The Izala effect: unintended consequences of Salafi radicalism in Indonesia and Nigeria

Abstract

Salafism is a revivalist current in Sunni Islam rooted in the teachings of the fourteenth century Hanbalite jurist Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah and the eighteenth century Arabian reformer Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab. Salafis condemn Sufism (Islamic Mysticism) and most forms of popular Muslim piety, including music, as shirk (polytheism) and unbelief. The Wahhabi variant of Salafism is the only form of Islam permissible in Saudi Arabia and the ideology underlying ISIS and other violent extremist movements. This essay shows that despite the expenditure of vast sums by the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments and NGOs efforts to promote Salafi teachings and armed struggles by ISIS and others to impose them, Salafism has a very limited popular appeal. It is based on textual, ethnographic and survey data from two of the most populous Muslim countries, Indonesia and Nigeria. It also shows that efforts to promote Salafism have led to a resurgence of traditional Sufi oriented piety, especially devotional music traditions.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hodgson (1974), refers to Islamicate civilizations as literary, performance and architectural traditions informed by Islam, but that are not explicitly religious. We use the term more broadly to include religious activities that are deeply embedded in local and regional cultures.

  2. 2.

    Woodward et al. (2013), we would like to thank Rohani Mohamed for organizing and facilitating these discussions.

  3. 3.

    See: Ousmane (2003); Amara (2011); Thurston (2016); Umar (1999a, b).

  4. 4.

    The Indonesian Muhammadiyah and Persatuan Islam organizations are examples. They do not, for example require people to adopt Arabic dress or custom and were strong supporters of Indonesian nationalism. On domesticated Salafism see: Woodward et al. (2010). On the history of Islam in Southeast Asia see: On Persatuan Islam see: Federspiel (2001). On Muhammadiyah see: Nakamura (2012a, b), Muhammadiyah is deeply factionalized. A faction associated with former General Chairman Dr. H. Ahmad Syafii Maarif (born 1935) rejects all forms of violence and embraces pluralism. Another, associated with Dr. Amein Rais (born 1944) who was also the organization’s General Chairman also rejects violence but is ambivalent about pluralism. Both hold Ph.Ds. from the University of Chicago. Neither can be considered to be Islamist. Over the past two decades there has been slippage towards extreme Salafi perspectives. This led to the establishment of Saudi oriented movements including Wahdah Islamiyah. Muhammadiyah students dismayed by the organization’s cooperation with the Indonesian government founded it in 1988. Its current leader, Dr. Ustadh Zaitun, is a graduate of the Islamic University in Medina.

  5. 5.

    On the origins and history of JI see: Barton (2005).

  6. 6.

    For example, see: Ibn Khaldun (n.d.); Muhammad (1979); al-Salafiyyah (1988).

  7. 7.

    For example, see: Meijer (2009); Haykel et al. (2015). See also: Griffel (2015); Lauzière (2016); Griffel (2016).

  8. 8.

    Wiktorowicz (2015) is an exception. His discussion of tawhid is more nuanced than most. But while he refers to Ibn Tamiyyah’s tripartite formulation of tawhid he does not consider the ways in which it informs other elements of Salafi religious and social thought. See also: Ryan (2000).

  9. 9.

    Woodward, Mark. (2016). Field interview.

  10. 10.

    See Schimmel (1975); Chittick (1989).

  11. 11.

    See Rapoport 2010

  12. 12.

    Woodward, Interview, 2014.

  13. 13.

    For an overview of contemporary Saudi Arabian interpretations of tawhid see Phillips (Phillips 2005a, b). For academic discussions of these teachings see: Commins (Commins 2009a, b, c); Voll (1975a, b).

  14. 14.

    Woodward, Interview, 2014

  15. 15.

    For an overview of contemporary Salafi interpretations of tawhid see Phillips (2005a, b). For academic discussions of these teachings see: Commins (2009a, b, c); Voll (1975a, b).

  16. 16.

