ISIS: Understanding Radical Islam, Jihadism & the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Connection (+2K Views) -
Friday , 5 March 2021

ISIS: Understanding Radical Islam, Jihadism & the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Connection (+2K Views)

In order to understand where jihadism really comes from it’s necessary ISISto first understand the relationship that the Sauds, the royal family of Saudi Arabia, have with their clergy, the Wahhabist Islamic preachers (which all began back in 1744) and which was subsequently combined with the oil-for-weapons trade and an alliance with the United States (that began in 1945, and that then was ignited by the petrodollar after Richard Nixon’s de-dollarization of gold in 1973). That’s what laid the ground for today’s jihadism.

By Eric Zuesse (

The chief focus in the present article will be on the history of Islam before 1945, which is essential to know in order to be able to understand why that change in the value-base of the dollar ended up producing the jihadist explosion we’re all seeing today…

Islamic fundamentalism wouldn’t exist without the ideology, which is distinctly Wahhabist, known as “Salafist” outside of Saudi Arabia, but, whatever it’s called, this Sunni branch of Islam is the religion that is held by all jihadists, and the U.S. built upon that Saudi base (and the very term “Al Qaeda” means “the base”). Its ideology must be understood, because it is significant not only within Saudi Arabia, but wherever jihadists carry out their war against “the infidels” — against anyone who fails to adhere to all of the rituals and commands of this very severe faith.

Below is an excerpt from the U.S. Library of Congress’s 1992 book Saudi Arabia: A Country Study, by Helen Chapin Metz:

The Saud Family and Wahhabi Islam

The Al Saud dynasty originated in Ad Diriyah, in the center of Najd, close to the modern capital of Riyadh. Around 1500 ancestors of Saud ibn Muhammad took over some date groves, one of the few forms of agriculture the region could support, and settled there. Over time the area developed into a small town, and the clan that would become the Al Saud came to be recognized as its leaders.

The rise of Al Saud is closely linked with Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (died 1792), a Muslim scholar whose ideas form the basis of the Wahhabi movement. He grew up in Uyaynah, an oasis in southern Najd, where he studied with his grandfather Hanbali Islamic law, one of the strictest Muslim legal schools. While still a young man, he left Uyaynah to study with other teachers, the usual way to pursue higher education in the Islamic world. He studied in Medina and then went to Iraq and to Iran.

To understand the significance of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab’s ideas, they must be considered in the context of Islamic practice. There was a difference between the established rituals clearly defined in religious texts that all Muslims perform and popular Islam. The latter refers to local practice that is not universal.

The Shia practice of visiting shrines is an example of a popular practice. The Shia continued to revere the Imams even after their death and so visited their graves to ask favors of the Imams buried there. Over time, Shia scholars rationalized the practice and it became established.

Some of the Arabian tribes came to attribute the same sort of power that the Shia recognized in the tomb of an Imam to natural objects such as trees and rocks. Such beliefs were particularly disturbing to Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab. In the late 1730s he returned to the Najdi town of Huraymila and began to write and preach against both Shia and local popular practices. He focused on the Muslim principle that there is only one God, and that God does not share his power with anyone—not Imams, and certainly not trees or rocks. From this unitarian principle, his students began to refer to themselves as muwahhidun (unitarians). Their detractors referred to them as “Wahhabis”, or followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab,” which had a pejorative connotation.

The idea of a unitary god was not new. Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, however, attached political importance to it. He directed his attack against the Shia. He also sought out local leaders, trying to convince them that this was an Islamic issue. He expanded his message to include strict adherence to the principles of Islamic law. He referred to himself as a “reformer” and looked for a political figure who might give his ideas a wider audience.

Lacking political support in Huraymila, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab returned to Uyaynah where he won over some local leaders. Uyaynah, however, was close to Al Hufuf, one of the Twelve Shia centers in eastern Arabia, and its leaders were, understandably, alarmed at the anti-Shia tone of the Wahhabi message. Partly as a result of their influence, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab was obliged to leave Uyaynah, and headed for Ad Diriyah. He had earlier made contact with Muhammad ibn Saud, the leader in Ad Diriyah at the time, and two of Muhammad’s brothers had accompanied him when he destroyed tomb shrines around Uyaynah.

Accordingly, when Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab arrived in Ad Diriyah, the Al Saud was ready to support him. In 1744 Muhammad ibn Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab swore a traditional Muslim oath in which they promised to work together to establish a state run according to Islamic principles. Until that time the Al Saud had been accepted as conventional tribal leaders whose rule was based on longstanding but vaguely defined authority.

Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab offered the Al Saud a clearly defined religious mission to which to contribute their leadership and upon which they might base their political authority. This sense of religious purpose remained evident in the political ideology of Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.

Muhammad ibn Saud began by leading armies into Najdi towns and villages to eradicate various popular and Shia practices. The movement helped to rally the towns and tribes of Najd to the Al Saud-Wahhabi standard. By 1765 Muhammad ibn Saud’s forces had established Wahhabism—and with it the Al Saud political authority–over most of Najd.

After Muhammad ibn Saud died in 1765, his son, Abd al Aziz, continued the Wahhabi advance. In 1801 the Al Saud-Wahhabi armies attacked and sacked Karbala, the Shia shrine in eastern Iraq that commemorates the death of Husayn. In 1803 they moved to take control of Sunni towns in the Hijaz. Although the Wahhabis spared Mecca and Medina the destruction they visited upon Karbala, they destroyed monuments and grave markers that were being used for prayer to Muslim saints and for votive rituals, which the Wahhabis consider acts of polytheism. In destroying the objects that were the focus of these rituals, the Wahhabis sought to imitate Muhammad’s destruction of pagan idols when he reentered Mecca in 628.

If the Al Saud had remained in Najd, the world would have paid them scant attention, but capturing the Hijaz brought the Al Saud empire into conflict with the rest of the Islamic world. The popular and Shia practices to which the Wahhabis objected were important to other Muslims, the majority of whom were alarmed that shrines were destroyed and access to the holy cities restricted.

Moreover, rule over the Hijaz was an important symbol. The Ottoman Turks, the most important political force in the Islamic world at the time, refused to concede rule over the Hijaz to local leaders. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Ottomans were not in a position to recover the Hijaz, because the empire had been in decline for more than two centuries, and its forces were weak and overextended. Accordingly, the Ottomans delegated the recapture of the Hijaz to their most ambitious client, Muhammad Ali, the semi-independent commander of their garrison in Egypt. Muhammad Ali, in turn, handed the job to his son Tursun, who led a force to the Hijaz in 1816; Muhammad Ali later joined his son to command the force in person.

Meanwhile, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab had died in 1792, and Abd al Aziz died shortly before the capture of Mecca. The movement had continued, however, to recognize the leadership of the Al Saud and so followed Abd al Aziz’s son, Saud, until 1814; after Saud died in 1814, his son, Abd Allah, ruled. Accordingly, it was Abd Allah ibn Saud ibn Abd al Aziz who faced the invading Egyptian army [n behalf of Turkey’s Muslim ruler.

Tursun’s forces took Mecca and Medina almost immediately. Abd Allah chose this time to retreat to the family’s strongholds in Najd. Muhammad Ali decided to pursue him there, sending out another army under the command of his other son, Ibrahim. The Wahhabis made their stand at the traditional Al Saud capital of Ad Diriyah, where they managed to hold out for two years against superior Egyptian forces and weaponry. In the end, however, the Wahhabis proved no match for a modern army, and Ad Diriyah—and Abd Allah with it—fell in 1818.

So “the Wahhabis,” who were a Muslim version or mirror-image of Christianity’s Medieval Crusades against Muslims and Jews, were defeated by the Ottoman Turks, which were a liberal branch of Islam…  

As wikipedia further says:

The alliance between followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad bin Saud’s successors (the House of Saud) proved to be a rather durable alliance. The house of bin Saud continued to maintain its politico-religious alliance with the Wahhabi sect through the waxing and waning of its own political fortunes over the next 150 years (but actually more like 300 years, inasmuch as it started in 1744, when Saud and Wahhab swore their oaths to each other, right up to the present, and so will be 300 years old in 2044), through to its eventual proclamation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, and then afterwards, on into modern times. Today Mohammed bin Abd Al-Wahhab’s teachings are state-sponsored and are the official form of Sunni Islam in 21st century Saudi Arabia…

With the help of funding from petroleum exports (and other factors), the movement underwent “explosive growth” beginning in the 1970s and now has worldwide influence. Today’s jihadism is simply oil-and-gas-funded Wahhabism that got out of control in non-Wahhabist-Salafist-led countries.

