“Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow [to the death], and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration” [Ahzab: 23]
Shaykh Abdul Azeez Al-Badry was a prominent man of knowledge, preacher and political activist in Iraq in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Having been educated by some of the prominent scholars of Iraq, he was also one of the early and prominent members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Iraq who struggled in the work for Allah’s deen and gave his life in its cause, murdered by a brutal regime and a martyr (insha Allah) for a great cause.
Early Life, Education and Activism
He was born in the city of Samarra in Iraq in 1929. He grew up in a scholarly environment and received his religious lessons from a range of esteemed scholars of Baghdad, such as Sheikh Amjad Al-Zahawy, Sheikh Muhammad Fu’ad Al-Alusy, Sheikh ‘Abdul-Qadir Al- Khatib, and others.
He finished his studies and became Imam of the Soor Mosque in 1949 and the Khafafeen Mosque in 1950. He went on to teach and preach at various other mosques in Baghdad over the years to come.
After reading the books of Shaykh Taqiuddin Al Nabhani and meeting with members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Shaykh was impressed with the Hizb’s project and in particular its pioneering work in agitating against Arab Socialism at the time. He joined the Hizb’s work in the 1960s in Iraq, becoming a prominent member of its work. He studied directly with Shaykh Taqiuddin Al Nabhani alongside Shaykh Abdul Qadeem Zalloum, who would go on to become the second Ameer of the Hizb after Shaykh Taqi. Shaykh Al-Badry called and worked tirelessly for the establishment of the Khilafah and the implementation of Shariah, and the ideas he held shaped his acts of bravery that were to define the rest of his life.
Shaykh Al-Badry with some of his teachers
Intellectual efforts against Arab Socialism/Nationalism and its proponents
The late 1950s and 1960s were defined by the vogue of Arab Socialism, which had taken hold of many countries in the Middle East and had been the discourse many in the region used to articulate an opposition to Western imperialism. Socialism, including its Arab variant, contained many ideas which nonetheless contradicted Islam and this was a cause taken up by several scholars and movements. Among them was Shaykh Al Badry.
Shaykh Al Badry wrote his well-known book The Islamic Rule on Socialism (Hukm al-islam fi al-ishtrakiyah) in which he vehemently attacked the fundamental notions underpinning Socialist thought and refuted the supposed existence of “Socialism within Islam”, a slogan several thinkers and polemicists, as well as Government-sponsored scholars, had taken up as their intellectual cause. The famous Shaykh Amjad Al-Zahawy writes, describing Shaykh Al Badry’s work, that:
Al Badry pointed out that there was no socialism in Islam, and that socialism contravened the holy Islamic law and its principles. This was explained in clear terms, supported by conclusive proof that was beyond any shade of doubt in that they were in full conformity with the unequivocal Shar’iah law. That was done by way of advice to the Muslim Ummah.
A notable example of his courageous work was his response to pro-Government scholars that were sent to him under the auspices of the regime of ‘Abdul Karim Qaasim, the Iraqi Prime Minister who had overthrown the monarchy of King Faisal II in the 1958coup d’état. This was done when Shaykh Al Badry was in his first period of house arrest (see below) and such Government scholars proceeded to advise the Shaykh of the “error” of his ways and the error of “involving religion with politics”. In response, the Shaykh wrote the book Islam Between the Scholars and the Rulers (Al-Islam bayn al- ‘ulama wa al-hukkam). In it he highlighted the deeds of the pious predecessors and great scholars who had stood up to the injustice of oppressors and offered great sacrifices in defence of Islam and Muslims from the early tabi’een (followers of the Companions of the Prophet) to recent times.
His stance on the issue of Palestine
Shaykh Al Badry was a prominent personality of his time and well known not just in circles of scholarship but also by the Governments of the region. Indeed, his activism and awareness of it was not restricted to Iraq, but extended to rulers of the region who knew about his work. Following the capitulation of Arab forces in the 1967 war in the face of Israel, Shaykh Al Badry sent telegrams to all heads of states in the Islamic world, holding them responsible and accusing those who agreed to the cease-fire of being traitors. He formed a delegation of notables that travelled to several Muslim countries, urging Muslim forces to take up their responsibility to defend Palestine.
Following his return to Baghdad after visiting Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan and other places, he held an event in which he lamented the way some had restricted the issue of Palestine to being an “Arab issue” as opposed to a broader Muslim issue.
