Sunday, 9 August 2015
Wahhabism: Understanding the Roots & Role Models of Islamic Extremism
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is adapted from Wahhabism: Understanding the Roots & Role Models of Islamic Extremism by Ustadz Zubair Qamar.
The most extreme pseudo-Sunni movement today is Wahhabism, which also known as Salafism. Wahhabi terror is not a recent phenomenon that has only targeted non-Muslims; orthodox Sunni Muslims were the first to be slaughtered in waves of Wahhabi massacres in Arabia hundreds of years ago. Thousands of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims perished at the hands of Wahhabi militants. This is history. The extreme interpretations of Wahhabism were previously confined to small pockets of Arabia. It has survived to this day under the protection of the Saudi state’s religious organs; it is. Financed and propagated with revenues from Saudi oil. This has transformed Wahhabism from a regional to a global threat. To a Wahhabi, all those who differ with them, including Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims, Christians, and Jews, are infidels, fair targets.
Wahhabis claim to be ‘true Sunnis’, and it is difficult for those unfamiliar with Wahhabism to distinguish it from Sunni Islam. If a Wahhabi is asked whether he is Sunni, he will always reply in the affirmative. When asked if they are Wahhabis, they may reply with an emphatic “no” since some consider it an insult to what they believe: “Purity of worship and reverence to God Alone; the authentic carriers of Islam from the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.) until now.” Calling them Wahhabis reveals the truth, that they base their creed on the innovated ideas of a man – Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, instead of the Qur’an and sunnah. Irrespective of what they think, they are not following the Islamic sources authentically, but the deviant interpretations of the founder of the Wahhabi movement who appeared in the 1700s.
Wahhabis differentiate themselves from Sunnis by labeling themselves Salafis, after the ‘Salaf’. This means that when a Wahhabi calls himself a Salafi, he claims to be a genuine follower of pristine Islam. This is far from the truth. Sunni Muslims believe that they are the true bearers of pristine Islam since the time of the Salaf. Because there were time gaps between the noble period of the Salaf and centuries that followed, the authentic positions of the early Muslims were passed by scholars in those times to later generations via meticulous, systematic and methodological means of preservation. The knowledge was passed from qualified scholars to other qualified scholars through the centuries, who passed it to the masses. This uninterrupted chain of knowledge from the time of the Salaf until now has been authentically preserved by the Sunnis. Sunnis, therefore, have roots in the Salaf, and are represented today by the four major surviving schools of Islamic jurisprudence: Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i, and Hanbali madzahib.
The Wahhabis, by calling themselves Salafis, not only claim to follow the footsteps of the early Muslims, but also use semantics to fool and allure less informed Muslims into accepting Wahhabism. Wahhabis say, “You must follow the Muslims of the Salaf.” This is undoubtedly true. Then the Wahhabi use semantics to say, “Therefore you must be a Salafi and nothing else. Following anything else implies you are following a path that is different from the Muslims of the Salaf.” By such deceptive semantics, the less informed Muslims believe that Salafis represent the pristine interpretations of the early Muslims of the Salaf. Far from it. When the less informed go beyond semantics and blind faith and investigate what a Salafi believes, the truth unveiled is that the understanding of Salafis, these Wahhabis, is different and contradictory to the understanding and positions of the pious Muslims who lived in the Salaf , and the majority of Muslims who have ever lived, the real Sunnis.
The Wahhabis believe that Sunnis have been vehemently wrong for the past 1,400 over years and seek to bring the Muslims out of a state of ignorance, jahilliyyah, that has existed, in their minds, since the time of the pious adherents of the Salaf. Even if the majority of Sunni Muslims were strong today, indeed if they ruled an empire that stretched far to the corners of the globe, it would still be a failure to Wahhabis because to them the foundations of such a political system would have been based on reprehensible innovation, bid’ah adh-dhalalah, and blasphemy, kufr. To the Wahhabis, the presence and power of Sunni orthodoxy, in all of its manifestations as illustrated throughout Islamic history, is just as impure as the rising European hegemony in all of its manifestations since the demise of the Ottoman Empire. To the Wahhabis, a minority in this world, the world is an abode of blasphemy, ruled and occupied by infidels that demands reformation through both non-violent and violent means to bring about a supposedly pure Islamic world system.
