Chapter 10 – Inventing Wahhabism

This is a serialization of the book titled ‘Crisis in Islam’. The full book and its Endnotes may be accessed at:

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The objective of my writing on this subject is the attempt to figure out the origin of the culture of killing in Islam: how it started and how it eventually controlled the minds of Muslims so much so that it has become accepted for the mosque preacher to stand and tell people about the glory of killing for Allah. Comprehending these facts may lead us to reconsider our inherited culture in order to correct our understanding of history. Otherwise we would not have a foothold in the world and, while others move forward, we will stay stuck in the same state of being, if not slide into decline, which is the essence of backwardness!

I wrote in the previous chapter on the emergence of a class of those called ‘scholars’ (fuqahā) who wrote on worldly matters more than on matters of spirituality and religion, but were able to dominate the minds of the people and terrorised them. They did this to the extent that no Muslim dared ask about any subjects not approved by those fuqahā for fear of being accused of heresy or blasphemy. This explains the reason for the failure of the Islamic mind to produce good independent thought. Although Muslims have done a lot in the fields of medicine and science, especially in mathematics and optics, no philosophical thought came out from among the Muslims that can be placed in the ranks of philosophies produced by the peoples of the world before or after Islam. This was not because the Arabs are not able to reflect and ponder, because they succeeded in studying Greek philosophical thought and explained it and commented on it at length. 1  They did more than just commenting, in having saved for mankind the Greek philosophical heritage. The Arabic translations of that heritage saved it from loss. When Europe came back after the Renaissance to study Greek thought, it adopted the Arabic text as the principal reference to understand it. Arab contribution in the form of explanation and commenting on Greek thought is a good indicator of the ability of the Arab-Muslim mind to reflect on things. But the hegemony of jurisprudence and the tyranny of the Muslim fuqahā, who believed that they are more knowledgeable than others in the affairs of Heavens and Earth, curtailed and even terrified people from delving into philosophy, which is the mother of sciences. Thus no Arab-Islamic thinker with an original Arab Muslim thought was born into Islam. Calling the physician, Ibn Sina’ (Avicenna), and the Andalusian polymath, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), for example, philosophers as compared to Aristotle and Plato is, in my mind, slightly stretching the meaning of the word. However, using the 20th century classification when US academics like Rawls are called philosophers for having written political essays justifying so-called ‘just war’ or defining fictitious terms like democracy and liberalism, it may not be unreasonable to classify Ibn Sina, Ghazāli and Ibn Rushd as philosophers.

The fuqahā encroached upon the Qur’anic phrase using it as they pleased. The Divine Victory (fat’h) became military invasion and the glorification of murder, looting and rape. Jihad (meaning to strive) became bearing arms, as if they did not read the saying of the Prophet: “We returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad”, and when asked: “What is the greater jihad, O Messenger of Allah?” he replied: “The Jihad of the self”2. The Shari’a, which they invented to serve the state’s policies, became Divine Law. Heredity became the basis of Islamic rule, although they never cease to assert that the rule in Islam is Shura (consultation)! What consultation was applied in the Umayyad, Abbasid or the Ottoman Empires? And what Muslim was ever asked for his opinion of the reigning Caliph? How many fuqahā rose against the despotic guardian and questioned his handling of Muslim money, and his tyranny against the people of Islam, before we ask for fuqahā who asked the guardian about his right to invade other non-Arabs in their own homes; kill their men; steal their property and rape their women?

What verse in the Qur’an permitted Muslims to steal other people’s property? If they were the carriers of a Divine Message, what Lord had allowed stealing, which had been forbidden since time immemorial – be that stealing from the believer or the infidel? How then did stealing become booty? And how did the right of the fighter against the armor and horse of his slain rival in the war become an absolute right to steal everything in the violated country? Thus it was through aggression and injustice, sanctioned by the fuqahā in the name of Islam, that riches were brought to Damascus, Baghdad and Istanbul during the respective three dynasties.

