Juhayman al-Otaybi

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Juhayman al-Otaybi
Arabic: جهيمان بن محمد بن سيف العتيبي
Juhayman al-Otaibi.jpg
Juhayman al-Otaybi in captivity
Born(1936-09-16)16 September 1936
Died9 January 1980(1980-01-09) (aged 43)
Residence Saudi Arabia
Nationality Saudi Arabia
Military career
AllegianceFlag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia
Service/branch Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg National Guard
Years of service1955–1973
RankLeader of al-Ikhwan
Battles/wars Grand Mosque seizure

Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Otaybi (Arabic : جهيمان بن محمد بن سيف العتيبي16 September 1936 [1] [2] – 9 January 1980) was a Saudi militant and former Saudi Arabian soldier who in 1979 led the Grand Mosque seizure of the Masjid al Haram in Mecca, Islam's holiest site, to protest against the Saudi monarchy and the House of Saud.

Mecca Saudi Arabian city and capital of the Makkah province

Mecca, also spelled Makkah, is a city in the Hejazi region of the Arabian Peninsula, and the plain of Tihamah in Saudi Arabia, and is also the capital and administrative headquarters of the Makkah Region. The city is located 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of 277 m (909 ft) above sea level, and 340 kilometres (210 mi) south of Medina. Its resident population in 2012 was roughly 2 million, although visitors more than triple this number every year during the Ḥajj period held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhūl-Ḥijjah.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, unique and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, viewed by Muslims as the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative example of Muhammad.

House of Saud the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia

The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia. It is composed of the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Emirate of Diriyah, known as the First Saudi state (1744–1818), and his brothers, though the ruling faction of the family is primarily led by the descendants of Ibn Saud, the modern founder of Saudi Arabia. The most influential position of the royal family is the King of Saudi Arabia. King Salman, who reigns currently, chose first his nephew and then his son as the crown prince without consulting the Allegiance Council. The family is estimated to comprise 15,000 members, but the majority of the power and wealth is possessed by a group of about 2,000 of them.


Juhayman said that his justification for the siege was that the House of Saud had lost its legitimacy through corruption and imitation of the West, an echo of his father's charge in 1921 against former Saudi king Ibn Saud. Unlike earlier anti-monarchist dissidents in the kingdom, Juhayman attacked the wahhabi ulama for failing to protest against policies that betrayed Islam, and accused them of accepting the rule of an infidel state and offering loyalty to corrupt rulers in "exchange for honours and riches." [3]

Ibn Saud Founder of Saudi Arabia

Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Faisal ibn Turki ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Saud, usually known within the Arab world as Abdulaziz and in the West as Ibn Saud, was the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia, the "third Saudi state".

Wahhabism Religious movement and branch of Sunni Islam

Wahhabism is an Islamic doctrine and religious movement founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. It has been variously described as "ultraconservative", "austere", "fundamentalist", or "puritan(ical)"; as an Islamic "reform movement" to restore "pure monotheistic worship" (tawhid) by devotees; and as a "deviant sectarian movement", "vile sect" and a distortion of Islam by its opponents. The term Wahhabi(ism) is often used polemically and adherents commonly reject its use, preferring to be called Salafi or muwahhid. claiming to emphasize the principle of tawhid, for exclusivity on monotheism, dismissing other Muslims as practising shirk, (idolatry). It follows the theology of Ibn Taymiyyah and the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, although Hanbali leaders renounced Abd al-Wahhab's views.

Ulama class of Muslim legal scholars

In Sunni Islam, the ulama, are the guardians, transmitters and interpreters of religious knowledge, of Islamic doctrine and law.

On 20 November 1979, the first day of the Islamic year 1400, the Masjid al-Haram was seized by a well-organized group of 400 to 500 men under al-Otaybi's leadership. [4] A siege lasted more than two weeks before Saudi Special Forces broke into the Mosque. [4] Pakistan's Special Services Group (SSG) also took part in the operation. French Special Forces provided a special tear gas called CB which prevents aggressiveness and slows down breathing. [4] al-Otaybi was executed by the Saudi authorities, in public, on 9 January 1980, in Mecca.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Tear gas non-lethal chemical weapon

Tear gas, formally known as a lachrymator agent or lachrymator, sometimes colloquially known as mace, is a chemical weapon that causes severe eye and respiratory pain, skin irritation, bleeding, and even blindness. In the eye, it stimulates the nerves of the lacrimal gland to produce tears. Common lachrymators include pepper spray, PAVA spray (nonivamide), CS gas, CR gas, CN gas, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide, syn-propanethial-S-oxide, and Mace, and household vinegar.


