Founded by a group of young Afghan political science Students.
Ahmad Shah Massoud in the 1980s
Ahmad Shah Massoud Shaikh Musa
2006 Al Hayat article is very important. In the 1980s, most Afghan and Arab Jihadi leaders systematically defamed Ahmed Shah Masood on grounds shockingly
petty, irrational and false. But Abdullah Azzam, the godfather of the
Arab jihadis in Pakistan and OBL's mentor, was a staunch exception.
Saudi Academic Recounts Experiences from Afghan war
Text of part one of three of interview with Musa al-Qarni, Saudi
academic and former "shari'ah theoretician" for Usamah Bin-Ladin, by
Jamil al-Dhiyabi in Riyadh, date not given, published by London-based
newspaper Al-Hayat on 8 March
Many people think that the
"Afghan experience and its mujahidin" is gone forever and that it has
left no mark on our present time. However, Saudi academic Musa al-Qarni,
who once led the incitement to jihad in Saudi Arabia and travelled to
Afghanistan in the early days of "jihad" against the Russians, believes
Al-Qarni is an exciting character, not only because
of the events he narrates about the "jihad" leaders, both dead and
alive, and his testimonies about yesterday's "mujahidin" and today's
"terrorists", but is also exciting because he has a calm personality
that has enabled him to pass through contradictory stages and then with
great cleverness to leave every one of his experiences behind him.
He was the friend of all factions. Among the takfiris [those who brand
other Muslims, including their own governments, as infidels] he
advocated respect for the Islamic governments. He defended those whom
the mujahidin branded as "apostates", such as Ahmad Shah Masud. Indeed
he was a personal friend of Usamah Bin-Ladin but an opponent of the
Taleban regime. Al-Qarni is a fantastic character that lived in harmony
both with the zeal of "jihad" and the quiet life of academia.
Al-Hayat met Al-Qarni and now publishes his interview in the following pages:
[Al-Dhiyabi] Tell us how you travelled to Pakistan, then Afghanistan and worked alongside the mujahidin in the 1980s.
[Al-Qarni] An academic course was being held in Peshawar, Pakistan. I
was a lecturer in those days and I asked the university president to
allow me to join the group that was attending the course in Peshawar. I
also informed him that if I went there, I would try to learn about the
mujahidin's conditions. I attended the course but found time to visit
the battlefronts to learn about the life of the mujahidin. I made the
acquaintance of Shaykh Abdallah Azzam and Shaykh Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. In
those days Shaykh Sayyaf operated a university called the University of
Call and Jihad in an area close to Peshawar that had been named the
Village of Migration. It had been specifically established to house
refugees from Afghanistan but most of the Arabs who had come to Pakistan
with their families also lived there.
At that time Shaykh
Sayyaf had been elected as president of the so-called Ittihad-e Islami,
the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan. This group was
formed after Muslim ulema and preachers made efforts to unite various
mujahidin factions in one body, so they formed Ittihad-e Islami and
elected Sayyaf as leader because he had studied at Al-Azhar and spoke
This encouraged the Arabs to go and settle there.
Their destination was where Sayyaf resided because first of all he was
the president of Ittihad-e Islami and this gave him legitimacy in their
eyes and he was also proficient in Arabic. For this reason he had a
guest house in the village. Indeed I was a guest there for a long time.
This was the beginning.
Afterwards I wanted to stay with the
mujahidin longer. Consultations were held on how I could spend a long
time with the mujahidin. Since Shaykh Sayyaf had a university for call
and jihad, he told me: I will petition to let you become a lecturer at
He made an application to the state to allow him
to invite lecturers to teach at the university. The application was
referred to Medina's Islamic University, which responded by dispatching
to him five instructors to teach at the University of Call and Jihad,
and I was one of them. This went on for two years. Actually I played a
role that was different from the four other lecturers whose tasks were
confined to teaching.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who were your colleagues at the University of Call and Jihad?
