THE WAHHABIS NEWCOMERS TO THE BALKANS

  • Oliver Potežica Serbia

Abstract

Tensions among Moslems and incidents at Serbian city of Novi Pazar force us to pose the question, once again, who are in fact the Wahhabis. Wahhabism is infl uential religious movement within Sunni denomination, which requests Moslems to return to the Islamic principles and practice, as typifi ed by Prophet Mohammad and Pious Predecessors (Salaf as Salih) of fi rst three Moslem generations. According to Wahhabis’ views, the original Islamic teachings should be purifi ed from any innovation, revision, deviations or polytheism, which gradually made the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad Sunna vague in previous centuries. The founder of Wahhabi movement, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703- 1792), claimed that Moslems from Arabia, the cradle of Islam, were obliged to confront foreign infl uences, primarily those one stemming from the Persian (Shia) and Turkish (Sufi ) deviations of true Islamic faith. Having in mind the essence of Sheikh al Wahhab teachings, Wahhabism had been specifi c liberation movement in fi rst years of 19th century when (Arab) rebellion against Ottoman power started. Saudi kings and Wahhabi preachers-warriors did not change anything related to theological and other aspects of original Islam. The changes have been political – through spreading of Wahhabi teachings and ideas descendants of Emir al Saud and Sheikh al Wahhab established their rule in Arabia. But, Saud family and their Wahhabi follower would have never been successful unless great powers of that time, primarily Great Britain, helped them. Wahhabism is the dominant and offi cial form of Islam in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Wahhabism is also global phenomenon today and one should expect its further gradual strengthening and eventual expansion. The very term Wahhabism is rarely in use today and it has been replaced by the term Salafi sm, coming from the notion of Salaf as Salih. Vague use of these terms caused some misunderstandings and incorrect interpretations. Present Wahhabism/Salafi sm is diff erent than other Islamist movement. For, Wahhabis reject both “Western ideologies” (such as capitalism, socialism etc.) and “Western categories” (such as nation, political party, democracy, human rights etc.). Instead, true Moslems are obliged to take part in dawaa (spreading of Islam) and jihad (struggle for Islam in broadest sense). As far as Balkans is concerned, Wahhabis are present in Albania (possible center of Wahhabism in southern Balkans), Bosnia and Hezegovina (there are many signs of Wahhabis presence and infl uence), Serbia (mainly in Kosovo and Metohija Province, as well as Rashka region, i.e. part of Sanjak within Serbia), Montenegro (more in the northern part than in the southern), Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia. Islamic centers, Islamic schools and Islamic humanitarian and relief organizations have been crucial for Wahhabis’ penetration to Balkans. The presence of Wahhabis in this part of the Europe is ever more obvious since three years ago. This article is consisted of four sections: a) Wahhabism as religious movement; b) Historical development of Wahhabism; c) Contemporary Wahhabism; and d) Wahhabism in the Balkans.

Keywords: Wahhabism, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, Saudi Arabia, Salafi sm, Islamism, religious confl ict
Published
2017-01-15
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