Indeed, the audacity of some who claim to be fuqahā went even further to the extent that they issued a religious decree (fatwa) that they and their followers are entitled to the souls and honour of some of the different Muslim sects who disagree with them, as did Ibn Taymiyyah! 3 The continuous persecution to which Ibn Taymiyyah had been subjected throughout his life might have affected his attitude and made him the bitter man he was. But it remains true to say that he had become the godfather of Salafi Islam and his views have more influence today than other Sunni faqih. Nevertheless, it was he who founded the culture of takfir (accusations of apostasy), which recently prevailed, because he and his ilk did not read Allah’s words: “Is it they who distribute the mercy of your Lord?” (An-Nisaa 43:32). His fatwa regarding Shi’a in general and the Alawites and Druze in Syria has been at the heart of the campaign of the last few years, which turned the quiet peaceful Syria into a burnt out bloody country almost beyond repair. 4 Another feature of his influence is his edict that there is no need for one Caliph for the Muslims that has led to the mushrooming of so-called Muslim emirates where any group of fighters have chosen an Amir to whom they swear allegiance and create an Islamic Emirate, leading to the possible fragmentation of many Muslim states.

Their domineering went beyond that when they decided that the ‘gate of Ijtihad’  (independent reasoning) had been closed and no one can make his independent reasoning, closing the minds of the people against considering seven centuries-old thoughts. Is it conceivable that Allah who told us about the Universe that “every day He is bringing about a matter” (Ar-Rahmaan 55:29) would authorize them to stop others from thinking whenever they wished? This explains why many Wahhabi clerics of today are still convinced that the Earth is flat and stationary with the Sun rotating around it, and that the Sun enters the so-called ‘Sea of Power’ every night, rising up the next day. 5 No less stagnant thinking than that of the Ibn Taymiyyah and his Wahhābi followers, believing in the fabricated Hadith, that Allah descends every night to our sky waiting for those seeking forgiveness! 6  Believing in the occurrence of such an event is an indication of the backward thinking that cannot grasp the simple fact that the Earth is almost spherical and that means there is night somewhere on it at any second in time. Once such a fact is grasped, then there is no way of talking of His descending at night, otherwise He will be continuously there and needs not go up and down! It is only possible to accept such Hadith when you accept that the earth is flat and stationary which leads to the normal acceptance that there is only one night and one day all over it.

The Abbasid Era was over and Baghdad fell because of political corruption, initiated by the adulterous ‘Abbasid Caliph Al-Mu’tassim Ibn Harun Ar-Rashid, when he brought the Turks to ruin the state and turn Samarra into a large brothel abused by maids and palace boys! Arabs entered into a state of hibernation and thinking stopped altogether. Then came the invention of the state of the Ottomans, who claimed their eagerness towards Islam, although they did not know of religion but its name or of the Qur’an’s text but its script. 7  I have already stated my conviction that those who are neither Arabs nor able to be ‘Arabized’, cannot be proper Muslims because Islam is Arabic and whoever does not know Arabic has little to do with Islam. Islam is not a favor, but a covenant between Allah and the Arabs just like the Torah was a covenant between ‘Yahwa’ and the Hebrews.

The Ottomans produced a new phenomenon in Islam. The Mufti of Istanbul, despite his ignorance of Arabic most of the times and being a servant of the Caliph, became the highest authority in Islam. If we were to realize that the Ottomans contributed very little to human civilization, be that in science, fiqh, theology or other fields of knowledge when compared to Baghdad, we would be able to understand what the Ottoman Mufti did to Islam. We would also see how he became a tool of the Caliph, issuing decrees for him to invade Europe and steal its riches, rape its women, and commit aggression against Muslims, and impose the Turkish language with its limited vocabulary as a tool for learning. Perhaps the reader understands what is felt by some Europeans towards Islam, otherwise he should read about what the Ottomans did to the Serbians and Armenians, for example.  8 When the reader does that, he/she will realize that the European feeling toward Islam and what it represents is not without some justified roots. The Ottomans reflected an ugly image of Islam in their continuous invasion of Europe. And in order to understand how ingrained the culture of killing was in the Ottoman era, it would be sufficient to remember that most of the Ottoman Caliphs were involved in killing one of their sons or brothers or relatives in order to secure the transfer of power as they deemed necessary. If the Caliph could authorize in the name of Islam the killing of members of his family, what would happen to the foreign people of the lands under his control? 9

When Allah unburdened the Arabs by removing Ottoman oppression, they discovered the complete vacuum they were living in. They not only found themselves in an intellectual vacuum, but they found themselves without a language because the Turkification policy, pursued by those who claim to be ‘keen’ on Islam, produced generations of illiteracy among the Arabs and the best educated among them were only fluent in Turkish language.  10 There are two factors that deserve credit for saving Arabic from being lost forever. First, Qur’anic schools in mosques and ‘madrassas’ and, second, the linguistic renaissance founded by Christians Arabs in general and Christians of Syria in particular. Perhaps one of the reasons for the weakness of Arabic language and the rampant spread of language failure today is that ninety years after the demise of Ottoman rule is not enough time for the Arabic language to recover!

