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Terrorist activities are not restricted to fighting alone, and the psychological element of terrorist activities is no less important. One major aspect of this is the use of jihadi songs, known as nasheeds. Jihadi songs are of great importance to extremist groups since human beings naturally respond to melody in all its forms. Because of their significant appeal, extremist organizations are keen to allocate human and financial resources to producing these songs.

The Evolution of Nasheeds

within Extremist Movements

Nasheeds are a key part of any video produced by extremist groups and posted on their social media platforms. In fact, extremists always include several ‘battle nasheeds’ on their YouTube channels. Nasheeds have historically been used during periods of war, often assuming a significance during battles that is no less important than swords. They were used as a call for help or during the fighting of duels, amongst others, and were eventually enhanced with the use of percussion and other rhythms. Due to the disparity in importance between the use of art in wider society and its comparatively marginal role in extremist groups, nasheeds became an effective artistic tool for extremist groups as the singing is not accompanied by music. According to some experts, the root of modern jihadi songs can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood in the seventies, although they became more popular in the early nineties.



In one of his letters, the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan Al-Banna, writes: “The Muslim Brotherhood is not against theater nor radio because they are not so rigid as to take such a stand. Rather, they want to purify theater and radio from evil and sin and remove their harmful impact on youth.” Based on this logic, other extremist groups also started using nasheeds, while implementing a strict ban on any musical instruments except for drums in some cases. This use of nasheeds by extremist groups is indicative of the Muslim Brotherhood’s impact on the extremist movement.

Why the ‘need’ for creating a new art form?

Extremist organizations inherently need a voice to represent them, and as Al-Banna wrote, for extremists in the Muslim world, the nasheed provides a good alternative. In addition, nasheeds serve a motivating purpose and consist of short, easy-to-memorize sentences, serving both a functional role and as a creative outlet for political views. Nasheeds were the Muslim Brotherhood’s primary form of creative expression, popularized even more by chanting them to the melody of popular, identifiable songs. It should be noted that the songs’ copyrights are not respected in this process, as long as it is deemed to be halal or religiously permissible. Furthermore, these nasheeds adhered to the Brotherhood’s logic of communicating with the ‘other’ through their own media. Nasheeds are therefore not new to the extremist scene in the Muslim world, and Daesh is no exception to this as the successor of Al Qaeda. In fact, Daesh shares much of its nasheed culture with its predecessor, using the same instruments, for example. Most Daesh nasheeds adhere to the Al Qaeda format of pledging allegiance to the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. However, it deviates from Al Qaeda in some respects, mainly in its ability to tailor nasheeds to target audiences. The group has produced nasheeds that are specific to nationalities, dialects and the melodies of popular local songs, while the extremist content has remained the same.


After monitoring several productions by Daesh, it has become apparent that the target audience determines the style and type of production. For example, nasheeds adopt different singing styles depending on the audience, such as the Yemeni zamil style for Yemen, the “shaila” for Arabian Gulf states, the Iraqi “mawal” for Iraqis and the lyrical Najdi style for those living in Saudi Arabia’s Najd region. Similarly, the Libyan and Tunisian style of songs is adopted when targeting people from North Africa. Furthermore, to target members of a tribe, their tribal rivalries and histories are highlighted to create the illusion of a deep connection to the glories of their tribal past. Some nasheeds, for example, focus on the links between various tribes on the Arabian Peninsula and Prophet Mohammed’s companions. Perhaps most significantly, Daesh seeks to attract people living in the West by producing nasheeds in English, German and other European languages.

However, as Nasser Weddady, an expert on the topic explains: “The translation here doesn’t mean to use the equivalent for the Arabic words in the foreign languages, as Al-Qaeda did last decade with no great success. It means, rather, adapting to the western culture and style; this transforms the content from speeches that teenagers and young westerners do not understand to messages that effectively address their minds and subconscious. Al-Qaeda was not as effective because of lack of professionalism and unawareness of the target audience.”


between the Propaganda of

Daesh and Al-Qaeda

The propaganda of both extremist organizations varies significantly. While Al Qaeda has historically only issued the call to fight against a specified enemy with no clear link to any specific objectives, Daesh has linked its propaganda to a clear objective: Establishing a Caliphate, i.e. Islamic State, that will enforce Sharia (Islamic) law. Accordingly, Daesh’s propaganda is clearer for the rest of the world to understand, especially those in the West. Jihad is presented as an adventure and an opportunity to influence history and follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed. This carefully crafted seduction of impressionable people, encouraging them to follow in the footsteps of their courageous, successful ancestors, is one of Daesh’s key recruitment tools. In terms of production, Daesh has abandoned powerful rhetoric in favour of inspirational audio-visual content. The nasheeds, for instance, are tailored to different demographic groups, including women, children and young people. This is in line with Daesh’s vision of forming an integrated, functioning state.


"Daesh´s Nasheeds"!

  • Extremist songs tend to use extremely violent language (using terms such as “slaughtering”, “burning”, “beheading”, and “terrorizing enemies with explosions”), as a direct reflection of the sort of violence perpetrated by the organization
  • These groups adopt an extreme approach towards everything they do, conveyed clearly in the arrogance and exaggeration within the nasheeds.
  • Combined with high quality production and the effective use of sound effects (e.g. neighing horses, the clanking of swords, roaring of tanks, gunfire and explosions), the nasheeds create a warlike atmosphere.
  • Nasheeds are used as the soundtrack for videos created by extremist organizations.

The 7 Objectives

of Nasheeds

Extremist groups have the following objectives in their production of nasheeds:


Promote the organization’s identity:

Extremist organizations use nasheeds to create a unique identity for themselves, that evokes a sense of belonging and also signals their ultimate ambitions.


Promote the organization’s identity:

Extremist organizations use nasheeds to create a unique identity for themselves, that evokes a sense of belonging and also signals their ultimate ambitions.



of Nasheeds

These vary but can be broadly classified in the following categories:

Battle Nasheeds

These aim to motivate extremist fighters by highlighting fighter’s courage and fearlessness. They form the majority of all nasheeds.

Extremist Nasheeds