By Imtiaz Thaha/Daily FT
Easter Sunday seemed to be another peaceful day in Sri Lanka. Then suddenly there was pandemonium as five bombs exploded and a carefully-planned ISIS-oriented bombing resulted in nearly 300 lives being lost to the deadly bombs with scores of people injured. The ISIS had struck in Sri Lanka this time.
The killers were suicide bombers and of Sri Lankan ethnicity. In a matter of hours, the authorities identified the killers as Sri Lankan Muslims belonging to the National Thawheed Jamaat. Suddenly the Sri Lankan Muslims who were hitherto a very peaceful people were now looked upon as merciless killers. Every Muslim was now a suspect and was fearful of communal backlash and riots. A very scary time for them as the majority community looked at them with suspicion and hatred.
How did the Muslims who were a peaceful people get entangled in this mess? They were less than 10% of the population and could be victimised and targeted so very easily. The mobs were screaming for blood. The Government imposed a curfew to contain the situation. It was however a Christian Cardinal who addressed the nation on mainstream media who saved the day and brought about, at least a temporary stop to the mobs running riot. It was his flock that had paid the price. The dead were mostly Christians and foreigners.
Sadly, none of the Muslim politicians or even the President or the Prime Minister or the Cabinet Ministers were able to appease the mobs so that they wouldn’t attack and loot the Muslims. This was however successfully accomplished by the Cardinal with his clever approach.
It would take time for the people and mainly the majority race to find out that these killers were not Muslims who followed Islam, but a group known as the Wahhabis or Salafis with their peculiar brand of interpreting Islam. In this article I shall try to show that the Muslims have nothing to do with Wahhabism, that Wahhabism is not Islam. Islam is against and has always been against Wahhabism.
Islam is a tolerant religion and Wahhabism seeks to terrorise. Islam does not compel others to embrace it. Wahhabism destroys all those opposed to it. Islam seeks to live a good life and Wahhabism seeks to restrict it. Islam respects other religions while the Wahhabis seek the destruction of all ideologies other than theirs. Islam seeks beauty and culture, but the Wahhabis want to destroy all culture, art and civilisation. I can go on and on about the difference in ideologies but suffice it shall be for now.
Islam encourages all faiths to intermingle and integrate among themselves. Islam teaches respect and love between all communities and religions. Islam encourages peace and advancement. Wahhabism is just the opposite of this. The Wahhabis do not tolerate anyone belonging to another faith and treat them like enemies.
My purpose in writing this article is to be able to differentiate between Islam and Wahhabism and to deal with each as they deserve. Let’s start with the very roots and see how far this cancer has eaten into society. Wahhabism is trying to pervert Islam to bring disrepute to it. They want Islam to be hated and made into a terrorist belief so that their political agendas are met. Let’s trace their beginnings and look into their beliefs and ideology in order to understand their motives and plan.
The fanatic – The roots of present-day Wahhabism
It all began with Ibn Taymiyyah. The Wahhabis get their ideology from him. They refer to Ibn Taymiyyah as Sheikh Ul Islam. His full name was Ahmad Ibn Abdul Halim Ibn Abdul Salam Ibn Taymiyyah, he was born in 1263 in Harran, Turkey about 600 years after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sal). He died in 1328, aged 65 in Damascus, Syria. This was during the beginning of the Ottoman Empire, which reached great heights due to Islam, as it carried the banner of Islam during this time and which was officially established in 1299. Eturgul and his son Othman, the founders of the Ottoman Empire, lived during his time.
Ibn Taymiyyah was a person who liked to be different and was known for his peculiar and alien beliefs. He was disliked by the mainstream scholars of his time for trying to forge a new ideology that was opposed to the accepted views on Islam, well founded by a rich heritage of Scholars.
We are told that all the Sunni Scholars (the two main divisions in Islam were the Sunnis and Shiites) of that time signed a document that he was preaching harmful and destructive practices and requested that he be put to death. He was accused of spoiling the faith of the Muslims of the time and corrupting Islam. All the Four Schools (Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali Schools of Jurisprudence) of Thought at that time opposed him.
