More on WoPo piece on Salafism

I had composed a long, detailed magnum opus the other night responding to the Washington Post piece mentioned previously, when the fate that bloggers fear worse than death befell me.  My PC rebooted suddenly, completely unbidden, just as I was reaching a crescendo.   I think I triggered an unknown keyboard shortcut for shutting down.  It was enough to make me howl into the inky sky.

Perhaps it was a sign from on High that I wasn’t supposed to be watching my all-time favorite musical, "Jesus Christ Superstar"?  (How can anything be haram that features Judas funkily belting out anguished disco numbers like Marvin Gay?)  But I digress.

Some have objected to the way the article (which I’ve now read) characterizes Wahhabism/Salafism and more generally to the use of these labels.

I too have mixed feelings about the piece.  On the one hand, I think it pretty effectively conveyes some important general facts about trends in the Muslim community in the US today.  On the other hand, I think it in several instances takes Wahhabis to task for unenlightened practices and attitudes that are in no way unique to them (e.g., the obsession with purdah–which can be found in every Muslim community under the sun–or negative views of non-Muslims) or which are not actually inherently objectionable (e.g., believing that Muslims need to create an insular and closeknit community to successfully pass on their religious tradition to the next generation, an attitude increasingly common among religious conservatives of all stripes in America). 

In a way, there’s a bigger problem with the article.  It neglects, perhaps due to space constraints, the two characteristics of Wahhabi/Salafi thought that, in my opinion, are both its most singular and recogizable traits and its most problematic and ultimately historically important ones:  scriptural literalism and doctrinal exclusivism.  Besides these two traits, all the others (to the extent that they even apply especially to Wahhabism/Salafism) pale into insignificance, I think.

However, I think those offended by this piece need to keep in mind how mild its criticism actually is, especially compared to the pseudo-scholarly vitriol that often passes for substantive analysis of Salafism in the mainstream press.  One can quibble about various points, but the author clearly was not trying to demonize Salafis or paint them as the root of all evil.  Implicitly critical though it is of Salafism, it is not a screed against the Wahhabi Bogey Man.  In fact, I think the author is clearly trying to add some nuances to the discussion that are sorely lacking from most mainstream American coverage (e.g., discussing the spread of Wahhabism in sociological terms rather than as a shadowy worldwide conspiracy against all that is good).

Also, I don’t think that its central point–that a significant portion of American Muslims have left the Salafi camp and that Salafis after long being dominant now find themselves on the defensive within the community–can be debated.  Muslim attitudes are changing.  Even the  popular AlMaghrib, upon further examination turns out to be an exception that makes the rule, as its success today is clearly at least partly based on its presentation of itself as being un-"Salafi" in key respects.   Things that used to be acceptable in wide swaths of the community (takfir against Shiahs, Sufi-bashing, etc.) are now much less so, and those wont to engage in such practices have had to retool their message to avoid turning off their audience.

There are two issues that I think we need to address before we can complain all that loudly about pieces in the mainstream media like this.

1) Given how difficult and confusing this topic is even for Muslims, how
can we be outraged when non-Muslims get things wrong? 

How many educated Muslims know the differences, whether
historical or philosophical, between the original movement of Salafism
(e.g., Abdu, Rida and the gang) and 20th century Wahhabism?  How many Muslims could
give a reasonably balanced and historically informed account of
Wahhabism’s role in the Muslim world after the discovery of oil in the Gulf?   How many Muslims could explain the difference between the
theological outlook of Ikhwanis (to the extent they even share
one) and various other contemporary Islamist movements and the beliefs of Wahhabis?  It ain’t easy.
 

2) Then there’s the curious fact that many Muslims across the ideological spectrum spent the last two decades politely pretending Wahhabism didn’t exist! 

How many books were written in English by Muslims during the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s that even acknowledged the existence of–much less analyzed–the role of Wahhabism among Western Muslims in our era?  (Even Hamid Algar’s oft-cited Wahhabism: A Critical Essay is slim, primarily focused on the origins of Wahhabism, and was only published in 2002.  Also, for all its erudition–and despite the fact that I agree with its basic message–it’s unabashedly polemical.)  During the 1980s and 1990s, did the words "Salafism" or "Wahhabism" ever appear in ISNA’s influential magazine Islamic Horizons or other major community publications?  Was the existence of–much less the concrete influence of–Wahhabism ever noted before 9/11 put it on the front page?

There’s a lot of responsability to go around.  Mainstream non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders who are now chagrined to find themselves labeled "Wahhabis" by Islamophobes might want to ponder how they left the discussion entirely in the hands of outsiders by remaining silent on this self-evidently important topic until it was far too late. And Wahhabis really can’t complain, either, as even if non-Muslims had read their books cover to cover they’d never have found an explanation of what Wahhabism is (since they’re "just Muslim", of course), much less the a discussion of its role in the Muslim world since the advent of petrodollars that allows one to understand what’s wrong with the anti-Wahhabi hysteria.   

In a way, this is the chickens of unprofessionalism and partisanship coming home to roost.  Objectivity, after all, is haram.  For many years, the major North American Muslim media were frankly more committed to promoting their pet sectarian or ideological preferences than to providing fair and rigorously reporting on Islam and the world.  The absurd result of this longstanding dereliction of duty is that now observers are turning to ill-informed non-Muslim idelogues to learn about important issues within the Muslim community.

Still, it shouldn’t really be a shock that the terms of the debate in the mainstream media have been dictated by Islamophobic conspiracy
theorists.    Until recently, anyone looking to learn about this topic in English had little choice but to pinch their noses and turn to tenditious screeds like Stephen
Schwartz’sThe Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror or Dore Gold’s Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, as those with firsthand knowledge of the issues, Muslims, had by and large yet to contribute anything of substance to the discussion.

No wonder the debate on Wahhabism in Washington is so utterly disconnected from reality and drenched in political agendas.

Some Muslims passionately object on principle to the use of "labels".  With all due respect to them, I think this is a serious mistake.  We’re all Muslim, yes, but there are important and meaningful differences that to which these labels refer.  Discarding accurate, descriptive labels won’t help us get to the bottom of our problems.

I realize that these terms have become very politicized–and I have even been known to defend Wahhabis from what I considered to be unfair attacks–butthe solution is not to pretend that there’s no such thing as Wahhabism or to downplay its impact in modern times.  The solution is to provide facts and try to push the discussion in a more balanced direction. Remaining silent is part of what got us into this mess.

Also, given the long history of enthusiastic use of labels (sometimes far less complementary ones) against philosophical opponents by Wahhabis when they were in power, I don’t think it’s fair to suddenly declare a moratorium on labeling just when those who long suffered the consequences of labeling are finally getting to tell their side of the story.  I don’t say that out of rancor–it’s simply justice.

  • http://www.yursil.com Yursil

    as-salamu’alaikum,
    “Then there’s the curious fact that many Muslims across the ideological spectrum spent the last two decades politely pretending Wahhabism didn’t exist! ”
    lol :) funny (sad?) and a great observation!

