What is Wahhabism (?): many conniving Islamists want to blame Wahhabism for the inherent intolerance of real Islam. That is, they want to portray Wahhabism as the separate or deviant entity of Islam which is being misunderstood (by westerners) as the real Islam. Most western non-Muslims are also being misguided by the so called Wahhabite type of Islam, which according to some is not real/true peaceful Islam. Now what is actually Wahhabism?
Fact of the matter is, the so-called Wahhabism is not a separate religion, nor is it a separate brand of Islam. Truly, this Wahhabism is the new force to unite Islam into its pristine form that existed in the early Islamic period of 7th century. That is the time of Prophet Muhammad and his four favorite disciples—Khula-faye-Rashedin. In the early 18th century Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab a famous Saudi religious extremist leader called for a renewal of Islamic spirit, moral cleansing and the stripping away of all innovations to Islam since the 7th century. His followers are called Wahabis or wahbite Islamists, and these followers of Abdul Wahab preach pure and real original Islam which got the name (erroneously) as Wahhabism.
Therefore, Wahhabism is not a new brand of Islam or any offshoot of Islam; rather Wahhabism is the re-orientation of the original pure Islam. That is Wahhabism is the old pure wine in a new bottle. Wahhabism does not have any separate scriptural book, Qur’an and Sunnah (hadiths) are the principle guidance for Wahhabism. Actually, Wahhabism is nothing but the real Islam of 7th century in a sheer rejuvenation by the grace of Arab’s petrodollars. Most importantly, Wahhabism (pure islam) is dangerously intolerant towards other religions and infidels as it was during early period of Islam (Starting from Prophet Muhammad up to the end period of four rightly guided caliphs).
Followers of Wahhabism prefer to identify themselves as Muwahiddun—which means “the unifiers”. Wahhabism is simply the political Islam that has been adopted for power sharing purposes. It has no special practices, nor special rites, and no special interpretation of the religion Islam that differs from the main body of Sunni Islam. Wahhabite followers consider every Muslims should follow the practice of Islam like Wahhabite Muslims and regard all those who do not follow them as the heathens and enemies of Islam. Osama bin Laden is the true follower of Wahhabism.
The followers of Wahhabism including the Saudi Arabia’s ruling house of Saud insist they are simply practicing the “true” Islam of Prophet Muhammad. Saudi ruler (King of Saudi Arabia) did not change anything in the theological aspect of original Islam. But they have changed their own political designation as the rulers of Saudi Arabia. They are not calling them king (as Islam does not advocate Kingship); rather Saudi rulers call them “The custodian of Islam”.
Wahhabism got popularity to the west and the Muslim world during the aftermath of Iranian Revolution in 1979. Billions of Dollars were spent by Saudi to influence Wahhabism ideology as the counter force to Iranian Shiite ideology throughout the whole Muslim world by building thousands of Mosques, Madrassahs, Islamic centers etc. Pakistan was flooded with Wahabi madrassas (Islamic school or factory of terrorism) which was the main focus to the American media after the 9/11 episode as the breeding ground of Taliban and al-Qaeda Jhadi force.
Sheik Shishu a Kurdish Imam who is the follower of Wahhabism (when asked by a Kurdish reporter about Wahhabism) said: “What is Wahhabism?” there is no such thing called Wahhabism, only true Islam”. Saudi students and Saudi citizen also have the similar opinions about Wahhabism.
From the book ‘Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence’—Princeton University Press, 2000). ”Like many other Saudis in America, Mr. Alahmari does not like to refer to the brand of Islam that is exported from his country as Wahhabism. "We don’t feel Wahhabism is something different," he said. "It is a purification of Islam."
Effects and reflections of Wahhabism on the lives of Muslims:
If we recapitulate how Islam as a religion had been practiced during the decades of 60s, 50s and 40s and beyond, we can surely detect tremendous changes the way Muslims practice Islam today. During 60s, 50s and 40s and even before that (for many centuries)—Muslims used to practice religion Islam very privately, easily and peacefully. There was no political influence in Islam and especially in the Indian sub-continent as well as entire South East Asia Islam was tremendously influenced by Sufism and other local brand of cultural admixes. We did not see young people and college students so serious about religion. Religious activities (mainly five times prayers and fasting during Romadhan and two Eids) were duty of mainly the elders. Youngsters were not so serious about religion. During Pakistani era, political leaders were not spell bound to show up their religious zeal to appease the voters/publics. Muslim women like Hindu women used to put their portion of their Saree over their heads (called Ghumta, a century old Indian costume) but never ever we could see burkha-clad or hijab-clad women among the city duelers. In very rare cases, burkha-clad rural aristocrat old women were visible in the country sides.
What do we see for the last several decades?
For the last 30/40 years period, this so called Wahhabism (real Islam) has rapidly invaded the lives of Muslims throughout the whole world. Especially, Muslim majority countries in the south-east Asia were silently invaded right before our eyes by this so called wahhabite pure islam. Not to be mistaken that—it came by the name of Wahhabism, actually it came as the purification of Islam which was considered polluted by many centuries of neglect by the guardians of Islam Saudi Arabia. Thanks to two generals (Zia and Ershad) of Bangladesh for vigorously importing Wahhabi Islam in lieu of Arab petro-dollars.
