Wahhabism: Understanding the Roots and Role Models of Islamic Extremism

Zubair Qamar

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The Wahhabi assault on graves and the massacre of Muslim communities in Riyadh and Karbala

With the ferocious zeal of a ‘divine’ mission, aimed at terminating what they perceived as the filthy polytheistic scum of Arabia, the Wahhabi army led by Muhammad ibn Sa`ud ‎ first destroyed graves and objects in Najdi towns and villages that were used for what they condemned as ‘polytheistic practices.’  The Wahhabi movement mustered supporters who rallied behind their cause, increased the size of their army, and successfully united most of the people of Najd under the banner of Wahhabism by 1765.

The assault and ‘jihad’of Wahhabism did not stop after the death of Muhammad ibn Sa`ud ‎ in 1765, but continued with unrelenting and barbaric force under the leadership of his son, Abdul-Aziz, who captured the city of Riyadh in 1773. Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab died a year earlier but left four sons who continued spreading Wahhabism and strengthened the Wahhabi family`s alliance with the Al-Sa`ud ‎.[8] Later, in 1801, the Wahhabi army marched to Karbala with a force of 10,000 men and 6,000 camels.[9] Upon reaching Karbala, they mercilessly and indiscriminately attacked its inhabitants for eight hours, massacring about 5,000 people. Moreover, they severely damaged Imam Hussein`s mosque, looted the city, and left the carnage-laden city with its treasures on 200 camels.[10] This holocaust won the Wahhabi criminals the unforgiving hatred and wrath of the Shi`ite and Sunni Muslims, who, until this day, curse them passionately.  The Shi`ite Muslims consider Imam Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad (s), one of the most sacred figures and his tomb one of the most sacred sites on earth. Every year, thousands of Shi`ites gather at the site to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein.  Visiting Karbala one is indeed filled with awe and spiritual strength even as a devout Sunni. Shi`ite wrath, of course, didn`t mean much to the Wahhabis. The Shi`ites, along with the Sunnis, had already been labeled as ‘blasphemers’ for practicing tawassul and tabarruk.  What are these practices? Are they part of Sunni Islam or not?

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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 […]