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    Svend, it was hard for me to even read further when you kept on using “Wahhabi/Salafi” as if the things are interchangeable. They are not. One cannot even properly talk about Salafism being readily stereotyped into one neat little group. Salafism has a wide range of beliefs, so to reduce it all down to one thing is wrong.
    As to “Wahabism”, that term really came to use by people who do not know about Islam. It is kind of like the people who are known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. They are not Dutch, but rather German, but people who didn’t know any better needed to stick a label on them and that was most convenient, after all didn’t they call themselves “Deutsch”? Never mind that is the German word for “German”.
    You ascribe things to Salafis that I have never seen amoungst the “Salafi” I know, although I think you’d be hard pressed to find a real “Salafi” who would even describe themselves as such. I have never seen any of them attack Sufis or Shi’a, they tend to be too wrapped up in their intense observance to worry about what others are doing.
    Have you read Tariq Ramadan? I believe he breaks down the “Salafi” movement into about 6 different parts, the majority of which bare no relationship to what you or other Americans who dislike the Salafi talk about.
    As to the man Wahab himself, I think he has gotten a bad rap. I would think you have read about him and read what he wrote right? I would think so as you are writing about him and the movement wrongly put on him. I don’t think his writings, nor his life for that matter, really point to what is happening in Saudi Arabia at the moment. I believe that other scholars like Ibn Kathir, Ibn al-Qayyim and particularly Ibn Taymiya, played a much greater and more influential role than Wahab. But I guess it would be hard for the non Muslims slamming “traditional Muslims” to talk about “Taymiyameen” or some other such nonsense label.
    To use this label is a mistake, and not only that, it just isn’t accurate. Does this mean because I reject this label that I support the radicals in Saudi? Far from it, as someone married to a Saudi citizen and who has suffered because of my dealings with the Saudis, I hate them as much as anyone. But lets be accurate in our portrayals of these people.
    Wahabi/Wahabism is now as much as a pejorative term as “terrorist” and has really lost any real meaning. It is more of an insult now to be thrown out against people who might be more conservative than you in their religious beliefs or who might disagree with you on certain ideas.
    There are Sufis, both today and historically, that are VERY conservative and traditional in their teachings and actions. Are they Wahabi? It is said that the great Salafi scholar himself, Ibn Taymiya, was a Sufi himself. Since he is the basis of “Wahabi” thought, shouldn’t all “Wahabis” be called “Sufis” because they follow a teacher who was Sufi? Maybe we should instead be talking about “Wasufis” instead of “Wahabis”?
    What we are really dealing with here is a twisted version of religion and cultural practice. This happens everywhere in the world, from gang rapes in Pakistani to regain honours of tribes supposedly given an Islamic veneer, to the ban on women driving in Mecca that is more tribal based than religion.
    Isn’t it interesting to note that the places where “Wahabism” has taken root the most are the tribal places of the world, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the like? Why? Because these people accepted and recognised the true tribal roots of the movement and it fits into their lifestyles.
    Wahabism is to Islam what terrorism is, what Islamofacism is. It is a pejorative term, an abusive term, one grounded in ignorance.

  • http://www.yursil.com/blog Yursil

    as-salamu’alaikum Abu Sinan,
    “Salafism has a wide range of beliefs, so to reduce it all down to one thing is wrong.”
    This is true, but these are groups which lay claim not only to the same buzzwords but to the same scholars and fiqhi and aqida principles.
    Does the variety of opinions on some minor issues allow them to escape the broader brush? A Sunni and a Shia are still Muslim, because they fit the criteria which makes a Muslim, which is essentially belief in the Shahdat.
    Similarly, a Salafi is one who espouses beliefs that the majority of the ummah after the Salaf went astray in terms of fiqh and aqida.
    They uphold and value scholars otherwise considered rebellious by the Muslim community such as Ibn Taymiyya and Abdul Wahab.
    “As to the man Wahab himself, I think he has gotten a bad rap. I would think you have read about him and read what he wrote right? I would think so as you are writing about him and the movement wrongly put on him. I don’t think his writings, nor his life for that matter, really point to what is happening in Saudi Arabia at the moment…”
    I’m sorry to say that this is simply wrong Abu Sinan. Although the translated works which have become popularized are simply not the entirety of his beliefs and most notably do not take into account his political alliances. There is a collection of correspondence between Abdul Wahab and the Imams of Makkah at the time.
    His own brother wrote a book refuting him, so it is clear that there were issues above and beyond the simplistic notion that he ‘called for tawheed’, that even a child could agree to.
    We are all adults, and we know that life revolves around the struggle for power, and Wahab’s alliance with the Saudi family -in his own time- is proof positive of his intentions.
    As far as where it has taken root, I totally disagree.

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    I dont have time at the moment to respond fully to your post Yursil, but I think the differences within Salafism are much greater than you portray. For instances, some schools of thought in Salafism completely reject the idea of political involvement of religious parties, kind of like the quietist school in Shi’a Islam.
    This would mark a major difference with other Salafists such as the Muslim Brotherhood who open push an aggressive political agenda. The same goes for violence, some Salafi thought is completely against it, others endorse it.
    The loudest voices I heard condemning the 9/11 attacks were from the Salafi guys I knew who followed this line of thought.
    This is another major difference.

  • http://www.progressiveislam.org/blogs/omar OmarG

    >>between the original movement of Salafism (e.g., Abdu, Rida and the gang) and 20th century Wahhabism?
    Wierd. A couple of us from the department were discussing exactly this during our post-Jumah coffee. I tried to trace Abduh as the ancestor of the Ikhwan and that those Salafis were basically a “back-to-the-original-sources” movement that embraced modern technology, education and politico-economic organizing principles (reject Traditionalism while wearing suits and ties). Other groups of Salafis seem to reject them, while many do not (rejecting Traditionalism while wearing turbans and robes). Its a hard thing to label people, eh?!

  • http://bibizaynab.blogspot.com Hajar

    Shia would probably have produced such books long ago if they had not been so severely oppressed by the Wahabi movement. I do know of at least one that gives information about origins of Wahabis and the oppression the Wahabis perpetrated against the Shia. This book is:
    KERBALA AND BEYOND by Yasin T. al-Jibouri
    available at:
    http://www.al-haqq.com/pdf_files/IHS%20Booklist%20-%20March%2011,%202006.pdf
    under the subtitle History and Biography
    There are also many other books discussing Wahabism, in English, available at various Shia book stores.
    Also, the book WAHABISM AND MONOTHEISM is available, in English, at:
    http://www.al-khoei.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=104
    (The al-Khoei book store is the one I have the most experience with. I’ve ordered many, many books from them.)

  • mohamed

    Wahhabis were branded heretics by sunni islam when it first began to appear. The first person to use the term “wahhabi” was Muhammad Ibn Abbdul Wahhab’s own brother Suleiman when he wrote a book refuting his brother’s teachings. Muhammad Abdulwahhab created a new understanding of monotheism in which he claimed that all the muslims including the people in mecca and medina were polytheist and kaffirs. He was kicked out from medina and later his hometown of uyayna before reaching an alliance with Al Saud in dariya area of najd. Najd is the region that produced the khawariji movement and also musailamah the liar and there are many prophetic traditions speaking about najd being the area of calamity.
    Abdul Wahhab did not recognize any Islam excepts his and made the blood of muslims permissible. He claimed that visiting shrines and using saints as interseccion is shirk. He based it in Ibn Thaymiya’s fatwa. Ibn Thaymiya believed God has limbs, and is considered a deviant by sunni scholars.