Wahhabis come in various strains, some being more extreme than others. The variety in strains is due to differences in approach of bringing the Muslims back to a state of strengthened belief based on the example of the pious ancestors. It must be emphasised that although all Wahhabis are called Salafis, all Salafis are not purely Wahhabi. ‘Salafi Muslims’ include those like Sayyid Quthb who wished to eradicate the supposed current state of ignorance, jahiliyyah, and bring Muslims back to a state of purity – a purity reminiscent of the purity of Muslims who lived in the time period of the Salaf. However, all Salafi Muslims, whether they are Wahhabi or Quthbi, admire with exaggeration the role models Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Shaykh Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), whose hardline interpretations have inspired revolutionaries today. Therefore, although all Salafis are not necessarily Wahhabis by creed, they admire many of the same role models – role models who have been rejected and condemned by masses of Sunni scholars for their unauthentic representations of pristine Islam. It can also be said that all Wahhabis consider themselves to be Salafis and prefer to be called by this name instead of Wahhabi, even though differences exist between Salafi groups.
Although there are differences in approach among Salafis, they have nonetheless allied themselves in an attempt to make the Salafi vision a reality by both non-violent and violent means. An example of this are the Salafi-oriented Deobandis and their alliance with the Wahhabis. The alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood, and its various factions and offshoots, and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia was strengthened during the 1950s and 1960s in the struggle of the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt’s Nasserist regime. Saudis provided refuge for some leaders of the Brotherhood, and also provided assistance to them in other Arab States. The Wahhabi-Salafi alliance was further strengthened as a response to the growing threat of Shi’ah power when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran revolted and overthrew the U.S.-allied Shah in 1979.
Lastly, the alliance made itself manifest in the struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Salafis of all strains worked together as the “righteous Sunnis” to counter the Shi’ah-Communist threat, from proselytising to killing to make their Salafism prevail. Salafis have used both proselytising and revolutionary means to express their message using both political and apolitical approaches. So-called “Sunni terrorism” today is perpetrated by radical Salafis who desire to replace ‘infidel’ governments with myopic ‘scholars’ who adhere to their fanatical interpretations and ideologies. Their tentacles are spread to all corners of the globe, including Bosnia, Albania, Indonesia, Philippines, Uzbekistan, England, Malaysia, South Africa, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Salafis have demonstrated the havoc they are capable of wreaking in recent decades.
The Wahhabis are especially notorious for reviving the ways of the Khawarij. They originated in the time of the caliphates of ‘Utsman (r.a.) and ‘Ali (k.w.), among the closest companions to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). They were the earliest group of fanatics who separated themselves from the Muslim community. They arose in opposition to ‘Ali (k.w.), because of his willingness to arbitrate with Mu’awiyah (r.a.), governor of Damascus at that time, over the issue of the caliphate. The Khwarij, meaning “those who exited,” slung accusations of blasphemy against ‘Ali (k.w.) and Mu’awiyah (r.a.), and those who followed them, saying that the Qur’an, and not them, had the ultimate authority in the matter. Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.), in his Talbis Iblis, “The Devil’s Deception” under the chapter heading “A Mention of the Devil’s Delusion upon the Kharijites,” said that Dzu al-Khuwaysirah at-Tamimi was the first Kharijite in Islam and that “His fault was to be satisfied with his own view; had he paused he would have realised that there is no view superior to that of Allah’s Messenger.” Furthermore, Imam ‘Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi (r.a.) discussed the Kharijite rebellions and their bloody massacres of tens of thousands of Muslims in one of his books. He explicitly mentioned the Azariqa, one of the most atrocious Kharijite movements led by Nafi’ ibn al-Azraq from the tribe of Banu Hanifah, the same tribe of the heretic, Musaylimah the Liar, who claimed prophethood alongside Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). Just as the Khwarij threw accusations of blasphemy on ‘Ali (k.w.) and Mu’awiyah (r.a.), Wahhabis throw accusations of blasphemy against Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Wahhabism is named after its founder, Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, who lived from 1703 to 1792 CE, and has its roots in Saudi Arabia. Without this man, the as-Sa’ud, one of many clans spread over the Arabian peninsula, would not have had the inspiration, reason, and determination to consolidate the power that they did and wage ‘jihad’ on people they perceived to be ‘polytheists’. How intimately close was as-Sa’ud’s association with Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab? Robert Lacey eloquently illustrated this association in his The Kingdom: Arabia & the House of Sa’ud: “Until Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s coming, the as-Sa’ud had been a minor clan like many others in Najd, townsmen and farmers, making a comfortable living from trade, dates and perhaps a little horse-breeding, combining with the desert tribes to raid outwards when they felt strong, prudently retrenching in times of weakness. Modestly independent, they were in no way empire builders, and it is not likely that the wider world would ever have heard of them without their alliance with the ‘Teacher’.”
