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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Ibn Taymiyyah’s Medieval ‘Inghimas’ Tactic as Daesh’s Modern Propaganda Instrument

Key Takeaways: 

  1. The medieval asymmetric warfare tactic of inghimas has evolved into Daesh’s favorite tool of theological and operational propaganda.   
  2. Inghimas in every form is a low-cost terrorist tactic, causing such high-impact damage that it encourages Daesh’s fighters/supporters while terrifying its enemies.  
  3. Daesh also greatly propagandises its international inghimas operations to attract potential recruits to volunteer for further attacks. 

Abstract  

Inghimas originated from the work of the medieval scholar-jurist Ibn Taymiyyah as an asymmetrical and practicable ‘jihad’ tactic, as a means for plunging destructively into the ‘infidel’ enemy’s frontlines in order to ‘benefit’ the cause of Muslims and ‘serve’ Islam by sacrificing one’s life. The other objective behind the use of this tactic was to earn ‘martyrdom’. Based on its scholarly justification, Daesh, as a modern Islamist militant organization has additionally adapted inghimas — beyond its originally intended military purpose — to the production of audio, video, and text propaganda suited to the boundless digital media of the 21st century. Thus, this tactic in all its various forms and even its practitioners who are called ‘inghimasis’, are presented tactfully for public consumption in important ways. Such propaganda pertains to either claiming responsibility for recent assaults or urging further attacks, aimed at pro-Daesh, anti-Daesh, and potentially recruited audiences. The organisation thus exploits inghimas keeping in view the purposes it can serve in the modern era, in addition to its physical utility. 

Introduction: 

For ease of understanding, the Arabic terms that appear in this paper are defined here at the outset. The most frequently occurring term is inghimas, which means the act of plunging recklessly into a real or perceived enemy, or suicide fighting. Next, an inghimasi (plural: inghimasis) is a suicide fighter or a practitioner of inghimas. Further, in the jihadist vocabulary, istishhad, literally, is a ‘martyrdom-seeking’ operation, commonly known as suicide bombing. An istishhadi (plural: istishhadis) is a traditional suicide bomber, or one who practices istishhad. Inghimasis and istishhadis are two different kinds of terrorist operatives. The former may detonate their explosives, however, it is possible only after the use of firearms when ammunition has been exhausted. 

Centuries after having been presented as a warfare concept by the 13th-century influential scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, inghimas remains as relevant today as it was when it was first propounded. Although in Islamic history, the Kharijites – or Khawarij – who murdered the fourth Caliph Ali were the first group of militants to have initiated the practice of inghimas attacks,1 it was not until Ibn Taymiyyah that this significant battlefield tactic was presented doctrinally in written form.  

Etymologically derived from the Arabic root word ‘ghamasa’2, meaning to “go deep in”, the practice of inghimas entails plunging into enemy lines on the battlefield — alone or with a few companions — to kill as many people as possible. In its basic form as outlined by Ibn Taymiyyah, inghimas means taking a knife and rushing to stab an enemy, endangering one’s own life in the process.  

In his original 48-page important treatise titled, ‘A Principle Regarding Plunging into the Enemy, and Is it Permitted?’, the medieval jurist — revered and oft-quoted by Islamist violent extremist organizations — discussed this unconventional tactic as permissible, and even desirable, during jihad upon being outnumbered by the adversary army, even if the fighter is aware that it may result in their own death. Since the intention is to benefit Islam and Muslims, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, inghimas is not suicide as long as it inflicts harm upon the enemy.3 Nevertheless, the possibility of surviving such a high-risk operation does exist.  

For the inghimas fighter — called inghimasi — there are three major motivations or purposes behind this daring commando act: (a) to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy forces; (b) to inspire fellow Muslims to fight; (c) to achieve the desirable goal of martyrdom.4 

In his influential treatise, Ibn Taymiyyah discusses three scenarios to which inghimas, in his view, is applicable 

  1. “Like [in the case of] a man who storms the ranks of the infidels and penetrates them. Scholars call this plunging into the enemy, since [the man] is swallowed up in them like a thing that gets submersed in something that engulfs it. 
  2. And like a man who kills an infidel officer among his friends, for instance, by pouncing on him publicly, if he [can] get him by deceit, thinking he can kill him and take him unawares like that. 
  3. And [like] a man whose comrades have fled and so he is fighting the enemy alone or with a few others, and yet this is inflicting harm on the enemy, despite the fact they know they are likely to be killed.”5

It is important to keep in view the religiopolitical context in which Ibn Taymiyyah produced his work on inghimas and other writings on jihad. In the backdrop of the East Asian Mongols’ invasion of the Middle Eastern Abbasid caliphate leading to the fall of Baghdad in 1258, the puritanical cleric from the present-day border region of Syria and Türkiye refused to accept the invaders as ‘real Muslims’ even after them having embraced Islam. He issued a fatwa (legal ruling) advocating the Mongols’ rejection on religious grounds and the launching of inghimas as a part of jihad against such ‘false Muslims’.6 

Although in his book titled ‘Ibn Taymiyyah in the Literature of Contemporary Jihadists, Nigerian Salafist preacher Jabir Sani Maihula argues that Ibn Taymiyyah had called only for defensive jihad, militants from the Egyptian Abd al-Salam Faraj to Daesh hold that the jurist’s approach was ‘offensive’ because even though the Mongols had become Muslim, they failed to practice sharia (Islamic law). By means of such imagined reasoning, modern Islamist militants are able to practice inghimas7 in their operations against fellow Muslims such as members of the Kurdish, Syrian, and Iraqi armies, mounting terrorist attacks, and then leveraging them for propaganda purposes, as evident from Daesh’s textual and videographic sources.  