  • mohamed

    Wahhabis were branded heretics by sunni islam when it first began to appear. The first person to use the term “wahhabi” was Muhammad Ibn Abbdul Wahhab’s own brother Suleiman when he wrote a book refuting his brother’s teachings. Muhammad Abdulwahhab created a new understanding of monotheism in which he claimed that all the muslims including the people in mecca and medina were polytheist and kaffirs. He was kicked out from medina and later his hometown of uyayna before reaching an alliance with Al Saud in dariya area of najd. Najd is the region that produced the khawariji movement and also musailamah the liar and there are many prophetic traditions speaking about najd being the area of calamity.
    Abdul Wahhab did not recognize any Islam excepts his and made the blood of muslims permissible. He claimed that visiting shrines and using saints as interseccion is shirk. He based it in Ibn Thaymiya’s fatwa. Ibn Thaymiya believed God has limbs, and is considered a deviant by sunni scholars.

  • Mohamed

    There is no difference between Rida and wahhabism. Both regard Ibn Thaymiya as their authority. Rida edited the works of Ibn Thaymiya which greatly influenced Hassan Albanna who formed the muslim brotherhood. Wahhabism is more theologically based and Muslim brotherhood is politically based, they are two currents from the same river(ibn Thaymiya).
    Both believe Islam is a religion and a state, both despise sufism and both consider Ibn Thaymiya the voice of authority on reformation of Islam. Both also reject the dominion of the 4 schools in sunni islam.
    It is that what you are seeing when you watch Ayman Alzuwahiri(muslim brotherhood) and Bin Laden(wahhabism). They both sit together since their Mufti is Ibn Thaymiya.

  • mohamed

    This is an extraxt from Suleiman Abdul Wahhab speech, Muhammad Abdul Wahhab’s son when he along with the Al Saud clan entered Mecca and Medina. This was somewhere in 1801 or 1810 I think. They were crushed by the Othomans but later emerged under the guidance of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud . This time they were aided by the british and conquered Mecca in I think 1917 or 1927. They thus established the saudi state. This suleiman is Muhammad’s son, which is different from his brother also called Suleiman who along with his father were against Muhammad and warned people against him. Muhammad Abdul Wahhab married the daughter of Al Saud and Suleiman was thus a product of the intermarriage between Muhamad Abdul Wahab and the alsaud clan.
    Note the ” yaa” hear means “Oh”.
    Dua’a means calling out, as you see the wahhabis believe calling out to a saint at their tomb is polytheism.
    The speech at the bottom is a representative Muft of Sunni Islam.
    Quote:
    And they gave us their strongest oaths, without it being asked from them, of the broadening of their understanding and the certainty of their conscience, that they no longer held the slightest doubt that the one who says: “Yaa Rasoolallaah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa-sallam)”, or: “Yabna ‘Abbaas”, or: “Yaa ‘Abdal-Qaadir”, or other than them from the creations, seeking by that to avert an evil or bring a good from anything that Allaah ta’aalaa alone is capable of doing, such as healing the sick, or granting victory over the enemy, or guarding from a misfortune, or the like: that he is a mushrik guilty of major shirk, whose blood may be shed and whose wealth is lawful, even if he believes that the ultimate controller of the universe is Allaah ta’aalaa alone but he turned to the creations with du’aa’, seeking intercession from them, and drawing closer to them, in order to fulfill his need from Allaah by virtue of their “secret” and by their interceding with Him for them while they are in the barzakh;
    And that the structures built over the graves of the righteous people have become in this age idols to which people turn for the fulfillment of needs, and at which acts of devotion are performed, and whose inhabitants are called upon in difficulties, as the people of Jaahiliyyah used to do.
    And among them were the mufti of the Hanafiyyah, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Malik al-Qala’i, and Husayn al-Maghribi the mufti of the Maalikiyyah, and ‘Aqeel ibn Yahyaa al-’Alawi.
    So thereafter we demolished all that was worshipped by glorification and belief in it, and due to which benefit and aid were hoped for, from all of the structures built over the graves and other than them, until there did not remain in that purified land a single taaghoot to be worshipped, so all praise is due to Allaah for that. (End Quote)
    The following is a translation from the book Ashadd al-jihad:
    Muhammad ibn Sulaiman al-Madani ash-Shafi’i (rahmat-Allahi ‘alaih), [who passed away in Medina in 1194 A.H. (1780),] was questioned about Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab an-Najdi. He said, “This man is leading the ignoramuses of the present age to a heretical path. He is extinguishing Allahu ta’ala’s light. But Allahu ta’ala will not let His light be extinguished in spite of the opposition of polytheists, and He will enlighten everywhere with the light of the ‘ulama’ of Ahl as-Sunnat.” The [collection of the] questions and his answers at the end of Muhammad ibn Sulaiman’s fatwas are as follows:
    “Question: Oh great ‘ulama’, the stars who lead to the path of the Best of Creatures (the Prophet)! I ask you: Is a person to be permitted to disseminate his ideas if he says that this umma has wholly dissented from the essence of Islam and from the path of Rasulullah (sall-Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), just by measuring with his short sight and narrow mind the knowledge he has gathered from various religious books, and if he says that he is mujtahid and, therefore, is able to derive knowledge on Islam from Allah’s Word and Rasulullah’s hadiths, although he does not have any of the qualifications stated as necessary by the ‘ulama’ of Islam for being a mujtahid? Should he not give up this claim of his and follow the ‘ulama’ of Islam? He says that he is an imam, that it is necessary for every Muslim to follow him and that his madhhab is necessary. He forces Muslims to accept his madhhab. He says that those who do not obey him are unbelievers, that they should be killed and that their possessions should be confiscated. Does this man tell the truth? Or, is he wrong? Even if a person fulfilled all the requirements necessary for making ijtihad and founded a madhhab, would it be jaiz for him to force everyone to adopt this madhhab? Is it necessary to adopt a certain madhhab? Or, is everyone free to choose any madhhab he like?
    Does a Muslim go out of Islam if he visits the grave of a Sahabi or a pious servant of Allahu ta’ala, vows something for him, cuts an animal near a grave, prays making a mediator of a dead person, takes some soil from such a grave to receive blessings or asks help from Rasulullah or a Sahabi to get redeemed from danger? Is it permitted to kill such a Muslim even though he says, ‘I do not worship the dead person and do not believe that he has the power to do anything. I make an intercessor, mediator, of that person with Allahu ta’ala to make me attain my wish, because, I believe that he is a beloved servant of Allahu ta’ala.’ Does a person go out of Islam if he swears by something [or somebody] other than Allah? END QUOTE

