Manipal, India — Although the U.S. State Department considers the Wahabbi sect to be engaged in "purifying" the Muslim faith, in fact what Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahab created three centuries ago was an entirely new faith, used thereafter to uproot the Sufi-suffused Islam that had gifted scholarship and success to the Muslims. Neither of his two biographies is credible, both being the work of admirers of the al-Sauds, the family later installed as the titular masters of the Arabian Peninsula.
Abdul Wahab developed his teachings to protect the absolutist rule of the al-Sauds, wrapping them in a cloak of piety that concealed personal conduct the opposite of the example set by the Prophet Mohammed. The founder of Wahabbism was an individual who sought to uproot traditional Islam from the land where it was revealed.
Early in his career as a preacher, Abdul Wahab formed a partnership with Muhammad ibn Saud, whereby the desert chieftain's dynasty was declared by the preacher to be the legitimate rulers of the lands where Islam first took root. A grateful ruler promptly anointed Abdul Wahab as the only correct teacher of the tenets of Islam. That the Muslim faith, democratic in its chemistry, explicitly rejects kingship, or that the Prophet Mohammed is the only transmitter of the Word of Allah, were seen as inconsequential.
Almost from the start of their sojourn into fortune, the al-Sauds fastened themselves to the flanks of the British, thereby gaining assistance in their battles with other chieftains, until their presumed loyalty finally earned them installation in 1932 as masters of the land they called "Saudi Arabia." But for British and later U.S. help, the al-Sauds would have remained just another of several tribal families, very possibly made extinct by those angered at their incessant aggression.
Each time the al-Sauds -- all of whom became followers of Abdul Wahab -- took over a new territory, they obliterated all physical traces of the Prophet Muhammad or those close to him, such as family or contemporary followers. The intent was to erase from the peoples' minds all memory of the original faith, memories that may have been rekindled by exposure to cultural treasures dating from the time of the Prophet. In order to replace the Sufis, it was necessary to convert the minds of the population into a tabula rasa and fill it systematically with the extremist ideology that Abdul Wahab preached.
Even the Koran did not escape. Any scholar with access to pre-Wahabbi versions will note the difference in tone between these and the ones brought out by the Wahabbi International, the worldwide network created to maintain the absolutist rule of the al-Sauds, including over the locations containing the holiest sites of one of the world's great faiths. Indeed, again in direct opposition to the precepts and practices of the Prophet Mohammed, in modern times the al-Sauds and the al-Wahabs have had the presumption to declare themselves the Protectors of the Holy Places.
It is not coincidental that such usurpation has been followed by the present turmoil within Islam, caused by the Wahabbi effort to hijack the faith and use its name to spread mayhem across the world. Small wonder that genuine Muslims everywhere would like to see the democratization of "Saudi" Arabia, and control over the lives of the Arab population returned to the people, rather than remaining in the grasp of a family whose only claim to authority is a preacher of extremist views and the al-Sauds' ability to make their Western backers immensely wealthy through patronage.
Numerous individuals and corporations across North America and the EU see the al-Sauds -- correctly -- as important for their financial wellbeing, and in pursuit of this objective, are prepared to overlook the danger to Western security posed by a clan that fronts for a three-century-old creed that has hate and bigotry at its core.
Wahabbis claim that their sole intention is to follow to the letter the teachings of the Koran -- as expressed in the versions produced by them. This columnist once saw young princelings driving sports coupes pick up girls fascinated by the vehicles parked outside the gates of a Munich school, presumably to tell them later on about the life of Abdul Wahab.
That Wahabbis know how to live the good life, and spend countless billions of dollars doing so, is not entirely a secret. Their lifestyles have little in common with the lifestyle of the Prophet Mohammed, a man known for simplicity and a disdain for material wealth, as evidenced by the paucity of assets that he left behind. And yet, even while traveling on private jets in the company of youthful blondes, Wahabbis constantly claim to be living their lives "the way the Prophet did," -- surely an assertion even more blasphemous than any uttered by Salman Rushdie. The more fanatic of them use aircraft and RDX explosives in their jihad against the rest of the world. If they were true to their own command that they adopt only things that were current during the early days of Islam, they ought to confine themselves to spears and swords, or else admit that their lifestyles and actions have nothing in common with the glorious deeds of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers.
The contradictions between Wahabbi principles and their lifestyles and methods are so numerous it would take volumes to document them. However, any such effort would be doomed from the start, because of the support that the al-Sauds get from Bush, Cheney, Blair, Merkel, Chirac and other Western leaders who place financial interests above international security. Hence, even after 9/11, most of the infrastructure of the Muslim world is controlled by the Wahabbi International. Even the retrieval and dissemination of the original Koran has not been allowed, despite several Islamic scholars seeking the rescue of the wisdom contained in the holy book. Any proposal for a return of sovereignty of the Muslim Holy Land to true believers has been met with indifference in Western chancelleries intoxicated with the benefits derived from partnership with the Wahabbis.
Perhaps, though, there exists a solution to the problem. According to their own assertion, during Ramadan, neither food nor drink should be consumed in the interval between sunrise and sunset. Should the leadership of the Wahabbi International be airlifted during this month to a polar location, where the year is divided into six months of day and an equal period of night, they would themselves confront the fate that this group of fanatics is seeking to inflict on the world. Then again, being Wahabbis, the chances are that rather than abide by the tenets of the teachings of Abdul Wahab and starve, they would all fly off in the first chartered flight made available by those enjoying the largesse of the Wahabbi International.
-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is Director of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University.)