In This Review

Wahhabism: A Critical Essay
Wahhabism: A Critical Essay
By Hamid Algar
96 pp, Islamic Publications International, 2002

A seasoned scholar who knows his Islamic theology and modern Middle Eastern history, the author depicts the founder of the Muslim movement called Wahhabism, Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, as an intellectual lightweight. With their iconoclasm and condemnation as infidels of Muslims who do not accept their radical Wahhabi doctrines, Wahhabis lie outside the wide orbit of Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. And the history of Wahhabism's rise to political power in Saudi Arabia is bloody and brutal. Moreover, although the Saudi state has attempted at times to rein in excessive zealotry (for reasons of regional realpolitik) since the days of the legendary Ibn Saud, Wahhabi proselytism has continued, enhanced over the decades by Saudi wealth. All this feeds into such movements as the Taliban. Algar offers a caustic critique of Wahhabism, the Saudi state, and even the United Kingdom and the United States, which, he charges, have backed their Arabian Peninsula "client" over the years.