  • Abu Abdullah

    Came across this article below would be interesting to see your response as seems to have been investigated in detail.
    Misunderstandings About Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab
    Suhaib Hasan
    Article ID: 1105 | Article URL: http://www.islamicawakening.com/viewarticle.php?articleID=1105
    Contents
    Margoliouth
    Goldziher
    Arberry
    Encyclopaedia Britannica
    Ameer Ali
    Humphrey’s â€کMemoirs’
    Arnold
    References and Footnotes
    INTRODUCTION
    All Praise belongs to Allah Almighty, Creator of the worlds. Peace and salutations be upon the Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.
    The revivalist movement begun by Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab (1115AH – 1206AH / 1703AD – 1792AD) in the Arabian Peninsula was destined to take root and become widely accepted. It sowed the seeds for a wise leadership which pledged upon itself the implementation of Islamic Shariah in its totality, using the Book of Allah and the Sunnah to enlighten all its activities. It was honoured with victory and success from Allah, the Almighty, and so has remained a potent force since its inception two centuries ago, despite severely hostile attacks on both religious and political levels. The movement exceeded the boundaries of the Arabian Peninsula and bore fruit in a number of other countries in the hands of many sincere scholars and propagators of Islam who were inspired by its teachings and guided by its example. It was a blessed movement, like a good tree, the root of which is firm, and the branches of which stand tall in the sky.
    But like any reformatory movement, it too faced an onslaught of arrows, thrown both at the founder of the movement and at his beliefs and teachings. For a start, it was given the derogatory title of Wahhabism which, although unacceptable to its founder and followers, was nevertheless widely accepted and adopted. Worse still, the State was subjected to strong criticisms and dreadful slanders in the most vulgar language, which exposed the measure of animosity felt by its opponents. Such critical writings had a great appeal among those fond of innovations and superstitions, but a host of knowledgeable people from various Muslim countries stood up to refute each and every allegation, using convincing proofs and evidences, and fragmenting all the attacks into particles of scattered dust. As most of these writings, whether positive or hostile, are extant in Arabic works, it was felt that there was no need to repeat them here. So the author of this paper searched for other writings on the subject in English or Urdu, and chose a few of them to mention in this paper. He has endeavoured to refute all the doubts which were raised in the books in question in the light of the writings of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab and all the scholars who defended him at home and abroad..
    In the confines of this paper it was not possible to cover all the different ramifications of this extensive subject, so the author hopes that readers will accept his apologies for any shortcomings (unintentional as they are) and will pray for him for Allah’s guidance and rewards if they benefit from this humble effort.
    Indeed Allah is the One Who Guides to the Right Way..
    Courtesy of http://www.islaam.net
    ——————————————————————————–
    Margoliouth
    Margoliouth
    We begin this discussion with writings from the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. This work is considered to be among the oldest and most exhaustive reference works to discuss religion in the English language.
    William Margoliouth, author of the chapter on ‘Wahhabism’, writes that Wahhabis differ from Ahl us Sunnah wal Jama’ah in ten areas:
    They attribute to Allah physical characteristics such as a Face and Hands
    Reasoning has no place in religious questions, which must be settled solely on tradition
    Consensus is rejected
    Analogy is rejected
    The Imam’s of Madhahib have no authority and those who follow them are not Muslims
    Those who do not join them (the ‘Wahhabis’ are also not Muslims
    Neither the Prophet (SAS) nor a saint will be allowed to intercede
    Visiting the graves is prohibited
    To take an oath in the name of other than Allah (SWT) is prohibited
    To offer an vow for other than Allah (SWT) and to slaughter besides the graves in the names of the saints are not allowed
    However he acknowledges that there is a doubt concerning the authenticity of point no.5 which has been attributed to Wahhabism, as they are the followers of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, himself one of the four Imams. Morgoliouth ends his article with the observation that Imam Ahmad ash Shaheed (d. 1831) introduced Wahhabism to India following a pilgrimage to Makkah in 1824 [1] . What is strange is that an eminent orientalist like W. Morgoliouth finds plenty of quotations from the opponents of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, yet nothing to defend him except for point no. 5.
    So let us remedy this by discussing the list and including our refutation where necessary.
    1- The belief of Sheikh Ibn Al Wahhab regarding the Attributes of Allah is the same belief of the Salaf, our pious predecessors. They said that Allah Almighty has all the attributes which He has declared for Himself. These include Attributes related to his own self, such as the Face, Hands and Eye, and Attributes of action, such as His Pleasure, Anger, Being on. the Throne and Descending from it. They accept all such descriptions without Takyeeef (asking how they happen), Ta’teel (negating them altogether) or Tashbeeh (anthropomorphic analogy). The basis of this belief is the statement of Allah, ‘Nothing is similar unto Him, and He Listens and Sees.’ [2] Just as Allah’s Attributes do not resemble in any way the attributes of human beings, so His Being does not resemble the being of humans.
    2- The criticism that the followers of Sheikh Muhammad ibn al Wahhab have no regard for intellectual reasoning is a total fabrication. What we do say is that reason cannot be independent of revelation. If we take the analogy of the eye and light, we know that the eye needs light to function. This can be natural light from the sun, moon or stars, or artificial light. In the same way, the human intellect is enlightened by and functions within divine revelation, which makes it trustworthy. If it lacks divine revelation, it will go astray in the darkness of ignorance. Human intellect varies and differs; the reasoning of a thinker will be different from the reasoning of a philosopher; the reasoning of a historian will be different from the reasoning of a mathmetician.
    3- They have claimed that the Wahhabis rejected the concept of Ijma’ Consensus. This too is untrue. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal considered the true Ijma’ to be that of the Companions. The time of the Companions is a specific period, known for its beginning and end. The Companions witnessed revelation and accepted the message of the Messenger of Allah at first-hand.
    Imam Muhammad Abu Zahra said in this issue that Ijma’ is of two types: Ijma’ on the basic obligatory actions, which is recognised by all. And Ijma’ on other rulings of Shariah, such as fighting apostates. A difference of opinion regarding the second type has been attributed to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. Some scholars have reported the following from him:
    ‘Any person who claims the existence of Ijma’ is a liar.’
    Imam Ibn al Qayyim has said,
    ‘The person who claims Ijma’ has lied,’ and he did not like giving preference to Ijma’ over an authentic Hadith..
    Abdullah, son of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, said,
    ‘I heard my father say, ‘Whenever a man claims al Ijma’, he is a liar. It may have been the case that difference of opinion occurred among the people, but he did not know about it. At the most he should say: We do not know anyone who opposed.’
    This statement shows that Imam Ahmad did not deny the principle of Ijma’, but denied knowledge of its occurrence after the period of the Sahabah. [3]
    4- It is also claimed that Sheikh Muhammad ibn al Wahhab denied Qiyas (analogy). This is incorrect as the Sheikh held the same opinion about this subject as the Hanbali School in general. Imam Abu Zahra said,
    ‘It is reported from Ahmad that one cannot be free of Qiyas as it was adopted by the Sahabah.’
