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What Drives Saudi Arabia to Persist in Terrorist Financing? Al-Jihad bi-al-Mal – Financial Jihad Against the Infidels

Filed under: Hamas, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism
Publication: Jerusalem Viewpoints

No. 531     23 Iyar 5765 / 1 June 2005


  • The U.S. offensive against terrorism has succeeded in reducing the extent of global terrorism. However, under the surface, the financial channels that are the arteries of radical Islamic movements from Hamas to the Chechens continue to operate. U.S. pressure has managed to force Islamic financiers to alter their pattern of operations, but the substance of their support persists – in a financial jihad that backs the wider global jihad against the infidels.

  • Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states remain the most significant source of funds flowing to the Islamist movements. New documents found at “charitable foundations” linked to Hamas, as well as a careful examination of the Palestinian press, indicate a continuing flow of funds directly from official Saudi organizations to these foundations, which were declared by both Israel and the U.S. as terrorist organizations.

  • Palestinian Authority officials recently confirmed that Saudi Arabia continues to fund charitable foundations controlled by Hamas. The World Assembly for Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) are active in transferring these funds. Captured documents show that the Saudi charity al-Haramain transferred funds to the al-Quran and a-Sunna Society in Qalqilia in August 2003 – almost two months after President George W. Bush announced in a summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, that he had assurances from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah and other Arab leaders that they would halt all financial assistance to terrorist organizations.

  • In a later captured document, dated 8 February 2004, the Hamas-linked Idhna foundation in the Hebron area thanked al-Haramain for its assistance. The chairman of the al-Haramain administrative council was the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, a member of the Saudi cabinet.

  • The financial support funneled to Hamas charitable societies under the heading of “humanitarian aid to the needy” is part of a financial jihad, subsidizing the military operations of the terrorist group. The Hamas civilian infrastructure is comprised of economic, educational, and social institutions that serve the terrorist wing. Intelligence services should devote more attention and resources to uncovering how terrorist organizations avoid international control mechanisms by operating through “innocent” front groups. Western financial institutions must not allow the transfer of funds that nourish the globaljihad.

Suicide Attacks in the Path of Allah

Islamic scholars who are considered to be mentors of terrorist movements attribute great importance to “suicide attacks in the path of Allah,” describing them as the highest level of jihad against the “enemies of Islam.” One prominent radical Saudi scholar, Safar bin Abd al-Aziz al-Hawali,1 in his “call upon the Muslims to salvage their brothers in Palestine” (January 2002), termed the armed intifada “the pinnacle of jihad,” explaining: “The jihad of our brothers is glorious jihad in the path of Allah, designed to defend the Islamic Holy Places, to remove injustice, and to restore their land and the Muslims’ land.”2

Since September 2000, the unprecedented phenomenon of Palestinian suicide bombing attacks has offered an inspiring model of jihad for many Islamic terrorist movements. The Israeli General Security Services (GSS) reports that during 2000-2004, there were 138 suicide attacks employing explosive belts or booby-trapped cars, as well as 431 thwarted attempts. This is in addition to many hundreds of shooting attacks by Palestinian terrorists that were also suicide attacks.

Hamoud al-Oqala al-Shuaibi,3 the late Saudi scholar whose Islamic edicts were adopted by Hamas and al-Qaeda, determined that “the highest and most exalted degree [in jihad] is the self-sacrificing jihad [martyrdom], as it is the most difficult for warriors, demanding of them the greatest self-sacrifice of martyrdom. The reward promised by God to the martyrs is well-known [marriage to 72 virgins, the right to intercede with God to bring 70 family members to Heaven, and enjoying the pleasures of Heaven] and is based on the premise that [self-sacrificing jihad] brings about the decisive submission of the enemy…imposing terror on him and breaking his spirit. Thus, victory is achieved.”4

Financial Jihad in the Quran

The definition of jihad in Islam, is not confined merely to waging war with arms, but includes several other aspects of support for “holy war.” Islamic scholars specify these as:

