Sufi–Salafi relations

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The relationship between Salafism and Sufis – two movements of Islam with different interpretations of Islam – is historically diverse and reflects some of the changes and conflicts in the Muslim world today.[1]

Salafism is associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islam, following only Quran, hadith and the salafs. In the Western world it is often associated with the Salafist jihadism [2] Sufism is associated with the rectification of the soul (tasawuf-tazkiah) and is mainly focused in becoming a better Muslim and person to achieve a higher status in paradise, mostly following the Islamic saints and pious leaders.[3]

While there are Muslims who believe that Salafism and Sufism "overlap", the Salafi response to Sufism has been called "polemical".[4] According to various observers, Salafists have been "usually ... unrelentingly hostile to devotional Sufi practices",[5] arguing that Sufism is "irreconcilable with true Islam",[4] and one of the elements "corrupting" modern day Islam.[6] Relations between the two movements have been described as one with "battle lines drawn",[7] or a "rift" found in "practically every Muslim country",[8] and in "the Muslim diasporic communities of the West"[9] as well.

History[edit]

Much of the antagonism against Sufism by Salafists is attributed to the writings of the eighteenth century figure, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and those who followed him. Some argue that his original followers were more conciliatory towards what they viewed as Sufism, with the son of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab writing,

"We do not negate the way of the Sufis and the purification of the inner self from the vices of those sins connected to the heart and the limbs as long as the individual firmly adheres to the rules of Shari‘ah and the correct and observed way.[10]"

Following a tripling in the price of oil in the mid-1970s and the progressive takeover of Saudi Aramco oil company between 1974 and 1980, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia acquired large sums of revenue from oil exports. It began to spend tens of billions of dollars throughout the Islamic World to promote the movement of Islam favored in that country — known as Salafi Islam.[11][12][13] According to Pnina Werbner, Saudi funding of "the Wahhabi/Salafi critique" (along with the forces of modernization) put "Sufi tariqas" in "danger of disappearing altogether" in the 1970 and 80s. Though the tariqas have "revived themselves" since then, Werbner describes the twenty-first century as dawning "with battle lines drawn up between" the two groups "within the world of Sunni Islam."[7]

Islamopedia.org states that Salafi groups have been "accused of perpetrating the destruction and burning of a number of Sufi mosques and shrines" as of 2011, a "reflection of the resurgence of the long suppressed animosity" between the two groups.[14] The eighteenth Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, himself an adherent of Sufism, criticized this trend as unacceptable.[14]

Difference in beliefs and practices[edit]

There are a number of beliefs and practices where there is contradiction of interpretation and "authenticity" between Salafis and Sufis as "Islamic" or "un-Islamic":

  • Physical characteristics of Allah: Sufis believe that, Allah is invisible, regardless of shape and omnipresent (or both omnipresent and dweller in Arsh), and Arsh (throne of Allah) is a metaphor for His greatness, not or more than His dwelling place.[15] Salafis believe that, Allah is unknowingly visible and of unknowingly unique shape, He is not omnopresent and dwells in Arsh, and He will show His face to the dwellers of heaven as the final gift at the last stage of the judgement day.
  • Tariqat or tariqah (religious divisional order/school) and fiqh-i-madhhab (juripridencial order/school) - Sufis, believe in tariqat, a school of mystic learning, following a teacher called murshid by the followers called murid, where salafis reject the concept of tariqah. Sufis mostly follows Fiqh-i-Madhhab with more strict manner, where Salafis don't strictly follow but study and take regional collective influence (without denominational inclusion) from the juripridencial schools named fiqh-i-madhab following the specific faqihs (jurists).
  • Marifat (concept of devine hidden knowledge) - Sufis believe in concept marifat, where salafis deny it.
  • Walayah (Friendship/ nearness/ guardianship of Allah) and Karamat (miraculous sign) - Sufis believe that besides following Quran and hadith, getting karamat (connection with devine miracle) is the sign of having higher rank of walayah, where salafis believe that following Quran and hadith strictly is the only.sign of having walayah, and there is no relationship between qaramat and rank of walayah. Sufis believe that walis (gainer of walayah) have control over karamat, where salafis believe that walis have no control over karamat.
  • Tazkiah (self-purification) - Sufi belief states that suhbat (company) any specific master is mostly needed (shaikh or pir) for the help or intercession of inner-purification. Salafis believe that, for purification of innerself, the company of all the religious, pious, honest and wise people is equally needed. But, Both Sufis and Salafis uses the quranic concept of three states of reforming nafs in the interpretation of Tazkiah.
  • Ruh (soul), Nafs (instinct) and lataif-i Sitta (the six subtleties) - For describing ruh and nafs, Sufis use the term of Lataif-i Sitta, where Salafis reject the idea.
  • Definition of bid‘ah (innovation in religious matters) — traditional Sufi scholars argue for an inclusive, holistic definition[16] whereas Salafi scholars argue for an exclusive, literal definition that entails anything not specifically performed or confirmed by the Prophet.
  • Mawlid (celebration of the birth of the prophet Muhammad) — considered bid‘ah by Salafis.[17]
  • Urs (commemoration of the death anniversary of Sufi saints) — considered bid‘ah by Salafis.[17]
  • Nasheed (poetry in praise of the prophet Muhammad) — opposed by Salafis. However, Some Salafis consider poetry in praise of the prophet with no music to be permissible.
  • Dhikr ceremonies (remembrance of God) — opposed by Salafis.[18][19]
  • Tawassul (intercession) the act of supplicating to Allah through a prophet, pious person or Sufi saint, living or dead. According to Salafis, "relying on an intermediary between oneself and Allah when seeking intercession" is among the "ten actions that negate Islam". Some Salafis believe that a living pious man can be asked to pray to God as Tawassul.[20]
  • Wasilah of Shafa'ah (intercessionary powers of the prophet Muhammad) — Salafis hold Wasilah akin to shirk (polytheism). They argue that the prophet Muhammad was a mortal and being so is no longer alive and thus incapable of intercession on behalf of those who pray to him. Sufis hold that although not physically present in the world, the prophets, martyrs and saints are still alive (hazir nazir). Some Salafis believe that Wasilah mentioned in Quran and hadith can be taken like Wasilah of good deeds or Wasilah of different attribute names of God[20][21]
  • Ziyarat (visiting the graves of prophets and Sufi saints) — The Sufi practice of visiting the graves of Saints is also objected to by Salafis. Salafis believe that a Muslim can take journey to only three holiest place of Islam that is Mecca, Medina, and Mosque of Jerusalem as mentioned in of the hadith of prophet.

