A censorious article written by a student of journalism (Greater Kashmir, April 25, 2017) sounds shocking to me in my 'isolation' caused by my research programme. Except certain unhappy developments in the Arab world since the beginning of the present century, the statements of the said trainee are disparagingly unwarranted. I regret that he has had no roots in the subject he has chosen for treatment for he lacks even the basic knowledge of Saudi Arabia's history. As a matter of fact, the untoward events during these years should not misguide someone as to pronounce a judgment on a State that has at its back more than two and a half centuries glorious role under various leaderships since its founding and refounding. The Kingdom's historic period between 1745 and 2000 was marked first by a genuine Reform Movement (wrongly termed Wahhabi) that resulted in marvelous achievements in socio –religious fields interrupted only by an unfortunate invasion by Egyptian forces in 1818. After ups and downs in the nineteenth century, the Imamate of SAUDS was refounded as a Sultanate by Abdul Aziz Al Saud (1880–1953) under whom the politico —religious solidarity and economic prosperity became a permanent feature of the country after its unification with the Hijaz with the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah as the nerve —centres of the Islamic Ummah.
The discovery of Oil (in 1940's) and, its exploitation ushered in an Era of national reconstruction in the Kingdom along its impact on foreign Economies as well as on the welfare of the developing Muslim countries and needy non —Muslim peoples. From this point of view the decades of 1950 to 2000 were irrefutably record–breaking. It is baseless to accuse the Saudi Arabian Donors of advancing financial aid to poorer Muslim communities for converting them to the Wahhabism, —a term that was coined by the Anglo —Egyptian colonialists under various influences. The plans of human welfare inaugurated during the illustrious reigns of Kings Faisal, Khaled and Fahd (1964–2005), have had no sectarian objectives to serve. Theirs were the high ideals of promoting Islamic solidarity and human prosperity and the plans they implemented did not have any ulterior motives. The mosques built in Western countries and the defunct churches purchased for Muslim schools and centres for resident Muslim minorities, were meant for general Islamic use. In some Muslim countries assistance was accorded not only to the Hanbalite sections but also to other followers of Muslim Schools of Jurisprudence. Again, the greatest demonstration of Islamic solidarity was the pattern of Hajj Administration making the stay of millions of pilgrims and visitants in the Holy Land most comfortable and fruitful. One recurrent feature of the Kingdom's Hajj policy came to be the convening of Islam Conferences sponsored by ICO, the Rabitah, the IDB and the WAMY, each of them playing an enlightening reconstructive role in the conduct of Islamic affairs in various regions.
This should suffice the need of a novice in media –functioning at a time when all counter —agencies, whether from the West or East, Arab or non —Arab quarters, are busy working against a suffering world of Islam of which the constituents expect nothing but a healthy ideological development for the good of all concerned. Our tragedy is that all those nations that bagged benefits from the resourceful Muslims States, especially Saudi Arabia, have come to play a nasty role within and outside the territories of Islam. For anything untoward taking place in any Muslim region, the foreign centres of intrigue must own the first responsibility. No less are the current Euro–American policies accountable for disturbing the tranquil conditions of the Muslim countries.
The Saudi Arabian past (mid –eighteenth century to the close of the twentieth) is enriching in religious and politico – economic domains so that a host of distinguished observers from the West and East have placed on record tributes worth – appreciating. However, before citing any of them let me reproduce my own concluding part of the Paper that was serialized by the esteemed Saudi Gazette during the days of the Kingdom's Centenary Conference on the commencement of the present century. I wrote:
(During the period, 1745 to 1803), "a civilized system of social life based on Islamic rules and values replaced the old tribal pattern. The tribal cesses were abolished and the Islamic levies introduced instead. Peace and security and the days of prosperity ushered in by posting the Umana in citadels and by appointing Qadhis who enforced the Shari'ah in the true sense of the word. Education was popularized and Dir'iyyah (the capital) became the centre of Islamic sciences. Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab himself supervised educational activities of the Imamate. It was seen for good that the Community lived by the Commands of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah….. Everyone understood the implications of the Theory of Al–Tawheed and felt eager to abide by it. The tribal raids and robberies were totally banned and unjust murders and sea-piracy became things of the past. Dir'iyyah turned out to be the beehive of scholarship and statesmanship. The essential result was an Islamic Awakening that vindicated Allamah Ibn Khaldun's truth underlying the statement that 'the Arab is roused by Religion alone."