Agitation against Iraqi leadership and rallying popular support
‘Abdul Kareem Qassim (ruled 1958-1963)
Among the Shaykh’s most important and telling work was his opposition to the ruler of Iraq, ‘Abdul Kareem Qaasim, who held office from 1958 to 1963 and who increasingly lent towards the Socialists for support as his rule progressed. Qaasim was responsible for an aggressive, oppressive rule over the country which was characterised by purging those he suspected of being against his agenda from among the people, the scholarly community and the army.
Qaasim infamously had himself labelled “the only master” by his subordinates and attempted to popularise this title among the masses. Shaykh Al Badry, defying this, attacked him in his sermons, leaflets and lectures, calling him instead a “cruel, illegitimate pretender” in the language of the Qur’anic Arabic (Surah Al Qalam: 13). He also used to begin his Friday Khutbah by adding to his salutations the adage “and we seek refuge in Allah from the evils of our rulers”, alluding to Qaasim and the Iraqi regime.
One of the most infamous actions of the Qaasim regime was the execution of notable officers in the Iraqi army who were known for being men of faith and harbouring Islamic sentiments. They included the likes of Naazim at-Tabqajli and Rifa’t Al-Hajj Sirri, who were hanged.
Shaykh Al-Badry was aggrieved at their execution and led popular demonstrations against Qaasim, including one in which 40,000 people participated, an unprecedented show of support at the time in the face of an extremely violent regime. The Shaykh openly called for the ousting of Qaasim, and also issued a fatwa declaring the kufr of the Communists who were supporting Qaasim and on whom Qaasim increasingly relied as his original power base (cabinet ministers) shifted towards the pan-Arab Ba’ath Party, which differed with the Communists on several ideological points.
First and second arrests and torture
As a result of these activities, Shaykh al-Badry was put under house arrest for one year from December 1959. As soon as the house arrest was lifted, he continued his work actively. He was arrested once again in July 1961, and then released in December of that year as part of a general amnesty for prisoners due to popular unrest against Qaasim’s regime. During this time he is known to have suffered serious torture and was offered several incentives to abandon his call and instead turn into a supporter of the Qaasim regime, as many scholars had done.
A famous incident: confronting Nadim Al Baytar
Following the 1967 defeat of the Arab states to Israel and the public discourse surrounding it, secularists and socialists on the one hand and Muslim activists on the other attempted to define the causes of military defeat and the ongoing humiliation of Muslims and Arabs. Iraqi secularists invited the Arab-American thinker Nadim Al-Baytar from Canada to give lectures in Iraq. His message emphasized that Muslims’ infatuation with bygone Islamic ideals, which he dubbed “invisible” values, was the cause of defeat, and that no victory would be scored over Zionism unless these “invisibles” were totally abandoned in favour of alternative identities and politics.
Prior to Baytar’s most widely advertised lecture (in Baghdad), Sheikh Al-Badry demanded the then President of Iraq ‘Abdul-Rahman ‘Arif (ruled from 1966-1968) either allow the Shaykh to give a counter-lecture in the same hall, to allow him to engage in a public debate with him, or to prevent the speaker from giving his lectures. When his requests went unanswered, the Shaykh decided to lead a demonstration on the day the lecture was due to be given. Following the ‘Asr prayer, the Shaykh lead chants of the takbir and marched from his mosque to the lecture hall followed by many active Muslims. Baytar’s supporters, fearing riots might ensue, evacuated the lecture hall and whisked Baytar on the first flight out of Baghdad.
Final arrest, torture and martyrdom
The Shaykh was arrested once again following relentless activities against the Ba’athists in the June 1969, who by then had been in power for 6 years following their overthrow of Qaasim’s regime in 1963. He was arrested by the intelligence services of Iraq, led by none other than Saddam Hussein himself, who had not yet become outright leader (this would take place de facto in 1976, and formally in 1979). This arrest happened at the behest of the then president of Iraq, Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr.
The Shaykh was kidnapped late at night as he made his way home. With a precarious security situation and conflict within the Ba’ath Party, Ahmed Al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein sought to minimise political opponents and agitants. Shaykh Al-Badry would be the victim of this grim strategic direction. The Shaykh was taken to one of the notorious prisons in Baghdad where he was tortured severely using the most gruesome of methods.
