Was the Founder of Wahhabi Islam Tolerant and Peace-Loving?
John Kearney, in the Boston Globe (Aug. 13, 2004):
SINCE 9/11, THERE HAS been no shortage of calls for an "Islamic reformation" to counter religious extremism in Muslim societies and lift them out of economic and political stagnation. Reform boosters often target Saudi Arabia's state-sponsored creed, known as Wahhabi Islam, claiming that Wahhabism's alleged repression of women, its rigid, literalist readings of the Koran, and its belligerence towards other Muslims and non-Muslims have impeded development and fostered the rise of groups like Al Qaeda.
But according to the author of a new book published by Oxford University Press, Islam already has its Martin Luther - none other than Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabi Islam.
In "Wahhabi Islam: From Revival to Global Jihad" - billed by its publisher as the first book-length study of the 18th-century Muslim reformer - Natana DeLong-Bas argues that the vilification of Wahhabism and its founder gets it all wrong. "The militant Islam of Osama bin Laden does not have its origins in the teachings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and is not representative of Wahhabi Islam. . .," she writes.
In fact, DeLong-Bas argues, Abd al-Wahhab's writings display "an absence of the xenophobia, militantism, misogyny, extremism, and literalism typically associated with Wahhabism." She describes Abd al-Wahhab's embrace of reason alongside divine revelation, and writes of his commitment to "placing women on a balanced footing with men." Far from being a how-to manual for violent jihad, DeLong-Bas concludes, Abd al-Wahhab's writings provide "a vision that offers hope for the future."
DeLong-Bas's critics aren't letting such startling statements pass unchallenged. "I'm sad this piece of scholarly trash was published by Oxford," says Khaled Abou El Fadl, professor of law at UCLA who writes frequently on Islamic jurisprudence. "This doesn't qualify as scholarship - it falls within the general phenomenon of Saudi apologetics."
"DeLong-Bas never challenges the propriety of Abd al-Wahhab's claim to absolute authority - the authority to declare the believer and the unbeliever (authority God reserves to himself in the Koran) and to impose the most severe sanctions on those he disagrees with," says Michael Sells, author of "Approaching the Qu'ran" and professor of religion at Haverford College. And novelist Michael J. Ybarra, reviewing DeLong-Bas's book in The Wall Street Journal, points out that "where on earth this [tolerant] form of Wahhabi Islam ever existed she doesn't say."...
comments powered by Disqus
Ahmad Khalil - 11/22/2004
You might be interested in this website. It clearly shows the extremism and bloodletting mentality of the wahhabi founder.
(Walter) or (W.) Richard Burack - 8/14/2004
IT'S PRETTY CLEAR HE WASN'T A JEFFERSONIAN. WHICH RAISES THE TOUCHY ISSUE OF WHETHER MUSLIMS IN AMERICA BELIEVE IN SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. THIS QUERY IS POSED ONLY TO EXPLORE AN ISUUE ABOUT WHICH THE WRITER HAS BEEN IN THE DARK BUT HAS BEEN CURIOUS.
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- Researchers have discovered a previously unknown 149-page manuscript defending homosexuality.
- What Counts as Historical Evidence? The Fracas over John Stauffer’s Black Confederates
- Israeli journalist-turned-biographer, Shabtai Teveth, is remembered for his attack on the New Historians
- Harvard’s Drew Faust says the Civil War marked the start of large-scale industrial war, not WW I