    Once Imam Ahmad had established this principle, the Hanbali school accepted it widely. Qiyas was used whenever a new situation arose for which they could not find a reference from the Hadith or sayings of the Sahabah. [4]
    5- The allegation that leaders of other mazahib have no authority and their followers are not Muslims, and that’
    6- ‘anyone who does not join the Wahhabi movement is a Kafir.
    Both the above allegations are clear fabrications. Sheikh Abdullah, son of Sheikh Muhammad ibn al Wahhab, wrote a treatise after he entered Makkah victoriously with Prince Saud bin Abdul Aziz on Saturday 8 th Muharram 1218 AH. In this he wrote,
    ‘Our mazhab in the principle of the deen is the deen of Ahl ul Sunnah wal Jama’ah. Our way is the way of the Salaf, the pious predecessors. Our branch of mazhab is that of Ahmad bin Hanbal, but we do not reject anyone who follows any of the four Imams excluding other mazahib which are not fully regulated.’
    He continues,
    ‘Those people who invent lies against us to conceal the truth and deceive the people; they make the people believe we degrade the status of the Prophet (SAS), we teach he has no intercession and visiting him is not recommended; we do not depend on the sayings of the ulama, we declare the people in general to be kafirs, we stop people sending salutations on the Messenger of Allah (SAS), and we. do not recognise the rights of Ahl ul Bayt ‘ to all these allegations our answer is,
    ‘May Allah be glorified, this is indeed a great lie.’
    Therefore anyone who attributes any of these beliefs to us has attributed a lie. [5]
    7-The claim that Sheikh ibn al Wahhab believed there is no intercession on the part of a prophet or saint. Our reply is that the author of the article was obviously ignorant of the difference between two types of Shafa’a (intercession). The first contains Shirk, and this was rejected by Sheikh ibn al Wahhab. The second which was approved by him, is the Intercession performed only with permission from Allah on the Day of Judgement, by a being chosen by Allah for this honour [6] . If the critics of Wahhabism mean by this that the Sheikh has forbidden Al Waseelah through prophets and saints, our reply is that most people do not understand the opinions of both Sheikh ibn al Wahhab and Imam ibn Hanbal on this issue and have levelled false charges against them. Imam ibn Taymiyyah said that Imam Ahmad has been reported in the ‘Rituals of Al Marwazi’ as to how to achieve Waseelah of the Prophet (SAS) through his du’a. But there are others who did not approve of it. Tawassul achieved through faith in the Prophet (SAS), through love for him, through following him and through obeying him is acceptable to both parties. But Tawassul through the person of the Prophet (SAS) is a contentious issue, and wherever a dispute arises, it should be referred back to Allah and His Messenger. [7]
    8- The claim that Wahhabis declare the visiting of the graves and tombs to be haram will be discussed later, alongside the writings of Ignaz Goldziher.
    9- They claim that Wahhabis declare haram the taking of oaths with anyone other than Allah. This is indeed true as it is proven by authentic ahadith. Umar bin al Khattab narrated that the Prophet (SAS) said,
    ‘Anyone who swears by any other than Allah has committed Shirk.’
    This is reported by At Tirmidhi who declared it as hadith hasan. It was also declared Sahih by Al Hakim.
    Ibn Mas’ud said,
    ‘It is preferable to me to swear by Allah when lying than to swear by other than Allah when speaking the truth.’ [8]
    10- It is also claimed that Sheikh ibn al Wahhab believes that vows in the name of others than Allah is haram, and that meat slaughtered besides graves in the name of saints is also haram. This is perfectly true, as it is from the deen of Allah, and every Muslim should believe it as long as he believes in Allah and His Messenger. In his great book ‘Kitab al Tawhid’, Sheikh ibn al Wahhab includes a chapter under the title, ‘No slaughtering should be offered for Allah in a place where slaughtering is offered for beings other than Allah.’ His next chapter title is, ‘To vow in the name of someone other than Allah is Shirk.’ Both chapters contain extensive proofs from the Qur’an and Sunnah to support these statements.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Goldziher
    Goldziher
    We now come to the writings of the German orientalist Ignaz Goldziher in ‘Muslim Studies’. This appeared in two volumes in German in 1889 and was translated into English in 1967. The author devoted a long chapter of 96 pages to the subject of ‘Veneration of Saints in Islam’. He discusses at great length the excessive attribution of miracles to saints whether living or dead, by Muslims. He also gives a wealth of examples of sanctifying graves and tombs from Islamic literature and general Muslim practice. His aim is to show that there is no difference between Christians and Muslims in the veneration of saints. Pointing to Qur’anic verses and Hadith which refute such practices, he comments,
    ‘After all this there is no need to explain in detail that within Islam in its original form there was no room for the veneration of saints as it so largely developed later. The Koran itself polemizes directly against the veneration of saints in other confessions which consider their ahbar and ruhban as arbab, divine masters (Sura 9:31)’
    He then quotes Karl Hase regarding the saint cult and says,
    ‘That it ‘satisfies within a monotheistic religion a polytheistic need to fill the enormous gap between men and their god’,’ [9]
    After the author has included numerous examples of veneration of saints by the general Muslim public and the visiting of graves and tombs for praying for one’s needs, he also gives examples of scholars who objected to such forms of Shirk. He quotes the impenetrable stance of Imam ibn Taymiyya in the issue of Tawassul and journeying to places other than the three Mosques. He then says,
    ‘This shows that Wahhabism had its forerunners and that it only expressed in a corporate way what was also earlier the inner conviction of old traditional Muslims. From this point of view it would be of great interest for the cultural and religious history of Islam to collect all pre-Wahhabi manifestations of a monotheistic reaction in Islam against pagan survivals which it inherited from paganism or which infiltrated from outside, and to relate these manifestations to the surroundings which gave them rise. Apart from the older manifestations just mentioned it would be possible to list one which can probably be counted the latest: the scene which took place six decades before the beginning of the Wahhabite movement in 1711 in the Mu’ayyad mosque at Cairo. One evening in Ramadan the catechism of Birgewi was being interpreted when a youth ‘ he is called a Rumi â€ک ascended the pulpit and preached passionately against the ever increasing cult of saints and graves, branding this degenerate form of Islamic worship as idolatory. He said, â€کWho has seen the hidden tablet of fate’ Not even the prophet himself. All these graves of saints must be destroyed, those who kiss the coffins are infidels, the convents of the Mewlewi and Bektashi must be demolished, the dervishes should study rather than dance.’ The zealous youth, who interpreted the fatwa issued against him in a derisive manner and who repeated his provocative speeches for several evenings, disappeared mysteriously from Cairo. The â€کulama’ do not cease to decorate the graves of their saints and to confirm the people in their disbelief in this complete nonsense.’ [10]
    The objective behind recording the above quotations is to show that this German author is enough proof to vindicate the Wahhabi stance against visiting tombs and supplicating to the dead, as the religion of Islam has never allowed such practices. A brief glimpse of Sheikh ibn al Wahhab’s book â€کIssues of pre-Islamic era’ is enough to show the Messenger of Allah (SAS) opposed the practices of Jahiliyya. The book contains some interesting chapters:
    To take graves of past people as places of worship
    To take impressions/remains of the Prophet (SAS) as Mosques
    To light lamps on graves
    To declare graves as Eid
    Offering sacrifices besides graves
    To take blessings from people who were held sacred
    In these chapters he shows through ahadith that the people of Jahiliyya took these matters from the Ahl ul Kitab: the Jews and Christians. Islam came to destroy all such practices, but they were re-introduced among the Muslim masses, so there was a need to purify Islam from such practices anew.
