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Al-Albani Unveiled
Some Observations about the Salafi/Wahhabi sect

Many of us who are practising Muslims or otherwise, are familiar with the epithet  'Wahhabi'.  The founder of this sect was  Muhammad  ibn Abdal Wahhab (d.  1206 AH), from the Najd area of 'Saudi' Arabia.  He is also known as Shaykh  an-Najdi by his opponents and his  followers have been  labelled as either  'Najdi's'  or  'Wahhabi's'  by the Ahl al-Sunnah.  He  claimed  to be a Hanbali  in Fiqh.  It is well  known that he fully  digested  the aqeedah and ideas of Ibn  Taymiyya.  The scholars  of his time  warned the  Muslims to be on their  guard from accepting his  'reformatory'  ideas; and this work is still  existent among  the  scholars  of the  Ahl  al-Sunnah  even  today.  The  neo- 'Salafi's'  of  today  respect  Ibn  Abdal  Wahhab  quite  highly  by bestowing  upon him such great  titles like 'Shaykh  al-Islam'.  I do not want to say much about his  movement  and  activities,  but a few quotes from three well known scholars should suffice for now. 

 (1) The foremost  Hanafi  scholar of his time, Imam Muhammad Amin ibn Abidin  (d.  1252/1836  Rahimahullah)  said  in his  celebrated  work Hashiyya radd al-Mukhtar (vol.  3, pg.  309):  "In our time Ibn Abdal Wahhab  (Najdi)  appeared,  and  attacked  the two noble  sanctuaries (Makkah and  Madinah).  He claimed to be a Hanbali, but his  thinking was such  that only he alone was a Muslim,  and  everyone  else was a polytheist!  Under this guise, he said that killing the Ahl as-Sunnah was  permissible,  until Allah destroyed them (Wahhabi's) in the year 1233 AH by way of the Muslim army." 

 (2) Shaykh Zayni Dahlan  (Rahimahullah)  said in his book Futuhat al-Islamiyya  (vol.  2, pg.  268):  "The sign of the Khawarij (the first deviant sect that appeared in the time of the Companions)  concerning the  shaving of the head, was not found in the  Khawarij of the past, but only in the Najdi's of our time!" 

 (3) Shaykh al-Islam  Hussain Ahmad al-Madani  (Rahimahullah)  said in his book  ash-Shihab  as-saqib (pg.  42):  "Ibn Abdal Wahhab arose in the  beginning of the  thirteenth  Islamic  century in the Najd.  His thinking  was  false, and his  beliefs  were  corruptional;  on these grounds he opened the way for killing the Ahl as-Sunnah." 

 (4) A more contemporary view on the Wahhabite sect has been expressed by  Abdal-Hakim  Murad in the journal  Islamica (pg.  9):  "Ibn Abdal Wahhab, however, went far beyond this (i.e; of Ibn Taymiyya).  Raised in the wastelands of Najd in Central  Arabia, he had little access to mainstream  Muslim  scholarship  (I say:  This may be disputed by his supporters).  In fact, when his da'wah appeared and became notorious, the scholars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous hadith of Najd:  Ibn Umar  (Allah be pleased  with him)  reported  the  Prophet (Peace  be upon him) as  saying:  "Oh God,  bless us in our  Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen."  Those  present said:  "And in our Najd, O  Messenger  of God!"  But he said, "O God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen."  Those present said, "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!"  Ibn Umar said that he thought that he said on the third occasion:  "Earthquakes and dissensions (fitnah) are there, and there  shall arise the horn of the devil."  (Sahih  al-Bukhari).  And it is significant that almost uniquely among the lands of Islam, Najd has never produced scholars of any repute. 

 The Najd-based  da'wah of the  Wahhabi's,  however, began to be heard more loudly  following the explosion of Saudi oil wealth.  Many, even most,  Islamic publishing  houses  in  Cairo  and  Beirut  are  now subsidised  by  Wahhabi organisations, which  prevent  them  from publishing  traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works considered unnacceptable to Wahhabist doctrine. 

 The  neo-Kharijite  nature of Wahhabism  makes it  intolerant  of all other  forms  of  Islamic  expression.  However,  because  it  has no coherent fiqh of its own - it rejects the orthodox madhhabs - and has only the most basic and primitively anthropomorphic 'aqidah, it has a fluid,  amoebalike  tendency to produce  divisions  and  subdivisions among  those  who  profess  it.  No  longer  are the  Islamic  groups essentially  united by a consistent  madhhab and the Ash'ari  'aqidah (see later).  Instead, they are all trying to derive the Shari'ah and the 'aqidah from the Qur'an and the Sunnah by themselves.  The result is the appaling state of division and conflict which  disfigures  the modern salafi condition." 

 Another  person who is a reference  for  today's  neo-"Salafi's",  is Muhammad  ibn  Ali  al-Shawkani  (d.  1250/1834).  He  was a  leading scholar of the Zaydi  (Shi'ah)  sect found  mainly in the  Yemen.  He claimed to have departed from his old Shi'ite ways and joined the Ahl al-Sunnah.  He was  attacked  by the  scholars  of his day for saying Taqleed  was  completely  haram, as well as other  important  issues. Some  scholars  had accused  him of still  holding on to his  deviant Zaydiyyah-Mu'tazilite  (rationalistic thinking that was propounded by one of the first deviant sects of Islam)  thinking, while  pretending to be within the fold of orthodox  Sunni Islam; but Allah knows best! It is a  well  known  fact  that  he  denied  the  consensus  of  the Companions (Ijma as-Sahaba), as well as rejecting the validity of the Fatwa of a  Companion!  One may  refer to Anwar  Ahmad  Qadri's  book Islamic Jurisprudence in the Modern World (pg.  142) for a lenghthier discussion. 

