Prescribed reading for those training for imperial service in 1871, was W W. Hunter's, The Indian Musulmans: Are They Bound in Conscience to Ache Against the Queen? In the early nineteenth century, Hunter describes there was a large rebel camp that attracted both Afghan and Indian fighters to a jihad initially against the Sikh power centred in the Punjab, and then against their British successors. Rather than being a traditional movement untouched by the West, this 19th century jihad was modern and indeed cosmopolitan in character, a fact to which Hunter's descriptions of its leader's rapturous reception in the British cities of Calcutta and Bombay attest. Similar are his descriptions of the vast and secret network of foreign supporters, financiers and recruits to this Afghan jihad. In short it bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1980’s Afghan war. Both cases witnessed the establishment of a charismatic foreign leader and his compatriots in Afghanistan.
It is remarkable how congruent are the terms of today's debate on the jihad with those of this nineteenth-century work, and a fitting illustration is also a Muslim review of Hunter's book written by Savyid Ahmad Khan. Having invoked the very legalistic conditions for jihad, he blames the incidence of holy war against the British on the latter's ignorance about and unequal treatment of Muslims:
The evils that now exist, however, owe their origin greatly to the want of union and sympathy between the rulers and ruled, and ideas like Dr. Hunter's only tend to widen the gap. I admit that owing to the difference in the mode of life, there is but a limited number of native gentlemen with whom European gentlemen can have cordial intercourse; but this number will, I trust, increase largely every year.
The nature of the society of the first Muslims, the forefathers or salaf, and the incredible expansion of the Islamic community throughout the Arabian peninsular and beyond towards the Maghreb and south and central Asia during the time of the Prophet and his immediate successors has been proof to devout Muslims ever since that following the instructions of Allah and the examples of the Prophet will ensure a just and peaceable society and the concomitant cultural, military and political superiority of the Islamic world. The texts and the example of the first generations of believers thus provide an ideal, a reference point, that can be compared, inevitably unfavorably, with any given extant government, situation or ruler. They offer a vision of an' authentic' and 'true' Islamic society, against which reality rarely stands much comparison. This is a political resource of enormous power. The core texts of the Qur'an and the hadith are thus 'closed', in that they are unchangeable, but also ,open', in that they are infinitely flexible, providing answers in principle to all questions of behavior at all times. The former quality means they have an autonomy that prevents manipulation by anyone hoping for short-term gain in a specific local or political context, the latter means they can be made appropriate for all people in all situations.' This again means that Islam is always politically engaged as it allows dissident movements in the Islamic world to appeal to the 'purity' of an, often imagined, earlier society or religio-political order, predicated on a 'true', authentic reading of the Holy texts. There is thus an obvious religious answer, and proscribed programme for action, for any political grievance. If the corrupting elements are purged, the logic runs, a fair and just and happy society will be established.
While recommending the inclusion of Muslims into European society upon more or less equal terms as a way of treating with their militancy, Sayyid Ahmad Khan stressed the fact that the gentlemen who deserved such inclusion were to be men like himself, anglicized Muslims who could interpret Islamic passions to the West and European reason to the East. Despite their often sophisticated meditations upon the nature and future of modern Islam, men like Sir Say vid were forced by political circumstances to play the role merely of intermediaries between Christians and Muslims because none was able to assume political power in his own name. In order to do this Savvid Ahmad Khan, like his liberal descendants today, who continue to play the same role, also had to emphasize the threatening aspects of an Islamic violence whose substance he was (like today’s moderate Muslims) ostensibly denying.
In many ways today's jihad builds upon the earlier ventures described here. It, too, is located on the peripheries of the Muslim world geographically, politically and religiously, operating now in places like Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, as well as in Thailand and the Philippines.
These apparently redundant discussions of holy war reveal how the terms in which they were conducted continue, with the necessary stylistic adjustments, to be valid even today. All the usual suspects are already in place: moderate and extremist Muslims, arguments, including the Arabian/Wahhabi influence as we shall see next.