    Here, let us quote a very clear reply by Sultan Abdul Aziz bin Abdur Rahman Al-Saud to the deputation which came from India in 1924, asking him to reconstruct the tombs on the graves. He said to them,
    â€کWe are concerned with the renovation of the sacred places and to keep them in a dignified and respectable manner. As for reconstructing them, we can only act in accordance with the Islamic Shariah. It is our duty to implement the rulings of the Shariah in the sacred places as reported by the pious ancestors and the four Imams. I am ready to rebuild them with gold and silver if the scholars of the Ummah agree to say that building them is an obligation.’ [11]
    However, Goldziher attributes the sanctity of the Black Stone among the Muslims to a remnant of idolatory. We refute this by simply quoting Syyedina Umar bin al Khattab, who said when kissing it,
    â€کI know that you are a stone which does not benefit nor harm. But had I not seen the Messenger of Allah kissing you, I would not have kissed you.’ [12]
    Similarly, Goldziher’s remarks about bid’a are not just:
    â€کThe exaggerated, fanatical attitude to the Sunnah, even in quite trivial matters, is matched by a similar fanaticism towards bid’a. Modern Wahhabism follows the pattern of earlier times in striving to brand as bid’a not only anything contrary to the spirit of the Sunnah but also everything that cannot be proved to be in it. It is known that the ultra-conservative opposed every novelty, the use of coffee and tobacco, as well as printing, coming under this heading. Muslim theologians even today are not entirely reconciled to the use of knife and fork.’ [13]
    It is an established fact that declaring something to be bid’a is not dependent upon the moods of people but on established principles. The Prophet (SAS) said,
    â€کAnyone who innovates in this matter of ours something which is not from it will have it rejected.’ [14]
    He also said, â€کThe one who practices something not in accordance with our matter will have it rejected.’ [15]
    So the whole issue is related to the worldly matters and not the religious ones. It is moreover regulated with a number of conditions which make it quite difficult to label something Bid’a easily, contrary to what the German orientalist claimed and falsely attributed to Wahhabism.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Arberry
    Arberry
    Religions in the Middle East: A. J. Arberry
    Arberry’s comments on the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and on the movement begun by Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab are generally acceptable. However, his final thoughts on Wahhabism need to be discussed. He says,
    â€کHow far can Wahhabism go along the path of adjustment without losing its essential character’ Much depends on the quality of leadership and much also depends on the generality of Wahhabis. Borrowing and adaptation from various sources both Eastern and Western, will go on but if the Wahhabis can hold fast to their fundamental beliefs, they stand a good chance of preserving the State which their predecessors in the faith laboured to build.’ [16 ]
    Arberry also discusses the issue of whether Syyed Ahmad Ash Shaheed (1786-1831) had been favourably impressed by Wahhabism during his Hajj journey. Arberry comments that this notion was first raised by W. W. Hunter in â€کIndian Mussulmans’, but was refuted by Syyed Abdul Barri in â€کThe politics of Syed Ahmad Barelwi’ and by Syed Mahmud Hussain in â€کHistory of the freedom movements’. Arberry concludes that the Ahl ul Hadith movement was also accused of Wahhabism towards the end of the 19 th Century. Our response to these comments is that the new era of Saudi rule began at the beginning of the 20 th Century, when its leadership exerted their efforts to unite all the areas of the Arabian peninsula, and succeeded having been blessed with Allah’s Help. The Kingdom established good relations with its neighbours and it is a fact of history that the Kingdom’s friends among the Arab states in particular and the Muslim countries in general have always outnumbered its enemies and critics.
    It is also another fact of history that the Kingdom’s strong grip on the dogma of Tawheed (Oneness of Allah) and their rejection of all signs of Shirk and superstitions is still as strong today as it was when the reformatory movement of the Sheikh began two hundred years ago. The secret of success lies in this, with the will of Allah.
    Arberry’s comments that Syed Ahmad Shaheed was impressed by Wahhabism have been mentioned by others such as Morgoliouth. The famous author Mas’ud Alam An Nadawi has commented on this, saying,
    â€کAnd similarly the renewal of the movement of Islam and Imamate which began in India was so similar to the movement of Najd that even the supporters of the movements believed both movements to be the same’.
    The similarities are not surprising since the roots of both movements lie in the Qur’an and Sunnah. However, the movements do have distinctly different methods of da’wah and work, despite agreeing in principle. The movement of renewing Jihad which was established by Syed Ahmad Shaheed (d. 1246 AH) and Sheikh Ismail Ash Shaheed (d. 1246) was not affected by the movement of Najd [17] . The Ahl ul Hadith in India were also labelled as Wahhabis because they too fought to refute all signs of Shirk, innovations and superstitions from the Muslims.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Encyclopaedia Britannica
    Encyclopaedia Britannica
    Encyclopaedia Britannica: The movement of Wahhabism under Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab The author of the article claims that,
    â€کHaving completed his formal education in the holy city of Medina, in Arabia, â€کAbd al-Wahhab lived abroad for many years. He taught for four years in Basra, Iraq and in Baghdad married an affluent woman whose property he inherited when she died. In 1736 in Iran he began to teach against what he considered to be the extreme ideas of various exponents of Sufi doctrines.’ [18]
    The article ends with a surprisingly refreshing praise of Sheikh ibn al Wahhab and comments that his followers preferred the title of â€کMuwahhidoon’. The term â€کWahhabis’ was a derogatory label used by their opponents.
    The lies concerning the Sheikh’s travels have been attributed to Morgoliouth. In his article in the â€کEncyclopaedia of Islam’, Morgoliouth includes the fabrication that the Sheikh married a wealthy lady in Baghdad from whom he inherited two thousand.
    He then travelled to Kurdistan, Hamdan, Qum and Isfahan. Other writers such as Palgrave, Zwemmer and Brigges in his â€کBrief history of the Wahhabis’ have also claimed that the Sheikh travelled beyond Baghdad and Damascus. But these claims are untrue, as there is no evidence of the Sheikh travelling beyond Basrah to Baghdad, Syria or Egypt. [19]
    ——————————————————————————–
    Ameer Ali
    Ameer Ali
    Ameer Ali: â€کThe Spirit of Islam’
    The author was a member of the Judicial Committee of His Majesty’s Privy Council in the early 20 th Century, i.e. during the days of British colonial rule in India. He writes,
    â€کIn Najd, under the rule of the Wahabis, who have been called the Covenanters of Islam, laggards were whipped into the mosque. And today under Ibn Saud, his followers who designate themselves Ikhwan, or â€کBrothers in faith’, pursue the same method for enforcing the observance of religious rites. Prayers bil-jama’at as being obligatory (farz’ain) naturally made the presence of the Imam obligatory.’ [20]
    Discussing the Azariqa, a faction of the Khawarij, he says,
    â€کOf these the Azarika are the most fanatical, exclusive, and narrow. According to them, every sect besides their own is doomed to perdition, and ought to be forcibly converted or ruthlessly destroyed. No mercy ought to be shown to any infidel or Mushrik (an expansive term, including Muslims, Christians and Jews). To them every sin is of the same degree: murder, fornication, intoxication, smoking, all are damning offences against religion. Whilst other Muslims, Shiah as well as Sunni, hold that every child is born into the world in the faith of Islam, and remains so until perverted by education, the Azraki declares that the child of an infidel is an infidel. The orthodox Christian maintains that every child who is not baptized is doomed to perdition: the Khariji, like the Christian, declares that every child who has not pronounced the formula of faith is beyond the pale of salvation. The Azarika were destroyed by Hajjaj ibn Yusuf; but their sanguinary, fierce, and merciless doctrines found expression nine centuries later in Wahabism.’ [21]