Relations by country[edit]

Afghanistan[edit]

Due to long time torn by war between various Islamic factions, it is common to see Salafis in Afghanistan. The Taliban[22] and Al-Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan is seen as a direct symbol of growing Salafism in the country. ISIS has sought to create Khorasan Province, to increase level of religious sectarianism in Afghanistan, which is majority following a more Sufi branch.[23]

Thus, Afghan Sufis have long accused Salafi movements like Taliban attempting to discredit and oppress Sufi population in the country.[24]

Algeria[edit]

Algeria is traditionally a tolerance Maliki Sunni sect which belonged to larger Sufi branch. Thus, Algerians are known for their Islamic faith as tolerance. However, in 1980s, Algerian young people were sent by the Algerian government to Saudi Arabia for education in the Islamic sciences; while some joined the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan.[25] This strengthened the Da’wa Salafism, a Salafi inspired social movement, in Algeria.[25] This had led to the brutal Algerian Civil War a decade later, which the Salafi movement, funded by Saudi Arabia, sought to create a Sharia-influenced state in Algeria. Though Salafis were crushed by the military, the war bolstered negative reputation toward Salafism among Algerians, and remains at conflict with Salafis even today.[26]

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Traditionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a devout Sufi state in majority practiced by majority of Bosniaks, but also incorporated a large number of non-Muslims, notably the Croats and Serbs who are Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Yet, since 1990s during the Bosnian War, increasing contacts with Salafis was witnessed when a large number of jihadi fighters from Arab world flooded to Bosnia.[27] Thus, followed with poor economic conditions in the country and unsettled ethnic conflicts between Bosniaks toward Serbs and Croats, young Bosnian Muslims have become increasingly attracted to the ideology. Some have even joined ISIS in the conflict in Syria.[27][28] Thus, while Salafis remain small among Bosnian population, it has become an increasing wary among Bosnian Islamic community, despite Bosnian Salafis claim they only try to live a normal life.[29]

Bulgaria[edit]

In recent years, fear over spreading of Salafism becomes more frequent in Bulgaria, a traditionally Orthodox Christian majority with a significant Muslim minority which practice Sufism.[30] There have been alleged bases supporting and providing financial supports for Salafi movement which prompted Bulgarian police to take massive raids on several alleged Salafi mosques.[31]

In 2014, a Bulgarian imam, Ahmed Moussa, was sentenced to prison for spreading Salafism.[32]

Cambodia[edit]

Cambodia is the home of a small, but significant Cham minority, almost follow Islam and of Sufi traditions. However, during the Cambodian–Vietnamese War at 1980s, the Cham Muslims, which were once victims of genocide by the Vietnamese, joined Khmer Rouge branch against the Vietnamese army throughout a decade and also harassing pro-Vietnamese Cambodian Government despite traumatic Cambodian genocide. This has prompted the rise of Salafism in the country, in which in recent years, have occurred and increased.[33]

China[edit]

Salafism/Wahabbism is opposed by some Hui Muslims in China, primarily by the Sufi Khafiya, some Hanafi Sunni Gedimu and a number of Jahriyya. The Yihewani (Ikhwan) Chinese sect founded by Ma Wanfu in China was originally inspired by the Wahhabi movement, but evolved away from their origins. When Ma Debao and Ma Zhengqing, attempted to introduce Wahhabism as the Orthodox main form of Islam in China, Yihewani reacted with hostility, accusing Ma Debao and Ma Zhengqing of being traitors of foreign influence, alien to the native popular cultural practices of Islam in China, "Heterodox" (xie jiao), and "people who followed foreigner's teachings" (wai dao),[34] and Wahhabi teachings were deemed as heresy by the Yihewani leaders. Yihewani eventually became a secular Chinese nationalist organisation.[34]

Ma Debao established a Salafi / Wahhabi order, called the Sailaifengye menhuan in Lanzhou and Linxia, separate from other Muslim sects in China.[35] Salafis have a reputation for radicalism among the Hanafi Sunni Gedimu and Yihewani. Sunni Muslim Hui tend to avoid Salafis, even family members.[36] Salafis in China remain low in number as they are not included in classifications of Muslim sects in China, and have just only re-established since 2000s, opposed by Sufis; though it is changing due to increasing funds from Gulf Arab states with parallel Salafi Islamic belief, notably Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar — in exchange for growing Chinese investments in these countries.[37]

Before the Chinese Communist Revolution, the Kuomintang Sufi Muslim general Ma Bufang, backed the Yihewani (Ikhwan) Muslims and persecuted the Salafi / Wahhabi Muslims—forcing them into hiding, preventing them from moving or worshiping openly. After the Communist revolution the Salafis were allowed to worship openly until a 1958 crackdown on all religious practices.[34] the crackdowns on Muslims, as part of wider Cultural Revolution in China, has led to tensions between the Government and Muslims. United by the threat, the Huis attempted to rebel at 1975, but was cracked down by the Government. Since 1980s, Muslims were allowed to practice their religion in China.

