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, the image includes pictures of Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the caption in Arabic describes him as “qa‘id al-ajyal al-mubaraka, hafizahu Allah” (“commander of the blessed generations/tribes, may God keep him safe”). The Arabic phrase “ajyal mubarak” (“blessed generations/ tribes”) is a commonly used phrase in jihadi propaganda. In this image, the phrase is enhanced by the images of children, which highlight the perceived inter-generational character of the jihadi struggle. Finally, the map of Afghanistan is used to designate the country as an important theater for jihad, and to imply a national obligation to join the struggle to establish a true Islamic state there.