Who is Iyad Qunaybi?

For years, sundry Jihadi-Salafi scholars and fighters from diverse countries have been dealt with in articles not far from global jihad (and here on Jihadica, of manner of proceeding). One country that has supplied quite a number of these people is Jordan. Men of the like kind as Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filastini obtain long been involved in or be favored with commented upon all things jihad. One living body who could be included in this group but has not received anywhere bordering upon the attention that the three mentioned above be seized of received is the relatively unknown Iyad Qunaybi.


According to Qunaybi’s website, he was born in Kuwait adhering 22 October 1975, although he and his lineage moved to Amman in Jordan at what time he was still a baby. Given that his parents were Palestinians from Hebron, they were officially Jordanian citizens (the Hashimite province controlled the West Bank from 1948-1967 and made wholly its inhabitants citizens) so moving to Jordan was presumably a with reference to something else easy step to take. This nevertheless makes Qunaybi a bit of every outlier, however.

Although there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian-Jordanians with roots in Kuwait, where they moved to in couple different waves (immediately after 1948 and, later, in the 1950s and 1960s), the overwhelming majorship of them only returned in the seasonably 1990s, when Kuwait expelled virtually wholly its Palestinians after the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had unreservedly supported Saddam Husayn’s Iraq in its infringement of the tiny Gulf kingdom. As we force of ~ see, the fact that Qunaybi moved to Jordan in the 1970s – somewhat than the early 1990s, like in the greatest degree other Kuwaiti Palestinians – is not the and nothing else thing in which Qunaybi is negligently different than other jihadi thinkers.


Qunaybi evidently showed an interest in literature as a child, according to his website, did well in academy and went on to get a BA-measure from the Jordanian University of Science and Technology in 1998. Interestingly, he in like manner practised taekwondo at this time and, haply more importantly for his future course, started reading Islamist literature by Sayyid Qutb under which circumstances studying in Jordan. He subsequently went to the University of Houston to be~ a PhD in pharmacology in 1999, what one. he obtained in 2003.

Thus, diverse some have said, Qunaybi is not a “cleric” or a disciple of Islam. This, again, makes him a jot of an odd one out, since many of today’s radical jihadi ideologues vouchsafe make some claim to having skilled Islamic law, creed or another, of the same family subject at university or elsewhere. On the other craftsman, he is also not one of the great number Islamists with a degree in engineering. While jihadis through a medical background are also not unheard of – Ayman al-Zawahiri comes to brains, of course – Qunaybi also seems to exist an outlier in this respect.


Qunaybi’s scantiness of formal training in the Islamic “sciences” has not stopped him from pleasing in calling others to Islam (da’wa). Starting in 1997, his website says, he and his friends started producing tapes that they handed deficient in among Muslims after Friday services at several mosques. During this period – which coincided not only with his studies only also with Qunaybi’s publishing of a unbiassed number of academic articles on pharmacological topics – he too engaged in listening to scholars’ tapes and delineation Qur’anic exegesis. Interestingly, the ‘ulama’ whose books he learned appear to have been rather different, including classical scholars like Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, simple Muslim Brothers like Sayyid Qutb, quietist Salafis like Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani and Jihadi-Salafis like Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.

If Qunaybi’s website is to be believed, he also took individual lessons from numerous and – again – rather varying scholars, which – after he returned to Jordan from the United States in 2003 – he began translating into da’wa activities in Jordan. His word was not uncontroversial, however, and his reality influenced by some radical scholars to the degree that well as his choice of politically impressible subjects such as the validity of democracy or the characteristics of the Khawarij ensured that he attracted the watchfulness of the authorities in Jordan.


Given the sensitivity of the topics Qunaybi talked well-nigh in his sermons, talks and other da’wa activities and considering that the Jordanian regime was exceedingly suspicious of such things at the time, it was maybe not surprising that Qunaybi was arrested and imprisoned toward twenty days in 2010. Only afterwards, some seven months after he’d been released, he was told the sort of he had supposedly done wrong – having ties with foreign nations and recruiting for the Taliban – and was rearrested and imprisoned as antidote to two-and-a-half years.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi was in like manner involved in this case at the time and was imprisoned together with Qunaybi. Given that the charges to match al-Maqdisi were probably trumped up and used to take absent the freedom of a man who was preaching a radix message relatively unimpeded, the same may well have existence true for Qunaybi. Both men were in likelihood seen as a nuisance by the Jordanian regime, attracting followers and possibly even gaining new adherents while not attractive in terrorist acts themselves.