Egypt[edit]

Sufism has been called the "default setting" of Muslim religious life in Egypt[38][39][40] where there are 74 Sufi orders (tarikas)[41] and an estimated 15 million practicing Sufis.[42] The number of salafis in Egypt has been estimated at 5-6 million.[43] Before the 2011 revolution Scholar Tarek Osman describes Salafis as the "most important or pervasive Islamic force in the country," with an influence "many times more than that of organized political Islam."[44]

A May 2010 ban by the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) of centuries old Sufi dhikr gatherings (devoted to the remembrance of God, and including dancing and religious songs) has been described as "another victory for extreme Salafi thinking at the expense of Egypt's moderate Sufism". Clashes followed at Cairo's Al-Hussein Mosque and al-Sayyida Zeinab mosques between members of Sufi orders and security forces who forced them to evacuate the two shrines. [41]

In early April 2011, a Sufi march from Al-Azhar Mosque to Al-Hussein Mosque was followed by a massive protest before Al-Hussein Mosque, "expressing outrage at the destruction" of Sufi shrines. The Islamic Research Centre of Egypt, led by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb, has also renounced the attacks on the shrines.[14] According to the newspaper Al-masry Al-youm (Today's Egyptian), in Egypt's second biggest city — Alexandria — the headquarters for 36 Sufi groups and home of half a million Sufis, "16 historic mosques" belonging to Sufi orders have been "marked for destruction by Salafis". Aggression against the Sufis in Egypt has included a raid on Alexandria's most distinguished mosque, named for, and housing, the tomb of the 13th century Sufi Al-Mursi Abu’l Abbas.[45] According to Guardian journalist Irfan al-Alawi, "Salafis have alleged that Sufis are agents of the west as well as heretics. The extremists want to take control of Sufi mosques, after they destroy shrines within their precincts."[45] In the governorate of al-Qalyubiya, two Salafis were arrested at the end of March 2013 after "a group of their followers razed five local shrines."[45]

In November 2016, images were released purporting to show the execution of the 100-year-old Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Haraz, "considered one of the symbolic Sufi clerics and elders of the Sinai Peninsula".[46] The images were released by Ansar Bait al-Maqdis – ISIS-affiliated extremist group in Egypt which rebranded itself as "ISIS-Sinai" when it pledged allegiance to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The group had kidnapped Sulaiman Abu Haraz earlier at gunpoint from in front of his house in Arish city.[46]

On 24 November 2017, a gun and bomb attack on the al-Rawda mosque (known as the birthplace of the founder of Sufism in the Sinai Peninsula) killed more than 305 people and injured more than 128, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egyptian history[47] and the second deadliest attack in 2017.[48] The mosque in Bir al-Abed in the northern Sinai was attacked by around forty gunmen during Friday prayers. As of late November, no group had claimed responsibility for the attack,[49] but it appeared to bear "all the hallmarks" of an attack by ISIS,[50] and occurred in a district in the Sinai where Islamic State intends to "eradicate" Sufis, according to an insurgent commander interviewed in a January 2017 issue of the Islamic State magazine Rumiyah.[47]

France[edit]

France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, counting over 5–8% of French population, mainly the result of French colonization in Islamic countries. For many years, France was seen as a melting point of multiculturalism successes. However, in recent years, France has become a major target for Islamic extremists due to increasing Salafi worshippers in the country.[51]

In France, in 2015 police say that salafism is represented in 90 out of 2500 investigated religious communities, which is double the number compared to five years earlier.[52]

Extremist attacks in France was seen as the result of Salafi indoctrination among French Muslims, including attacks against Sufi Muslims.[53] Sufi Muslims in France have long described the Salafis as dangerous and hypocritical.

Georgia[edit]

In the Pankisi Gorge, home to the Kists, a small Muslim ethnic group, the Sufi-Wahhabi split is generational. The older Kists keep Sufi traditions, but young people scorn the old practices and pray in "new, gleaming mosques". Pankisi is reportedly the "only place in Georgia where people keep Sufism alive." Wahhabism entered into "a dozen Pankisi villages in the 1990s, popularized by young people educated in Arab countries". (The "Wahhabis" do not use the term but agree they are practicing a form of Sunni Islam "similar to that which prevails in Saudi Arabia.") Because of close family ties, there has been no violence between the two groups, although Sufis protested loudly over the tearing down of a Sufi shrine to make way for a new Wahhabi mosque.[54]

India[edit]

