Last week, the Pentagon released a videotape of Osama bin Laden discussing the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Beliefnet asked internationally known Qur'anic scholar Farid Esack to read the transcript and interpret bin Laden's use of the Qur'an to justify his actions.

Parts of the transcript are below, with Esack's notes in the margins.

Shaykh: (Describing the trip to the meeting) They smuggled us and then I thought that we would be in different caves inside the mountains so I was surprised at the guest house and that it is very clean and comfortable. Thanks be to Allah, we also learned that this location is safe, by Allah's blessings. The place is clean and we are very comfortable.

OBL: (...Inaudible...) when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse. This is only one goal; those who want people to worship the lord of the people, without following that doctrine, will be following the doctrine of Muhammad, peace be upon him. (OBL quotes several short and incomplete Hadith verses, as follows):

"I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad."

"Some people may ask: why do you want to fight us?"

"There is an association between those who say: I believe in one god and Muhammad is his prophet, and those who don't (...inaudible...)

"Those who do not follow the true fiqh (law). The fiqh of Muhammad, the real fiqh. They are just accepting what is being said at face value."

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
Here lies the rub and your heresy. Bypassing centuries of tradition, you acknowledge your distance from Fiqh (Islamic Law) as it had been evolved through generations of Islamic scholarship. Claiming to be the only repository of 'the real fiqh,' you can now get into the mind of Muhammad and speak for him. Others who believe in permissibility and prohibitions through the lenses of Islamic law are dismissed as accepting things at face value while only you own the genuine article. The real fiqh? Sound more like fiction to me.

Those youth who conducted the operations did not accept any fiqh in the popular terms, but they accepted the fiqh that the prophet Muhammad brought. Those young men (...inaudible...) said in deeds, in New York and Washington, speeches that overshadowed all other speeches made everywhere else in the world. The speeches are understood by both Arabs and non-Arabs, even by Chinese. It is above all the media said.

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
"And the sound of the donkey is indeed a despicable one," says the Qur'an. So sounds, their loudness and impact, are not the most significant ones. What is conveyed by them? How are other people affected by them? So the sound of violence becomes worthy because they are louder than the voices of reason? So bullets are more powerful than tears? Swords more powerful than pens?

Perhaps in your world. Guess that you are undoubtedly appreciative of the loud sounds of bombs dropping on your hide-outs now.
Some of them said that in Holland, at one of the centers, the number of people who accepted Islam during the days that followed the operations were more than the people who accepted Islam in the last eleven years. I heard someone on Islamic radio who owns a school in America say: "We don't have time to keep up with the demands of those who are asking about Islamic books to learn about Islam." This event made people think (about true Islam) which benefited Islam greatly.

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
"And that which is evil cannot give rise to anything but the abominable" (Qur'an). Silly you! You have turned this faith of ours into an enemy of humankind and ordinary people are responding to it as such. Never heard of the expression: "Better the devil that you know than the one you don't know"? They're rushing to buy books on Islam to know the devil!

On second thought, God willing, something of benefit may still come from this event for Islam - the determination by Muslims to rid our community of fascists of your ilk.

Shaykh: Hundreds of people used to doubt you and few only would follow you until this huge event happened. Now hundreds of people are coming out to join you. I remember a vision by Shaykh Salih Al-((Shuaybi)). He said: "There will be a great hit and people will go out by hundreds to Afghanistan." I asked him (Salih): "To Afghanistan?" He replied, "Yes." According to him, the only ones who stay behind will be the mentally impotent and the liars (hypocrites). I remembered his saying that hundreds of people will go out to Afghanistan. He had this vision a year ago. This event discriminated between the different types of followers.

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
Strange, this new age "Prophet" who draws people on the basis of his success on the battlefield. It does not quite require a visionary to predict that hundreds of people will go to Afghanistan -- they do so every day as ordinary travelers. Not quite sure what is meant here? Could the vision have been of the American forces coming to Afghanistan? Dreams? Welcome to the world of David Koresh and Charles Mason -- at least they had the courage to go the whole hog with their followers. Why did the Shaykh not come along to Afghanistan himself?

(...Inaudible...) We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all. (...Inaudible...) Due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
Talk about calculated evil! The "enemy" included the janitor, the cook, the waiter in the restaurant. Osama, suppose that the target was the blue collar worker, the foot soldier in huge corporation sustaining western imperialism, and suppose that this is your enemy. Have you forgotten about the journey of the Prophet Muhammad to Taif? There, real enemies stoned him with real stones. And what did he tell the angel that was sent to him offering to destroy all his enemies? "I had been sent as a mercy unto people; let them be. If they do not want to heed my message, perchance their offspring may!" This is all that he hoped for.

