Wahhabism and Kharijism 6:
a few more details before moving on
I wanted to write one last entry concerning the ties between Kharijism and Wahhabism that also connects a lot of the dots together by providing finer details and nuances concerning the rise and operations of Wahhabism. (Please note that these entries are part of the series entitled Making Sense of Wahhabism. The links to all the articles in the series are provided at the bottom of this page.)
With time, the Wahhabis have gained experience in framing their movement in modern terms and presenting it with the right buzzwords. It is therefore common for a Muslim to hear talk about their movement as being “progressive” and “reformist” and that they are simply fighting “innovations,” “deviance,” and “polytheism.” They present themselves as the guardians of Islam and Sunni Islam especially. And to a large degree, their rhetoric has worked and continues to work.
Since the fall of the Abbasid dynasty, they have taken advantage of the shameful situation and circumstances of Islamic nations, which have continued to fall behind in ever aspect of cultural, political and economic life (this point does warrant separate entries…). That’s when they come in, to present themselves as the only alternative to the failed efforts of the rest of the Muslim community (especially nationalist movements) by promoting the Islam of the first three centuries of the Islamic calendar. The U.K. and the U.S. were able to leverage this to their advantage and use them to divide the Muslim world.
The Wahhabis, who are the most closed minded Muslims, and who are ideologically motivated to resist any reform or modernization efforts, now present themselves to the Muslim world as reformers, when the truth of the matter is that they have demonstrated again and again that force and violence are their only means of persuasion, which usually starts by declaring anyone they disagree with as a polytheist, an apostate or a disbeliever. They maintain the most narrow view of Islam and the world in general, a view that they deem obligatory to export to everyone else, and if others reject it, they are automatically included in the ever expanding sphere of apostasy.
The similarities between Wahhabism and Kharijism, a closer look
The Arabs have always been a very tribal culture. Their entire outlook on life goes through the realities of the tribe and the hierarchical relationships and inherited customs that govern every aspect of life within it. Islam tried to eradicate this mentality completely, and it succeeded to a very large extent. But completely uprooting a well ingrained ideology and culture takes continuous efforts over multiple generations, and Prophet Muhammad’s mission among his people simply did not last more than about 20 years. The moment he passed away, the covert or latent tribalism reappeared in full swing (in large part because the first caliph Abu Bakr relied on tribal relationships to establish his caliphate, and the second caliph never rid himself of the tribal mentality to start with, as proven by his track record in creating a class system based on tribal hierarchies).
So it did not take much for this tribal mentality to become the dominant factor again during the Battle of Siffin, about thirty years after the passing of the Prophet. When the Khawarij within his own army forced him to go to arbitration, the Imam said that if it is a necessity from which there is no escape, then at least send Ibn Abbas (from the Mudhar branch of Adnanites). But his men once again conspired against him, and sent a man (Abu Musa al Ash’ari, from the Rabi’a branch of Adnanites) who was known to be against Imam Ali although in appearance he had been one of his governors. One of the excuses the Khawarij for refusing Ibn Abbas was that since Muawyiah’s arbiter was already from Mudhar, they did not want the second arbiter to be from Mudhar as well. (as we mentioned earlier, this was only a pretext to avoid having Ibn Abbas represent the Imam, and to have Abu Musa specifically because everyone knew what he was going to say based on his disliking of Imam Ali).
There is a well known and established authentic saying from Prophet Muhammad that he shall have twelve successors, all of them from Quraysh. [we may dedicate an entry to this saying one day to address it in depth…] In early Islam, this well known narration from Prophet Muhammad was enough to close the door in the face of many who may have had aspirations of ruling the Islamic world, because they were not from the tribe of Quraysh.
When the Khawarij openly rejected the caliphate of Imam Ali and appointed themselves as rulers, they practically rejected this principle because they were themselves not from the tribe of Quryash. This opened the door to many others who were not from Quraysh to try their luck at ruling over the Muslims, which is exactly what Wahhabism perpetuated.
The Wahhabis, who claim to be the strictest adherents to true Islam, should be the ones who are the most cautious in such matters. Yet we see that they invent a thousand pretexts to get rid of anything in religion that prevents them from exercising their barbaric monopoly over the rest of the Muslims. They initially appointed someone simply as a “prince of war.” Afterwards, they extended the rule of the non-Qurayshite and appointed for themselves a “general prince” to rule and govern over all affairs (being Muhammad ibn Saud, followed by his son, and so on). Publicly they claimed that their rule and political model was purely Islamic and based on the notion of consultation (or shura), but in reality, they simply established a monarchy that had nothing to do with Islam. And like the Khawarij before them who had chosen for their slogan “Rule only belongs to God,” so did the Wahhabis chose an equally vague slogan, that of “true monotheism” as well as “enjoining good, and forbidding evil.”
