Wahhabism is a very orthodox sect of Islam. The focus is on being ultra conservative and remaining pure to the teachings of Quran. It does not allow practice of worshipping Saints and praying at their tombs. It also is against any worship of idols. Over a period of time, Wahhabism has emerged into a rigid , dogmatic, authoritarian and sometimes inhuman. The spread of Wahhabism can be traced to the petro-dollars emerging from the oil rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The followers of the Wahhabi Sect prefer to call their brand of Islam as “Pure Islam”. Many scholars consider Wahhabism as a fear- based ideology, where Taqlid or blind following is the established norm.
However followers of Wahhabism believe that Islam is a complete way of life. Hence there are prescriptions for practically everything in daily life. The sect demands complete and unquestioned adherence to religious duties as demanded by Islam. Be it 5 prayers every day or total abstinence from any intoxicating substances or liquids. This adherence is seen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where commercial establishments are closed during prayer time, segregation of sexes among the many social restrictions. However in recent times, Saudi Arabia has relaxed restrictions.
However Wahhabism has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Many of the terrorists are strict adherents of Wahhabism. They believe in outright suppression of free thought and critical thinkers. No questioning is allowed and they consider themselves to the sole representative of Pure Islam, while at the same time branding other sects as impure. Blind imposition of Sharia on everyone irrespective of their religion/ideologies, has led to violence and clashes.
The Wahhabi ideology is antagonistic to non-Muslims and to traditional practices including seeking intercession by means of the pious saints in Islam, accepted by traditional Sunni Islam for over 1400 years. By rejecting any form of hierarchy such as that followed by traditional Sunni schools, the Wahhabis rejected traditional rulings on a wide range of subjects, invalidated the four schools of thought and its accepted interpretations of law, as well as issued declarations of unbelief for those who disagreed.
While this new ideology prohibited many traditional Islamic forms of worship, its followers did not become overtly militant until recently. Now “Wahhabi” followers have taken up an increasingly confrontational standpoint attempting to impose their ideology in many regions around the world. The Wahhabi mentality asserts that Islam may be reformed by means of the sword. Thus the movement has manifested itself as armed insurrections throughout the world, especially where governments are weak and unable to resist aggression effectively.
Unfortunately, this narrow ideology has appeared and flourished in Islam, but not because of Islam. Previously, Islam was always presented in a peaceful, tolerant manner. The Prophet Muhammad (s) used to present his neighbors or friends that were not Muslim with gifts and flowers, never holding a sword against them, or ever instigating a struggle or a fight. There are many events in Muslim history where the Prophet made peace treaties with non-Muslims. Islam, despite its rapid spread in its first three centuries, never imposed its beliefs on anyone, as attested by the scrolls of history.
Under this modern ideological extremism, Islam’s essential principle of tolerance has been abolished. The Holy Qur’an mentions repeatedly that there is no compulsion in religion and that all people are free to practice any religion they like. Those of the Wahhabi ideology selectively apply verses of the Holy Qur’an to support their ideology, whose basis is to impose its beliefs upon everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.