  • Al-Jihad bi-al-Lisan – Jihad of the Tongue, and al-Jihad bi-al-Qalam – Jihad of the Pen, namely preaching and calling forjihad
  • Jihad al-Nafs – Jihad of the Soul – the personal struggle to avoid sin and adhere to Allah’s commandment
  • Al-Jihad bi-al-Nafs – Self-sacrificing Jihad in the path of Allah
  • Al-Jihad bi-al-Mal – Financial Jihad: fundraising for needy Muslims and supporting the jihad warriors – the mujahideen

The Islamic sources of financial jihad are found in the Quran, often intertwined with self-sacrificing jihad. The importance attributed to financial jihad in Islam is illustrated in the following Quran verses:

  • “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.” – al-Tawba (Repentance), Chapter 9, verse 41
  • “Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah’s way are of much greater worth in Allah’s sight. These are they who are triumphant.” – al-Tawba (Repentance), Chapter 9, verse 20
  • “O ye who believe! Shall I show you a commerce that will save you from a painful doom? Ye should believe in Allah and His messenger, and should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is better for you, if ye did but know.” – al-Saff (the ranks, battle arrays), Chapter 61, verse 10-11
  • “The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere.” – al-Hujraat (the private apartments, the inner apartments), Chapter 49, verse 15
  • “Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials (appointed) over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debt and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer; an ordinance from Allah; and Allah is knowing, Wise.” – al-Tawba (Repentance), Chapter 9, verse 60

All Islamic scholars are unanimous in their interpretation of these verses regarding the centrality and importance of financialjihad as part of Allah’s jihad commandment to Muslims. Some interpretations note the verses’ internal order, in which “wealth” precedes “lives,” as evidence of the significance of financial jihad and, in certain circumstances, its precedence over self-sacrificing jihad. In his Islamic edict on jihad in Chechnya, al-Shuaibi determined that the “significance of financial jihad is not inferior to self-sacrificing jihad, being even more important.”5

Dr. Hussein Shehata,6 a professor at al-Azhar University in Cairo, explains the uniqueness of the financial jihad commandment as being “a trial of strength of Muslim faith” and “a means to purify the soul from stinginess.” Through financial jihad, according to Shehata, Allah gives wealthy Muslims the opportunity to allocate some of their money for da’awa (literally, the call for Islam), the Islamic effort to teach or to convert people to Islam.7

Dr. Ajeel Jassem al-Nashami,8 secretary general of the International Organization for Zakat (Islamic alms) in Kuwait, argued that donations made by Muslims for zakat should be funneled to finance jihad warfare in Palestine against Israel. In his interpretation of the Quranic verse (al-Tawba, Chapter 9, verse 60), he noted that Allah determined eight ways for using zakat for the benefit of Muslims, four of them designated to support jihad and the other four aimed at helping the needy.9

Praising the merits of financial jihad, Muslim scholars also rely on Islamic tradition (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Mohammad, which assures Muslims who donate money for jihad the same reward in Heaven as the mujahideen themselves. According tohadith: “One [Muslim] who equips a person on his way to raid [the enemy’s camps] in Allah’s path [jihad] is considered to have the same status as the raider [mujahid]. One [Muslim] who substitutes [the raider] concerning his family and [taking care of their needs] with good deeds is considered to have the same status as the raider [mujahid].”10

In practical terms, financial jihad is designed to sustain self-sacrificing jihad and enable it to achieve its goals on the battlefield. Dr. Abdullah Qadiri al-Ahdal,11 a Saudi professor at al-Medina University, referring to the duty to support the Palestinianmujahideen, determined that “financial jihad applies to all of us [Muslims] in accordance with each person’s capability. No excuse can dismiss anyone from donating money to the mujahideen and their families…as they are in urgent need of food, medication, clothing, weapons, and other [basic] necessities of life.”12 Al-Ahdal views financial jihad as a vital means for themujahideen in financing their military activity (purchasing weapons, etc.) and at the same time in securing proper social conditions for the families of the mujahideen, who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Islam.

