restricted access Ribat, al-Qa‘Ida, and the Challenge for US Foreign Policy

This article explores al-Qa‘ida’s concept of a sacred geography, focusing on the idea of “ribat” — maintaining watch on the frontier to defend Islam. Beginning in Afghanistan, fundamentalists have re-adopted this term from the hadith to characterize their struggle with the West, from al-Andalus to Palestine to Chechnya to Iraq. The implications for US policy are enormous, especially as it operates within the perceived Islamic patrimony. An understanding of ribat also helps explain why al-Qa‘ida had no significant presence in Iraq prior to March 2003 but would soon thereafter.