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Hizb ut-Tahrir

February 21, 2019 Organizations


Established In: 1953

Established By: Taqiuddin al-Nabhani

Also Known As: Party of Liberation

Country Of Origin: Israel

Leaders: Ata Abu Rashta

Key Members: Ata Abu Rashta, Osman Bakhach

Operational Area: Worldwide

Number Of Members: 10,000 – 1 million

Involved In: Urged and supported the use of violence against non-Muslims, Justifying violence, Hate speech

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General Info:

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) is an international, pan-Islamist political organisation, which describes its ideology as Islam, and its aim as the re-establishment of the Islamic Khilafah (Caliphate) to resume the Islamic way of life in the Muslim world. The caliphate would unite the Muslim community (Ummah) upon their Islamic creed and implement the Shariah, so as to then carry the proselytising of Islam to the rest of the world.

The party was founded in 1953 as a political organisation in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, an Islamic scholar and appeals court judge (Qadi) from Haifa. Since then, Hizb ut-Tahrir has spread to more than 50 countries, and grown to a membership estimated to be between “tens of thousands” to “about one million”. Hizb ut-Tahrir is also very active in Western countries, particularly in the United Kingdom, and also in several Arab and Central Asian countries, despite being banned by a number of governments. Members typically meet in small private study circles, but in countries where the group is not illegal it also engages with the media and organises rallies and conferences.

The basis of the party’s ideological structure has been “meticulously thought out and published in many detailed books” that are readily available. Al-Nabhani also developed a program and “draft constitution” for the caliphate, which would be run by a Caliph (head of state elected by Muslims). Articles of the constitution detail canons fundamentally related to the economy, society, judiciary, military and more.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned in countries such as Germany, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey, and all Arab countries except Lebanon, Yemen, and the UAE. In July 2017, the Indonesian government formally revoked Hizbut ut-Tahrir’s charter, citing incompatibility with government regulations on extremism and national ideology.


Hizb ut-Tahrir states its aim as unification of all Muslim countries (or as it calls them “Islamic lands”) over time in a unitary Islamic state or caliphate, headed by a caliph elected by Muslims. This, it holds, is an obligation decreed by God, warning that he will punish those Muslims “who neglect this duty.” Once established, the caliphate will expand into non-Muslim areas, through “invitation” and through military jihad, so as to expand the land of Islam” and diminish land of unbelief. To “achieve its objective” HT seeks “to gain the leadership of the Islamic community” so that the community will “accept it as her [the community’s] leader, to implement Islam upon her and proceed with it in her struggle against the Kuffar (unbelievers) and in the work towards the return of the Islamic State”

The nature of the “Islamic state”/caliphate/khilafah is spelled out in a detailed program and “draft constitution” which notes the caliphate being a unitary (not federal) state, run by a caliph head of state elected by Muslims. Other specified features include: “The currency of the State is to be restricted to gold and silver”—article 163; “every male Muslim, fifteen years and over, is obliged to undergo military training”—article 56; “Arabic is the language of Islam and the sole language of the State”—article 8; in marriage the wife is “obliged to obey her husband” and the husband “to provide”—article 116, in schools “the weekly lessons of Islamic disciplines and Arabic language must be equal to the lessons of all other sciences in terms of number and time”—article 173. Forbidden by the constitution are such things as copyrights on educational materials (article 175), military treaties (article 185), and memberships by the state in secular international organizations (article 186). In addition to the constitution, “many detailed books” expand on the HT ideology and “method of work”, according to its 2010 Information pack.

Although hizb means party in Arabic, in the countries where Hizb ut-Tahrir is active it has usually not registered as a political party or attempted to elect candidates to political office, although it did early in its history. Hizb ut-Tahrir put forward candidates for office in Jordan in the 1950s when it was first formed and before it was banned, according to Suha Taji-Farouki. Kyrgyz Hizb ut-Tahrir members campaigned unsuccessfully for an affiliated candidate in Kyrgyzstan’s national presidential election in July 2005, and have participated in municipal elections where their followers have won in a number of regions.

