Islam has been suffering lately from an internal enemy. This enemy calls himself a Muslim, and claims that he only has the Ummah’s best interests in mind, and is attempting to lead those who have gone astray back to the right path. He’s powerful, backed by wealthy individuals who will give him all the money that he wants or needs. His dawah efforts are some of the most successful in recent years, since most of the dawah targets either innocent Muslims with only a scant knowledge of Islam, or recent reverts/converts to Islam, with no knowledge of the religion. He is the Wahabbi, and he is Islam’s enemy within.
Like many recent reverts to Islam, I was hungry for knowledge. I was also longing for a sense of belonging, a community, anything. The most active masjid in the city that I was living in at the time (Austin, TX), was very appealing to me, since they had lecturers visiting all the time. The ladies were warm, inviting, and eager to teach me. I attended some of the lectures, and made it a point to go to Jummuah. Like a sponge, I soaked up everything they taught me.
Then, one day I noticed that most of the ladies wore gloves on their hands and socks on their feet when praying. And they wore niqab when they left the masjid. A few had even told me that I needed to wear socks when praying, and I watched them admonish a lady once for wearing see-through stockings on her feet. I asked my (online) Muslim friends about this (I made it a point to always confer with people if something didn’t seem right, or I didn’t understand something), and they told me that I was dealing with “Wahabbis.”
I had heard my friends discussing Wahabbis (or Salafis, and they prefer to call themselves, in an attempt to somehow link themselves to the Salaf, or the first three generations of Muslims) at great length. I had learned enough to know that these were not the sorts of Muslims that I should be spending a great amount of time around. I distanced myself from them as quickly as I could. But that didn’t stop the influence, I came to realize.
To use the term “insidious” may cause some people to think that I am exaggerating, but I am not. They are insidious, and they creep into all facets of Islam in America. If they are not officially running the masjid, they are holding positions in the community as individuals that you want to associate with, because they get thing done. Masjid fundraisers, special events (with the exception of mawlid, or anything Sufi-related, of course), halaqas, etc, all rely greatly on the impressive organizational skills they seem to possess. And they all seem to somehow know some “sheikh” or lecturer who is willing to drive 100 miles or more into the middle of the cornfields to deliver a Friday khutbah. For a struggling masjid, it is very hard to turn down their energetic offers of assistance.
It has taken me a few years to basically “undo” and “relearn” what was taught to me incorrectly. Some were oblivious to what “doctrine” they were teaching me (because they didn’t know that it was inaccurate, or skewed), while others were completely aware of what they were doing. And I know that I must have passed on some of the bad information that I had been fed. I truly regret doing that.
I also feel very angry that there are Muslims in this world who are working very hard to deceive and lead astray other Muslims. When someone proselytizes, it is obvious, but when someone starts doing their twisted form of dawah, trying to draw Muslims out of known and trusted legitimate Islamic traditions, it’s not so easy to detect. Not at first, anyways.
The Wahabbis have a very bloody past, literally killing their way across the Arabian peninsula. Any Muslim man, woman, or child who refused to accept the heretical teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab were declared to be takfiris, and subsequently, killed. Entire villages were murdered by the Ikhwan Army.
Several years ago, perhaps the entire world heard about the senseless destruction of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, carried out by the Taliban (which is made up of Wahabbis). The world felt disgusted by such an act. Now, many years later, in various Muslim countries, the Wahabbis are once again destroying anything that they deem as a threat to their particular brand of Islam.
They are destroying masajid and tombs of Sufi scholars, in the name of purifying Islam. They say that it is “shirk” to have such things, as they believe that people are praying to the dead. Actual fact matters very little to the average Wahabbi. They gather their information from their trusted “scholars,” and will openly and blindly believe all that is regurgitated by those scholars (I will not go into the details regarding the questionable legitimacy of the training that their scholars receive). They are truly blind followers, which is ironic, given the fact that they accuse every other Muslim of blindly following.
Sufism is perhaps the greatest threat to Wahabbism, which is why Sufi shrines and places of great importance are being attacked and destroyed. The Sufi philosophy is one of love, and light, and beauty, and peace. People who follow the Sufi way spend a great deal of time praising Allah, and His Messenger, Muhammad (saws). They strive for a deeper and more personal connection to the Divine (subhanu wa ta’ala), and devote their lives to this longing for the Divine. It is a very spiritual way, and causes one to think about their acts of worship. Nothing that a follower of Sufism does should be merely an automatically performed ritual. Nothing should be done without understanding, and without conscious thought. Sufism is in direct contrast with Wahabbism.
Muslims must educate themselves about the Wahabbi threat. They also must do as much as they can to learn about Islam. In no way am I saying that everyone should try to be a scholar (which is something that Wahabbism says, thinking that each individual can make their own religious judgments, without any need to understand fiqh). What I am saying is that we cannot remain ignorant of our own religion. We must teach our children, and our friends and family what we can. Otherwise, it is like we are all lambs going to the slaughter. We are walking right into the enemy’s hands.