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The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia

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And the desi flavour of salafism

 

In the history of nineteenth-century India, the pivotal event was

the 1857 Revolt, also called the Sepoy Mutiny, when Muslim princes,

peasants and townsmen attempted to eliminate British power and

influence throughout North India. The outcome was utter defeat for

The Wahhabi Mission and Islamic Revivalism. The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia

Indian Muslims, the final destruction of the once mighty Mughal

dynasty and the imposition of direct British imperial rule, known

as the Raj. Muslims reacted to the loss of political power in several

ways. Some attempted to accommodate British rule by espousing

a modernist interpretation of Islam and establishing a college that

would prepare Muslim youth for participation in the imperial

system.50 Others focused on reviving the community of believers

through an educational campaign to purify religious practice. That

tendency emerged in a town north of Delhi called Deoband and it

is therefore known as the Deobandi movement. While they shared

the Wahhabis’ dedication to ritual correctness, their scrupulous

adherence to the Hanafi legal school clearly set them apart from the

Arabian Hanbalis.51

The first documented contact between the Wahhabi mission

and an Indian revivalist movement relates to the Ahl-i Hadith (the

‘Hadith Folk’), a name coined by its foremost religious teacher and

a renowned scholar of Hadith, Nazir Husayn, in 1864.52 He was

famous for emphasizing the primacy of Prophetic traditions as the

source for Islamic law. Like other purification movements, the Ahl-i

Hadith strove to eliminate such religious practices as visits to Sufi

shrines and intercessionary prayers, which it considered illegitimate

innovations. Ahl-i Hadith scholars and Wahhabis agreed that Sufis

and Shiites were not true believers. The movement also shared with

the Wahhabis the desire to revive the teachings of Ibn Taymiyya and

a tendency to express intolerance toward other Muslims (Ahl-i Hadith

preachers compared Delhi’s Muslims to idolaters).53 On the other

hand, its scholars insisted that to arrive at a correct understanding

of Islamic law it was necessary to rely solely on the Qur’an and the

Sunna, so they insisted on disregarding the four Sunni law schools.54

The Wahhabis, of course, followed the Hanbali school and accepted

the other Sunni schools as valid. This rejection of the legal schools

did not interfere with the development of friendly ties with Wahhabi

ulama but it did result in an intense controversy between the Ahl-i

Hadith and the staunchly Hanafi Deobandis.55

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And now Qutbism.

 

The stark proclamation that Muslims are living in a jahili condition

and hence are idolaters, makes it natural to see affinities between

the outlook of Sayyid Qutb and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

 

..............

 

Similarities and affinities aside, Qutb and Muhammad

ibn Abd al-Wahhab lived in different historical circumstances and

had different concerns and intellectual methods.71 Whereas Sheikh

Muhammad never had an inkling of European intrusion into Najd,

Qutb lived through the era of European colonialism and saw Arab

countries gain political independence. In the post-colonial era,

however, they retained western (jahili) legal, cultural, economic

and political forms instead of restoring Islam. In Qutb’s eyes, Saudi

Arabia was included in the roster of jahili countries because of its close

relations with the USA.

 

.....................

 

For the Wahhabis, the key issue was correct

understanding of monotheism and conforming to the requirements

of that understanding, that is, refraining from any action or saying

that suggested the worship of a being other than God. Qutb’s

writings say nothing about these matters. For Qutb, acting on the

monotheist imperative meant establishing a social and political order

in conformity with God’s will as expressed through the shari’a.

 

........................

 

Furthermore, Qutb’s method for interpreting the Qur’an and the

Sunna was utterly unacceptable to Wahhabi ulama. His rejection

of traditional scholastic reasoning for a personal, subjective, even

intuitive, approach made him an original thinker and probably

accounts for the popularity of his works. But some of the lessons

he drew from the Qur’an and his theological views appalled the

Wahhabi ulama. Therefore, leading Wahhabi scholars displayed a

cool attitude toward Qutb’s writings because they contained what

they considered grave errors in essential doctrine and offensive

characterizations of Muhammad’s [PBUH] Companions.

 

........................

 

The pre-eminent Wahhabi sheikh of the early 1990s,

Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz, publicly faulted Qutb for errors in his widely

read commentary on the Qur’an. For instance, on a doctrinal point

pertaining to God’s unity, Qutb interpreted the Qur’anic verse that

describes God sitting on a throne as a metaphor for God’s hegemony

over creation. The Wahhabis insisted on a literal interpretation and

rejected anything else as a distortion of God’s word. Ibn Baz also

objected to Qutb’s discussion of the first Muslim civil war in which

Muawiya defeated Ali. According to Qutb, Muawiya prevailed by

resorting to deception and bribery whereas Ali refused to sink to that

level. Ibn Baz called this a repulsive slander against Muawiya, one

of the Prophet Muhammad’s Companions.

 

.......................

 

In fact, several prominent Wahhabi sheikhs

considered Qutb’s errors to stem from a lack of formal training in those

sciences. They underscored that he was a literary critic well-versed in

contemporary studies but certainly not a religious scholar.

