18 August, 2022

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Wahhabism & Tablighi Jamaat (TJ)

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently proscribed TJ and rationalized its action by branding TJ as a gateway to Muslim terrorism. One wonders whether this is another instance of pot calling kettle black and whether the kettle is as black as the pot. The origins and history of Wahhabism in the Arabian Peninsula is replete with episodes of violence and extremist teachings. This eponymous 18th century ideology rooted in the literalist monotheism associated with (a) 7th century Kharijism, “the stem of Islamic fundamentalism” (b) the rigidly orthodox Hanbali school of jurisprudence, and (c) teachings of the 13th century obstreperous Damascene scholar and intellectual, Ibn Taymiyyah, ended up as a state ideology because of a political pact in 1744 between the patriarch of the Saudi dynasty Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud and the religious preacher Abd Al-Wahhab.

As the French professor of comparative literature and writer Abdelawahab Meddeb opines, Wahhabism is “probably the most impoverished interpretation known in the theological and doctrinal history of Islam”. It arose as an uncompromising and militant religious response to the destabilizing effects of modernity experienced in many parts of the Muslim world including the then declining Ottoman Empire. As the liberal reformist scholar Khalid El-Fadl points out, it “exhibits an extreme form of distrust of all forms of social theory and considers intellectualism a form of devilish sophistry”. Wahhabism’s language, according to a Saudi born woman American professor Madawi Al-Rasheed, “was that of purging, purifying, obliterating, and eradicating difference, especially that emanating from faith, tribalism, regionalism and cultural practices”. Extremism is in the very womb of Wahhabism and there is no need for injections from other sources like TJ to make it strong.

Over the last few decades Wahhabism has become the surrogate mother of several Islamist movements, including Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Jabhat an-Nusra, Jama’a Islamiyya, ISIS and so on. One should not also forget the fact that the gang of extremists led by the Bedouin preacher and former Saudi National Guard corporal Juhayman Al-Utaybi, who laid siege to the Holy Mosque in Mecca in November 1979 and occupied it for fifteen days demanding Saudi rulers to quit, until the occupiers and hundreds of other innocents were killed by French mercenaries, were not the products of TJ but Wahhabism. Similarly, of the nineteen men who highjacked two jet airplanes and crashed them on the World Trade Centre in New York, killing almost 3000 innocent men and women in the S11 terror act, fifteen were from the Wahhabi Kingdom. They were all Wahhabi inspired and not TJ schooled terrorists. Also, the Taliban that rules Afghanistan for the second time today is the product of Wahhabi dollars and US weapons that entered thousands of Pakistani and Afghani madrasas in the 1970s and 1980s. It is therefore makes no sense to accept the Saudi rationale of extremism as reason for proscribing TJ. After all, Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) the Wahhabi Crown Prince who authored this ban was also the man who masterminded the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Extremism is in the blood of Wahhabi ideology. Does this mean that TJ has no case to answer?

Unlike Wahhabism, TJ was founded in British India by Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalwi who was influenced by the conservative Darul Uloom Deobandi movement. Ilyas never preached violence and neither he inspired violence among his followers. TJ’s philosophy could be captured in that slogan, “O Muslims! Become (true) Muslims”. TJ’s primary concern was not to convert non-Muslims to Islam, but to transform nominal Muslims into devout Muslims. The movement’s simplicity and peaceful nature have allowed it to grow into a worldwide movement with millions of Muslims adhering to its preaching and philosophy.

It is a very conservative movement, but the problem with TJ is its overarching obsession with life in the Hereafter at the expense of life in the here and now. Because of the transient nature of earthly life and a belief in the certainty and permanency and excellence of life in the Hereafter, otherworldliness grips the thinking and attitude of Tablighi followers. To a TJ follower, time spent in prayer and meditation inside a mosque for example, is more meritorious than time spent inside a library or laboratory.

This type of preaching and practicing of a mainly ritualistic Islam has become a problem to governments in Muslim majority countries. This was why when Pakistan was created, its architect Jinnah and its spiritual father Iqbal were critical of the mullahs there who were shepherding their flocks into the mosques and around mausoleums while the nation remained starved of educated and skilled citizens to administer and develop the new country. Similarly, in countries like Saudi Arabia, which are blessed with petroleum resources and plenty of capital there is a dearth of highly skilled and talented cadre of local personnel. On top of this scientific and intellectual poverty if citizens were to become otherworldly and lose interest in hard work and creative engagement, economic development would become a problem once oil runs out foreign talent dries out. This is where TJ’s philosophy of detachment with affairs of this world becomes a problem. TJ’s “true Muslim” is not the Muslim who could fit into the competing claims of a modern complex society.

