Wahhabism: Understanding the Roots and Role Models of Islamic Extremism

Zubair Qamar

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Najd – – a Place Not So Holy

Najd, in Saudi Arabia, is where the founder of Wahhabism came from. It was a mostly barren and dry land inhabited by Bedouins who used to graze animals.  With sparse water, it is not the most comfortable of places since its climate has extremes of heat and cold in the summer and winter seasons.  Najd has a notorious reputation in the orthodox Sunni community for originating seditions (fitan) long before Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab came.  Indeed, it is known to have harbored many  trouble mongering individuals who challenged the Muslims both spiritually and physically. The orthodox Sunni Iraqi scholar Jamal Effendi al-Zahawi says:

 Famous writers of the day made a point of noting the similarity between Ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhab`’s beginnings and those of the false prophets prominent in Islam`s initial epoch like Musaylima the Prevaricator, Sajah al-Aswad al-Anasi, Tulaiha al-Asadi and others of his kind [14].

Fenari says that although Najd is closest to to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, it has only been dispraised by Prophet Muhammad (s) in authentic traditions.  He raises another interesting point that while many Arabian tribes were praised by Prophet Muhammad, the Banu Tamim – the most well known tribe of Central Arabia where Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab was from – is praised only once. Moreover, authentic traditions that ‘explicitly critique’ the Banu Tamimites are far more numerous.  Ibn al-Jawzi, an orthodox Sunni scholar, documents the evolution of the Kharijite movements and illustrates how the tribe of Banu Tamim played a leading role in it.  Imam Abd al-Qahir also states that the Tamimites – and the Central Arabians in general – were intimately involved in the Kharijite rebellions against the Muslims, contrasting their immense contribution to the minimal contribution of members of the tribes of Medina and Yemen.  It is from Banu Tamim where a man name Abu Bilal Mirdas came from, who, although being a relentless worshipper, turned out to be one of the most barbaric Kharijite fanatics. ‘He is remembered as the first who said the Tahkim – the formula ‘The judgment is Allah`s alone` – on the Day of Siffin, which became the slogan of the later Kharijite da`wa.’  It is reminiscent of what Wahhabis say today – that they strictly adhere to nothing but the Qur`an and Sunnah – although it is merely a jumble of words without coherent meaning. Najda ibn Amir of the tribe of Banu Hanifa was a Kharijite whose homeland was Najd, and the best known woman among the Kharijites was a Tamimite named Qutam bint `Alqama. It is fascinating to see that fanatics of all types came from a region where the fanatic Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab came from.

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  1. […] worship and reverence to God alone. The authentic carriers of Islam from the time of the Prophet (s)[1] until now.” Calling them Wahhabis implies that they learned ideas from a man – Muhammad ibn […]