[Al-Qarni] They were Dr Hamdan Rajih al-Sharif, who is a retired
professor now; Dr Ibrahim al-Murshid, who now teaches in Al-Qasim;
Shaykh Rashid al-Ruhayli, a retired Islamic University professor who is
over 80 now; and Professor Dakhilallah al-Ruhayli who continues to teach
at the Islamic University. I was the fifth. As I said before, their
role was confined to teaching at the university but my role, by virtue
of my acquaintance with Shaykh Sayyaf and the mujahidin, combined
teaching at the university with visits to the front to advocate the
faith and give lessons in religion and Islamic shari'ah to the young
mujahidin and also to take part in some operations.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What form did the advocacy of the faith take in those days?
[Al-Qarni] Many Arab young men who had joined the jihad lacked a proper
Islamic education. Indeed a large percentage of them had lived a
dissolute life before. Some did not become upstanding human beings until
they decided to join the jihad. They became honest persons and
immediately left to join the jihad. I know some young mujahidin who were
later killed in the fighting - I wish God may count them as martyrs -
who had led dishonest lives before and indeed some had been really
dissolute. But they were attracted to jihad.
This fact actually
helped me in my work as advocate of the faith because I realized that
many of those dissolute young men had something good inside them but
never found the proper environment that would nurture them so they fell
into an immoral mode of living. When they first came to us, some of them
did not even know the rules of prayer or ritual cleansing prior to
performing prayers. They had only come to fight. My field of expertise
was shari'ah-related and I taught the rules of physical purity before
performing prayers and the rules of worship. I instructed them in the
rules governing jihad, invasion, war spoils and combat and when they
should fight and when they should refrain from fighting. So they
attended courses in these matters. At the same time they attended
military courses and received instructions from military experts.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you yourself attend military courses? What did these courses focus on?
[Al-Qarni] They focused primarily on developing the quality of
endurance. As you know, Afghanistan has a mountainous terrain that has
no paved roads for vehicles. So the trainees had to learn to tolerate
hardship, to climb mountains and walk for 10-12 hours a day while
carrying their personal effects, weapons and food for the trip. It was
important to develop their power of endurance.
were trained in the use of personal firearms. They were in a war. They
had to carry their personal weapon, a Kalashnikov rifle, and know how to
use it and how to use a pistol as well. Of course military training
differed from one fighter to another according to personal aptitude and
the role each was expected to play. Some confined themselves to learning
how to use a Kalashnikov. Some trainees wanted to learn personal combat
but others wanted to learn how to use antiaircraft guns and antitank
guns. Others wanted to learn how to use mines, how to manufacture them
and how to dismantle them, etc. The military courses differed in these
details according to the type of trainee. Most combatants received
training only in the use of personal firearms, Kalashnikovs and pistols.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did anyone receive training in suicide operations?
[Al-Qarni] No, there were no suicide operations at the time. The young
men used to attack tanks and fighter aircraft with their personal
weapons. The battle was open. The Russian bases with their tanks and
planes were there. You had your weapons and you could go and fight them
face to face.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is it true that the university where
you and your four colleagues worked turned into a station for the relay
of intelligence data? Was the Village of Migration also a channel for
[Al-Qarni] It is necessary to have
intelligence work. This is a normal state of affairs. It was not
possible for the combatants taking part in the jihad in Afghanistan not
to be backed by an intelligence apparatus. It is simply impossible to
operate without intelligence in any country, including Pakistan and the
United States. Even the enemies, the Russians, had an intelligence
apparatus and sometimes they had moles in the ranks of the Afghan
mujahidin. It is normal. However, we never saw any of the intelligence
work. The intelligence personnel did not interact directly with the
mujahidin. They worked directly with the politicians.
[Al-Dhiyabi] The mujahidin killed a group of people who used to work
with them, I mean they executed them saying that they discovered that
they had been providing information to other parties.
[Al-Qarni] This took place in the later stages. In the early stages, the
jihad was out in the open. Public operations do not provide an
opportunity for concealment. I will give you an example. Sometimes
certain countries would send intelligence operatives and indeed some of
them might have been sympathetic to the communists. Indeed we know that
some Arab countries were sympathetic to Russia. These countries used to
send intelligence personnel. What happened to those people? At first
they were received as guests and then invited to join the mujahidin in
combat. What would such a person do? He would be forced to become a
combatant or if he was an intelligence agent, he would remain in the
rear among the migrants and civilians. He could not go to the front
because he would either be killed in combat or have his cover blown.