One observer (Olivier Roy) describes the strategy as “global, grassroots revolution, culminating in a sudden, millenarian victory”, as opposed to a slog through a political process “that risks debasing the Koran and perpetuating the ummah’s subjugation to the West”.

The party plans its political progress in three stages, taking after the process “by which the Prophet Muhammad established the Caliphate in thirteen years.”According to an analyst of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kazakhstan, where the group is outlawed: “First they convert new members. Secondly, they establish a network of secret cells, and finally, they try to infiltrate the government to work to legalize their party and its aims.”A more sympathetic description of this strategy is that Hizb ut-Tahrir works to:

Establish group of elites as a community of Hizb ut-Tahrir members who carry the invitation to Muslim societies to support an Islamic state. Members should accept the goals and methods of the organization as their own and be ready to work to fulfill these goals. (This process of building a party attempts to copy Muhammad’s work in Mecca where he built a core of supporters.)

Build public opinion among the Muslim masses for the caliphate and the other Islamic concepts that will lead to a revival of Islamic thought. (This process of what the party calls “intellectual transformation through political and cultural interaction”, attempts to imitate Muhmmad’s using his core of supporters to win over the population of Mecca and later Medina.) “Stage two involves penetration into government positions and military special forces,” according to HT critic Zeyno Baran. For some members this will involve “drink[ing] alcohol and chang[ing] their behavior in other ways to blend in with secular elites.

The government would be replaced by one that implements Islam “generally and comprehensively”, carrying Islamic thought to people throughout the world.

HT has for many years made use of the internet to propagate its message. It changes them frequently, using a number of languages. As of 2004 there were at least seven websites “related directly” to HT.

HT talks about a “bloodless” coup, a.k.a. nussrah, for the facilitation of “a change of the government”. In one document (‘Our Method’), it states, “we consider that Islamic law forbids violence or armed struggle against the regime as a method to reestablish the Islamic State.”A 2004 report by the Nixon Center states that “credible reports” indicate that HT members have been “involved in coup attempts in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Iraq.”According to HT, once one or more Muslim countries come under the organization’s control (such as Pakistan, Indonesia or a country in Central Asia) this will create a base; subsequently, other Muslim countries will be convinced to join and a “domino effect” will be created to establish a new caliphate.

Researchers and scholars have often described HT as a vanguard party (David Commins and Zeyno Baran) or as seeming to be “less interested in a broad mass following than a smaller more committed core of members” (BBC). The “About Us” section of the Hizb ut-Tahrir “Official Website” states “Hizb ut-Tahrir is determined to work within the Ummah in order to implement Islam and achieve its objective by endeavouring to gain the leadership of the Islamic Ummah so that she could accept it as her leader, to implement Islam upon her and proceed with it in her struggle against the Kuffar …”But according to a former leader in the UK, Jalaluddin Patel, once the caliphate has been established, HT “will never assume the role of a vanguard party”.

In countries where the party is outlawed, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s organization is said to be strongly centralized, with its central leadership based in the Palestinian Territories. To avoid infiltration by security agents and maintain ideological coherence in a pyramid-like group, the party enforces internal discipline and obedience to the central leadership. The party “tolerates no internal dissent”.

A range of disciplinary measures are applied to members who break the rules, with expulsion being the most severe. The network of underground cells resembles that of the successful Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia. At the top is the central committee (lajnat al-qiyada) of the international party, and the supreme leader (Amir). The main committee or agency is tasked with taking power to re-establish the caliphate by establishing contacts with “the centers of power such as the army and the political leaders”. This agency is “the most secretive”, and “reports directly” to the “Amir”.

Underneath its center are national organizations or wilayas (which actually means “province” since HT believes nation states are un-Islamic, the only “nation” is the Islamic community), “usually headed by a group of 12, control networks of local committees and cells.”wilayas have an executive committee which is charged with executing the administrative affairs and elected every two years by the membership of the party in the wilaya. At the provincial level, there is a committee headed by a provincial representative (Mu’tamad) who oversees group activities. The Mu’tamad is appointed by the central committee.