The as-Sa’ud are originally from the village of ad-Dir’iyah, located in Najd, in eastern Arabia, situated near modern day Riyadh, the capital of SaudiI Arabia. Ancestors of Su’ud ibn Muhammad, whom little is known about, settled in the area as agriculturists and gradually grew in number over time into the clan of as-Sa’ud.
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab was raised in ‘Uyaynah, an oasis in southern Najd, and was from the Banu Tamim tribe. He came from a religious family and left ‘Uyaynah in pursuit of Islamic knowledge. He traveled to Makkah, Madina, Iraq, and Iran to acquire knowledge from different teachers. When he returned to his homeland of ‘Uyaynah, he preached what he believed to be Islam in its purity, which was, in fact, a vicious assault on traditional Sunni Islam.
Imam Jamil Affandi az-Zahawi (r.a.) wrote in his “The Doctrine of the Ahl as-Sunnah versus the ‘Salafi’ Movement” that the teachers of ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, including the two shuyukh he had studied with in Madina, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Kurdi (r.a.) and Shaykh Muhammad Hayya as-Sindhi (r.a.), became aware of his anti-Sunni creed and warned Muslims from him. His shuyukh, including the two aforementioned shuyukh, used to say, “Allah will Allow him to be led astray; but even unhappier will be the lot of those misled by him.”
Moreover, ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s own father had warned Muslims from him, as did his brother, Imam Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (r.a.), a scholar who refuted him in his as-Sawa’iq al-Ilahiyyah fi ar-Radd ‘ala al-Wahhabiyyah, “Divine Lightning in Refuting the Wahhabis”. ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab was refuted by the Sunni scholars for his many ugly innovations. Perhaps his most famous book, Kitab at-Tawhid, is widely circulated amongst Wahhabis worldwide, including the United States. His book is popular in Wahhabi circles, although Sunni scholars have said that there is nothing scholarly about it, both in terms of its content and its style.
It is worth giving an overview of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) who lived from 1263 to 1328 CE, a few hundred years before Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab. The Wahhabi founder admired him as a role model and embraced many of his pseudo-Sunni positions. Muslim scholars had mixed opinions about him depending on his interpretation of various issues. His straying from mainstream Sunni Islam on particular issues of creed and worship made him an extremely controversial figure in the Muslim community. Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) has won the reputation of being the true bearer of the early pious Muslims, especially among reformist revolutionaries, while the majority of Sunnis have accused him of bid’ah adh-dhalalah, some accusing him of kufr. For example, Imam Abu ‘Ala al-Bukhari (r.a.) accused people of kufr if they referred to Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) as ‘shaykh’. Imam Zahid al-Kawtsari (r.a.) said Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) positions on the creed to be tantamount to apostasy.
The following are some of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) anti-Sunni and controversial positions prior to his repentance. They include his claim that Allah’s (s.w.t.) Attributes are literal, thereby attributing God with created attributes and becoming an anthropomorphist; his claim that Creation existed eternally with Allah (s.w.t.); his opposition to the ijma’ on the divorce issue; his opposition to the Sunni practice of tawaswswul; his saying that starting a trip to visit the Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) maqam invalidates the shortening of prayer; his saying that Allah (s.w.t.) has a limit that only He Knows; his saying that Allah (s.w.t.) literally sits on the Throne and has left space for Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) to sit next to Him; his claim that touching the grave of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is shirk; his claim that that making supplication at the Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) grave to seek a better status from Allah (s.w.t.) is a reprehensible innovation; his claim that Allah (s.w.t.) descends and comparing Allah’s ‘descent’ with his, as he stepped down from a minbar while giving a khuthbah; and his classifying of tawhid into two parts: tawhid ar-rububiyyah and tawhid al-uluhiyyah, which was never done by pious adherents of the Salaf.
