Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as Mujahedin, mujahedeen, mujahedīn, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn, and variants.
Like the concept and title Ghazi, it has been used in formal titles of Muslim leaders who prided themselves on (and legitimated their conquests by) Jihad bis saïf, holy war in the name of establishing Islamic rule, even at very high political level: no lesser ruler than Sultan Murad Khan II Khoja-Ghazi, sixth Sovereign of the House of Osman (1421–1451), had as full style 'Abu'l Hayrat, Sultan ul-Mujahidin, Khan of Khans, Grand Sultan of Anatolia and Rumelia, and of the Cities of Adrianople and Philippolis, including the formal title "Sultan of mujahideen"
In English, the word is recorded since 1958, in a Pakistani context, adopted from Persian and Arabic, as the plural of mujahid "one who fights in a jihad", in modern use, for "Muslim guerilla insurgent."
In the late 20th century and early 21st century, the term "mujahideen" became the name of various armed fighters who subscribe to militant Islamic ideologies and identify themselves as mujahideen, although there is not always an explicit "holy" or "warrior" meaning of the word.
The best-known mujahideen, various loosely-aligned Afghan opposition groups, initially fought against the incumbent pro-Soviet Afghan government during the late 1970s. At the Afghan government's request, the Soviet Union became involved in the war. The mujahideen insurgency then fought against the Soviet and Afghan government troops during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union pulled out of the conflict in the late 1980s the mujahideen fought each other in the subsequent Afghan Civil War.
The mujahideen were significantly financed and armed (and are alleged to have been trained) by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Carter and Reagan administrations and the governments of Saudi Arabia, the People's Republic of China, several Western European countries, Iran, and Zia-ul-Haq's military regime in Pakistan. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was the interagent used in the majority of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance.
The main base station of mujahideen in Pakistan was the town Badaber, 24 km from Peshawar. Afghanistan mujahideen were trained in the Badaber base under supervision by military instructors from U.S.A., Pakistan, Republic of China .The base served as the concentration camp for Soviet and DRA captives as well. In 1985, the uprising of captives destroyed the base, but the incident was concealed by Pakistani and Soviet governments until the dissolution of the USSR.
Ronald Reagan praised mujahideen as "freedom fighters", and three mainstream Western films, the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, the 1988 action film Rambo III and the 2007 biographical movie Charlie Wilson's War, portrayed them as heroic.
Afghanistan's resistance movement was born in chaos and, at first, virtually all of its war was waged locally by regional warlords. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew. Even so, the basic units of mujahideen organization and action continued to reflect the highly segmented nature of Afghan society. Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied themselves into the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen.
Many Muslims from other countries volunteered to assist various mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, and gained significant experience in guerrilla warfare. Some groups of these veterans have been significant factors in more recent conflicts in and around the Muslim world. A wealthy Saudi named Osama bin Laden was a prominent organizer and financier of an all Arab islamist group of foreign volunteers; his Maktab al-Khadamat funnelled money, arms, and Muslim fighters from around the muslim world into Afghanistan, with the assistance and support of the Saudi and Pakistani governments. These foreign fighters became known as "Afghan Arabs" and their efforts were coordinated by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.
The mujahideen won when the Soviet Union pulled troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, followed by the fall of the Mohammad Najibullah regime in 1992. However, the mujahideen did not establish a united government, and many of the larger mujahideen groups began to fight each other over the power in Kabul. After several years of devastating infighting, a village mullah organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban, meaning "students", and referring to the Saudi-backed religious schools known for producing extremism. Veteran mujahideen were confronted by this radical splinter group in 1996.
By 2001, the Taliban, with backing from the Pakistani ISI (military intelligence) and possibly even the regular Pakistan Army, as well as al-Qaeda which found a refuge in Afghanistan, had largely defeated the militias and controlled most of the country. The opposition factions allied themselves together again and became known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance). In 2001 with U.S. help and international military aid, they ousted the Taliban from power and formed the new government, and gradually militias were either incorporated into the new national army and police forces or demobilized.
At present the term "mujahideen" is sometimes used to describe insurgents, including the Taliban/Al Qaeda, fighting NATO troops and the security forces of the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai and allied militias in Afghanistan, although most of the Mujahideen leaders who fought the Soviet Union later fought against the Taliban.
In 1947, the mostly Pashtun Muslim tribesmen tried to force the annexation of Kashmir by Pakistan. Pakistan claimed these people were independent mujahideen helping a local insurgency, while India claimed that the invaders were Pakistani irregulars supported by the Pakistani Army which was still being run by British officials. The British appointed non-Muslim Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh called upon help from British Indian army and the then Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru airlifted Indian troops to the region and tried to drive off the insurgents. Several different militant groups have since taken root in Indian Kashmir. Most noticeable of these groups are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). A 1996 report by Human Rights Watch estimated the number of active militants at 3,200.
