Salafism: A Bird Flight or Thunder: Historical Analysis- السلفيون : طيور مغردة أم رعود مدمرة ؟

Salafism: A Bird Flight or Thunder: Historical Analysis

السلفيون : طيور مغردة  أم رعود مدمرة ؟

الأستاذ الدكتور حسن يحيى – أستاذ علم الاجتماع المقارن سابقا 

Hasan Yahya, Former Professor of Comparative Sociology

In recent days the concept of Salafism was reported in many media channels, Who are they? How are they developed historically? This article attempt to understand the tenents of such concept in the Muslim world.

Salfism, Sufism, Islamism are familiar concepts circulated among Muslims in both East and West. To a historian observer at the end of the eighteenth century it might very well have appeared that the historical evolution of Islam had reached its terms. The development of Islam from a simple, rigid monotheism started by Prophet Muhammad and ended by a small Arab communities broadened into a serious complex of legal schools (fiqh) and theological sects, superimposed on a medley of congregations with their own rituals and an extraordinary diversity of religious ideas and interpretations as well as applications.

If the historian’s outlook was colored by the contemporary shades of Western philosophy, dwpending on the European experiences of enlightenment, s/he might well have regarded the whole structure as seemed with superstition and destined to be swept away before long by the forces of progress and enlightenment. But no outside observer can estimate the strength of those covert threads which at at a moment of challeng draw the members of diverse groups into a single community of purpose and will, nor the vitality of a great idea, overlaid by the deposits of long centuries, when faced with new tasks and dangers.

In the last two centuries (the 19th and 20th century,)  Islam revival movements offered too many efforts at readjustment under several challenges from within in addition to pressing dangers from without. Movements or in  more  precise word, circles began slowly at first, and without expected setbacks, they increased their momentum, as in every crisis, Muslim communities gather themselves together and organizing for defenses, alert and reawakened searching for a project to unite the people around unknown future.

Most Muslims , and a large other observers, on the other hand,  see that external pressures arising from the political and economic expansion and domination of Western European influences which more challenging than internal challenges. This view can be described as coming from the heart of the Muslim society, and influencing people’s attitudes and reflection to the Western secular culture.

Origins of Salfism go back to Wahhabis in Central Arabia (Saudi Arabia) where in the year 1744, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab started with the help of House of Sa’ud, where the Emir of Dir’iyah then, supported the Wahhabies on the bases of puritan Hanbalite school. The movement was a negative reflection against Sufism initiated early by Ibn Taymiyah ((AH 661-728/1263-1328 CE,) and his followers, in the fourteenth century. Initially, Whahabi Movement was directed to destroy the laxity of manners and corruption of religion in the local settlements and tribes.

Islamism movement is not well organized, because of the many factions in recent history claim to be Islamists, they adopt western customs of rational thinking, and keeping principles of Islam intact. Most Muslim intellectuals follow this stream. Some extreme Islamists began to show themselves in violence against modern shapes of progress imagined as a symbols of paganism. The Salfis and Jihadists lead this type of Islamist movements. Al Qa’dah represent the spearhead of these movements. The form of the movement actions were condemning saint-worshiping and all Sufis’ practices and describing their activities as heresy and infidelity as a start, and later, attacked other orthodox schools who compromise religious affairs of abomination.  Wahhabi zeal was  to restore the primitive purity of the Faith,. Their efforts were united by the Sa’udi dynasty against other tribes in the Central and Eastern Arabia, first, then against the Ottoman provinces in the north and west where the hereditary Sharifs of Makkah and Hijaz. Makka was captured and “purified” in 1802. Wahhabis impact, in fact influence the whole Muslim world, by this double challenge to the Ottoman power and to the catholic tradition of Islam.

Muhammad Ali Governor of Egypt ten, took charge of the of the Wahhabi challenge and destroyed the Wahhabi power and captured Dir’iyah the Center of Sa’udi Dynasty, and some of their leaders were sent to execution at Constantinople.  But the defeat was not complete, Wahhabi movement remained alive after the eclipse of its political power. Al Sa’ud returned from Kuwait, their refuge and with its former vassals of the House of Rasheed of Ha’il, renouned its strength and regained the Arabian empire (with the help of British authorities who withdrowed their support from al Hussein bin Ali, the Hasimite Emir of Hijaz) under the leadership of Abdul Aziz, the creator of the new Kingdom of “Saudi Arabia.”