 

If you have any doubts about islamic positoins discussed above, please ask in the q&a section. Just to cut long story short, Shaikh bin Baz was right.

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this seems very interesting. Thanks for the updates r-z. Keep em coming.

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Because Osama bin Laden and most of

the hijackers are Saudi nationals, it was assumed that al-Qaeda is

an expression of Wahhabism. That is not the case. Wahhabi ulama

have maintained that it is the prerogative of the ruler to determine

when conditions warrant jihad. Bin Laden and others in the jihadist

tendency have unmoored the authority to declare jihad from the state

and assumed that authority because they deem Al Saud and other

Muslim rulers to be apostate. Hence, al-Qaeda is part of the jihadist

tendency whose intellectual roots go back to the Sayyid Qutb.60

 

.................

 

In brief, the war in Afghanistan amplified the

jihadist tendency from a fringe phenomenon to a major force in the

Muslim world.

 

.............................

 

Azzam published the periodical al-Jihad to disseminate news about

Afghanistan in the Arab world and to spread jihadist ideology.

His location in Peshawar, the gathering place for mujahidin from

many countries, meant that his views would spread to distant

corners of the Muslim world and he consequently became the most

influential voice in the ‘transnational salafi jihadist movement’.70

Azzam considered the Afghan jihad a religious duty binding on all

Muslims, not just those of Afghanistan. In terms of Islamic law, he

was making a radical argument, weaving together texts from the

Qur’an, Ibn Taymiyya and Sayyid Qutb.

 

 

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Long long ago, in a land far far away, Babylonian attacks Kuwait, and Saudi asks for american help.

 

 

The crisis

over Kuwait did, however, set off an unprecedented, intense and

public debate inside the kingdom that included challenges to senior

Wahhabi ulama from radical clerics and liberal reformers.

 

..............

 

Radical clerics were not the

only ones expressing dissatisfaction with the Saudi authorities. The

crisis atmosphere also emboldened liberals to urge Al Saud to enact

sweeping reforms that would create institutions to constrain royal

power. Hence, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait revealed deep fissures

between liberal and conservative forces that had been simmering

throughout the 1980s.

 

..................

 

The feuding camps harboured starkly different visions of

reform, but it seemed that everybody in the kingdom except Al Saud

sensed a palpable need for substantial change in basic institutions.

There seemed to be ubiquitous frustration at the government’s inability

to cope with systemic problems: worsening economic conditions,

financial corruption and moral hypocrisy in the ruling family and

strains between liberal (westernizing) and conservative (Wahhabi)

tendencies.84 The airing of contending visions and blueprints for

reform marked a departure in Saudi politics and took a number of

forms: petitions to the government, books and cassette recordings of

sermons and speeches.

The first public initiative came from a group of former government

officials, Aramco technocrats, university professors and businessmen

who articulated the outlook of Saudi Arabia’s liberal tendency.85 In

December 1990, they submitted a petition addressing four main issues

to King Khalid.

 

........................

 

The liberal petition boldly challenged the religious camp, which

responded in May 1991 with its own petition, ‘The Letter of Demands’,

bearing over 400 signatures, including those of leading ulama like

Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz. The document’s twelve points drew attention

to the need for repairing many of the same institutions as the secular

petition, but with the difference that the essential principles for the

clerics were conformity to the shari’a and ascertaining the morality

of office-holders.

 

.............................

 

When the religious camp’s petition reached the palace, King Fahd

responded angrily. He had security forces banish many signatories

from preaching and teaching; others were sent to prison; petitions and

cassette tapes criticizing the government were banned. A chastened

Challenges to Wahhabi Hegemony

180 The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia

Ibn Baz submitted a memorandum to apologize for the Letter of

Demands’ tone and for publishing it at all rather than adhering to

the customary Wahhabi principle that counsel to a ruler should be

private.88 Repressive measures caused the religious camp to split into

dissident and establishment factions. Dissidents continued to circulate

cassette tapes criticizing the kingdom’s relations with the USA and

other policies like girls’ education. In December 1991, Ibn Baz publicly

condemned the dissidents for spreading ‘lies and conspiracies against

Islam and Muslims’.89 That declaration dramatically marked the rift

that was opening in Saudi religious circles.

 

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When the Taliban rose to power and imposed a harsh

regime of Islamic law and morality, it was common to view it as

a manifestation of Wahhabism. While it is true that Saudi Arabia’s

government and

Wahhabi establishment lent support to the Taliban, the

Afghan puritans emerged not from Wahhabism but from the

Indian Deobandi movement.

 

...............

 

The movement picked up momentum after 1947, when the

British partitioned South Asia into Hindu-majority India and Muslimmajority

Pakistan, where Deobandis created an organization, the

Jamaati Ulama Islam (JUI), to spread their views. They figured as

a fairly minor part of Pakistan’s religious scene until the regime of

General Zia al-Haq (1977–1988), who used an Islamic policy to buttress

his military dictatorship. Part of his policy to ‘Islamize’ Pakistan was a

campaign to expand religious education with funds for thousands of

new madrasas.