    He then says,
    â€کThe Wahabis have been depicted in rather favourable colours by Mr. Palgrave, in his Travels in Central Arabia, but, in fact, they are the direct descendants of the Azarika, who after their defeat by Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, had taken refuge in the recesses of Central Arabia. Abdul Wahab’s doctrines. bear the closest resemblance to those held so fiercely by the followers of Nafe ibn al-Azrak. Like them, the Wahabis designate all other Muslims as unbelievers, and permit their despoilment and enslavement. However commendable their revolt against the anthropolatrous usages in vogue among the modern Muslims, their views of religion and divine government, like those of the Ikhwan in the present day in Najd, are intensely morose and Calvinistic [22] , and in absolute conflict with progress and development.’ [23]
    Our response to these claims is as follows:
    There is no disagreement among the different mazahib of Islam regarding obligatory prayers. But there are some minor differences regarding the duty of the man to offer these prayers in a Masjid. Some held that it is obligatory if he is in the vicinity of a Masjid and hears the adhan, but others held it as a confirmed Sunnah. Muslim societies in general took it for granted that their men would attend the Masjid for prayer after hearing the adhan, and it was only in very recent times that laxity developed among some people. Al Ikhwan introduced a disciplinary punishment for those who were lazy in attending congregational prayers in order to counteract the lethargy that was developing. But this punishment was never needed on a large scale; in Saudi Arabia today, for example, an observor will notice people flocking to the Masajid at times of prayer, despite the absence of any forms of punishment for not doing so.
    The treatise of Sheikh Hamad bin Naasir bin Uthman Ma’mari An Najdi (d. 1225 AH) gives permission to fight those who do not pray out of laziness. He reports the consensus of all the Imams except Az Zuhri. And this is the mazhab of the people known as Hanbalis. For the people of Najd, anyone who abandons prayer voluntarily is regarded a Kafir. [24]
    Ameer Ali’s comments about the alleged resemblance between the Wahhabis and the Khawarij are not new. Zaini Dahlan also took all the ahadith pertaining to the Khawarij and applied them to the Wahhabis in his books â€کAl Durrar al Sunniya’ and â€کAl Futuhat al Islamiyya’. [25]
    Ameer Ali’s comments regarding the resemblance between the Wahhabis and the Khawarij, especially the Azariqa, shows his deep ignorance of the beliefs of Sheikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab, which were simply a renewal of the pure teachings of the Salaf. Let us hear the evidence of the mazhab of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab.
    i) The Khawarij declare any individual who commits a major sin to be a Kafir. The Sheikh will only declare someone to be a Kafir if the consensus of the entire Muslim ummah is that he is a Kafir, and if the evidence has been made clear to him. The Sheikh did not declare someone a Kafir if the evidence had not been presented to the wrongdoer. He says concerning people who commit the major sin of drinking alcohol,
    â€کIf these people insist on declaring something which is haram to be halal, they are to be labelled Kuffar. But if they believe them to be haram but still partake of them, they are to be flogged. Our pious predecessors did not declare people to be Kuffar for taking the haram to be halal until the truth was made clear to these people. If they persisted despite the evidence, they could then be labelled Kuffar.’ [26]
    ii) The Khawarij declared it halal to fight other factions if they had rebelled.
    The Sheikh said,
    â€کAs far as fighting is concerned, we do not fight anyone except to defend our lives and honour. These people have invaded us in our own lands, and so have left no possible alternative. We may fight some of them for what they have done for us. The Qur’an advises us, â€کThe recompense for an evil is a similar evil.’ And we can fight those who openly abuse the deen of our Prophet (SAS) after recognising it.’ [27]
    iii) The Khawarij were known for their rebellion against Muslim leaders.
    They killed Syyedina Ali, May Allah be pleased with him, one of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. In â€کThe Salafi beliefs of Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab’, the author says,
    â€کHe believes in the obligation to listen to and obey the Imams of the Muslims, whether they are sinful or pious, as long as they do not ask the people to disobey Allah. If a man takes the Caliphate and the people gather round him, or he dominates them with a sword until he becomes a Caliph, then obedience to him is incumbent and rebellion against him is haram.’ [28]
    iv) One of the distinctive characteristics of the Azariqa is their belief that all the children of Kuffar are also Kuffar. For the belief of the Ahl us Sunnah wal Jama’ah and the followers of Sheikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab, we will record the religious verdict of the most prominent worker in da’wah of our times, Allamah Sheikh Ibn Abdul Aziz bin Baz, may Allah have.18 Mercy upon him:
    â€کAccording to one saying of the scholars, The man to whom da’wah did not reach, either because he was away from Islam and the Muslims, or because he attained majority when he was mad, or the children of Kuffar who die in childhood, all these people will be put to a trial on the Day of Judgement. Those who respond correctly to the trial will enter Al Jannah. Those who disobey will enter the Fire. And we seek safety from Allah, the Almighty.’
    Because of the many authentic ahadith on this issue, the correct opinion regarding the children of Kuffar who die before coming of age is that they will be in paradise. [29]
    v) Ameer Ali admits the revolt of Wahhabis against anthropomorphism.
    He registers his displeasure with their displeasure with their rule, but does not explain why this is so. The Saudi Kingdom took upon its shoulders the duty of implementing the religion of Allah and Islamic Shariah. Among the blessings of this rule are the comfort, safety, security, peace and stability enjoyed in all areas under its rule. It has modernised and advanced in technology rapidly. Had Ameer Ali lived longer, he would have witnessed himself the falseness of his predictions for the end of the last century. And Allah is the Accounter.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Humphrey’s â€کMemoirs’
    Humphrey’s â€کMemoirs’
    This book 30 was translated into Urdu in India and it was claimed by its publishers that Humphrey was an English spy whose duty was to spy on the Ottoman caliphate in the 18 th Century. He went through training in adopting an Islamic identity and learning Arabic, and then travelled to Basra where he met Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, and a strong friendship developed between the two. The Publishers claim that these memoirs remained hidden until they fell into the hands of the Germans during World War II, who published it as a way of slandering the British government. It was translated into French, Arabic and Urdu. A perusal of this book makes it abundantly clear that it is an imaginary fictional narrative, coined deliberately to discredit Sheikh ibn Abdul Wahhab and his followers by the British. Our evidence to prove the book is a concoction is twofold: historical evidence from its contents, and our fruitless search to find the original English version.
    We began with a trip to the British Library’s Rare Books Section, which contains books printed prior to 1975. There were 72 entries under Humphrey, but none related to our subject. We found one entry under Humphrey’s Memoirs (printed 1734), but these were the memoirs of the Duke of Gloucester who recorded his relations with the ruling family of the time.
    The publishers of the offending book had also given a number of alternative titles such as â€کColonisation Ideal’ and â€کThe English spy in Islamic countries’. Needless to say we found no such book, and neither did our search under â€کspy’ reveal anything useful. The advent of computers has made access to rare and remote books very easy, and we have been forced to conclude after an intensive search that no such book exists and that we have a fabricated translation published by the enemies of the Sheikh ibn Abdul Wahhab.
