Influence of Environment on Religiousness; Wahhabism an Example!

Only men of religion can transform an individual into a predatory being: Whoever kills in the name of religion enjoys the blood of the victim, because it has earned him a position with God, as he has triumphed for god and achieved his goal. Whoever kills otherwise will most likely be one day under the torment of conscience, because we are human, and our human formation does not allow us to deny this story forever. Consequently, we will someday realize the essence of this story even if it is late for some reason, whether due to poor understanding of life, or to the cruelty of our hearts, or to our drowning in ideology, whose contradictions have decimated us.

As science advances, the characteristics of our (current) societies is heading again toward drowning in the seas of ideology that dominated so widely in the last century. The characteristics of religious thought have become to a level where it is not based on elements of correct knowledge, but on political and ideological slogans. Therefore, the vision is lost, the diagnosis is distorted, and matters are confused.

There is a difference between scientific debates in the fields of specialized scientific research and drowning in a culture of fighting over accepting this ideology, some of them are naturally formed in certain political and social circumstances. However, the worst thing is when the interpretation of religious texts becomes a method used by the ideologues as an act of the sacred, which makes these texts attain sacredness perhaps more than the divine text itself, in the sense that people fight with it and over it.

It is in our opinion that Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was not in contact or dialogue with Western thoughts, especially with regard to the church’s management of political and religious interdependence in Europe, as he did not live in Cairo, Beirut or Damascus, gateways of a dialogue between Orient and Okzident. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab lived in small villages in the depths of the desert of Najd. Therefore, it is difficult to say that these desert villages and towns fell under the influence of external influences that made them affected by medieval culture, as they were isolated.

When the thoughts of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab reached the reform stage, he used violence against his opponents in terms of scientific jurisprudence, visions and ideas. The stage of jihad in his theological thesis made him treat opposing Muslims, as if they were non-Muslims, a division that was not reached by any of the imams of the Salafi schools before him. Wherever intellectual and judicial differences between Muslims, there was no argument nor need to reach their struggle with sanctions, to violate their blood, money and their sanctities.

The region of present Saudi Arabia then enjoyed independence for many ages before the Prophet’s mission, its freedom was not tampered with the conquerors of Persians and the Romans, and when Alexander the Great advanced towards the east, the Arabs repelled and pushed him away. The spiritual growth of the Arabs before Islam was connected to commercial growth and the people in the sacred months refrained from harming others that provided security during the Hajj season and caused strong religious and economic activity.

Is it correct, logically, for Al-Diriyah – the place where al-Wahhab lived – to become the alternative to the entire civilized world, and does Al-Diriyah have the ability to create a cultural product that is capable of rebuilding a nation in the crisis of disintegration and downfall? Hence, the Wahhabi movement was not compatible with the nearby Arab cities, nor with the Islamic ones far away, therefore it had to reproduce the religion with such cruelty, where Wahhabism considered itself as the only rightful Islamic message, while other schools did not represent Islam. This harsh environment did not allow the idea of pluralism, which we mostly find in a civilized environment that tends to stability and not to war.

Therefore, what recognizes the call of Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab is the way that he presents it to the nation in his time. As he characterized himself, he does not provide evidence for what he transmits from the sayings of Muslim scholars, disagreeing with him.

This is precisely the essence of the Wahhabi movement, as it did not provide tangible material evidence to justify the idea of the “alternative” that it came up with. Consequently, was the Al-Diriyah experience an attempt at stability? At a time and in a place, where interdependence of thoughts and cultures was not common. The state of “Najd” at that time was a chaos, mess and infighting, practically made it located on the edge of civilization, in the place far from its center, as the far-off cultural environment was completely different on the periphery than in the middle.

The call of Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was not faulty because he started from that environment with the aim of reforming and removing the religion from wars and tensions. But the seriousness of the issue lies in his call, isolating himself from the entire Islamic cultural environment at the time, wanted to carry out a process of reforming the entire Islamic community based on the concept of isolation that he imposed on himself and imposed by the Wahhabi mission after him on the rest of the Islamic world to this day. The most dangerous of all is that it has started into long, totally unjustified wars.

Consequently, the lack of cultural contact with the Arab environment and the use of language of force to impose his call made the form of this call completely different from predecessors. Mekkah, one of the cities closest to Al-Diriyah, compared to the other Islamic capitals. But it was not, even in pre-Islamic times, living the hell of wars and cultural isolation like the world of the Najd desert at the time.

Let us note here the modern approaches. In Afghanistan, Taliban movement destroyed everything that belongs to civilization: There is no TV, theater, picture, or statues, although it was for non-Muslims, such as the incident of the destruction of the famous Bamiyan statues. In Yemen and Somalia, the first thing that Al Qaeda did was to destroy shrines that the people worshipped. In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State’s primary concern was the demolition of ancient statues, even though the early Muslims did not. As for the punishment for fornication and others, the Taliban, ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and others, did it because they claim to represent the Islamic religion.

This is a doctrinal issue, in which there is a clear and flagrant violation of the basic Islamic rule in implementing the hadd, time and place, and in this debate we will not go into it. But what we wanted to point out is that all of these actions are not Islamic calls, they are not the language of reform, and they are just justifications to bring people to accept these groups.

If the Wahhabi (Salafi) call remained a religious school, there is no disagreement about it, and then Islamic science expands controversy and accepts opinion. However, Wahhabism started from the point of exclusion for all, thus it was not a religious school but an exclusionary movement, and the author does not think that any of the Islamic Salafi currents can be called religious schools, but rather “exclusionary movements”. Consequently, the description for them here is completely different.

The main problem of the Salafi thought produced by Wahhabism is that it confuses the Dawah (the act of inviting or calling people to embrace Islam) with the authority, so the Dawah is not based on the edge of the sword, nor with the logic of force, because according to this method, a religious authority is responsible. Looking at the concept of religious authority, it “means that a person claims for himself the quality of speaking in the name of God and the right to be alone in knowing the opinion of heaven and its interpretation.” With regard to Islamic thought, all of its doctrines and intellectual currents – with the exception of the Shiites – deny the existence of religious authority and deny that any individual or body has the right to confer divine sanctity over its judgments and opinions.

The recent televised meeting of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, especially when he spoke about religious reform, left a global, Islamic and humanitarian relief. Globally, by frankly declaring that the Saudi do not sponsor Wahhabi ideology and it will open up to contemporary jurisprudential opinions and the interest of society. Islamically, when bin Salman announced the Kingdom’s openness to every religious opinion that serves the interest of society as long as it is disciplined by its Quranic origin. Humanly, by not following the hadiths that result in the establishment of Hudud (In Islam it refers to punishments that under Islamic law ((shariah)) are mandated and fixed by God; these punishments were rarely applied in pre-modern Islam, and their use in some modern states has been a source of controversy), inconsistent with the tolerance of Islam and human rights.

Such matters send messages of reassurance to various parties and the religious strife to stop, so that a more modern and humane phase might enter.

All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.