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Mohammed Atta Told His Men: Shout 'Allahu Akbar,' Wear Socks that Stay Up

In this series, Newsweek maps the road to 9/11 as it happened 20 years ago, day by day.

Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi went shopping on September 2 at the Winn-Dixie grocery store at 1019 S. Federal Highway in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Part of what they purchase are Gillette Mach 3 razor blades.

The blades are particularly important in the rituals of suicide bombing, as jihadis wash their bodies, cut their nails and shave off their body hair in anticipation of death, preparing the body to be clean when it enters heaven. Traditionally, Muslims do the same to corpses in an Islamic burial rite, and Atta instructed all 19 men not just to go through these rituals and shave their bodies on the night of September 10, but also pray as a devotion to personal purity.

In a letter Atta delivered to his compatriots, a copy of which was found in his checked luggage that never made it onto his Boston flight, he instructed the hijackers on what suras (chapters) they should read. "God the Exalted said [in the Qur'an] "'and obey God and his messenger [Muhammad] and do not dispute with one another lest you fail and your strength leave you; but be steadfast. God is indeed with the steadfast,'" Atta wrote, telling the other hijacker that they would be faced with doubts and questions but they needed to "tame their souls."

He also instructs the hijackers to tighten their clothes and shoes and wear socks that "stay up in the shoes and don't fall out of them." He says that is the tradition of the early Muslims (salafs) who used to tighten their dress before battle.

"You must not let it be noticed about you that you recite the credo, 'There is no god but God,'"Atta wrote. "For though you recite it a thousand times, no one should be able to distinguish whether you were silent or mentioning God. The greatness of [the phrase] 'There is no god but God' is shown by the statement of the Prophet that 'he who recites there is no god but God and whose heart believes in it, enters Paradise.'"

Twin Towers Second Plane
Shout "Allahu Akbar" at the moment of attack, Mohammed Atta told his men. Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Getty

Atta instructs each muscle man to shout "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest) at the moment of attack "for this cry strikes fear in the hearts of unbelievers."

"God the Exalted said [in the Qur'an], 'strike their necks and their fingertips.' Know that Paradise has been most beautifully decorated for you and that the maidens of Paradise are calling you to meet them, oh devotee of God, and they have put on their most beautiful clothes."

"Smile in the face of doom, young man," he writes, "for you are passing to the gardens of eternity."

Follow the Newsweek live tweet of September 11, 2001 (based upon the new book On That Day) starting at 4:45 a.m. EST @Roadto911.

Newsweek is reconstructing the road to 9/11 as it was constructed 20 years ago, day by day. Each day a new story will be published here. On September 11 we'll live tweet the events of the day, minute by minute, starting at 4:45 a.m. EST, @RoadTo911.