By Rommel C. Banlaoi
The original ideology of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was anchored on Abdurajak Janjalani’s religious and political thoughts. ASG followers did not only recognize Janjalani as their spiritual and military leader but also their foremost ideological beacon. As an ideologue, Janjalani was well-informed by the historical, religious, economic, political and social conditions in which Muslims in the Philippines find themselves.
When Janjalani formed the ASG, his original intention was to create a group of Muslim Mujahedeen committed to Jihad Fi-Sabil-lillah, a “struggle in the cause of Allah” or “fighting and dying for the cause of Islam”. Before Janjalani died in December 1998, he delivered eight radical ideological discourses called Khutbah, which may be considered as primary sources of Janjalani’ radical Islamic thoughts. These discourses explained Janjalani’s Quranic perspective of Jihad Fi-Sabil-lillah, which he lamented, was misinterpreted by many Muslims. He even denounced the ulama (Muslim scholars) for their little knowledge of the Quran and lamented that most Muslims in the Philippines calling themselves as Moros were not really practicing the true meaning of Islam compared with their counterparts in West Asia. These eight discourses also revealed Janjalani’s deep grasp of Wahhabi Islam, which considered other Muslims heretical. The Islamic theology of Wahhabism greatly informed Janjalani’s radical ideology.
In his analysis of Philippine society, Janjalani was aware of the injustices committed against Muslim communities. Thus, he purportedly founded the ASG to vigorously seek kaadilan or justice for Muslims through jihad. For Janjalani, jihad is the highest form of struggle for justice or cause. He classified jihad into two: jihad al-akbar (greater Jihad) and jihad al-asgar (lesser jihad). Janjalani failed to elaborate these two forms of jihad. He only argued that they “are the same in Divine assessment but are merely differentiated in human terms and conditions.” He contended that the “surest guarantee of justice and prosperity for Muslims” is the establishment of a purely Islamic state that can only be achieved through jihad. Janjalani even urged Muslims in the Philippines to pursue their jihad to the highest level in order to fulfill their paramount duty of martyrdom for the cause of Allah.
Abdurajak Janjalani’s appeal for martyrdom also means endorsement of suicide terrorism. Though there has been no recorded incident of suicide terrorism in the country, Janjalani was aware of the value of suicide terrorism as a favored tactic of radical Muslims pursuing jihad. In fact, the bombing of Superferry 14 on 28 February 2004 was originally planned by ASG as a suicide mission.
One of Janjalani’s Khutbahs revealed his deep resentment against Christian missionaries in Mindanao, particularly those severely maligning Islam. Janjalani said that the aggressive preaching of Christian missionaries in Mindanao gravely insulted Islam and severely provoked Muslims to respond violently. The bombing of M/V Doulos in August 1991 was ASG’s retaliation against Christian missionaries who used derogatory words against Islam and called Allah a false God.
[This piece is taken from Rommel C. Banlaoi, Counter-Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia: How Effective Are They? (Manila: Yuchengco Center, 2009)].
 Nathan G. Quimpo, “Dealing with the MILF and Abu Sayyaf: Who’s Afraid of an Islamic State?, Public Policy, Vol. III, No. 4 (October/December 1999), p. 50.
 Samuel K. Tan, “Beyond Freedom: The Juma’a Abu Sayyaf (Assessment of its Origins, Objectives, Ideology and Method of Struggle” in his Internationalization of the Bangsamoro Struggle (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 2003), revised edition, p. 94.