Yes, the Muslim world is facing oppression and injustice, but we can no longer escape the fact that we have enemies within the community. The Glasgow attack and the Lal Masjid horror are recent examples of extremism and terror. Clearly there is a crisis of ignorance, leadership and faith. Muslims must acknowledge that there is a radical fringe which needs to be identified and rejected. We cannot allow the pulpits of our mosques or the institutions of learning to be seized for the discourse of anger and the rhetoric of rage. It has become imperative to understand the root of militancy, which is transforming the glorious tradition of spiritual quest and scholarship in Islam to one of terror.
Prophet Mohammad said, “Beware of extremism in your religion”. This ideology of extremism stems from religious outfits like Tablighi Jamaat whose recruits are operating world over. Tablighi Jamaat was founded by Deobandi cleric Maulana Mohammad Ilyas Kandhalawi in 1920. The Jamaat-e-Islami, Ahle Hadis and Salafis share similar views.
Islam in the subcontinent is the legacy of the Sufis. Wahabism is an import from Saudia Arabia, which seeks inspiration from Ibn Wahab who died in 1786 AD. Unfortunately its followers are unaware of the political and religious activities of its founder and have become victims of the mission rhetoric: “purify and spread Islam”, which allows emotion to rule over knowledge.
The Wahabis reject the historical Islamic belief that the spiritual chains of Sufi orders (silsilas) are linkages to Prophet Mohammad. Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th century scholar, remains the primary source for Wahabi ideology who was barred from teaching and jailed several times in Damascus for issuing heretical fatwas. Taymiyya’s life was spared because he publicly repented amid 700 scholars. He slandered the Caliphs Ali and Osman, discredited Sufi scholars like Ibn Arabi and Imam Ghazali, preaching that visiting the Prophet’s shrine was sin. Inspired by Taymiyyas forgotten teachings Abd al-Wahab of Nejd in East Arabia saw himself as a reformer and preached that Muslims who sought intercession to God through Prophet Mohammad and the Sufis are polytheists who practice shirk (innovation).
Ibn Wahab’s initial devotees were largely Bedouins and he declared those who did not believe in his teachings as unbelievers. He told them: “It is halal (permissible) to kill and plunder Muslims who make mediators of the prophet and auliyas (Sufis) with a view to attain closeness to Allah.” The Bedouins used the verdict to justify the loot of Haj pilgrims. Ibn Wahab taught that it was sinful to build tombs over graves and said: “If I could I would demolish the Prophet’s shrine.” He did not believe that waqf foundations were Islamic and pronounced that salaries to Qazis were unlawful bribes. Ibn Wahab burnt original Sufi manuscripts including copies of the world famous Muslim prayer manual “Dalail ul Khairaat” by the 15th century Moroccan Sufi scholar Jazuli because along with salutations and blessings to the Prophet, its narrative included an eloquent portrait of the Prophet’s shrine. His followers plundered and desecrated the tomb of the Prophet’s grandson Imam Hussain in Karbala.
Wahabi orthodoxy was a minor current in the Muslim world till promoted by the Al Saud dynasty that came to power in 1924. The house of Saud established matrimonial alliances with Ibn Wahab’s family furthering his strident teachings to justify their take-over of the holy cities and establish the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The royals ran bulldozers over the remnants of all meditation cells and the early Sufi tombs along with the adjoining mosques. The historical tombs of the Prophet’s family and his companions at Jannat ul-Maali and Jannat ul-Baqi, the sacred graveyards of Mecca and Medina were razed to the ground.
Mecca and Medina are now managed by the Wahabis and their control has robbed pilgrims of the right to express devotion in a manner of their choice. Constant patrol of the muttawas (religious police) ensures that pilgrims don’t touch the exteriors of the prophet’s shrine or offer salutations to him. At Medina turning towards the Prophet’s tomb for supplication (dua) is met with harsh reactions and pilgrims are forcibly turned around to face the direction of the Kabbah. Women are allowed in the compound but are subject to severe restrictions of time and space.
Through well-funded outreach organisations the Wahabis spread their version of Islam where listening to music, celebrating the annual birth anniversary of the Prophet (milad-e-nabi) and death anniversaries of the Sufis (Urs) are unlawful in Islam.
Be it for Muslims or non-Muslim, the Wahabi ideology is rooted in the politics of extremism and terror negating the Quranic message of peace and brotherhood. “Islam is a religion of peace,” has been reduced to a mere cliché. Muslims have to become good communicators of that Quranic and prophetic message by reclaiming their lost intellectual heritage and reviving academic discourse on the rightful traditions of Islam.
“… and who saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of mankind.” — The Quran 5:32