It is important to note that there is a dearth of literature on the crucial warfare concept of inghimas, particularly on its high propaganda value for the 21st century’s major Islamist militant organization, Daesh. This article focuses on this important research gap, being based on thorough secondary research focusing on open-source primary and secondary materials that all reveal inghimas’ propaganda worth for the group.  

This article argues that Daesh, as a modern jihadist organization, has extended the application of the multi-purpose inghimas tactic beyond combat in the physical realm — by also relying heavily on it for propaganda purposes in its official rhetoric. These propaganda purposes pertain to either encouraging supporters/fighters but intimidating enemies by claiming responsibility for past inghimas attacks, or urging followers to conduct future assaults using the same tactic. 

Inghimas’ Propaganda-Rich Forms in the Modern Era:   

It is important to remember that Ibn Taymiyyah had not suggested guns and vehicles for inghimas that are used today. These modern manifestations benefit from advanced firearm and motor vehicle technologies that did not exist in the cleric’s era. Since the title of his medieval work from which inghimas emerged refers to it as A Principle Regarding Plunging into the Enemy’, it implies that this tactic is basically a broad ‘principle.’ Therefore, it may be applied to modern settings according to the era’s progress in weaponry.  

For ease of study, this paper divides inghimas into three forms that are practiced in the 21st century, leveraging the advanced killing tools available. Each of the following forms carries exceptional propaganda worth that uniquely enables Daesh to reach out to its supporters, enemies, and potential recruits in different ways: 

  1. a) Organisational inghimas in military settings
  2. b) Organisational inghimas in non-military settings
  3. c) Lone-actor inghimas in non-military settings

Propaganda Values of Inghimas’ Three Modern Forms:  

Inghimas has proven to be of extensive practical use to Daesh, considering that it can be executed easily and combined flexibly with its other major terror-spreading tactic of suicide bombing, causing great damage to the enemy.8 Nevertheless, its propaganda worth is perhaps even greater than its practical utility for the Islamist organization. 

This massive propaganda value of the otherwise relatively low-cost act of inghimas emanates from the strong impact9 it produces on varying audiences through social media. The tactic innovatively combines messianic ‘heroism’ that buoys the morale of Daesh’s fighters/supporters and pure terror that lowers the confidence of its enemies, while incentivizing recruitment for potential recruits with ample inspiration.10 

An inghimas operation in any form is a deadly theatrical event that can grab the audience’s attention for longer periods, unlike a suicide bombing. It also instantaneously generates photographs and videos11 that will remain alive in people’s consciousness for years. In the age of social media,12 inghimas attacks prove most suitable for achieving the impact Daesh seeks to create. This powerful impact explains why the organization is always swift to claim responsibility for inghimas assaults worldwide, exhibiting its pride in these operations.  

Given inghimas’ suitability to digital media that serves propaganda purposes, Daesh has relied significantly on this unconventional and asymmetric warfare tactic in two ways: by urging more international attacks using this modus operandi, and by claiming responsibility for recently carried out assaults. 

The following subsections illustrate the propaganda values of the three modern forms of inghimas:  

a) Organisational Inghimas in Military Settings  

In the December 2016 — or fourth — issue of its online monthly English magazine, Rumiyah, Daesh described a traditional inghimas operation as one involving a single or a few inghimasis plunging into “a large army of non-believers in search of martyrdom or causing damage to them”. 13   

The ideological value of inghimas is evident for Daesh, since it traces this tactic straight to Ibn Taymiyyah, who remains the organisation’s most heavily cited religious scholar. Moreover, the 14th-century scholar called Ibn alNahhas al-Dimashqi alDumyati,who in his book wrote an entire chapter on inghimas, is another historical source for Daesh to propagandize the employment of this strategy as ‘Islamic’ during warfare. Importantly, the Qur’anic verse 2:207 is also exploited to justify inghimas, which states: “And among people there are those who sell their lives seeking the pleasure of God. And God is Immensely Kind to the servants.”14 

What lends inghimas additional credibility in terms of propaganda is its association with whom Daesh refers to as the late “Sheikh” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi”, the founding leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq — before this organization ultimately evolved into Daesh in April 2013. Reportedly, he was so interested in the tactic that he wanted to impart training on it to his fighters. Daesh understandably proclaims him as a “source of inspiration” for inghimasis.15  

Media releases by Daesh’s Amaq News Agency have frequently featured the inghimas modus operandi from infiltration into enemy ranks to violent confrontation exhausting the inghimasis’ ammunition to the detonation of suicide vests, creating holes in the enemy defenses for follow-on regular fighters. However, what reflects inghimas’ propaganda value for Daesh most significantly is the official video released by its media office in Kirkuk, Iraq, in August 2015. This 10-minute video — a magnum opus — was titled Inghimasis: Pride of the Ummah (worldwide Muslim community).16  

The video declares fortified buildings as the target of inghimas attacks while drawing upon Ibn Taymiyyah’s work to pronounce key enemy leaders as another legitimate target. It boasts of these plunging operations as “a lethal weapon by which to make the enemy shudder…”, adding, “as such, just one inghimas fighter can make an entire army collapse.”17 

In a clear move to intimidate Daesh’s enemies, Pride of the Ummah describes the inghimas operations conducted against the US troops until August 2015 in Iraq: 