In another fatwa, Hussein Shehata argues that financial jihad is designed to assure mutual indemnity among Muslims and the commitment of Muslims to their warriors. According to Shehata, Muslims are committed to “financially support the families of themujahideen who joined the call for jihad and left behind them their women and children….They [the families] are in desperate need of money and basic necessities of life such as food, drink, and accommodation.” Shehata explains that the financial jihadcommandment given by God is intended “to calm the mujahideen’s [worries] by demonstrating that there are those [Muslims] who practice financial jihad and do not skimp on money for their families, even if they have fallen on the battlefield or their houses are damaged or destroyed.”13

In Seventy Ways to Support the Chechen Jihad, published on the official website of the Chechen mujahideen, the importance of financial and material donations is emphasized. The Chechen mujahideen called upon Muslims to support jihad in Chechnya against the “Russian enemy” in any way possible, and to begin by transferring financial and material support.14

39 Principles of Jihad, a book by Mohammad bin Ahmad al-Salem15 that appears on websites affiliated with al-Qaeda, offers readers an opportunity to comprehend the broad meaning of the concept of jihad as interpreted by Muslim scholars. Jihad is not only an expression of violent action against infidels, but comprises diverse acts that every Muslim is commanded to perform in order to sustain jihad. Eight of the 39 principles deal with various aspects of financial jihad:

  1. Financing jihad – Muslims can join in jihad by donating to jihad and the mujahideen. The donation’s value is determined by its quality and destination and not only by the amount of money given.
  2. Supplying the fighters’ needs – Believers who are unable to take part in jihad (for instance, women and the handicapped) can perform their duty by supplying money and equipment to the mujahideen. By doing so, the donor is considered mujahidand deserves the same reward.
  3. Taking care of the mujahideen’s family – Believers who support the mujahideen’s family are considered mujahid and deserve half of their reward. On the other hand, neglecting the mujahideen’s family may bring them misfortune and death by the hand of God.
  4. Assisting the families of the fallens – by supplying the special needs of orphans and widows.
  5. Assisting the families of prisoners and wounded warriors – by supplying their necessities.
  6. Collecting funds for the mujahideen – Money is the lifeline of jihad. Its importance also stems from the action of gathering donations, which arouse the spirit of jihad in the hearts of believers. There are many ways to carry out this duty: at mosques, public venues, family gatherings, charity events, monthly donations, or by urging the wealthy to open their hearts to the mujahideen.
  7. Granting charity donations to the mujahideen – who enjoy priority in Islam.
  8. Financing medical treatment for wounded mujahideen.16

Hamas Sees Financial Jihad as Indispensable

Hamas leaders and sages make clear that financial jihad is indispensable for sustaining the “military” aspects of the intifada, including suicide attacks. Mohammad Hassan Sham’a,17 one of the founders of Hamas and a senior leader responsible for its social and economic infrastructure, emphasized that the “social aspect (e.g., the activity of Hamas societies) in the intifada is no less important than public relations or political aspects, as it is the source of power for the intifada…and its lifeline for steadfastness and confrontation with the enemy….The material support provides the strength to persist and escalate the intifada.”18 He described Arab support for the “mujahideen in Palestine” and the Palestinian cause as “support for the Hamas movement to pursue jihad.19

Yusuf Qardawi, a well-known Egyptian scholar and preacher and prominent Hamas spiritual guide who today resides in Qatar,20encourages Muslim believers in his sermons to open their hearts in every possible way, including financially, to sustain the Palestinian intifada. In his eyes, this is the only way to bring about the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine. “We should replant in the [Muslim] nation’s [mind] the passion of death, the desire for self-sacrifice in the path of Allah….These youth, the youth of Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as the Fatah rebels, are those who terrorize the Zionist entity.”21

Qardawi regards financial jihad as the main tool for supporting the jihad of self-sacrifice – suicide attacks committed by men and women alike, which were legitimized in his Islamic edicts.22 He said: “Our brothers [in Palestine] who commit the Jihad bi-al-Nafssacrifice themselves every day….The [Palestinian] mother when notified that her son has fallen in the path of Allah…utters trilling cries of joy…and the fathers…react by reciting verses praising Allah. This is the [Islamic] nation which sacrifices martyrs every day.” Qardawi ruled on this basis that Muslims should adopt reciprocal actions by “sacrificing the money for them [themujahideen].”