Foreign mujahideen have played a part in both Chechen wars. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent Chechen declaration of independence, foreign fighters started entering the region and associated themselves with local rebels (most notably Shamil Basayev). Many of them were veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war and prior to the Russian invasion, they used their expertise to train the Chechen separatists. During the First Chechen War they were notorious and feared for their guerilla tactics, inflicting severe casualties on the badly prepared Russian forces. The mujahideen also made a significant financial contribution to the separatists’ cause; with their access to the immense wealth of Salafist charities like al-Haramein, they soon became an invaluable source of funds for the Chechen resistance, which had little resources of its own.
After the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya most of the mujahideen decided to remain in the country. In 1999, foreign fighters would play an important role in the ill-fated Chechen incursion into Dagestan, where they suffered a decisive defeat and where forced to retreat back into Chechnya. The incursion provided the new Russian government with a pretext for intervention and in December 1999 Russian ground forces invaded Chechnya again. In the Second Chechen War the separatists were less successful. Faced with a better prepared and more determined Russian forces, the Chechens were unable to hold their ground and as early as in 2002, Russian officials claimed the separatists had been defeated. The Russians also succeeded in eliminating the most prominent mujahideen commanders (most notably Ibn al-Khattab and Abu al-Walid).
Although the region has since been far from stable, separatist activity has decreased and although some foreign fighters are still active in Chechnya. In the last months of 2007, the influence of foreign fighters became apparent again when Dokka Umarov proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate, a pan-Caucasian Islamic state of which Chechnya was to be a province. This move caused a rift in the resistance movement between those supporting the Emirate and those who were in favour of preserving the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
Mujahideen came in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war after the massacre committed by the Serb forces on Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) civilians. They intended to wage a holy war against the perpetrators. The number of volunteers is estimated by some newspaper reports to have been about 4,000, but some recent research discards such claims estimating 400 foreign volunteers. They came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Albania; to quote the summary of the ICTY judgement:
It is alleged that mujahideen participated in some incidents considered to be war crimes according to the international law. However no indictment was issued by the ICTY against them, but a few Bosnian Army officers were indicted on the basis of superior criminal responsibility. Amir Kubura and Enver Hadžihasanović were found not guilty on all counts related to the incidents involving mujahideen. Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber noted that the relationship between the 3rd Corps of the Bosnian Army headed by Hadžihasanović and the El Mujahedin detachment was not one of subordination but was instead close to overt hostility since the only way to control the detachment was to attack them as if they were a distinct enemy force. In the case against Rasim Delic, the former commander of the Bosnian Army General Staff, the ICTY Trial Chamber decided, with a majority of votes, presiding judge Moloto dissenting, that the former commander had effective control over the members of the El Mujahid Detachment, but had no knowledge of the crimes they committed, although in one case he had reason to know of their tendency to treat prisoners of war cruelly. He was sentenced to three years of prison for failure to prevent or punish the cruel treatment of twelve captured Serb soldiers in the village of Livade and in the Kamenica camp near Zavidovici in July and August 1995 at the hands of the Mujahideen. The general will remain in the Detention Unit until the end of the appellate proceedings.
According to the Serbian press a few hundred Mujahideen fighters from the Middle East and other parts of the world later joined the KLA to fight against Serbian and Macedonian forces in Kosovo war 1997–1999. Allegedly some of them formed their own units with Albanian leaders who spoke Arabic fluently. The greatest involvement was in the conflicts along the border with Albania as well as in the Battle of Koshara. After the war most of the foreign volunteers went back to their home lands, and some of them remained in Kosovo and Macedonia where they became citizens.
Another mujahideen was the Mujahedin-e Islam, an Islamic party led by Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani. It was a component of the National Front (Iran) during the time of Mohammed Mosaddeq's oil nationalization, but broke away from Mosaddeq over his allegedly unIslamic policies.
A sizable number of mujahideen are present and concentrated in the province of Arakan, Myanmar. They were much more active before the 1962 coup d'etat by General Ne Win. Ne Win carried out some military operations targeting them over a period of two decades. The prominent one was "Operation King Dragon" which took place in 1978; as a result, many Muslims in the region fled to neighboring country Bangladesh as refugees. Nevertheless, the Myanmar mujahideen are still active within the remote areas of Arakan. Their associations with Bangladeshi mujahideen were significant but they have extended their networks to the international level and countries such as Pakistan, Malaysia, et al, during the recent years. They collect donations, and get religious military training outside of Myanmar.
The Somali Civil War (2006) changed radically due to Ethiopian involvement. Before their entry into the conflict in July, 2006, the struggle between the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and the warlord-based Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism and the fledgling Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was an internal struggle between Somali Muslims, particularly those who preferred a secular state to one ruled by sharia law. Now faced with the presence of forces from the historically Christian Ethiopia, the ICU began to frame the war as one of jihad, and called its citizens to rise in arms to throw the Ethiopians out of the country.
In July 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western states that his al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there. Foreign fighters began to arrive, though there were official denials of the presence of mujahideen in the country. Even so, the threat of jihad was made openly and repeatedly in the months proceeding the Battle of Baidoa. On December 23, 2006, Islamists, for the first time, called upon international fighters to join their cause. The term mujahideen is now openly used by the post-ICU resistance against the Ethiopians and the TFG.