Otaybi was born in al-Sajir, Al-Qassim Province, [5] a settlement established by King Abdulaziz to house Ikhwan bedouin tribesmen who had fought for him. This settlement (known as a hijra) was populated by members of Otaybi's tribe, the 'Utaybah tribe, [6] one of the most pre-eminent tribes of the Najd region. [7] Many of Otaybi's relatives participated in the Battle of Sabilla during the Ikhwan uprising against King Abdulaziz, including his father and grandfather, Sultan bin Bajad Al-Otaibi. Otaybi grew up aware of the battle and of how, in their eyes, the Saudi monarchs had betrayed the original religious principles of the Saudi state. [8] He finished school without fluent writing ability, but he loved to read religious texts. [9]

Ikhwan Wahhabi religious militia

The Ikhwan, also Akhwan, was the first Saudi army made up of traditionally nomadic tribesmen which formed a significant military force of the ruler Ibn Saud and played an important role in establishing him as ruler of most of the Arabian Peninsula in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan later became the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

Najd Region in Saudi Arabia

Najd or Nejd is a geographical central region of Saudi Arabia that alone accounts for almost a third of the population of the country. Najd consists of modern administrative regions of Riyadh, Al-Qassim, and Ha'il.

The Battle of Sabilla was the main battle of the Ikhwan Revolt in northern Arabia between the rebellious Ikhwan forces and the army of Ibn Saud. It was the last major battle in which one side rode camels, as the Ikhwan emphasized radical conservatism and shunned technological modernization. The rebellious, but technologically mediocre, Ikhwan were decisively defeated by the Saudi forces, which included machine-guns and cavalry. Faisal al-Dawish, one of the three leaders of the rebellious Ikhwan tribes, was wounded in the battle. According to Ibn Saud Information Resource, his injury was "serious". Another leader, Sultan bin Bajad, allegedly fled the battle scene.

He served in the Saudi Arabian National Guard from 1955 [10] to 1973. [11] [lower-alpha 1] He was thin and stood 6' 1½" (187 cm) according to his friends in the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

The Saudi Arabian National Guard Forces or SANG also known as the White Army is one of the three major branches of the Military forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Then he moved to Medina. [11] It is when he met with Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al Qahtani. [11]

Medina City in Al Madinah, Saudi Arabia

Medina, also transliterated as Madīnah, is a city in the Hejazi region of the Arabian Peninsula and administrative headquarters of the Al-Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia. At the city's heart is al-Masjid an-Nabawi, which is the burial place of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and it is one of the two holiest cities in Islam, the other being Mecca.

Otaybi, upon moving to Medina, joined the local chapter of a Salafi group called Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-Muhtasiba (The Salafi Group That Commands Right and Forbids Wrong). Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz. [12] Ibn Baz used his religious stature to arrange fundraising for the group, and Otaybi earned money by buying, repairing and re-selling cars from city auctions. [13]

Otaybi lived in a "makeshift compound" about a half hour's walk to the Prophet's Mosque, and his followers stayed in a nearby dirt-floored hostel called Bayt al-Ikhwan ("House of the Brothers"). Otaybi and his devotees obeyed an austere and simple lifestyle, searching the Quran and Hadith for scriptural evidence of what was permissible not only for their beliefs but in their day-to-day lives. [14] Otaybi was perturbed by the encroachment of Western beliefs and Bid‘ah (بدعة, innovation) in Saudi society to the detriment of (what he believed to be) true Islam. He opposed the integration of women into the workforce, television, the immodest shorts worn by football players during matches, and Saudi currency with an image of the King on it. [15] [16]

By 1977, ibn Baz had departed to Riyadh and Otaybi became the leader of a faction of young recruits that developed their own—sometimes unorthodox—religious doctrines. When older members of the Jamaa travelled to Medina to confront Otaybi about these developments, the two factions split from each other. Otaybi attacked the elder sheikhs as government sellouts and called his new group al-Ikhwan. [17]

In the late 1970s, he moved to Riyadh, where he drew the attention of the Saudi security forces. He and approximately 100 of his followers were arrested in the summer of 1978 for demonstrating against the monarchy, but were released after ibn Baz questioned them and pronounced them harmless. [18] [19]

He married both the daughter of Prince Sajer Al Mohaya [20] and the sister of Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al Qahtani. [11]