Although the death sentence was not carried out by the Governor of Damascus, Ibn Taymiyyah was jailed for life. He miserably failed to establish his destructive and hate ridden School of Thought and it failed in totality. It was observed that this man was a fanatic and his teachings included intolerance and violence and many were the books written by scholars from both Damascus and Egypt refuting these teachings of his. Thankfully it died a natural death during his time.
Taking advantage of the teachings of a fanatic
Muhammad Ibn al Abdul Wahhab was born In Najd in Arabia and now Saudi Arabia in the year 1703, which was about 375 years after the death of Ibn Taymiyyah. He was the one who succeeded in bringing Ibn Taymiyyah’s teachings to the fore and was highly successful in most of the Arab countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
Although the average Wahhabi was trying to say that these teachings were Islam, the name Wahhabism stuck and is still used on those who follow these teachings much to the chagrin of the Wahhabis. There are hardly many differences between what is known as Wahhabi and Salafi. The enemies of Wahhabism used this term in a derogatory sense. So, the Wahhabis coined another name for themselves and called themselves Salafis. The British and Ibn Saud both needed Wahhabism to fulfil their political agendas. Let us shed some light on this.
The British factor
The Ottoman Empire had reached great heights, the Europeans were fighting the Ottoman Empire. The Crusades had happened, and Europe was wary of the Muslims. It was in short, a Christian and Muslim war for supremacy. The British Empire wanted to weaken and destroy the Ottoman Empire, they were always looking for ways and means to divide the Muslims so that they could achieve victory over them. It was during these times that the British made a plan to send in many spies to Turkey, the home of the Ottoman Empire. They planned a strategy to find out the weakest spot in the Ottoman Empire. They sent their spies in.
Ironically, my source is from one of the spies who made a confession by the name of Hempher. In his Confessions of a British Spy, he detailed that the British planned to gather information and use this information to destroy the Ottoman Empire. The spies found that each Muslim was equal in faith, to one of the Christian priests and that Islam was deeply lodged in their hearts and that their faith was very strong. The spies also reported, to weaken the faith of these Muslims; it would be necessary to plan out a strategy that would destroy Islam from within. With this purpose in mind the spies worked tirelessly to find a way to divide the Muslims. This spy, who I have mentioned above had the good fortune to meet with Muhammad ibn al Abdul Wahhab. In his estimation this scholar was all that they had been looking for.
Abdul Wahhab was a person with a rude disposition and did not have any respect for his peers or for the past scholars who were the Shining Stars of Islam. He looked down on Imam Abu Hanifa, (one of the Imams of the four Islamic Schools of Thought) and the other great Imams of the Islamic Schools of Thought. He was always trying to find fault with them and show that he was superior in intellect to these great religious personalities. He was greedy and was very ambitious. Hempher understood that he appeared to be the ideal tool with which he could contaminate Islam and to this end he began to work relentlessly.
Very soon he had befriended Abdul Wahhab and won his confidence. He begun to lay his trap. He even used two women named Saffiya and Asiya to have sexual relationships with Abdul Wahhab on a temporary marriage basis, which was anyway against Islam. From outside Hempher worked on him and from inside, from the bedrooms, the ladies got at him. The two ladies mentioned here according to Hempher were also funded by the espionage ring.
Slowly, they could see Abdul Wahhab walking into their trap. Because of his nature, Abdul Wahhab was attracted to fanaticism, intolerance and violence. This was the way of Ibn Taymiyyah as explained above. So, he made use of the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah to corrupt the teachings of Islam. He did this in a systematic and forceful manner and created an ideology which was to later be called by the name of ‘Wahhabism’. I would like to give the reference to the book below so that the readers may have access to the details of the British plan. The pdf is available to be downloaded free of charge below:
The Ibn Saud connection
During this time there was a person called Abdul-Aziz Ibn Abdur-Rahman Ibn Muhammad Al Saud. He was ambitious and was looking for a way to establish his power in Arabia. The British helped him with the most sophisticated arms at that time to win over and conquer the others and to form a Kingdom. They introduced into these regions, the Wahhabi ideology, now propounded by Abdul Wahhab, which they embraced as it also suited their purpose.
To rule in Arabia, and particularly to have the rights over Mecca and Medina, the two most holy places of Islam, it was necessary that the rulers be of the family of The Prophet (Sal) or the Hashemites (those who belong to the tribe of the Prophet known as the tribe of Banu Hashim). Ibn Saud did not fall into this category, so he had to change the ways of the thinking of the populous, so that his rule could be legitimised. Wahhabism gave them that opening.
