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A Mujahid (Arabic: , , literally "struggler", "justice-fighter" or "freedom-fighter") is a person who is fighting for freedom. The plural is mujahideen ( , ). The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad ("struggle").

Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mujahedīn, mujahidīn, Mudžahedin-Mudžahid (Bosnian), mujaheddīn and variants.


Arabic words usually have triliterals, which are triconsonantal (three-consonant) roots. The root of mujahidin is J-H-D (ج-ه-د), meaning "effort or sacrifice" ("Jihad" can mean to struggle and "Mujahid" can mean struggler.) However, the particular verb stem of J-H-D from which both jihad and mujahid are derived means "to exert effort against" or "to struggle". Mujahid is originally, therefore, "someone who struggles". The term has, even in Arabic, taken on meanings that are specifically religious, or specifically military or paramilitary or both.

Like the concept and title Ghazi, it has been used in formal titles of Muslim leaders who prided themselves on (and legitimized their conquests by) Jihad bis saïf, holy war in the name of establishing Islamic rule, even at very high political level: no lesser ruler than Sultan Murad Khan II Khoja-Ghazi, sixth Sovereign of the House of Osman (1421–1451), had as full style Abu'l Hayrat, Sultan ul-Mujahidin, Khan of Khans, Grand Sultan of Anatolia and Rumelia and of the Cities of Adrianople and Philippolis, including the formal title "Sultan of mujahideen"

In English, the word is recorded since 1958, in a Pakistanimarker context, adopted from Persian and Arabic, as the plural of mujahid "one who fights in a jihad", in modern use, for "Muslim guerilla insurgent."

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the term "mujahideen" became the name of various armed fighters who subscribe to militant Islamic ideologies and identify themselves as mujahideen, although there is not always an explicit "holy" or "warrior" meaning of the word. In modern parlance "mujahideen" describes different armed groups formed in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Jihad in the Hadith

According to the Hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari), Jihad is important for followers of Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad considered the following deeds, in order of goodness:

  1. To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.
  2. To be good and dutiful to your parents.
  3. To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause.

When Prophet Muhammed was asked which deeds are best by Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, he replied that a mujahid who takes part in jihad was the third best of deeds.

In the hadith it is said that when asked "O Allah's Apostle! What is the best deed?" He replied, "To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times." I asked, "What is next in goodness?" He replied, "To be good and dutiful to your parents." then further asked, what is next in goodness?" He replied, "To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause."

Other version of the hadith, collected from different narrators claim the prophet said it was the 2nd best of deeds.


The best-known mujahideen, various loosely-aligned Afghan opposition groups, initially fought against the incumbent pro-Soviet Afghan government during the late 1970s. At the Afghan government's request, the Soviet Unionmarker became involved in the war. The mujahideen insurgency then fought against the Soviet and Afghan government troops during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union pulled out of the conflict in the late 1980s the mujahideen fought each other in the subsequent Afghan Civil War.

The mujahideen were significantly financed and armed (and are alleged to have been trained) by the United Statesmarker Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Carter and Reagan administrations, the government of Saudi Arabiamarker, Zia-ul-Haq's military regime in Pakistanmarker, Iranmarker, the People's Republic of Chinamarker and several Western European countries. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the interagent used in the majority of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance. Under Reagan, US support for the mujahideen evolved into an official U.S. foreign policy, known as the Reagan Doctrine, which included U.S. support for anti-Soviet resistance movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

The main base station of mujahideen in Pakistan was the town Badaber, 24 km from Peshawarmarker. Afghanistan mujahideen were trained in the Badaber base under supervision by military instructors from the USA, Pakistan, and the Republic of China. The base served as the concentration camp for Sovietmarker and DRA captives as well. In 1985, the uprising of captivesmarker destroyed the base, but the incident was concealed by Pakistani and Soviet governments until the dissolution of the USSR.

Ronald Reagan praised mujahideen as "freedom fighters", and four mainstream Western films, the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, the 1988 action films Rambo III, The Beast and the 2007 biographical movie Charlie Wilson's War, portrayed them as heroic.

Afghanistan's resistance movement was born in chaos and, at first, virtually all of its war was waged locally by regional warlords. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew. Even so, the basic units of mujahideen organization and action continued to reflect the highly segmented nature of Afghan society. Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied themselves into the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen.

Many Muslims from other countries volunteered to assist the various mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, and gained significant experience in guerrilla warfare. Some groups of these veterans have been significant factors in more recent conflicts in and around the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden, originally from a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, was a prominent organizer and financier of an all-Arab islamist group of foreign volunteers; his Maktab al-Khadamat funnelled money, arms, and Muslim fighters from around the Muslim world into Afghanistan, with the assistance and support of the Saudi and Pakistani governments. These foreign fighters became known as "Afghan Arabs" and their efforts were coordinated by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.