It is worth reminding ourselves that the Arabian Peninsula has not witnessed any renaissance since the end of the era of the so-called ‘Rightly Guided Caliphates’ following the Prophet and the transfer of the Caliphate to Iraq, then to the Syria and back to Iraq. The bitter reality is that the Arabian Peninsula, which was never known as the Muhammadian or Bakri or ‘Umari or ‘Uthmani state, and which today is called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 11 entered into an era of deadly backwardness out of which it has not fully emerged even today. This is not surprising if we take a closer look at the nature of the Peninsula and its inhabitants.

The Bedouins, who make up the largest proportion of the population of the Arabian Peninsula, did not enter Islam in earnest, save for a few of them, and most of them adopted Islam only hypocritically when the Muhammadian Light rose among them. So how Islamic would they be after a thousand years? This is not a subjective view of them, because it is based on an understanding of the Divine Will, which is set in the Qur’an and the Hadith. In the Qur’an, Allah cursed three categories and defined them by name as the polytheists, the infidels and the Bedouins! This curse has not been lifted off any of them. He said of them:

“The Bedouins are stronger in disbelief and hypocrisy and better not to know the limits of what Allah has revealed to His Messenger. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (At-Tawba 9:97).

“And among those around you of the Bedouins are hypocrites, and from the people of Madinah. They have become accustomed to hypocrisy. You do not know them, [but] We know them. We will punish them twice; then they will be returned to a great punishment.” (At-Tawba 9:101).

“Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper” (An-Nisaa 4:145).

Allah has therefore ruled on the infidelity and hypocrisy of the Bedouins. But He used the word ‘some’ when He exempted part of them as in his saying:

“And among the Bedouins are some who believe in Allah and the Last Day and consider what they spend as means of nearness to Allah and of [obtaining] invocations of the Messenger. Unquestionably, it is a means of nearness for them. Allah will admit them to His mercy. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (At-Tawba 9:99)

His eternal rule is not only about their aberration but more about prohibiting them from knowing the limits of religion. Perhaps it is good to stop to consider this fact, because the Almighty offered Islam to the People of the Book and did not prevent His Prophet from letting them know the limits of Islam, but He prevented him from letting the Bedouins know that. Is there a curse greater than that?

Nowhere in the Prophet’s biography could one find a narration that many Bedouins converted to Islam. In fact there are several Hadiths derogatory of Bedouin. One such Hadith which had been reported in several different versions while still keeping the message in it is as follows: It is reported that the Prophet asked Allah to bless both Syria and Yemen but when asked about blessing Najd, the land or the Bedouin he refused to bless but chose to condemn them. That is how it is reported in Sahih Al-Bukhāri: “Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: (The Prophet) said, “O Allah! Bless our Sham (Greater Syria) and our Yemen.” People said, “Our Najd as well.” The Prophet again said, “O Allah! Bless our Sham and Yemen.” They said again, “Our Najd as well.” On that the Prophet said, ‘There will appear earthquakes and afflictions, and from there will come out the side of the head of Satan.’” 12   What stronger proof than this that, in addition to Allah condemning the Bedouin in the Qur’an, his Prophet informed his followers that Satan will come from among them at the end of time?

Books of language and literature are teeming with evidence on the ignorance of Bedouins of the Qur’an or even reading it. One example suffices here to show this. Al- Asma’i was quoted as follows:

“I was reciting: ‘[As for] the thief, the male and the female, cut their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful’ (Al-Maaida 5:38). Beside me was a Bedouin who asked: ‘Whose words are these?” I said: “the words of God.”He said: “Repeat them” and I did. He said:”These are not the words of Allah.”  Then I realized and read: ‘[As for] the thief, the male and the female, cut their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.’ He said: “Now you are right”. I said: ”Do you read the Qur’an?”’ He said: “No.” I said: “How did you know then?” He said: ”Listen, He was Mighty so He judged and cut. If he had forgiven and shown mercy, He wouldn’t have cut”. 13

This is an example from the Abbasid era when Islam had spread, of a Bedouin who mastered Arabic and intuitively corrected the grammatical mistakes of an Arab scholar in Baghdad. But at the same time he did not read the Qur’an. That is how they were and that is how they continue to be.

