Was Osama bin Laden a Muslim Leader? Qur’an’s unpopular and politically incorrect Verdict

إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ ثُمَّ لَمۡ يَرۡتَابُواْ وَجَـٰهَدُواْ بِأَمۡوَٲلِهِمۡ وَأَنفُسِهِمۡ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِۚ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلصَّـٰدِقُونَ

“The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere.” (Al-Hujraat, 49:15, Pickthall).

There has been a lot of chatter this week whether Osama bin Laden was a Muslim leader. Muslims and non-Muslims have equally dismissed him. Even US President Barack Obama when announcing his death clearly said bin Laden “was not a Muslim leader.” The Qur’an is the highest authority in Islam and the Hadith—saying of Prophet Muhammad—the second. Only these two sources can show whether bin Laden was a Muslim leader.

The Qur’an verse I quoted above is from a chapter of the Qur’an people who engage in interfaith dialogue and reconciliation erroneously quote. Verse 13 of the same chapter starts with “Oh Mankind.” Muslims have used to draw even Christians into dialogues. That is a topic for another time. This verse has nothing to do with non-Muslims but everything to do with Muslims. I engaged two Muslims: a Saudi and a Moroccan; and an American Christian and renowned international expert on Islam Carl Medearis discussing this verse. Please read the exchange under the post “Reconciliation: The choice of peacemakers.” It might help you understand the context of this Qur’an chapter.

The above verse shows one rank of Muslims. Yes, you have read it correctly. Allah ranks Muslims. Muslims are ranked in categories called darajat. They are Muslim, Mu’min and Muhsin. Muslim doesn’t necessarily mean someone who has embraced Muhammad as a prophet. Jesus disciples were called Muslim. Mu’min means “believer” in Arabic. Dr. Sayyed Hossein Nasr is Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University explained the darajat:

Not everyone who is a Muslim is a mu’min and not everyone one who is a mu’min is a muhsin, but a muhsin must also be a mu’min and a mu’min a Muslim… In any case, throughout Islamic history there have been the ordinary believers, or Muslims, or those of intense piety, m’umins, and those who have sought God here and now, or muhsins.[1]

Muhsin is the highest rank of a Muslim. He or she believes in everything that is written in the Qur’an and acts upon it without wavering. Those Muslims who fought alongside Prophet Muhammad were muhsin. They did not doubt the message of the Qur’an or what Muhammad said in the Hadith. Though the message was at times equivocal and unpopular or even politically incorrect, they heeded it. Unlike mainstream Muslims, they strove “with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah” because they were “the sincere,” muhsin.

Who are ordinary Muslims to question whether Osama bin Laden was a Muslim, let alone a Muslim leader? He used his wealth and gave life for the cause of the Qur’an. He even spurred other Muslims to do the same. Let not some Muslims and non-Muslims mislead you. Although Osama bin Laden preached unpopular message, he was not only a Muslim leader but also a leader of the muhsin. This is the verdict of the Qur’an. It just shows another Crack in the Crescent.


[1] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2004), 62.

  • K.C Jones

    I have read and met the authors of the Koran dilemma as I also work for a ministry to Muslims ! Great book! The generous Koran by Usama Dakdok is worth a read as well for the comentaries between the Suras…

  • K.C Jones

    The Koran, the Hadith and the Sira are the trilogy(bible) of the Muslims. Heres a few things to “Google”….. Al-taqiah,Kafir, Dhimmi Status, the 99 names of Allah, Iesha( mohammeds 6 yr old wife) female circumcision, Hoodna, the seige of veinna sept 11th, 1683, Jizya tax and lastly Sura 2:106(abrogation). Find the truth for yourself! Here is whatno one will say; Allah does not exist! “Allah Achbar” god is greater they chant…. Greater than who? Gabriel did not visit Mohammed, it was Legion. Every time the “angel” visited him he would go into convulsions, foam at the mouth then try and throw himself off the cliff! Then he told his wife, a Coptic Christian 25years his senior, he was insane or possessed, she convinced him he was a prophet. The Koran is not arranged chronologically. It is from the smallest book to the largest. So imagine if you took a novel, ripped out the spine and put it back together by size of book. There would be no continuity. Hence the difficulty in understanding the Koran. The Koran is only 14% of the Muslim religious texts. The Hadith heLps try and explain it. It’s meant to be confusing!!!! And lastly the last books thought to be written are sura 9 & 5. Everything else, all the nice stuff, has been abrogated away!!! PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELVES!!!

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein

      Thank you, KC, for your comment. I am aware of the rule of abrogation in the Qur’an. People who want to understand this book need to know the chronological order in which the verses were revealed. There is a new book out called The Qur’an Dilemma. It has the best information, more than any commentary on the Qur’an. You should check it out.

  • http://www.warrenlarson.com Warren Larson

    To be a leader, one needs a following, and my sense is that Osama bin Laden’s “following” was very much in decline. His calls for violence have increasingly been discmissed. In the Arab uprisings, I have not heard people say the revolution was taking place because bin Laden said so. No one said his was the pathway for much-needed change.

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein

      Thank you, Dr. Larson, for the comment. I agree bin Laden’s influence in the Muslim world was waning. Is it fair to dismiss him as a Muslim leader?

  • David Welch

    While I disagree with the previous comment, this page has never once wanted me to consider leaving Christianity, but it has provided a cultural perspective and context that helps me understand Muslims better so that I can pray for them appropriately that one day that God will touch their hearts and let them see the love and joy that comes only though grace by the sacrifice of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.

    Prior to discovering this website, my understanding of Islam was solely from that of a soldier deployed in the middle east. A perspective that was extremely negative and made it hard to follow the second great commandment, to love my neighbor.

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein

      Thank you, for your comment, David! It is encouraging to hear what I write has been helpful to your ministry to Muslims. May God guide you as you live to love your neighbor as yourself.

  • Khaled

    Alhamdulilah for sites like yours, they only drive people away from Christianity to Islam. :)

    May Allah guide me and you to what He loves and approves of. I pray I can cause as many people to come to Islam as you do

    • http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com Hussein

      Thank you, Khaled, for your comment. What other websites besides mine that have been driving people “away from” Christianity? By the way, my blog is not to “draw” Muslims to Christianity but to Jesus Christ the Savior who also died for their sins.