In this context, he defines the activities of the Islamic charitable societies sustaining the intifada as a “new type of jihad, financialjihad, through which financial support is guaranteed to the martyrs’ families, Palestinian prisoners and detainees, and every Palestinian whose property is damaged during the conflict.”23 Qardawi further argues that financial jihad, with its various financial and social aspects, is the central mainstay for preserving the flames of jihad during the intifada.

Qardawi has criticized the Arab regimes for their passivity, saying: “If the Arab states cannot wage a war [against Israel]…they should at least support the intifada. The resistance should persist, the intifada should persist. The intifada has its martyrs, wounded, handicapped, and detainees….Many aspects [of the intifada] need money…as long as the battle continues, it is essential to support it with money.” Qardawi illustrates his point by mentioning the Qatari Id bin Mohammad charitable society as an example of the “praiseworthy” activity of charitable societies in support of the Palestinian people, and thus focuses attention on the importance of these societies in sustaining the intifada.24

Saudi Financial Support for Hamas

The Saudi Committee to Support the al-Aqsa Intifada (“the Saudi committee”) provides an example of the concept of financialjihad for the Saudi regime. The committee, established by royal decree several weeks after the intifada erupted in October 2000, has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars donated by Saudi individuals and institutions to Palestinian charitable societies, most of which are controlled by Hamas. These donations are distributed to several categories of Palestinian beneficiaries: “martyrs’ families” (including families of suicide bombers), prisoners and detainees’ families, the wounded and handicapped, needy families, and Palestinians whose property was damaged or destroyed during the intifada. The financial support bestowed by the Saudi committee was transferred directly to the Palestinian beneficiaries and the charitable societies, which are mostly front organizations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Saudi scholars supplied the Islamic justification for the committee by defining the intifada as a “legitimate jihad,” thus ruling that Muslims have a duty to financially support the Palestinian intifada.25

Saudi financial support for Hamas charities has not ceased, even after a Saudi commitment to President Bush in June 2003. At the Sharm el-Sheik summit attended by Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush underscored that Arab leaders “have declared their firm rejection of terror regardless of its justifications or motives” and are “committed to practical actions to use all means to cut off assistance including arms and financing to any terror group.”26 Yet the Saudi committee is continuing its financial support for various projects within the PA, mainly through Palestinian charities.27 Documents seized by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have revealed that the Saudi al-Haramain charitable foundation (dismantled in 2004 due to American pressure because of its suspected ties to al-Qaeda) transferred 5,624,370 Jordanian dinars on 20 August 2003 to the al-Quran and a-Sunna Society in Qalqilia, which was designated by Israel in 2002 as a “terrorist organization.” Other documents demonstrate that the Idhna society (affiliated with Hamas) had contacts with al-Haramain until at least February 2004.

Financial jihad includes many aspects whose common denominator is the direct and indirect support of self-sacrificing jihad, the Islamic holy war against the infidels. The financial framework supportive of jihad is based on the perception that jihad can only achieve its goals if its financing is guaranteed and if social and economic security is arranged for the warriors and their families.

Hamas’s Charitable Infrastructure

The Palestinian Islamic terrorist organizations share this same outlook and vision. Hamas, under the leadership of Ahmad Yassin, was the first organization to develop a widespread social, economic, and educational infrastructure supportive of its military wing. At the front are the so-called “charitable societies,” which are in fact an integral part of the Hamas movement.

