Religion May Have Started This Fire. But It’s Not Why It’s Burning.

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Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab

The Middle East in the 18th century was inundated with a puritanical strain of Islam midwifed by a strict interpretation of scripture by scholar Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab. It is almost incomprehensible the crimes committed by this radical absolutist sect that arrogated to itself the ability to divine Allah’s true intents. The pansophic ideological juggernaut of Wahhabism seems to have risen once again from the ashes of clashes between these diametrically poised interpretations of Islam. Born in the era of firearms, Wahhabism is now aiming its vitriolic fervor in the age of jets and missiles.

The moderate Muslims in the city of Karbala opposed the restrictions imposed on them and began a long and painful war against the impositions in the 19th century. In 1801 British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, wrote about the attack on Karbala by Wahhabists: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants …”

So Wahhabism was forcefully transformed from a theological, revolutionary and jihadist movement, to a social conservative movement. It also became the institution that upheld servitude to the royal Saudi family and the absolute power of the Saudi Monarchy.

It’s important to understand that this extreme branch of the religion has grown two heads and both of them are fighting for ascendancy. Abd al-Wahhab demanded absolute conformity one that is manifest in actual and in symbolic meaning. It meant all Muslims had to bow to a single leader, a Caliph, and it demanded that apostates would be “…killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated.” He already targeted Shiites, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.


Alastair Crooke, former MI-6 agent writes

“On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.”


ISIS and Wahhabists suffered a dichotomy recently over the three pillars of caliphate “One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque”. The rub here is is that the three pillars would point to the head of the house of Saud as the leader and ISIS is not signing on to anyone but the Almighty himself. Obviously, the Saudis are getting worried. But this isn’t about religion. It’s about power.


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