Among eminent observers and thinkers, it was Allamah Muhammad Iqbal (r.a.) who cleared the confusion created by the traditional critics of Arabian Reformation when he categorically stated in his Reconstructon of Religious Thought in Islam:
"But the spirit of Imam Ibn Taimiyah's teachings found a fuller expression in the Movement of immense potentialities which arose in the eighteenth century, from the sands of Najd, described by McDonald as 'the cleanest spot in the decadent world of Islam.' It is really the first throb of life in modern Islam. To the inspiration of this Movement are traceable, directly or indirectly, nearly all the great modern movements of Muslim Asia and Africa. ….The great puritan Reformer, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, ….finally succeeded in spreading the fire of his restless soul throughout the whole world of Islam. ….The essential thing to note is the spirit of freedom manifested in it: though inwardly this Movement, too, is conservative in its own fashion. While it rises in revolt against the finality of Schools, and rigorously assents the right of private judgment, its vision of the past is wholly uncritical, and in matters of Law it mainly falls back on the tradition of the Prophet, on him be peace…" (pp. 152 – 53)
Himself, the founder of the Reform Movement, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, had throughout insisted on the Believers' right action and the right word in their dealings within and without the Society. He stood firm on Islamic Unity and towards that end he repeatedly enjoined: "In all your actions fear God and act wisely. If you do not do so, and say bitterly about an evil then there is the danger of a gulf (of difference) being interposed by saying (a bitter word) and it will harm the basic interests of Islam." Likewise, on the request of Sharif Ghaib of Makkah, the Sheikhul Islam deputed Sheikh Abdul Latif al –Hasin with a clear message for the scholars of the Holy City which he concluded in these words:
"……We, therefore, proclaim that we are not innovators. On the other hand, and thanks be to Allah, we follow Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (r.a.) in branches (furu') and regarding collective (common) issues, we do not permit rejection of the unanimous rulings (Ijma') of the Sunni Imams. Therefore we make Allah (Subhanahu), the angels and you (the Ulama) all our witnesses to the effect that we admit that we stand by the Faith of Allah and His Prophet, on him be peace, and act upon the interpretations (Al–Ijtihad) of the (sincere and pious) Ulama, and in particular, give preference to the interpretations of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, blessed be his soul.""
And, finally, the message of Sheikh Abdullah ibn Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab to the Ulama of Makkah Mukarramah in 1803 when it was invested by Imam Saud the Great (d. 1814). Rejecting all that was attributed to the leaders of Reform, he wrote with equanimity:
"And this, which is wrongly attributed to us to hide the reality, that we interpret the Quran as we like it and adopt the part of the Hadith which fits our understanding; and that in order to decrease the prestige of the Prophet, on him be peace, we utter phrases (objectionable),….. and that the Prophet, on him be peace, shall have no right to intercede, and that the visit to his Mausoleum is not preferable, and that, we believe in personification, and that we generally denounce other Muslims as heretics, – to all these baseless accusations, we may reply (in terms of the Quran): 'Thou Art Pure O God: It is a Big Lie!'"
Accordingly, let the Mediamen take to study the right history compiled by trustworthy writers and change their way of thinking so that they could contribute to the general good of Humanity as a whole. And, when the journalist student (under reference) completes his course he should first take an account of his own Community which deserves to be restored to its merits and qualities that it commanded earlier by virtue of its Faith and inherent reproductive capacity in the arts of peace. It looks futile to indulge in faultfinding of certain States whose conduct we cannot mould or mend particularly when we ourselves are deficient in improving our own lot. However, one can focus on the turbulence caused by alien agencies in regions inhabited by peoples disposed to peace, justice and security. Wama 'alaina illal balagh!