The basic unit of the party is a cell of five members, the leader of which is called a mushrif. The mushrif leads a study-circle and supervises its members study of the HT ideology, listening to readings from books by the party’s founder, Nabhani, particularly Nidham al-Islam, or the System of Islam, which “lays out Nabhani’s vision of an `Islamic` state” and “refutes” other Arab political ideologies. Where the party is not legal, only the mushrif knows the names of members of other cells. A candidate for membership swears an oath of loyalty (qasam)

“In the name of Allah, I swear to protect Islam and to maintain fidelity to it; I swear to accept and follow goals, ideas and principles of HT in words and deeds; I swear to recognize the rightness of the party leadership’s actions; I swear to carry out even those decisions of the party leaders that I find objectionable; I swear to direct all my energies for the realization of the party program. Allah is the Witness of my words”.

According to one study, “little is known” of how HT “funds its activities”, thanks to the party’s “clandestine modus operandi”. In the Western countries, members who have jobs contribute part of their income, “possibly as much as 10 percent”. In Muslim countries funding may or may not come “from Iran, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia”.

Because of its position of being banned in most Muslim-majority countries but legal throughout Western countries, the group differs from most Salafi organizations in being “more self-conscious, adaptive and sensitive to Western culture” despite its resolute opposition to that culture.

HT has been called “secretive and hierarchical” (by a former member). It uses “cover names for reserving venues, publishing propaganda and even carrying out political activity” even where it is legal. At least one former member has complained that the HT “party philosophy” and practice of referring to its study groups as halaqa—despite the fact they are studying leader Nabhani’s writings and not the Quran—makes Nabhani’s work “synonymous with the Quran,” and that “the cult-like structure of the organisation [makes] this difficult” for young recruits to see. While one media pack emphasizes that membership “is open to all Muslim men and women regardless of their nationality, race or school of thought”, critics complain of the party’s need for “absolute, unequivocal acceptance of the Movement’s dogma”, its ignoring of spiritual aspects of Islam, and discouraging of free airing of views or “challenging statements”.

The party principle of overthrowing existing Muslim governments has been questioned as a violation of the ayah

Obey God, obey His prophet, and obey those in authority over you. Quran 4:59

This is supported by “several notable scholars”—according to Mateen Siddiqui—such as Ibn Nujaym, Al-Bahjouri, and Abu Hanifa. Critics also note a pattern of “a brief spell of support” followed by “failure to take power” in HT’s 50+ years of agitation.
The party has been described as being “centralised” in leadership and strategy, with its ideology based on the writings of its (deceased) founder al-Nabhani since the party’s founding and unlikely to change. The party itself claims its “ideology and its method of work” has been “meticulously thought out and published in many detailed books.”Prospective HT members study the “core books” of HT in preparation for being accepted as members. (Hizb ut-Tahrir websites, speeches, etc. also detail party positions.)

Critics have pointed out differences between party texts and public statements and accused HT of varying its “message to suit different audiences”, or of attempting to “soften” its public image (by deleting pamphlets from its website and other means), “as a defensive reaction to increased scrutiny,” while leaving its original strategy/ideology untouched. HT itself claims there is “a lot of … propaganda and disinformation” about the party and the caliphate being spread by enemies to “demonise” HT.

Khilafah/Caliphate and Islam

Hizb ut-Tahrir texts and websites holds that re-establishing the Khilafah state or Caliphate with sharia law, has been decreed by God as the “most important” obligation of Muslims, who will be punished if they neglect it. Without the caliphate and true sharia law, Muslims have been living in a state of jahiliyya (pre-Islamic ignorance). “Not a single country or state” has escaped jahilayya and unbelief, including ones that consider themselves to be Islamic states, such as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Iran. These and all other Muslim-majority states and polities—Kurds, Turks, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. – serve as “agents” of a non-Muslim power (usually of the United States), and their anti-American rhetoric/policies or their fighting amongst each other nothwithstanding, are actually “working harmoniously within US policy”.

