• December 23, 2006
  • 34 minutes read

Natana DeLong: Islamic groups election wins due to their credibility

Natana DeLong: Islamic groups election wins due to their credibility

US researcher: There is no relation between Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab, Hassan Al Banna and Sayed Qotb with religious extremism

Natana DeLong to “Al-Sharq Al-Awsat”: Islamic groups election wins due to their credibility



Dr Natana DeLong is a US researcher in Islamic affairs in the US university GeorgeTown and is working now in the faculty of Boston, her interest in Islam and Muslim societies appeared in her book ” Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad”. DeLong discussed- in this book- the ideological biography of sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab; it was the thesis of her Phd.

This US researcher reached a conclusion which is different from what dominates the Western academic arenas about Wahhabism; this conclusion is that the strictness and extremism attributed to the call of sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab is not right, pointing out that his students became more strict and harline after his death and they added and attributed to him what he didn’t say. she stressed in her interview with ” Al-Sharq Al-Awsat” in Riyadh, in a restaurant in the capital, which Dr. DeLong is visiting these days, that she doesn’t approve considering the Wahhabi call as an independent doctrine and that what are circulated around it try to distort the image of the Wahhabi call. The researcher “Natana” confirmed that the crisis of extremism and strictness to which the Middle East region is recently exposed, is due to the state of despair and frustration that the Muslim young men are suffering from, confirming that hardline groups wern’t educated according to the call of sheikh Abd Al-Wahab or the Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt.



* To begin wit, why have you chosen to talk about sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab in your PhD. thesis?


We hear so much in The United States about “Wahhabi Islam” and “Wahhabis” but in passive way that shows them as extremists and armed terrorists; the Americans were used to- just before 11 September events- call all those opposing the US government attitudes whether from Chechnya, Indonesia or Palestine as “Wahhabis”; this was the main reason for my choosing to talk about sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab as I wanted to know eagerly what the word “Wahhabi Islam” means, while I did not find any book that speaks about Wahhabism and what it means. Therefore, I thought it may be a suitable time to make up a historical research about sheikh and the Wahhabism.


Ibn Taimiyya and Wahhabism


* Well, what were the resources you depended on to form a clear view about sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab and his call?


I have read every thing he wrot, starting from ” Kitab Al-Tawheed” and ” Kashf Al-Shubuhat” written by sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab, and I read the book of “Marriage” and “Jihad ” and others, in addition to reading all juristic fatwas; reading of all his books, I tried to know his method of understanding the Quran, Hadith and sharia in general, in addition to focusing on the religious scholars from whom he studied; this because what is prevalent in The United States is that sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab studied only from Ibn Taimiyya, this is not right; he studied and learnt from various scholars and clerics like Ibn Hanbal, Abi Hanifa, Ibn Malek and Al Shafie; however, after explaining all juristic views in any issue, he always explained his private view and fatwa in the stated issue.


 * In a previous interview, you said that the Western prevalent view and the Western media view is that (Wahhabism is only a continuation of the extremism that “Ibn Taimiyya” introduced) but you talk again about this point; do you believe actually that Ibn Taimiyya was extremist?


I meant that the students of Ibn Taimiyya and those studying their knowledge quote and extrac some of his hardline views that agree with their views and their agenda and they do not take all his views; if they adopted every thing Ibn Taimiyya said including those related to revolting against the ruler in the context of his views around how to deal appropriately with the ruler, they wouldn’t have been considered hardliners.


* but do you believe- personally- that “Ibn Taimiyya” was extremist and hardline?


I do not believe so; he actually faced hard conditions; although the rulers were Muslim at that time, but they declared not relying only on the Islamic Sharia; this made some of the actions and exercises as countering Sharia; this made Ibn Taimiyya beleive that only the Islamic Sharia should be applied and said that that rebellion against the ruler who violates Sharia is necessary.


* You said that you read every thing written by sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab; have you read his messages?

Unfortunately no, I did not read his messages; these are the only things that I did not manage to read; but why am I expected to consider his messages as important to speak about his history.


What is the source of strictness in Saudi Arabia; what is the fifth doctrine?


* By whom- do you think- are Saudi hardliners were affected?


The extremists in Saudi Arabia are a mixture of several elements; their strictness is not attributed to Islam, but it is more complicated; the political circumstances in the Islamic world like the 60 years old Palestinian cause and the Iraqi issue and the US adminstration’s preventing the United Nations from taking any resolution against Israel, all this increased the state of frustration among the Muslim young men, something that made them- as they beleive- to help their brothers lift the aggression all over Islamic states, while all political options were deadlocked; thus, I do not believe that religion has any relation with this, but the activities of the groups are on the rise due to the crises in the region, something that caused such a frustration that will eventually lead to armed operations.



* Some people describe the Wahhabi call as a “doctrine”; do you believe actually that the Wahhabi call is a fifth doctrine (Madhhab) in addition to the other four doctrinal schools?


No, this isn’t right: I do not believe that the Wahhabi call is an independent doctrine; this is because sheikh Abd Al-Wahab was concerned with teaching laymen everything beleived by the four doctrines; however, he stopped short of imitating, as he opposed some of the views adopted by Ahmed Ibn Hanbal; I personally believe that what some circulate that sheikh Abd Al-Wahab established an independent doctrine (Madhhab) is only distorting his image.


* There are some Muslims- laymen or intellectuals or even some clerics- who criticized some of the views in the Wahhabi call due to its strictness; also, some of them think that the Wahhabi call contributed to establishing religious strictness, comment on this.


According to my readings in sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab’s books and in his interpretation of the creed, I noticed so much tolerance and civilization more than what is applied nowadays; the key point is to see the status of the students of sheikh Abd Al-Wahab and whether they are committed to what he said and taught.


* Do you mean that sheikh Mohamed Abdul Wahab’s students are the ones who showed strictness after his death?


Yes, I believe that his students became more hardline after its death; also, there are many things which were introduced and attributed to sheikh Abd Al-Wahab by his students.


What is the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the religious/ political extremism ?


* Some people accuse the literature and agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt of being the main source that fed hardliners in Saudi Arabia and led, consequently, to the beginning of the religious extremism; what is your opinion?


Hassan Al Banna was not a jihadist or a hardliner; what he was seeking was how he becomes a real Muslim through speech and deed; Al Banna never called for any revolutions and he didn’t order assassinating Gamal Abd An-Nasir according to rumours; the West what linked between Sayed Qotb’s books and the ideology of jihad and this isn’t true; Al Sayed Qotb adopted a philosophical research between evil and good in the world; his book ” in the shadows of the Qur’an” is considered one of the first books that didn’t only quote what was previous books of interpretation said abut the Quran, but he tried in it to explain the Quran in an understood method which is in harmony with the contemporary world.


* Concerning accusing the Islamic groups of politicizing religion- whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the Wahhabi call- do you think that this is actually present?


I think that what is important according to the Muslim Brotherhood group is not only the view of  not restricting religion to personal life, and even most importantly the political life, what is important how to do this: through using force and toppling government? or through participating in the elections through which the citizen can judge on it through what it achieves on political, economic and security levels in addition to what is achieved in the educational and health levels?this is the question.


* Do you support those saying sheikh Abd Al-Wahab linked between religion and politics?

No, sheikh Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahab did not have any political motives; his efforts were confined to the religious call.