By Zaid Nabulsi
13 Feb 2015
Enough is enough. It is time to speak out.
“Islam is innocent” is an incomplete sentence. Introspection is needed, for, if we shy away from reality, the alternative will be more images like those we witnessed last Tuesday night, when brave Lt. Muath Al Kasasbeh was burnt to death in a cage.
The inconvenient truth that is overlooked or wilfully ignored by apologists for the indefensible is the fact that Wahhabism, the cult of mediaeval austerity founded by Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792), has over the last half century been exported to every mosque and school throughout the Muslim world until it completely enveloped mainstream Sunni Islamic teachings.
Wahhabism has entirely replaced, and become, Sunni Islam; the two cannot be told apart anymore.
Some Wahhabist teachings, which have permeated the air we breathe in the Muslim world, are simply irreconcilable with decent human values, especially the ones that declare that every non-Wahhabist is a disposable body whose bloodletting is unproblematic.
So enough of this burial of our heads in the sand. It has become tiresome to keep hearing the unproductive cliché that Islam is innocent after each atrocity committed by devout fanatics who did nothing except execute the exact letter of their textbooks, which order them to slaughter the infidels.
The escapism that mainstream Islam has nothing to do with those atrocities does not hold water anymore because Wahhabism and Islam have become indistinguishable.
To understand the crisis of Muslims today, one has to remember that Wahhabism exists in several textbooks containing the alleged sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, or books of “Hadith”, revered by so many.
What we must confront is the undeniable fact that it is from many stories found in these books that the unprecedented cruelty of groups such as the so-called Islamic State and Jabhat Al Nusra emanates.
The problem today has nothing to do with the original spirit of Prophet Mohammad’s message. Nor has it anything to do with the tumultuous history of Muslims over 14 centuries, parts of which were no doubt glorious and enlightened.
The catastrophe today is with the visible manifestation of Islam in the modern world, as demonstrated by the prevalent beliefs and practices of many people who call themselves Muslims.
This negative image of Muslims is not all just smoke and no fire. This is what those 120 Islamic scholars who sent a letter to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi last year could not fathom.
IS did not invent a new Islam. On the contrary, its followers are strict adherents of the same textbooks quoted in that long letter (bizarrely addressed to “Dr Ibrahim Awwad Al Badri”, Baghdadi’s real name, bestowing intellectual respectability upon this mass murderer, as if one were writing a letter to the mayor of Copenhagen).
In fact, the scholars’ letter was a misguided attempt to disinfect Wahhabism, to cleanse it from itself, by claiming that IS simply misinterpreted texts that are otherwise compatible with human decency.
In that sense, the letter squabbled over the semantics of the alleged instructions by the Prophet to spread Islam by the sword, but it did not dare renounce the authenticity of those same sayings.
Instead, the scholars argued that IS has simply taken those instructions out of context, and so they addressed the devotees of Ibn Taymiyyah (the mentor of Wahhabism, 1263-1328) with counterarguments based on those same problematic Ibn Taymiyyah texts that IS employed to justify its barbarity.
The truth of the matter is that, faced with the IS and Nusra atrocities, Muslims cannot afford to give Wahhabism a facelift.
If we truly want to defend Islam, we need to perform a much more invasive surgery.
Take the Muslim Brotherhood as an example of the prevalence of the Wahhabist teachings among Muslims today.
The Brotherhood is the virtual womb that incubated all the current jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda itself (Al Zawahiri hailed from the Egyptian MB offshoot that murdered President Anwar Sadat).
Yet, when Abu Musab Al Zarqawi was killed in 2006, the three most senior leaders of the MB in Jordan brazenly visited the condolence house in Zarqa and announced to the media that Zarqawi was a martyr in the eyes of God, despite Zarqawi having blown up three hotels in Amman the previous year, killing scores of Jordanians going about their lives or celebrating a peaceful wedding.
We need not go too far back.
More recently, former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, of the MB, committed much worse deeds than his Jordanian counterparts while he was briefly in office, using his pardon prerogatives to release the murderers who carried out the 1997 Luxor massacre of 62 elderly European tourists.
Not only that, Morsi even appointed the leader of that group as a governor of Luxor itself.
The MB in Jordan, despite their token condemnation of the immolation of Kasasbeh, still refuses to describe him as a martyr.
Some may counter that it is poverty and economics, not Wahhabist doctrine, that explain why so many Muslims are supportive of such murderous trends. This simply defies the facts.
The orgy of decapitations in Syria over the last four years was promoted by very rich Sunni clerics such as Yusuf Al Qaradawi and Mohammad Al Uraifi, aided by the countless satellite stations openly calling for the murder of Alawites and Shiites, and financed by billions from extremely wealthy but hateful Muslims.
So, enough with the denials. It is time to raise the alarm. We have a problem!
It is not a coincidence that for over a decade we, Muslims, dominated the world record in mindless televised massacres.
There is obviously a propensity towards eliminating “the other”, imbedded deep within Wahhabist ideology.
It is not only foolish to deny this fact; it is also dangerous, for we would be covering the cancerous tumour with a bandage.
What we cannot deny is that many of the Wahhabist textbooks are the same operating manuals that Islamist butchers use to justify their savagery.
For example, very few people know that while Muath was being set on fire in that macabre video, the voiceover was a recitation of an Ibn Taymiyyah fatwa deeming the incineration of unbelievers a legitimate act of jihad.
Ibn Taymiyyah is not some obscure scholar on the fringe of Sunni Islam. In the Sunni world, he is universally venerated with the title “Sheikh of Islam”, elevating him to an almost infallible clerical status.
If we really want to defend Islam as a religion of mercy, if we really want to be believed when we proclaim the innocence of this religion, we need to do more than just repeat this meaningless mantra about us having nothing to do with IS.
We have to muster the courage to identify the specific texts that actually defame Islam, denounce them and permanently cleanse Islamic tradition of them.
Zaid Nabulsi is a Jordanian attorney and partner in the law firm of Nabulsi & Associates. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.