For "nearly 700 years", the Sufi tradition of Islam has been "part of the cultural and spiritual life" of Kashmir. However, according to journalists Tariq Mir[55] and Asit Jolly, Wahhabism or Salafism is making "deep inroads" into Kashmir society.[56] Since 2000 or so, "Salafist preachers" have spread across Kashmir and that movement of Islam has grown rapidly, now making up 1.5 million of the nearly eight million Indian Kashmiris.[55] Some 700 well patronized mosques and 150 schools[57] have been built in Kashmir by the "religious and welfare organisation", Jamiat Ahle Hadith funded primarily by Saudi Arabian sources. According to state police and central intelligence officers,[56] this construction is part of $35-billion program reportedly devoted to the building of mosques and madrassas in South Asia.[56]

Kashmir's predominantly Sufi-Hanafi community is reportedly anxious over Jamiat Ahle Hadith's rapid proliferation, its increasing popularity among youth,[56] and "mysterious fires" in 2012 that left six Sufi places of worship either completely or partially burnt (although investigators have so far found no sign of arson).[58] Journalist Mir wonders how Sufism will fare against Wahhabism/Salafism inroads "in an age of globalization, free travel, and religious satellite channels".[17] Many Sufi Barelvis believe that the beneficiaries of Saudi largesse are not just the Ahl-e-Hadith (who come closest to Wahhabism) but also the variety of Sunni Islam espoused by seminaries like the Darul Uloom Deoband and Nadwatul Ulema.[59] [60]

The term "Wahabbi" in India can have contradictory definitions depending on the user of the term, according to author Yoginder Sikand. It is used by Barelvi and related Muslims to refer to Sunni critics of "practices associated with the shrines of the Sufis". These critics being principally Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith Muslims. Deobandi used the term to refer to the more strict Ahl-e Hadith who oppose taqlid (‘imitation’) of one of the four Madhhab (major schools of Sunni jurisprudence), and any form of Sufism. The Ahl-e Hadith refer to themselves as "Salafi" not Wahabbi.[21]

Indonesia[edit]

Being the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia has a surprising record of religious tolerance. Nonetheless, despite the level of tolerance, it has become more varied and sometimes even growing sectarianism.

Most Indonesian Muslims belong to the traditional Sufism,[61] while Salafism has arrived by recent years due to close tie between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. This prompted the rise of religious intolerance, as Indonesians of Sufi faith has reacted with hostility against increasing Indonesian Salafis, who accused Salafis for ruining Indonesian traditions.[62] Indonesian Salafis and Sufis have been living uncomfortably together, marking by the fact of heavy disputes between their versions of faith in the country.[63]

Saudi Arabia has been quietly branding and increasing the presence of Salafism in the country, and there has been a number of students from Indonesia to study Saudi Wahhabism to become its clerics.[64]

Following Surabaya bombings in 2018, increasing anti-Salafism was witnessed among Indonesian Muslims of Sufi belief.[65]

Iran[edit]

While Iran is a majority Shia country, it has a significant Sunni minority population, including those of Sufi and Salafi belief.

When the theocratic Shia regime was founded in Iran at 1979, it is met with heavy opposition from the Sunni minority, and Iranian Sufi leaders have acted as ringleaders for democracy to be restored in Iran. Due to increasing repression by the Shia regime, it has led to the increase of Persian Salafism as an encounter against the Shia Government, and also the Sufi minority in the nation.[66] As for the result, Iran sought to increase tie control over Salafis in the country.[67]

Iranian Salafis have long suspected Iranian Sufis for collaborating with the Government.

Jordan[edit]

Jordan is a majority Sunni country, but follow a moderate Sufi version of Islam, the result of the Hashemites who introduced Sufi Islam into the country.[68] However, due to bordering with a more extremist Saudi Arabia, and unstable neighbors like Iraq, Palestine and Syria, Jordan has always been affected by the radicalization of Salafism.

Salafism is omnipresent in the Jordanian society. A Jordanian Salafi cleric, Mohammad al-Shalabi, is the head of Jordanian Jihadi Salafist Movement, which sought to purify Islam and introducing a more strict version of Islam in Jordan, which was known for tolerance.[69] It had resulted with the riot in Ma'an.[70] Furthermore, Jordan has always been divided between sectarianian groups, prompted fear over anti-Sufi attitudes in a majority Sufi Jordan.[71]

Libya[edit]

Prior to the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was a monarchy, whose king was head of the Senussi Sufi order. The flag of that kingdom was used by the rebels who overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.[72]

Following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, several Sufi religious sites in Libya were deliberately destroyed or damaged.[73] While as of 31 August 2012 "no group has claimed responsibility" for the attacks on the sites, the Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel A’al was quoted describing the attackers as "groups that have a strict Islamic ideology where they believe that graves and shrines must be desecrated," an apparent reference to Salafists.[74] The BBC has also identified the destroyers as "Salafist Islamists".[75]

In September 2012, three people were killed in clashes between residents of Rajma (50 km south-east of Benghazi) and "Salafist Islamists" trying to destroy a Sufi shrine in Rajma, the Sidi al-Lafi mausoleum.[75] In August 2012 the United Nations cultural agency Unesco urged Libyan authorities to protect Sufi mosques and shrines from attacks by Islamic hardliners "who consider the traditional mystical school of Islam heretical". The attackers have "wrecked mosques in at least three cities and desecrated many graves of revered Sufi scholars".[76] However, the destruction and desecration did not cease with the Libyan Civil War. In April 2016, Salafists destroyed the shrine and graves of martyrs of the Italian occupation in the town of Misrata.[77]

Mali[edit]

