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April 29, 2007
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April 29, 2007

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Home > 2007 Issues > April 29, 2007

Think It Over

Is Islam all politics?

By M.S.N. Menon

Europe separated religion and politics after 1,500 years of Papal anarchy. But Muslims have continued their anarchy to this day.

Yes, it is said there is very little religion in Islam, and what little there is has been turned into a permanent drill.

Once Ayatollah Khomeini said: ?Islam is politics, or it is nothing.? He was right. He, a cleric, played a key political role in the life of Iran in the 20th century.

Maulana Maududi?his emphasis, too, was on politics. And he formed the Jamaat, which was politics and little else.

And Mohd bin Abd-al Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, now the dominant sect of Islam, had only one desire: To drive the Ottomans (Muslims) out of Arabia. What led to the creation of Wahhabism was his perception that a new religion alone could bring this about.

Indeed, most of the Islamic pathfinders were of the view that God took special interest in politics. But was this true of the Prophet of Islam? More than true. It is a little known fact that one of the earliest preoccupations of the Prophet of Islam was to rear war horses. Why? Because he wanted to create an Arab empire. Islam came in useful.

Religion provides a convincing cover to the politics of the Muslims. Which is why the na?ve Indian leaders could not understand it.

Political dominance over the Middle East remained a major objective of all Arab leaders. But they did not count on the Mongols, who destroyed Arab power. The vacuum was filled by the Ottomans, Muslims but non-Arab people. The Arab never accepted the Ottoman. This is Arab nationalism for you. They were bitterly hostile to the Ottoman for seizing the Caliphate and Mecca from them.

Naturally, resistance began to build up. Thus, Mohd bin Abd-al Wahhab, son of a judge and by training a theologist took refuge from the Ottoman persecution in a distict ruled by the Saudi clan, which was equally opposed to the Ottoman. Wahhab was already in contact with British agents, who were seeking Arab support to oust the Ottoman from the Middle East. They saw in Wahhab a fit instrument for the re-conquest of Arabia.

Here is a portrait of the Arab: It was ready to dislodge another Muslim power (Ottoman). This was bad enough. But it was willing to bring this about with British help. The Arab saw in religion a convenient instrument for the achievement of its political goals. Even if it meant creating a new religion!

In order to raise his own status to that of an Imam, Wahhab was prepared to bring down Prophet Mohammed. And the Saudis, although Muslims, were willing to do anything. Thus they attacked the Shiite city of Karbala in 1801. The tomb of Imam Hussayn was desecrated. In 1802, Wahhab took over Mecca and prohibited entry to the Ottomans, clearly an extreme step.

To downgrade Prophet Mohammed, Wahhab condemned the Friday prayer which started with an invocation for the peace of the Prophet. He also condemned those who celebrated the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed. He would not even permit the name of the Prophet to go on the mosques. He called upon all Muslims to surrender to his vision of an original and authentic Islam. And he wanted radical changes in the present form of the prayer.

Wahhab considered himself equal to the Prophet?a view extremely heretical. In this connection he wrote a book: The Book on Monotheism. It was inspired by Ibn Tamyyal.

As for Sufis and Shias, he wanted them to be exterminated. All new faiths were to be humiliated and destroyed. Tombs were to be converted into toilets. He burnt many books. He hated music. In contrast, Sufis heightened their God-consciousness with their music.

Wahhabism is known for its equality among men. (But equality of men does not grow in the desert) Wahhab abolished the protection tax, which was a heavy burden on the ?inferior? and ?despised? tribes. They gave their fierce loyalty to Wahhab. Wahhabism has gone through traumatic experiences. Perhaps it is mellowed?

Wahhabism can be reduced to three principal doctrines: 1) ritual is superior to intention, 2) no reverence of the dead persons permitted and 3) there can be no inter-customary prayers addressed to God.

With petro-dollars at their command, the fortunes of the Saudis and of Wahhabis rose. The Saudis put Wahhabis in charge of the education of Muslims all over the world. With what result we know only too well.

Europe separated religion and politics after 1,500 years of Papal anarchy. But Muslims have continued their anarchy to this day.

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