This document was available for download on Academia.edu so I assume the author has no plans to make money off of it as he is offering it int the public domain like that. I did a heavy edit on it and I think I made it a lot better. Nice short overview on Wahhabism, Ibn Taymiyyah, Saudi Arabia and ISIS. Good for people who don’t know a lot about the subject and not bad even for those of us who do. Hope you enjoy. We need more pieces like this.
In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful
To understand ISIS you must understand Wahhabism
Muhammad ibn Kateb Al Ashari
The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed and horrified by its violence and evident magnetism for Sunni youth.
To understand ISIS, you need to understand Saudi Arabia. The dominant strand of Saudi identity derives directly from Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism) and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. The latter was then no more than a minor leader amongst many continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.
The alliance between Ibn Abdul Wahhab and Al-Saud helped secure Saud’s power grab and instituted Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s monopoly on traditional Islamic scholarship.
Wahhab’s theology was something new. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived in his shallow understanding of Islamic sciences – hence his call to purge Islam of all heresies and idolatries.
The American author and journalist Steven Coll described how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised “the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who traveled across Arabia to pray at Mecca.”
But the history of Wahhabism is even older than that. If you want to understand Wahhabism, you need to understand that Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was only the Lenin or Wahhabism, whereas his ideological mentor, the Marx of Wahhabism, existed long before in Ibn Taymiyyah.
Before, I proceed in to Wahhabism, I will touch on Ibn Taymiyyah first.
The controversy surrounding Ibn Taymiyyah is not new or modern. Islamic scholars of his time were divided. Those who first met him often praised him, while others who learned of him through his writings and views scorned him. But he remains more of a despised icon than a revered one, and numerous classical writings show that his influence was short lived until the rise of Wahhabism.
Ibn Taymiyyah’s extreme fatwas have been used by ISIS and Al Qaeda today.
The most important fatwa upon which ISIS bases its holy war or jihad is the “Mardin” fatwa. This fatwa illustrates the extremism which marked all of Ibn Taymiyyah’s fatwas. He was born in Mardin on the border between present-day Syria and Turkey in 1263. When he was 7 years old, the Mongols attacked and overran his town. Ibn Taymiyyah moved to Damascus to live with his grandmother.
Jihadists believe that when he became an Islamic jurist, Ibn Taymiyyah issued a fatwa encouraging the fight against Mardin and its people, although the fatwa has been a source of disagreement among Muslim scholars for a long time. Many hardliners and advocates of Salafist jihadi ideology perceive this fatwa as permission to wage war to impose Sharia even within Islamic countries.
Ibn Taymiyyah had another fatwa on “collateral damage,” which stipulated that the mujahedeen who intended to target infidels were allowed to kill other Muslims who might stand in the way of reaching the mujahedeen’s goal. Al-Qaeda used this fatwa to justify the killing of large numbers of Iraqis with car bombs and improvised explosive devices after the US invasion in 2003.
You can say that Ibn Taymiyyah was misunderstood, but the fact remains that Ibn Taymiyyah has been a much loved and inspirational icon of Wahhabism, and fatwas like these are very disturbing. A lot is at stake here if you accept criticism of ibn Taymiyyah. The whole Salafi theology is based on his views and opinions, so it is common to see people defending him and his fatwas. Even many non-Salafist Sunnis will defend him.
Fast forward 500 years to the deserts of central Saudi Arabia. Here Wahhabism was birthed from Taymiyyah’s seeds.
One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine is the key idea of takfir. Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority in the Wahhabis’ understanding of the religion.
Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any veneration of the pious and prophets, pilgrimages to tombs and even faraway mosques, religious festivals celebrating prophets including celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.
In traditional Islam, engaging in these acts could be no more than disliked or not recommended, but disbelief or heresy by which the blood of a Muslim and their properties become lawful was not a possibility.
Understanding the Wahhabi movement is essential to understand the wars in the Middle East and the Wahhabi vs Shia conflict and the struggle of traditional mainstream Islamic theology to survive in the face of billions of Petro-Wahhabi dollars of Saudi Arabia.
This conflict is actually about who controls Middle East: Shias or Wahhabis. Sunnis have been the main players in the region for centuries due to numbers but also as a continuation of the message of Prophet and His companions. Sunni scholars have traditionally felt that they remained duty-bound to preserve Islamic orthodoxy in Islamic lands, hence their dominance over the Middle East and Arabia in particular makes sense..
Islamic theologians during ibn Taymiyyah’s time successfully silenced his views, and for centuries he were nearly forgotten until the British used support for Taymiyyah-influenced Wahhabism as a cynical tool against the Ottomans who were at the time more or less representative of traditional Islam. The British succeeded in defeating Ottomans politically 100 years ago, but now, a century later, they now have had to deal with their own Frankenstein monster, the Wahhabi ISIS.
The question is, Will ISIS be used by West as a pretext to launch global war against Islamic countries? If this happens, one of two things may happen. First, we will discover that Wahhabism has very foolishly succeeded yet again in assisting the demise of Islamic lands. If however ISIS succeeds, the demise of Islamic lands and Islam itself as well as West is a highly likely possibility unless a third option is activated – empowering traditional Islam and subduing both Wahhabism and Western imperialism. This third path may be the only way to avoid global annihilation.