In Mali, Sufis and Salafis are subject to a "deep religious divide" following the destruction of the Sufi shrines and tombs by Salafis in the north of that country, according to the Africa Report.[78]

From April 2012 to January 2013 the Islamist Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Jamāʿat at-tawḥīd wal-jihād fī gharb ʾafrīqqīyā) and Ansar Dine were in control of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal in North Mali.[79] "About 30 militants armed with assault rifles and pickaxes" destroyed three mausoleums 30 June 2012, and three more the next day according to witnesses. The group said it planned to destroy all 16 of the main shrines in Timbuktu.[80] Ansar Dine, the group claiming control of the city, is blamed for the attacks.[81] Its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, stated "Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to God that we have destroyed them."[82] Another leader, Abou Dardar, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that "not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu."[83]

The destruction was criticized not only by Sufis but by a number of Arab and Muslim authorities, political parties, and authors, and even at least one Salafi leader.[84] Nabil Na’im (a senior leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad), criticized the way the Salafis in Mali handled the "problem" of shrines.[85]

Myanmar[edit]

Myanmar or Burma has been long torn by war and religious sectarianisms in the country. It is common to see violence of religious groups in the country, though varied between ethnics and rankings. Burmese Muslims, thus, are not out of range of violence despite of their indigenous Sufi faith.

Long anti-Islamic activities started in Burma since the era of Taungoo dynasty. The Burmese king Bayinnaung (1550–1581 AD) imposed restrictions upon his Muslim subjects, but not actual persecution.[86] In 1559 AD, after conquering Pegu (present-day Bago), Bayinnaung banned Islamic ritual slaughter, thereby prohibiting Muslims from consuming halal meals of goats and chicken. He also banned Eid al-Adha and Qurbani, regarding killing animals in the name of religion as a cruel custom.[87][88] In the 17th century, Indian Muslims residing in Arakan were massacred, providing harmful and actual persecution. These Muslims had settled with Shah Shuja, who had fled India after losing the Mughal war of succession. Initially, the Arakan pirate Sandathudama (1652–1687 AD) who was the local pirate of Chittagong and Arakan, allowed Shuja and his followers to settle there. But a dispute arose between Sandatudama and Shuja, and Shuja unsuccessfully attempted to rebel. Sandathudama killed most of Shuja's followers, though Shuja himself escaped the massacre.[89][90][91][92][93][94][95] King Alaungpaya (1752–1760) prohibited Muslims from practicing the Islamic method of slaughtering cattle.[96] King Bodawpaya (1782–1819) arrested four prominent Burmese Muslim Imams from Myedu and killed them in Ava, the capital, after they refused to eat pork.[97] According to the Myedu Muslim and Burma Muslim version, Bodawpaya later apologised for the killings and recognised the Imams as saints.[97][98]

Violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Burma increased under both the British and Japanese when two rulers sought to increase level of sectarian divisions. During World War II, Britain backed the Rohingyas while the Japanese backed the Burmese; and massacres between Buddhists and Muslims became a norm in the country's long unstable religious violence.[99]

Thus, due to unstable nature of religious sectarianisms in the country, it has been under easy target of radical Islamic groups, notably Salafis. Persecution of Rohingya people is a notable example of spreading Salafism in the country. The founder of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, has been trained and educated in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Rohingya persecution has also increased radicalization of larger Muslim community in Burma, many have complicated tie with Burmese Government.[100] Fears of increasing persecution of non-Rohingya Muslims lead to the rise of Salafism is another problematic reasons.[101] Nonetheless, the Burmese Government has yet to have an effective respond to violence between religious groups including Sufis and Salafis, due to lack of cooperation and heavy corruption within the country.

Nigeria[edit]

Nigeria is the home of the Izala Society, a Salafi organization established in 1978 "in reaction to the Sufi brotherhoods",[102] specifically the Qadiri and Tijan Sufi orders.[103]

According to Ramzi Amara,

Today the Izala is one of the largest Islamic societies not only in Northern Nigeria, but also in the South and even in the neighbouring countries (Chad, Niger, and Cameroon). It is very active in Da‘wa and especially in education. The Izala has many institutions all over the country and is influential at the local, state, and even federal levels.[104]

The radical Boko Haram was thought to be inspired from Salafism, which launched attacks on Sufi shrines in Nigeria, and Nigerian Sufis have accused Salafis for radicalization and terrorism.[105]

Pakistan[edit]

Sufism has been a "part of the fabric of life in the Pakistan region for centuries" when it was still together with India.[106] Salafi Islam is a more recent addition, having been introduced into Pakistan from "Arab-Afghans" (i.e. Arab and other Muslims from outside Afghanistan, who came to Pakistan to fight in Afghanistan) mujahedeen were fighting Soviet occupiers in the early 1980s. They found common agendas and support from Deobandi movement.[107] In Pakistan the dynamic between Sufi Muslims and fundamentalists has lately entered an especially intense phase with the proliferation of militant groups.[106]

There are hundreds of shrines to Sufi saints spread across the cities and countryside of Pakistan.[108] From March 2005 to 2010, 209 people were killed and 560 injured in 29 attacks on Sufi shrines.[109][110] In 2010 bomb attacks escalated, detonating in the presence of thousands of worshipers, and in the nation's largest cities, such as Karachi and Lahore. Five attacks that year killed 64 people.[111][112][113] In 2017 at least 70 people were killed and 250 wounded in one bombing—of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in Sehwan, in southern Sindh during a devotional dance.[114]

