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The Wahhabi Sack of Karbala

Discussion in 'Middle East & Africa' started by AmirPatriot, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. AmirPatriot

    AmirPatriot SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Wahhabi Sack of Karbala (1802 A.D.)

    Among the most atrocious acts committed in modern Islamic history has been the sack of Karbala in 1802. Unfortunately, this remains a little known fact to most Muslims. However, at a time when the cultural and religious heritage of the Muslim world is once against under severe threat, when shrines and mosques are bulldozed by the self-styled holy warriors and caliphs of our time, it remains more essential than ever to familiarize ourselves with these historical events. It is crucial to note that the Wahhabis—not unlike modern-day militants—were inspired by a mix of religious zeal and a desire for wealth. By 1802, the Wahhabi-Saudi state had seized control of the vast majority of the Arabian peninsula and even managed to raid into southern Iraq, then under Ottoman control. One of the worst massacres was committed at Karbala in April 1802, right before the beginning of the holy month of Muharram, during the pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam al-Husayn b. Ali (d. 680). The following are two accounts, one by an eyewitness, a non-Muslim Frenchmen, and the other by a Wahhabi propagandist writing in Arabia during the eighteenth century.

    According to an eye-witnesses account, J.B. Rousseau in his Description du Pachalik du Baghdad Suivie d’une Notice Historique sur les Wahabis (Paris, 1809), the events that transpired were as follows:

    “We have recently seen a horrible example of the Wahhabis’ cruel fanaticism in the terrible fate of the mosque of Imam Husayn. Incredible wealth was known to have accumulated in that town. The Persian shahs have, perhaps, never had something like that in their treasury. For centuries, the mosque of Imam Husayn was known to have received donations of silver, gold, jewels, a great amount of rarities…Tamerlane even spared that place. Everybody knew that the most part of the rich spoils that Nadir Shah had brought back from his Indian campaign had been transferred to the mosques of Imam Husayn and Imam Ali together with his own wealth. Now, the enormous wealth that has accumulated in the former has been exciting the Wahhabis’ avidity for some time. They have been continuously dreaming of looting that town [Karbala] and were so sure of success that their creditors fixed the debt payment to the happy day when their hopes would come true.

    That day came at last…12,000 Wahhabis suddenly attacked the mosque of Imam Husayn; after seizing more spoils than they had ever seized after their greatest victories, they put everything to fire and sword…The elderly, women, and children—everybody died by the barbarians’ sword. Besides, it is said that whenever they saw a pregnant woman, they disemboweled her and left the fetus on the mother’s bleeding corpse. Their cruelty could not be satisfied, they did not cease their murders and blood flowed like water. As a result of the bloody catastrophe, more than 4000 people perished. The Wahhabis carried off their plunder on the backs of 4000 camels. After the plunder and murders they destroyed the Imam’s shrine and converted it into a trench of abomination and blood. They inflicted the greatest damage on the minarets and the domes, believing those structures were made of gold bricks.” [Rosseau, Description, pp. 74–75]

    Another contemporary source, Uthman b. Abd Allah b. Bishr (d. 1872) in his Unwan al-Majd fi Tarikh Najd (Mecca, 1930), written from the Wahhabi perspective, gives a similar account:

    “In the year 1802, Ibn Sa’ud made for Karbala with his victorious army, famous pedigree horses, all the settled people and Bedouin of Najd, the people of Janub, Hijaz, Tihama and others…The Muslims [i.e. the Wahhabis] surrounded Karbala and took it by storm. They killed most of the people in the houses and the markets. They destroyed the dome above al-Husayn’s grave. They took away everything they saw in the shrine and near it, including the coverlet decorated with emeralds, sapphires and pearls which covered the grave. They took away everything they found in the town—possessions, arms, clothes, fabric, gold, silver, and precious books. One cannot even enumerate the spoils! They stayed there for just one morning and left after midday, taking away all the possessions. Nearly 2000 people were killed in Karbala.” (Ibn Bishr, Unwan al-Majd, Vol. 1, pp. 121–122)

    Many of these details are corroborated by other contemporary sources, both Muslim and non-Muslim, which also emphasize how thousands of Muslims were slaughtered by the Wahhabis in Karbala. Most significantly, the sack of Karbala demonstrates the way in which the two motives of the Wahhabis—accumulation of wealth and destroying shrines—went hand in hand. The process of Wahhabi conquest elsewhere, notably in Ta’if and the Hijaz, had followed a similar pattern to Karbala. Although the Wahhabis were defeated shortly thereafter (around 1818) by the Ottomans and Muhammad Ali Pasha’s dynasty in Egypt, they experienced a resurgence later in the century.