    The fatwa is titled “Hukm al-Aghani wa alat al-lahw” The ruling on songs and musical instruments, available at http://www.binbaz.org.sa/noor/9321. Accessed 4 Sept 2017.

  17. 17.

    Contemporary Salafis have revived old debates about dress and language once considered to be settled. Abu Hanifa (699–767), the founder of the oldest school of Sunni jurisprudence issued a fatwa stating that it is acceptable to use the Persian word Khuda interchangeably with the Arabic Allah because their meanings are the same. Many South Asian Salafis do not accept this opinion and assert that the popular expression “Khuda Hafiz” (God protect you) should be replaced with “Allah Hafiz,” some going so far as to say that to use the former is sinful. Contemporary South Asian Salafis follow in the footsteps of Shah Wali Allah (1703–1762) who urged South Asian Muslims to adopt Arab customs. Similarly, in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore it is increasingly common to use the Arabic iftar instead of the Malay/Indonesian buka puasa. For the meal breaking the fast during Ramadan. In the late 1970s when Woodward was first in Southeast Asia, the use of iftar was extremely uncommon. Now it is pervasive.

  18. 18.

    For further discussion of these issues in Indonesia see: Woodward (2017).

  19. 19.

    On Muhammadiyah see: Nakamura (2012a, b).

  20. 20.

    Jacobson et al. (2012). The Indonesian Muhammadiyah movement is an exception. However, unlike many “second wave” Salafi movements that emerged in the 1980s it has been thoroughly domesticated and has never called for the wholesale abandonment of local Indonesian cultures. Even so a survey conducted by the generally reliable Lembaga Survey Indonesia in 2010 reported that only 7% of Indonesians are member of or sympathize with Muhammadiyah, compared with 40% who are members of or sympathize with the Sufi oriented Nahdlatul Ulama. http://sangpencerah.com/2016/02/muhammadiyah-ormas-islam-yang-mampu-bertahan-lebih-100-tahun.html, http://www.nu.or.id/post/read/52495/hasil-survei-588-muslim-kota-mengaku-nu, There are no comparable statistics for Izala in Nigeria.

  21. 21.

    Al-Shaykh Sharif Ibrahim Saleh al-Takfir akhtar bid’a tuhaddid al-salam wa-l-wahda bayn al-muslimin fi Nayjiriya (Excommunication is the Most Dangerous Innovation Threatening Peace and Unity among Muslims in Nigeria, 1981), and al-Mughir ala shubuhat ahl al-ahwa’ wa-akadhib al-munkir ala al-kitab al-takfir (The Assailant on the Doubts of the People Who Follow Their Own Whims and on the Lies of the One Who Rejects the Book al-Takfir, 1986).

  22. 22.

    See Umar (1999a, b).

  23. 23.

    “Habib luthfi: jangan main main dengan Indonesia, negara ini di doakan para wali Allah” warta Islam. (2016, Feb. 21). Retrieved from http://www.wartaislami.com/2016/02/habib-luthfi-jangan-main-main-dengan.html

  24. 24.

    The compositions are available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KG9p9byut8, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY67d-vPtxY. Accessed 25 July 2017.

  25. 25.

    Fatwa Ulama Aceh: Ajaran Salafi Itu Sesat dan Menyesatkan

    https://cintasunah.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/fatwa-ulama-aceh-ajaran-salafi-itu-sesat-dan-menyesatkan/comment-page-1/https://fitrahislami.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/%E2%80%8Bmalaysia-fatwa-mengenai-faham-wahabi/Malaysia: Fatwa MengenaiFaham “Wahabi”

  26. 26.

    https://ahlulbaitnabisaw.blogspot.com/2015/03/pertikaian-nu-versus-wahabi-salafi.html

  27. 27.

    The Kharijitesare an early Islamic sect that taught that sinners are not Muslims. They were known for the most extreme form of tafirirhetorics. Wahhabis have often been condemned as Kharwajites, which, of course, they strongly deny. Higgins (2004).