Mujahideen forces found themselves always on the winning hand against the Soviets, and consistently, the Mujahideen won when the soviet union because of their heavy losses inflicted upon them by the Muslim-warriors pulled troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, when they overtook many of Afghanistan's cities from the Federal Government, followed by the fall of the Mohammad Najibullah regime in 1992. However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over the power in Kabulmarker. After several years of devastating infighting, a village mullah organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban, meaning "students" (in Arabic), and referring to the Saudi-backed religious schools known for producing extremism. Veteran mujahideen were confronted by this radical splinter group in 1996.

Post Soviet international fighters

By 1996, with backing from the Pakistani ISI and Military of Pakistan, as well as al-Qaeda, the Taliban had largely defeated the militias and controlled most of the country. The opposition factions allied themselves together again and became known as the Northern Alliance. Since 2001, with US-NATOmarker intervention, the Taliban were ousted from power and a new Afghan government was formed. Many of the former mujahideen gradually were incorporated into the new Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

At present the term "mujahideen" is sometimes used to describe insurgents groups (including Taliban and al-Qaeda) who are fighting NATO troops and the Military of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Afghan mujahideen also participated in the Nagorno-Karabakh War and the Tajik Civil War.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mujahideen came in Bosniamarker during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war after the massacres committed by the Serb forces on Bosnian Muslim civilians. They intended to fight a jihad against the perpetrators. The number of volunteers is estimated by some newspaper reports to have been about 4,000, but some recent research discards such claims estimating 400 foreign volunteers. They came from places such as Saudi Arabiamarker, Pakistanmarker, Afghanistanmarker, Jordanmarker, Egyptmarker, Iraqmarker and the Palestinian Territoriesmarker; to quote the summary of the ICTY judgement:

It is alleged that mujahideen participated in some incidents considered to be war crimes according to the international law. However no indictment was issued by the ICTYmarker against them, but a few Bosnian Army officers were indicted on the basis of superior criminal responsibility. Amir Kubura and Enver Hadžihasanović were found not guilty on all counts related to the incidents involving mujahideen. Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber noted that the relationship between the 3rd Corps of the Bosnian Army headed by Hadžihasanović and the El Mujahedin detachment was not one of subordination but was instead close to overt hostility since the only way to control the detachment was to attack them as if they were a distinct enemy force.

In the case against Rasim Delic, the former commander of the Bosnian Army General Staff, the ICTY Trial Chamber decided, with a majority of votes, presiding judge Moloto dissenting, that the former commander had effective control over the members of the El Mujahid Detachment, but had no knowledge of the crimes they committed, although in one case he had reason to know of their tendency to treat prisoners of war cruelly. He was sentenced to three years of prison for failure to prevent or punish the cruel treatment of twelve captured Serb soldiers in the village of Livade and in the Kamenica camp near Zavidovici in July and August 1995 at the hands of the Mujahideen. The general will remain in the Detention Unit until the end of the appellate proceedings.

Burma (Myanmar)

A sizable number of mujahideen are present and concentrated in the province of Arakan, Burmamarker. They were much more active before the 1962 coup d'etat by General Ne Win. Ne Win carried out some military operations targeting them over a period of two decades. The prominent one was "Operation King Dragon" which took place in 1978; as a result, many Muslims in the region fled to neighboring country Bangladeshmarker as refugees. Nevertheless, the Burmese mujahideen are still active within the remote areas of Arakan. Their associations with Bangladeshi mujahideen were significant but they have extended their networks to the international level and countries such as Pakistanmarker, Malaysiamarker, et al., during the recent years. They collect donations, and get religious military training outside of Burma.


In the case of the Chechen-Russian conflict, the term mujahideen has often been used to refer to all separatist fighters. In this article however, it will be used to refer to the foreign, non-Caucasian fighters who joined the separatists’ cause for the sake of Jihad. In other literature dealing with this conflict they are often called Ansaar (helpers) to prevent confusion with the native fighters.

Foreign mujahideen have played a part in both Chechen wars. After the collapse of the Soviet Unionmarker and the subsequent Chechen declaration of independence, foreign fighters started entering the region and associated themselves with local rebels (most notably Shamil Basayev). Many of them were veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war and prior to the Russianmarker invasion, they used their expertise to train the Chechen separatists. During the First Chechen War they were notorious and feared for their guerilla tactics, inflicting severe casualties on the badly prepared Russian forces. The mujahideen also made a significant financial contribution to the separatists’ cause; with their access to the immense wealth of Salafist charities like al-Haramein, they soon became an invaluable source of funds for the Chechen resistance, which had little resources of its own.

