Salafist thought is a ‘Bedouin viewpoint’ in the history of Islam, something which is incapable of founding a state or establishing a culture or a civilization. They do not believe that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is run by Salafi minds, because the Saudi family has nothing to do with Salafi thought, neither at the level of form nor content.


AL-GHAZALI, the Islamic writer who reported on their da‘wā and entered into an intellectual and dialectical struggle with them (one that is still unresolved to this day), said the following:

I told one of the ‘Salafī’ Ḥanbalis that we have to study the mental effort of all human beings, from Ibn Rushd, and from Abū Ḥanīfa and Ibn Taymiyya, as that helps us to establish the truth and nullify falsehood when we issue rulings in the name of Islam.

Al-Ghazālī was here referring to the narrow tunnel of cognitive and scientific horizons that the Islamic Awakening now wants us to enter. They have fatwās and concept from authors who are obscure, but who inevitably come from Najd, Riyadh or Kuwait. The adherents of the Awakening are made to confine themselves to studying the works of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya exclusively if they wish to learn about ‘true Islam’. As for the rest of the Islamic intellectual product, it is ‘misguidance’ and ‘deviation’, something that must be avoided and neglected. You hear them, for example, promoting the maxim: “He who has not read the books of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya lacks any portion of knowledge.” Similarly, they call for Qur’ānic interpretation to be confined to Ibn Kathīr to the exclusion of all others, along with many other destructive ideas and principles that can only lead to the regression of Islamic society and the deepening of its backwardness and civilizational decline. 

The spread of takfīr 

In Egypt, many fatwās of takfīr were issued against scholars, officials, public figures, and intellectuals, while the takfīrīWahhābism actively sponsored a campaign aimed at declaring takfīr on the great imams and scholars, both ancient and modern.

This campaign has already resulted in the killing of Shaykh Al-Dhahabī and Farag Fouda,[1] the attempt to kill the author Naguib Mahfouz, the burning of many churches and the destruction of many facilities in Egypt, along with the killing recently of Shaykh Nizār Al-Ḥalabī the leader of the Association for Charitable Projects. Those who carried out the killing openly declared their Salafism, and the Lebanese government moved to shut down one of their groups operating in Tripoli, along with another Salafist group calling itself Fatḥ al-Islām (‘The Conquest of Islam’) which sowed chaos in Lebanon and among the Palestinian refugee camps, adding more to their sufferings, and harming Lebanese unity more than anything the Zionist enemy could manage in all their repeated wars in Lebanon. 

The Islamic Awakening now wants us to enter the narrow tunnel of cognitive and scientific horizons

These Wahhābī Salafists did not spare a single prominent Islamic scholar in Egypt, not even Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ghazālī who was attacked on the grounds that he permitted listening to music and singing and also permitted women to work. They launched an attack on the Islamic thinkers Aḥmad Kamāl Abū al-Majd, Khālid Muḥammad Khālid, Fahmy Huwaidi, Salīm al-‘Awā, and even Al-Qaraḍāwī – the Wahhābī – was not spared their ire. 

The wave of takfīr that emanates from Najd in the Salafi kingdom and roams about the Islamic world excludes no one, so the even the scholars and intellectuals of the Sunnis are infidels! Indeed, any Salafi who disagrees with another Salafi in another ijtihād or opinion is an infidel!

This is not to mention the Imami Shiites, for they are not only infidels but ‘more dangerous than the Jews, Christians, Magians’ and all denominations and ideologies that exist in the world. Take a look at what one Salafi, whose book was printed with the permission of the Presidency of the Departments of Scientific Research, Iftā’, Call and Guidance in the Salafi kingdom (Saudi Arabia), says: 

Whoever embraces Shiism is to be called a destructive atheist, whether he be a Saba’ī, an Imāmī, an Ismā‘īlī, or Khaṭābī or Bayānī, a Twelver or otherwise, because whoever crosses the threshold of disbelief is the same as one who has delved deeply into it, and because a person cannot be a Shiite in its correct sense unless he first doubts Islam, the constitution of Islam, and the bearers of the message of Islam. What is worse, is that according to them the only one to attain the height of Shiism was the one who transcends God Himself – thereby making a comparison between God and His creation – and who sits at the centre of the tribune of judgment imposing on God Himself what God imposed on His servants, prohibiting to Him what He prohibited to His servants, all the while raising himself higher than the rank of divinity – may God be far exalted indeed from what these disbelievers say! 

This is these Salafi personalities say about the Shiites, describing a sect that does not exist anywhere in the world. Is one seriously expected to believe what this Salafi says and claims?