As a result, Wahhabi way was followed in more Muslim communities, the intolerance and the excesses of its first adherents in Arabia, and its followers in India and West Africa at the start of 19th century even though earned the condemnation of the general body of Muslims. The Wahhabi followers and teachings practiced the extreme expression, can be traced in many parts of the Muslim world. Its principles reinforced the movement for the return of the pure monotheism of the early Muslim faith. In general, Wahhabis’ movement grew in contradiction with Sufi thoughts and practices, and has come to constitute one of the outstanding features of Modern Islm.

The significance of Wahhabi revolt that of its origin in Arabia by Arabs, was a reflection to the broadest lines of religious forces formed since the Ghazalian Sufism, who were non-Arab (Barbar,  Persian, Turkish, etc.,). For many Persians and Turks the Mathnawi of Jalalud Din al Rumi had replaced the traditions of the Prophet as commentary on, and interpretation of, the ethical and religious teachings of the Holy Qur’an. Wahhabi movement was the first reassertion of the ‘Arab idea’ followed by others.

With the introduction of Arabic printing into Egypt in 1828, multiplication of standard works of medieval theology revived the prestige of Egyptian tradition of Arabic scholarship, and opening the gate for European orientalism  contributed and combined to emphasize the distinction between earlier and later Islam. The well known Egyptian reformist movement leader was Muhammad Abduh. The Sufi and Salfi movements were a result or transformation of Wahhabi movement in terms of Islamic tradition.. These movements,  may be summarized briefly, as follows.

1. The Sufi impulse did not spent its force, especially in North-West Africa, the Barbar Disciple of the Khalawati order, Ahmad al Tijani, founded in 1781, the Tijani order, which spread south to African regions, and became associated with a fanatical campaign of proselytization on expense of the steadily lost grounds of the peaceful Qadiriyah movement which covers India in Central Asia and most Muslim lands. While a more extravagant rituals and practices of earlier days were gradually dropped,  Orthodox Ulama’ (religious scholars) continued to maintain a pressure toward that direction. They took up on the whole an intermediate position, rejecting fundamentalism of the Wahhabis with its undercurrents of fanaticism and intolerance, and the claims of the Sufi adepts. Ulama, in fact asserted that, although the worship of saints is contrary to Islam, reverence for the saints and prayers for their intercession are lawful.

2. The moderation and  conservatism of Ulama’ since the early 19th century, was not to taste the more active reformers, as in every generation where new societies are found and propagated their principles, the newer development was the formation of reformist missionaries on a strict orthodox bases and organized on the lines of the Sufi ‘tariqas’ ways.  For example, The founder of this tariqa was a descendent of the Prophet, the Moroccan Sharif Ahmad bin Idris (d. 1837) as a new reformed branch of the Shadhiliyah, which attracted  devoted followers by his outstanding spiritual and intellectual gifts.  It is not clear wither he was directly influenced by Wahhabis movement or not, but he rejected Ijma’, beyond the first generation of the Companions of the Prophet, and qiyas (analogy) as a legal method. In his teachings bin Idris noted that Qur’an and Sunnah (the tradition) alone could be accepted as sources of doctrine and law. Concerning Sufism, he rejected entirely the Sufi doctrine of union with God, and replacing it as the goal of the mystical life, a mystical union with the spirit of the Prophet.

From Idrisi original tariqah, A new tariqa was found under the name of Muhammadiyah Tariqah in many regions, the most influential of these was founded by the Algerian Muhammad bin Ali al Sanusi (d. 1859) and the Hijazi, Muhammad Othman al Amir Ghani (d. 1853) in East Africa.

