Assalamualaikum What is your opinion of the website Islamqa.info?
Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,
IslamQA.info represents a brand of Islam that’s not followed by the majority of Sunni Muslims in the world. It’s often called Wahhabism. It often has good answers when it comes to questions on the very basics of Islam, such as rulings on the prayer and fasting. But when it comes to issues such as dealing with non-Muslims or women’s status in Islam, then it often reflects the xenophobia and misogyny of Saudi culture.
I’m actually a big fan of the piety and kindness of many great “Wahhabi” scholars. I love Ibn Uthaymeen, al-Albani and Ibn Baz. But I also disagree with them on many things. I also love Ibn Taymiyya possibly more than I love any other scholar, when he is supposed to be the greatest inspiration behind Wahhabism. Ibn Taymiyya is far greater than many Wahhabis appreciate, and his thinking on many questions can be integrated into a mainstream and pluralistic Islam (for more on him see my article: Ibn Taymiyya and His Times). For example, while many Salafi-Wahhabis make a nuisance of themselves during the birthday celebrations for the Prophet , constantly talking about how it is a false innovation, Ibn Taymiyya actually says that those who celebrate the Prophet’s birthday , if they do it with sincerity and with good intentions, they can actually have a “great reward” from God.
The problem with Wahhabism is that it turns Islam into a tribalist ideology. It believes that Islam should be a replacement for our common humanity and for our cultures. And this leads to their extreme black-and-white thinking where non-Muslims are automatically treated like enemies and where Muslims who disagree with them are considered evil and misguided. Wahhabism is unable to appreciate the possibility that two equally pious and knowledgeable people can reach very different conclusions on the same question. They start by deciding if you agree with them before they decide whether you are a proper Muslim or an evil and misguided person. To them the only proper kind of human is a fellow Wahhabi. You have to be Wahhabized before they treat you with the kindness and empathy that I believe all of humanity deserves. To them it’s as if everyone is a non-human until they are humanized by Wahhabism. Note that this is exactly how radical Marxists, radical feminists, and many other followers of radical ideologies also think. You either agree with them and become a part of them, or you are treated as something less than human. It’s an extremely tribalist way of thinking where only those who belong to your “tribe” are considered real humans, and it is very interesting that the world’s greatest radicals have often been either Arabs coming from extremely tribalist areas, or Jews who are also extremely tribalist in their way of thinking (Marxism and radical feminism have both always been Jewish-led ideologies). In tribalist cultures, as that of the Bedouins (especially before Islam), non-tribe-members are considered non-human; they consider it perfectly right and justified for them to rob and kill strangers, because their whole way of thinking is based on the fact that to them the only real human society is that of the tribe, and all outsiders are subhuman objects that can be put to use just as animals are put to use. So they strongly believe in morality, loyalty and honor … as long as they are dealing with tribe members or allies. But, and this is a very important but, all of these concepts completely lose their relevance when they deal with strangers. It is an “us vs. them” mentality taken to the very extreme, to the point that “them” are not even considered human.
This can also help you understand how Israeli settlers treat Palestinians. Settler Jews are extremely moral, honorable, kind and loving as long as it comes to their tribe. It feels perfectly natural to them to rob and kill Palestinians because in their tribalist mentality, Palestinians are not even human. They are objects, parts of the landscape, they view them as exactly the same as the rest of the animals and plants of Palestine. The same also applies to most “Islamic” terrorist organizations, which almost always follow Wahhabism. The ideology teaches them that non-Wahhabis are not really human, that Islamic morality only applies when dealing with fellow Wahhabis, so nothing is evil as long as it is done to those outside the Wahhabi tribe.
Note that I’m not saying all “Wahhabi” scholars think that way. But the tribalist mentality is deeply integrated into Wahhabism. The founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud (1875 – 1953 CE), said he was not ashamed of the 1801 CE Wahhabi slaughter of 5000 innocent Shia men, women and children in Karbala that was committed by his ancestors, because in his tribalist way of thinking non-Wahhabis are not really human. In fact he wrote that he would happily do it all over again if he had the chance.
So Muslims reading IslamQA.info are going to be exposed to that kind of tribalist mentality. For this reason I do not recommend this site to anyone.
My approach is the complete opposite of Wahhabism. I start by finding out whether a person has a good heart, and I’m willing to forgive all their mistakes as long as I know it comes from a place of piety and humility. So I love scholars coming from various different traditions, including Wahhabi scholars who do not dehumanize other Muslims. As long as I know they have good hearts, our differences of opinion are of little importance. Even if they consider the type of Muslim I am to be misguided and evil, I’m still willing to see the good in them rather than treating them the way they treat me. For more on my version of Islam please see: Is Islam really pluralistic? An Islamic defense of pluralism