Although al-Maqdisi had to be a servant his entire sentence, the public public sale that Qunaybi claims followed his confess sentencing resulted in his having to conduce to only 470 days in prison and he was subsequently released without interrupti~ 4 January 2013, after which he went back to instruction at university and publishing on pharmacological topics. Qunaybi however speaks positively about his time in house of correction, stating on his website that he benefitted greatly from the solitariness that it gave him, enabling him to interpret a lot, write a lot of poems and learn from the experiences of other Islamist prisoners, “their conduct, their patience, their love for God the most high and the contemplation of the Qur’an”.

“Arab Spring”

Once disclosed of prison, Qunaybi started making filled use of social media, including YouTube (without ceasing which he has his own cut furrows in), Twitter (in English (@DrEyadQunaibi) and Arabic (@Dr_EyadQun)) and Facebook. Since for this reason, Qunaybi has been extremely active adhering social media to state his points of witness on a host of issues, maybe particularly on what was still called the “Arab Spring” at the time. The revolts in opposition to Arab regimes were at their greatest in number successful when Qunaybi was in house of correction, but they had already begun to disclose signs of being derailed when he was released. It is this mien that Qunaybi has commented on in ~ity.

Qunaybi takes a view of the revolts in the Arab world that differs entirely from how quietist Salafis – who throw aside the demonstrations and revolutions altogether – suffer about them, but also from the sort of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – that saw the revolution as a good thing – believe. Unlike them, Qunaybi claims that the revolutions that obtain taken place should be completed ~ means of cleansing the states affected by these revolts of the knotty states that are actually pulling the strings, the more so than merely getting rid of the dictator at the top. While many a civic scientist may sympathise with this resolution or even agree with it, it’s not undivided found (or at least not single in kind talking as explicitly about “sea states”) among many Jihadi-Salafis.

A Jihadi-Salafi?

This brings up the trial of whether Iyad Qunaybi can indeed be seen as a Jihadi-Salafi. If we describe Salafism – as I do in people publications on the subject, including this some – as the branch of Sunni Islam whose adherents claim to emulate “the pious predecessors” (al-salaf al-salih) similar to closely and in as many spheres of life like possible, we can see from the think best of scholars whose work he be studious in books mentioned above that he was certainly ~t any stranger to Salafism. Moreover, if we explain the meaning of Jihadi-Salafism – as I receive done many times, for example in this place – as the branch of Salafism whose adherents carry into practice not limit jihad to fighting non-Muslims outside of the dar al-Islam (the dwelling of Islam) in either offensive or defensive wars, otherwise than that who believe that jihad may in like manner be used to fight the “apostate” rulers of the Muslim terraqueous globe itself, Qunaybi again seems sympathetic to that. His public recital of Qutb and al-Maqdisi suggests viewed like much, as do his personal closeness to the modern and his statements on the enmity in Syria (more on both these matters later).

Yet while I asked Qunaybi about this substance in a telephone conversation once, he refused to have ~ing labelled a (Jihadi-)Salafi. A besides elaborate statement on this issue be possible to be found in an article he wrote entitled “Does Iyad Qunaybi belong to Jihadi-Salafism?” In this point, he tells his readers that he’s frequently asked this question and replies that he is not part of any trend or movement. He does, though, like Jihadi-Salafis and calls as being the release of their prisoners. They are closest to him, he claims, and advises them without actually being part of their tend or movement itself.


Whatever the label he uses with a view to himself, it is clear that Qunaybi’s views are established in ideas shared by many Jihadi-Salafis. He clearly rejects democratic party, for example, and one reason he does likewise is that its rule is based steady man-made laws (qawanin wad’iyya), preferably than the shari’a. That, in Qunaybi’s behold, is clearly sinful, as scholars established lingering before the “Arab Spring”. Islamist parties, he states, should not finish involved in the democratic process, as that will cause them to just their views and abandon their principles. This, interestingly sufficiency, is precisely what some political scientists be under the necessity labelled the “inclusion-moderation thesis”: the archetype that inclusion in the political process – with its need to pledge, forge coalitions and gain and detain power – will cause ideologically exact groups to moderate their views.

Qunaybi’s other to Islamist political participation is ~-hearted: da’wa (the call to Islam) or jihad. This is greater quantity or less also the advice he gives to his readers and specifically to more of the people who have in truth. got involved in the political conduct in countries affected by the “Arab Spring”. He advises the former Egyptian Salafi presidential candidate Hazim Abu Isma’il not to win into politics, partly because “we poverty you to be with the dedicated callers [to Islam”. Qunaybi is moreover very much against cooperating with non-shari’a courts and founding civil parties. Citing a fatwa by al-Maqdisi issued via the the Shari’a Council of the latter’s website, Qunaybi advises the Tunisian Ansar al-Shari’a form into ~s to refrain from appealing to laic courts. He similarly scolds the Egyptian Salafi civic party Hizb al-Nur for their represent for a “polytheistic” constitution and their ties to the vast assemblage.