These people did not want to die especially when faced with the enemy.
When you confront the enemy, you must be prepared to die.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How many stages did the Afghan jihad go through in the 1980s?
[Al-Qarni] I would say the first stage lasted from the beginning of
jihad until the collapse of Kabul's communist regime and the mujahidin's
capture of the city. The second stage was the stage of internal
conflict among the mujahidin factions, the infighting. During this
period, we isolated ourselves from them. After the mujahidin entered
Kabul, I returned to Saudi Arabia and refused to participate in any
actions after that.
[Al-Dhiyabi] When exactly did you return?
[Al-Qarni] The problem is that I do not remember dates well.
[Al-Dhiyabi] In the early 1990s?
[Al-Dhiyabi] Prior to the Taleban era?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, before the Taleban. When Ahmad Shah Masud entered Kabul
and Najibullah's regime fell, I left. I believe this happened in the
1990s. I and many other brothers who had gone to the jihad in
Afghanistan returned home.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did Usamah Bin-Ladin return with you?
[Al-Qarni] He returned to the country, but went back to Afghanistan later.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Do you remember the date?
[Al-Qarni] Frankly, I cannot remember dates at all.
[Al-Dhiyabi] I have heard that the mujahidin used to refuse to memorize Western calendar dates.
[Al-Qarni] No, I am not like that. First of all most of those who
joined the Afghan jihad were not known by their real names but used
aliases such as Abu-this and Abu-that. I used my real name everywhere I
moved in Pakistan.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Was Bin-Ladin's moniker Abu-Abdallah then, the same as today?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, Bin-Ladin was always called Abu-Abdallah from the time
he went there until today. He is well known. Everyone knows Bin-Ladin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Sulayman Abu-Ghayth was with you in those days. Do you know him personally?
[Al-Qarni] I do not know him.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you know Abu-Sulayman al-Makki, that is Khalid al-Harbi?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, we were acquainted with him at that time. He was one of the first mujahidin. He later went to Chechnya.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Let us talk more about your stay there.
[Al-Qarni] I stayed there for the first two years. Then the two years
of my appointment as lecturer on loan ended. I had earned a sabbatical
year by that time from my original university. I took that year because I
wanted to return to Pakistan on another appointment on loan. Our
original university decided that two years were enough and terminated
the loan programme. However, I spent my sabbatical there. This means
that I spent three years in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Later on I
returned to Afghanistan for another two years, which means I spent a
total of five years there.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who took care of your family during those years?
[Al-Qarni] I still had my salary from the university and my wife's
brothers lived close to her. Every six months I would go back and spend
two weeks with my family. This happened during the school year. During
the summer vacation I would take my family to stay with me there. I had a
house in the Village of Migration. I built a house there. I stayed
there for three consecutive years but I continued to visit that
university in later years during the summer vacations.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Is that university still operating?
[Al-Qarni] No, it is closed now.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did you encourage extremism in those days?
[Al-Qarni] It was not called an extremist attitude at that time.
Fighting the communists was the prevailing idea. Today it is called
extremism. In those days it was called jihad. A Saudi architect was the
one who founded the college of architecture at that university. He was a
well-known brother who played a significant role in supporting jihad.
He was a professor at King Sa'ud University and had an architect's
office in Medina. His name was Dr Ahmad Farid Mustafa.
[Al-Dhiyabi] How did the university operate?
[Al-Qarni] Part of the curriculum of the Call and Jihad University was
to instruct and train students in jihad. They were sent into
Afghanistan. It was a two-hour walk between the Village of Migration and
the Afghan border from the direction of Jalalabad. During the
Thursday-Friday weekend groups of university students would go to the
front and help the mujahidin.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Who used to train them, intelligence personnel?
[Al-Qarni] No, they had instructors. The Arab camps had Arab
instructors, some of whom were retired military officers with good
experience. The Afghans had their own instructors. The Pakistani army
also provided material and moral support.
[Al-Dhiyabi] At that stage Bin-Ladin operated under Abdallah Azzam's command, right?
