The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of Wahhabism spread and the increase in radicalization and the rise of extremist movements among Muslim Communities all over the world, Specially Middle eastern countries. Through this paper I have explained the historical background of the Wahhabism Ideology from its emerging period until today.
The Ideology came into functional after the world war one when the Ottoman Empire lost its territorial control of the Arabian Peninsula which is known as Saudi Arabia in today. The Ideology was named after the religious leader Muhammad bin Abd-Wahhab developed his way of teaching and practice of Islam and bringing extreme thoughts to the religion.
The study explores the difference between traditional Sunni Islam and the Wahhabi belief system of Islam, Considering big Islamic scholars thoughts as a major resource. While concerning the threat of this ideology to the Islam in modern day. This paper investigates the influence of Wahhabism Ideology on the rise, growth, and spread of radical movements across majority Muslim Countries and its effects on the peaceful and tolerance teachings of the Prophet Muhammad(S.AW) by observing the current activities taking place in the Middle East countries and some other Muslim countries in Africa.
The paper considers the act of the radical movements in Muslim countries as well as their terrorist attacks in most of the western world cities such, New York, Brussels, London, Paris. While all these acts are against the true Islamic religion teachings, they act as they preserving Islam by using the word Jihad.
Finally, this paper contributes methods and strategies that the Muslim Countries can use to dismiss the claim of this Ideology adherents, and safe the society from their cruel acts against humanity at all. Education is the number one factor that can decrease the effect of these movements, by opening debates with well known and regarded Sunni Scholars to down the Wahhabi movements spread into the Muslim nations. Schools, Islamic teaching centers are also a major useful space to battle against Wahhabist radicals with Sunni Islamic Scholars.
Radicalism, in different structures, has made huge advances in a few nations of Middle East and Northern Africa and generally some other Islamic Countries such, as Somalia, Nigeria. Which we Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are fighting against internationally recognized governments. Wahhabism poses a direct challenge to the perfect vision of states in the Middle east nations that was established in the 20th century. In addition, the broader extreme ideology and its belief system named” Wahhabism” signals a serious challenge to the theology and routine practice of the Mainstream of Sunni Islam to which the most of these nation’s population adhere. My question is how we can stop the spread of radicalized Understanding of Islam, investigate how the radical interpretations could threaten social stability at the national and regional levels. This paper also discusses how the creation of serious geopolitical dangers to which the neighbouring states and powers, and in addition the US and the Europe, would need to respond and react.
Today, all through the world, we see a wave of radical movements which turn militant and aggressor, whose source can be traced to the Wahhabism Ideology. We need to know what are these movements? And How they growing among Muslim communities in the Muslim world, and even in the western world? What are their ideological differences with the traditional Islam and how their ideological differences show support to the modern radical movements? And what can we done to reduce the increasing power of these movements in Vulnerable Muslim states and regions Such as the middle eastern nations, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria Where Boko haram and Al-Shabaab are battling against governments of these countries.
Traditional Islam sees religion as a relationship between man and God and therefore deep sense of spirituality. In this system of belief, power or compulsion can not be used in religion. From the time of prophet Mohamed (s.a.w) different religious groups practiced peace and tolerance, with respect to natural differences in their beliefs. In contrast, Wahhabism Ideology is based on the idea of political authorization or enforcement of religious convictions, therefore allowing no distinctions in faith at all. In Wahhabi system of belief, faith is not necessarily an option; its mandated by force and aggression.
2. Historical Background
Understanding the origins of Wahhabism and Salafism
The Phenomenon of Islamic terrorism can’t be sufficiently explained as the export of Saudi Wahhabism, as many scholars and commentators claim. In fact, the ideological heritage of some notorious terrorist movements such as Al-Qaeda is Salafism. The Salafi movements started in Egypt and spread into Saudi Society during the rule of King Faisal.
The official “Wahhabi” religion version of Saud Arabia has basically merged with specific sections of Salafism. There is now rivalry competition between the scholars and researchers over the “True” Salafism, and the Saudi Wahhabis support the Saudi Regime and attack groups such as Al-Qaeda and the followers of Syyid Qutb.