Inghimasi operations cause the enemy to shudder at the sound of their weapons — such that half of the Crusader American army, which participated in the war against Muslims [in Iraq], were afflicted with psychological disorders. Many of them committed suicide after their friends were ripped to shreds at the hands of the inghimasis and istishhadis(those who seek martyrdom, that is, suicide bombers).18 

Besides targeting the US, Iraqi, Syrian, and Kurdish troops by combining inghimas with other tactics, Daesh has also fully utilised this strategy to attack the enemy forces’ military bases in Iraq and Syria before propagandizing these operations. For example, Daesh carried out an inghimas operation in February 2015 against Ayn al-Asad airbase, hosting both US and Iraqi troops in Iraq’s western province of al-Anbar. The following statement released officially by the organization praised the successful operation against the base, housing both “Crusaders and rafida (meaning ‘rejectors’, a derogatory term for the Shia)”.19  

Recounting the activities by the inghimasis, the statement said that the attack caused the burning of a helicopter and the “death of a number of apostates including a major. After the fighters exhausted their ammunition, they “detonated their explosive belts in the midst of the polytheists” in order to “kill a[n additional] number of them”.20 This is just one example from Iraq in which Daesh fully exploited the inghimas tactic for propaganda purposes. 

The propaganda worth of all the three forms of inghimas owes itself to the powerful psychological intimidation it produces for Daesh’s enemies as the inghimasis have no intention to return alive21 and are instead focused on inflicting the maximum amount of damage. For instance, with regard to this organizational form of the tactic in military settings, Pride of the Ummah plays news reports of an army base and Kurdish Asayish headquarters in Syria that were both destroyed by seven fighters who were themselves ‘martyred’ in the end of the operation.22  

Portraying the inghimas fighters as those infused with such a sacrificial commitment, or ‘selfless devotion to God’ in turn likely attracts potential recruits as being capable of achieving the same results that will ultimately be ‘rewarded with heaven’. Moreover, like the following two modern forms of inghimas, this classic form practiced in military settings provides a morale boost for Daesh’s fighters and supporters.23 Ultimately, the militant organisation keeps itself relevant by milking the propaganda value of this form of inghimas through social media outlets.  

b) Organisational Inghimas in Non-Military Settings  

This innovative form combines the organizational teamwork of traditional battlefield inghimas with the non-military settings of the ‘lone actor’ attacks. In a similar pattern, this form has been practiced in both warzone areas as well as in Western countries and against targets overseas. 

Daesh, as a highly organized militant group, is capable of “mass casualty urban terrorist assaults”, given its functional expertise and logistic strength.24 For organizing such long, attention-grabbing operations inside or against the citizens of the Coalition states fighting Daesh, the organization established a sophisticated “External Operations” subdepartment within its larger Security Department, which ultimately dispatches small strike teams towards non-military targets.25  

It is important to note that such inghimas operations achieve high death tolls for two main reasons: the selection of soft targets such as nearly unprotected crowds or congregations in cities; and the modus operandi of these attacks that includes inghimasis staying alive for as many hours as possible,26 shooting civilians until ammunition is exhausted, and detonating suicide vests in the end thereby causing even more deaths. This method both inflicts greater damage and garners longer-lasting media attention than suicide bombings alone. It also provides so much fodder for the ensuing ‘responsibility-claiming’ propaganda that potential recruits may be inspired to join Daesh, repeat the same acts of ‘bravery and devotion’, and similarly attain ‘heaven’ as ‘martyrs’. 

For instance, the Daesh-Khorasan Tajik inghimasi who carried out the June 2022 high-profile Sikh temple attack in Kabul — in ‘revenge’ for two Indian politicians’ attempts to insult the Holy Prophet of Islam27 — was eulogized by Daesh’s local as well as its central media outlets. Although this operation was not against Western targets in response to their operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, it still carried high propaganda value since the underlying theme was ‘killing infidels who wrong Muslims’.  

In this regard, the Daesh-Khorasan Tajik jihadists’ propagandist who oversees multiple media channels for the organization, known as Yusuf Tajiki, published a follow-up 12-minute audio message on his Telegram channel in which he proclaimed: “The famous and fearless Lion of God Almighty, Tajik commander Abdullah Abu Muhammad al-Tajiki, carried out an [inghimas] attack on the Sikh temple in Kabul and sacrificed himself to protect the values of Islam.”28 His dreams of sacrificing himself while defending Islam and meeting God in the highest gardens of paradise were thereby fulfilled, according to Tajiki. The latter thus used this incident to encourage Central Asian Muslims to similarly ‘embark on the divine path’ by being recruited in the Daesh-Khorasan. Similarly, Daesh-Khorasan’s Voice of Khorasan magazine in English glorified this inghimas operation in its unusually long editorial, while Daesh-Central’s Amaq and Nashir news agencies praised it as a “sophisticated attack”.29 

The propaganda worth of this form of inghimas launched by well-trained Daesh fighters in non-military settings is similarly evident in the aftermath of operations executed in Western territories and against Western targets. After the spectacular Paris attacks of November 2015 that also involved hostage-taking by inghimasis, Daesh released a statement claiming responsibility, adding, “God helped our brothers and gave them what they wished for (‘martyrdom’) — they triggered their belts in the midst of these infidels after they exhausted their ammunition.”30  

Likewise, Daesh’s inghimasis in March 2015 attacked Tunisia’s landmark national museum in the capital Tunis, taking hostages and killing 21 people — mostly European tourists — on the spot. Afterward, Daesh claimed responsibility for the operation in a statement and audio posted on jihadist websites, praising the dead fighters as “knights” for their “blessed invasion of one of the dens of infidels and vice in Muslim Tunisia”.31 The militant organization also described the attack as a siege on “citizens of the Crusader countries”,32 implying revenge from the European members of the Coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria. 

