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The Roots of Wahhabism, What Everyone Should Know

In order to diminish the violent effects resulting from Wahhabist ideals, ideals that essentially operate like a disease captivating the human psyche, we must learn it–acknowledge its history and origins. In the first part of a three-part series on Wahhabism we will address the roots and origins of this extremist cult.

Prelude to the Unfolding Nightmare:

An ultra-treacherous cult unfurls throughout the globe, devouring its prey like an indiscriminate wildfire. Political “experts” have loosely tried to equate this out of control cult to “Radical Islam”; some people call it “Jihadi Islam”; and some call it “Fundamental Sunni Islam”: Yet, all of these designations are a stretch–if not an intentional lure, or sheer denial–from the bitter truth. The truth is that this cult bears a name beyond any label or recognition of those titles mentioned prior, in fact, it is quite distinct from Islam altogether: the Cult of Wahhab, is one of the oldest, most dangerous, and well-organized cults of our time.

The genesis of this exceedingly vast cult can be traced back to Saudi Arabia, where it emerged and initially manifested with a little help from friends loyal to the Royal Saudi family (1); its branches radiating outward, through concepts rooted in what is commonly known as “Wahhabism.” Henceforward, like any other weed that smothers life surrounding it, Wahhabism must certainly be dug out by the roots before it spreads any further. Thus, in order to diminish the violent effects resulting from Wahhabist ideals, ideals that essentially operate like a disease captivating the human psyche, we must learn it–acknowledge its history and origins. We must get to know its {Wahhabism’s} depth and impact–everywhere: how it is utilized by certain global powers and political entities to control and influence bands or individuals affected by its doctrines–groups like ISIS; and how it spreads. Finally, remaining in a state of complacency towards the alarming rate at which Wahhabism spreads is a reminder, complacency against a prevalent crises never resolves; but, it only aids in the development of a more serious problem. Therefore, preventing the spread of Wahhabism must be addressed.

Setting the Record Straight:

What is Wahhabi, or Wahhabism? By most definitions: “Wahhabi is any member of the Muslim reform movement founded by Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab in the 18th century in Najd, central Arabia, and adopted in 1744 by the Saʿūdī family. Today Wahhabism is prevalent in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.” (2) This is how Wahhabism is commonly defined, but is it really as meek as that? Rarely is Wahhabism described for the gargantuan cult it really is, as the definition states it is delicately referred to as a movement: “the efforts and results of a group of people working together to reach a common goal: the civil rights movement.”  (4) However, the deeper you delve into this series analyzing Wahhabism—the roots, its impact on humanity, the movers and shakers–as well as completing independent fact searching on data surrounding it, the more one can visualize how a dangerous cult transpired from a movement.[1] Furthermore, there is a common misbelief among copious scholars that the late Mohammad Ibne Abdul al-Wahhab was the Father of Wahhabism or Wahhabi doctrine. Contrariwise, he was not the true founder of Wahhabi creed: although, the cult of stern thought and spurious religious ideology has earned his name–for carrying on and leading the Wahhabi reform movement progressively… and aggressively. At the core of Wahhabi ideology lies a deeper, yet still, sinister past–dating back to almost 700 years ago–beginning with a man on a tumultuous mission, a man named Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah: If ever a father had been named for sowing the Wahhabi seeds of thought, it should be this man. Ibn Taymiyyah is certainly an early link in a sinister chain of forged dogma, playing a pertinent role in corrupting the minds of millions who stand against Islam, captivating lost souls who fell victim to his doctrines and admired his legacy for centuries on.

The Long Dark Shadow of Wahhabism:

Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah was born January 1263 – in his time he was considered to be a provocative scholar within the sphere of the Islamic World. (3)Taymiyyah was schooled in a rather religiously aggressive environment, according to historians. He attended an institution founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Hanbali fiqh (jurisprudence) was beheld as the most conservative out of four orthodox systems of Islam—Hanabli, Hanafi, Maliki and Shafii–because it was “suspicious of the Hellenist disciplines of philosophy and speculative theology.” (3) Unfortunately, as the years progressed, it seem Ibn’s behavior transgressed: “Ibn Taymiyyah, together with the help of his disciples, continued with efforts against what, he perceived to be ‘un-Islamic practices’ and to implement what he saw as his religious duty of commanding good and forbidding wrong”(5)–and he did so violently. This is, within Wahhabism, at the core of the Cult and its follower’s discipline, which has led groups like Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Taliban (enforcers of strict Wahhabi codes) to carry out some of the most grisly acts against their captives.

