Religious leaders are seen as pious individuals who possess proper religious training and credentials, and thus are considered the chief religious ideologues of the jihadi movement. Their firebrand sermons and writings, distributed throughout the Muslim world, are key motivational tools used for recruiting and inspiring jihadi activists. It is therefore not surprising that such leaders are common motifs in jihadi imagery and are used as symbols of the religious piety espoused by the jihadi movement. Their images serve to religiously legitimize jihadi groups and promote activism along purely Islamic lines. As a strategic leader, the figure serves as an example of someone who is both a religiously pious individual and a militarily successful jihadi commander doing God’s work.
Here, Mullah ‘Umar’s face is looking upward, as if toward the heavens. The insertion of the divine is complemented by the greenery in the background, which resonates the idea of God’s benevolence, and is symbolic of creation, life and sustenance. The caption reads “amir al-mu’minin al-mulah ‘umar—ta’amulat ba‘ida” (“commander of the faithful, Mullah ‘Umar—deep reflections”).