Abu Sayyaf Group

Vivienne S. M. Angeles

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Abu Sayyaf Group


The Abu Sayyaf, also known as Al-Harakat al-Islamiyah (Islamic movement), is one of several Muslim movements seeking to establish an Islamic state in the southern Philippines. However, their violent activities directed randomly at private citizens and lack of ideological grounding have generated questions on the nature and purposes of the organization. Stories on the genesis of the Abu Sayyaf vary, with some media reports asserting that it was created by the Philippine military as a way of infiltrating Muslim movements and others claiming that its founder was genuinely motivated to establish an Islamic state. Sources, however, are in agreement regarding Abu Sayyaf’s founder, Abdurazak Janjalani, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who studied in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan and who left the MNLF because he felt that its chairman, Nur Misuari, was pursuing a secular path in the group’s quest for an independent Muslim state. Janjalani was also reported to have fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The name Abu Sayyaf, meaning “father of the swordsman,” was Janjalani’s nom de guerre, which, in turn, is derived from the name of Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, Janjalani’s mentor at a training camp in Afghanistan. While still organizing the movement in the early 1990s, Janjalani also preached at the mosques in Basilan and Zamboanga and those discourses are major sources of information on Janjalani’s ideological leanings. A major focus of his sermons was pursuing jihad fi sabil lillah (struggle in the path of God), including martyrdom, which he believed to be the only way to achieve a pure Islamic state. Janjalani demonstrated his anti-Christian sentiments in attacking Christian missionaries and launching campaigns against Christian symbols. He led the movement for less than a decade and was killed in an encounter with the police in 1998. His brother, Khaddafy Janjalani, took over the leadership but multiple factions developed within the group, especially after Khaddafy’s death in a clash with the military. In the 1980s, the Abu Sayyaf was reported to have received financial support from the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which was run by Mohammad Khalifa, the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden. In recent times, the Abu Sayyaf has gained notoriety for its tactic of kidnapping, especially foreign nationals, to secure ransom monies. The ransom payments fund the movement and its members. Studies show linkages of the Abu Sayyaf group with both al-Qaeda and the Jamiah Islamiah of Indonesia, in terms of funding and training, as well as with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines. The United States lists the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization, and its operations, together with its transnational linkages, are major reasons that, since 11 September 2001, US military aid has been extended to the Philippines.

Article.  5760 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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