However we have seen following radical changes in the Muslim majority country like Bangladesh by the courtesy of Arab petro-dollars:
Some visible cultural changes like: replaced century old habit of saying: “Khuda hafiz” by the Saudi style: “Allah hafiz”, declaring (by some religious parties) women’s visits of Shaid-Minar, Gaye Holud festival (use of turmeric baths in marriage ceremony) etc. as un-Islamic.
Religious activities (Five times prayers and fasting during Romadhan) have increased thousand folds amongst the young generation. Restaurants remain shutting during Ramadhan month even for non-Muslims. Use of Arab garbs amongst the religious mullahs has increased ten folds. Even common publics (men and women) changed their dress to become more Islamized (Mucholman) i.e. men wear loose dress (Kurta-Shallower), grow beards and women wearing Shalower-Qumiz instead of Bengali Saree and ridiculous looking hijab to show their devotion towards Islam.
Islamic fatwabazi in the country side has taken roots (which was unknown even in Pakistani era) like epidemics. Stoning deaths, Islamic lashings and other Shariah-based punishments have rampant in Bangladesh.
Politicians showing up extreme zeal of religiosity and their main slogans of politics become ‘who can save Islam more potently’. Iftar-culture has started vigorously amongst the all political parties and pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj) and visiting other religiously holy places become the rule for politicians. Tremendous competition between the rival politicians to show up who is the best Muslim. All these above unproductive and hypocritical manifestations of politicians were totally unknown even in Pakistani era.
Islamization of Arm Forces (which was non-existent in Pakistani time). During British India or even in Pakistani time—Arm forces were totally secular/progressive minded people. But soon after the assassination of the father of the Bangali Nation in 1975, Bangladesh Arm-forces were readily exposed to Islamic fanaticism and very quickly converted the whole Army into a fanatically India hated Islamized Arm-forces of Bangladesh. Thousands of regular Joans (soldiers) are ex-madrassah students and bearded soldiers. Jamaat Guru war-criminal Gulam Azam visits Dhaka cantonment to provide Islamic sermons to the ordinary soldiers.
An utopia of Pir-business has bloomed in Bangladesh (although, wahhabite guardians of Islam do not like it) by the golden opportunity developed due to the extreme zeal of religiosity among the common publics.
Creation of Religious Ministry (Dharmo Montry) , Islamic Foundations (dozens of them), haj ministry, haj department, haji camps, Tablighiihi Jamat (Biswa-iztema) are a few cardinal signs of wahhabite influence in Bangladesh. These were unknown even in Pakistani era or during the British India.
Islamization of education system as a whole taken roots by this Wahhabite influence. Some over jealous Mullaic intellectuals of Bangladesh discovered lots of modern “budoo” science in holy Koran to fool ordinary peoples.
Among the general public's pilgrimage to Mecca (haj and Umrha-culture) and visiting Islamic holy places have increased 100 folds. Pilgrimage to Mecca was rare thing even in Pakistani time.
Loud speaker (Microphone) culture was begun with competition. One can experience the horrendously disturbing ear-busting sounds of Ajan (call for prayers), Friday sermons and Gozzals coming from the various Mosques from all directions. These were totally unknown during periods 30/40 years back.
In general a dangerous movement (utopia) of making Sharia-based Islamic paradise has been generated in every Muslim majority countries throughout the whole world because of Wahhabite influence.
After invading successfully almost all the Muslim majority countries, this so called Wahhabism also occupied 80-90% of the Mosques established in the infidel lands around the world.
Similar or even more jihadi brand of Islamization changes can be observed in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Muslim majority countries around the world.
Conclusion: Undoubtedly, rejuvenation of real 7th century Islam has taken it’s ugly roots among all Muslim countries including Bangladesh and century old Sufi-mixed peaceful benign Islam has evaporated from Bangladesh and elsewhere in South East Asia. So it is not correct to claim that Muslims in Bangladesh and other Muslim majority countries of the world have no idea what Wahhabism is until after September 11th”. September 11th episode was only the visible cardinal sign exhibited by the soldiers of Allah inspired by pure (Wahhabi) Islam. The malignant signs of this so called Wahhabism (pure Islam) was also taken it’s roots among the Muslim expatriates around the world which is clearly visible by the courtesy of intense religiosity (Ummabazi, various Islamic organization, hijab culture among the Muslim women who never used hjab/burkha in their own land before coming to this western infidel lands. All of these above changes among the Muslims in general are the direct effects/influence of the propagation of 7th century pure Islam under the false banner of so called Wahhabism.
It is most unfortunate that, at the modern era of 20th and 21st centuries when entire world was shedding out the century-old religious fervors, and very rapidly embracing secularism, modern science and technology—Muslims on the contrary was embracing more and more fanatical religious fervors of so called Wahhabism and going back to the dark days of medieval 7thcentury life style. Only Allah knows when Muslims will learn to go forward instead of going backward! Syed_mirza@hotmail.com