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Is Anyone Willing To Take On The Perversion Of Islam Caused By The Wahhabi-Saudi Combine?

by S Irfan Habib 

On 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated militant attacks in Paris shook the world. The attacks, reportedly the deadliest in France since the Second World War, followed soon after many European countries had opened their doors to the traumatised and homeless refugees from Syria and Iraq, many of whom are Muslims. Although many nations in the European Union expressed discomfort with the decision, this was largely seen as a great humanitarian gesture on the part of the EU. Some even saw it as an expression of guilt for the West’s violent involvement in the ongoing conflicts for decades. Over the last month, countries such as the United States of America and Canada announced that they would be joining the European nations in granting asylum to refugees.

However, the path forward is unclear. Two fronts require serious action. The first and foremost challenge is the one that faces not only Muslim nations but all Muslims: to unambiguously confront the custodians of the Islamic faith, who have hijacked the narrative of Islam. The second is that in order to decimate the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, the West must shelve their strategic and economic interests in west Asia.

Islamic faith, as it stands now, has been vandalised. The vandals of the faith are the same custodians of the holy places of Islam who ganged up with the fundamentalist Sunni Muslim preacher Abdul Wahhab almost two hundred years ago. Wahhab believed that Islam should be returned to the original principles that were followed by the first three generations of Muslims, and rejected many common practices that the faith had come to include over time. The Ottomans, who controlled the region then, may be answerable for the many atrocities they committed during their rule, but the Islam they professed and propagated was based on the traditional heterodox Bektashi Sufi thinking, a dervish order of Islam. Their outlook was loose, and was accommodative of diverse local cultural practices. It is still practiced and venerated in the regions of the Balkans and the erstwhile Russian states in central Asia. The battle between the subsequent Wahhabi-Saudi combine and the Ottomans was not merely a fight for territorial control, but also a fight to save traditional Islam from the depredations of the combine. The defaced Islam peddled by the Islamic State and other fundamentalists today originated two hundred years ago, and mayhem and mass murders are the ugliest manifestations of this corruption.

To understand the criminalisation of Islam, we must delve into the rise of the Wahhabi-Saudi combine. The Ottomans perceived the emerging combine from Najd, the most backward region of Arabia, as a serious threat. Inspired by the 14th century scholar Ibn-Taymayya, who hated the Shias and Sufis, Wahhab also decried them to be grave worshippers. He also declared war against Greek philosophy, which inspired the Baitul Hikma (House of Wisdom), a major intellectual centre during the Abbasid period, to generate a huge corpus of scientific literature between the 8th and 11th centuries. Wahhab took this revisionism forward in his main work, The Book of Monotheism, laying down the framework of a sectarian and hateful Islam. The Prophet’s personality and his dedication to compassion and mercy were amputated from the body of Islam. Wahhab denounced his opponents, and all Muslims not willing to accept his views, as idolaters and apostates. He believed that all Muslims had fallen into unbelief and that if they refused to follow him, they should be killed, their women violated and their possessions confiscated. Shias, Sufis, and other Muslims—who were heretical according to his doctrine—were to be exterminated, and all other faiths were to be humiliated or decimated. With this awful dogma, the basis for the future Islamic fundamentalism, and ultimately terrorism, was laid.

Abdul Wahhab and his doctrine were challenged and repudiated by many scholars of Islam, who found it to be in conflict with Quran and with all the four schools of Islam. Even his family warned Muslims to be wary of him. His brother Suleiman accused him of trying to add a sixth pillar to Islam: the infallibility of Abdul Wahhab.

This terrible doctrine would have remained marginal, and an obscure part of Islamic history, had Abdul Wahhab not received support from Ibn Saud, the first monarch of the House of Saud and the founder of Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabi doctrine could be inducted into the mainstream only if the combine was able to wrest control of the holy places from the Ottoman empire. The Wahhab-Saud alliance initially conquered a few local settlements and imposed their doctrine on them. Their visceral hatred for the Shias led them to attack the Shia holy city of Karbala in 1801, killing thousands of people, wrecking and looting the tomb of Husain, the grandson of the Prophet. Their attacks continued during the 19th century, with a resolve to drive out the Bektashis, Qadiris and other dervishes out of the vicinity of Mecca and Medina. For over a thousand years, the Harmain (holy places) had been inclusive of all Muslims, with shrines for the Shia and other Islamic sects. However, this eclecticism and pluralism was an anathema to the Wahhabis, and they were committed to its eradication. The Islamic State today is inspired by this diabolical Islam of the 18th century. However, they are armed with modern methods of expansion and destruction, such as the internet, social media, and state-of-the-art weaponry.

The West is also deeply implicated in the promotion of this project. The British, already under stress due to the rise of nationalisms in their occupied territories, discovered in the Wahhabi-Saudi combine a potential ally in the fight against the Ottomans. The British collaboration finally led to the victory of the combine and the final takeover of the holy places in 1924. This nexus continued, and was even strengthened after the oil boom in the region in the 1970s. The business and strategic interests have blinded the Euro-American world, overlooking the Wahhabi zealotry and its global implications.

Once the Saudis became custodians of the Harmain, they acquired legitimacy and respect to speak for Islam. Of the Muslims who had been going for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, few saw through the Wahhabi-Saudi game-plan and the innovations they had brought about. Today, any deviation from the Saudi petro-Islam is seen as moving away from Islam itself, which I perceive as terribly farcical. There is a consensus among most schools of Islam that the Islamic State is a terrorist front that has nothing to do with the faith, but no one dares to question the Wahhabi-Saudi combine for inspiring and funding such criminal gangs in the name of Islam.

Neither Muslims nor the West can afford to beat around the bush any longer. An armed struggle against the Islamic State is unavoidable and must be relentlessly pursued. However, a more difficult and indispensable task today is to fight against the indoctrination and perversion of Islam. Unfortunately, I do not see any meaningful and sincere strategy being worked out at any level against this murderous frenzy.