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    https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/the-wahhabi-sack-of-karbala-1802-a-d/
     
  2. Saif al-Arab

    Saif al-Arab BANNED

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    There is no independent verification of such an event ever taking place. Those supposed untold spoils have never been seen either which confirms the lack of validation. Where did all those tons of diamonds, gold, precious stones etc. disappear? Would it not be a normal thing for the conqueror to display such spoils of war (common during that era) just like it is mentioned in the article that this Nadir Shah did after conquering India and stealing precious stones, diamonds and gold?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nader_Shah's_invasion_of_the_Mughal_Empire

    Besides this was part of the conflicts between Arab tribes of Najd and the Arab tribes of neighboring Southern Iraq. Raids and attacks occurred on both sides. In fact most of the waring tribes were fighting amongst each other. However not a single massacre has been recorded in history during those battles and they rarely took place in cities.

    This however is beyond any doubt:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safavid_conversion_of_Iran_to_Shia_Islam

    1000 times worse in scale than 1 supposed attack that lasted less than 1 day. A supposed attack that was only described by 2 sources. One of the two sources was written 130 years (!) after this supposed attack occurred and another 7 years after the attack! No contemporary sources describing such a thing ever occurring. Not even the powers of the time ever described such an attack.

    Strangely Najaf (which is located more towards the South) next door was left alone. It does not make any sense.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2017
  3. AmirPatriot

    AmirPatriot SENIOR MEMBER

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    https://attwiw.com/2017/04/21/today...ry-the-wahhabi-sack-of-karbala-probably-1802/

    Wahhabism has always taken a dim view of Shiʿism–really, denigrating the Shiʿa is at the core of the movement’s origins. Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792) based his teachings in large part on those of the very influential 13th-14th century Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyah, and apart maybe from philosophers Shiʿa were pretty much Ibn Taymiyah’s least favorite people in the world. One of the things Ibn Taymiyah condemned was the practice, common among but certainly not limited to Shiʿa, of visiting the shrine of a respected religious figure (a “saint,” for lack of a better term) to venerate that figure and ask the him or her to intercede on one’s behalf with God. Ibn Taymiyah saw such practices as unequivocally shirk (placing someone or something on the same level with God, i.e. polytheism), and his condemnations are the intellectual justification for Salafis in modern times who, for example, destroy shrines of prominent Sufi figures (though, I should note, Ibn Taymiyah was himself a Sufi).

    Ibn Taymiyah also really hated the Shiʿa pilgrimage to Karbala to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn b. Ali, who was killed there in the Battle of Karbala in 680. He didn’t disagree that Husayn was a martyr, but he argued that martyrdom was a blessing, not something to be mourned. And anyway, as I say, he rejected the act of making pilgrimage to someone’s tomb and paying homage there as shirk, which is really the most heinous crime one can commit under Islamic religious law.

    Ideologically, Wahhabism takes the embrace of God’s oneness and avoidance of shirk as its main point of emphasis, so it’s no wonder that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab embraced what Ibn Taymiyah had to say about the treatment of saints and their shrines. He went further though, arguing that Shiʿa were guilty of elevating their imams over Muhammad and even of placing them on the same level with God. And under the so-called “First Saudi State,” which lasted from 1744 to 1818 and grew to control most of the Arabian peninsula during its brief lifespan, these tenets of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s teaching were made state policy.