During the 1850’s then, Wilayat Ali ,a Wahhabbi and student of Syed Ahmad of the Delhi Sultanate, confecting the story that Syed Ahmad was not really dead but merely waiting in the mountains to resume the jihad, thus shaping Wahhabism into a cult centered on its hidden imam. A secret network based on Patna was established by which funds, supplies, and weapons were sent along a covert caravan trail to the Mahabun Mountain, along with volunteers to be trained as mujahidin. In January 1853, in response to an appeal from a local chief, the British launched a raid on the Hindustani camp at Sittana, and the raid forced the Hindustanis to put off their jihad, which was rescheduled for the summer of 1857, Sepoy Mutiny.
Not shown in “The Rising” m,any young Wahhabis, easily identified by their distinctive black waistcoats and dark blue robes, fought and died in the uprising. In the end several hundred mutinous soldiers fled to the camp where Wilayat Ali had died of a fever a year earlier so it was his younger brother, Inayat Ali, who launched a final a raid into the plains, apparently believing that he would be joined by mujahidin sent up from Patna.
In April 1858 the British military commander in Peshawar led a three-pronged assault on the Mahabun Mountain to wipe out the Hindustani Fanatics once and for all. Inayat Ali had just died of fever, and the Wahhabis were again taken by surprise. The mujahidin were surrounded and all but wiped out, yet somehow Wilayat Ali's eldest son, Abdullah Ali, escaped to fight another day. The survivors moved to an abandoned settlement named Malka, where they were entirely dependent on the charity of their neighbors. Amazingly, the Wahhabis bounced back, again. They rebuilt their organization and reopened their underground trail to the North-West Frontier.
Under the leadership of Abdallah Ali, they moved from one hideout to another, harassed in turn by the local tribes and the British authorities. In 1873, Abdullah Ali's youngest brother in Patna appealed for an official pardon, rejected on the grounds that the Hindustani Fanatics would eventually be forced to give up. But the government was, as often before, indulging in wishful thinking. The Hindustanis clung on, kept alive by handouts from the Pathan tribes.
When a British journalist came to write about the North-West Frontier in 1890, he noted that the Hindustanis were widely admired among the tribes for their "fierce fanaticism." Their colony was celebrated locally as the Kila Mujahidin, or "the Fortress of the Holy Warriors," wherein they "devoted their time to drill, giving the words of command in Arabic, firing salutes with cannon made of leather, and blustering about the destruction of the infidel power of the British." It was said that they were still awaiting the return of Syed Ahmad, their Hidden Imam. Then came the great frontier uprising of 1897–98, beginning in Swat and spreading like the proverbial wildfire south through tribal country, and requiring an army of 40,000 to reduce them to submission.
Back in India itself, following the Sepoy mutiny two groups of mullahs, both with Wahhabi associations, linked to the path of Islamic revivalism originally initiated in Delhi by Shah Waliullah. The more extreme of the two set up a politico-religious organization known as Jamaat Ahl-i-Hadith, the Party of the Tradition of the Prophet. One of its founders was Sayyid Nazir Husain Muhaddith Dihlawi, the leader of the Wahhabi "Delhi-ites." The Ahl-i-Hadith movement's many critics were quick to label it "Wahhabi," and to this day it continues to be described and denounced as such. In Pakistan today it has over 400 madrassas and has sponsored a number of militant organizations linked to terrorism.
A second group of clerics was led by two students of Sayyid Nazir Husain who, in 1857, had attempted to set up their own domain of the faith north of Delhi: Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi and Rashid Ahmed Gangohi. In May 1866, they founded their own madrassa at Deoband, a hundred miles north of Delhi. They drew their students from the peasantry and refused government funding. Boys as young as five were accepted and often remained there until adulthood, so that many came to identify with the madrassa as their main home and the teacher as a surrogate parent. Although modeled on the university, the ethos of Deoband was that of the seminary. English was prohibited, Urdu served as the lingua franca, and all students began their studies by learning the Koran by heart in the original Arabic. The theology taught at Deoband was an uncompromising fundamentalism mirroring that of Wahhabism. It denounced the worship of saints, the adorning of tombs, and such activities as music and dancing; it waged a ceaseless war of words against Shias, Hindus, and Christian missionaries; it distanced itself from all that was progressive in Indian society; and it retained militant jihad as a central pillar of faith but focused this jihad on the promo-tion of Islamic revival.
And in 1885, exactly one hundred years before officials of the Reagan administration would made a secret initiative toward A K’s Iran, the peripatetic Persian activist met in London with British intelligence and foreign policy officials to put forward a controversial idea. Would Britain, he wondered, be interested in organizing a Pan-Islamic alliance among Egypt, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan against Russia?
