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Islam: Wahhabism

by David Krusch

The Wahhabi religious movement is a fundamentalist Islamic order that advocates a strict interpretation of the teachings in the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. Adherents of this movement do not refer to themselves as “Wahhabis” because it is a reference to the founder of the movement Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, and they do not want others to view them as venerating a specific person over God (Allah in Arabic). Rather, they often refer to themselves as Salafis, “followers of the forefathers,” or al-Muwahhidun, “the monotheists.” The Wahhabi movement is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

Wahhabism was founded in the 16th century in what is now Saudi Arabia as a reaction against the influences of Sufism and the Shi'a interpretation of Islam. The early Wahhabi leaders believed that Islam had become rife with superstition and what they believed to be deviant practices. These practices included invoking the names of prophets or saints for veneration, practicing magic and sorcery, and changing the accepted methods of worship. The goal of the Wahhabi movement is to restore Islam back to its spiritual beginnings by advocating a puritanical position on religious matters and practices. Consumption of wine and alcohol is forbidden because wine is literally forbidden in the Qur'an. Wahhabism extended its ban on all alcoholic drinks and other stimulants, including tobacco.

Modest dress is prescribed for both men and women in accordance with the Qur'an, but Wahhabi adherents specify the type of clothing that should be worn, especially by women, and forbid the wearing of silk and gold, although the latter ban has been enforced only sporadically. Music and dancing have also been forbidden, as have loud laughter and demonstrative weeping, particularly at funerals.

In Saudi Arabia, these codes of public modesty are strictly enforced by the Islamic religious police, or Mutaween (“Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”). These police, who's values stem from the Wahhabi movement, have the power to arrest men and women for socializing in public, or for violating perceived modesty standards in the country. Many public beatings, amputations of the hands and feet, and executions have taken place in Saudia Arabia after people were arrested for violating modesty codes or accepted sexual practices (i.e. practicing homosexuality).

Sources:; Wikipedia