1. Osama bin Laden:
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was born on March 10, 1957, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to construction billionaire Mohammed Awad bin Laden and Mohammed’s 10th wife, Syrian-born Alia Ghanem. Osama was the seventh of 50 children born to Muhammad bin Laden, but the only child from his father’s marriage to Alia Ghanem. He became the founder and leader of al-Qaeda.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, bin Laden joined the Afghan resistance. After the Soviet withdrawal, bin Laden formed the al-Qaeda network which carried out global strikes against Western interests, culminating in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, the government under President George W. Bush formed a coalition that successfully overthrew the Taliban. Osama went into hiding and, for more than 10 years, he was hunted along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. In 2004, shortly before President Bush’s re-election, Osama bin Laden released a videotaped message claiming responsibility for the attacks on 9/11.
On May 2, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed in a terrorist compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
2. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
Born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh on October, 30 1966 in Zarqa – Jordan – he was a militant Islamist from Jordan who ran a paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan. He became known after going to Iraq and being responsible for a series of bombings, beheadings, and attacks during the Iraq War.
He formed al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in the 1990s, and led it until his death in June 2006. Zarqawi took responsibility, on several audio and video recordings, for numerous acts of violence in Iraq including suicide bombings and hostage executions. Zarqawi opposed the presence of US and Western military forces in the Islamic world, as well as the West’s support for the existence of Israel. In late 2004 he joined al-Qaeda, and pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. After this al-Tawhid wal-Jihad became known as Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn, also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and al-Zarqawi was given the Al-Qaeda title, “Emir of Al Qaeda in the Country of Two Rivers”.
In September 2005, he declared “all-out war” on Shia in Iraq after the Iraqi government offensive on insurgents in the Sunni town of Tal Afar. He dispatched numerous suicide bombers throughout Iraq to attack American soldiers and areas with large concentrations of Shia militias. He is also thought to be responsible for the 2005 bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan. Zarqawi was killed in a targeted killing by a Joint US force on June 7, 2006, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baqubah. One United States Air Force F-16C jet dropped two 500-pound (230 kg) guided bombs on the safehouse.
3. Ayman al-Zawahiri:
Ayman al-Zawahiri was born in 1951 in the neighborhood of Maadi, Cairo, the Kingdom of Egypt, to Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri and Umayma Azzam. The al-Zawahiri family was considered “upper middle class” while they lived in Maadi. Ayman has a younger brother, Muhammad al-Zawahiri, and a twin sister, Heba Mohamed al-Zawahiri.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is a former member of Islamist organizations which have orchestrated and carried out attacks in North America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In 2012, he called on Muslims to kidnap western tourists in Muslim countries.
Since the September 11 attacks, U.S. State Department has offered a US$25 million reward for information leading to al-Zawahiri’s capture. He is under worldwide sanctions by the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee as a member or affiliate of al-Qaeda.
As of May 2, 2011, he became the leader of al-Qaeda following the death of Osama bin Laden. This was confirmed by a press release from al-Qaeda’s general command on June 16.
al-Zawahiri’s succession to command of al-Qaeda was announced on several of their websites on June 16, 2011. On the same day, al-Qaeda renewed its position that Israel was an illegitimate state and that it wouldn’t accept any compromise on Palestine.
4. Adnan al-Aroor
Adnan bin Mohammed Aeraour, was born in the city of Hama – Syria – in 1948.
Al-Aroor appears regularly on TV stations in Saudi Arabia, including the widely watched satellite channel al-Safa, where he is known for his programs criticizing non-Salafi Islamic minorities fighting with the government. He became widely known and promoted after the start of the Syrian civil war and was seen by some as the non-official face of the anti-government movement in Syria. He favors arming the opposition and a foreign military intervention.
According to The Economist: “Those who tuned in to Mr Arour’s weekly show were attracted less by his Sunni (sic) triumphalism than by his theatrical appeals for all Syrians to rise and fight, something opposition intellectuals in exile neglected to do. But as Syria’s misery has ground on, sectarian fault lines have inexorably widened. Mr Arour’s views, once widely dismissed as extreme, now look closer to the mainstream, at least among the three-quarters of Syrians who are Sunni Muslims.”
In 2011 he launched a violent campaign against the Syrian government.
Syrian newspaper Al-Watan published in 2011 a report in which it exposed documented proof of Adnan’s involvement in several crimes in Syria and defection to Saudi Arabia.
