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Defining and understanding the religious philosophy of jihādī-salafism and the ideology of Boko Haram


Politics, Religion & IdeologyJournal abstract

This article examines the deep epistemological and theological roots of the religious philosophy of jihādī-Salafism and its role in the construction of the ideology of Boko Haram. To achieve this, four aspects are considered: first, the core theological doctrines of jihādī-Salafism on the subject of takfīr and ḥukm bi-ghayri mā anzala Allāh; second, the sacred texts and Islamic scriptures that have been adroitly exploited to support the jihādī-Salafīs' idealization, theological legitimization and meta-justification for divinely sanctioned jihād; third, the ideologues of jihādī-Salafism, and how their readings of Islamic history and theology have provided a stamp of approval for the legitimization of jihād against the political rulers in the Muslim world; and fourth, an explanation of why the jihādī-Salafīs diverge from the interpretation of the quietist Salafīs despite their unified common understanding about following the model of the Prophet and his companions. These four aspects serve as a matrix that helps to explain the enduring relationship between the religious philosophy of jihādī-Salafism and the ideology of Boko Haram. In what follows, this article shows that the theological doctrines of jihādī-Salafism and the cultural framing of the historical tradition of tajdid in northern Nigeria – specifically the distinctive trans-generational discourses, Islamic traditions and jihādī legacy established by the eighteenth-century Islamic reformer Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio – have played a greater role in Boko Haram’s legitimization of jihād than has hitherto been acknowledged.

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