Although Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) unorthodox, pseudo-Sunni positions were kept away from the public in Syria and Egypt due to the consensus of orthodox Sunni scholars of his deviance, his teachings were nevertheless circulating in hiding. A Sunni scholar said, “Indeed, when a wealthy trader from Jeddah brought to life the long-dead ‘aqidah of ibn Taymiyyah at the beginning of this century by financing the printing in Egypt of ibn Taymiyyah’s Minhaj as-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah and other works, the Mufti of Egypt Muhammad Bakhit al-Muthi‘i, faced with new questions about the validity of anthropomorphism, wrote, ‘It was a fitnah that was sleeping; may Allah Curse him who awakened it.’”
It is important to emphasise that although many of the positions of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) and the Wahhabis are identical, they nonetheless contradict each other in some positions. While Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) accepted Sufism as a legitimate science of Islam like all Sunni Muslims, Wahhabis reject it wholesale as an ugly innovation in the religion. While Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) accepted the legitimacy of the Mawlid, Wahhabis reject it as a reprehensible innovation that is to be repudiated. Whilst Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) repented from his kufr, the Wahhabis do not acknowledge that,
Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) is an inspiration to Islamist groups that call for revolution. Dr. Gilles Kepel said in his “Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam”, “ibn Taymiyyah – a primary reference for the Sunni Islamist movement – would be abundantly quoted to justify the assassination of Sadat in 1981.” And he continued, “And even to condemn the Saudi leadership and call for its overthrow in the mid-1990s.”
Emmanuel Sivan wrote in “Radical Islam: Medieval Theology & Modern Politics” that only six months before Sadat was assassinated, the weekly Mayo singled out Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) as “the most pervasive and deleterious influence upon Egyptian youth.” Sivan further said that Mayo concluded that “the proliferating Muslim associations at the universities, where ibn Taymiyyah’s views prevail, have been spawning various terrorist groups.” Indeed, a book entitled The Absent Precept, by ‘Abd as-Salam Faraj, the ‘spiritual’ leader of Sadat’s assassins who was tried and executed by the Egyptian government, strongly refers to Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) and some of his disciples’ writings. Three of the four of Sadat’s assassins willingly read a lot of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) works on their own. Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) is also noted to be a favorite of other Salafi extremists, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sayyid Quthb. Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) student, Imam ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (r.a.), is also frequently cited by Salafis of all colours.
What is also well-known about Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) is that he lived in turbulent times when the Mongols had sacked Baghdad and conquered the Abbasid Empire in 1258. In 1303, he was ordered by the Mamluk Sultan to give a fatwa legalising jihad against the Mongols. Waging a holy war on the Mongols for the purpose of eliminating any threat to Mamluk power was no easy matter. The Mongol Khan, Shah Mahmoud Ghazan (r.a.) had converted to Islam in 1295. Although they were Muslims, they did not adhere to shari’ah in practice, and also supported the Mongol Yasa of code of law. They were deemed apostates by the edict of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.). To Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), shari’ah was not only rejected by Mongols because of their lack of wholesale adherence, but the ‘infidel’ Yasa code of law made them legal targets of extermination. The so-called jihad ensued and the Mongol threat to Syria was exterminated. Wahhabis and other Salafis, to this day, brand Shah Mahmoud Ghazan (r.a.) a kafir. Sunni Muslims, however, have praised Shah Mahmoud Ghazan (r.a.) as a Muslim.
In fact, Shah Mahmoud Ghazan (r.a.) was a firm believer in Islam. Imam adz-Dzahabi (r.a.) related that he became a Muslim at the hands of the Sufi, Shaykh Sadr ad-Din Abu al-Majami’ Ibrahim al-Juwayni (q.s.), one of Imam adz-Dzahabi’s (r.a.) own shuyukh of ahadits. During his rule, he had a huge mosque built in Tabriz in addition to twelve madaris, numerous khawaniq, ribath, a school for the secular sciences, and an observatory. He supplied Makkah and Madina with many gifts. He followed one of the madzahib of the Ahl as-Sunnah and was respectful of religious scholars. He had the descendants of the Prophet (s.a.w.) mentioned before the princes and princesses of his house in the state records, and he introduced the turban as the court headgear. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab would later follow Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) footsteps and slaughter thousands of Muslims in Arabia.
Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) was imprisoned by a fatwa signed by four Sunni qudhat in the year 726 AH for his deviant and unorthodox positions. Each judge represented one of the four schools of jurisprudence. This illustrates that Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) did not adhere to the authentic teachings of Sunni Islam as represented by the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence. There is no evidence to indicate that there was a conspiracy against Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) to condemn him, as Wahhabis and other Salafis purport in his defense. The names of the four qudhat are Qadhi Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Jama’ah ash-Shafi’i (r.a.), Qadhi Muhammad ibn al-Hariri al-Answari al-Hanafi (r.a.), Qadhi Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Maliki (r.a.), and Qadhi Ahmad ibn ‘Umar al-Maqdisi al-Hanbali (r.a.).
Some Sunni scholars who refuted Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) for his deviancies and opposition to the positions of Sunni Islam include Imam Taqi’ ad-Din as-Subki (r.a.), Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Umar ibn Makki (r.a.), Imam Swalah ad-Din al-‘Ala’i (r.a.), Imam Badr ad-Din ibn Jama’ah (r.a.), Shaykh Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Kilabi al-Halabi (r.a.), Imam ibn Daqiq al-‘Iyd (r.a.), Imam Kamal ad-Din az-Zamalkani (r.a.), Imam Swafi ad-Din al-Hindi (r.a.), Imam ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Baji ash-Shafi’i (r.a.), Imam al-Fakhr ibn al-Mu’allim al-Qurayshi (r.a.), Imam adz-Dzahabi (r.a.), Imam Abu Hayyan al-‘Andalusi (r.a.), Imam ibn Bathuthah (r.a.). Imam adz-Dzahabi (r.a.) was his student and instrumental in his final repentance.
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 Sunni community for originating fitan long before Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab came. Indeed, it is known to have harboured many false prophets and fake scholars, as well as criminals and bandits. The Iraqi scholar, Imam Jamal Affandi az-Zahawi wrote, “Famous writers of the day made a point of noting the similarity between ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s beginnings and those of the false prophets prominent in Islam’s initial epoch like Musaylimah the Liar, Sajah al-Aswad al-Anasi, Tulayha al-Asadi and others of his kind.”
Although Najd is close to the holy cities of Makkah and Madina, it has only been dispraised by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in authentic traditions. While many Arab tribes were praised by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), Banu Tamim, the most well-known tribe of Najd where Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab was from, is praised only once. Moreover, authentic traditions that explicitly critique Banu Tamim are far more numerous. Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.), documented the evolution of the Kharijite movements and illustrated how Banu Tamim played a leading role in it. Imam ‘Abd al-Qahir (r.a.) also stated that Banu Tamim and the Najd Arabs 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 Madina 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. Imam ‘Abd al-Qahir (r.a.) said, “He is remembered as the first who said the on the Day of Siffin, which became the slogan of the later Kharijite da’wah.” The tahkim is their slogan, “The Judgment is Allah’s Alone.” 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 Hanifah was a Kharijite whose homeland was Najd, and the best known woman among the Kharijites was named Qutam bint ‘Alqamah of the Banu Tamim. It is fascinating to see that fanatics of all types came from a region where the fanatic Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab came from.
With the ferocious zeal of a ‘divine’ mission, aimed at terminating what they perceived as the filthy polytheists 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 ‘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, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, who captured the city of Riyadh in 1773. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab died a year earlier but left four sons who continued spreading Wahhabism and strengthened the Wahhabi family’s alliance with the as-Sa’ud.
Later, in 1801, the Wahhabi army marched to Karbala with a force of 10,000 men and 6,000 camels. Upon reaching Karbala, they mercilessly and indiscriminately attacked its inhabitants for eight hours, massacring over 5,000 people. They severely damaged Imam Husayn’s mosque, looted the city, and left the city with its treasures on 200 camels. This holocaust won the Wahhabi criminals the hatred and wrath of both the Shi’ah and Sunni Muslims, who, until this day, curse them. All Muslims consider the maqam of Husayn ibn ‘Ali (r.a.) one of the most sacred sites in Islam. Every year, thousands of Shi’ah gather at the site to commemorate the death of martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the Ahl al-Bayt at the hands of the predecessors of the Wahhabi sect, Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah and his accursed army. Muslim, particularly Shi’ah, wrath, of course, did not mean much to the Wahhabis. Both Shi’ah and Sunnis had already been labeled polytheists and unbelievers to be exterminated for practicing tawaswswul and tabarruk.