It is evident that these complex, coordinated, and long inghimas operations are uniquely ideal for propaganda purposes, as they stage deadly dramas, keeping electronic and social media hooked for hours. The ensuing official statements issued by Daesh attempt to deepen the purported ‘Muslims versus Infidels perpetual conflict’, attract vulnerable young people to join and attain ‘heaven’, giving the terrifying impression that such deadly attacks will be repeated in the future. 

c) Lone Actor Inghimas in Non-Military Settings  

A lone actor attack, also called a lone wolf attack, is one in which a self-radicalised individual commits an act of violence on their own initiative without the physical aid or training of a terrorist group — the only contribution of the organization to the attack is providing remote inspiration and online instruction. Since there is a political basis for the lone individual’s violent act, it is classified as a ‘terrorist attack’.33 Importantly, these modern assaults conform to the same medieval concept of inghimas by Ibn Taymiyyah, that is, they plunge into the enemy.34 This is why propaganda-rich lone actor assaults, such as vehicle ramming, mass stabbing, and public shooting, are a third form of inghimas carried out in non-military scenarios. 

Like the previous form of the tactic, this form is based on the logic of taking revenge from the Western countries for their anti-Daesh military campaign in Iraq and Syria, and for earning ‘martyrdom’.35 In this regard, Daesh’s former American member, Abu Hamza al-Amriki, appealled to Muslims in a video to mount lone actor inghimas attacks for avenging the “uncontrolled bombing of [the Iraqi city of Mosul by] the United States”.36 Moreover, Daesh-Khorasan’s Uzbek group’s propagandist and chief strategist, Abu Khorasan al-Mujahid, exhorted supporters in his audio messages to conduct lone actor inghimas attacks in what he called Dar al-Kufr (the house of infidelity, that is, Western countries that are not governed by Islamic laws): “The life of the American and European infidels should turn into hell as our Caliph (Daesh leader) issued a fatwa to take revenge.”37      

A simple cost-and-benefit analysis elucidates why Daesh focuses on lone actor inghimas assaults as a means of propaganda — producing audio, video, and text instructions for its followers to conduct these operations. The costs to the organization for such attacks are almost zero — all it has to do is provide online inspiration and issue instructions regarding the selection of tools and targets. Any ideologically motivated and radicalized individual in the West can then acquire a cheap rudimentary weapon and conceive of a simple plot to execute the attack without any prior combat training.38 The chances of “pre-attack detection” are also minimal because these acts of violence are completely random.39 The benefits Daesh receives from such lone actor assaults are that their threats keep its enemies intimidated and once such an operation has actually happened, its “shock value”40 for the enemies is massive. Ultimately, these low-cost but potentially high-profile attacks keep Daesh constantly ‘relevant’ through news media of the digital age. This explains why much of the militant organization’s propaganda is centered around encouraging the lone actor inghimas. 

The weapons to be used in the lone actor inghimas assaults have been given much attention in Daesh’s propaganda materials, which provide a range of options for executing these attacks. Practically, they have been performed with one or more of three weapons, namely firearms, knives, and vehicles, depending on what is accessible in a given country. The main thrust of propaganda centered around such Western-oriented inghimas is to instigate Daesh’s followers to use “simple and readily accessible materials”,41 to carry out a campaign of so-called “just terror operations”42 (meaning they are ‘just’), against the inhabitants of Dar al-Kufr.  

This is evident from the eight-minute video, aptly titled, “What Are You Waiting For?”, released by Daesh’s al-Hayat Media Centre in November 2015. In the video, the French militant, Abu Salman al-Faranci, exhorted followers in France to carry out domestic lone actor inghimas attacks in every possible way if they were unable to migrate to Daesh’s territory in Syria: “Terrorise them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror. There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit.”43 

An example of one such weapon that Daesh’s propaganda image on its affiliated ‘Cyber Caliphate’ channel encouraged is the firearm44 used by each of the inghimasis in the San Bernardino shooting in California, December 2015. Later, a broadcast by the militant group called the shooters “soldiers of the Caliphate” whose “light weapons… led to the deaths of 14 disbelievers”.45 Nevertheless, because for such inghimas acts, knives and vehicles are even easier to acquire and use, Daesh has dedicated greater propaganda material to these weapons. Its online English-language magazine, Rumiyah, has provided instructions on executing knife and vehicle attacks as well as on choosing targets.46  

Further official material that reveals the propaganda value of knife and vehicle operations surfaced in September 2014 whenDaesh’s high-profile spokesperson and its leader’s close aide, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, urged lone actor attacks against civilians in this statement: “If you are not able to find an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock or slaughter him with a knife or run him over with your car…”47 Similarly, in a May 2017 video, Daesh’s American fighter, Abu Hamza al-Amriki, exhorted followers to assault civilians with knives and vehicles domestically in the West: “Are you incapable of stabbing an infidel with a knife, throwing him off of a building, or running him over with a car? Liberate yourself from hellfire by killing an infidel.”48  

Such propaganda regarding potential assaults appears even more intimidating when the actual results are considered, such as the June 2017 attack in London, wherein three assailants rammed a high-speed van into crowds and then exited the vehicle to randomly stab people, killing seven pedestrians. This operation was not only claimed by Daesh but it had also followed the aforementioned May 2017 call to conduct inghimas assaults using knives and motor vehicles. This is just one example out of many where attacks actually occurred after online instructions, which explains why Daesh produced lone actor assault-related propaganda through three media: audio, video, and text. 