Do they really think that God Almighty revealed something to them alone, as He had perhaps revealed to the Khawarij alone before them? Do they really think that the billions of Muslims throughout history had all understand religion wrong, and they alone are the ones who finally understood the meaning of monotheism because of some angry Bedouin who was been working with British spies, most likely knowingly?!
By self-appointing themselves as a reference and authority in the interpretation of religion, the Khawarij also created a movement within Islam that opens the door to anyone, regardless of their religious qualifications to have a religious opinion and to act on it as they like. Once again, this is exactly what the Wahhabis did, by following someone who had never reached the academic level required to be allowed to have his own opinions in matters of religion or to be allowed to emit fatwas.
Like the Khawarij, all Muslims have agreed on considering them on the wrong path, with distorted views and shockingly mistaken interpretations of religion. No Muslim sympathizes with them or likes their discourse or their behaviors, which only leads to violence, war, oppression and destruction.
The Khawarij were strict adherents of religion. They prayed with the foreheads on the ground until their foreheads became dark, they recited the Holy Qur’an, they fasted, and they tried to follow all the Islamic teachings, but their distorted understanding produced an un-Islamic and anti-Islamic product. The Wahhabis are similar in their strict adherence to the external aspects of religion, such as reciting the Holy Qur’an, praying on time, and fasting. Like the Khawarij, the Wahhabis think that their adherence to the ritualistic dimensions of worship makes them better than everyone else, and grants them the right to judge everyone else as they wish. When Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (MIAW from now) heard that there was a man who was not attending his lessons and his Friday lecture, he said that his punishment would either be to have his hair and beard shaven (a punishment used by Umar Ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph), or to pay him 100 Dinars (which was a very big amount back then), so the man agreed to pay the fine.
The Khawarij considered all those who disagreed with them as non-believers. So do the Wahhabis. In fact, when MIAW was in Diriyah, he and the Wahhabis around him considered all those who did not attend his lessons and who did not adhere to his cult as non-believers even though they were all clearly Muslims, and that is why they considered the migration to Diriyah an obligation. (see the biography of Shukri Mustafa to understand this mentality a little bit better…) In other words, Wahhabis believe that their mission is that of rewiring or reprogramming all other Muslims into Wahhabism. The Khawarij, and the Wahhabis like them, wish to seclude themselves from society first, in order to prepare themselves to re-enter it as victorious conquerors (again, see the life of Shukri Mustafa in Egypt to understand this…).
Most of those who made up the armies of the Khawarij and the Wahhabis were the Bedouins, the illiterate, the uneducated. And today, those are the same types of people who join the ranks of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and IS. Is it possible that these simpletons are getting something in Islam that all of its scholars and educated folks have missed during all these centuries of continuous study and interpretation?! Or is more probably that there something seriously wrong with Wahhabism itself?
The reason Wahhabism is so opposed to anything that sounds like formal logic, or discursive theology, or philosophy, is that it is not made for advanced brains, but for nomads who live a very rudimentary lifestyle and don’t understand much beyond the bare necessities of their own simple and primitive lives. And that is why such people were attracted to Wahhabism in the first place, because it was being presented to them as a belief that is suited to their needs, and adherence to it will also help them improve their difficult and harsh living conditions, because they would eventually get richer and live in a society that is getting richer and stronger (by taking over other ones around it.)
During the time of Abdil Aziz, in the very early 1900s, camps (called hujar) were created to host the Wahhabi fighters (who were called Ikhwan, or siblings). This is because the “king” knew that if these Bedouins simply go back to their lifestyle once the battles are over, they will eventually lose their fervor and passion for this new movement, and he may eventually lose them. So to keep the momentum going, and to keep recruiting and creating new fighters and new fights, camps were created to bring into them those who needed further education, to mix them with seasoned instructors. Bedouins had to sell their camels, move into the camps, receive the Wahhabi instructions, and farm the land.
At first, the Ikhwan started requesting houses made of brick and schools in which to learn, so Abdil Aziz complied to their demands. But with time, it was becoming clear that they were not entirely under his control. He needed armies willing to execute his orders (and the orders of his British lords) with no questions asked, and not do as they themselves pleased and saw fit. They were starting to criticize him, because he used the telegraph (which was to be avoided according to them), he rode a car (again should be avoided), lived in luxury (big no no) and his relationship with the British was openly very good. He tried to convince them that the money he was receiving from the British was taxes that they were paying him, as non Muslims living under Muslim rule…
The Ikhwan started causing mischief and internal problems by forcing everyone to adhere to their views or be attacked, lose all of their possessions, be killed, and their families enslaved. Abdil Aziz wanted the Wahhabis to be simple farmers and soldiers, and nothing more. But their unpredictable behavior was causing instability and chaos within the newly formed Saudi state and it was clear that they were starting to organize themselves to hold official positions and functions.