Although Sunnis, Shi’ah, and Wahhabis believe that tawaswswul by one’s good deeds, a Name or Attribute of God, or intercession by someone who is alive and present is permissible, Wahhabis accuse Muslims of shirk when doing tawaswswul through an intermediary who is not alive or present. This is critical to know because this is the primary reason why Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and the as-Sa’ud criminals that collaborated with him massacred many Muslims in the Arabian peninsula and beyond. Muslims have been doing this form of tawaswswul from the time of the Salaf, for over 1,000 years. The Wahhabis believed it was blasphemy that had to be exterminated by the sword. They were massacring Muslims, even though they foolishly believed they were fighting against blasphemers who did not deserve to live. Wahhabis are not following the footsteps of the Salaf, but the footsteps of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), who a couple of hundred years before them denounced that particular form of tawaswswul. Wahhabis today forbid Muslims from doing tawaswswul through Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), and have enforced strict rules around his grave in Madina. It is for this reason that Wahhabis forbid Muslims from visiting the graves of pious Muslims, and have destroyed markings on graves to prevent Muslims from knowing the specific spots where saints are buried. Yet, it is interesting to note the hypocritical nature of the Wahhabis when they refused to demolish of the grave of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) in Damascus, Syria to make way for a road.
The deceased former Mufti of Saudi Arabia, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Baz, defended ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s accusation of polytheism upon the Muslim masses and his massacres of Muslims by saying that Muslims had gone astray because they had ‘worshipped’ things are than God: The people of Najd lived in a condition that could not be approved of by any believer. Polytheism had appeared there and spread widely. People worshipped domes, trees, rocks, caves or any persons who claimed to be awliya’ though they might be insane and idiotic. He said, “There were few to rise up for the sake of Allah and support His Religion. Same was the situation in Makkah and Madina as well as Yemen, where building domes on the graves, invoking the saints for their help and other forms of polytheism were predominant. But in Najd, polytheistic beliefs and practices were all the more intense. In Najd, people had worshipped different objects ranging from the graves, caves and trees to the obsessed and mad men who were called saints. When the Shaykh [ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab] saw that polytheism was dominating the people and that no one showed any disapproval of it or no one was ready to call the people back to Allah, he decided to labour singly and patiently in the field. He knew that nothing could be achieved without jihad, patience and suffering.”
Sunnis, however, have never claimed to worship the means, but only God. Because Wahhabis did not tolerate this, they massacred thousands of Muslims who they saw as ‘polytheists’ in Arabia. In actuality, they were Sunni Muslims following Islam in its purity as taught by the pious ancestors that lived in the time period of the Salaf.
While accusing the masses of Muslims of being polytheists, Wahhabis themselves have differentiated themselves from other Muslims in their understanding of creed. Due to the Wahhabi adherence to an unorthodox, grossly flawed literal understanding of God’s Attributes, they comfortably believe that Allah (s.w.t.) has human attributes, and then attempt to hide their anthropomorphism by saying that they do not know ‘how’ Allah (s.w.t.) has such attributes. For example, Bilal Philips said, “He has neither corporeal body nor is He a formless spirit. He has a form befitting His majesty, the like of which no man has ever seen or conceived, and which will only be seen to the degree of man’s finite limitations by the people of Paradise.”
Bilal Philips confirmed, that in his mind, Allah (s.w.t.) definitely has a ‘form’. He even specified the kind of form by saying that He has neither corporeal body nor is He a formless spirit. Then he says, “He has a form befitting His majesty…” The problem with such statements to a Muslim is that they express blatant anthropomorphism. What Bilal Philips is doing here is foolishly attributing a form to God that, in his mind, nobody has ever seen. Therefore, Bilal Philips believes that God has some type of form, or non-corporeal body. No Muslim scholar has ever said such a perfidious thing.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) refuted such anthropomorphic statements over a thousand years before Bilal Philips was born. The great Ash’ari scholar, Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.), in his Manaqib Ahmad related with an authentic chain that Imam Ahmad (r.a.) said, “A person commits an act of kufr if he says Allah is a body, even if he says, ‘Allah is a body but not like other bodies.’” Imam Ahmad (r.a.) continued, “The expressions are taken from language and from Islam, and linguists applied ‘body’ to a thing that has length, width, thickness, form, structure, and components. The expression has not been handed down in shari’ah. Therefore, it is invalid and cannot be used.” Imam Ahmad (r.a.) is of the Salaf. How can Bilal Philips claim to represent the Salaf when he not only contradicts them but is vehemently refuted by them? The great pious predecessors had refuted ignoramuses like Bilal Philips in their times long ago.