MBS is also initiate a series of modernizing reforms in Saudi Arabia especially on the cultural side. Under his cultural modernization program women are allowed to drive and go shopping without male chaperon, female singers are given public arena to perform, and cinemas and entertainment venues are being opened. All this no doubt has enraged the theological hierarchy of Wahhabism. Like Wahhabism, TJ also has no interest at all in the aesthetic side of human life. It is this commonality between the two that must have worried MBS. While keeping the local resisters under control MBS could not afford to allow TJ to preach their anti-aesthetic philosophy. Therefore, the ban on TJ should be viewed as part of MSB’s cultural modernization reforms rather than to close the gateway to extremism.

It appears that the Saudi ban has provoked Islamophobes in Sri Lanka to agitate for similar ban against TJ. If these demagogues really understood TJ’s mission and philosophy, they would urge the government to encourage that movement rather than proscribing it and allow TJ to do what it does best to keep Muslims detached from mundane matters and remain hallucinated with doses of heavenly concoctions. After more than seventy years of TJ indoctrination Muslim community needs a radical overhaul of its understanding of Islam. Therefore, it is from within the Muslim community and from its post-Badi generation of intelligentsia that agitation against TJ indoctrination should emanate and not from Islamophobes.

However, one obvious reason for the Islamophobic attack on TJ is the fear of another Zahran. Had Zahran been a sincere student of TJ he would never have done what he did, but he became a Wahhabi adherent and fell into its literalist monotheism. Sri Lanka to him and his followers became the land of infidels and deserved purification. Multiculturalism is anathema to Wahhabism. Fortunately for Zahran and his gang of murderers there were other vested interests in the local politics of the time requiring their services. It was that combination of ideology and politics that led to the Easter Sunday massacre, which of course is another saga yet to be fully explored.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 4
    16

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow me to take you to a more happy place. The story behind how the world’s first Buddhist temple was built is quite interesing. Two merchants visit the Buddha one day. They propose to build a temple in his honor. Buddha gives them a lock of his hair to be placed at the heart of the Stupa. The temple they build is in Trincomalee -> https://youtu.be/imQ3rMWze_g This is corroboarated from multiple sources and historians agree too. How did this happen? if the Buddha lived in Nepal how did the first temple end up being built in Trincomalee? The old narrative is that the merchants travel 9000km to the island from Nepal. They even cross the Ocean. This story is wrong. The Buddha lived not that far from Trincomalee. In fact he was born in the island and never left here. He was a Sinhala person. So the birth of the world religion Buddhism followed by over 500 millon people is here in the island. I thought you might find that interesting.

    • 2
      1

      Mr. Ali, Thanks! Why did Zaharan and another Easter 2019 suicide bomber die at China’s Shangri La Hotel, if the Easter attacks were about religion, and NOT in a Church?!!
      MBS is on record that the CIA got his father to fund Islamist groups in Asia and Africa, during the Cold War period. This is obvious in Afghanistan to fight Russia, and this Weaponization of Islam project continues in the Cold War against China. Now the CIA wants a “Clash of CIvilizations” between Islam and Buddhism to destroy the economic might of Asia,. This was epitomized in the Bhamiyan Buddha statue destruction…by CIA funded Taliban outfits..
      There needs to be an expose of the CIA-Saudi Partnership in the Wahabi Salafi Project in Sri Lanka and their funds to all the corrupt politicians including Ranil W and Rajapakse regimes, who protected Zaharan and crew.
      The bi-partisan UNP-SLFP corruption racket with the Muslim Politicians who keep changing Political parties need to be exposed particularly M.L.M Hizbullah from Kathankudi and Risard Bathudeedn and Rauf Hakeem, Kabir Hashim etc. These corrupt politicians give innocent Muslims in Lanka a bad name!

      • 2
        0

        As long as you live the blame game , the entire Muslim community is going to continue suffering.

        Maybe there are passive funding by certain agencies for political and to maintain the sales of arms, politics, arms, and narcotics are closely connected and nourished by certain segments of organized groups in the name of faith among all, not just Islam, after all, it’s all about big money.

        So if it’s all about money why are ordinary men among educated and uneducated willing to blow themselves up killing people whom they have never even known in their entire life?

        Cont.

        • 2
          0

          Cont.
          As long as there is demand, there will be supply, no matter what the product is.
          To maintain the sales of arms, there must be war, conflict is required to begin a war, there is nothing as easy as organized religions to use for it.

          Islam’s fanatics are correctly known as Kawarijs, they are total literalists, their main enemies are shias and Islamic rationalists, not other faiths.

          But war always will finally drag almost everyone into it.

          • 3
            0

            Kawarijs are Muslims( followers of Abrahamic belief in One God Of Abraham like other Muslims)

            It’s their Ideology and interpretation that is evil.

            All kawarijs today are those who have recently misinterpreted The Hanbali Islamic School( which is a strict literalist interpretation of Islam but has nothing to do with Kawarijism. ( Terrorism)

            So today ISIS and likes are all Kawarijs, though they claim to be Muslims they are a cult by themselves who have corrupted
            The Scripture by misquoting.

            We must accept like in every family there are bad apples, there are Muslims who are crazy enough to
            to believe heaven is guaranteed by killing anyone who disagrees with their ideology.

            Blaming other Countries only displays one’s ignorance as much as those who ignorantly stereotype the entire Muslim community.

            Killing Terrorists (Kawarijs), will not end terrorism, it will only create more sophisticated groups in the future, we have already witnessed it.
            Cont.

            • 3
              0

              Ending the Kawarij ideology.

              I hold responsible mostly people who are from and not of the Islamic faith for ignorantly strengthing and promoting Kawarijism, this is due to a deep prejudice from the lies that they are fed with, which prevents them all from doing their verification, not being willing to do so leads condemning a whole community and willfully promoting hatred and it finally ends up to crime against humanity.

              The majority of Muslims are only shielding ignorantly the Kawarijs by parroting Bogus terminology like Wahabi, Wahabism, and blaming other countries.

              How can any arms manufacturers change the religious beliefs of individuals to sell their Arms?
              What foolishness.
              ,,
              Madrasas must be allowed only to teach reciting of The Qur’an, Islamic rituals, History, etc must be brought into the schools as a subject like before and Arabic also should be thought in the same school as an optional subject.

              Then poverty should be addressed.
              That is it.

  • 8
    0

    “…pot calling kettle black and whether the kettle is as black as the pot”
    *
    So there seems room for debate about the blackness of the two objects and there could thus be justification for one calling the other black.
    Nice one!.

  • 9
    6

    Oh!
    Mr.Ameer Ali what a disappointment, you could have done better.
    What a load shop.
    However, I am not going to write another long essay about the Wahabi Myth.

    I have somehow found traditionalists are deeply rooted in Myths and never be willing to verify or accept proven facts.

    Its nothing to do with how well is your knowledge of English, it’s not about beliefs, it is all about which myth comforts one.

    Even after DNA proof of The Sri Lankan Muslims have been produced proving that their gene pool is large of Sinhalese, they want to go by myths and absurd stories, how pathetic, they are desperate wannabees ,wanting to
    be Arabs, or Persians, afghans, Burghers, Malaysian mix, any myth that fits to confirm they are descendants of foreigners ,except being a Native.
    ..live your Myths and may loose the earth below your foothold .
    .

    • 5
      8

      “Even after DNA proof of The Sri Lankan Muslims have been produced proving that their gene pool is large of Sinhalese”
      Where is your evidence?
      Is this another myth to counter the myth that the Muslims are Tamil converts?
      *
      Many Muslims have some Arab or Iranian ancestry. That is among things that make it easy to recognize them as Muslims.
      I am sure that Tamils and Sinhalese have all manner of alien blood running in their veins.
      There are a lot of myths about race, religion, language and caste. If it makes people happy, let it be, as long as it does not hurt other people physically or emotionally.

      • 7
        6

        I do not care about your mythical beliefs, do not try to shove it down my throat.
        You want to disprove our Sri Lankan Scientist DNA evidence, then bring similar proof and not some myth of oral narrations called Moor history.

        Please do not tell me what to do, and you want evidence, bring me your Scientific evidence disproving me and proving your claim, and let us compare it.