Today, the Shiites and Sunnis must stand up to this Salafist wave, since it is targeting them both. No one should be filling the ears of Sunnis that the Shiites consider them to be infidels! There are Shiite scholars present everywhere, writing and declaring morning noon and night that Sunni scholars and their publics are monotheistic Muslims, while the dispute between them concerns the Nawāṣib who hate the Ahl al-Bayt and their adherents, who call for the killing of Shiites and the shedding of their blood, and who stir up denominational and sectarian strife.[2]

The breakdown of the social unit

Adherents and theorists of Wahhābism see that they alone are the monotheists, while the rest of the Sunnis holding to the tradition of the four jurisprudential schools are actually ‘infidels’. Similarly, the Sufis and the adherents their devotional paths are ‘infidels’, while the Shiites of whatever denomination are all ‘infidels’, along with all other Islamic sects. Hatred has thus deepened and widened, so that it is difficult to think of the exitence of a strong social unit capable of supporting the awaited ‘Islamic renaissance’.

The ‘Islamic solution’ for Wahhābi-Salafi preachers means nothing more than cutting off hands, growing beards, and shortening clothes. That and the retraction of many civil and cultural advances, and not only at the formal level. Indeed, it can go beyond scientific facts and epistemological axioms, since some Salafists question man’s landing on the moon as a western trick inflicted on Muslims. Ibn Bāz and a large number of Wahhābi Salafis have also issued fatwās accusing those who said that the Earth was round as disbelievers.[3]

There is a near unanimity in putting one’s head in the sand and bowing to the storm so that it may pass over peacefully

It has got to the stage now that there is virtually no Islamic institution or assembly free of the charades of the Salafist da‘wā and its negative aspects. The sectarian wars in India, Pakistan and Iraq, the news of the burning of mosques and the killing of innocent people, all these fill the pages of regional and international newspapers, all carried out in the cause of spreading the doctrine of the pious predecessors!

But if you look at the general reality within the Salafist kingdom, you will find animosity and blind hatred promulgating their misguidance, as Salafists besiege large sectors of the Muslim people inside the peninsula with fatwās accusing them of disbelief, misguidance and polytheism, fatwās stirring up calls for jihad, invasion, and the ethnic and ideological cleansing of broad groups of people. Their ‘crime’ is that they do not adopt the view of the Salafi Ḥanbalīs in respect of the beliefs and values of Islam.

As for the reality of any opposition to this Bedouin intellectual flood, it does not bode well.  The intellectual institutions and religious schools of the Sunnis are notorious for their decadence and failure. Governments no longer give them the attention they enjoyed in olden days, when these schools gave legitimacy to the political regimes of those countries. Those directing the Salafist propaganda have taken advantage of this reality to finish off any opposition that could emanate from their institutions and schools. Would anyone receiving lucrative monthly grants, and sponsorships for the Ḥajj and the ‘Umra dare to write a letter or a book countering the misguidance and deviations of these people, and show that the truth openly contradicts what they are calling for, even as many scholars – of Al-Azhar in particular – do not give any credence at all to what the Salafists believe? Yet most of them find themselves compelled to remain silent, either out of fear and awe, or in the hope of gaining public approval. 

In general, there is a near unanimity in putting one’s head in the sand and bowing to the storm so that it may pass over peacefully. It is, of course, not an entirely out of the question hope;  groups of Sunnis and Sufis have taken it upon themselves to stand up to the flood, and several books and studies have been published in response to the Salafist beliefs and their abnormal opinions. But much of it is caught up in difficulties in printing, publishing, distribution and harassment. 

For as long as the policy of intimidation, enticement, and outright material temptation characterizes the apportion of teaching chairs within Salafi-dominated universities, where generous grants are bestowed on students encouraging them to study their doctrines and support them, the future cannot bode well.

[1] On this see Almuslih article Intellectuals and their assassination over the centuries.

[2] While Sunnis often define the Shiites as rawāfiḍ (‘rejectionists’) who have ‘misled’ Muslims, they are less often branded as total heretics or apostates. And while Shiites have labeled their Sunni detractors as Nawāṣib (‘enemies of ‘Alī’), they also tend to differentiate between themselves as ‘believers’ (mu’minūn) or ‘the distinguished ones’ (khassa) and the generality (‘amma) of Muslims, including the Sunnis, without casting doubt on the Islamic legitimacy of the latter. (Ed.)

[3] In 1982 Shaykh Ibn Baz published a book: الأدلة النقلية والحسية على امكان الصعود الى الكواكب وعلى جريان الشمس والقمر وسكون الأرض (‘The textual and rational proofs on the possibility of travelling to other planets, the rotation of the sun and the moon and the motionlessness of the earth’) expounding his belief that the sun orbited the earth. In 1985, he changed his mind concerning the rotation of the earth when Prince Sulṭān bin Salmān returned home after a week aboard the space shuttle Discovery to tell him that he had seen the earth rotate. (Ed.)

See Part One of this essay  here

See Part Two of this essay  here

Shaykh Bin Bāz: the ‘Islamic solution’ goes beyond scientific facts and epistemological axioms