One HT website (HT Britain) states that the Caliphate “dominated 95% of Islamic history” as a “stable, independent, accountable and representative state”, and that the party goals of unifying all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state where sharia law is strictly applied have strong support in the Muslim world. The caliphate will bring stability, the party argues, by providing a political system that is “accountable” and ruler who is legitimized by virtue of elected representation; by returning the Muslim world to Islamic practice and traditional readings of Islamic values and history; and because it is “the only institution able to provide credible leadership on Islamic issues and for Muslims”.

The ruler of the caliphate, the Caliph (or Khaleefah), should be elected, not chosen through blood lines or imposed on Muslims, according to the Hizb ut-Tahrir Draft Constitution, and should be given a pledge of loyalty (ba’iah) by the Muslim community following his election. The Muslim community would have “no right to dismiss him after he has legitimately attained the ba’iah of contracting.”

HT sources (an HT “Information Pack” issued to British media by HT Britain circa 2010 (no longer available on HT website but copied to another site), and the HT Britain magazine New Civilisation) describe the ruler of the proposed caliphate as “an elected and accountable ruler” and a “servant to the masses, governing them with justice”, “legitimate only through popular consent” who can be removed at the demand of the people through “the independent judiciary” of the caliphate, and whose judicial opinion on adopting a law does not prevent further debate and amendment. Along with “an independent judiciary, political parties” and the elected representative of the Majlis al-Umma (“the council of the Muslim community”, whose decisions are binding on the Caliph according to a Nabhani’s book, Nethaam al-Huqm fil-Islam) the caliph rules a state that is uniquely representative[104] will provide “rule of law and equal rights for minority groups”, and so bears no “resemblance to a totalitarian state”, criticism notwithstanding.

But critics complain that the HT draft constitution describes the Caliph as simply “the State”. The constitution states the Caliph “possesses all the powers and function of the State …” appointing and dismissing the governors and assistants of all the provinces of caliphate, the directors of departments, the heads of the armed forces and the generals, the chief judge and most judges, “who are all responsible to the Khaleefah [Caliph] and not to the Majlis al-Ummah” (according to Article 35e of the constitution). The founder an-Nabhani, in his book the System of Islam, specifically notes that the shura (consultative) body of the caliphate (the Majlis al-Ummah), “is for seeking the opinion and not for ruling”, so that if the Caliph neglects the majlis “he would be negligent, but the ruling system would still remain Islamic. This is because the shura (consultation) in Islam . This is contrary to the parliamentary system in democracy.”

There is also no limitation on the Khaleefah’s period in office, “so as long as he abides by the sharia’”. Critics (Houriya Ahmed and Hannah Stuart of The Centre for Social Cohesion) complain that non-Muslims living the caliphate are not included among those giving “popular consent” nor able to serve in the government, while the judges ruling over any recall attempt of the caliph are appointed by him or by a judge (the Supreme Judge) who is appointed by the Caliph. Regarding debate and amendment of legal rulings of the caliph, articles 3 and 35a of the proposed constitution stipulate that they must be obeyed. One issue not open to “popular consent” or differing opinion (according to HT doctrine) is seceding from the Caliphate. “Preventing the dismemberment of any country from the body of the Khilafah” is imperative, “even if” it leads “to several years of fighting and … the killing of millions of Muslims” (according to the second Amir of the party).

Islamic lands

“Islamic lands” to make up the HT Caliphate include not only Muslim-majority countries but also include Muslim-majority regions—such as southern Central Asia (in China); the Caucasus, and Kazan (in Russia), even though they have been part of non-Muslim countries for many years; and states/regions which have had a non-Muslim majority population for many years—such as northern India, East Timor, southern Spain, Sicily, Crimea, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Myanmar and the Philippines—that were once ‘ruled by Muslims under the authority of Islam’.

HT founder an-Nabhani, explains that while some believe that a country “whose population is of non-Muslims”, like Spain, “is not an Islamic country; … This conclusion is false. … because a country is deemed Islamic if it was once ruled by Islam or if the majority of its population is of Muslims.” So that “Spain is indeed an Islamic country”.