The Prophet’s (Sal) family was not supposed to be specially respected in accordance with the Wahhabi teachings, as also the earlier Scholars and Saints too were not respected by Wahhabism. Wahhabism believed that personalities in Islam should not be looked up to and only Allah alone should be worshipped. So, this creed suited Ibn Saud to establish his Kingdom. The British got Ibn Saud and Abdul Wahhab into an alliance with each other, where the political backing would be given to Wahhabism by Ibn Saud and Wahhabism would be the official religion of Ibn Saud’s Kingdom, thereby serving both their purposes.
The New World Encyclopaedia summarises the Ibn Saud connection in the following words which gives us a greater insight into the Wahhabi conquest, expansion and rule in Arabia:
“In 1744, Ibn Abdul Wahhab sought refuge in the village of Dariyah. This district was ruled by the rebel Muhammad ibn Saud and his family, Al Saud, which was responsible for organised banditry within Najd. The family ruled Dariyah according to its own whims and the village was a place of lawlessness when Abdul Wahhab settled there. In 1747, he made a power-sharing agreement with the family; Abdul Wahhab would become Dariyah’s religious authority, while the Al Saud family would be responsible for the village’s political leadership.
“The Al Saud family also benefited from the pact, as the Wahhabi movement and its extreme religious fervor helped to legitimise their rule. The fusion of religious and political control would come to represent the modern Saudi Arabia, as well as mark the break between the Islam of the past, in which traditional Muslim scholars focused on inward contemplation as opposed to focusing on gaining global and political power.
“With this new power arrangement in place, Abdul Wahhab and his followers urged a ‘jihad,’ or ‘The Struggle’ to promote the faith, against other Muslims, and thus, the Wahhabis began a blood-soaked campaign for expansion and domination.
“Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s views were opposed to the mainstream Muslim scholars of Mecca and Medina of that time. For example, he called intermediation of Muhammad (Sal) an act of polytheism. Ibn Abdul Wahhab went so far as to declare jihad against Muslims who practised so-called acts of polytheism. By 1788, the Wahhab- Saud alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula.
“In 1801, the Wahhabis began a campaign to gain control over the two holy cities of Islam. They raided Mecca and Medina and stole holy books, works of art, and other gifts the city had accumulated over the last thousand years. While they controlled the Two Holy Places, they imposed Wahhabism upon the populace, destroyed shrines and cemeteries, closed off the entrances to the holy city, to Ottoman pilgrims, barred pilgrims from performing Hajj and murdered respected citizens in both holy cities.
“Through the 1820s to the 1860s, the Wahhabis launched attacks upon the Ottoman Empire, urged on by Great Britain, which was eager to see the collapse of the Turkish Empire and the distribution of its overseas possessions.
“The Wahhabis’ power grew and shrank by turns throughout the century, until in 1901, the latest representative of the Al Saud and Wahhabi alliance decided to try and re-seize control over the two holy cities, Mecca and Medina. Ibn Saud journeyed to Riyadh, where he murdered the city’s ruler and took over control of the country. Over the next twenty-five years, he went on to unify the Arabian Peninsula through force. Wahhabism was the only official faith sanctioned in the state that would come to be formed there. To this day, no other religious establishment is allowed in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Petro-dollars that helped spread Wahhabism to the world
Even though this alliance was made, and both continued successfully and captured various parts of Arabia, and destroyed culture and important shrines of Saints, Sahabas (Companions of Prophet Muhammad, Sal) and even of Prophets, Wahhabism still lacked global acceptance. History records the blood thirsty deeds of the Wahhabis during this time, with many massacres and gruesome deeds accomplished by them and the cruelty perpetrated on the innocent Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
This wasn’t sufficient to get Wahhabism on the map. Even Mecca and Medina were ransacked and thousands were killed. The Wahhabis took over the two most holy places of Islam. They thus became the custodians of Islam in the eyes of the world. But still Wahhabism as such was not spread till after the Arabs became super rich due to the discovery of oil. Once the petro dollars came in, they had all the wealth in the world to propagate this, harsh, cruel and intolerant ideology of Wahhabism to the world, under the guise of propagating true Islam.