In general, all other puritan reformist movements, even peaceful in principle, are by nature liable to adopt violent courses. They are distinguished by uncompromising in defending their doctrines and counterattack, and whenever the secular arm is turned against them, their behavior is being forced into political channels, as revolutionary movements, directed toward the foundation of a new theocratic state. Other behavior for fundamentalists (puritan reformists, or Salafis in some quarters) is to restore to jihad (in path of God) much of their defense which as has been held in the historic community.

3. A third sufi movements was the Amerghaniya of Nubia and Sudan, which are more extreme revolutionary order organized by the “Mahdi” Muhammad Ahmad al Merghani (d. 1885). His movement efforts were directed against secular authority. With the Sanusiyyah of Cyrenaica, Amerghaniyah rejected Ottoman  claims of built up the militant  organization needed for controlling revolted nomads. Both movements share also defending lands against expansion of Christianity through penetration of French into Equatorial Africa as well as Italians in Libya and British in Egypt. In fact, the Sanusi brotherhood has shown its vitality by its almost instantaneous revival on the expulsion of the Italians from Cyrenaica.

The most continuous expansion of European political power over Muslim population produced the in the first place what can be termed as “psychological unsettlement,” which is the effect of which was reinforced successively by the derangement of their old social and economic structure and the intrusion of Western thought.

4. The leader of Salafi movement was the Syrian disciple of Muhammad Abdu,  Sheikh Rasheed Ridha, (1865-1935). The formation of a religious party which called itself the Salafiya, the upholders of the tradition represented by the  great ancestors, fathers of Muslim Community, they agree with the modernists or secular state rulers in rejecting the authority of the medieval schools and in accepting Qur’an and Sunnah as the sole authorities for religious truth. This position was against the generality of Ulama’, and became reformists but as aganst modernists they passionately reject any intrusion of Western liberalism and rationalism. Raheed Ridha in his reformist journal al Manar, was gained a wide circulation from Morocco in Africa to Java-Indonesia in Asia. His movement was a pan-Islamic following the steps of Jamalud Din an Afghani. Ridha was steadily driven by puritan fundamentalism doctrines, and at length recognized and cultivated a relationship of thought between Salafiyah and the Wahhabiyah. The difference later was clear, in their final doctrinal position, the mood of Wahhabis, confess themselves ‘New-Hanbalites’, conservatives claiming the reopening of the “Gate of Ijtihad”, (replacing Ijma’ and Qiyas) as methods of Islamic issues judgment. But common to both movements (Salafiyah and Wahhabiyah) was their hostility to any form of Sufism, saint-worship and animistic “innovation”detracting from the pure monotheism of the Qur’an.

5. In modern times, the associations of Muslim Youth in Eqypt and many other societies addressed itself to same kind of public and methods similar to the Y.M.C.A.,  while the “Muslim Brotherhood” operated at a more popular level. Similar associations were found also in Pakistan and Indonesia, as well as European countries, North and South America.

In India Shari’atu Allah and Sayyed Ahmad of Rai Bareli, their movement gained large following  amongst Indian Muslims. Fara’idi Sect in Bangladesh also follow Salafiyah movement.  Other associations called themselves Ahl al Hadith, (the followers of the Prophetic Tradition), they have their own mosques and schools.

Today, we observe too many individual attempts to formulate Islamic doctrines in terms of modern thought. The first may be was Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan, (1817-1898), who shared Sheikh Muhammad Abdu, that Islam and science could not prove antagonistic in the long run,  and that the true justification of Islam was its conformity to Nature and the laws of science, and that nothing  which conflicted with this principle could be regarded as authentically Islamic. In order to develop this  line of thought, Ahmad Khan rationalist approach was followed in education, when he founded at Aligarh a college in 1875, in which religious education should be combined with modern scientific studies. .

Later on many publication followed Salafi lines of thought, for example, Indian Muslim scholar, Sir Sayyed Amir Ali, in his books, The Spirit of Islam, (1891) and The Life and Teachings of Muhammed  Where Muhammad was described and presented as the embodiment and exemplar of human virtue in its most exalted manifestation.s    Pkistani Muslim Scholar, Muhammad Iqbal, (1876-1938)  in his The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1928).

