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An avid account of Wahhabis atrocities against Muslims

By: U. Mahesh Prabhu
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(Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK))

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Role in Terrorism | Author: Stephen Schwartz | Publisher: Anchor Books (a division of Random House) | Pages: 346 | Price: $14.95

Book Review by U. Mahesh Prabhu

This book by Stephen Schwartz (a Sufi Muslim) consists of unusual account focusing on a murderous cult in Islam called "Wahhabism". He fervently believes that "Islamaphobia" is owing to acts of "misguided" Muslims "in the name of Islam". "Wahhabism", the actual state religion of Saudi Arabia is, according to him, "one of the main perpetrators misleading the Muslim youths into terrorism." What he has to say about them - in particular - is something which Muslims as well as non-Muslims - alike - can seldom afford to ignore.

Saudi Arabia"s state religion is, in fact, Wahhabism, a more radical version of Islam; a murderous cult in every sense. Its founder Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was born in 1703. Schwartz recalls that "during his vagabondage Ibn Abd al-Wahhab came into contact with certain Englishmen who encouraged him to personal ambition as well as to critical attitude about Islam."

His teachings "essentially came down to three points. First, ritual is superior to intentions. Second, no reverence of the dead is permitted. Third, there can be no intercessory prayer addressed to God by means of the Prophet or saints." And if Muslim(s) dared to defy, or disregard, him he would condemn them as "Kafir" (read non-Muslims) and even order their killing. According to Schwartz "Ibn Abd al-Wahhab is said to have killed a blind caller to prayer, or muezzin, who insisted on praying for the Prophet at the conclusion of his summons to worship, as required by the four established legal schools in Islam. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab also condemned the habit of those making hajj in Mecca to visit the Prophet"s tomb in Medina." What"s surprising to know is his "hate" and "opposition" for celebration of Prophet"s birthday - mawlid an-nabi.

Though his doctrines explicitly downgraded the status of Muhammad, he claimed to have lived a life so close to exemplary Sirah of Muhammad that he could stand as a peer to the Prophet himself. It is clear from this that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab saw himself "as an equal of the Prophet, a view that is also thoroughly heretical in Islam."

According to accounts of Al-Zahawi, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab "made no secret" of his opinion that all Muslims had fallen into unbelief and that if they did not follow him, "they should all be killed, their wives and daughter violated, and their possessions confiscated."
The Prophet of Islam had "believed" that "at the head of every century Allah would send someone who would revive the faith," as opposed to reforming it. Yet "Ibn Abd al-Wahhab ordered that graves of Muslim saints be dug up and scattered, or turned them into latrines." He even "despised music". Even today Wahhabis (followers of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab) view music "as an incitement to forgetfulness of God and to sin."

His "reform of Islam" began in strange ways. "He began his campaign" notes author "by cutting down a tree beloved of local mystics."

But how did a heretic like Ibn Abd al-Wahhab cared to gain so much of popularity? Schwartz gives a perfect explanation. After "Ibn Abd al-Wahhab had mounted a challenge to the Ottoman order, a fatwa was issued calling for his arrest. Like his own family, the people of Najd begin to spilt between his supporters and his opponents. In 1744 he took refuge in the village of Dariyah, a district that was ruled by a local rebel, Muhammad ibn Saud, and his family known as Al Saud."

Al Saud "as rulers of Dariyah" engaged in the only organized economic endeavor found in the backward environment of Najd: "banditry". Because of their involvement in illegal activities they were in constant conflict with Ottomans, who had issued order for the arrest of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Al Saud now had a common enemy - a good reason to form a formidable alliance.

This alliance was later forged with the help of British, who too despised the Ottoman Empire. British were then taking control of the richer and more valuable parts of the Arabian Peninsula: the coastal emirates from Kuwait to Aden.

Al Saud"s were not known as "firm Muslims"; indeed, they belonged to the tribe of Bani Hanifah, who were "tainted by having supported Musaylima the Liar". Musaylima had contended against the Muhammad for Prophet-hood. From the very beginning the family"s religious bona fides were "somewhat doubtful."

