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Faraj, ʿAbd al-Salām

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World

R. M. Scott

Faraj, ʿAbd al-Salām. 

Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Salām Faraj (c.1954–1982)was an ideologue of the radical Egyptian Islamist group al-Jihād. Faraj was born in Dolongat, a province of al-Buhayra in Lower Egypt and worked as an electrical engineer in the University of Cairo administration. He was the leader and ideologue of the organization that came to be known as “al-Jihād.” The Cairo branch of al-Jihād was responsible for the assassination of President Anwar Sadat (1970–1981) on October 6, 1981. Faraj 's renowned political manifesto the al-Farīdḍah al-ghāʿibah (The Neglected Duty) provided the ideological justification for the assassination. The Neglected Duty represents the most comprehensive argument for the idea that militant jihād should be waged against internal enemies in general and unbelieving rulers in particular. It is the only available extended statement of radical Islamism from the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to the assassination, The Neglected Duty was unknown outside of al-Jihād. However, when Faraj and his fellow conspirators were put on trial, the text was used as part of their defense. Faraj and four others were executed on April 15, 1982.

In The Neglected Duty, Faraj advocates immediate action against the Egyptian regime by overthrowing the president and establishing an Islamic state based on the sharīʿah (Islamic law). The Islamic state would then provide a base from which the caliphate could be reintroduced. The caliphate would then go on to conquer areas of the world. Jihād involving military action as an individual duty (farḍ al-ʿayn) as opposed to collective duty (farḍ al-kifāyah) was central to the group 's ideology.

Faraj sanctioned violence against Sadat by declaring him an unbeliever. He legitimized this position by referring to the medieval jurist Ibn Taymīyah (1263–1328ce) who declared the Mongols non-Muslims because they failed to enforce the sharīʿah. Faraj professed that a Sunnī Muslim ceases to be one when he fails to keep the sharīʿah or when he breaks any of the Islamic injunctions. He found legitimacy for this position in the Qurʿān, “whosoever does not rule by what God sent down, those, they are the unbelievers” (5:44). Faraj was thereby pronouncing takfīr (unbelief) on fellow Muslims. However, Faraj was less concerned with Egyptian citizens than he was with Sadat, the unbelieving Muslim ruler whom he referred to as Pharaoh, in order to imply that he was an apostate who deserved death.

As a direct result, 24-year-old Khālid al-Islambūlī of the Cairo branch of al-Jihād assassinated Sadat at the annual October 6th victory parade in Cairo. When Sadat collapsed, al-Islambūlī shouted, “I have killed Pharaoh.” While the group expected that Sadat 's assassination would be followed by an armed Muslim uprising, it failed to ignite a revolution and the rebellion was subsequently crushed.

In calling for the assassination of Sadat, Faraj was attempting to solve the problem that previous radical groups had faced, which was how to bring about the establishment of an Islamic state. While Sayyid Quṭb 's concept of al-jāhilīyah (literally era of ignorance) established the notion of the internal enemy, Quṭb 's advocacy of violence was more implicit than explicit. Faraj provided a solution to the question of what to do with the unbelieving ruler by sanctioning violence against him. This marked a radical departure from mainstream Islamic doctrine, which is generally critical of the killing of fellow Muslims.

See also Egypt; Jihād Organizations; and Qutb, Sayyid.


Guenena, Nemat. “The ‘Jihad’ An ‘Islamic Alternative’ in Egypt.Cairo Papers in Social Science9, no. 2 (Summer 1986): 1–103. A sociopolitical account of al-Jihād.Find this resource:

    Jansen, Johannes. The Neglected Duty.New York, London, 1986. Contains a translation of al-Farīdḍah al-ghāʿibah.Find this resource:

      Kepel, Gilles. The Prophet and the Pharaoh: Muslim Extremism in Egypt. California, 2003. The most comprehensive account of Egyptian Islamism in the 1970s and early 1980s.Find this resource:

        R. M. Scott