 Many  scholars  have  noticed  the  extreme tendencies  within  the "Salafiyya"  sect  around the world, for its lack of respect  for the scholars  of the  four  Madhhabs,  its  Aqeedah  and  some  untenable juristic  positions it has  produced  over a short  period of Islam's history.  The  scholars  have not been afraid of  declaring  the neo- "Salafi's" to be  neo-Kharijites  in their  behaviour and attitude to other Muslims.  Note,  the scholars are  not  saying  that  the neo-"Salafi's"  are  Kharijites, but rather they seem to have certain traits which were only found amongst the Kharijites of the past.  One of  the  most striking things  I  have  noticed amongst these 'neo-Kharijites',  is their  direction  of Qur'anic  verses that were revealed  specifically  for  the  unbelievers,  as  referring  to the believers  who do not seem to have their way of thinking!  This was a well known practise of the Kharijites of old; as we shall see below. 

 A well known scholar of the "Salafiyya",  Dr.  Yusuf  al-Qardawi (who has  himself  been  attacked  by other  members  of the  "Salafiyya", especially for holding some untenable  positions in his book al-Halal wal  Haram fil  Islam)  said in his book  Islamic  awakening  between Rejection and Extremism (pg.  41-3):  "Imam al-Shatibi (Rahimahullah) wrote (in his book  al-I'tisam,  2.  182-4):  'Ibn  Abbas  (Allah  be pleased with him) was right.  When a person knows the reason behind a certain  verse or surah, he knows  how to  interpret  it and what its objectives are.  However, ignorance  of  that  leads people  to misinterpret  it and to have different  opinions,  without an insight and  knowledge  which could lead them to the truth, and prevent  them from indulging ignorantly in such matters with no support or evidence from al Shari'ah,  and  therefore  go astray and lead people  astray. This can be  demonstrated by what is reported by Ibn Wahab from Bakir who asked  Nafi':  What does Ibn Umar  (Allah  be  pleased  with him) think  of  al-Haruriyyah  (i.e;  al-Khawarij  who  were  also  called al-Haruriyyah  after the place -Harawra- where they gathered and were found by Ali ibn Abu Talib and the  Companions  of the  Prophet  [may Allah be pleased with them all] who supported him)?  Nafi'  answered: He thinks they are the most evil of people.  They  applied the verses which pertain to the kuffar on the believers.'  (NB- Imam  al-Bukhari has recorded Ibn Umar as saying in his Sahih [vol.9,  pg.50;  English edn]:  These  people (the  Khawarij  and  heretics ) took some verses that had been revealed  concerning the  disbelievers  and interpreted them as describing the believers ). 

 Al-Qardawi also  said  (pg.  42):  One  of  the causes of  such shallowness  is that  extremists  never  listen  to  people  who hold different views (and I can personally  testify to that), never accept any  dialogue  with them or  imagine  that  their own views  could be tested in the light of others, and may thereby be either  accepted or rejected.  Most of them have not been taught by reliable Muslim ulama who  are  specialised  in  the  field.  Rather,  they  have  received semi-knowledge directly  from  books  and  newspapers  without  any opportunity for revision or discussion which could test the learner's understanding  and analyze the depth of his  knowledge.  They  simply read,  'understand',  then  deduce  what they  wish.  However,  their reading, understanding, and deduction may well be wrong or deficient. There  might be someone  somewhere  who  opposes  their  opinions  on stronger and more valid bases, but they are not aware of that because nobody has drawn their attention to such a possibility.  These devout young  people  have  ignored  the facts that if they want to study al Shari'ah, they must seek the help of reliable Muslim  scholars.  They cannot venture into this extensive and entangled  discipline  without the  guidance of  reliable  Muslim  scholars  who can  interpret  and explain  obscurities,  define terms, and point out the  relationships between the parts and the whole and also equate  similarities.  Those who  venture  into it alone  will  meet  with  the same  catastrophic results  which  could  certainly  befall the  unskilled  swimmer  who ventures  into  dangerous  waters.  Proper  knowledge  of al Shari'ah cannot be  perfected  without  practice  and close  contact  with the experts,  especially in those areas where opinions diverge, evidences seem to contradict  each other, and certain  matters seem to be under suspicion.  This is why our  venerable  'ulama' have warned us not to seek to study and  understand al Qur'an al Karim through a person who has only  memorized it without any knowledge of its contents,  nor to seek knowledge  through a person who has acquired his own "knowledge" from reading  newspapers  and journals  only, without being  properly instructed by reputable and qualified scholars." 

 This topic began with a brief  discussion on Taqleed and I would like to finish with the  following  two  questions for you to ponder over. (A) Would it not be classified as being Taqleed if one were to accept the  classifications  of Hadiths,  exegesis  of the Qur'an  etc; by a renowned  Islamic  scholar, if one was not to go back to the original sources  which are used to  authenticate  the Hadith and so on?  (For example,  if a scholar  claimed  that a Hadith  found in the Sunan of Imam Abu Dawood was Sahih and you  accepted it as being Sahih - since you trust him, then are you not practising  Taqleed; if you, yourself do not go back to the original sources used to classify the Hadith in question,  since  sometimes  a Hadith  classified  to be Sahih by one scholar can be  classified  as being Da'eef by  another!).  (B) Is it not true that those who are calling for the  abandonment  of Taqleed, are calling for the Taqleed of their own books and  speeches;  hence creating their own little 'Madhhabs'?

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