Inghimasis as Instruments of Propaganda:  

According to the assassinated Iraqi militancy expert Hisham al-Hashimi, inghimasis are a “special faction” of Daesh who are so committed to their missions that they either win or die, but are never captured alive or retreat.49 Through these “main players”, Daesh captured and kept under its control territories throughout the Middle East,50 which demonstrates the immense military importance of these unconventional fighters. On the propaganda account, the operations carried out by the inghimasis are complex and lengthy, generating intimidating visual content and holding media attention for hours, thereby supplying the organization with the oxygen of publicity.51 Hence, it is not surprising that Daesh’s online materials exploit Qur’anic verses and the works of medieval scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah to validate the role of the supremely useful inghimasis — for the purpose of drawing in new recruits.52  

Given the crucial importance of these operatives, they indeed hold a special place within Daesh’s military and propaganda hierarchy.53 It can well be argued that the organization’s heavy military dependence on the inghimasis’ is proportionate to the substantial propaganda it produces in favor of these elite ‘immersionist’ fighters. For instance, the Amaq News Agency featured the inghimasis multiple times a week when Daesh was controlling territories in Iraq and Syria.54 Additionally, the number of monthly operations by these battalions was also recorded annually by the Agency.55  

It is pertinent to note that the importance Daesh accords to the confrontational inghimasis in its propaganda materials is even greater than that it does to the non-confrontational istishhadis, though it views both types respectfully.56 Since the inghimasis’ job is to stay alive for as long as possible to inflict maximum damage on the enemy in a battle, they possess higher physical and combat capabilities than the istishhadis who are only required to detonate their explosives in a gathering, killing themselves immediately along with their victims.  

Thus, Daesh qualitatively differentiates between the two types of operatives and takes such great pride in the former that it actually went on to produce a special documentary called Inghimasis: Pride of the Ummah. This video not only exhibited the enormous propaganda value of the inghimasis but also described the superior qualities these elite commandos must possess: “strong faith in God, good manners, altruism or unselfishness, and the love of sacrifice for the sake of God”.57 Indeed, within Daesh, the ‘inghimasi’ is the loftiest title that a soldier can possibly earn.58 Understandably, it is also believed that these fighters “striving in the path of God” will be rewarded with the “highest rooms” of paradise.59  

The fact that Daesh has formally provided in its registration form the option of ‘inghimasi’ to its new recruits reveals that the group is confident about the effectiveness of its propaganda, so therefore, it expects that newcomers would already be familiar with and able to select this fighting category.60 Truly, given the militant organization’s substantial publicity efforts surrounding the inghimasis, the appeal appears massive for recruits with regard to both this world and the Hereafter. In contrast, these fighters serve as powerful propaganda instruments for terrifying and threatening enemy forces, as is evident from the destructive results achieved by their marauding operations in Pride of the Ummah. 

Conclusion:  

Ibn Taymiyyah prescribed the unconventional inghimas tactic as an important part of jihad centuries ago. Indeed, due to its scholarly justification and adaptability to various settings, it continues to be employed in the purported ‘jihad’ waged by modern Islamist militant organizations, such as Daesh. Nonetheless, given the 21st century of fifth-generation warfare in which social media plays a vital role, inghimas has additionally proven to be a powerful propaganda instrument having optical richness and even theatrical qualities. Through using this tactic, Daesh engages in terrorist activity and then proudly claims it, only to produce more propaganda material around this strategy in order to urge further attacks. Such propaganda production is facilitated by inghimas’worldly and eschatological worth as contained in Daesh’s Salafist-jihadist discourse.  

Thus, Daesh’s strategy clearly includes the exploitation of this innovative tactic as much in the cyber realm as in the physical one, in order to have the intended effects on various audiences. By leveraging inghimas for territorial control as well as for influence expansion, the militant organization has been successful in proverbially killing two birds with one stone. This is why it is understandable that Daesh has exported this low-cost but high-impact tactic geographically and propagandistically across continents.  

Lastly, inferring from the past, it is highly likely that Daesh will continue to rely on the medieval inghimas as an invaluable means for receiving publicity. In fact, the more technology progresses, the more creatively this propaganda-rich strategy can be leveraged for encouraging followers, intimidating enemies, and attracting potential recruits, as per the era’s circumstances. As the former al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a 2005 letter, more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media”,61 it is evident from the study of inghimas that Daesh is aware of this reality.  

Counter-terrorism policymakers are advised to take due notice of the usage of the inghimas concept that serves as an entire chapter on modern Islamist terrorism, given the value of propaganda bestowed by new media today. Indeed, this problem which has repercussions for terrorist recruitment needs to be viewed in a historical light, and the very sources which modern jihadists derive inspiration from need to be discredited before this battlefield tactic and propaganda instrument can be rendered irrelevant.            

Note on Terminology 

Throughout this paper, I have intentionally avoided reproducing commonly used acronyms for ‘Daesh’, that is, the organization’s Arabic name. These acronyms are ‘IS’ (Islamic State), ‘ISIS’ (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), and ‘ISIL’ (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). This is because such terms lend religious legitimacy to the terrorist entity, which is precisely what it seeks before anything else. ‘Daesh’ on the contrary has known negative connotations in Arabic.