[Al-Dhiyabi] Did Bin-Ladin express his opinion on military matters?
[Al-Qarni] He certainly did and his views were respected but he could
not dictate his views. They had something that operated like a council
and it was this body that debated the mujahidin's affairs.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Describe the relations between Ahmad Shah Masud on the one hand and Abdallah Azzam and Bin-Ladin on the other.
[Al-Qarni] Shaykh Abdallah Azzam believed that no-one among the
mujahidin had Masud's stature. He used to call him the hero of the
north. I remember that I once asked him about his opinion of this man.
Now the Arabs did not like Ahmad Shah Masud - this is something that
needs to become known. The Arabs hated him for several reasons. First of
all most of them were influenced by Hekmatyar and lived as his guests
in his camps. It was well known throughout the jihad years that
Hekmatyar was Masud's greatest enemy. The Arabs were influenced by this
enmity and became hostile to Masud on these grounds. Indeed some Arabs
hated Masud more than Hekmatyar himself.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Am I to understand that Hekmatyar welcomed the Arabs as his guests and incited them against Masud?
[Al-Qarni] Yes, this is a point that should become known. Masud lived
in northern Afghanistan, nearer to the Russian positions. He was not
close to Pakistan. It took people 20 days to reach Masud's positions
from the Pakistani border. As a result Masud did not have an office in
Peshawar, nor an information representative. He was stationed in the
north directly on the combat lines with the Russians. In contrast,
Hekmatyar and Sayyaf had camps and operated on fronts that were very
close to Pakistan in the Pashtun region. Most of the Arabs who came to
Pakistan and Afghanistan were on the side of Hekmatyar and Sayyaf. You
could say that 95 per cent of the Arabs who joined the jihad divided
themselves between Hekmatyar and Sayyaf. A small percentage joined Yunus
Khalis and Jaluleddin Haqqani.
Very few Arabs joined Ahmad
Shah Masud. There few of them and we knew every one. This was the first
factor that made the Arabs hate Masud, namely, Hekmatyar's enmity
The second reason why the Arabs hated Masud, may
he rest in peace, was that he was a methodical, strategic thinker.
Combat is an organized affair, not a chaotic operation. The Arabs, many
of them or actually most of them who came to carry out jihad, were not
fond of military discipline. They were disorganized. Some came and
stayed for one week only. They would join an operation, fire their
weapons, storm a position and then return. Some stayed for a month or
two and so on. For this reason the fronts on which Sayyaf and Hekmatyar
operated were wide open places where people came and went.
[Al-Dhiyabi] Are you telling me that Hekmatyar's and Sayyaf's guest houses were like open coffee shops?
[Al-Qarni] I mean that they did not impose a strict regimen or force
the mujahidin who joined them to stay for a particular period. This is
what I mean. Masud was the opposite. He did not accept anyone who came
unless he was prepared to stay on and operate under his command. He did
not allow anyone to go and carry out operations except when he expressly
ordered him to do so. The Arabs operating on the fronts of Hekmatyar
and Sayyaf were independent. They could carry out their own operations.
They did whatever they wanted without supervision. There was no-one to
hold them accountable.
A group of Arabs joined Masud in the
early days of jihad. They went there with the same mindset with which
they dealt with Sayyaf and Hekmatyar. After they joined Masud, they
planned and carried out an operation all by themselves without his
knowledge. They attacked Muslim, not Russian, convoys. When Masud
learned of this, he put them in jail and they were only released after a
lot of pleading and intercession by certain quarters. So those who were
imprisoned by Masud returned to Hekmatyar in Peshawar and they had
developed an unbelievable level of hostility towards Masud because he
had jailed them and disapproved of their behaviour.
Abdallah Azzam visited Masud after a lot of negative talk was heard
about him in Peshawar. Some accused Masud of being an agent of the West.
They said this because his father had been a general in the Afghan army
and the children of generals were sent to Western schools. Because he
had studied in such schools, they accused him of being an agent of the
West. This was one thing. He was also accused of immoral actions. Some
people actually levelled accusations of immorality against him. The
Arabs spread a lot of negative propaganda about him in Peshawar. This
reached the point where they were discussing whether it was proper or
not from an Islamic viewpoint to support him with money.