    All of this is to explain why, on April 21 in either 1801 or 1802, but more likely 1802, a Saudi army of about 12,000 men marched north to Karbala, destroyed the Imam Husayn Shrine (seen above in its modern form), and massacred between two and five thousand people in the process. Or, well, it explains their theoretical justification for carrying out that act. If you ask me, the reason for the raid on Karbala was much less about the One True Islam than it was about all the sweet treasure they were able to plunder. The timing for an operation like this was just about perfect–with Napoleon and Britain mucking around in Egypt, the Ottomans had bigger problems to worry about than whatever the Saudis were up to, and so they diverted attention and resources away from Iraq, from where they’d been staging anti-Saudi military operations for much of the 18th century. And the target, Karbala, was not only ideologically justifiable, but it was full of the accumulated wealth of centuries of pilgrimages and donatives from various Islamic monarchs.

    I know orientalists are rightly shunned in polite society these days, but the fact is that we know a fair amount about the sack of Karbala because there were contemporary French orientalists who wrote about it. In particular, Jean-Baptiste Rousseau was actually in Iraq at this time. He reported that the Saudi army (mob, if you prefer)–led by the then-Saudi crown prince, Saud b. Abdul-Aziz b. Muhammad b. Saud (d. 1814)–advanced on the town, chased off the Ottoman garrison (it may be that Sunni soldiers and officials saw no reason to risk getting themselves killed defending a Shiʿa holy site), and slaughtered anyone it could find–women, children, it made no difference, between four and five thousand people were killed. He further said that they carried off thousands (4000 to be specific) of camel-load’s worth of treasure. Other sources put the death toll closer to 2000 but don’t dispute the main details.

    The sack of Karbala actually worked to the Ottomans’ benefit in a couple of ways. First, it gave them an excuse to get rid of their autonomous Mamluk governor of Iraq, Sulayman Pasha, something they’d been looking to do for a little while. Second, it led to the Saudis overreaching. The successful raid got Saud b. Abdul-Aziz feeling pretty good about himself, you see, and when he succeeded his father in 1803 he got the big idea to conquer Mecca and Medina. That proved to be a bridge too far, though, because the Saudi conquest of the holy cities forced the Ottomans to take action–or, rather, to ask their new Egyptian viceroy, Muhammad Ali Pasha, to take action on their behalf. What followed was the 1811-1818 Ottoman-Wahhabi War, and the reason why we refer to a “First Saudi State” and not simply “The Saudi State” is because at the end of that war there wasn’t a Saudi state anymore. The Saudi state we all know and love today wouldn’t come into being until after World War I.
     
  4. AmirPatriot

    AmirPatriot SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Saud Family and Wahhabi Islam, 1500-1818
    The Al Saud originated in Ad Diriyah, in the center of Najd, close to the modern capital of Riyadh. Around 1500 ancestors of Saud ibn Muhammad took over some date groves, one of the few forms of agriculture the region could support, and settled there. Over time the area developed into a small town, and the clan that would become the Al Saud came to be recognized as its leaders.

    The rise of Al Saud is closely linked with Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (died 1792), a Muslim scholar whose ideas form the basis of the Wahhabi movement. He grew up in Uyaynah, an oasis in southern Najd, where he studied with his grandfather Hanbali Islamic law, one of the strictest Muslim legal schools. While still a young man, he left Uyaynah to study with other teachers, the usual way to pursue higher education in the Islamic world. He studied in Medina and then went to Iraq and to Iran.

    To understand the significance of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab's ideas, they must be considered in the context of Islamic practice. There was a difference between the established rituals clearly defined in religious texts that all Muslims perform and popular Islam. The latter refers to local practice that is not universal.

    The Shia practice of visiting shrines is an example of a popular practice. The Shia continued to revere the Imams even after their death and so visited their graves to ask favors of the Imams buried there. Over time, Shia scholars rationalized the practice and it became established.

    Some of the Arabian tribes came to attribute the same sort of power that the Shia recognized in the tomb of an Imam to natural objects such as trees and rocks. Such beliefs were particularly disturbing to Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab. In the late 1730s he returned to the Najdi town of Huraymila and began to write and preach against both Shia and local popular practices. He focused on the Muslim principle that there is only one God, and that God does not share his power with anyone--not Imams, and certainly not trees or rocks. From this unitarian principle, his students began to refer to themselves as muwahhidun (unitarians). Their detractors referred to them as "Wahhabis"--or "followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab," which had a pejorative connotation.