  28. 28.

    Alhaji Muhammad Ahmad, Gwagwarmaya Tsakanin Kaskiya da Karya akan Mallakar Masallacin Juma’a na Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam Sabuwar Gandu, Kano, (Ahmad 2010).

  29. 29.

    See the short video-recording of the funeral at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyhsA37l6vs&t=42s. Accessed 6 Sept Sept 2017

  30. 30.

    There is no biographical study of Umar Abdul-Aziz, but popular accounts are available in media outlets and the Internet. For example, see: Liman (n.d.); and Tarihin Fadar Bege daga Bakin Shehensa. Facebook. Retrieved from https://m.facebook.com/GarkuwarSufanciDaSufaye/posts/184252328431163.

  31. 31.

    Available on YouTube under the titled Labbaika 6 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ascycyoIGEE. Accessed 6 Sept 2017.

  32. 32.

    Audio-recording available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvL9nd_Uhuw. Accessed 6 Sept 2017.

  33. 33.

    This track is also called Kirari, and is available on YouTube under the title Baharun nada, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_WgKlS9Vvc. Accessed 6 Sept 2017.

  34. 34.

    For analysis of the discourses of inkari, see: Hisket, “The Community of grace,” and Seesemann (2011).

  35. 35.

    For example, see: O’Brien et al. (1988); Meri (1999); Goerling (2010).

  36. 36.

    Gibb (1999); Safi (2000).

  37. 37.

    Video-recording of the song is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgpm3aJQ3Ec, Accessed 6 Sept 2017.

  38. 38.

    Ho (2006).

  39. 39.

    A Habib Syech performance: https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-iry-fullyhosted_011&hsimp=yhs-fullyhosted_011&hspart=iry&p=habib+syech+video#id=1&vid=01c14843bfcccacc9174051c8488b7fd&action=click. Accessed 16 Sept 2017.

  40. 40.

    It is important to note that he does not enter into the complex discourse concerning the distinction between reprehensible and commendable innovation common among NU scholars.

  41. 41.

    https://www.facebook.com/Syechermania-151768015338072/https://twitter.com/syekhermania_cs

  42. 42.

    Habib Syech’s rendition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwqUGWvmHIY Note the crowd of “Syechermaniancs.”

  43. 43.

    Habib Syech’s rendition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnSzmA_Hp1A; Abdurrahman Wahid’s: https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-iry-fullyhosted_011&hsimp=yhs-fullyhosted_011&hspart=iry&p=Syi’ir+Tanpo+Waton+gus+dur#id=51&vid=1825bb9bf58a17f31777282dfc5bf957&action=clickThis version includes photos from his funeral and is overtly hagiographic. There are even dandut versions. This musical genere is better known for irreverent sexually oriented lyrics and dancing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSH29_-MII0. All Accessed 16 Sept 2017.

  44. 44.

    This is a reference to the Salafi-Wahhabi practice of denouncing other Muslims as kafir.

  45. 45.

    Indonesian Muslims often state that Saudi Arabian Wahhabis are obsessed with wealth and other objects of worldly desire.

  46. 46.

    Thariqa (the way), Marifa (knowledge) and Haqiqa (truth) are three stages in this formulation of the Sufi mystical path.

  47. 47.

    The claim that they are the sole guardians of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad is basic element of Wahhabism.

  48. 48.

    Aga Kahn Trust for Culture http://www.akdn.org/our-agencies/aga-khan-trust-culture. Accessed 16 Sept 2017.

  49. 49.

    Insha Allah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfXIF2Mm2Kc. Accessed 16 Sept 2017.

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Umar, M.S., Woodward, M. The Izala effect: unintended consequences of Salafi radicalism in Indonesia and Nigeria. Cont Islam 14, 49–73 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-019-00441-y

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Keywords

  • Salafism
  • Wahhabism
  • Sufism
  • Muslim Devotionalism
  • Indonesia
  • Nigeria
  • Violent extremism
  • Domesticated Salafism