    Humphrey claims he travelled to Istanbul in 1710 at the age of 20. He returned to London and then travelled to Basrah in 1712 after a long sea journey lasting six months. This claim is irrational as sea travel between England and Gulf was not that long. He also claims to have met Shaikh At Taee, one of the Sheikhs of Basrah. He then met a carpenter of Iranian origins called Abdul Riza with whom he began working, and there he met a. young man who spoke Turkish, Persian and Arabic. He wore the garb of students and was known as Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab. [31] The claim of this acquaintance is clearly false. Sheikh ibn Abdul Wahhab was born in 1703, attaining majority at the age of twelve when his father arranged his marriage. After travelling to the Hijaz for the Hajj, he returned to Najd and stayed with his father to study. He did not travel to seek knowledge until 1722 when he travelled to Makkah, Madina and Basrah. There is thus no possibility of the Sheikh and the fictional Humphrey meeting in Basrah as the dates do not correspond. And all the scholars who have researched the biography of the Sheikh have rejected claims that the Sheikh travelled to Turkey and Persia. [32]
    The book claims that the Sheikh expressed a desire to travel to Istanbul, but was advised against it by Humphrey for fear of persecution from the Ottomans. He advised the Sheikh to travel to Isfahan instead, and the Sheikh did so. This too is a lie. Syyed Abdul Haleem al Jundi quotes in
    â€کAl Imam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab â€ک the victory of the Salafi method’, â€کI discussed this with Sheikh ibn Baz, who denied the journey to Kurdistan and Iran. Sheikh Ibn Baz told me he took this information from his Sheikhs, including the grandchildren of Sheikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab, and especially his own Sheikh, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim’. [33]
    Humphrey claims that the Sheikh declared his da’wah in 1143 AH. This is the only time he uses the hijrah calendar in his book. It also reveals his ignorance of historical facts, as the Sheikh returned to Huraymilah three years before the death of his father in 1153, and declared his da’wah after the death of his father.
    There is yet more evidence that Humphrey was devoid of historical knowledge. Humphrey travelled to Istanbul in 1710, giving the ostensible reason that the British Empire was assigning great importance to its established colonies. The Empire was so vast it was said that the sun did not set within its boundaries. Although the British Isles were themselves relatively small, the extended territories including India, China and the Middle East were extensive and required careful governance. The Ministry for Colonies decided to recruit spies to gather information from the territories, and so Humphrey became involved. 34 It is historically inaccurate to place these events at the beginning of the 18 th Century. India at the time was not a colony; the East India Company began trading in the 17 th Century but had no political hold until.
    1757 when Bengal was captured. It began expanding until the rule of the Company was transferred to direct rule from England in 1857. Therefore, there was no Indian colony in 1710. There was also no British colonial involvement in China at the time; Hong Kong did not fall to the British until the Treaty of 1898.
    It is therefore clear that the inventor of the Memoirs has let his imagination run riot and abandon historical accuracy. He has set his story at the end of the 19 th Century in the heyday of the British Empire, when the sun truly did not set on its colonies. But in doing so, he has exposed himself to be a writer of fiction, not fact.
    The author attributes many actions and words to the Sheikh which are at clear odds with the beliefs, teachings and distinctly Islamic character of the Sheikh. There is no need to discuss these filthy slanders in any detail, as the authenticity of the facts in the book has been proven to be false.
    In order to lend credibility to his â€کmemoirs’, the author sprinkles the novel with stories of plots by the British government to disunite the Muslims; to create ideological and religious upheaval among them; to spread evil among their men and women; to distance them from Arabic, the language of the Qur’an; to encourage the use of national and social languages; to establish missionary schools; and to weaken the position of the Muslims politically and economically.
    I have attempted to prove the fabrication of this book through its historical inaccuracy and doubtful authorship, as I believe that no one else has done so yet. In fact, a book as insignificant as this does not deserve even a second glance, let alone a serious critical study. But from a sense of duty and Amanah, I decided to shed light on the lies contained within it. And Allah knows best the intentions.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Arnold
    Arnold
    Let us end this paper with the very perceptive remarks of Prof. Arnold about the Wahhabi movement in â€کPreaching of Islam’:
    â€کAt the present day there are two chief factors that make for missionary activity in the Muslim world. The first of these is the revival of religious life which dates from the Wahhabi reformation at the end of the eighteenth Century; though this new departure has long lost all political significance outside the confines of Najd[35], as a religious revival its influence is felt throughout Africa, India and the Malay Archipelago even to the present day, and has given birth to numerous movements which take rank among the most powerful influences in the Islamic world. In the preceding pages it has already been shown how closely connected many of the modern Muslim missions are with this widespread revival: the fervid zeal it has stirred up, the new life it has infused into existing religious institutions, the impetus it has given to theological study and to the organisation of devotional exercises, have all served to awake and keep alive the innate proselytising spirit of Islam.’ [36]
    ——————————————————————————–
    References and Footnotes
    References and Footnotes
    1. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Ed. By James Hasting (Edinburgh), 12 : 660-661
    2. Surah al-Shoora : 11
    3. M. Abu Zahra: Tarikh al-Madhahib Al-Islamiyya, p.532
    4. Ibid
    5. Abdullah b. Abdul Rahman b. Salih al-Bassam: Ulama Najd Khilal Sitah Quroon, 1 : 51
    6. Sheikh Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab: Kitab al-Tawhid, Bab Al-Shafa’a
    7. Majmoo Fatawa Sheikh al-Islam, 1 : 264
    8. Kitab al-Tawhid, Bab, Qaul Allah Ta’ala: Fala Taj’alu Lillahi Andada
    9. Ignaz Goldziher: Muslim Studies, p. 259
    10. Ibid, p. 334-335
    11. Salahuddin Yusuf: Qabar Parasti, p. 193
    12. Sahih Muslim, 2 : 925
    13. Goldziher, p. 34
    14. Sahih Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Maja as narrated by â€کAisha (RA)
    15. Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Muslim as narrated by â€کAisha (RA)
    16. A. J. Arberry: Religion in the Middle East, p. 281-282
    17. Masud al-Nadawi: Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab, p. 199
    18. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 10 : 510-511
    19. M. al-Nadawi, p.40-41, footnote no. 4
    20. Ameer Ali: The Spirit of Islam, p. 125-126
    21. Ibid, p. 356
    22. Calwin (1509-1564), French Protestant theologian who said that the destiny of the man is recorded before his birth
    23. Ameer Ali, p. 357
    24. M. al-Nadawi, p. 215
    25. Ahmad b. Hajar Al-Butami: Seikh Muhammad b. Abdul Wahhab, p. 50
    26. Dr. Salih bin Abdullah Al-Abood: Aqidah al-Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab al-Salafiyyah 1 : 348
    27. Ibid, 1 : 348
    28. Ibid, 1 : 465
    29. Sheikh Abdul Aziz b. Baz: Majmoo Fatawa, 8 : 98
    30. Humphrey’s Memoirs, Colonisation Ideal, The English Spy in Islamic Countries
    31. Ibid, p. 35
    32. Dr. S. A. Al-Abood, 1 : 188
    33. Ibid, 1 : 186
    34. Humphrey, p. 6
    35. It should be noted that this book was first published in 1896 and then reprinted with some additions in 1913. Therefore, it speaks about the conditions prevalent at the time
    36. T. W. Arnold: Preaching of Islam, p. 430-431

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