At least some of the attacks are attributed to banned militant organizations of Salafi backgrounds.[115][116][117] Salafist criticize dancing and drumming at shrine festivals, which in their view, does not accurately reflect the teachings and practice of the Prophet and his companions.[106][112]

Philippines[edit]

Traditionally, Muslims in Mindanao, a major Islamic region in a heavily Catholic Christian Philippines, are majority Sufis. However, centuries of conflict between Christian Philippines and Muslim minority Moro people has manifested the increase of violence evolved from just war of independence for Moros to become a global jihadist networks bearing the name of Salafi Islam.[118]

The most notable Salafi group in the Philippines is Abu Sayyaf, which split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and had pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2015.[119] These Salafis had engaged against the Catholic Philippines, instigated the Battle of Marawi which Salafi fighters occupied the majority Sufi city of Marawi.[120] Sufi Islamic leaders in the Philippines had condemned the attack.

Poland[edit]

The Lipka Tatars, an indigenous and traditional Polish Muslim population resided in Poland, a majority Catholic Christian country, after the emergence of Polish–Lithuanian union, are a Sufi traditional Muslim population. Mostly Polonized, yet they are recognized as a symbol of European Muslim integration.[121] Poland has a long historical religious tolerance, though varied and divided by era, and the Lipka Tatars rarely being touched, even fought for Polish Army many years despite historical rebellion and skepticism.[122]

However, increasing Salafism in Poland was witnessed in 2000s when Islamic Salafi scholars started spreading Salafi version of Islam into the community, and the exodus of Chechen refugees to Poland fleeing after the Second Chechen War, many were indoctrinated with Salafism. In 2017, clashes between Salafis and Sufis occurred when a Salafi teacher, Nizar Charif, sought to takeover a Tatar Sufi mosque, prompted tensions between Lipka Tatars and Salafis.[123] Selim Chazbijewicz, a Lipka Tatar himself, addressed,

Experience so far has shown that they are unlikely to assimilate, or at least certainly will not do so in the first or second generation

Thus, hostilities between Lipka Tatars of Sufi belief and growing Salafi believers have been a menace on their relations. In 2018, Mateusz Morawiecki, a far right Polish politician, demanded for a ban of Muslim immigration, especially for those of Salafi belief, on conclusion that they cannot integrate within the society of the guests.[124] Salafism is also seen with heavy skepticism and limitation in Poland.[125]

Qatar[edit]

Qatar is the only one of two majority Wahhabi/Salafi countries in the world, other being Saudi Arabia. Thus, Qatar is often regarded together with Saudi Arabia, as the source of global terrorism, even by Sufi believers,[126] since Qatar and Saudi Arabia both finance for Wahhabi and Salafi activities in the world.[127] While it is common to see Qatari Sufis, Salafism is Qatar's state religion, though Qatar sought to differ with Saudi Arabia's own Wahhabism.[128]

Russia[edit]

While traditionally Christian, Russia has a number of Muslim-majority Republics or "federal subjects", such as Dagestan and Chechnya.

Vladimir Putin, the current Russian President, is thought to have taken a step in favor to Sufis in Russia. During the inaugural of new Moscow Cathedral Mosque in 2015, he official stated,

The traditions of enlightened Islam developed over many centuries in Russia. The fact that different peoples and religions live peacefully together in Russia is in large part thanks to the Muslim community, which has made a worthy contribution to preserving harmony in our society and has always strived to build relations within and between religions based on tolerance for each other’s faiths. Today, traditional Islam is an integral part of Russia’s spiritual life. Islam’s humanist values, like the values of our other traditional religions, teach people compassion, justice and care for our loved ones. We place great value on these things.[129]

His statement was thought to be anti-Salafism, has been under question for years as if Putin attempts to marginalize Salafis, many are hostile against Russian Government.[130] Some indicates possibility of Russian Government creating a version of Russian Islam which pledged loyalty under the flag of Russia.[131]

Dagestan

In Dagestan "Wahhabi" is the term used by most Dagestanis, although practitioners prefer the term "pure" or "true" Muslims.[132] While Islam arrived in Dagestan in the late Middle Ages as Sufi Islam "infused with local customs", Salafists began to have an impact by way of Afghanistan after the Soviet Union crumbled in the late 1980s[133] (although one Salafist scholar—Yaseen Rasulov—maintains that the ideas of salafist jurist Ibn Taimiyah were already popular in Dagestan in the 16th and 17th centuries and that Salafists have always led jihad against colonizing Russians).[134] According to the Abu Dhabi National newspaper

Salafis dislike the Sufi alliance with the government. Sufis run the government-sanctioned Spiritual Board of Muslims, to which the official clergy belong. They also support a secular state. Salafis do not.[133]

According to the Economist magazine "The Islamisation of the conflict" between Caucasus Muslims (in Dagestan and Chechnya) and Russia after the 1994 and 1999 Chechnya Wars "opened up a fierce sectarian fight between Sufism" and Salafism.[135] By the late 2000s the Salafis in Dagestan "were winning support among young Muslims", while the Sufis were "tainted by association with a corrupt and dysfunctional state".[135] Salafist are associated with the forest-based insurgency that has killed an average of three policeman a week in 2011, while police killed 100 people they identified as rebels, over a nine-month period in 2011.[133]

