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The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia (Library of Modern Middle East Studies) Hardcover – 20 Dec 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris (20 Dec. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845110803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845110802
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.8 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 853,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description



About the Author

David Commins is Professor of History at Dickinson College. He was a visiting scholar at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. He is the author of Islamic Reform: Politics and Change in Late Ottoman Syria (1990) and Historical Dictionary of Syria (2004).

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The Wahhabi religious reform movement arose in Najd, the vast, thinly populated heart of Central Arabia. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Haifa on 5 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
If you luv books amazon is just the place for trusted used books
I've got it on time as described with out any problems , recommended it .
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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Best book on Wahhabism and Salafism in the Gulf 8 May 2007
By Joshua M. Landis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Of the recent spate of books on Wahhabism, this is by far and away the best. David Commins is better qualified to write on Saudi fundamentalism than just about any other scholar I know. He speaks and reads Arabic with a fluency very few non-natives can match, having lived in the Middle East off and on for many years over the last three decades. He spent over a year researching this in Saudi Arabia as a senior Fulbright Fellow. More importantly, Commins has written on Salafism and religion in the Middle his entire career. This is not a 9-11 inspiration. His earlier book on Salafism and religious reform in Syria is also a masterpiece and should be read in conjunction with this. Commins' knowledge of Islamic movements throughout the Middle East gives him a unique ability to place the Wahhabi movement in the broader context it requires. He compares it to the doctrines of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and makes judgements throughout that are insightful and wise. Invariably, he strikes the right balance in explaining what was new about Wahhabism and why it developed as it did.

At the time of the Hama massacre in Syria, Commins was living in Damascus. Even then, he was studying the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafism as one of the last students of Richard P. Mitchell, who wrote the classic work on Hassan al-Banna and the Egyptian Brotherhood, "The Society of the Muslim Brothers."

Syrian Authorities told Commins to shave the beard he was wearing 1982 so as not to be arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Ikhwan. Commins befriended Baathist and Muslim Brother alike in his effort to understand all sides of the contentious history and modern debate over Islamic puritanism. In his most recent book, he continues with the same even-handedness and ability to record the voices and opinions of all sides. Commins writes lucidly and compellingly. He does not try to obscure his own opinions, but never lets them get in the way of the sources themselves. This is a brilliant book and a pleasure to read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Authoritative 5 Feb. 2008
By Matthew Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an impressive work. The depth of the author's knowledge and understanding of his subject is readily apparent to the reader. Not only that but Mr. Commins has that rare ability to convey that knowledge to the lay reader in a way that is easily understandable and accessible. So many times I find that authors who have such an impressive grasp on a topic such as this they end up losing the ability to communicate that knowledge to anyone who is not on their level of understanding. This book did not come off like that at all, and I have greatly enhanced my own knowledge by reading Mr. Commins' book.

Islam in general is much misunderstood by us here in the West, but Wahhabism seems to be completely shrouded in mystery for all but the scholars or experts on this isolated sect of Islam. It seems as though we are either completely ignorant of Wahhabism or we seem to be terrified of it. This book really helps to give the reader a better perspective of just what Wahhabism is and what its adherents believe. Understanding is an important tool that many in the West lack and this book is important to rectify our inherent lack of understanding of Islam and the people of Saudi Arabia. This book helped to dispel some of the myths and outright distortions I held in regards to Wahhabi doctrine and belief.

The author goes into great detail discussing the difficulties between such a conservative religious doctrine and the State that endorses it. Both the religion and the state have an uneasy marriage since the state derives much of its legitimacy form religion but yet the state strives for modernity while the religion clings to its conservative past. The religious leaders walk a delicate path between doing what their religion requires of them and sanctioning state actions. The religious leaders need the state's backing to retain power and dominance but yet their acquiescence to state demands hurts their own legitimacy with their religious followers.

The state also walks a fine line between endorsing the Wahhabis and the need to limit certain radical elements within their society. The main problem is the Wahhabis who have become disillusioned with their religious leaders and their seemingly subservient role to the state. These disillusioned masses have begun to incorporate other philosophies and schools of thought with their own brand of conservative Wahhabi belief, and this mixture has proved volatile for not just Saudi Arabia but the world as a whole. Groups like al Qaeda are the spawns of this new mixture.

This book is obviously the definitive and authoritative account of the history of Wahhabism up to the present, but I did have one problem with the book. Commins' seems to play down the role of Wahhabi thought and its dominance within Saudi Arabia for the creation of men like Osama bin Laden. Commins seems to place more of the blame on the influence of the Islamic Brotherhood and men like Qutb, but it seems to me that the dominance of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia creates fertile breeding ground for these radicals. The fact that all outside influences are suppressed and conservative Wahhabi doctrines are forced on the whole population means that much of the population has no defense against radical ideas. They were not brought up to question ideas but instead were taught to block independent thought. The educational system and the religious systems seem to me to be, if not directly, then at least indirectly to blame for the current radicalization of certain elements within Saudi society.