 

....................

 

With financial support from Saudi Arabia, Deobandi madrasas were part

of this vast proliferation in religious education, much of it located in

Afghan refugee camps that sprang up in the 1980s. This rapid expansion

came at the expense of the movement’s doctrinal coherence as there

were not enough qualified teachers to staff all the new schools. Quite

Challenges to Wahhabi Hegemony

192 The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia

a few teachers did not discern between tribal values of their ethnic

group, the Pushtuns, and the religious ideals of Islam. The result was

an interpretation of Islam that blended Pushtun ideals and Deobandi

views, precisely the hallmark of the Taliban.

 

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In the first week of November 2003, the holy city of Mecca was

the scene of a fierce fire fight. Then, on 8 November 2003, a suicide

car bomb attack on a Riyadh residential compound, this one housing

mostly Muslim expatriates, killed 18 people. In spite of efforts to

capture suspects and uncover caches of explosives and weapons, the

militants continued their campaign in 2004 with a series of bombings,

shootings and kidnappings in Riyadh, Yanbu on the Red Sea coast

and Khobar in the Eastern Province.

 

The arrival of al-Qaeda’s jihad on Saudi soil intensified a public

debate that began in 1999, when the government decided to permit

contending views in publications and on Internet websites.152 The

debate has revealed the contours of religious tendencies – Wahhabi,

sahwa, jihadist and liberal Islamist – jockeying for influence. Of

course, the Wahhabi establishment maintains a firm grip on the

official religious institutions that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, but

in the forum of public opinion it has at least temporarily lost ground

to the sahwa sheikhs’ Islamic revivalist message. Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz

and other senior figures had warned against the writings of Sayyid

Qutb for some years (see Chapter Five). In the late 1990s, Sheikh

Muhammad ibn Uthaymin attempted to dissuade young Saudis from

listening to the recorded sermons of sahwa sheikhs because they

expressed errant views.

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That's all folks. Any comments? Debate? Some thing you found fishy? Contradictory to what you know?

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Clear as mud. May i simplify? Basically, in reaction to perceived liberalizing influences, three puritanical ideas emerged. The first created the Wahabi movement in reaction to imperial rule from the Ottoman. They believe that sharia is still under the scholarly influence of four main schools of law, Madhab (Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi'i, and Maliki). They perceive Islam as to be interpreted as it was from the first without any later influences using mainly the unarguable tenents of the Q'ran and sunnah as their guide, and political point of view. They made ally with the house of Saud and through conquest became the spiritual guide in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They are the counter balance to the ruler yet subservient to his rule. The next was the Salafi folks. They came about as a reaction to the direct western influences brought about by European colonization and westernization of middle eastern society. They only look to the Q'ran and the sunnah for legal guidance and are eager to reject as false anything western, feeling these things will lead to false worship. Then, finally, we have the Deobandi group of folks that really came to the same conclusion as the Salafi group but from a different direction. They all really liked a guy named ibn Taymiyya who made legal argument on why any muslim that wasn't conservative wasn't a muslim and ok to kill. Lovely man. So they all determined at different times under different circumstances to use this focused conservatism to beat up on muslims who were not as anxious to force the issue as them, Sufi and Shia and the like.

It is intellectually dishonest to lump the Deobandis and Salafis into one thing. Incredible.

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It is intellectually dishonest to lump the Deobandis and Salafis into one thing. Incredible.

Salt. And no it's not I think. If Deobandi was strongly influenced by Wahhabi, both from a rejection of western influence, Wahhabi influenced heavily by Salafi writer- ibn Taymiyya. No, they are not the same. Buuut, they all react to western influences the same.

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Clear as mud. May i simplify? Basically, in reaction to perceived liberalizing influences, three puritanical ideas emerged. The first created the Wahabi movement in reaction to imperial rule from the Ottoman. They believe that sharia is still under the scholarly influence of four main schools of law, Madhab (Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi'i, and Maliki). They perceive Islam as to be interpreted as it was from the first without any later influences using mainly the unarguable tenents of the Q'ran and sunnah as their guide, and political point of view. They made ally with the house of Saud and through conquest became the spiritual guide in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They are the counter balance to the ruler yet subservient to his rule. The next was the Salafi folks. They came about as a reaction to the direct western influences brought about by European colonization and westernization of middle eastern society. They only look to the Q'ran and the sunnah for legal guidance and are eager to reject as false anything western, feeling these things will lead to false worship. Then, finally, we have the Deobandi group of folks that really came to the same conclusion as the Salafi group but from a different direction. They all really liked a guy named ibn Taymiyya who made legal argument on why any muslim that wasn't conservative wasn't a muslim and ok to kill. Lovely man. So they all determined at different times under different circumstances to use this focused conservatism to beat up on muslims who were not as anxious to force the issue as them, Sufi and Shia and the like.

 

I'd say the three groups emerged simultaneously (on time scale of historical proportions) each with different motivation at first. But then they influenced each other. ps> ibn taymiyya didn't say that.

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