Some of those who had been detained with the Shaykh and were later released narrated about his time in prison:
The Shaykh was severely tortured, yet he faced that torture a steadfastness and perseverance that exceeded all expectations. The man was proud of his faith and unflinching in adherence to the truth, defying his jailers to the point of death. His fellow detainees used to beg him to keep silent in order to avoid them inflicting more torture upon him, yet he became firmer and prouder of his faith whenever the jailers increased their torture. He never bowed his head to them, nor did he give them any legitimacy or support. He would insist during interrogations that they were agents, lackeys and spies of the colonisers. During the early days of investigations, he raised his hand and hit the chief investigator, Nazim Kazzar, after he insulted him. At that point they beat him everywhere using different means until he fainted, and then they threw him into a cell that had no window and was no more than one meter wide.
During this period of arrest, the Shaykh had his limbs cut alive. The Ba’athist inspired torturers also ripped out his beard, in a mockery to his observance to this part of Islam. They finally proceeded to cut off his tongue, as a retribution for his constantly speaking the truth. He breathed his last during this period of arrest and merciless torture, before had had reached the age of 40.
Funeral: in the esteemed footsteps of Imam Abu Hanifah
His funeral and prayer were conducted at Masjid Imam Abu Hanifah
17 days after his death the Iraqi intelligence left his body in front of his house and told his family that he “died of a heart attack”. They ordered them to bury him without revealing his burial, but word got out and his supporters and family took his body to the Imam Abu Hanifah Mosque in the ‘Adhamiyyah District of Baghdad, where many could pray for him. The public witnessed the affects of the torture the Shaykh had endured in jail. He was buried in the ‘Adhamiyyah neighbourhood, close to the tomb of the great Imam Abu Hanifah, may Allah be pleased with them both.
As had the great Imam of Islam’s first school of jurisprudential thought, Shaykh Al-Badry too accounted the ruler and lost his life as a result of injuries sustained as a result of it. And just like him, he too died in jail in the very same city as Imam Abu Hanifah.
Description of him by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-‘Uqayl
One of the Shaykhs that met him, Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-‘Uqayl, wrote about him thus:
That was Sheikh Al-Badry and that was his fight in the cause of Allah in more than one battlefield where he encountered more than one enemy, but he never flagged, gave in, or flinched from doing so. He would ever be on the front line, proceeding with courage and firmness, inspiring enthusiasm and determination. He stood against all kinds of oppression wherever he found it, bearing the consequence and unafraid of death. He would not run away from a battlefield. In that he was like those men of unflinching resolve in the past and at present”.
His books and an excerpt demonstrating his thinking
The Shaykh, further to his preaching and speaking, was also the author of several important books. All his books were relevant to the struggles of his time and helped create an intellectual response to the ideologies he worked to counter and the complicity of Government ‘ulema in the condition and apathy of Muslims. As mentioned above, at least two of his books were directly in response to Communism and the pro-Government ‘ulema. He authored the following books:
•The book of God - the eternal Qur'an (Kitab Allahu al-khalid al-qur’an al-karim)
•Islam is war on Socialist and Capitalism (Al-islam harb ala alishtrakiyah wa al-ra’smaliyah)
The Shaykh’s writings give an insight into his character and personality, and into how he was able to withstand what he did. In his book Islam between the Scholars and the Rulers, he wrote:
It is the will of Allah, Exalted be He, to put his creation to tests to separate between those who are true from those who are false, as he says in Surah Al Ankabut: “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe’, and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false!”
Unjust rulers used to persecute those who opposed their deviant behaviour and resisted their wrong ideas and did not go alone with them in their whims. They used to put them through ordeals after they refused all kinds of rewards the rulers offered them in humiliation and inferiority. But what is it that would cause people of good nature to be lured by money, or hanker after the crumbs of life, or be won over by perishable goods of this life. As for the ordeals, they were prepared for them and bore their brunt with patience, steadfastness, perseverance, and a firm will in anticipation of a reward from Allah in the Hereafter.
This is because they understood well Allah’s statement “Say: ‘The fire of Hell is fiercer in heat’. If only they could understand” [Al-Tawba: 81] and believed the statement of the Great Creator when he says “And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of kindness to His devotees” [Al- Baqara: 207].
The Muslim scholars and Imams who earned the esteem, appreciation and loyalty of people were at the vanguard of those had gone through ordeals and suffered great afflictions, yet they came out victorious and distinguished.
And indeed, he is among those who have earned the esteem, appreciation and loyalty of this ummah, an ummah he strove so hard to revive and help defend against those who would seek to do it harm. May Allah (‘azza wa jal) have mercy on Shaykh Al-Badry, include them among the martyrs, and make him an example we seek to emulate.