The simple explanation for the differences with the Salafi Movement is that some aim to change society through da’wa ( Preaching/evangelizing) though others try to transform and change the society through brutality. In the example of Sadu shows, all strains of Salafism, with their various ideological beliefs make a place for social services such as education and its important for them for the transformation of the society.
Origins of Wahhabism
The Origins of the majority of the twentieth century’s Islamic radical movements lie in a new Islamic theology and ideology developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in tribal areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula. The source of this new stream of though was a Muslim scholar named Muhammad ibn Abdl-al Wahhab.
When Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab started lecturing and about his evangelist brand of Islam among the Bedouins of the Najd during the eighteenth century, his thoughts were dismissed in the centres.
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab claimed that the decline of the Muslim world was caused by malevolent foreign innovations (bida’) Including European modernism, but also elements of traditional Islam that were simply unfamiliar to the isolated Najdi Bedouins. He advised the purging of these influences in an Islamic Revival. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s creed placed an overriding emphasis on tawhid (monotheism), condemning many traditional Muslim practices as shirk (polytheism). He also gave jihad an unusual prominence in his teachings. The Wahhabis called themselves Muwahideen (monotheists) – to call themselves Wahhabis was considered shirk.
Origins of Salafism
Salafism originated in the mid to late 19th century, as an intellectual and scholarly movement at the University of Al-Azhar, led by Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1839197) and Rashid Rida (1865-1935). The movement was built on a broad foundation. Al-Afgani was Political activist, and Abduh was an instructor, looked for progressive social change as part of “Da’wa” specially through education and trainings. Debate over the place of these respective methods of Political change continues to this day in Salafi groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
The roots of nearly all the twentieth century’s Islamic radical movements lie in a new Islamic theology and Ideology developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the tribal areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula which is known Saudi Arabia in modern day. The source of this teachings of thought was a Muslim researcher named Muhammad Ibn Abd-al Wahhab, and the ideology was named after him as “Wahhabism”.
The Premise of this new, narrow belief system was to dismiss traditional scholars, researchers were granted scholarships to study the practices under the pretence of restoring the genuine fundamentals of Islam” and ensuring the idea of monotheism. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s brand of “cleansing” of Islam comprised of prohibiting many traditionally accepted acts of worship, reverence of the person of the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him and the devout people, and disbanding the books containing traditional prayers and burning them, and people could make interpretations of law and commentaries on the Qur’an and Hadith. He allowed to his followers to interpret the holy books the “Qur’an and Hadith” for themselves and to follow up their interpretations considering their understanding, without paying any attention to the fundamental standard principles. And if anyone disobeyed his teachings of Islam orders was regarded as apostate, disbeliever or idolater, thus making the shedding of their blood and seizure of their wealth is permitted. Along these lines he was able to handle and secure a significant following whose legacy continues in one form or another today.
Over the time, Ibn Wahhab’s thoughs spread far and wide, being talked about and debated by many Islamic Scholars, called into questions and sometimes it was supported. A battle followed between the staunchly Orthodox or Universal Ottoman Empire and the “Wahhabi” clans. The Wahhabis were put down and strictly controlled until the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920 when the influence of the Ottoman Empire’s Influence was over. Wahhabism found a new opportunity after 1920s among clans as they were able to re-establish their beliefs and state their influence on Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula.
Starting from 1920s until today, they were exceptionally successful in establishing up an accepted new Ideology in Islam whose fundamental characteristics is extreme views and interpretations, as contrasted with the traditional Sunni Islam. Going under the guise of reform of the religion, and in the last three decades the movement reached momentum with the help of various wealthy individuals. And the movements development brought the eventual outcome of some of the groups transformed to extreme radicalization of their beliefs.
3. The Influence of Wahhabism Today
The Wahhabi ideology is a hostile and antagonistic to non-Muslim and to traditional practices including looking for intercession by methods of the pious saint in Islam, which was accepted for the traditional Sunni Muslim sects by 1400 years. By dismissing any type of hierarchy for example that followed by traditional Sunni School of thoughts, the Wahhabis rejected traditional decision making on a wide variety of subjects, refused the four schools of thought and its accepted teachings of law.