Acknowledgment 

The author expresses her gratitude to Dr Sajjan Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation in London for his guidance on the subject, and for suggesting the research topic of inghimas. 

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Daesh Media Office. “The Inghimasiyun: Pride of the Ummah.” Archive Share Site, (Kirkuk: Daesh Media Office, 2015). 

Future Center. “Inghimasi Fighters: Terrorist Organizations Return to Previous Modus Operandi,” Future Center, accessed October 10, 2023, https://futureuae.com/en/Mainpage/Item/2623/inghimasi-fighters-terrorist-organizations-return-to-previous-modus-operandi.  

Gardham, Duncan. “ISIL Issued Warning to ‘Filthy French,’” Politico, November 17, 2015, https://www.politico.eu/article/paris-terrorist-attacks-isil-issued-warning-to-filthy-french/.  

Hamm, Mark. “Lone Wolf Terrorism in America,” United States Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, accessed October 11, 2023, https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/lone-wolf-terrorism-america.  

Hashim, Ahmed. “Cities Under Siege: Mass Casualty Urban Terrorism Assaults,” S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, 2016, p. 15. 

Hassan, Muhammad Haniff. “An Analysis of Bai`ah Al-Mawt (Pledge of Death) in Jihadist Groups’ Practice and Islamic Tradition,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 14, no. 3 (2022): 24–30, p. 25. 

Hatina, Meir. Martyrdom in Modern Islam: Piety, Power, and Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). 

Hughes, Seamus, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, and Bennett Clifford. “A New American Leader Rises in ISIS,” The Atlantic, April 29, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/isis-america-hoxha/550508/

Ibrahim, Hassan. “‘Inghimasi’ Attacks Decline in Idlib: Logistic Shortage or Political Tactic?,” Enab Baladi, July 4, 2023, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2023/07/inghimasi-attacks-decline-in-idlib-logistic-shortage-or-political-tactic/

Jenkins, Brian, and Bruce Butterworth, “An Analysis of Vehicle-Ramming as a Terrorist Tactic,” Security Perspective (California: San Jose State University, 2018), p. 2, https://transweb.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/SP0518%20Vehicle%20Ramming%20Terrorism.pdf.  

Laghmari, Mehdi. Analysis and Assessment of Islamic State’s Military Strategy in Iraq (2011-2015) (Exeter: University of Exeter, 2019), p. 82. 

Mahzam, Remy. “Rumiyah – Jihadist Propaganda & Information Warfare in Cyberspace,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 9, no. 3 (2017): 8–14, p. 11.  

Molloy, Rebecca. “Deconstructing Ibn Taymiyah‟s View on Suicidal Mission,” CTC Sentinel 2, no. 3 (March 2009).  

Mustafa, Hamza. “‘Inghimasis’…Fourth Generation of ISIS’s Bombers,” Asharq Al-Awsat English Archive, July 10, 2016, https://eng-archive.aawsat.com/hamzamustafa/features/inghimasisfourth-generation-isiss-bombers

NBC News. “ISIS Video Shows New Weapons, ‘American’ Jihadi Urging Attacks in U.S.,” NBC News, May 19, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/isis-video-shows-new-weapons-american-urging-attacks-u-s-n761786 

New York Times. “Tunisia Attack Kills at Least 38 at Beach Resort Hotel,” New York Times, June 27, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/world/africa/gunmen-attack-hotel-in-sousse-tunisia.html

New York Times. “Islamic State Says ‘Soldiers of Caliphate’ Attacked in San Bernardino,” New York Times, December 6, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/world/middleeast/islamic-state-san-bernardino-massacre.html

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum, ed. Sajjan Gohel and Peter Forster (Brussels: NATO), 2020, p. 134.   

Raymond, Adam. “The Rise of Truck Attacks, the Terror Tactic of Today,” Intelligencer, August 18, 2017, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/08/the-rise-of-truck-attacks-the-terror-tactic-of-today.html

Rowley, John. “The Inghamasi: ISIL’s New Way of War” Small Wars Journal, accessed October 10, 2023, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-inghamasi-isil%E2%80%99s-new-way-of-war

Sterman, David, and Nate Rosenblatt. “Appendix II.: The ISIS Registration Form – Translated,” All Jihad Is Local Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, (Washington, DC: New America, 2018), p. 63.  

Waitt, Tammy. “NYC Truck Attack, What We Know – ‘Done for ISIS,’ 8 Dead (Multi-Video),” American Security Today, November 1, 2017, https://americansecuritytoday.com/nyc-truck-attack-know-done-isis-8-dead-multi-video/

Warrick, Joby, and Souad Mekhennet, “A Battered ISIS Grows Ever More Dependent on Lone Wolves, Simple Plans,” Washington Post, April 8, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-battered-isis-grows-ever-more-dependent-on-lone-wolves-simple-plans/2017/07/19/3eeef9e8-6bfa-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html

Winter, Charlie. “Suicide Tactics and the Islamic State,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – ICCT, accessed October 10, 2023, https://www.icct.nl/publication/suicide-tactics-and-islamic-state.  

 

1 Moḥammad Abu Rumman, and Ḥassan Abu Hanieh, Infatuated with Martyrdom: Female Jihadism from Al-Qaeda to the ‘Islamic State’ (Amman: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Jordan and Iraq, 2017), p. 395.

2 Mehdi Laghmari, Analysis and Assessment of Islamic State’s Military Strategy in Iraq (2011-2015) (Exeter: University of Exeter, 2019), p. 82.