In October 2011, Sirazhutdin Khurikski, an influential Sufi sheikh in southern Dagestan, was killed.[136] In late August 2012, a revered Sufi scholar Sheikh Said Afandi and 5 others were among killed in Dagestan suicide bomb attack. A seventy-five-year-old cleric in the Sufi Brotherhood, Afandi was a key Sufi leader in the North Caucasus and had publicly denounced Salafism.[137][138] Another Sufi Sheikh, Ilyas-haji Ilyasov was assassinated on 3 August 2013, just a year after Said Afandi.[136]

Despite historical tensions between the two groups, as of mid-2015 "they are uniting in the face of twin threats: IS recruitment and the Russian government’s lawlessness."[139] In response, the Russian Government launched massive crackdowns on Salafi activities since 2015.[140]

Chechnya

The President (Aslan Maskhadov) of another Muslim-majority "federal subject" of Russia, Chechnya, took the side of Sufism against Salafism, saying, "We are Nakshband and Kadari and Sunnites, and there is no place for any other Islamic sect in Chechnya. ... We cannot tolerate a situation where the enemies of Islam trample under foot the century-old traditions of the Chechyn people, desecrate the name of our saints ..."[141] According to the BBC, however, his efforts "to ban the fundamentalist trend of Islam known as Wahhabism" were unsuccessful.[142] Since 2000s, Salafi Muslims have been under Russian Government surveillance.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

In Saudi Arabia for many years Sufi brotherhoods, (also known as "mystical" brotherhoods), were proscribed by the government, and a "monopoly on religious matters" was given to the official "scholarly Islam of ulemas", according to Gilles Kepel.[143] The official religion supported by the ulema in Saudi Arabia is often referred to as Wahhabism, but according to at least one source (Saudi author Abdul Aziz Qassim), its adherents prefer to call it the "Salafi movement of the Sheikh".[144][145]

However, the 9/11 attacks (where 15 of the 19 hijackers turned out to be Saudi), brought scrutiny to the official religion in Saudi. Amongst other things it has "put the brakes on the practice of takfir" of other interpretations of Islam by the Saudi religious establishment, according to one Sufi in Saudi Arabia quoted in a Washington Post article. As of 2006, Sufi gatherings are legal in the Kingdom though the Saudi Government doesn't trust them.[146]

Saudi Arabia has been accused for funding Salafism across the world by non-Wahhabi/Salafis as the source of global terrorism, citing ISIS as an example.[147]

Somalia[edit]

Traditionally, Islam in Somalia has followed moderate Sufism (as well as Ash’ariyah theology and Shafi’i jurisprudence).[148] Salafi theology has arrived in Somalia in recent decades via the influence of students educated at Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia and migrant workers returning from Saudi.[148] Somali students of religion educated in Saudi Arabia, were often employed by the many Saudi institutions created to preach "the right theology" (i.e. Salafi theology) and received "massive economic and technical assistance" from their well-funded former hosts.[148]

Extreme versions of Salafism such as Al-Shabab and earlier Hizbul Islam have used force to impose their version of Islamism[148] (though those groups appear to be in conflict with most Salafi scholars[149]). Under areas of Al-Shabab rule in Somali, Sufi ceremonies were banned[150] and shrines destroyed.[151] As the power of Al-Shabab has waned, however, Sufi ceremonies are said to have "re-emerged".[152]

Sri Lanka[edit]

On Easter Sunday 21 April 2019, the National Thowheeth Jama'ath, a "self-radicalised Salafi group inspired by the IS",[153] bombed Christian churches and luxury hotels in Colombo Sri Lanka, killing over 250 people. Several days later a memo circulated by Sri Lankan security services stated that there was "credible information" that the National Thowheeth Jama’ath, was planning another attack "specifically targeting Sufi shrines."[154] In an opinion piece in The New York Times about two weeks after the bombing, Sri Lankan author Ameena Hussein lamented that while Sufi mystics had been among those who introduced Islam to Sri Lanka in the seventh century,

Today, Sufism has gone underground, while radical Wahhabis and Salafis have taken over many of Sri Lanka’s mosques. Saudi-funded religious schools with puritanical preachers have persuaded many in our community that Sufism is a threat to the practice of a “pure,” original Islam. While some families still cling to their Sufi roots, others have found it easier to accept the Wahhabi-enforced norms, which have affected Muslims regardless of class, city or sect. [155]

Sudan[edit]

According to the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar news site, conflict has been "simmering" between the two largest "religious sects" in Sudan—Salafis and Sufis.[156] Al Jazeera estimates that more than 60% of Sudanese are affiliated with Sufism, while 10% are tied to Salafi groups, though that number is growing.[157] Salafis, particularly the largest and oldest Salafi group Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyyah, oppose Sufi beliefs and practices they find to be "heresies and perversions" and have been active preaching publicly against (what they believe are) unIslamic activities. Arab Afghan Jihadist Salafists have also been active in Sudan since the 1990s, sometimes violently.[157] In January 2012 a fight broke out between Sufis celebrating the Prophet Mohammad's birthday and salafis.