I know that there are those who may jerk and say that it was during the time of the Prophet and that Bedouins entered Islam after that and became good Muslims. But whoever says this portrays the Qur’an as a book of history, telling us of an incident erased by time and no longer applies. This is more ignorance than ignorance itself! The Qur’an is not a history book and what is in it is eternally and forever happening. Whoever is cursed in it is cursed eternally by virtue of the Qur’an being the eternal word of Allah, and the Word of Allah is not subject to transformation, abrogation or loss. He has ordained that He is compassionate and He would forgive if he wished and punish whenever He wished. When He ruled that the Bedouins are stronger in disbelief and hypocrisy, he decreed them in aberration, ”It is He who created you, and among you is the disbeliever, and among you is the believer. And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing” (At-Taghaabun 64:2), and His ruling can not be averted!

Then came the first wave of European colonization of our land, which became later known as the crusade wave, when Europeans settled in the Levant under the pretext of defending the Cross. That was only a pretext used by the Lords beneficiaries from the Pope to the princes and kings of European mini-states. This is the same argument to which Muslim Caliphs and leaders resorted to seize lands under the pretext of spreading Islam. The occupation of Syria by the Europeans under the pretext of defending the Cross and to reclaim the birth of Jesus Christ (with whom they have nothing to do because he was and still is our son), is not much different from the argument of Muslims to seize Spain under the pretext of spreading Islam! But Europe, in its intellectual dark ages, had not yet reached the stage of maturity and political and scientific development to have been able to impose its hegemony upon the Arabs, who at that time were sliding towards intellectual and political collapse as well. The European colonial state in the Arab lands collapsed and they left before returning centuries later, but this time under the pretext of bringing civilization and democracy, which is no less trivial than their predecessors’ pretext of protecting the Cross.

This time they had thought carefully and prepared a more solid base. They studied Islam and knew the impact of ‘fiqh’ jurisprudence in dominating the minds of Muslims. They found that dominating the region is to be done through the control of Islam, and controlling Islam must be done through the Arabian Peninsula, which most Muslims believe to be the land of revelation where no defect will occur. But the invasion of the Arabian Peninsula by European Christians may have been a taboo which was hard to imagine occurring in the eighteenth century.

However, it had not gone unnoticed by Orientalists, who had studied Islam even deeper than Muslims that the Bedouin inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula were less knowledgeable of, or adherent to, or even interested in Islam. There had to be a way that would enable them to take control of the Bedouins and give them support in order to extend that control over all Muslims. The British mind came up with one of the most brilliant ideas that may be considered one of the smartest deeds devised by the European mind to confront Islam and Arabs in a thousand years: inventing Wahhābism!

The British representative in the Gulf brought together a naïve Bedouin, Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud, with aspirations for power, and a bright Bedouin, Muhammad Ibn Abdul -Wahhāb, with leadership abilities. In the first Bedouin, they found the ability and willingness to do anything to secure power. The second Bedouin was transferred to Britain, where he spent six years between Oxford and London, being trained at the hands of experts who taught him matters of religion and the world, then took him back to declare his call for the resurrection of orthodox Islam, claiming that he came with monotheism because the others were polytheists! It is not difficult to understand the possibility of success of any such call to win the Arabs of the Peninsula at the end of the eighteenth century, as it would have reignited in them the hope in life and promised them a better life than the misery and frustration they were living in.

The British representative formed an alliance, which became the longest lasting alliance in human history, having lasted over two hundred years, according to which the state was shared between Al Sau’d family for worldly affairs and Al Al-Sheikh (as Abdul-Wahhāb is known) family for religious affairs. The British were not stupid to believe that this project would have swept the Islamic world in the blink of an eye, because the historical circumstances were not yet ready to accept it. In addition to that, the Ottoman Empire was still going and somehow strong. But the British were planning for the coming centuries. To this end they encouraged their friends in the Indian subcontinent, and a group of them came to the Arabian Peninsula and met with Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, took from him the new doctrine to the north-west of the Indian subcontinent, where it remained alive from the eighteenth century until the twentieth century, when it created the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and the like. I think very few Arabs are aware of this fact about the Wahhābi branch from the eighteenth century because the British were keen to keep it a secret.

The British supported their Saudi Wahhābi creation with everything possible in the prevailing historical and political circumstances. But the poverty in the Arabian Peninsula, because of the lack of any source of money from trade or industry or natural wealth, had hampered the Wahhābi movement’s possibility of achieving significant progress in the implementation of the new-old Zionist project. The history of the Wahhabi movement since it was founded by the British until the discovery of oil is available in many books, and there is no point in repeating it. However, the discovery of oil changed the rules of the game and gave it the power to move faster than expected by its creators.

 

 

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