CHARLOTTE, NC, January 26, 2015 – As the Obama White House and other high level officials from around the globe continue the mantra that “ISIS is not Islam,” perhaps it is time for a history lesson.
With the preconceived understanding that a historical explanation will still fall on a high percentage of deaf ears, it is worth the effort to put some of the complexities of the Middle East, in particular Islam, in context.
In the cruel desert environment of the Arabian peninsula, tribalism has always been a serious problem for any leader. In fact, the “tribe” remains an integral part of the desert way of life in Saudi Arabia, even today.
In an attempt to unify the nomadic tribes of Arabia, a man named Muhammad ibn Saud, a ruler in what is now modern-day Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, made an agreement with a cleric known as Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab.
Each man had the ability to accomplish something the other man wanted. In the simplest of terms, a political bargain was struck in which Wahhab would “unify” the country into the Saudi state in exchange for declaring Wahhab’s interpretation of Islam as the “official” creed of the nation.
As a result, in 1744, Wahhab legitimized Saudi rule of the expanding Bedouin tribes through the use of something called jihad, or holy war.
The word jihad means “struggle” in Arabic, but for most Muslims, the “struggle” primarily related to an individual’s personal struggles through life.
The success of Wahhab’s political/religious alliance now allowed tribal raids to be “justified” as a religious cause. So powerful was the result of Wahhab’s victories with his form of Islam that even today “Arabia” is the only country in the world named after a family, ie: “Saudi Arabia.”
Given that Saudi Arabia is also the home of the two most important cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, the strength of this alliance has been the rebirth of Islam in its purest sense for nearly three centuries. The House of Saud is still the ruling family today.
With his legitimized jihad, Wahhab was given the power to duplicate the Prophet Muhmmad’s Muslim conquests of the seventh century, much the same as ISIS is attempting to re-establish in present-day Syria and Iraq.
What most contemporary analysts never say however, is that culturally Saudi Arabia remains closely tied to its early tribal traits which make it the least cultivated and most superstitious of all the Middle Eastern countries.
Combining the overwhelming riches of its oil production with a simplistic, brutal concept of social interaction was, and is, a recipe for disaster.
Fast forward to the 21st century where those tribal ideologies and barbarism still exist. This is the foundation for what we know today as “Islamic extremism.”
Because of this association, the term “Wahhabi” is today regarded as “derogatory” much the same as the use of the nickname Washington “Redskins” has evolved in the United States.
Prince Salman bin ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz, now the king of Saudi Arabia following the death of his half-brother last week, once said that Muslims following in the footsteps of Wahhab were merely Salafis who were adhering to Islam as it was originally taught by the Prophet Muhammad.
Quoting the exact words of Saudi Arabia’s new king, “the truth is that the da’wa of Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Al-Wahhab, which was supported by Muhammad bin Saud, the founder (of the Saudi state), and to which bin Saud’s sons and descendants adhere to this day, is merely preaching to return to the principles of the religion of Islam as it was (originally) presented in the Koran and the Sunna (emphasis added).
“(Ibn ‘Abd Al-Wahhab’s preaching) is nothing but preaching to return to the correct roots of the pure Islamic faith, which are its foundation and its starting point (emphasis added). It is a mistake to claim that calling it Wahhabism is natural, because (this term is used) primarily to slander and tarnish (Saudi Arabia)…”
In other words, using the term “Wahhabism” to define the jihadist strain of Islamic extremism we are witnessing today is unacceptable. The correct term then can only be one other thing “pure Islam” as it was taught by the man who created the religion in the year 622, the Prophet Muhammad.
And so, from the 7th century until the year 1744 right up to the crowning of a new king in Saudi Arabia, the history of Islam speaks for itself.
President Obama, and other officials, can deny its truth, and most assuredly will, but that will not alter the fact that ISIS is simply following the directives of Islam as established by its own prophet.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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