By Mohammad Safizadeh
16 June 2013
For over 250 years, Wahhabism has posed a great threat to Islamic society. The ultra-conservative movement is allegedly based on the teachings of the Sunni jurist Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and the ideology was later revised by the Salafists.
After the eighteenth century, Wahhabism spread to various parts of the Islamic world as a highly politicized school of thought. A thorough examination of the ideology and its history clearly shows that it was initially devised and promoted by colonialists in order to sow discord among Muslims.
Many historical accounts, including the Memoirs of Mr. Hempher, The British Spy to the Middle East, show that Britain’s Southern Department created Wahhabism, which takes an intolerant view of other interpretations of Islam and other religions. The Southern Department was in charge of Britain’s colonial affairs before the establishment of the Colonial Office, which itself was later merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This article attempts to elaborate on the facts leading to the inception of Wahhabism and what it has done to create suspicion about other currents of Islam, including the Shia ideology. Based on this, we will illustrate the irrationality of the thoughts and opinions promoted by Wahhabis and their crimes against other believers. Mr. Hempher, the famous British spy, reveals in his memoirs that he trained the eighteenth century theologian Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and helped him found the Wahhabi movement, in line with the wishes of Britain’s Southern Department.
In 1710, the Secretary of State for the Southern Department dispatched 10 professional spies to Egypt, Iraq, Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, and Istanbul in order to examine ways to sow discord among Muslims and to impose British hegemony on Islamic countries.
One of them was Hempher, who travelled to the city of Istanbul on a mission to seek ways to undermine the Ottoman Empire. He introduced himself as Muhammad and attended courses on the Quran and sharia taught by a Hanafi scholar. He became fluent in Turkish and Arabic and then returned to London.
After six months, he was sent to Basra, where he became a friend of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Hempher successfully used Abd al-Wahhab to implement his plans, and finally helped establish the colonialist sect of Wahhabism. According to Hempher, Abd al-Wahhab was highly critical of Muslim scholars and their interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah and was very arrogant in his approach toward Islam.
After returning to London and meeting with the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, Hempher was assigned a new mission, in which he was instructed to train the young Abd al-Wahhab and teach him to disapprove of all real Muslims, to encourage his followers to murder those Muslims or to make them slaves and sell them in markets, to loot their belongings, and to show disrespect to them in the public; and also to prevent Muslims from performing the hajj pilgrimage, to incite people to rebel against the rule of the Ottoman Empire, to destroy Muslim holy sites in Mecca, Medina, and other cities of the Muslim world, and to publish and distribute forgeries of the Quran and the Hadith.
In the early Islamic era, Prophet Muhammad (S) predicted that there would be 73 sects of Islam and 72 would be false and unacceptable sects. Today, many followers of the various sects of Islam believe that only their interpretation of Islam is correct and represents the true Islam. Of course, there are schools of jurisprudence that agree on general and fundamental principles of Islam like the Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafii schools, and they continue to live side by side without any problems. Followers of these schools of Islam now live in various parts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with differences in their methodology of practicing the religion. Thus, one must make a thorough study of these methodologies to acquire a clear understanding of them.
Wahhabism, as a movement, is generally associated with Saudi Arabia, and followers of this extremist ideology are inspired by the teachings of the fundamentalists of the kingdom. Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, was a local ruler in the Arabian Peninsula when the Great War (later renamed World War I) began. Following the outbreak of war, the British, who were fighting against the Ottomans, established diplomatic ties with Abdulaziz, and the two sides signed the Treaty of Darin as early as 1915, which made the territory controlled by the Hose of Saud a British protectorate. Abdulaziz was a descendent of Muhammad Al Saud, who ruled the Najd area of the peninsula in the 18th century and was a friend of Wahhabism founder Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Muhammad Al Saud was the one who first chose Wahhabism for his tribe.
The British observed the terms of the treaty, providing a monthly tribute of £5,000 as well as huge supplies of arms, and helped the would-be king conquer the central Arabian Peninsula, especially the cities of Mecca and Medina, until 1927. On May 20, 1927, London replaced the Treaty of Darin with the Treaty of Jeddah, which recognized the Saudi-held territories’ independence, a move that helped Abdulaziz found the kingdom of Saudi Arabia on September 23, 1932.
It was a win-win situation as Britain installed a regime ruled by one of its paid puppets to protect London’s interests and used the House of Saud’s Wahhabi beliefs to shatter its archenemy, the Ottoman Empire, while Abdulaziz realized the House of Saud’s long-held dream to gain control of the peninsula. Britain was indeed Abdulaziz’s mentor from the very beginning, and later Saudi monarchs did not hide this connection.
However, this is not the whole story about Wahhabism and its history. From the very beginning of the Islamic era, shortly after the death of the Prophet, many people tried to divide the Muslims and refute the Household of Prophet Muhammad (S), the Ahl al-Bayt. The same agenda is now being pursued by the Wahhabis, and they continue to disrespect the followers of Shia Islam and their sanctities.
In other words, in the age of information and telecommunications, the Wahhabis are currently doing what the Umayyad tribe tried to do in the early Islamic era, that is, to expunge the Immaculate Household of Prophet Muhammad (S) from Islamic culture. And this is not even the ultimate goal of the Wahhabis and their supporters.
Their endeavor to expunge the Household of Prophet Muhammad (S) from Islamic culture is an attempt to undermine Islam in its entirety and to remove Prophet Muhammad (S) from society. There is evidence proving the Wahhabi movement has such an intention. The efforts to undermine the Ahl al-Bayt were in fact a prelude to their attempt to decrease the influence of the Prophet. Over the years, the Wahhabis have realized that they have not been able to decrease the influence of the Prophet, since he is the lynchpin of the religion, and thus, they started to attempt to create a negative impression about the members of his household, who were actually the best representatives of the Prophet’s teachings.
Thus, they launched a campaign against the Ahl al-Bayt and encouraged Muslims to disrespect them in order to gradually pave the way for their plan to decrease the influence of the Prophet himself. There are numerous accounts that prove the Wahhabis’ historical hostility toward the Prophet’s household.
Hempher’s recommendations to Abd al-Wahhab, the nominal founder of Wahhabism, include some interesting points in this regard. He told Abdul Wahhab that he had to remove some verses of the Holy Quran and add some fake words. He also advised Abd al-Wahhab to prevent people from going on hajj and to destroy the House of God in Mecca.
Hempher gave Abd al-Wahhab twelve major recommendations. Abd al-Wahhab endorsed ten but rejected these two because he was certain that such actions would not be tolerated by the Muslims. Hempher’s plan was similar to the plot to remove the Ahl al-Bayt from Islamic culture that was devised in the early Islamic era.
Since the advent of Islam, there have been people whose interpretation of Islam was dogmatic and inflexible. The influence of such people on Muslims has waxed and waned over the course of history, but they have always been present. Today, Wahhabism is a highly politicized school of thought whose main objective is to counter the growing influence of Shia Islam and Iran’s Islamic Revolution. However, it should not be forgotten that the Wahhabis’ subservience to colonialism, in the form of fomenting discord among Muslims, continues to damage Islamic culture and civilization and facilitates the looting of Muslim countries’ great sources of wealth by the enemies of Islam.