After the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnyamarker most of the mujahideen decided to remain in the country. In 1999, foreign fighters would play an important role in the ill-fated Chechen incursion into Dagestanmarker, where they suffered a decisive defeat and were forced to retreat back into Chechnya. The incursion provided the new Russian government with a pretext for intervention and in December 1999 Russian ground forces invaded Chechnya again.

In the Second Chechen War the separatists were less successful. Faced with a better prepared and more determined Russian forces, the Chechens were unable to hold their ground and as early as in 2002, Russian officials claimed the separatists had been defeated. The Russians also succeeded in killing the most prominent mujahideen commanders (most notably Ibn al-Khattab and Abu al-Walid).

Although the region has since been far from stable, separatist activity has decreased and although some foreign fighters are still active in Chechnya. In the last months of 2007, the influence of foreign fighters became apparent again when Dokka Umarov proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate, a pan-Caucasian Islamic state of which Chechnya was to be a province. This move caused a rift in the resistance movement between those supporting the Emirate and those who were in favour of preserving the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.


An outfit calling itself the Indian Mujahideen came to light in 2008 with the multiple large scale terror attacks. On November 26, 2008, a group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for a string of attacks across Mumbaimarker. The Weekly Standard claimed, "Indian intelligence believes the Indian Mujahideen is a front group created by Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami to confuse investigators and cover the tracks of the Students' Islamic Movement of India, or SIMI, a radical Islamist movement.


In the Indianmarker state of marker Kashmirmarker, Kashmiris opposing Indian rule are often known as mujahideen.

Several different militant groups have since taken root in Pakistani Kashmir. Most noticeable of these groups are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). A 1996 report by Human Rights Watch estimated the number of active mujahideen at 3,200.


While more than one group in Iran have called themselves mujahideen, the most famous is the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI). Currently an Iraqmarker-based Islamic Socialist militant organization that advocates the overthrow of Iranmarker's current government. The group also took part in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iraq-Iran War (on the side of Iraqis), and the Iraqi internal conflicts. They advocate a separation of religion and state, and denounce the theocratic practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Another mujahideen was the Mujahedin-e Islam, an Islamic party led by Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani. It was a component of the National Front during the time of Mohammed Mosaddeq's oil nationalization, but broke away from Mosaddeq over his allegedly unIslamic policies.


The term mujahideen is sometimes applied to fighters who joined the insurgency after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.Some groups also use the word mujahideen in their names, like Mujahideen Shura Council (an umbrella group ran by al-Qaeda in Iraq) and Mujahideen Army,


According to the Serbian and other European press a several hundred to a few thousand Mujahideen fighters from the Middle East and other parts of the world later joined the Kosovo Liberation Army to fight against Serbian and Macedonian forces in Kosovo war 19971999. Allegedly some of them formed their own units with Albanian leaders who spoke Arabic fluently. The greatest involvement was in the conflicts along the border with Albania as well as in the Battle of Košare. After the war most of the foreign volunteers went back to their home lands, and some of them remained in Kosovo where they became citizens.

The Kosovo Liberation Army included in its ranks foreign volunteers from Sweden, Belgium, the UK, Germany, the US and France.


Abu Sayyaf is an Islamic separatist group in the southern Philippinesmarker. The group is known for their kidnappings of Western nationals and Filipinos, for which it has received several large ransom payments. Some Abu Sayyaf members have studied or worked in Saudi Arabia and developed relations with the mujahideen members while fighting and training in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Abu Sayyaf pro-claimed themselves as mujahideen but are not supported by many people in the Philippines including its Muslim clerics. The Abu Sayyaf is thought to number around an estimated figure of 400 militants.


In July 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western states that his al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there. Bin Laden releases Web message on Iraq, Somalia USA Today Foreign fighters began to arrive, though there were official denials of the presence of mujahideen in the country.Even so, the threat of jihad was made openly and repeatedly in the months preceding the Battle of Baidoa. Somalis vow holy war on Ethiopia BBC On December 23, 2006, Islamists, for the first time, called upon international fighters to join their cause. The term mujahideen is now openly used by the post-ICU resistance against the Ethiopians and the TFG.


Al-Shabaab is said to have non-Somali foreigners in its ranks, particularly at its leadership. Fighters from the Persian Gulf and international jihadists were called to join the holy war against the Somali government and its Ethiopian allies. Though Somali Islamists did not use suicide bombing tactics before, the foreign elements of Al-Shabaab are blamed for several suicide bombings. UN's 2006 report stated Iranmarker, Libyamarker, Egyptmarker and others in the Persian Gulfmarker region as the main backers of the Islamist extremists. Egyptmarker has a longstanding policy of securing the Nile River flow by destabilizing Ethiopia. Similarly, recent media reports also cited Egyptian and Arab jihadists as the core elements of the Al-Shabaab, who are training Somalis in sophisticated weaponry and suicide bombing techniques.


