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Islam

The Changing Face of Wahhabism

The mosque dedicated to Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhâb in Doha, Qatar

The history and doctrine of a movement that was born four hundred years ago

This article was published in Oasis 21. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2019-05-27 15:06:49

The history and doctrine of a movement that was born four hundred years ago, was fought for its sectarian nature in the eighteenth century, survived reformist Salafism in the nineteenth century, was anti-Communist and anti-Nationalist during the years after the second world war, compromised itself with radical Islam during the 1970s and finally imposed itself as a neo-traditional authority with a calling to minister to the world.

 

 

Wahhabism is a source of great confusion. It is considered to be a contemporary movement, whereas it actually dates to the eighteenth century. The traditionalization of the Muslim populations, the rise of terrorism, the spread of Salafism and a great succession of fatwas are all imputed to it. In reality, it is a “mutant.” It made its appearance as a sectarian movement in the eighteenth century – on the eve of modern Islam’s crisis – and was fought relentlessly by the official religion. It survived reformist Salafism in the nineteenth century, passed itself of as a liberation movement in the 1920s, declared its hostility to Communism and Arab nationalism after the second world war and compromised itself with radical Islam in the 1970s. Then it quietened down, establishing itself as a neo-traditional authority with a calling to minister to the world. This is how an almost medieval sect settles down and takes over Islam.[1]

 

 

An account of Wahhabism’s history seems to me to be instructive. Its doctrine, on the other hand, is problematic. One always wonders what relationship there is between Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism takes its name from Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhâb, founder of the Wahhabi doctrine, whereas Saudi Arabia is the name that the Saud princes gave to the country in 1931, in memory of Muhammad Ibn Sa‘ûd, the founder of their first kingdom. Their politico-religious alliance gave birth to a sort of (undeclared) Sunni church that was capable of adapting to the circumstances and surviving up to the present day despite the vicissitudes and crises marking the history of the Arab world.

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To cite this article


Printed version:
Hamadi Redissi, “The Changing Face of Wahhabism”, Oasis, year XI, n. 21, June 2015, pp. 33-41.


Online version:
Hamadi Redissi, “The Changing Face of Wahhabism”, Oasis [online], published on 31st July 2015, URL: https://www.oasiscenter.eu/en/changing-face-wahhabism.

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