In 1885 when the force of the Mahdi killed General Gordon and captured Khartoum, Afghani choose to maintain his Pan Islamic credentials but he opposed the Sudanes Mahdi behind the scenes. “I fear as all wise men fear that the dissemination of the doctrine(Mahdism) ,will harm England an anyone having rights in Egypt” wrote Afghani.In a separate piece titled “England on the shores of the Red Sea” Afghani argued that the followers of the Mahdi “where attracting the simple minded”.
Afghani was the first to us “Islam and the “West”, as connoting antagonistic historical phenomena. But shortly afterwards, the French government halted publication of Afghan’s book “The Insoluble Bond” where called for reestablishment of the Caliphate (Khalifa). Afghani and Abduh traveled once more to London, ostensibly to discuss the crisis in the Sudan, where they proposed the notion of a pan-Islamic alliance.
As Bin Laden was doubtless aware when he moved there for four years starting with 1994, Sudan had been the first nation in the world to overthrow a European-backed government and establish an Islamic state. Here Hassan at-Turabi (a Sudanese Mahdist with a PhD from the Sorbonne in Paris) became bin Laden's mentor, profoundly influencing his ideology, helping to construct al-Qaeda as the terrorist organization it would become. Bin Laden left the Sudan for Afghanistan in 1998, a very different man from the one who had arrived there: his pronouncements in some cases match those of the Mahdi almost word for word.(M.Asher, Khartoum,2005,p.407.)
Bin-Laden also took Afghani’s idea a step further by not only preaching for the reestablishment of the Caliphate but, it will then wage Jihad against the remainder of the non-Muslim world with the aim of conquering it… ( see, Bruce Lawrence ,ed,Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, 2005.)
While Afghani offered his services in serial fashion, to the British, to the French, and to the Russians, and served as an agent for all three, his followers-Abduh especially- became increasingly dependant on the British . On returning to Cairo, Abduh forged a partnership with Lord Cromer, who was the symbol of British imperialism in Egypt, and in 1899, two years after Afghani's death, Abduh was named mufti of Egypt. As mufti, he was the supreme interpreter of the canon law of Islam.
In the end however, Lord Cromer soon concluded that the pan-Islam of al-Afghani and Abduh needed revision. Its Masonic tingled universalism modernism didn’t sit well with the orthodox Muslim clergy. But the journalist Rashid Rida preserved the ideas of Afghani trough The Lighthouse, the publication that brought Afghani’s ideas to the Egyptian Sallaffiya and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Lighthouse and its followers merged in the “Peoples Party”(created with British money, welcoming British power in Egypt) and also welcomed the growth of Saudi Power. The Lighthouse explained that a new star of hope has appeared with the rise of the Wahhabi dynasty of Ihn Saud in Arabia.
Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were kingdoms ruled by monarchies installed by London. The first contact was made in 1865, and British subsidies started to flow into the coffers of the Saudi family, in ever growing quantity.
The Islamic fundamentalist movement that Ibn Saud rode to power was essential to the origin of Saudi Arabia. He utilized Islam to break down tribal loyalties and replace those loyalties with adherence to the Wahhabi cult. At the same time, they encouraged the Hashemites of Mecca, a second Arabian family with a spurious claim to he descended from the original prophet of Islam.
At this point urged by WWI, British intelligence reinvigorated Afghani’s earlier plans, and London posthumously took up Afghani and Abduh's proposal to mobilize Muslims for a new caliphate, one that could at once undermine the crumbling Turkish empire.
The emergence of Saudi-Arabia , gave the British a foothold in the center of Islam, Mecca and Medina. For Britain, and then the United States, Saudi Arabia would serve as an anchor for its ambitions throughout the 20th century. Also the seeds planted by Afghani and Abduh were watered and carefully tended by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabis and the British intelligence service, a new Islamist force was about to arise. From the 1920’s on, the new Saudi state merged its Wahhabi orthodoxy with the Salafiyya, now organized into the Muslim Brotherhood-and the resurgence of Islam was under way. Particularly the Hashemites in Arabia, encouraged the activities of the Brotherhood, seeing it as a force to counterbalance communist, leftist, and, later, Nasserist Nationalism.
