Memoirs of Mr. Hempher, The British Spy to the Middle East
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|Author||Ayyub Sabri Pasha(?)|
|Publisher||Waqf Ikhlas Publications|
Published in English
Memoirs of Mr. Hempher, The British Spy to the Middle East or Confessions of a British Spy is a document purporting to be the account by an 18th-century British agent, Hempher, of his instrumental role in founding the conservative Islamic reform movement of Wahhabism, as part of a conspiracy to corrupt Islam. It first appeared in 1888, in Turkish, in the five-volume Mir'at al-Haramayn of Ayyub Sabri Pasha (who is thought to be the actual author by at least one scholar). It has been described as "apocryphal", a "forgery", "utter nonsense", and "an Anglophobic variation on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. It has been widely translated and disseminated, is available on the internet, and still enjoys some currency among some individuals in the Middle East and beyond. In 2002, an Iraqi military officer recapitulated the book in a “top secret document”.
In the book, a British spy named Hempher, working in the early 1700s, tells of disguising himself as a Muslim and infiltrating the Ottoman Empire with the goal of weakening it to destroy Islam once and for all. He tells his readers: "when the unity of Muslims is broken and the common sympathy among them is impaired, their forces will be dissolved and thus we shall easily destroy them... We, the English people, have to make mischief and arouse schism in all our colonies in order that we may live in welfare and luxury."
Hempher intends ultimately to weaken Muslim morals by promoting "alcohol and fornication," but his first step is to promote innovation and disorder in Islam by creating Wahhabism, which is to gain credibility by being on the surface morally strict. For this purpose, he enlists "a gullible, hotheaded young Iraqi in Basra named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab". Hempher corrupts and flatters Wahhab until the man is willing to found his own sect. According to Hempher, he is one of 5,000 British agents with the assignment of weakening Muslims, which the British government plans to increase to 100,000 by the end of the 18th century. Hempher writes, "when we reach this number we shall have brought all Muslims under our sway" and Islam will be rendered "into a miserable state from which it will never recover again."
George Packer has characterised Hempher's Memoirs as "probably the labor of a Sunni Muslim author whose intent is to present Muslims as both too holy and too weak to organize anything as destructive as Wahhabism". Bernard Haykel of Harvard's Olin Institute for Strategic Studies describes the document as an anti-Wahhabi forgery, "probably fabricated by one Ayyub Sabri Pasha". Sabri Pasha, an Ottoman writer, studied at the naval academy and earned the rank of naval officer, serving for a time in the Hijaz and Yemen. He wrote historical works on the Saudi dynasty and died in 1890. In The Beginning and Spread of Wahhabism, Ayyub Sabri Pasha recounts the story of Abdul Wahhab's association with Hempher the British spy, and their plot to create a new religion.
A debunking by a Wahhabi author Abul Haarith points out that no evidence of Hempher can be found in computer database searches of libraries and rare books, and that facts and incidents related in the book do not conform to facts known from contemporary sources. The "Memoirs" claim that Hempher travelled to Basra in 1712 and there met Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, a student who spoke Turkish, Persian and Arabic. In fact, ibn Abdul Wahhab, born in 1115 AH (1703/1704 CE), would have been 9 or 10 years old and living in his native region of Najd at that time, since he did not leave Najd, except for hajj, to "travel to seek knowledge until 1722". The book has Hempher boasting that the British Empire "was so vast it was said that the sun did not set within its boundaries," when in fact this claim was not, and could not have been, made until about a century later.
Other Wahhabi comments about the memoir note that British support and help for bin Abdul Wahhab seems unlikely as "there was no British presence in that region in the mid-18th century", and that a work purportedly based on a diary, a genre which generally features dated entries, explicitly mentions only two dates (1710 CE and 1730 CE).
An example of a contemporary reference to the book or at least to the theory that Wahhabism is a British conspiracy, is Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri's 1987 denunciation of Wahhabis as "a bunch of British agents from Najd."
- Anti-Wahhabism: a footnote| Middle East Strategy at Harvard | Bernard Haykel|March 27, 2008
- Caught in the Crossfire by George Packer| The New Yorker| 17 May 2004
- The Saga of "Hempher," Purported British Spy |by Daniel Pipes |January 1996
- CONFESSIONS of A BRITISH SPY and British Enmity Against Islam 8th edition, HAKIKAT KITABEVI, WAQF IKHLÂS
- "Confessions of a British spy and British enmity against Islam, (part1-4)". sunna.info. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- "Continuation of the Memoirs Of Mr. Hempher, The British Spy To The Middle East (part 5-7)". sunna.info. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Correspondence dated 24 Sep 2002, within the General Military Intelligence Directorate (GMID), regarding a research study titled, "The Emergence of AI-Wahhabiyyah Movement and its Historical Roots", by Col Al-'Amiri, Sa'id Mahmud Najm, Iraqi General Military Intelligence Directorate. Captured by USA, May 2003, and translated into English.
- Packer, George (2004-05-17). "Caught in the Crossfire: Will moderate Iraqis embrace democracy-or Islamist radicalism?". The New Yorker (New York). ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2014-09-26.
Confessions of a British Spy reads like an Anglophobic variation on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; it is probably the labor of a Sunni Muslim author whose intent is to present Muslims as both too holy and too weak to organize anything as destructive as Wahhabism [...].
- Evidence That Hempher's Diaries Are a Forgery by Abu.Iyaad, wahhabis.com, 20 August 2011.
- » The Beginning and Spread of Wahhabism www.sufi.it
- Martin S. Kramer, "Islam's Enduring Feud" in Itamar Rabinovich and Hai Shaken, eds., Middle East Contemporary Survey: 1987 (Boulder Westview Press, 1989) 174