It was Taymiyyah who first viewed all other religious practices that strayed from his perception of the Prophet’s “true” Sunnah as punishable—sometimes by death: According to his own distorted logic, “he was returning Islam to what he viewed as early interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunnah” (the codes of life that Prophet Muhammad {pbuh} lived by written in hadith). He drew many critics and opponents, even from among his colleagues of the Hanabli fiqh, because of his own innovations and fanaticism; especially, after leading ruthless undertakings against Shi’a, Alawite, Jews, and Christians.  Acceptance of Imamate, Saints, and holy sacred traditions he condemned; namely, graveyard visitations were viewed as false worship–“shirk” and “bid’ah”–as so many are accused of today by the Cult of Wahhab. One could say, Ibne Taymiyyah was the leading “shirk, bid’ah police” of his time: The innovator of an unscrupulous tradition adopted by the Wahhabi cult and their devout followers hundreds of years later. As he spiraled out of control creating the very bid’ah that he feared himself, at the age of 63, he was imprisoned in the Citadel of Damascus, prohibited from issuing fatwa any further. (6) Disappointingly enough, this would not be the end of Taymiyyah; the peak of his legacy would be born into another era, centuries later, with a man named Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab.

Centuries after his death, Ibn Taymiyyah ideologies would linger, building up a storm in the minds of his successors, having a profound influence over Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s own beliefs–whom would revive some of his most aggressive dogma. In the early-mid 1700’s, the well-known Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb would extract the beliefs of Taymiyyah and inject them once again into society; like Taymiyyah, his ideas were rooted in the Ḥanbalī School of law; and like Taymiyyah, they were rejected by local Ḥanbalī officials. His ideals earned him expulsion, first from the towns of Ḥuraymilāʾ and then from ʿUyaynah. (2) Nevertheless, these initiatives to silence Wahhab would not mark his downfall, it was only a stepping stone towards a greater accomplishment in the life of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Soon enough, visualizing the effectiveness of Wahhabism for control over the masses, The Emir, Muhammad ibn Sa’ud, inserted himself as Wahhab’s “saving grace” and a great source of financial support plus encouragement for Muhammad Wahhab. In 1744 the Saudi dynasty would begin funding the Wahhab movement. Emboldened and fuming with the same hatred, for non-Muslims and Muslims alike, left behind by Taymiyyah’s legacy, Wahhab along with his new collaborator would set the pace for the development of a well-organized and dangerous cult, on oil fertile grounds, throughout an entire nation.

At the turn of the 19th century, “they had brought all of Najd under their control, attacked Karbalāʾ, Iraq, a holy city of the Shīʿite branch of Islam, and occupied Mecca and Medina in western Arabia.” The Cult of Wahhab manifested and had been fully revived under the guidance of the Saʿūdī Fayṣal I. As one source describes: “The activities of Ibn Saʿūd in the 20th century eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 and assured Wahhābī religious and political dominance on the Arabian Peninsula.”(2)

Simultaneously, the Western world had their sights set on good ol’ – lustrous! — Arabian Black gold (oil) more so than Saudi’s infamous violations against humanity. They turned a blind eye then (towards oppressive rule), precisely as they do now. Westerners walking on Saudi Arabian sands sneered past the beheadings, the degradation of females from all age groups, and other violations… just as long as they–the men in fine black suits–could shake hands with the men clad in fine white thobes—Saudi monarchy. Western rulers would waste no time on inserting their fat cats as defenders and financers–via petrodollars from cheap oil purchases, linking all these elements together for a continuous cycle of dependent diplomacy–of the Saudi social system for decades to come… To Be Continued.


References and Citations

  1. Frontline – Saudi Time Bomb? PBS-Frontline. [Online] WGBH educational foundation, November 9, 2001. [Cited: April 15, 2017.](1) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saudi/interviews/ahmed.html.
  2. Wahhābī Islamic Movement. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopædia. s.l. : Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2017.(2)
  3. Short Biography of Imam Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah. Anonymous. s.l. : IslamWeb.net. 21707. (3)
  4. Thorndike, E.L. and Barnhart, L. Clarence. Advanced Dictionary. Scott, Foresman Advanced Dictionary. Glenview : Scott Foresman and Comapany , 1993. 0-673-12377-4.
  5. Islamic Philosophy . WordPress. [Online] December 9, 2015. [Cited: April 6, 2017.] http://islam.hilmi.eu/ibn-taymiyyah-the-founder-of-isis/.
  6. The Info List-Ibn Taimiye. The Info List . [Online] 2014-15. [Cited: April 6, 2017.] http://www.theinfolist.com/php/SummaryGet.php?FindGo=Ibn%20Taimiya.
  7. Laoust , Henri . Encyclopædia Britannica, Ibn Taymiyyah, . Encyclopædia Britannica. [Online] Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. , 6 23, 2014 . [Cited: April 14, 2017.] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ibn-Taymiyyah.
  8. Staff. What is Wahhabism? The reactionary branch of Islam said to be ‘the main source of global terrorism’ . Telegraph. [Online] March 26, 2016. [Cited: April 17, 2017.] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/29/what-is-wahhabism-the-reactionary-branch-of-islam-said-to-be-the/.
  9. The Saudi Connection: Wahhabism and Global Jihad. Choksy, Carol and Jamsheed, Choksy. Washington, DC : World Affairs Institute , 2015.

The article was written by Anahita Hamzei and first published in Khamenei.ir.

About Ali Teymoori

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  1. Good stuff learing alot about this subject!

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