In an interview with al-Hayat newspaper in early December 2003, Khaled Mashaal,28 head of the Hamas political bureau, detailed the historical background of establishing the supportive infrastructure of Hamas. The first step was the reorganization of the local Muslim Brotherhood movement, from which Hamas originated. The internal reforms concentrated on deepening Islamic penetration and influence in all segments of society. The institutions established by the Muslim Brotherhood supplied social and educational services to youth and needy Palestinians who were considered the weakest segment and thus a preferred target.

Mashaal affirmed that donations from wealthy Muslims worldwide facilitated the financing of these activities. In response to a question about whether Hamas received donations from the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other states, Mashaal replied: “Indirectly. Any [charitable] society…raised proposals [for projects and]…the societies met with benevolent Arabs and merchants…who were briefed on the projects. Those who were determined to support the nation donated zakat[Islamic alms] to the charitable societies. After the establishment of the al-Mujama al-Islami [by Sheik Ahmad Yassin], the Islamic [charitable] society [al-Jam’iya al-Islamiya] was established in Gaza, as well as other societies in the West Bank, Hebron, Nablus, and al-Bireh. One of them was the Muslim Youth Association [in Hebron].”29 Mashaal acknowledged that the Hamas charitable societies “received hundreds of millions of dollars.”

In another interview, Mashaal noted that Arab donors transferred donations to Hamas and other organizations for financingjihad. According to Mashaal, Hamas used the money to cover expenses needed to sustain the jihad by funding mujahideenactivity and supporting the families of more than two thousand martyrs and detainees in the West Bank and Gaza.30

Another Hamas leader, Isma’il Abu Shanab (killed by Israel in 2003), described the reciprocation between the charities and Hamas to the al-Watan newspaper. Shanab termed the al-Salah charitable society (along with al-Mujama al-Islami and al-Jam’iya al-Islamiya) as an integral part of the social infrastructure of Hamas.31 Furthermore, when asked about ways to implement financial jihad in Palestine, Isma’il Haniya, a close assistant to Ahmad Yassin, recommended transferring donations to these three charitable societies. Calling these societies “reliable” in their support for “martyrs’ families, the wounded…prisoners and detainees,” Haniya emphasized that Hamas functions as a movement that unifies all aspects of its activities, political, social, humanitarian, and military (its terrorist wing). He noted that Hamas operatives run the humanitarian and social activities of the movement and are assigned to bestow support to the Palestinian people on behalf of Hamas.32

Thus, financial support for Palestinian charities often finds its way into the hands of Hamas operatives who use the money to enhance the movement’s popularity. The Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported on 14 March 2003 that funds received from several charities and committees (including the Saudi Committee to Support the al-Aqsa Intifada33) were given directly by Hamas operatives to needy students at a-Najah University in Nablus. Each student received $300 in cash and another $100 was transferred to his bank account. In this way, Hamas was able to strengthen its grip on the university campus, reinforcing it as a hothouse for recruiting students to its military wing, Iz a-Din al-Qassam, and as suicide bombers against Israeli civilians. Hamas leaders have even called a-Najah the “suicide bombers’ university” due to its success in recruiting so many students for such actions.34

The Hamas fundraising campaign in the Gaza Strip on 9 April 2004 demonstrates the important function of the charitable societies in supporting the movement’s military wing. The campaign was held two weeks after Arafat ordered a freeze on the bank accounts of 38 charitable societies, most of which were run by Hamas. Under the slogan of a “campaign in support of the financial jihad in the path of Allah,” Hamas military-wing operatives collected $3 million. Palestinians were called upon “to join the honored jihad by donating money in support of the way of jihad and resistance.” Nizar Rayan, a senior commander of the Hamas military wing, referred to the Palestinian Authority when he said: “those who decided to freeze our money should know that the way of jihad persists….In spite of their policy which strives to strike and weaken the resistance, the Palestinian people with its men, children, and women came out to support the mujahideen and swore to follow the path of jihad.”35