5. Finally, in this section we describe the remaining  Muslim Salafis, The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, (described in some of muy articles elsewhere) . al Banna established the movement as an Islamic revivalist movement following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent ban of the caliphate system of government that had united the Muslims for hundreds of years. Al-Banna based his ideas that Islam was not only a religious observance, but a comprehensive way of life, on the tenets of Wahhabism, better known today as “Islamism”, and he supplemented the traditional Islamic education for the Society’s male students with jihadia training. According to Ikhwan site, organization; it was banned again in 1954 because it insisted that Egypt be governed under shari’a (Islamic law).

Abdul Munim Abdul Rauf, a Brotherhood activist, attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Nasser in 1954 and was executed, along with many of their leaders were arrested, and many others fled to other Arab and foreign countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and USA. In 1964, Nasser granted amnesty to the imprisoned Brothers, hoping to weaken interest in the recently formed Arab Socialist Union party,  the result was three more assassination attempts by the Brothers on Nasser’s life. The top leaders of the Brotherhood were executed in 1966, and many others were imprisoned. Nasser’s successor, Anwar-as-Sadat, promised the Brothers that shari’a would be implemented as the Egyptian law and released all of the Brotherhood prisoners; however, the Brothers lost their trust in Sadat when he signed the peace agreement with Israel in 1979; four Brothers assassinated Sadat in September, 1981. Although officially banned by the Egyptian government since 1954, the Muslim Brothers captured 17 seats in the Egyptian Parliament running as independents; they also hold important offices in professional organizations in Egypt. Today, a very complex financial network connects the operations of over seventy branches of the Muslim Brothers worldwide. During the Muslim Brothers’ seventy-plus years of existence, there have been cycles of growth, بollowed by divisions into factions, including clandestine financial networks, and violent jihad groups, such as al-Jihad and al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya in Egypt, HAMAS in Palestine and mujahideen groups in Afghanistan.

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عرب يا رسول الله ….عرب

طيبون ، ولكن أكثرهم لا يقرأون ، وقليل منهم يعلمون، فهل ندعهم في غيهم وجهلهم يعمهون؟ فيا عرب ، اجعلوا القراءة من هواياتكم المفضلة،

وإذا أعجبكم ما تقرأ ون فساهموا مع جهود الدكتور حسن يحيى ،  في إحياء التراث العربي في المهجر، أرسلوا مساهماتكم وما يجود به كرمكم عبر حساب

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About Arab American Encyclopedia-USA - Hasan Yahya

