All this hype on the latest James Bond movie reminds me of a little book I read a few years ago, Confessions of a British Spy and British Enmity against Islam. I first came across this book in 2001 at the masjid in Joensuu, Finland. A fellow postgraduate student from Turkey at the University of Joensuu had placed the book there because he was apparently uncomfortable with the influence of Salafi teachings among members of the congregation.
Confessions was allegedly written based on the memoir of a British secret agent named Hempher who served in various undercover operations in the Middle-East for the British government in the 19th century. The book presents in some detail what was arguably Hempher’s greatest mission: to engineer the destruction of the Ottoman Empire by empowering local rebellious groups. To gain control of the Arab Peninsular, Hempher sought the assistance of a local cleric and community leader Muhammad Ibn Abd Wahab from Najd, who went on to spread a puritanical and revivalist version of Islam known today as Wahhabism.
I do not wish to indulge too much on the content of the book (curious readers can access the entire book in PDF format by clicking on the full title of the book in the first paragraph). Sufficient to say its main thesis is, the Wahhabi movement and Salafi teachings are products of a British conspiracy initially designed to hasten the demise of the Ottoman Empire, and to sow a perpetual sense of ‘religious’ rivalry and antagonism among Muslims.
Of course, it would be naive (and stupid) to say that spies and espionage missions do not exist but to say that Wahhabism is a product of British conspiracy to me is more paranoia than reality. The fact is, the authenticity of Confessions has been put in serious doubt by both Muslim and non-Muslim researchers, which by right should render the book to a status of a work of historical fantasy and imagination. Nonetheless, the book remains very popular among Muslims especially among the young, idealistic and those with a political-reformist mentality.
Conspiracy theories are in abundance in the internet. I have to confess that I do occasionally go through them but I do so more out of curiosity and for entertainment. I used to attend a Salafi-Wahhabi study group and I clearly do not see how Salafism can be construed as something other than a genuine approach (among many approaches) to understand and practice Islam. What has given Wahhabism and Salafism a bad name are their alleged followers, those with extreme views and militant tendencies like Usama Bin Laden. Yes, Bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia, and in Saudi Arabia Wahhabism and Salafism are dominant, but just because Bin Laden and some of his followers subscribe to these approaches, does that make Wahhabism and Salafism absolutely bad and dangerous?
Extremists exist everywhere, in Wahhabi-Salafi groups as well as among followers of other approaches. A friend of mine once received an 'advise' from a Salafi sister that he should stop wearing trousers because wearing trousers is an imitation of Western-kafir culture. I myself was once 'warned' by someone that if I do not make bai’ah to his sheikh hence joining his tarikah, I will be led astray by the devil and end up in hell fire. These are examples of people with extreme views who genuinely believe that they are in the right while others are wrong. Nevertheless, it needs to be emphasised that while most terrorists are indeed extremists, very few extremists are in fact terrorists. There are millions of Muslims in the world who subscribe wholeheartedly to the writings and words of Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn Abd Wahab, Nasaruddin Al-Albani and Abdul Aziz Bin Baz. The views of these respectable scholars to many are extreme (refer to the collection of articles at Mas'ud Ahmed Khan's homepage), but very few among their followers went on to become militants and terrorists.
My point is, the Wahhabism-British-conspiracy theory is in fact a myth, likewise the alleged association between Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda with Wahhabi political ideology as well as many other so-called conspiracies against Islam associated with various international organisations (a subject I wish to address in future postings inshaAllah). We can be followers of Wahhabism, Salafism, Sufism, Ikhwanul Muslimin, Jama’ah Tabligh etc. In the end, we are all Muslims, united by the same Tawhidic doctrine amid our differences in some specific aspects of belief and practice. Let’s stop this paranoia with conspiracy theories and the seeds of distrust that it carries.
I have read for many years about Tun Dr. Mahathir’s deep resentment and suspicion against Singapore. From his writings in The Early Years t...
(Berikut adalah artikel saya yang diterbitkan di laman web Centre for Policy Initiatives pada 12 Ogos 2010 di bawah tajuk ' Masalah kura...
Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali was born in Tus, Persia in 450 H (1058 AD). During his lifetime, he acquired one of the most distinguished pos...