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The controlling entities behind American foreign policies since at least the late 1970s have been the Saud family and the Sauds’ subordinate Arabic aristocracies, which are the ones in Qatar (the al-Thanis), Kuwait (the al-Sabahs), Turkey (the Turkish Erdoğans, a new royalty), and UAE (its six royal families: the main one, the al-Nahyans in Abu Dhabi; the other five: the al-Maktoums in Dubai, al-Qasimis in Sharjah, al-Nuaimis in Ajman, al-Mualla Ums in Quwain, and al-Sharqis in Fujairah). Other Saudi-dominated nations — though they’re not oil-rich (more like Turkey in this regard) — are Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Turkey is a special case: a member not only of the 28-nation NATO alliance, but also of Saudi Arabia’s new 34-nation+ Sunni-Islamic global military alliance. In 1922, Turkey’s non-sectarian General Kemal Attaturk had ended the liberal Islamic dominance that had earlier been imposed under Osman I, and he established instead the non-religious nation of Turkey, which has terminated in recent decades with the increasing penetration into Turkey of Salafist or jihadist (i.e., Wahhabist-Salafist) Islam: aiming for the Caliphate or a fundamentalist-Islamic empire…

The “Caliphate” is supposed to be imposed by a descendant of Muhammad himself, the founder of Islam. Only such a descendant may found or start the Caliphate — go beyond being only a God-authorized national ruler, to become the God-authorized ruler of the world. For example, the founder of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to be a descendant of Muhammad (although there is uncertainty as to whether he actually even exists.)…

When Muhammad Ibn Saud and Muhammad Ibn Wahhab created in 1744 what would become Saudi Arabia, it was upon the basis of two things that are at the root of all conservatism: tribalism and religion. The leaders of a tribe are its aristocracy, and the leaders of a religion are its clergy. Consequently, Saudi Arabia might appear to be a perfect conservative nation: the aristocracy (the descendants of Muhammad Ibn Saud), and the clergy (the clerics of Wahhabism), are united to control the nation. However, there is a flaw in the Saudi-Wahhabist nation: the aristocratic element, the Saud family, are not descended from Muhammad. The Sunni ideal is very much the unification of church-and-state; but, in Shiite Islam, such unification between the two isn’t necessary. Consequently, only the psychopathy of Saudi Arabia’s aristocracy and clergy can sustain their rule in a tribal-religious culture that violates the basic conservative principle of descent from the Prophet, who was himself a conqueror. Muhammad, as both the head-of-state and the head-of-church; is the Sunni ideal. (Shiia Islam broke somewhat away from that ideal of God’s anointment of the leaders via their descent, so isn’t quite as strongly wedded to it.)

Because Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (or whom ever pretends to be him) claims to be both head-of-state and head-of-sect, ISIS presents a threat to the Sauds that even Al Qaeda (from which ISIS itself descended) avoids: Osama bin Laden didn’t claim to be descended from Muhammad. The Saudi religion didn’t demand he be, any more than it had demanded Muhammad Ibn Saud to be but the 100% fundamentalists do demand it — and ISIS is  100%. In fact, the Wahhabist “Hanbali” system of legislation demands everything fundamentalist but anointment-by-descent-from-the-prophet so ISIS is a direct threat to the Sauds: it labels them “impostors” and “infidels.” Therefore, the Islamic State…endangers the Sauds in a way that even al-Qaeda did not…ISIS is even more fundamentalist than Wahhabism-Salafism. Its unadulterated Islam…Other than that major distinction between Wahhabism and ISIS, the Sauds’ Kingdom is Islamic…

So, although those oil-kingdoms buy more weapons from the United States than any other country (and Saudi Arabia is America’s biggest-of-all foreign purchaser of weapons), their ethical system is locked back in the years when Muhammad lived. It was basically the same ethical system that existed when Jesus did…but, whereas the United States and other Western countries are embarrassed by the barbarism in their ‘holy Scriptures,’ Saudi Arabia and the other fundamentalist-Sunni countries simply take for granted this barbarism, as the way things ought to be, and even (such as in ISIS) as the way things must become and the United States aristocracy and government is allied with it, but puts on the best pretense they can that they oppose it…The U.S.-Saudi alliance is somewhat like the aristocratic-theocratic alliance. Each side of the alliance depends on the other.

That’s the origin of jihadism. Al Qaeda’s version might be called ‘moderate’ extremism; ISIS’s would be ‘extreme’ extremism… After all, how else could the aristocracy and the clergy fool the public? The public need to think that the system works for them and that their enemies are mainly foreign, not mainly members of the same nation, and maybe even of the same religion, as themselves. Many people who are born Muslims are aware of the threat that their religion is posing but escaping from it is exceptionally difficult, especially because the world’s most oil-rich country happens to be also the font of it: the biggest promoter, and source of funding, for jihadism…

On both sides of the Saudi-U.S. alliance, it’s an aristocracy deceiving and fooling its own public: brainwashing them on the basis of their particular culture’s bigotries. When a nation’s aristocracy and its clergy are supporting one another, it’s like the flame that ignites the fuel. That’s what’s igniting the world.

The comments above are edited ([ ]) and abridged (…) excerpts from the original article by Eric Zuesse

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