The third world countries were especially targeted and large sums of money was spent in spreading Wahhabism to these lands. In 1970 and the period after, the Wahhabis gained a lot of ground by bribing poor countries and using influential individuals in those countries to establish their brand of Islam in the world.
Madrassas or religious schools were funded in these countries where a lot of money was pumped in to educate the children of many countries to Wahhabi doctrines and brainwash their minds into thinking that this was true Islam. Free Wahhabi doctrine books were freely distributed which then slowly became the syllabus of Islamic education in these countries.
Today terrorism and ISIS oriented attacks are a direct result of these teachings and they have nothing to do whatsoever with Islam. Many Muslims were taken in by these teachings and began to think that Islam was what Wahhabism taught. Even the world at large failed to understand that Islam was not Wahhabism, the Wahhabis relentlessly pursued their goal of corrupting and perverting Islam by making it change into the interpretation of Islam, given by Abdul Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyyah.
It is a sad story of how a most peaceful and tolerant Islam was changed to becoming known as a highly intolerant and cruel religion. Bombs begun exploding all over the world and thousands died. Suicide bombers carried out these attacks and the blame was put on the Muslims and on Islam. Islam being the peaceful religion it was, became known as terrorism and all the while it was Wahhabism that was being projected and implemented and not Islam, the Religion of Peace.
This has reached to such alarming proportions that people are fearful of being in the presence of a Muslim as they associate Muslims to be violent terrorists waiting to ignite explosives and bombs. This has caused fear which is now known and called as Islamophobia.
Glorious era of Islamic civilisation and dark doctrine of Wahhabism compared
I give below a few thoughts about the Islamic world given in an article entitled ‘The Islamic world in the middle ages’ (https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/zx9xsbk/revision/1):
“Throughout the Middle Ages, the Muslim world was more advanced and more civilised than Christian Western Europe, which learned a huge amount from its neighbour.
“The ‘Islamic world’ was not a single state in the Middle Ages, but the different countries which formed it, had many things in common.
“This fact is hidden from the world today and only very few know about the great Islamic civilisation that was known as the Golden Era.
“It was created by the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries. From the 11th to the 16th centuries many thousands of Turks and Mongols migrated across the vast plains of Central Asia into the Middle East. They also adopted Islam. It stretched from India to Spain. Muslim traders travelled to places as far apart as the Sahara, South Africa, China, Scandinavia and Russia. Muslims traded high-quality goods such as silk, carpets, ivory and spices.
“Knowledge of science and medicine in the Islamic world was far more sophisticated than in Western Europe. Cordoba in Muslim Spain was a city of over half a million inhabitants with street lighting and running water. At the same time 10,000 Londoners lived in timber-framed houses and used the river as their sewer.
“Muslims were going to beauty parlours, using deodorants and drinking from glasses, at a time when English books of behaviour were still telling pageboys not to pick their noses over their food, spit on the table or throw uneaten food onto the floor.”
The extract quoted above is a short synopsis of how glorious the Islamic world was before the advent of Wahhabism. Many have been the books written on the Golden Era of Islamic civilisation and subsequent Islamic History, extolling the greatness and glory of Islam and its tolerance of other faiths. The world respected the Muslims and its culture.
This glorious period resulted in cultural monuments and architecture reaching to great heights. The romance of the Taj Mahal, the fascinating Arabian Nights, the wonder of Topkapi, and the Great Mosque Architectural Constructions in Cordoba, to mention just a few, all bear witness to this magnificent civilisation.
In contrast today, Wahhabism has cast a shadow of death, mayhem, mass murder, torture, cruelty, genocide, and terrorism over the world. Suicide bombers with no mercy in their hearts have been let loose to go on a rampage, killing the innocents. The world is being terrorised and held to ransom.
The Wahhabis vow that only they shall rule according to their ideology and the rest have to be killed or subjugated. They believe that they should kill the Christians, the Jews, all Non-Muslims like the Hindus and the Buddhists and even other Muslims who do not subscribe to their horrendous beliefs. This is not Islam, or will it ever be Islam. Islam means peace, the very opposite of this. Islam is identified with terrorism today. This is not Islam. Islam has ceased to be Islam and Wahhabism has replaced it.