It's not surprising that U.S. diplomats in Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the 1940s would maintain regular contact with the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its violence-prone nature and fascist orientation. the forced disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, and the start of the British-sponsored "Arab Awakening," led by the likes of Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"), and Gertrude Bell.
Initially Saudi Arabia supplied the Muslim Brotherhood with money only, but after 1954, the country itself became a chief base for its operations. The Brothers settled in Jeddah where they went into business, and Riyad Mecca and Medina where they radicalize Wahhabi movement. Wahhabi-style ultra-orthodoxy to the pan-Islamic ideals of Jamal Eddine al-Afghani -with Saudi funding. Dedicated to create a worldwide caliphate based Islamic state, the seeds planted by Afghani and Abduh were watered and carefully tended by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabis and the British
The Brotherhood and its allies in the Gulf next, quietly helped to spawn a new generation of Islamists, including the forerunners of Al Qaeda. A new Islamist force was about to arise in the form of Islam's radical right, concentrated in the Muslim World League, a leading exponent of Saudi Wahhabi orthodoxy. Thus, the pan-Islamic ideals of Jamal Eddine al-Afghani-with Saudi funding-created the global enterprise that spawned Islam's radical right.
The Pan-Islamic Muslim World League, send out Missionaries and doled out funds for the building of Wahhabi oriented Mosques and Islamic associations. According to a CIA officer the U.S. wasn’t interested yet,”In the early 1970’s I ran a penetration of Rabitat”, he said, using the Arab name for the Organization. “It was considered , in Washington, as one of the least important things I have done.” Headquarters was interested in Wars, coups, and gunrunning in the Persian Gulf, not in the activities of the League.
In 1879, the institution assumed the additional name of Dar ul-Ulum, the Abode of Islamic Learning. By then it was already becoming renowned throughout the Islamic world as a center of religious study second only to Al-Aqsa in Cairo, producing an ever growing cadre of graduates who formed a class of reformist clerics not unlike the Jesuits of the Catholic Counter-Reformation: a politicized group who could compete against all other clerics to advantage and, above all, disseminate the teachings of Deoband in their own madrassas. The first of these graduates, Mahmood ul-Hasan, duly became rector of Dar ul-Ulum Deoband and in 1915 set up his own clandestine mujahidin army in an attempt to replicate Syed Ahmad—a bid that ended in disaster, with the imprisonment of its leader and over 200 followers.
By 1900, Dar ul-Ulum Deoband had founded over two dozen allied madrassas in northern India. Today that figure stands, remarkably, at over 30,000 worldwide. The consequences for Islam have been profound, resulting in a seismic shift within Sunni Islam in South Asia, which became increasingly conservative and introverted, less tolerant and more inclined to look for political leadership from the madrassas and the madrassa-trained politician. It also gave new force to an old ideal: that a Muslim's first duty was to his religion and that he had an absolute obligation to defend Islam wherever it was under attack. Nowhere has this new force made more impact than in Pakistan, where the Deobandi-led politico-religious party known as Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), the "Party of Scholars of Islam," has widespread support in the Pathan tribal areas. Pakistan now has well over 7,000 JUI, Deobandi, or Ahl-i-Hadith madrasas. It was here in the 1980s and 1990s that the Taliban's leaders and many of its rank-and-file were educated and jihadized
It should be noted that Bin-Laden is opposed to the pious approach of the Deobandi, Al-Qaeda groups may however cooperate with other Muslim fundamentalists and draw followers from them, but it is not ideologically close to the Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia or the Shi'ite Islamist regime in Iran, nor is there evidence of organizational links, though many Al-Qaeda activists were recruited from Saudi Arabia. Wahhabis as seen are intimately connected with support for the Saudi regime and do not believe in overthrowing governments, unlike Al-Qaeda. Nor is there evidence, despite claims, that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had a central role in encouraging Al-Qaeda terror, though Iraq may have sheltered and trained some Al-Qaeda terrorists, and may have used Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group, against the Kurds. What did happen however is that before the invasion of Iraq by American troops Bin-Laden issued a statement that when they would go ahead with this, Al-Qaeda would get involved in Iraq. After all, Baghdad was the capital of the Caliphate (Khalifa) which Bin-Laden vowed to re-establish.