Expansion to non-Muslim lands

Hizb ut-Tahrir sees the Caliphate as eventually replacing not only Muslim states but Western non-Muslim ones, but whether it calls for violence to achieve this is disputed. The HT “Information Pack” for the Britain Media states that “the suggestion that Hizb ut-Tahrir will be permitted to engage in an armed struggle when the Caliphate re-emerges, is absolutely false”, but Michael Whine quotes HT founder An-Nabhani urging Muslims to follow the example of the original Islamic empire attacking and conquering adjacent territory of Persia and the Byzantine Empire, noting “what are we to say about the Ummah today; numbering more than one billion, … She would undoubtedly constitute a front which would be stronger in every respect than the leading superpowers put together”. Another HT text (The Ummah’s Charter, quoted by Ahmed and Stuart), states that the Caliphate “must rise to declare Jihad against the Kuffar without any lenience or hesitation,”and a HT pamphlet (quoted by Dave Rich) predicts, “In the forthcoming days the Muslims will conquer Rome and the dominion of the Ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) will reach the whole world and the rule of the Muslims will reach as far as the day and night. And the Dīn of Muhammad (saw) will prevail over all other ways of life including Western Capitalism and the culture of Western Liberalism”.

Campaign of violence
Hizb ut-Tahrir has been described as “radical” or “revolutionary” but “non-violent”.

The party shares “the same political objectives” as radical Islamist groups like al-Qaeda (according to Zeyno Baran), and agrees with such groups that non-Muslims are waging war on Islam and Muslims, that leaders of Muslim countries are apostates from Islam who serve as agents of Western or other non-Muslim powers, and must be overthrown.

However, numerous sources describe HT in terms such as never having “been overtly involved in any violent actions”, and having “long claimed it wants to achieve its objectives through nonviolent means”—the words of one unsympathetic source, According to Global Security the U.S. government “has found no clear ties” between Hizb ut-Tahrir and terrorist activity, no “involvement in or direct links to any recent acts of violence or terrorism”, and no proof of “financial support to other groups engaged in terrorism.”

Among the sources agreeing with that HT has never been overtly involved in any violent actions, are Hazel Blears, then UK Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who stated in February 2009 that HT ‘falls short of openly advocating violence or terrorism.’In support of its claim to being a non-violent group, (and against the British government’s proposed proscription of it), HT quotes from Oxford Analytica, a government ministers (Bill Rammell), two Home Office documents, an ex-ambassadors (Craig Murray), International Crisis Group, Pakistani journalist (Ahmed Rashid), academic (John Schoeberlein), a High Court in Pakistan (Multan Bench), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and “senior officers”.

In public statements—such as its Information Pack for the British media—the party states that it “has no history of violence or militancy anywhere in the world. … Unlike Western notions of political expediency, we do not believe that the ‘ends justify the means’”;that proof of their commitment is the number of members who “have been imprisoned, tortured and even killed for their beliefs,” but resisted resorting to violence; and that the party helps channel Muslim “anger and frustration over events in the Muslim world towards positive political work”.

On the other hand, opponents of the party have suggested that its opposition to violence is conditional, “superficial”, and far from complete. Critics argue:

-that Hizb ut-Tahrir teaches that using violence against (what it declares) enemies of Islam is righteous and justified, but must follow a declaration of jihad by legitimate Islamic authority (such as the caliphate);

-that it has urged and supported the use of violence against some non-Muslims in some circumstances (against Israel, against the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, against Hindus in Kashmir);

-and/or that its positions justifying violence have led to violence and terrorism by young Muslims impatient for the return of the caliphate.

According to two scholars (Emmanuel Karagiannis and Clark McCauley), HT’s position on violence can be describe as either being “committed to non-violence for fifty years”, or “waiting fifty years for the right moment to begin violent struggle.” (Critics casting aspersions on HT’s putative nonviolence include Sadakat Kadri, ex-party member Hadiya Masieh the British National Union of Students, Zeyno Baran, and the Daily Telegraph of Australia.)