Living in seclusion from the rest of the world in about 200 camps, these fighters did not understand how the real world works, or what progress humanity was making, or any of the geopolitical and strategic power plays in their own Middle East region. Their delusions were such that they actually thought of themselves as a major military power, without even being aware that their own powerful king was nothing but a an obedient puppet working for the U.K., when they decided that he would be a better agent than the Hashemite Hussein, who had always been problematic for them. When the Wahhabis (especially the fighters living in the Hujar camps) realized that their preaching efforts were falling mostly on deaf ears in the Islamic world, it only intensified their beliefs and efforts, and they now wanted to openly disobey Abdil Aziz and attack the villages of Iraq and Kuwait. Once Abdil Aziz had unified the Arabian Peninsula under his rule with the help of these fighters, he decided (with the help of the British) that it was now time to get rid of them before letting them constitute a real risk to the Saudi state. Two battles took place between the Wahhabis and Abdil Aziz, in which he was able to emerge victorious by killing and imprisoning his enemies. And that was the end of the Ikhwan…
Living away from civilization, in caves, mountains and deserts, is exactly what the Wahhabis have continued doing (Taliban, al Qaeda, Islamic State, etc.) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Africa, etc. Every time, these simpletons are brought in to fight someone else’s enemy (for instance, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or the Syrian regime in Syria) until those hiring them no longer have any use for them. These fighters are raised in seclusion from the rest of the world, so one generation after another, their ideology continues evolving from that distorted perspective. Their world contains nothing but violence, war, and a set of false or distorted primitive religious views that they blindly follow from their spiritual leader MIAW.
Most of the important points of commonality and similarity between Wahhabism and Kharijism should, by now, be clear. To recap, at the risk of repeating a little of what we already covered in a previous entry these include:
- The use of slogans and mission statements that are unanimously accepted by all Muslims, but interpreting them in a convoluted manner with which no other Muslim agrees.
- The ideological refusal of both groups to look beyond the literal meanings of the words of the Holy Qur’an to understand it.
- They refuse to even consider that they may be mistaken in their beliefs or their interpretation of religion, even if it means considering everyone else (including all the scholars of Islam since the time of Prophet Muhammad) wrong and even non Muslims!
- They both consider it not only permissible but a duty to go to war against other Muslims and exterminate them if necessary.
- Many of them embark on what is now called suicide-missions, because they believe that if they die, they are going directly to paradise.
- They both seem to reject in practice the generally accepted Islamic principle that all of the leaders of the Islamic community have to be from Quraysh
- They both lowered the minimum standards of Islamic knowledge required to be allowed to have a valid religious view to almost nothing, which opened the door to virtually everyone to act on their own views on any religious matter.
- Anyone who reads or hears about them will think that their simplicity borders on the childish analysis and even stupidity, especially when looking at their priorities and the manner in which they think. They adhere to minute details related to some religious rituals such as having long beards and wearing shorter pants or dresses (because they think that these are Islamic teachings…), but they have no problem killing another human being because they disagree with them. This makes them very easy to use to do others’ dirty work.
- Just like the Khawarij before them, they have identified some social or religious issues that do need addressing. The problem in such cases is the manner in which they wish to address these issues, and their exaggerated reactions and responses to these issues.
- They both encouraged seclusion from society, and operated in many ways like a cult, with its own terminology, and much secrecy.
- Just like there are a number of narrations that are clear prophecies from Prophet Muhammad talking about the Khawarij before they appeared, so there are narrations from him that seem to clearly apply to the Wahhabis. One such narration is the following:
When he was asked about the regions of Yemen, the Levant and Najd, he said: “May God bless our Yemen, and may God bless our Levant.” When he was asked about Najd again he finally said: “it is the land of calamities and tribulations. From it the horn of Satan will appear.” (the Wahhabis claim that, exceptionally in this narration, Najd refers to northern Iraq, when it has always been a well known region in that Arabian Peninsula)
- The Khawarij reinterpreted the verses of the Qur’an and wrongly applied them to incidents where they were not applicable. This is what Wahhabis do as well.
- Simply as an interesting FYI, the appearance of the Wahhabis including shaving their heads and letting their beards grow, wearing shorter pants and clothes that stop a few inches before the ankle, always having a frown on their face, etc. are the same characteristics as the Khawarij in general, and especially their leader Harqus, who was pointed out explicitly by Prophet Muhammad…
Up to this point, we have established the close ties between Wahhabism and the House of Saud; the allegiance of the House of Saud to the UK and the US in return for ruling over “Saudi Arabia”; the alliance between Wahhabism and the House of Saud; the roots of the House of Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (MIAW); and then to understand the inspiration for Wahhabism, we started going into their ideological and historical roots, starting with their similitude to the Khawarij. We will now continue our attempt to understand their inspiration and roots by taking a closer look at the Umayyad dynasty.
see all the articles of Making Sense of Wahhabism series: