New Trend Magazine (www.newtrendmag.org)
by Kaukab Siddique
An Iran-Oriented Attack on the Teachings Of Muhammad bin ĎAbd al-Wahhab
A Polemicist's Inability to See the Contributions of the Tawheed
Wahhabism: A Critical essay by Hamid Algar, published by IPI, Oneonta,
York, 2002, 96 pages, $12.95.
In 1976, when I first started writing against the Saudi monarchy and
behavior of its funded preachers, Hamid Algar was a rare voice which
rose against the excesses of the Saudis. Time passed and the world
Who today needs to debate the fact that the Saudis are corrupt and that
"Islamic scholars" have supported them in their corruption?
The problem with Hamid Algar's latest production is that it is 30 years
late. In the last three decades, Prof. Algar, a fixture at Berkeley
University's insular world, has not shown development or new insights
thinking. His latest production Wahhabism indicates that he is
entrenched in the Iranian position: The world as sanctified by Qum.
Algar does not begin by telling the reader what were the teachings of
Muhammad bin ĎAbdel Wahhab (perhaps for fear that these might prove too
attractive to be later shot down). Instead, he begins by misnaming the
teachings of the Imam as "wahhabism", a term which he pedantically
The book is merely an expression of hate. The author coyly admits: "It
be abundantly clear to the attentive reader that the present writer has
little liking or sympathy for Wahhabism." (P.67) The purpose seems to
denigrate the Imam and this is essentially achieved by Algar through a
confused mish-mash of the development of relations between the Saudi
Wahhabi so that the reader is unable to see if there is any difference
between the two.
Here I too must confess a prejudice of my own. I might not have
Algar's book (after all it is quite outdated in its main intent), if I
not seen that he has added his voice to that of the Bush administration
to the Zionist abuse of the Taliban. His references to the 9/11 attacks
the impression that President Bush's words of moral fervor about those
stunning attacks on the American power structure are being repeated by
Any honest study of Muhammad ibn ĎAbd al-Wahhab's teachings would have
extricated the historical aspects of the Imam's life from the
ones of his teachings. TAWHEED is essential to these teachings and
the basic problem the Imam addresses. The idea that one can pray to
via, or through, or by the blessings of a holy personality or saint is
basic problem Islamic reform and resurgence has to face.
Recently I visited the tomb of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani in Baghdad and
the people circumambulating around it and praying to the saint to help
(or praying to Allah via the saint) to get their needs fulfilled. The
situation is a common sight at the tombs of saints in Pakistan. If the
do not pray to Allah and are lead to believe that holy personages can
their via media to the Creator, they are bound to remain enslaved to
superstitious and opium-type of religion.
One can perhaps agree with Algar that the zealots with the Imam went
in physically attacking people engaged in superstitious rituals. The
on Kerbala, as described by Algar, was certainly too extreme. However,
the zealotry of the Imam's followers in context, Algar should have
the conditions of the Muslims of the time, how misled and ignorant they
become. Would Imam Hussain and Hazrat Ali have countenanced the
which often go on in their names?
Algar denigrates the teachings of the Imam by claiming that these were
few, just one little book which is a mere collection of hadith.
of hadith is one of the classical modes of transmission of knowledge.
Hazm and other great Islamists could be similarly condemned if Algar's
of scholarship were to be accepted.] However, then we find Algar
the Imam's teachings: This is done without reference to any text; hence
cannot be accepted or refuted.
Algar's "essay" can be compared to Sale's translation of the Qur'an: an
attempt at condemnation rather than illumination. Algar does give the
one little glimpse into the writings of the Imam and then makes sure
there is no understanding created by first quoting a Sunni attack on
and then a Shi'ite one, both weak and misleading.
Algar seems to be totally out of touch with developments within Saudi
The name OSAMA BIN LADEN does not even occur in his "essay." He seems
aware of Al-Hawali and al-ĎAuda and makes patronizing remarks about
important scholars who have spoken out against the presence of American
troops in Arabia. [He concedes that "validity is not to be denied to
least of their theses" p.62.] Muhammad al-Mis'ari gets a little bit of
commendation, partly because he has given "an interview to the Islamic
Republic News Agency" of Iran. (P.65)
For good measure, Algar condemns the Saudi scholars who were positive
the attack on the Twin Towers. He also taunts the Saudis who are
the Northern Alliance shaving off people's beards and throwing off
opening movie houses.
When it comes to the Taliban, Algar swallows the Zionist and Iranian
propaganda about the alleged massacre of Hazaras "and the enslavement
Hazara women as concubines." Supposedly a scholar and a researcher, he
not provide ANY EVIDENCE OR EVEN A SOURCE for these serious atrocity
allegations. Algar here is being irresponsible to the extent that his
need to be questioned.
Algar completely missed the honor and self-respect of the Taliban when
defied the Saudi orders to hand over Osama to the Americans. Instead
quotes from the pro-Zionist darling of the American media Ahmed Rashid
prove the (earlier) links between the Taliban and the Saudis.
Algar does work by double standards. Any Saudi contact with British
indicated with glee but then Algar does not mind quoting repeatedly
Mamoun Fandi who figures in the Zionist media when they need a Muslim
to attack the Islamic movement.
Algar might be living in an (Iranian) time warp. The suffering of Iraq,
instance, and the complication caused by the Saudi support for the
attack on Iraq does not figure in the book. Somehow, the issue of Iraq
have created a disturbance in the neat "essay" he has written.
Suffice it to say that Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab's insistence on
critique of SHIRK are valid and essential to the resurgence of Islam in
era. The methods his zealots used need to be placed in the context of
times in which he lived. The mission led by Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) was
over later by the Ummayads and Abbasids. Surely we cannot fault the
(pbuh) for that change in the fortunes of Islam. If Iran is of key
importance for Algar, should he not look at the bloodletting following
revolution as the zealots started "eating" the children of the
Surely Algar is in no position to pontificate about an Islamic movement
is challenging America, Russia, Israel and India.
2002-06-08 Sat 15:27ct