Blatant anthropomorphism is also illustrated by ibn Baz’s commentary of Imam Abu Ja’far ath-Thahawi’s (r.a.) called ‘Aqidah ath-Thahawiyyah. Article 38 of Imam ath-Thahawi’s (r.a.) work states, “He is beyond having limits placed on Him, or being restricted, or having parts or limbs. Nor is He contained by the six directions as all Created entities are.”
ibn Baz, in a footnote, commented, “Allah is beyond limits that we know but has limits He knows.” In another footnote, he wrote, “By limits, the author means such as known by humans since no one except Allah Almighty knows His limits.” ibn Baz deceptively attempted to represent Imam ath-Thahawi (r.a.) as an anthropomorphist by putting his own anthropomorphic interpretation of Imam ath-Thahawi’s (r.a.) words in his mouth. It must be emphasised that not a single Sunni scholar understood Imam ath-Thahawi’s (r.a.) statement as ibn Baz did.
ibn Baz’s also showed anthropomorphism in a commentary by the Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.). ibn Baz said, “As for the Ahl as-Sunnah - and these are the companions and those who followed them in excellence – they assert a direction for Allah, and that is the direction of elevation, believing that the Exalted is above the Throne without giving an example and without entering into modality.”
Another now deceased Wahhabi, Muhammad Swalih al-‘Utsaymin, blatantly expressed his anthropomorphism. He said, “Allah’s establishment on the throne means that He is sitting ‘in person’ on His Throne.”
Imam ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) had refuted anthropomorphists who were saying that Allah’s (s.w.t.) establishment is ‘in person’ hundreds of years ago. He wrote, “Whoever says, ‘He is Established on the Throne ‘in person’, has diverted the sense of the verse to that of sensory perception. Such a person must not neglect that the principle is established by the mind, by which we have come to know Allah, and have attributed pre-eternity to Him decisively. If you said, ‘We read the ahadits and keep quiet, no one would criticise you; it is only your taking them in the external sense which is hideous. Therefore do not bring into the school of this pious man of the Salaf, Imam Ahmad, what does not belong in it. You have clothed this madzhab with an ugly deed, so that it is no longer said ‘Hanbali’ except in the sense of ‘anthropomorphist’.”
Sulayman ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, the grandson of the Wahhabi movement’s founder, said, “Whoever believes or says, ‘Allah is in person in every place, or in one place’, he is a kafir. It is obligatory to declare that Allah is distinct from His Creation, Established over His Throne without modality or likeness or exemplarity. Allah was and there was no place, then He Created place and He is Exalted as He was before He Created place.”
Just as Bilal Philips affirmed a form to Allah (s.w.t.) in his mind, and ibn Baz confirmed limits to Allah (s.w.t.) in his mind, ibn al-‘Utsaymin confirmed that Allah (s.w.t.) is literally sitting ‘in person’ on the Throne in his mind; all of them have loyally followed the footsteps of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, the arch-heretic instrumental in causing fitan and division among the Muslim masses because of their reprehensible, unorthodox interpretations of the Islamic sources. Wahhabi anthropomorphists say Allah (s.w.t.) is in a direction, Allah has limits, Allah (s.w.t.) is literally above the Throne, and that Allah (s.w.t.) is sitting ‘in person’ on the Throne. To a Muslim, the fact is that the Throne is located in a particular direction and a certain place. By understanding Allah (s.w.t.) to be above the Throne literally as the Wahhabis do, they are attributing Allah (s.w.t.) with Created attributes and, as a result, are implying that a part of the Creation is eternal with Allah (s.w.t.). This opposes what the Qur’an and the following hadits authentically related by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.): “Allah Exists Eternally and there was nothing else.” Sunni orthodoxy clears Allah (s.w.t.) of all directions and places. To a true Muslim, Allah (s.w.t.) has always Existed without the need of a place, and He did not take a place for Himself after Creating it.