The Pakistan Army National Guard is known as "Mujahid Force". Unlike the above examples, these are persons who are enlisted or commissioned in the army of a nation state and they are thus regular soldiers, and in no way associated with the mujahideen.


See also


Notes and references

  1. Oxford American Dictionary
  2. Also spelt mujahedin in a minority of articles.
  3. name="Jihad as 3rd best deed">
  5. Freedom Next Time, by John Pilger, p. 275
  6. "Reagan Doctrine, 1985," United States State Department.
  7. The Path to Victory and Chaos: 1979-92 - Library of Congress country studies(Retrieved Thursday 31, 2007)
  8. Maktab al-Khidamat;
  9. Bosnia Seen as Hospitable Base and Sanctuary for Terrorists
  10. Radio Free Europe (2007)- Vlado Azinović: Al-Kai'da u Bosni i Hercegovini - mit ili stvarna opasnost?
  11. ICTY: Summary of the judgement for Enver Hadžihasanović and Amir Kubura - [1]
  12. ICTY - APPEALS CHAMBER - Hadzihasanović and Kubura case
  13. Sense -
  14. THE ROVING EYE Jihad; The ultimate thermonuclear bomb by Pepe Escobar Oct 2001, Asia Times.
  15. Global Muslim News (Issue 14) July-Sept 1996, Nida'ul Islam magazine.
  17. The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide by Dilip Hiro
  18. Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, Princeton University Press, 1982, p.276-7
  19. Excerpt from the book Osama Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America (Rocklin CA: Prima Publishing Co., 1999, ISBN 0-7615-1968-8)
  20. The New York Times, December 18, 2001, by PHILIP SHENON (NYT); Foreign Desk: A NATION CHALLENGED: THE MONEY TRAIL; U.S.-Based Muslim Charity Raided by NATO in Kosovo
  21. Report: Bin Laden linked to Albania
  22. Al Qaeda's Balkan Links, Wall Street Journal Europe | November 1, 2001 | Marcia Christoff Kurop]
  23. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  24. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  25. Yossef Bodansky: Some Call It Peace (Part I)
  26. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  27. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  28. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  29. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  30. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  31. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
  34. Somali Islamists urge Muslim fighters to join jihad Reuters
  35. The rise of the Shabab - The Economist Dec 18th 2008
  36. Suicide bombs kill 22 in northern Somalia, UN hit
  37. Al- Shabaab led by "dozens of foreign jihadists, most from Arab nations"
  38. Egypt and the Hydro-Politics of the Blue Nile River
  39. Nile River Politics: Who Receives Water?
  40. Jihadists from Arab nations and Egyptians
  42. Sephardim
  43. Kraemer, 2005, pp. 16-17.
  44. The Forgotten Refugees
  45. The Almohads
  46. Ransoming Captives in Crusader Spain: The Order of Merced on the Christian-Islamic Frontier
  47. The Shade of Swords Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity M. J. Akbar
  48. Rees Davies, British Slaves on the Barbary Coast, BBC, 1 July, 2003
  49. Richard Leiby, Terrorists by Another Name: The Barbary Pirates, The Washington Post, October 15 2001
  50. Usman dan Fodio (Fulani leader)
  51. Kim Hodong, Holy War in China: The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia, 1864-1877. Stanford University Press (March 2004).
  52. US Library of Congress, A Country Study: Sudan
  53. Civil War in the Sudan: Resources or Religion?
  54. Slave trade in the Sudan in the nineteenth century and its suppression in the years 1877-80.
  55. Islam: History, Society and Civilization
  56. Saladin 1138-1193 Sultan of the Muslim Forces During the Crusades
  57. Sufism in the Caucasus
  58. The Middle East during World War One
  59. The Destruction of Holy Sites in Mecca and Medina
  61. Nibras Kazimi, A Paladin Gears Up for War, The New York Sun, November 1, 2007
  62. John R Bradley, Saudi's Shi'ites walk tightrope, Asia Times, March 17, 2005
  63. Amir Taheri, Death is big business in Najaf, but Iraq's future depends on who controls it, The Times, August 28, 2004
  64. Imam Shamil of Dagestan
  65. Tough lessons in defiant Dagestan
  66. Life Span of Suleiman The Magnificent, 1494-1566
  67. Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World, by Justin Marozzi

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