HASAN YAHYA was born at a small village called Majdal-YaFa (Majdal Sadiq) in Mandate Palestine (1944). He migrated as a refugee to Mes-ha, a village east of Kufr Qasim, west of Nablus (in the West Bank), then moved with his family to Zarka, 25 km north of Amman – Jordan. He finished the high school at Zarka Secondary School, 1963. He was appointed as a teacher in the same year. Studied Law first at Damascus University, then B.A from Lebanon University in Arabic literature and Eastern Cultures (1975). He moved to Kuwait. Where he got married in 1967. He was working at Kuwait Television, taught at bilingual School, and Kuwait University. In 1982, Hasan left to the United States to continue his education at Michigan State University. He got the Master Degree in 1983, the Ph.D degree in 1988 in Education (Psychology of Administration ). In 1991, He obtained his post degree in Social research, the result was a second Ph.D degree in Comparative sociology-Social Psychology. He was the only Arab student who enrolled ever to pursue two simultaneous Ph.D programs from Michigan State University and fulfill their requirements perfectly. Professor Yahya employment history began as a supervisor of a joint project to rehabilitate Youth (inmates out of prison) by Michigan State University and Intermediate School Districts. Worked also as a Teacher Assistant and lecturer in the same university. He was offered a position at Lansing Community College as well as Jackson Community College where he was assistant professor, then associate professor, then full professor (1991-2006). He taught Sociology, psychology, education, criminology and research methods. He supervised 19 Master and Ph.D candidates on various personal, economic psychological and social development topics. Professor Yahya published Hundreds (1000 Plus on this site) of articles and research reports in local, regional, and international journals. His interest covers local, regional and global conflicts. He also authored, translated, edited and published over 280 plus books in several languages, in almost all fields especial education, sociology and psychology. These books can be found on Amazon and Kindle. He also, was a visiting professor at Eastern Michigan University to give Research Methods and Conflict Management courses. Prof. Yahya accepted an offer to join Zayed University Faculty Team in 1998, then he served as the Head of Education and Psychology Department at Ajman University of Science and Technology 2001-04. Dr. Yahya established several institutes in Diaspora, the Arab American Encyclopedia, Ihyaa al Turath al Arabi Project, (Revival of Arab Heritage in Diaspora.Recently he was nominated for honorary committee member for the Union of Arab and Muslim Writers in America. He was affiliated with sociological associations and was a member of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS) at USA. Social Activities and Community Participation: Dr. Yahya was a national figure on Diversity and Islamic Issues in the United States, with special attention to Race Relations and Psychology of Assimilation (generations 1,2 &3). He was invited as a public speaker to many TV shows and interviews in many countries. His philosophy includes enhancing knowledge to appreciate the others, and to compromise with others in order to live peacefully with others. This philosophy was the backgrounds of his theory, called “ Theory C. of Conflict Management”. And developed later to a Science of Cultural Normalization under the title: “Crescentology. The results of such theory will lead to world peace depends on a global Knowledge, Understanding, appreciation, and Compromising (KUAC)” Recently Prof. Yahya started "Publish your book FREE Project", to serve young Arab Writers. Dr. Yahya accepted the offer to be the chief editor of the International Humanities Studies Journal -I-H-S-Jerusalem, since July 2014. (Revised Sept. 2014) ولد الدكتور حسن عبدالقادر يحيى في مجدل يابا من أعمال يافا – فلسطين عام 1944. تلقى علومه الابتدائية في مدرسة بديا الأميرية في الضفة الغربية أيام احتوائها ضمن المملكة الأدردنية الهاشمية وتخرج في جامعة بيروت حاملاً الإجازة في اللغة العربية وآدابها، ودبلوم التأهيل التربوي من كلية القديس يوسف بلبنان، ودبلوم الدراسات العليا (الماجستير) ودكتوراة في الإدارة التربوية من جامعة ولاية ميشيغان بالولايات المتحدة عام 1988، وشهادة الدكتوراه في علم الاجتماع المقارن من الجامعة نفسها عام 1991. عمل في التدريس والصحافة الأدبية. أديب وشاعر وقاص ، ,كما عمل في تلفزيون الكويت الرسمي كمعد ومنسق برامج ثم اتجه إلى الكتابة والتأليف في علوم كثيرة تخص علمي النفس والاجتماع والتنمية البشرية ، والتغير الاجتماعي والسكان وألف ونشر العديد من المقالات (1000 +) والكتب باللغتين العربية والإنجليزية (أكثر من 330 كتابا) ، منها ست مجموعات قصصية وست كتب للأطفال ، وأربع دواوين شعرية باللغتين أيضا. وعدد من كتب التراث في الشعر والأدب والأخلاق الإسلامية والتربية والأديان . وهو الآن أستاذ متقاعد في جامعة ولاية ميشيغان. . وكان عضوا سابقا في جمعية العلماء المسلمين في أمريكا . وجمعية علماء الاجتماع الأمريكية - ميشيغان، وهو مؤسس الموسوعة العربية الأمريكية في الولايات المتحدة ضمن مشروع إحياء التراث العربي في بلاد المهجرز كما تم ترشيحه مؤخرا ليكون عضو مجلس التحرير لمجلة الدراسات الإنسانية العالمية. وقد قبل أن يتسلم رئاسة تحريرها اعتبارا من نهاية يونيو 2014 His email: Thank you!
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1 Response to Salafism: A Bird Flight or Thunder: Historical Analysis- السلفيون : طيور مغردة أم رعود مدمرة ؟

  1. Nafees says:

    I was so confused about Islamic sects then I came to know about Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, real Islamic scholar but nowadays he’s out of Pakistan because he had threaten to death here because of his intellectual clashes with all other sects.

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