Qaradawi’s Odious Vision
The “Arab Spring” and the treason of the intellectuals


Goldziher’s 1920 analysis of the al-Manar modernists is full of unapologetic insights. Goldziher provided “cultural Wahhabism” as a final characterization of the movement, tying these so-called modernists to the extremist Saudi Wahhabis:

The Egyptian [al-Manar] movement . . . operates under the aspect of theology. It derives its reformative demands from theological considerations free of alien influence. It insists on the redress of abuses, not so much because [the abuses] are hostile to culture, but because they are hostile to Islam, and contrary to the Koran and the authentic tradition. . . . Muhammad Abduh teaches [in his Koranic exegesis] that according to the rules of Islam “the unbelievers must be fought with the same weapons that they use in fighting Islam. This means that in our time we must compete with them in the production of cannons, rifles, sea and air armaments, and other war material. All this makes it incumbent on Muslims to achieve perfection in technical and natural sciences, because this alone will lead to military readiness.” . . . But we cannot — as it has been done recently — call their ideology a conciliatory theology. For such a role they are too radical regarding abuses. A more appropriate definition might be cultural Wahhabism.

Goldziher further observed that Abduh had praised the Najdi (Arabian) Wahhabi iconoclasts as advocates for true Islam in violently confronting bidah (innovation), while he reproved the mid-19th-century Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali for attacking the Wahhabis. Confirming Goldziher’s prescient characterization (from 1920) of the entire al-Manar movement, Abduh’s co-“modernist” pupil and promoter Muhammad Rashid Rida evolved into a full-throated public supporter of the political aspirations of Ibn Saud’s Wahhabism, most clearly manifest in a tract Rida wrote entitled “The Wahhabis and the Hijaz.”

In “The Wahhabis and the Hijaz,” Rida sought to vindicate Wahhabism’s reputation and champion the Saudi-Wahhabi side in the struggle for control of Islam’s holy places in the Hijaz. Rida asserted that a devout, powerful Muslim ruler such as Ibn Saud would be a bulwark against the realization of Britain’s desire to “eradicate” Islam as a political force and, eventually, even as a religious doctrine and belief system. As David Commins observed in his 2006 book, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia:

The notion that ambitious western powers worked hand in hand with duplicitous Arab rulers to advance western interests and to crush Islam would become a pillar of Muslim revivalist discourses. . . . The oldest and most influential such movement is the Muslim Brothers, founded in Egypt in 1928 by a twenty-two-year-old schoolteacher, Hassan al-Banna.