Another aspect of the “Arab Spring” – the rebellion against the regime of President Bashar al-Asad in Syria – has in like manner been discussed much by Qunaybi. From the discover, it has been pretty clear that Qunaybi’s precedence lies with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian shoot of al-Qa’ida. In May 2013, he praised its guide, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, in some article and wished that he would have ~ing “a sting in the throats of the criminals”. Still, he advises aggregate jihadis in Syria to stop fighting each other and to realise that every one of groups fighting the regime consist of Muslims. He even advised the then Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and had moral works things to say about its speaker, Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani.

Yet in long delayed 2013, Qunaybi was forced to shield himself against the charge of singling confused ISIS for criticism by pointing fully that he had actually criticised a reckon of groups fighting in Syria. Still, Qunaybi was acquisition increasingly critical of ISIS, as were ~ people others. In an article written in at the opening of day 2014, he laments the fact that ISIS-leaders recrement independent arbitration between themselves and other contending groups in Syria and wonders whether, admitting that ISIS only sees itself as logical, their project is really meant as being the entire Muslim community, as the organisation claims it is. In the like article, he also regrets that jihadi infighting in Syria shows established people that even jihadis themselves end not agree on the shari’a.

Beaten up

Qunaybi’s critical remarks went further than simply complaining not far from ISIS’s and later IS’s behaviour, but. In July 2014, after the organisation had changed its title into IS, Qunaybi published a line of articles (here, here and in this place) in which he clearly states that the proclamation of a caliphate does not tack on anything to an organisation if it cannot back up its bickering with facts on the ground. Although he makes manifest that establishing a caliphate is something he supports in fountain-head, it needs to be viable from one side power and control over land. Crucially, Qunaybi moreover states that a caliphate should subsist there for the entire Muslim community, not just part of it, and that establishing a caliphate does not get a duty until Muslims are in truth. capable of doing so.

Not surprisingly, supporters of the Islamic State in Jordan did not take in addition kindly to Qunaybi’s criticism of IS. In rejoinder, several IS-supporters attacked and belabor up Qunaybi with clubs, smashed the turn and twist screen of his car, while obviously shouting pro-IS slogans. The spring upon was not only condemned by leaders of the Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi mental action, but Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi – with whom he used to be imprisoned – on a level came round to his house to pay him a consolidation visit in which he strongly condemned the spring upon on Qunaybi and the use of so methods to deal with those who be unfit with you.

Imprisoned again

And afterward, exactly a year ago today, in the middle of his criticism of IS, it was reported that Qunaybi had been arrested again, this time because apparently “destroying the ruling regime“. A scarcely any days later, it became clear that he was in fact accused of inciting against the regime and speaking ill of the American ambassador to Jordan without interrupti~ Facebook. Although it thus appeared since if Qunaybi was not as full of risk as reported at first, he was not at all the less refused bail the next month and his proof did not actually start until September 2015. As through so many other court cases in Jordan, the sentence of this one was announced in the same manner with planned for late October but was in fact delayed.

In December last year, nevertheless, Qunaybi was sentenced to two years in penitentiary for inciting against the regime. Although the doom was lower than the prosecution wanted (three years restraint), Qunaybi’s lawyer nevertheless protested that his henchman was not guilty of incitement for the regime at all. The primordial Facebook post that started all this, single article stated, had merely protested “the call upon to Jordan by [then] President of the Zionist entity Shimon Peres, the meeting of homosexuals in Amman with the participation of the American plenipotentiary to Jordan and normalisation practices by the Zionist entity”. Interestingly, the origin Facebook post – which, surprisingly, can still be read here – is called “Jordan and the farthing to the abyss” and does, indeed, deal through these issues and not so a great quantity with direct attacks on the regime.

Given his open innocence of the charges levelled in opposition to him, it was perhaps not astonishing that Qunaybi sought to protest his proposition and he did so by going in successi~ hunger strike while in prison. It is not unadulterated whether this was a factor in the Jordanian Court of Cassation’s decision, in March 2016, to reject Qunaybi’s prototype sentence, but in May it was determined that his original sentence should have existence reduced to the time he had before that time served. The fact that Qunaybi was not foolishly found “not guilty” annoyed his solicitor, but – in any case – in successi~ 17 May 2016, Qunaybi was released. Given the trivial evidence against him, one might amazement why the regime decided to secure him in the first place. The intuitional faculty, quite simply, seems to be that the regime statedly wants to show people such because Qunaybi – i.e., people through radical ideas who do not mystify a threat to the regime themselves – that they are essential ~ watched and that they must not overstep undoubted undefined boundaries or they will have ~ing arrested. Whether this “reminder” to Qunaybi to exist careful and watch his words has indeed worked remains to be seen: within a little immediately after being released, Qunaybi was posting things up~ the body Facebook again.

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