View Full Version : ISIS - some background

David G
09-04-2014, 10:03 AM
09/02/14Huffington Post
AlastairCrooke (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/)
Fmr.MI-6 agent; Author, 'Resistance: The Essence of Islamic Revolution'

BEIRUT-- The dramatic arrival of Da'ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq hasshocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed -- and horrified-- by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. Butmore than this, they find Saudi Arabia's ambivalence in the face ofthis manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, "Don'tthe Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?"
Itappears -- even now -- that Saudi Arabia's ruling elite is divided.Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite "fire"with Sunni "fire"; that a new Sunni state is taking shapeat the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunnipatrimony; and they are drawn by Da'ish's strict Salafist ideology.
OtherSaudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt againstAbd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan hasnothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan -- please note, allfurther references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not tothe Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabismand the al-Saud in the late 1920s.
ManySaudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da'ish (ISIS)-- and are beginning toquestion (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2014/08/17/Plotting-a-conspiracy-on-the-run.html)someaspects of Saudi Arabia's direction and discourse.

SaudiArabia's internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only beunderstood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality thatlies at the core of the Kingdom's doctrinal makeup and its historicalorigins.
Onedominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammadibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to whichhis radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latterwas then no more than a minor leader -- amongst many -- ofcontinually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking anddesperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)
Thesecond strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to KingAbd-al Aziz's subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: hiscurbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing asa nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization ofthe original Wahhabist impulse -- and the subsequent seizing of theopportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel thevolatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export -- bydiffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolutionthroughout the Muslim world.
Butthis "cultural revolution" was no docile reformism. It wasa revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab's Jacobin-like hatred for theputrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him -- hencehis call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.
TheAmerican author and journalist, Steven Coll, haswritten (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Wars-Secret-History-Afghanistan/dp/0141020806/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=1-1&keywords=ghost+wars)howthis austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar IbnTaymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised "the decorous, arty, tobaccosmoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottomannobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca."
InAbd al-Wahhab's view, these were not Muslims; they were impostersmasquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behavior oflocal Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab bytheir honoring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their"superstition" (e.g. revering graves or places that weredeemed particularly imbued with the divine).
Allthis behavior, Abd al-Wahhab denounced asbida--forbidden by God.
LikeTaymiyyah before him, Abd al-Wahhab believed that the period of theProphet Muhammad's stay in Medina was the ideal of Muslim society(the "best of times"), to which all Muslims should aspireto emulate (this, essentially, is Salafism).
Taymiyyahhad declared war on Shi'ism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He spokeout, too against visiting the grave of the prophet and thecelebration of his birthday, declaring that all such behaviorrepresented mere imitation of the Christian worship of Jesus as God(i.e. idolatry). Abd al-Wahhab assimilated all this earlier teaching,stating that "any doubt or hesitation" on the part of abeliever in respect to his or her acknowledging this particularinterpretation of Islam should"deprivea man of immunity of his property and his life." (https://islamgendermodernity.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/esposito-reading-3.pdf)

Oneof the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab's doctrine has become the keyidea oftakfir.Underthe takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deemfellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in anyway could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absoluteAuthority (that is, the King). Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslimswho honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentimentsdetracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God,and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any prayer to saints and deadloved ones, pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, religiousfestivals celebrating saints, the honoring of the Muslim ProphetMuhammad's birthday, and even prohibits the use of gravestones whenburying the dead.

Abdal-Wahhab demanded conformity -- a conformity that was to bedemonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that allMuslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslimleader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform tothis viewshouldbe killed (http://www.amazon.com/The-Two-Faces-Islam-Fundamentalism/dp/1400030455),their wives and daughters violated, and their possessionsconfiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death includedthe Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhabdid not consider to be Muslim at all.

Thereis nothing here that separates Wahhabism from ISIS. The rift wouldemerge only later: from the subsequent institutionalization ofMuhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's doctrine of "One Ruler, OneAuthority, One Mosque" -- these three pillars being takenrespectively to refer to the Saudi king, the absolute authority ofofficial Wahhabism, and its control of "the word" (i.e. themosque).

Itis this rift -- the ISIS denial of these three pillars on which thewhole of Sunni authority presently rests -- makes ISIS, which in allother respects conforms to Wahhabism, a deep threat to SaudiArabia.

For More -- See the Huffington Post article -- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/isis-wahhabism-saudi-arabia_b_5717157.html