These are just thoughts I came to conclude. This book is very good and is work that needs to be read and reread. The author has done an amazing job. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Of course my second criticism would be the price tag. I think this is going to limit the books readership and that's a shame. I hope the publishers will produce a soft cover that will be a lot less expensive. If you can afford to splurge on a book though, I recommend it be this one.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Presentation of Wahhabism 1 Mar. 2008
By Joseph F. Birchmeier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book. The author does an outstanding job of providing the history of Wahhabism and its rise within Saudi Arabia. He also does a good job of explaining the dependency of Wahhabism and the Saudi dynasty to each other -- as well as describing the benefits and problems that this link has produced over the years.

Of particular interest to me is the explanation of the links and differences between the Wahhabis and global terrorists such as al-Qaeda. Also the discussion of the current status of Wahhabism within Saudi Arabia and the fact that other Islamic ideas now permeate the kingdom (and how they did so) was very interesting and informative. A final discussion I found interesting - was the recent issues that Saudi Arabia has had with jihadists and the reasons they are now also involved in the War on Terror.

The only criticism of this book is that it is not the easiest book to read. Additionally, I found parts of the historical discussion repetitive and the repitition did not add to the information provided. Finally, I would have liked to have heard further discussion of the recent emergence of differing religious views and the impacts that it has had on the country, its people, and its relations to the outside world.
Extremely informative 12 Nov. 2012
By صادق - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
From the introduction through the conclusion, this book provides a surprisingly comprehensive, wide-ranging and in-depth analysis of what Wahhabism is, and how it has affected and been affected by ever-changing political, economic and religious factors since it's inception in the 18th century. This book gets straight to the point and stays with it throughout with only minimal dragging in a couple places. It was exciting to read a book that stays focused on the substance of its message and doesn't dance around with excessive examples or quotations-- unlike some much larger books. A thought-provoking and invaluable resource.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
An excellent foundation for Saudi/Salafi studies in the Western context 25 Feb. 2010
By C. Caras - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In brief: a history of the relationship between the Aali Shaykh family and the Al-Su'ood family. At the time George Washington was crossing the Delaware, another nation was being formed on the other side of the world. Muhammad ibn AbdulWahhab, a scholar of Islam from a family of scholars, was preaching pure Islamic monotheism in the Arabian peninsula. He met with a lot of scorn and rejection until he fell into the path of the Su'ood family. Muhammad ibn Su'ood was a tribal leader and the two united and agreed to support one another and spread the creed of Muhammad ibn AbdulWahhab (his descendants being known as "Aali Shaykh" or "Family of the Shaykh") while spreading the "kingdom" at the same time. Commins covers all three phases of the Saudi dynasty and covers the major political and economic and technological developments of Saudi Arabia, but all in the context of how it affected the relationship between the ruling family or government and the descendants of Muhammad ibn AbdulWahhab as well as their students and contemporary scholars.

From the real highlights of the book is the fact that Commins is aware that there is a large difference between the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon movement which started in Egypt, founded by Hasan al-Banna and the Salafis. As for the Ikhwan, their methodology is to gather all Muslims, regardless of creedal differences and fight for an Islamic society. And much of their literature parallel's the ideals of Marx and Engels. The Salafis on the other hand are willing to patiently endure a despotic government while striving for creedal unity amongst the populace with the idea that this will lead to a greater communal rectification.

The only criticism that I have of Commins' work, but not enough to take it down to 4 stars, are two things: Firstly, although this is something that very few orientalists know because it is only mentioned rarely amid the writings of the Islamic Imams, is that when any scholar says "whoever does/says such and such is a disbeliever" and statements of this caliber, those scholars do not cast that judgment upon any *specific* individuals without knowing that specific individual's reason for saying/doing what they have been accused of and explaining to them that it casts one outside the pale of Islam. Natana De long Bas got this point correct: that ibn AbdulWahhab verified that one who does or say apostasy does not immediately become an apostate until the evidence has been presented to them and they continue upon that act/statement/belief of apostasy. However, she erred with respect to ibn Taymiyyah in this matter. The second point was a lack of mention that many other scholars during the time of Muhammad ibn AbdulWahhab and before him since the time of Islam's birth agreed with him fully in his creed. It is important to mention this fact so that the reader does not have the impression that ibn AbdulWahhab's teachings were simply his own derivation. His grandson, Sulayman, has an extensive documentation of quotes from earlier Islamic scholars from all the four schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence which concur 100% with ibn AbdulWahhab's deductions--this is in Tayseer al-Azeez Al-Hameed (a commentary of his grandfather's work: Kitaab al-Tauheed). However, when sufism gained a strong grip and foothold in the Muslim world, the percentage of scholars who remained clinging to this orthodox view shrank and the percentage of those who were willing to speak up about it were even less. Not only that, but other contemporary scholars that may have been unaware of the specifics of ibn AbdulWahhab's teachings criticized him for what they heard about him as rumor--however, even those scholars, when commenting about invoking other than Allah, they also declared that whoever does so is not a Muslim.
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