[Al-Dhiyabi] It has been said that Masud is a Shi'i.
[Al-Qarni] No, he is Sunni. I remember that when there was too much
talk about him in Peshawar, a session was held to try him in absentia.
Two people acted as his defence and 21 acted as his accusers. The two
who defended him were Algerian nationals: Abdallah Uns, who now lives in
Britain and is Shaykh Abdallah Azzam's son-in-law, and a man called
Qari Abdelrahim. They had lived with Masud and knew him well. On the
other side 21 people including Algerians, Egyptians and Yemenis acted as
accusers. There were no Saudis among them. They accused Masud of
offences amounting to apostasy. The trial was held and among those
present were Abdallah Azzam, Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani and Usamah
[Al-Dhiyabi] How long did the trial last?
[Al-Qarni] It lasted a whole week. Of course they asked me to give
testimony but I refused to get involved. Nevertheless I followed what
was happening. I received my information from Shaykh Abdallah Azzam,
Shaykh Al-Zindani, Bin-Ladin, Abdallah Uns and Qari Abdelrahim. A
curious thing was that a brother of Qari Abdelrahim, who was called Qari
Said, was one of Masud's bitterest enemies. I ask God to forgive Qari
and have mercy on his soul. After he returned to Algeria from
Afghanistan, he joined the armed groups there and was killed. The 21
accusers failed to prove Masud's guilt on any of the charges they
levelled against him. When the presiding committee announced its
verdict, its members declared that they would not say anything either in
praise or vilification of Masud.
[Al-Dhiyabi] What do you think of this verdict?
[Al-Qarni] I think it was unfair. You should either prove a person's
guilt or exonerate him but the committee ruled this way because Usamah
Bin-Ladin and Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani were more inclined to
support Hekmatyar than Masud. Additionally they did not want to go
against the wishes of the Arabs who were in Peshawar, saying to
themselves: All the Arabs in the city are against Masud, so how could we
The only exception was Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, may
he rest in peace. He said: As for me, I will praise Masud until I go to
my Maker, God Almighty. He left that trial session and began
implementing a plan to praise Masud. He wrote a book about him called
"The Titans of the North". He could not get it printed, however, because
almost all of Peshawar was semi-owned by Hekmatyar and Sayyaf. Masud
had no influence there. So the book was not printed.
asked Shaykh Abdallah Azzam, may he rest in peace: Shaykh Abdallah, do
you still believe that Masud is the hero of Afghanistan?
Azzam replied: Indeed he is the hero of Islam.
After this I told myself that I should pay a visit to Masud and get to
know him from up close. Brother Abdallah Uns used to talk to me about
Masud. I used to see his jihad as a different form of jihad. The
mujahidin in southern Afghanistan conducted a form of guerrilla warfare.
This means you cannot destroy your enemy but you can continue fighting
forever. It was a form of hit-and-run warfare without a clear strategy.
This is why Sayyaf, Hekmatyar, Haqqani, Yunus Khalis and all the other
factions in Peshawar could not capture any of the major cities. They
lived in the mountains, valleys and small villages, conducting a
hit-and-run form of combat. They would carry out an attack, seize war
spoils, but then the communists would come and expel them from the
positions they had occupied, and so on. Masud, on the other hand,
conducted a form of regular warfare. He had a regular army and a clear
- Dr Musa Bin-Muhammad Bin-Yahya al-Qarni
- Born in 1954 (1374 of the Hegira) in the town of Bish in the Jazan province
- Married with six sons and six daughters
- Obtained a doctoral degree in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence from Umm al-Qura University
- Former associate professor of Islamic jurisprudence at the Islamic University
- Former dean of students' affairs at the Islamic University
- Former head of the Department of Islamic jurisprudence at the Islamic University
- Former member of the Religious Scholarship Committee at the Islamic University
- Former president of the Islamic University in Peshawar
- Founding member of the Global Islamic Relief Organization
- Former member of the board of directors of the Global Islamic Relief Organization
- Founding member of the Global Islamic Education Organization
- Now retired, he works as a lawyer and shari'ah counsellor.