Shaykh: Allah be praised.

OBL: We were at (...inaudible...) when the event took place. We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day. We had finished our work that day and had the radio on. It was 5:30 p.m. our time. I was sitting with Dr. Ahmad Abu-al-((Khair)). Immediately, we heard the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We turned the radio station to the news from Washington. The news continued and (there was) no mention of the attack until the end. At the end of the newscast, they reported that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. Shaykh: Allah be praised.

OBL: After a little while, they announced that another plane had hit the World Trade Center. The brothers who heard the news were overjoyed by it.

Shaykh: I listened to the news and I was sitting. We didn't ... we were not thinking about anything, and all of a sudden, Allah willing, we were talking about how come we didn't have anything, and all of a sudden the news came and everyone was overjoyed and everyone, until the next day, in the morning, was talking about what was happening and we stayed until four o'clock, listening to the news, every time a little bit different, everyone was very joyous and saying "Allah is great," "Allah is great," "We are thankful to Allah,""Praise Allah." And I was happy for the happiness of my brothers. That day the congratulations were coming on the phone non-stop. The mother was receiving phone calls continuously. Thank Allah. Allah is great, praise be to Allah.

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
"Construct your behaviour on the pattern of God," the Prophet Muhammad tells us. This is a God who, in every mention in the Qur'an, has the words "Gracious" and "Dispenser of Grace" appended to his name, a God whose first words after he created the universe were: "Indeed my mercy overcomes my anger."

You, Shaykh, want to construct God on your pattern. You angry and embittered human being, thank and praise and glorify none other than the god of your own lower self, the god of anger and vengeance, a god of your unresolved psychological pathologies and spiritual poverty. You invoke none but a mirror image of yourself, thinking that you invoke God. May Allah have mercy on you.

Shaykh (quoting the verse from the Quran): "Fight them, Allah will torture them, with your hands, he will torture them. He will deceive them and he will give you victory. Allah will forgive the believers, he is knowledgeable about everything."

Shaykh: No doubt it is a clear victory. Allah has bestowed on us ... honor on us ... and he will give us blessing and more victory during this holy month of Ramadan. And this is what everyone is hoping for. Thank Allah America came out of its caves. We hit her the first hit and the next one will hit her with the hands of the believers, the good believers, the strong believers. By Allah it is a great work. Allah prepares for you a great reward for this work. I'm sorry to speak in your presence, but it is just thoughts, just thoughts.

By Allah, who there is no god but him. I live in happiness, happiness ... I have not experienced, or felt, in a long time. I remember, the words of Al-Rabbani, he said they made a coalition against us in the winter with the infidels like the Turks, and others, and some other Arabs. And they surrounded us like the days ... in the days of the prophet Muhammad. Exactly like what's happening right now. But he comforted his followers and said, "This is going to turn and hit them back." And it is a mercy for us. And a blessing to us. And it will bring people back. Look how wise he was. And Allah will give him blessing.

And the day will come when the symbols of Islam will rise up and it will be similar to the early days of Al-Mujahedeen and Al-Ansar (similar to the early years of Islam). And victory to those who follow Allah. Finally said, if it is the same, like the old days, such as Abu Bakr and Othman and Ali and others. In these days, in our times, that it will be the greatest jihad in the history of Islam and the resistance of the wicked people.

Shaykh: By Allah my Shaykh. We congratulate you for the great work. Thank Allah.

OBL: Abdallah Azzam, Allah bless his soul, told me not to record anything (...inaudible...) so I thought that was a good omen, and Allah will bless us. (...inaudible...). Abu-Al-Hasan Al-((Masri)), who appeared on Al-Jazeera TV a couple of days ago and addressed the Americans, saying: ``If you are true men, come down here and face us." (...inaudible...) He told me a year ago: ``I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, they were all pilots!" He said: "So I wondered if that was a soccer game or a pilot game? Our players were pilots." He (Abu-Al-Hasan) didn't know anything about the operation until he heard it on the radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them. That was a good omen for us.

Farid Esack's Interpretation:
Ah, how true the Qur'anic reference to those who take their faith as a "game and sport"; it even shows up in their dreams...which then become other people's nightmares. Alas, if only you could have kept your creation of God to the same extent that ordinary people do when they ask God for victory in a baseball match -- thereby reducing God to a Yankees fan. But you're in the big league. While the game is not over for Muslims determined to live out their Islam submitting to God and in harmony with others, we know that your game is up.

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