While this new belief system restricted numerous traditional Islamic forms of worship, its adherents did not turn out to militants until recently. In this time “Wahhabi” supporters have taken up an undeniably standpoint attempting to impose their ideology in different places around the world. The Wahhabi attitude states that Islam may be reformed by means of the sword. That is the reason the movement has showed itself as armed insurrections throug the world, particularly where governments are powerless and unfit to oppose and resist in aggressive way.
Sadly, this narrow belief system has showed up and thrived in Islam, but not in the view Islam. Previously, Islam has always been and presented as a peaceful religion with tolerant manner. The Prophet Muhammad(saw) used to live with his neighbours or friends with different beliefs of Religion in a Peaceful way and he also used to give gifts to them without caring what they believed. He never attacked them with a sword forcing them or fighting. And in the history of Islam there are many peace treaties that the prophet made with non-Muslims. We can understand from this point of view that Islam spread with very extensive waves during the first three centuries without imposing its beliefs on anyone, as attested by the scrolls of history.
Under this modern fundamental Ideology, Islam’s basic Principle of tolerance has been abolished. The Holy Qur’an mentions repeatedly that there is no compulsion in religion and that all individuals are allowed to practice any religion they like. Those of the Wahhabi teachings apply verses of the Holy Qur’an to help their belief of system, whose basis is to force the people to believe the Wahhabi system of belief, Muslim or non-Muslim.
The exclusivism of Ibn Taymiyah combined with the utilization of violence pushed by modern Ultra-Wahhabists, for example Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIS, and Taliban have now given their establishment and rise to take terrorist activities outside the Saudi Arabia in Muslim nations and western world committing terrorist outrages such as the ones seen Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Syria, Turkey, and in the western world such as in Paris, London, Brussels, and different cities in the US.
Ironically Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali seemed to warn against the rise of radicalism in Kitab Al-Fitan a compilation of hadiths (Islamic tradition) identifying the end of times, set up together by conspicuous researcher Nuyam bin Hammad in 229AH.
In it Imam Ali recalled the Prophet saying:
“If you see the black flags, then hold your ground and do not move your hands or your feet. A people will come forth who are weak and have no capability, their hearts are like blocks of iron. They are the people of the State (literally the people of Al Dawla), they do not keep a promise or a treaty.
“They call to the truth but they are not its people. Their names are (nicknames like Abu Mohammed) and their last names (are the names of town and cities, like Al Halabi and now al-Baghdadi) and their hair is loose like women’s hair. (Leave them) until they fight among themselves, then Allah will bring the truth from whoever He wills.”
4. Wahhabism Ideology in Practice
Similarly, as the spread of Wahhabism Prospered outside of the Arabian Peninsula after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it now it now faces an important challenge in many Muslim nations as well as Western Countries. While some of these countries were Protected from a wide range of religious influence until the fall of Ottoman Empire in 1920s, a vacuum of religious of teaching made some nations fruitful ground for the spread of this new Ideology
Wahhabi belief of system provides a religious and a belief system underpinnings to empower militant movements to take up arms and wage war against existing governments, if they think it’s their time to emerge. Though the fact that these movements are Ideological in nature, they effortlessly resort to armed struggle. While most governments are able to reconcile and achieve compromises, as one may effectively compromise with moderate Islam. Radical movements dismiss any type of compromise, demanding their way or no other. They have strict vision, considering faith in an message to convey.
The fundamentalist movements who have turned militant declare war against everyone with different ideological system of belief to theirs, accordingly, declaration of war against a governments is common ground for extremists. There are many Muslim nations that faced a fierce battle against the extremist movements such as, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and many other nations that Wahhabi adherent movements oppose their governments and its Institutions as they started stablishing their own state in Syria in and Iraq the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria know as the ISIS. The approach of these radical movements is to penetrate mosques, Islamic teaching madrasas and charitable associations from where they teach their doctrines religiously oriented individuals with their ideas and their strategies, they started forcefully to impose their views on weak and vulnerable societies by using financial support for them, willing to take over and control many places which can make them able to spread their ideology and their practices. They legitimize their militant activities and unlawful methods for financing their motivation by claiming to wage a jihad for the conservation of Islam.