Money funneled to charitable societies in the Palestinian Authority under the title of “humanitarian aid to the needy” is used in practice as part of the financial jihad conducted by the Islamic terrorist movements, primarily Hamas. That movement’s civil infrastructure, which comprises economic, educational, and social institutions, serves as an organizational framework to support its terrorist wing.36 To combat Islamic terror effectively requires international cooperation in both the political and intelligence arenas. Intelligence services should devote more attention and resources to uncovering how the terrorist organizations avoid the international control mechanisms by operating through “innocent” front organizations. Defeating terror is possible once the financial resources that nourish jihad are eliminated.

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1. Safar Hawali, an influential Saudi cleric, is a professor at Umm al-Qura University in Mecca. Hawali was identified in the first World Trade Center bombing trial as a spiritual adviser to bin Laden. He was jailed for radicalism during the 1990s in Saudi Arabia.
3. Hamud bin Uqla al-Shuaibi is a prominent and influential Saudi scholar. His students included a number of important Saudi religious leaders, including the current grand mufti. Al-Shuaibi published religious edicts supporting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, including the destruction of the Hindu statues, as part of jihad against the infidels. He religiously justified al-Qaeda’s attack on the U.S. in September 2001 and gave religious legitimacy to the suicide attacks against Israel carried out by Palestinians. In October 2001, bin Laden cited al-Shuaibi when he spoke of his justification for killing Jews and Christians.
6.Dr. Hussein Shehata is a professor at al-Azhar University in Cairo. He served as financial consultant for Islamic institutions and zakat funds in the Arab world.
8. Dr. Ajeel Jassem Al Nashami is a professor of Islamic Law at Kuwait University. He has published Islamic edicts justifying suicide attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.
11. Dr. Abdullah Qadiri al-Ahdal is head of the Islamic Law department at al-Medina University in Saudi Arabia. Al-Ahdal published Islamic edicts which regard Muslims who collaborate with the American Army in Iraq as “traitors of the Islamic nation.”
15. The author’s name, Mohammad bin Ahmad al-Salem, does not appear in other writings, suggesting the possibility that the author preferred to conceal his identity from the Saudi government, which under American pressure has tightened its grip on radical Islamic organizations and operatives.
17. Mohammad Hassan Sham’a is Chairman of Al-Mujama Al-Islami in the Gaza Strip. He was deported by Israel to Lebanon in 1992 with 412 other terrorist operatives.
20. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a prominent Islamic scholar known as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi heads the Sunni studies department at Qatar University. He was the first Sunni Muslim scholar to give religious legitimacy to the suicide operations of Hamas (1995), and to the participation of women in suicide attacks. Qaradawi has generally defended bin Laden as a representative and defender of oppressed Muslims against “American and Zionist evilness,” even though he condemned the attacks on American soil against innocent civilians.
25. Al-Yaum (Saudi Arabia), 17 December 2002.
27. The Saudi Committee is a member of the “Union of Good” – a coordinating organization for Islamic charities headed by Sheik Yusuf Qardawi. This organization was designated by Israel as a “terrorist entity”; On the Saudi Committee activities in the PA, see also;;;;;;
28. Khaled Mashaal is the Hamas bureau chief in Damascus. In 2004, Mashaal became the undisputed leader of Hamas. Mashaal supports the armed struggle against Israel by all means including suicide bombings.
29. Al-Hayat (London), 5-6 Decmber 2003.
34. Ibrahim Abu al-Hija [Hamas senior leader]: “We should not forget that a-Najah University is actually named the suicide bombers’ university and that all its cadres within the students are included in the wanted list of the occupation”;
36. See the Israeli Center for Special Studies report on how the Hamas civil infrastructure supports its terrorist wing at

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Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi is a researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam, and a founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. He is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the IDF. A version of this essay is to appear in the forthcoming book, Fulfilling Bin Laden’s Promise and the Undermining of the U.S. Economy, by Rachel Ehrenfeld.