  • 1
    10

    What Crap from Dr Ali – “It appears that the Saudi ban has provoked Islamophobes in Sri Lanka to agitate for similar ban against TJ. If these demagogues really understood TJ’s mission and philosophy, they would urge the government to encourage that movement rather than proscribing it”

    coming out of woodwork.. YOU AND SL MUSLIMS HAVE REMAINED SILENT FOR THE LAST 15 YERAS WHEN WAHABISAM TOOK OVER MORE MIODERATE MUSLIMS. THE WAHABIST CAME AS PREACHERS, CAME WITH PETRO $ AND BUILT SCHOOLS AND ROADS AND SHARIA UNIVERSITIES, NAMED ARABIC ROADS, FUNDED THE SPREAD – YOU ALL SIDELINED THE SL MUSLIM MODERATION AND WENT SLEPT WITH WAHABISM – CREATING ZAHARAN… NOW SAUDI IS CHANGING, MBS IS CHANGING THE MULLA’S BUT ACJU IS NOW CONTROLLING SL MUSLIMS.. (ASKED FOR BURQA IN A STATEMENT IN 2009) AND NOW GALLE/ MODERATE MUSLIMS / BORAH’S ARE SIDELINED.. LOOK AT THE WAY BURQA IS SPREAD IN SL – NOW MAJORITY DOESN’T TRUST YOUR LOT AS YOU DID NOT CONTROL THE RADICALS AND SLEPT WITH THE FUNDEMENTALIST…. 260 CHRISTIANS DIED FOR THIS TREACHERY. !!

  • 3
    7

    WHAT OTHER TALK, YOU CAN’T EVEN GET MMDA ACT PASSED AND YOUR GIRLS/DAUGHTERS TO BE ALLOWED SPORTS / HIGHER STUDIES AND AGE TO MARRY TILL 18.. YOUR RELIGION IS SET IN MEDIEVAL AGE BY THE MULLA’S AND IS NOT ALLOWED TO EVOLVE.. !!! REMEMBER WHAT THE “LAKSHAPATHI” GIRL FROM GALLE MUSLIMS SAID – SHE WANTS TO DO SPORTS AND STUDY MORE !!! SL MUSLIMS THIS WOMEN ARE BABY-MAKING MACHINES!!!

    • 6
      4

      @Sam, why are you being rude with Capitals, ??

      • 9
        1

        Because there is no other way to show hatred for Muslims, and at the same time show ignorance for the religion. They think commenting in caps will make their rhetoric more believable. No Islamic scholar that one.

  • 8
    4

    What can be more comical to note, than that every Tom, Dick&Harry has become a specialist to advocate the bogeyman, Wahab, and a non-existent ideology.
    ——
    I have no problem with what certain Muslim women choose to wear, as long as they consider it as a fundamental right to choose what attire to wear.

    But it does become a problem as to my perception, when it is mandated by Orthodoxy groups as an Islamic obligation, thus turning Islam from a diverse faith to a Judaised version of exclusive Arab religion like the Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.
    You do not need to use Arab attire to dress modestly and it is rather ludicrous to believe a particular attire will lead one to piety.
    Islam encourages diversity.

  • 1
    7

    For those of us who are unable to read Quran Wahabism appears to be the most authentic interpretation of Sharia. Thanks to Wahabism we understand what is Sharia is. Given fertile conditions it grows on Islam like bamboo shoots.
    However much you prune buds and shoots apear again and again unles you pullout the root which is no easy task. MBS will have to keep running.

    Soma

  • 3
    1

    @Soma, There you go again,

    Do not hate nor quote what you do not know of.

    Sharia is interpreted in various ways by The Islamic branches and Schools , of Ahel Sunnah, Ahel Bayt, and Ashab ar-ray (/aka Ahel ar- ray)
    So at least try to get some brief information about each school of Islam’s Interpretation of Sharia, before you use the word, Sharia.

    • 1
      3

      Fahim night
      Sharia may be interpreted in 10,000 ways. What can be visibly seen to those of us who are unable to read Quaran is the interpretation by ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaeda and other terror outfits. That’s millions upon millions not just a few pot smokers. You go to Negombo and give your interpretation to the Christian community there.

      Soma

      • 2
        1

        @Soma, COE.🤡
        Hmm, at least you accepted in your own words how ignorant and bigot you are.
        People like you in numbers are irrelevant.

  • 2
    1

    The simplest answer and yet hardest to keep up but possibly the only answer.

    Other people’s faith and beliefs are non of your business.

    You can never change racists and religious bigots and extremists even among family and those you know and strangers, so just avoid them as much as possible.

    To be continued

    • 2
      0

      Fahim K
      “Other people’s faith and beliefs are non of your business.”
      Try to convince the Christian community in Negombo.

      Soma

      • 1
        1

        Fahim K
        Islamic logic:
        According to your religion I have the right to practise my religion.
        According to my religion I have the right to kill you.
        Therefore according to your own religion I have the right to kill you!

        Soma

    • 1
      1

      Fahim k
      “Other people’s faith and beliefs are non of your business.”
      Put this proposition to a Saudi Islamic scholar and you will come back with your head in your hands.

      Soma

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