His doctrines are said to have included: [21]

  1. The imperative to emulate the Prophet's example—revelation, propagation, and military takeover.
  2. The necessity for the Muslims to overthrow their present corrupt rulers who are forced upon them and lack Islamic attributes since the Quran recognizes no king or dynasty.
  3. The requirements for legitimate rulership are devotion to Islam and its practice, rulership by the Holy Book and not by repression, Qurayshi tribal roots, and election by the Muslim believers.
  4. The duty to base the Islamic faith on the Quran and the sunnah and not on the equivocal interpretations ( taqlid ) of the ulama and on their "incorrect" teachings in the schools and universities.
  5. The necessity to isolate oneself from the sociopolitical system by refusing to accept any official positions.
  6. The advent of the mahdi from the lineage of the Prophet through Husayn ibn Ali to remove the existing injustices and bring equity and peace to the faithful.
  7. The duty to reject all worshipers of the partners of God ( shirk ), including worshipers of Ali, Fatimah and Muhammad.
  8. The duty to establish a puritanical Islamic community which protects Islam from unbelievers and does not court foreigners.

See also


  1. Quandt, p. 94, gives 1972 as the date of his resignation; Graham and Wilson, ibid., say 1973; Dekmejian, p. 141, says "around 1974"
  1. ^ Dekmejian, p. 143; Lacey, p. 483; Krämer, p. 262, p. 282 n. 17

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  1. Krämer, Gudrun (2000). "Good Counsel to the King: The Islamist Opposition in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco". In Joseph Kostiner. Middle East Monarchies: The Challenge of Modernity. BouHouse of Saudlder, CO: Lynne Rienner. p. 262. ISBN   1-55587-862-8.
  2. Graham, Douglas F.; Peter W. Wilson (1994). Saudi Arabia: The Coming Storm. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe. p. 57. ISBN   1-56324-394-6.
  3. Commins, David (2009). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. pp. 165–6.
  4. 1 2 3 Karen Elliott House, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines--And Future, New York, New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 2012, p. 20
  5. Abir, Mordechai (1988). Saudi Arabia in the Oil Era: Regime and Elites Conflict and Collaboration. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 150. ISBN   0-8133-0643-4.
  6. Lacey 1981, p. 481; Ruthven, p. 8; Abir, p. 150
  7. Lunn 2003: 945
  8. Lacroix & Holoch 2011: 93
  9. Lacey 2009, p. 16.
  10. Graham, Douglas F.; Peter W. Wilson (1994). Saudi Arabia: The Coming Storm. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe. p. 57. ISBN   1-56324-394-6.
  11. 1 2 3 4 "The Dream That Became A Nightmare" (PDF). Al Majalla. 1533. 20 November 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  12. Lacey 2009, p. 9.
  13. Lacey 2009, p. 17.
  14. Lacey 2009, p. 8.
  15. Lacey, Robert (2009-10-15). Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia. Penguin Group US. p. 12. ISBN   9781101140734. Everywhere Juhayman looked he could detect bidaa -- dangerous and regrettable innovations. The Salafi Group That Commands Right and Forbids Wrong was originally intended to focus on moral improvement, not on political grievances or reform. But religion is politics and vice versa in a society that chooses to regulate itself by the Koran. ... [other bidaa included] government making it easier for women to work .... immoral of the government to permit soccer matches, because of the very short shorts that the players wore ... use only coins, not banknotes, because of the pictures of the kings .... like television, a dreadful sin ...
  16. Commins, David (2009). The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. I.B.Tauris. p. 166. As might be expected, a strict puritanical streak runs through Juhayman's writings on satanic innovations. Thus, to his mind, Islam forbids reproducing the human image. Likewise, he objected to the appearance of the king's likeness on the country's currency. As for the availability of alcohol, the broadcast of shameful images on television and the inclusion of women in the workplace, Juyhayman considered them all instance of Al Saud's indifference to upholding Islamic principles.
  17. Lacey 2009, p. 13.
  18. Lacey 1981, p. 483.
  19. Graham & Wilson 1994, p. 57.
  20. The Makkan Siege: In Defense of Juhaymān Archived 2015-01-07 at the Wayback Machine ., p.7 pdf. A collection of internet articles.
  21. Quoted and summarized Dekmejian, R. Hrair (1985). Islam in Revolution: Fundamentalism in the Arab World. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 142. ISBN   0-8156-2329-1.

Works cited