By Izeth Hussain, Colombo Telegraph
Verily God will not change the condition of men, till they change what is in themselves. – Koran – Sura 13 verse 14.
The main purpose of this article is to point out that there might be a case for action by Muslims, as well as non-Muslims constituting the international community as a whole, towards extirpating Wahabism and all its clones from off the face of the earth. I choose the word “extirpating” advisedly to mean a process of rooting out so that Wahabism will never ever again manifest itself on this earth. I have been provoked into arguing this case by the anti-Shia hate campaign for which our mosques have been misused over several weeks. I cannot see the slightest justification for this hate campaign. We have a small community of Shias in the form of the Borahs who have always had excellent relations with our Sunni Muslims consisting of the Moors, the Malays, and the Memons, and also with non-Muslim Sri Lankans. In addition there are a few hundred non-Borah Shias here, who took to Shi-ism mainly because they were enthused by Iran’s 1979 Revolution. They could be the target of the Wahabi hate campaign. But, as far as my enquiries reveal, they have not been aggressively pushing a Shia agenda nor have they been using unethical methods to increase their ranks.
What, then, is the explanation for the entirely gratuitous and utterly irrational anti-Shia hate campaign that has been sustained for several weeks, desecrating our mosques in the process? The question is an important one, because the answers to it could constitute some of the reasons why Wahabism should be extirpated. Part of the explanation is the intolerant and totalitarian mind-set of the Wahabis. They hold that not only non-Muslims but professing Muslims such as the Sunnis and the Shias – in short all those who don’t abide by Wahabi tenets – are in reality non-Muslims and should therefore be put to the sword. But according to the well-entrenched belief system of all non-Wahabi Muslims the shahada – the confession of faith that there is only one God and Mohammed is his Prophet – suffices to make a person a Muslim, and that is not something that should be questioned. The fierce fanatical intolerance of the Wahabis means that they cannot live in peaceful accommodation with other Muslims. They have been busy dismantling Sunni Islam in Sri Lanka, now they want to eliminate Shi’ism, and next they will want to destroy the Sufi orders that have traditionally structured orthodox Islam in Sri Lanka. Only the Kharijites of early Islam showed a like intolerance. They were quickly banned by other Muslims. It is time to ban the Wahabis.
Another part of the explanation is that the Islamic religious establishment here is under foreign influence, more precisely foreign control. Everyone knows that the spread of Wahabism in recent times is a manifestation of the might of the petro-dollar. Therefore the creation of a Shia problem in Sri Lanka, where there are no rational grounds for it at all, can be seen as something that is being done in promotion of a foreign agenda. So-called Shia-Sunni conflicts are raging in the Middle East, about which I must make a clarification. They are in reality majority-minority conflicts in which secular interests are involved and not sectarian conflicts between two different versions of Islam. The projection of those conflicts as sectarian might be seen as part of a program to demonize Shi’ism and Iran – which could lead according to some to the nuclear bombing of Iran, something devoutly wished for by the Zionists, Neocons, and Islamophobic groups. All that may be speculative. What is definite is that the Islamic religious establishment here has to put itself in the clear about the possible charge that it is serving a foreign agenda. That has to be done by showing that there are clear rational grounds for the anti-Shia hate campaign.
I come now to the question of action by Muslims as well as non-Muslims towards the extirpation of Wahabism and its clones. Why is this necessary? I have already given above one reason: the totalitarian intolerant outlook of Wahabis which means that as soon as they have the upper hand they will want to extirpate every other form of Islam, a process that we can see taking place right now under our noses in Sri Lanka. The other reason is that Wahabism is evil. I take seriously the hadith in which the Prophet foretold with stunning prescience the manifestation of the Horn of the Devil in the Najd – from where Mohammed Abdul Wahab hailed. In Islamic theological terms Wahabism is the work of Iblis. In secular terms, I mean by evil the drive to get joy by harming and destroying. I can substantiate that definition by many examples from art-works – notably cinema and fiction – but that is not necessary here.
I will substantiate that definition by showing what Wahabism has meant in actual practice. In an earlier article I have argued that at the very core of Wahabism there is nonsense, shown in confusion over the distinction between acts of veneration that are reserved for humans, including saints, and acts of worship that are reserved for the deity. It should be beyond dispute that out of well over a billion Muslims who engaged in acts of veneration towards saints not even one was guilty of polytheism. That is why Mohammed Abdul Wahab himself held that none of them would be consigned to eternal hell-fire, which would be the fate only of those who continued after him to engage in what he regarded as saint worship. But how can a practice that was sanctioned in orthodox Islam for 1,200 years become something that merits eternal hell-fire after Mohammed Abdul Wahab? That surely establishes, beyond dispute, that at the very core of Wahabism there is nonsense. It is arguable, however, that while the Wahabis believe sincerely that saint-worship is going on they are entitled to destroy certain tombs and other monuments. But what about the destruction of cultural artefacts that have been proudly preserved over many centuries, which have not even the remotest connection with polytheism? I think that attests to the destructive evil that is at the core of Wahabism.
The evil drive for taking joy in harming and destroying that is at the core of Wahabism is seen at its most striking in the horrors perpetrated by the IS: enforced marriage, the selling of females as sex slaves, concubinage, mass executions and indiscriminate massacres, the wholesale destruction of cultural artefacts and cultural sites, and so on. On this subject the world of Islam must face up to some inconvenient ugly facts. The whole of that world, including Saudi Arabia, have unequivocally condemned the IS as unIslamic. How, then, can we explain the ugly fact that the recruitment drive of the IS has been spectacularly successful in many parts of the Islamic world, and that those recruits are Wahabi devotees? Furthermore the IS declares that it is strictly practising the tenets of Wahabism unlike Saudi Arabia. Its educational system, it claims, is wholly Wahabi, in proof of which it shows that the text-books used in IS-run schools are the same as in Saudi Arabia.
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The question that has to be faced by the islamic world is not whether there is a nexus between Wahabism and the IS. The question rather is whether or not it is the IS, not Saudi Arabia, that practices Wahabism in its full-blown authentic form. That question can be resolved only by showing whether or not characteristic IS practices, such as sex-slavery, have their sanction in the actual writings of Mohammed Abdul Wahab. If that is the case, the Islamic world has no alternative to moving towards the total extirpation of Wahabism from off the face of the earth, now and for evermore. Saudi Arabia has to be persuaded to abandon Wahabism. In this matter there is a convergence of interest between the West and the Islamic world: the former in ending the threat of IS terrorism, the latter in saving Islam from Wahabism. I must emphasize in conclusion that my anti-Wahabist advocacy has behind it the might and majesty of orthodox Islam, which was established in its full form around 1200 AD and has held sway over the greater part of the Islamic world since then. The apologists of Wahabism have behind them mainly the might of the petro-dollar. The eventual outcome is certain.
By Izeth Hussain, Colombo Telegraph
Born 1927. Educated at St Joseph’s College, Colombo, and University of Ceylon, Colombo, 1946 to 1950. Passed out with BA (English Honours) in 1950.