Today, we have numerous cases of this marvel, regardless of whether their people announcing war on western or non-Muslim countries, or vigilante movements coming against their governments in the Middle east. And we can understand this contradicts the teachings of our beloved Muhammad (saw)not to oppose an authority as long as he doesn’t violate the freedom religion even if he is committing injustice actions. Thus, those of the Wahhabi mindset use Islam when it suits them and oppose when it’s doesn’t suit.
All the extremist movements have used Islam to justify some prohibited actions in Islam. The term Islamic is terribly abused by extremist organizations in different places who credit to the religion a wide range of decisions, which in reality oppose contradict the essence of the religion in spirit and in particulars. Among them is the fatwa that justifies the use of terrorist acts and tactics, for example, a suicide bombings of normal civilians which have no role in the government, and attacks against non-soldiers in the markets, , Schools, Offices, and other places of worships such as Mosques and churches, also they have issued a fatwa legitimizing the utilization of drug money to seek support and finance their struggle and campaigns in different places, despite the fact the narcotics are haram and strictly forbidden in Islam.
Some of the extremist movements have used drugs to change the minds of those who perform suicide attacks and kill civilians. Selling drugs , trafficking weapons and smuggling the people in Muslim cities and other cities to grow their network in different nations which also helped them finance their activities in a wide range.
5. Containing the Spread and Growth of Radicalism
It is exceptionally well known that some specific networks have thrived in many different Muslim nations throughout the world, specially in the Middle Eastern nations. Small or big extremist organizations has been well financed their militant movements to emerge, coming against their recognized governments and the civilians, promoting conflict. The peril lies when an outside nation back such radical extremist movements under the false impression that they are preserving the religious freedom. In the Middle east, for example, instead of legitimizing these vigilante movements as part of religious fabric in their Muslim Societies, there is a need to polices that can ensure that the governments are not encouraging the rise of extremist movements and their growth or spread in the Middle east as well as any other Muslim nations, whose stated objectives is the overtake of the legitimate authorities by any mean, including armed struggle. All the extremist movements must not permitted in any of the Muslim nations, and also there is a need not to recognize them as a social fabric religious movement. There should be a type of code ethic to distinguish a peaceful Islamic-movements with the true Sunni Adherent Muslims from those extremists who are preferring the use of threat and force to impose their belief of system in Muslim societies. The issue of extremism exists is not only existing in Muslim nations , but exists as well as in the US and western countries too. It can be dealt with more effectively if the Muslim nations carry ideological battle against extremism by building new way to explain the traditional peaceful Sunni Islam teaching centers and initiate debates to down the teachings of extremism ideologies. To support religious freedom in Muslim nations as well as western countries. And showing the irrational misuse of the religion by the extremist to the people, and alert them the threat they carry to the Muslim world and Islam.
To understand radical movements, one must consider the extent of Islam and the psychology of Muslims, since what we are seeing today is an ideological system which turning to militant groups. It is important to note that the Wahhabi ideology itself is extreme in its interpretation and can turn aggressive powerful militant after some time. Why of this type of ideology and its practices is attractive to some Muslims? What are their political plans behind religious Movements? How are holy books used to legitimize their unlawful actions performed in the name of the religion? Education is a significant factor in containing and countering the spreed of this kind of radicalism and its related movements.
It would be exceptionally beneficial if a think tank or research institute were to be to be shaped in order that media, researchers, and authorites understand Islam on a deeper level, rather than making rash speculations based on narrow understandings. To genuinely understand the world Islamist radical movements, one must acknowledge it isn’t only a social phenomenon as such a large number of scholars and theorists mistakenly assume, but is an undeniable ideological battle of words and weapons alike.