The book suggests that "Dariyah was a lawless place ruled by the whims of Al Saud until 1747, when Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Al Saud established a crude government based on a unique power sharing agreement, with the former as religious authority and the later as political ruler. They contracted marriage between their families - a typical means of cementing alliances in tribal and clan based societies - and agreed that power should be inherited exclusively by their descendants, as if their lineage carried greater authority than that of Muhammad, who neither imposed his successor nor made any attempts to establish a dynasty."

Alleges the author "By marriage and inheritance, the bloody swords of Al Saud came to aid the perverse vision of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab in a unique fusion of religious and political control, a system in which faith and statecraft would be run as a family business. This political formula has its fullest expression in modern Saudi Arabia. It also represents a complete break with the traditions of scholars of Islam, who were typically thoughtful, unworldly men, not political schemers after global power."

Wahhabis have an extraordinary hatred for Shi"ism (a minority sect in Islam). Shi"as "may simply have become objects of Wahhabi assault because they were richer than the Bedouins of Najd and offered tempting opportunities for plunder. What ever its source, however, bile against the Shi"as has remained constant throughout Wahhabi-Saudi history. Today the Saudi school systems, following Wahhabi tenets, teach their children and other Muslims throughout the Ummah (Islamic fraternity) that Shi"a Islam was invented by imaginary Jewish convert, that Shi"a theologians are liars, that their legal traditions are false, and that they are not Muslims at all!"

The author quotes several atrocities by Wahhabis against Muslims who dared to defy them. They were truly ruthless in their endeavors of converting Muslims into their fold. In the advent of Ta"if, it is noted that "Wahhabis killed every woman, man and child they saw, slashing with their swords even babies in cradles. The streets were flooded with blood." Prior to this when Wahhabis had attacked the Shi"a holy city of Karbala, in Iraq between Bagdad and the Arabian frontier, they also "wrecked and looted the tomb of Husain, grandson of Prophet."

Stephen Schwartz is very apt in his observation that had Britain for its part had not encouraged the Wahhabis, with an eye to the eventual Turkish collapse and division of Ottoman possessions.this murderous cult of Islam would have never been as powerful as they are today.

Even back in India there is a great following for Wahhabis. The Islamist hate monger Dr. Zakir Naik, who"s banned in UK and Canada, is one such Wahhabi. However, the advent wasn"t too recent. Wahhabi theology entered India with Sayid Ahmad Barelvi. "This personage had gone on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1820. When he returned two years later he established a Wahhabi center in Patna on the upper Ganges in northeastern India. He and his agents began preaching in Afghanistan, and in 1826 launched "jihad" against the Sikhs in Punjab. In 1830 his forces seized Peshawar, and he was soon killed in battle, fighting Pashtuns who had sided with the Sikhs.

The Saudi aristocracy is today known as "airport Wahhabis". This is because "Once their private jet leaves the runways, bottles of whiskey appears, women"s veils disappears, and they all have a high time."

The "Saudi oil prince" has today become an unparalleled symbol of debauchery, ostentation, and waste, as well as ignorance, prejudice and brutality. Expenditures to clothe and bejewel their women, indulge their children, build and decorate their palaces, and otherwise satisfy their appetites has today become legendary. Their taste has led them to taverns, casinos, brothels, and similar establishments. They buy fleets of automobiles and private jets, and yachts with size of warships. They invest in valuable Western art which they do not understand or like and which often offend the sensitivities of Wahhabi clerics. They spend as they wish, becoming patrons of international sexual enslavement and the exploitation of children. "Yet at the same time," says the author, adding "they dedicate a large proportion of their wealth for promotion of international Wahhabi radicalism, in a desperate attempt to bridge gulf between pretense and reality."

However there are several instances in this book where critics of Islam will beg to disagree, especially with regard to authors perception about Prophet Muhammad, Shi"as and Iran - especially Khomeini. Yet, the fact that Stephen Schwartz has done a yeoman service not just to non-Wahhabi Muslims but also to non-Muslims - at large - through this well researched book will remain undisputed.

U. Mahesh Prabhu

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