By Izeth Hussain –
An effective strategy in countering Wahabism and other forms of Islamic fundamentalism would be to get the Muslim mind to focus on the question of what would happen if fundamentalism comes to prevail as the norm in the greater part of the Islamic world or in its entirety, displacing the current norm of orthodox Islam. Stoning to death for adultery would become a frequent widespread occurrence. A series of Rizana Nafeeks will be beheaded every Friday all over the Islamic world. Rape will flourish because hardly any female will dare to allege rape: according to hudud ordinances, which apply to offences against God and not just man, a female who alleges rape is thereby confessing that she has committed adultery and will have to suffer the consequences, which could include being stoned to death. Thieves, even petty thieves, will have their hands cut off. Instrumental music, films and television will all be banned. All females will be attired in black burqas. I won’t add to that list of horrors because two conclusions are already clear enough: conversions to Islam will sink almost to zero and wherever possible some or many Muslims will become atheists or convert to other religions. The moral to be drawn is also clear enough: Islam has to be saved from Wahabism and its clones.
In the first part of this article I argued that the most important reason why Wahabism should be countered is that it is unIslamic. That argument is fully consistent with the position of orthodox Islam. Muslims in general accept that the most authoritative voice of orthodox Islam is that of Al Azhar in Cairo. All Muslims should take a look at that brief video in which a top Al Azhar cleric states the essentials against Wahabism. Different names are used but the underlying reality is Wahabism. It is a slander to say that orthodox Muslims engage in saint worship. Those who unreasonably accuse others of polytheism will themselves be adjudged polytheists in the next world and they will suffer the consequences. The cleric referred to the famous hadith according to which the Prophet showed a stunning prescience in predicting that the Horn of the Devil would be manifested in the Najd. Sheikh Abdul Wahab came from the Najd. So in my advocacy that Wahabism be countered I have behind me the might and majesty of orthodox Islam.
I will now make some observations on the impact of Wahabism on the Sri lankan Muslims. I noted earlier that at the time of Sheikh Abdul Wahab there was a need for a return to the roots, for a movement that would get rid of unIslamic accretions, and that was true of Arabia as well as the wider Islamic world. But I am not sure that that applied to Sri Lanka. Certain facts are significant. In 1815 the Wahabi Arabian forces were defeated by Mohammed Ali of Egypt who was acting on behalf of the Ottoman Emperor, and thereafter Wahabism ceased to matter in the wider Islamic world except in India where the Wahabi Deoband movement showed some degree of dynamism. That was understandable because there there were unIslamic pratices due to interaction with the Hindu world. That was not the case in Sri Lanka where we were practicing relatively pure forms of Islam and there was no need for a purificatory movement except perhaps to a marginal extent. Consequently the Deoband movement never became influential in Sri Lanka despite the factor of geographical proximity. Here Wahabism has been a creation of the petro-dollar, an unnecessary nuisance with hardly anything but negative consequences.
There is one matter over which our Muslims would be well-advised not to trifle. The usual pretence is that what goes on in the madrasas is the teaching of Islam and nothing else. But practically everyone knows that they are responsible for the spread of pernicious idiocies – such as that the Buddhists are idol-worshippers who are doomed to the eternal bonfire, a bit of idiocy which I can attest never figured in the consciousness of Muslims of my generation. Above all our Muslims must face up to the fact that the madrasas have been – here and elsewhere and wittingly or not – the breeding ground of terrorism. No less than our Defence Secretary has divulged that 36 Sri Lankan Muslims have joined the IS, which fact our Muslims must reognize as the expression of deep Govrnmental concern, not something that can be explained away on the ground that the Defence Secretary is allegedly sympathetic to the BBS. The fact that as many as 36 Sri Lankan Muslims are willing to risk their lives for the savagely idiotic and monstrously unIslamic IS is surely disturbing. What I have in mind, of course, is something that need not be spelled out in detail: Sri Lankan Muslims can get involved in terrorist activity of a sort that can lead to the wreckage of our relations with India.
I rather doubt that Wahabism will lead to any significant terrorist movement within Sri Lanka, not even I think if the BBS manages to bring off another 1983 in commemoration/celebration of the 1915 anti-Muslim riots. The reason for this is that I find acceptable Emmmanuel Todd’s theory – which I have expounded in earlier articles – that terrorism can be explained in terms of the pressures set off by the transition to modernity, more specifically in terms of the process of literacy-female literacy-birth control. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the two great centers of Islamic terrorism today, are in the throes of that process while the Sri Lankan Muslims I think have come through. In the absence of the relevant statistics I have to be impressionist in stating that SL Muslim population increase has stabilised with two children per family – the same as in Sinhalese and Tamil families – though in the Eastern Province it could be slightly more. But of course Wahabism has the potential to wreck Muslim-Sinhalese relations in many other ways, notably by making the Muslims withdraw into themselves even more than in the past, as shown for instance by the spread of the unIslamic black burqas. I must make special mention of the proliferation of Wahabi mosques that are for the most part empty of worshippers, representing a huge waste of resources that could be spent on the poor in keeping with the impressively deep sympathy for the poor shown in the Meccan suras of the Koran. That ptoliferation can provoke Sinhalese contempt – a justifiable contmpt in terms of Islam – for the Wahabi Muslims that can rub off on other Muslims as well.
I have much more to say on the malefic impact of Wahabism on the SL Muslims. I will here confine myself to just two points, on which I may expand in future articles. This island is dotted with the tombs of Muslim saints. Those tombs give a sense of the Islamic sacred to the soil of Sri Lanka. I believe that they ground to an important extent the Muslim sense of belonging to this country. If the Wahabi project of eradicating all those tombs succeeds, the Muslims will probably come to feel more and more that they are in reality an immigrant community and not a full-fledged ethnic group with a deep rooted sense of belonging here – which they have certaily had up to now for many centuries. My second point is that in all religions the approach to the Transcendental, which is in the abstract, is mediated to a greater or lesser extent through the concrete. That is why the Prophet allowed, in the course of the Haj pilgrimage, the continuance of pre-Islamic pratices such as the kissing of the black stone. If the saints’ tombs are eradicated altogether, a spiritual impoverishment of the Muslims here will probably follow.
In conclusion I must point to a significant fact. Among the adverse comments provoked by the first two parts ofthis article there were only some by an erudite commentator at a sophisticated level. However, his arguments to justify the charge of saint worship were clearly implausible. Those arguments were advanced over the first part of my article and he has refrained from commenting on the second part. It appears that the Wahabis are unwilling to engage in serious dialogue on Wahabism. The probable reason is that at the very core of what Sheikh Abdul Wahab preached is confusion about the simple distinction between veneration and worship. Therefore at the very core of what he preached there is this: Nonsense. (Concluded)