Friday, April 22, 2016

Wahhabism - A Backgrounder

Updated December 2016

Many of us who follow non-mainstream media sources for our education realize that Saudi Arabia's version of Islam is different than the versions practiced in other Islamic nations.  Wahhabism, the version practiced by the Saudi royal family, has been the Islamic version of choice by the House of Saud since Adbulaziz ibn Saud began to conquer the Arabia Peninsula in the 1930s.  Let's look at a bit of background history of this movement which will help us better understand why Saudi Arabia seems to be connected to a great deal of the world's problems with anti-infidel terrorism.  Please note that throughout this posting, I may interchangeably use the terms Wahhabist and Salafist (from the word salaf which means to "follow", a reference to the followers of Mohammed).

The Wahhabi movement was founded by Muhammad ibn And al-Wahhab who lived between 1703 and 1792.  He was a Sunni theologian who was disgruntled with the changes to Islam that had occurred since it was founded in the 7th century AD.  He called for a return to the more austere and pure version of Islam that was practiced in its earliest days.  He despised the "decorous, arty, tobacco-smoking, hashish-imbibing, drum-pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca" as part of their lifetime pilgrimage.  In his view, these were not true Muslims.  In addition, the impoverished and uneducated Bedouin tribes that lived scattered throughout the Arabian Peninsula also practiced a non-acceptable version of Islam that was tinged with idolatry and superstition, one that honoured saints by erecting tombstones and by revering graves and places that they regarded as holy.  Abd al-Wahhab denounced these practices as bida or forbidden by God.  One of the main tenets of And al-Wahhab's doctrine has been the concept of takfir; under this doctrine, Wahhabists can deemed fellow Muslims to be infidels should they engage in any activities that could be seen to encroach on the powers of the absolute authority.  In the case of Saudi Arabia, this absolute authority is the King.  Abd al-Wahhab's insistence on these very radical views led to his expulsion from his home town and, in 1741, he found refuge under the protection of the al-Saud clan, one of the many clans that divided up the Arabian desert.  Under a mutually beneficial deal that they struck, the Wahhabis would help the al-Sauds expand their control over the Arabian peninsula and in return, the al-Sauds would adopt Wahhabism as their official religion.  This alliance was quite successful; by the early 1800s, the al-Sauds expanded their control from a tiny sliver of land to the entire Arabian peninsula, forming the Emirate of Diriyah.  Unfortunately for the al-Sauds, their empire collapsed in 1818 when it was defeated by the Ottoman Empire.  That said, the al-Sauds and Wahhabists maintained their strong connection.  When Abdulaziz al-Saud was born in 1876, the region that is currently known as Saudi Arabia was once again a patchwork of tribal leaders, some of which were loyal to the Ottoman Empire.  Abdulaziz realized that if he wanted to regain control of his family's former empire, he needed the help of the Wahhabists, so, like his forefathers, he struck a deal to create a fundamentalist militia known as the Ikhwan (The Brethren).  This Wahhabist religious militia which reached a size of about 60,000 men by 1915, formed from an alliance of nomadic tribesmen and played a key role in establishing the current Saudi royal family as the rulers of the vast majority of the Arabian peninsula.  When the Saudi government came into power in 1932 under the leadership Abdulaziz who had anointed himself as king of the Saudis, it unified all of the various tribal beliefs that had divided the Saudi peninsula, into one "purer", extremely orthodox version of Islam.

The tenets of the Wahhabi sect include:

A literal belief in the Quran.

A belief in the establishment of a Muslim state based only on Shariah, Muslim law. 

Rejection of the use of holy intermediaries to win the favor of God. 

No name but God's to be cited in prayer. 

A fervent rejection of all innovations not directly advancing Islam.

No smoking, shaving or abusive language. 

The rejection of leadership roles for women.

Mosque architecture is minimalist, lacking ornamentation or minarets. 

Men must attend public prayer.

Certain practices in Saudi Arabia are quite closely connected to Wahhabism; women must not appear in public unless they are completely covered, women are not allowed to drive vehicles, until recently, women could not run for political office or vote, women cannot open a bank account without the permission of her husband, adultery is punishable by death (stoning), stealing is punishable by amputating the right hand and acts of treason, homosexuality and murder are all punishable by death.  Oddly enough, these punishments are quite similar to the punishments that are used by ISIS for similar crimes.

Wahhabism teaches that there are two sides to the spiritual coin; the followers of Wahhabism (also known as the Salafist movement) are the chosen ones who will go to heaven unlike the rest of the world including non-Wahhabist Muslims, Jews, Christians and just about everyone else who practices any other religion.  All of these people are to be persecuted and killed and their personal property is to be confiscated.  According to the Islamic Supreme Council of America, Wabbahist ideology is "...built on the concept of political enforcement of religious beliefs, thus permitting no differences in faith whatsoever. In "Wahhabi" belief, faith is not necessarily an option; it is sometimes mandated by force."      This is in sharp contrast to the original Islamic ideology which "...was always presented in a peaceful, tolerant manner. The Prophet Muhammad used to present his neighbors or friends that were not Muslim with gifts and flowers, never holding a sword against them, or ever instigating a struggle or a fight. There are many events in Muslim history where the Prophet made peace treaties with non-Muslims. Islam, despite its rapid spread in its first three centuries, never imposed its beliefs on anyone, as attested by the scrolls of history. "  