5. Yusuf al-Qaradawi:
Al-Qaradawi was born in 1926 in Safat Turab village in the Nile Delta, Egypt, in a poor family of devout Muslim peasants. He became an orphan at the age of two, when he lost his father. Following his father’s death, he was raised by his uncle. He read and memorized the entire Qur’an by the time he was nine years old.
He then joined the Institute of Religious Studies at Tanta, and graduated after nine years of study. He moved on to study Islamic Theology at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, from which he graduated in 1953. He earned a diploma in Arabic Language and Literature in 1958 at the Advanced Arabic Studies Institute. He enrolled in the graduate program in the Department of Qur’an and Sunnah Sciences of the Faculty of Religion’s Fundamentals (Usul al-Din), and graduated with a Masters degree in Quranic Studies in 1960. In 1962, he was sent by Al-Azhar University to Qatar to head the Qatari Secondary Institute of Religious Studies. He completed his PhD thesis titled Zakah and its effect on solving social problems in 1973 with First Merit, and was awarded his PhD degree from Al Azhar.
In 1977, he laid the foundation for the Faculty of Shari’ah and Islamic Studies in the University of Qatar and became the faculty’s dean. In the same year he founded the Centre of Seerah and Sunna Research. He also served at the Institute of Imams, Egypt under the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments as supervisor before moving back to Doha as Dean of the Islamic Department at the Faculties of Shariah and Education in Qatar, where he continued until 1990. His next appointment was in Algeria as Chairman of the Scientific Council of Islamic University and Higher Institutions in 1990–91. He returned to Qatar once more as Director of the Seerah and Sunnah Center at Qatar University, a post he still occupies today.
Al-Qaradawi is the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research,an Islamic scholarly entity based in Ireland. He also serves as the chairman of International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS).
He was imprisoned under King Farouq in 1949, then three times during the reign of former President Gamal Abdul Nasser, until he left Egypt for Qatar in 1961. He returned to Egypt in 2011 in the wake of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
After the 2011 Egyptian Revolution Qaradawi made his first public appearance in Egypt after 1981. In Tahrir Square he led Friday prayers on 18 February, addressing an audience estimated to exceed two million Egyptians. It began with an address of “O Muslims and Copts”, referring to Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority instead of the customary opening for Islamic Friday sermons “O Muslims”. He was reported to have said, “Egyptian people are like the genie who came out of the lamp and who have been in prison for 30 years.” He also demanded the release of political prisoners in Egyptian prisons, praised the Copts for protecting Muslims in their Friday prayer, and called for the new military rulers to quickly restore civilian rule.
On 21 February 2011, he talked about the protests in Libya and issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Muammar Gaddafi:
“To the officers and the soldiers who are able to kill Muammar Gaddafi, to whoever among them is able to shoot him with a bullet and to free the country and [God’s] servants from him, I issue this fatwa (uftī): Do it! That man wants to exterminate the people (sha’b). As for me, I protect the people (sha’b) and I issue this fatwa: Whoever among them is able to shoot him with a bullet and to free us from his evil, to free Libya and its great people from the evil of this man and from the danger of him, let him do so! It is not permissible (lā yajūzu) to any officer, be he a officer pilot, or a ground forces officer, or an air forces officer, or any other, it is not permissible to obey this man within disobedience (ma’ṣiya) [to God], in evil (sharr), in injustice (ẓulm), in oppression (baghī ‘alā) of [His] servants.”
He also called on Libyan ambassadors around the world to distance themselves from Gaddafi’s regime.
Al-Qaradawi has described Shi’ites as heretics (“mubtadi’oun”). In 2008 warned of the “Shiitization” of the Middle East, saying Shiite Muslims were “invading” Sunni societies. In response, the Iranian Mehr News Agency described Qaradawi as “a spokesman for international Freemasonry and rabbis”. Even fellow members of the International Union of Muslim Scholars such as Mohammad Salim Al-Awa criticized Qaradawi for promoting divisions among Muslims.
In May 2013, al-Qaradawi denounced the Alawite sect, which many describe as an offshoot of Shia Islam and of which President Bashir al-Assad is a member, as “more infidel than Christians and Jews.” In his sermon on the Syrian Civil War, he called on Muslims “everywhere” to help insurgents in Syria “be victorious … Everyone who has the ability and has training to kill … is required to go” to Syria. “We cannot ask our brothers to be killed while we watch.”