What are the roots of today’s militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in an eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his followers-the Wahhabi-who sought the restoration of Islamic purity and declared violent jihad on all who opposed them. The Wahhabi teaching spread rapidly-first throughout the Arabian Peninsula, then to the Indian subcontinent, where a more militant expression of Wahhabism flourished. ...
What are the roots of today’s militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in an eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his followers-the Wahhabi-who sought the restoration of Islamic purity and declared violent jihad on all who opposed them. The Wahhabi teaching spread rapidly-first throughout the Arabian Peninsula, then to the Indian subcontinent, where a more militant expression of Wahhabism flourished. The ranks of today’s Taliban and al-Qaeda are filled with young men trained in Wahhabi theology. God’s Terrorists sheds much-needed light on the origins of modern terrorism and shows how this dangerous ideology lives on today.
British author Allen (Soldier Sahibs) argues persuasively that violent Islamic extremism isn't as new as we might think, but unfortunately, his book doesn't do much to explain the phenomenon. Carefully drawing distinctions between mainstream Islam and the fanaticism that spawned al-Qaeda (which he calls "as much a threat to Islam as to the West"), Allen goes back to the 18th-century founding of Wahhabism, a strain of Islam fostered in the Arabian desert that now serves as the Saudi state religion. Fixated on removing any hint of deviation from their interpretation of Muhammad's teachings, violent Wahhabists have traditionally killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. A Central Asia expert, Allen focuses on the form of Wahhabism that developed against the backdrop of waning British imperialism in that area, gradually leading up to Osama bin Laden's arrival. But his rapid-fire account is littered with names and battles, explaining little about how an ideology always rejected by most Muslims, and whose proponents were nearly annihilated on many occasions, managed to survive so spectacularly. Nor does he explain why Wahhabists' anger has shifted from supposed infidels in their midst to citizens of the West. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Allen joins 9/11 to his long-standing interest in the soldier/scholar adventurers of the British Raj and turns up some interesting nuggets on Islamic fundamentalism. As early as the 12th century, writes Allen (The Search for the Buddha, 2003, etc.), radicals sought to turn Islam into a militantly unaccommodating faith. Against the backdrop of the Mongol invasions of the Arab world, a Syrian jurist named Ibn Taymiyya declared Muhammad wrong to suggest-or so ecumenical clerics had determined-that jihad was an internal struggle for purity as much as a war against enemies of the faith. No, said Ibn Taymiyya: Jihad was literal, an "unrelenting struggle against all who stood in the way of Islam's destiny." That militant stance was revived in the 18th century in the Arabian backcountry, when fundamentalist Bedouins preached fire and brimstone. At first, the Wahhabi cult didn't make much of a dent outside of the kingdom of the Saudis, rejected and condemned as schismatic. Still, where Islam was felt to be threatened, as in India, when brought under British rule, new adherents were easily recruited, particularly among young males "from among the poor and ignorant (preferably prepubescent orphans)" who could be easily indoctrinated. So it was in the Raj, when cadres of Islamic assassins set out to murder as many Britons as they could, retiring to the schools called madrassas to read scripture in their off hours. The same demographic category, writes Allen, fueled the Taliban, which emerged "seemingly from nowhere" in 1994 to seize power in Afghanistan, soon to be allied with al-Qaeda. Both movements grew from the same fundamentalist roots, the author asserts, adding that others will follow unlessgrievances such as the lack of education and opportunity for young Muslims-to say nothing of the lack of a Palestinian state-are neutralized. This narrative has a grafted-on feel, but it is still of use to those seeking to understand the origins and growth of Islamic extremism.
Introduction: 'Am I not a Pakhtun?' 1
Death of a Commissioner 23
The Puritan of the Desert 42
The False Dawn of the Imam-Mahdi 69
The Call of the Imam-Mahdi 92
The Early Summer of 1857 118
The Late Summer of 1857 139
The Ambeyla Disaster 161
The Wahabees on Trial 185
The Frontier Ablaze 212
The Brotherhood 234
The Coming Together 260
The Unholy Alliance 289
Leading Muslim personalities 298
The roots of the Al-Saud - Al-Wahhab family alliance 304
The 'Wahhabi' family tree in India 306