3 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum, ed. Sajjan Gohel and Peter Forster (Brussels: NATO), 2020, p. 134.  

4 Meir Hatina, Martyrdom in Modern Islam: Piety, Power, and Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

5 Rebecca Molloy, “Deconstructing Ibn Taymiyah‟s View on Suicidal Mission,” CTC Sentinel 2, no. 3 (March 2009). 

6 NATO, Reference Curriculum, p. 41.

7 Inghimas — deployed as a battlefield and non-battlefield attack tactic as well as a terrorist propaganda vehicle — is preceded by takfir (the labelling of a Muslim as an infidel). This means that takfir constitutes the basis of inghimas — a vital part of the context in which this tactic was recommended. Without declaring the Mongols ‘false Muslims’, Ibn Taymiyyah could not have sanctioned such an extreme, nearly suicidal act against them.

The notion of takfir also explains why this controversial ideologue himself serves as a propaganda tool for organisations like Daesh, revered highly and quoted often in their terrorist discourse that rationalises attacks against other Muslims by similarly proclaiming them infidels.

8 Laghmari, Analysis and Assessment, p. 80.

9 Charlie Winter, “Suicide Tactics and the Islamic State,” International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – ICCT, accessed October 10, 2023, https://www.icct.nl/publication/suicide-tactics-and-islamic-state. 

10 Remy Mahzam, “Rumiyah – Jihadist Propaganda & Information Warfare in Cyberspace,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 9, no. 3 (2017): 8–14, p. 11. 

11 Ibid.

12 Cameron Colquhoun, “Inghimasi – The Secret ISIS Tactic Designed for the Digital Age,” Bellingcat, accessed October 10, 2023, https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2016/12/01/inghimasi-secret-isis-tactic-designed-digital-age/.

13 Muhammad Haniff Hassan, “An Analysis of Bai`ah Al-Mawt (Pledge of Death) in Jihadist Groups’ Practice and Islamic Tradition,” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses 14, no. 3 (2022): 24–30, p. 25.

14 John Rowley, “The Inghamasi: ISIL’s New Way of War” Small Wars Journal, accessed October 10, 2023, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-inghamasi-isil%E2%80%99s-new-way-of-war.

15 “Inghimasi Fighters: Terrorist Organizations Return to Previous Modus Operandi,” Future Center, accessed October 10, 2023, https://futureuae.com/en/Mainpage/Item/2623/inghimasi-fighters-terrorist-organizations-return-to-previous-modus-operandi

 Rowley, “The Inghamasi.”

17 “The Inghimasiyun: Pride of the Ummah.” Archive Share Site, (Kirkuk: Daesh Media Office, 2015), in Charlie Winter, Shiraz Maher, and Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi,  “Understanding Salafi-Jihadist Attitudes Towards Innovation,” International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, accessed October 11, 2023, https://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ICSR-Report-Understanding-Salafi‑Jihadist-Attitudes-Towards-Innovation.pdf.

18“The Inghimasiyun: Pride of the Ummah.” Archive Share Site, (Kirkuk: Daesh Media Office, 2015), in Rowley, “The Inghamasi.”

19 Colquhoun, “Inghimasi.”

20 Ibid.

21 “Inghimasi Fighters.”

22“The Inghimasiyun: Pride of the Ummah.” Archive Share Site, (Kirkuk: Daesh Media Office, 2015), in Rowley, “The Inghamasi.”

23 Mahzam, “Rumiyah,” p. 11. 

24 Ahmed Hashim, “Cities Under Siege: Mass Casual

25 Ibid.

26 Colquhoun, “Inghimasi.”

 Uran Botobekov, “ISKP Tajik Fighters Step Up Sophisticated Inghimasi Attacks Against Taliban and Intimidate the U.S.,” Homeland Security Today, July 23, 2022, https://www.hstoday.us/featured/iskp-tajik-fighters-step-up-sophisticated-inghimasi-attacks-against-taliban-and-intimidate-the-u-s/.

28 Ibid. 

29 Ibid.

30 Colquhoun, “Inghimasi.”

31 “Tunisia Museum Attack: ISIS Claims Responsibility,” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), March 20, 2015, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/tunisia-museum-attack-isis-claims-responsibility-1.3001002#:~:text=In%20claiming%20responsibility%20for%20the,and%20vice%20in%20Muslim%20Tunisia.%22.

32 “Tunisia Attack Kills at Least 38 at Beach Resort Hotel,” New York Times, June 27, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/world/africa/gunmen-attack-hotel-in-sousse-tunisia.html.

33 Mark Hamm, “Lone Wolf Terrorism in America,” United States Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, accessed October 11, 2023, https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/lone-wolf-terrorism-america

34James Black, Alexandra Hall, Giacomo Persi Paoli, and Rich Warnes, “Troubled Waters: A Snapshot of Security Challenges in the Mediterranean Region,” RAND Corporation, 2017, p. 14.

35 Abu Rumman and Abu Hanieh, Infatuated with Martyrdom, p. 171.

36 Tammy Waitt, “NYC Truck Attack, What We Know – ‘Done for ISIS,’ 8 Dead (Multi-Video),” American Security Today, November 1, 2017, https://americansecuritytoday.com/nyc-truck-attack-know-done-isis-8-dead-multi-video/.

