiopian allies. Though
Somali Islamists did not use suicide bombing tactics before, the
foreign elements of al-Shabaab are blamed for several suicide
Egypt has a longstanding policy of securing the Nile
River flow by destabilizing Ethiopia. Similarly, recent media
reports said that Egyptian and Arab jihadists were the core members of
Al-Shabaab, and were training Somalis in sophisticated weaponry and
suicide bombing techniques. In early 2012, hundreds of fighters
from the Middle-East and
Pakistan left Somalia, apparently to help
Al-Qaeda territory in Yemen, where a new president is likely to
use his popular mandate and American support to mount an offensive
List of battles of Muhammad
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