Despite their adherence to the most virulent form of Islam, Wahhabist-based extremists have ruled that it is permissible to produce and sell drugs on the streets of both Islamic and non-Islamic nations with the goal of financing their global network.  In light of what is currently happening in Saudi Arabia, here is another quote from the Islamic Supreme Council:

"Wahhabi belief provides the religious and ideological underpinnings to enable militant movements to take up arms against existing governments if they deem the need arises. Though these movements are ideological in nature, they easily resort to armed struggle. While most governments are able to reconcile and reach compromises -- as one may easily compromise with a moderate Muslim -- extremists reject any kind of compromise, insisting on their way and no other. They have tunnel vision, believing in a duty and message to deliver. 

The extremists who have turned militant declare war against anyone with viewpoints contrary to theirs; thus, declaration of war against a government is commonplace. In Egypt, they oppose their government. Similarly in Jordan, they oppose their government. In Syria, Pakistan, Algeria, and many other countries "Wahhabi-minded" groups oppose their governments as they have begun to do in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The approach of these movements is to infiltrate mosques, Islamic teaching centers, and charitable organizations from where they indoctrinate religiously oriented people with their ideas and methods. They forcefully impose their views on weak societies, in hopes of conquering one and establishing a base for further control. They justify their militant acts and illegal means of financing their cause by claiming to wage a "jihad" for the preservation of Islam. 

Today, we have many examples of this phenomenon, whether it is individuals declaring war on America, or vigilante groups coming against their governments in Central Asia. This contradicts the explicit teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, not to oppose a ruler as long as he does not prevent the performance of prayer, even if he commits injustice. Thus, those of the Wahhabi mentality use Islam when it suits them and likewise, contravene it at their convenience.” (my bold)

Today, Wahhabist beliefs are spread through the press and, most importantly, through the education system in Saudi Arabia and madrasas (educational institutes) throughout the world.  While the government of Saudi Arabia claims that it has gained control over its own education system, the same cannot be said for the Islamic education system in other nations which still use Wahhabist-based textbooks.  Here are extracts from Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks from a report by the Center for Religious Freedom.  Please keep in mind that these texts may be in use in Western nations where Muslims live in close proximity to non-Muslims:

1.) First Grade Textbook:

Every religion other than Islam is false.

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire):  Every religion other than _____ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____.

Give examples of false religions, like Judaism, Christianity, paganism, etc.

Explain that when someone dies outside of Islam, hellfire is his fate.

2.) Fourth Grade Textbook on Monotheism and Jurisprudence:

Belief is not just a word that a person pronounces with the tongue. It consists of speech, conviction, and action.

True belief means:...That you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly.

3.) Fifth Grade Textbook on Monotheism, Jurisprudence and Qur'an Recitation:

It is not permitted to be a loyal friend to those who oppose God and His Prophet. Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot be loyal to those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives.

4.) Eighth Grade textbook on Monotheism:

The student notes some of the Jews' condemnable qualities.

The student is warned against imitating the Jews and Christians' excessive veneration of righteous men.

They are the people of the Sabbath, whose young people God turned into apes, and whose old people God turned into swine to punish them.” “As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the keepers of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christian infidels of the communion of Jesus.”

5.) Twelfth Grade textbook on Islamic Culture which includes a chapter entitled "Jihad in the Path of God":

Jihad in the path of God – which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it – is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.

Muslim scholars have agreed that jihad to spread the faith of God is an obligation, but it is a collective obligation

Thanks to Saudi Arabia's massive oil-based wealth, the Wahhabi/Salafi doctrine has made substantial inroads throughout the Sunni world which comprises 85 percent of all Muslims.   According to estimates in 2006, Saudi Arabia spent $75 billion in the last quarter century supporting this version of Islam which often forms the basis for the curriculums of international schools that are directly supported by the Saudi state.  In India alone, the years between 2011 and 2013 saw 25,000 Wahhabists enter India with the goal of establishing mosques and educational facilities including universities and madrasas to counter India's Shia dominance.  They had budgeted Rs 1700 crore or $115 million US for the cause.

Given the rigid beliefs of the Wahhabist sect, it is no wonder that its most radicalized members have been connected to recent terrorist activity, particularly September 11, 2001 and most recently as a motivating factor for at least some of ISIS' jihadists.   While it is understandable that, despite its horrible human rights record, the United States has to sustain open communication with Saudi Arabia as shown here: has to wonder why the Clinton Foundation would find a donation of between $10,000,001 and $25,000,000 from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia acceptable.

What is particularly appalling is, that as Hillary Clinton put it, the United States regards Saudi Arabia as a "close and strategic partner in many of the critical issues facing our world today" given that it is the source of many of these critical issues.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of excellent information provided in this post. This backs up my own thoughts about the difference between Sunni and Shias. I have always seen Shias as the lesser evil of the two branches. However there is obviously more then one type of Sunni, Wahhabi/Salafi type makes up how much of the Sunni side?