37 Uran Botobekov, “ISIS ‘Pursuing Big Policy’ Aimed at Sparking U.S. Civil War through Lone-Wolf Attacks,” Homeland Security Today, September 27, 2022, https://www.hstoday.us/featured/isis-khorasan-urges-lone-wolf-attacks-in-order-to-spark-u-s-civil-war/.

38 Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet, “A Battered ISIS Grows Ever More Dependent on Lone Wolves, Simple Plans,” Washington Post, April 8, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-battered-isis-grows-ever-more-dependent-on-lone-wolves-simple-plans/2017/07/19/3eeef9e8-6bfa-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html.

39 Mia Bloom, “Vehicle Ramming: The Evolution of a Terrorist Tactic inside the US,” Just Security, accessed October 12, 2023, https://www.justsecurity.org/71431/vehicle-ramming-the-evolution-of-a-terrorist-tactic-inside-the-us/. 

40 Brian Jenkins, and Bruce Butterworth, “An Analysis of Vehicle-Ramming as a Terrorist Tactic,” Security Perspective (California: San Jose State University, 2018), p. 2, https://transweb.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/SP0518%20Vehicle%20Ramming%20Terrorism.pdf.  

41 “Rumiyah,” p. 9. Mahzam, 

42  Ibid.

43 Duncan Gardham, “ISIL Issued Warning to ‘Filthy French,’” Politico, November 17, 2015, https://www.politico.eu/article/paris-terrorist-attacks-isil-issued-warning-to-filthy-french/

44 Rukmini Callimachi, Twitter, July 15, 2016, https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/753780614998859778?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E753780614998859778%7Ctwgr%5Ef96fbb52facd62a13594122893e212bef1c036f6%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftime.com%2F4407732%2Fisis-truck-nice-attack%2F. 

45 “Islamic State Says ‘Soldiers of Caliphate’ Attacked in San Bernardino,” New York Times, December 6, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/world/middleeast/islamic-state-san-bernardino-massacre.html.

46 Mahzam, “Rumiyah,” p. 9; “ISIS Video Shows New Weapons, ‘American’ Jihadi Urging Attacks in U.S.,” NBC News, May 19, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/isis-video-shows-new-weapons-american-urging-attacks-u-s-n761786; Adam K. Raymond, “The Rise of Truck Attacks, the Terror Tactic of Today,” Intelligencer, August 18, 2017, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/08/the-rise-of-truck-attacks-the-terror-tactic-of-today.html.

47 “Terrorist Attacks by Vehicle Fast Facts,” Cable News Network (CNN), March 3, 2023, https://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/03/world/terrorist-attacks-by-vehicle-fast-facts/index.html.

48  Seamus Hughes, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, and Bennett Clifford, “A New American Leader Rises in ISIS,” The Atlantic, April 29, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/isis-america-hoxha/550508/.

49 Hamza Mustafa, “‘Inghimasis’…Fourth Generation of ISIS’s Bombers,” Asharq Al-Awsat English Archive, July 10, 2016, https://eng-archive.aawsat.com/hamzamustafa/features/inghimasisfourth-generation-isiss-bombers.

50 Ibid

51  Colquhoun, “Inghimasi.”

52 Mustafa, “‘Inghimasis’….”

53  Rowley, “The Inghamasi.” 

54 Ibid.

55  “Inghimasi Fighters.”

56 Ibid

57 Rowley, “The Inghamasi.” 

58  Hassan Ibrahim, “‘Inghimasi’ Attacks Decline in Idlib: Logistic Shortage or Political Tactic?,” Enab Baladi, July 4, 2023, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2023/07/inghimasi-attacks-decline-in-idlib-logistic-shortage-or-political-tactic/.

59  Botobekov, “ISKP Tajik Fighters.”

60  David Sterman, and Nate Rosenblatt, “Appendix II.: The ISIS Registration Form – Translated,” All Jihad Is Local Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, (Washington, DC: New America, 2018), p. 63.

61  Mahzam, “Rumiyah,” p. 12.

Naveen Khan
Naveen Khan
Naveen Khan is a nonresident research fellow with the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at the University of Akron, Ohio, USA. Specializing in the analysis of Afghanistan-Pakistan geopolitical affairs and extremist-terrorist trends, she is currently engaged in conducting research and writing threat assessment briefs on the major terrorist organizations in Afghanistan-Pakistan, such as al-Qaeda, Daesh-Khorasan, and the Haqqani Network, intended for US intelligence professionals. Additionally, she has participated as a research team member of the Partnership for Peace Consortium’s Combating Terrorism Working Group (CTWG), in assembling the NATO-sponsored ‘Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum (CTRC)’, which recommends defense cooperation strategies for governments worldwide. In the past, Ms. Khan has conducted and published original primary research on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region on political violence, Pashtun ethnicity, and social conflicts. She has also written on the notion of an 'Islamic Revolution', Taliban ideology, Lashkar-e-Taiba's operations in Indian Kashmir, and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's terrorist activities in the Pakistan-governed former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Her research has been published in the Diplomat, the Geopolitical Monitor, Modern Diplomacy, and at two of India's top think-tanks. She has also been invited to share her expertise at high-level international counter-terrorism conferences in Europe, and awarded an official commendation in London following her contributions to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism/Counter-Terrorism (PCVE/CT) by the National Coordinator for ‘Prevent’ (the British government’s CT strategy). In addition, Ms. Khan designed and taught Sociology courses at Pakistan's top Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, focusing critically on socio-political issues, with a key focus on conducting independent research. She holds an MSc in Sociology from the London School of Economics (LSE), with a Distinction in the History of Political Islam.

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