    The idea of a unitary god was not new. Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, however, attached political importance to it. He directed his attack against the Shia. He also sought out local leaders, trying to convince them that this was an Islamic issue. He expanded his message to include strict adherence to the principles of Islamic law. He referred to himself as a "reformer" and looked for a political figure who might give his ideas a wider audience.

    Lacking political support in Huraymila, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab returned to Uyaynah where he won over some local leaders. Uyaynah, however, was close to Al Hufuf, one of the Twelver Shia centers in eastern Arabia, and its leaders were understandably alarmed at the anti-Shia tone of the Wahhabi message. Partly as a result of their influence, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab was obliged to leave Uyaynah, and headed for Ad Diriyah. He had earlier made contact with Muhammad ibn Saud, the leader in Ad Diriyah at the time, and two of Muhammad's brothers had accompanied him when he destroyed tomb shrines around Uyaynah.

    Accordingly, when Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab arrived in Ad Diriyah, the Al Saud was ready to support him. In 1744 Muhammad ibn Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab swore a traditional Muslim oath in which they promised to work together to establish a state run according to Islamic principles. Until that time the Al Saud had been accepted as conventional tribal leaders whose rule was based on longstanding but vaguely defined authority.

    Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab offered the Al Saud a clearly defined religious mission to which to contribute their leadership and upon which they might base their political authority. This sense of religious purpose remained evident in the political ideology of Saudi Arabia in the 1990s.

    Muhammad ibn Saud began by leading armies into Najdi towns and villages to eradicate various popular and Shia practices. The movement helped to rally the towns and tribes of Najd to the Al Saud-Wahhabi standard. By 1765 Muhammad ibn Saud's forces had established Wahhabism--and with it the Al Saud political authority--over most of Najd.

    After Muhammad ibn Saud died in 1765, his son, Abd al Aziz, continued the Wahhabi advance. In 1801 the Al Saud-Wahhabi armies attacked and sacked Karbala, the Shia shrine in eastern Iraq that commemorates the death of Husayn. In 1803 they moved to take control of Sunni towns in the Hijaz. Although the Wahhabis spared Mecca and Medina the destruction they visited upon Karbala, they destroyed monuments and grave markers that were being used for prayer to Muslim saints and for votive rituals, which the Wahhabis consider acts of polytheism (see Wahhabi Theology , ch. 2). In destroying the objects that were the focus of these rituals, the Wahhabis sought to imitate Muhammad's destruction of pagan idols when he reentered Mecca in 628.

    If the Al Saud had remained in Najd, the world would have paid them scant attention. But capturing the Hijaz brought the Al Saud empire into conflict with the rest of the Islamic world. The popular and Shia practices to which the Wahhabis objected were important to other Muslims, the majority of whom were alarmed that shrines were destroyed and access to the holy cities restricted.

    Moreover, rule over the Hijaz was an important symbol. The Ottoman Turks, the most important political force in the Islamic world at the time, refused to concede rule over the Hijaz to local leaders. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Ottomans were not in a position to recover the Hijaz, because the empire had been in decline for more than two centuries, and its forces were weak and overextended. Accordingly, the Ottomans delegated the recapture of the Hijaz to their most ambitious client, Muhammad Ali, the semi-independent commander of their garrison in Egypt. Muhammad Ali, in turn, handed the job to his son Tursun, who led a force to the Hijaz in 1816; Muhammad Ali later joined his son to command the force in person.

    Meanwhile, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab had died in 1792, and Abd al Aziz died shortly before the capture of Mecca. The movement had continued, however, to recognize the leadership of the Al Saud and so followed Abd al Aziz's son, Saud, until 1814; after Saud died in 1814, his son, Abd Allah, ruled. Accordingly, it was Abd Allah ibn Saud ibn Abd al Aziz who faced the invading Egyptian army.

    Tursun's forces took Mecca and Medina almost immediately. Abd Allah chose this time to retreat to the family's strongholds in Najd. Muhammad Ali decided to pursue him there, sending out another army under the command of his other son, Ibrahim. The Wahhabis made their stand at the traditional Al Saud capital of Ad Diriyah, where they managed to hold out for two years against superior Egyptian forces and weaponry. In the end, however, the Wahhabis proved no match for a modern army, and Ad Diriyah--and Abd Allah with it--fell in 1818.

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/loc/sa/saud_wahhabi.htm