Dozens of people were injured before the Sudanese police arrived at the scene to stop the fighting. Beyond the known differences between the two groups on the permissibility and religious legitimacy of the celebration, this specific clash took place in the context of rising tensions between the two groups [(Sufi and Salafi)], that arose after unknown persons dug up and burned the tomb of a Sufi on 2nd December 2011. The exhumed body was that of Sheikh Idris oud al-Arbab ... The Sufi sects had accused the Salafi groups of desecrating and burning the tomb; the Salafis had denied any involvement, but the relationship between the two groups became increasingly tense leading up to the assault on the mawlid on 31st January 2012.[157]

Following this disturbance and complaints by Sufis, the Khartoum government announced a ban on Ansar al-Sunnah clerics preaching in public areas. Several "Sufi domes and shrines" have also been destroyed in Sudan, something Ansar denies any involvement in.[156]

Thailand[edit]

Thailand is widely seen as a religious tolerance nation, as Thai people rarely discriminate people of non-Buddhist backgrounds despite 95% Thais are Buddhists. Thai Muslims, mostly Sufis, have been active in Thai society and sometimes hold high positions in Thai Government. Nonetheless, increasing religious intolerance between Thai Sufis and Thai Salafis have been witnessed since 2000s. Ismail Lutfi Chapakiya and Sheikh Rida Ahmad Samadi, who led the Salafi reformist movement in Thailand, have been active since and often promote a more violence version of Islam in the country; however despite this, it remains a pragmatic approach trying to avoid using too much violence as possible in fear of provocation.[158] South Thailand insurgency, nonetheless, helped spreading, though slowly, the version of Salafi Islam among Thai Muslims, notably Thai Malays.[159]

Tunisia[edit]

In an article on the rise of Salafism in Tunisia, the media site Al-Monitor reported that 39 Sufi shrines were destroyed or desecrated in Tunisia, from the 2011 revolution to January 2013. The shrines, called zawaya, are mausoleums built to house the remains of ancient holy men.[160]

According to journalists Peter Beaumont and Patrick Kingsley,

The Salafist component in Tunisia remains a small minority, but it has prompted rows and mistrust among secularists and moderate Islamists. The Salafists are spread between three broad groups: new small political movements that have formed in recent months; non-violent Salafis; and violent Salafists and jihadists who, though small in number, have had a major impact in terms of violent attacks, arson on historic shrines or mausoleums considered to be unorthodox, demonstrations against art events ... and isolated incidents of attacking premises that sell alcohol outside Tunis.[161]

Turkey[edit]

The Turks have a long tensions and hostility against anything Wahhabism and Salafism, due to historical experience as the Ottoman Empire.

The Turks, a Sufi people, had engaged against the Saudis in a brutal Wahhabi War began at 19th century. The war, which the Saudis sought to legitimize their influence and denouncing Ottoman Caliphate, was met with anger from the Ottoman Government. War broke out and the Turks suppressed the Wahhabis, beheaded its leaders including Abdullah bin Saud, and banned Wahhabism across the empire.[162] Nonetheless, with the end of World War I, the Turks were forced to depart and the Wahhabis soon took over Mecca and Medina. Yet, resentment against Wahhabi remains high in Turkish society, which culminated following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.[163]

Turkey has continued prohibition and limitation of Wahhabism and Salafism across the country, and even claimed they are fighting them for 200 years.[164]

United States[edit]

In the United States, Sufi leader Muhammad Hisham Kabbani is well known for his vocal criticism of Wahhabism.[165] Kabbani, who moved to the United States in 1990 as an emissary of his teacher, Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Al-Haqqani, the grand shaykh of the Naqshbandi order, has described Wahhabism as being "like an octopus" because 'Its tentacles are reaching everywhere.' According to Kabbani, when he arrived in the US from Lebanon in 1990 he was shocked to hear Wahhabi doctrines being preached at Friday sermons. 'I asked myself: Is Wahhabism active in America? So I started my research. Whichever mosque I went to, it was Wahhabi, Wahhabi, Wahhabi, Wahhabi.' In 1999, during a forum organised by the US Department of State, Kabbani charged that '80 per cent' of the mosques in the U.S. were run by extremists.[166]

Following September 11 attacks, it has led to increasing resurgence of anti-Salafism across the U.S., and there have been a numerous call to isolate and remove anything Wahhabism/Salafism in the United States.[167]

Vietnam[edit]

Vietnam has a long and complicated relationship with the Cham minority — a recognized minority in the country, who were once indigenous in Central Vietnam while maintaining a long history of religious relations, though varied between persecution and tolerance. This complicated nature also brought the complex of relations between Salafis and Sufis in Vietnam. Vietnamese Muslim population counted over 0,5–1% of the country's total 90 million population which are overwhelmingly Buddhist with large Christian population.

First spreading since 15th century, the Cham population of Vietnam went to become majority Muslims with significant minority Hindus at 17th century when Champa went to near destruction.[168] Under Vietnamese rule, it was characterized as complex due to varied level of tolerance and persecution; and there existed two types of Cham Islam since: the Cham Bani which incorporated between Islam, Cham paganism, Buddhism and Hinduism;[169] and the traditional Cham Islam followed the model of Prophet Muhammad. Chams have been faithful and loyal to Vietnamese state in some chapters of history; and there were, in fact, several Muslim brigades founded by the Royal Vietnamese dynasty to wage war and keeping border.[170] However, increasing persecutions in 19th century led to anti-Vietnamese uprising by a Sufi cleric, Khatip Suma. It was violently suppressed, and the systematic oppression of Cham Muslims continued even after the French conquest. It was the French conquest that saw the arrival of Wahhabism and Salafism in the country. Salafism, first spread by a Cham who educated in Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Badri, growing at 1960s during the Vietnam War.[171] Badri sought to purify Islam, accusing Cham Sufis as heretics and non-belivers. This caused a rift between majority Cham Sufis and small but growing Cham Salafi population.[172]

After more 25 years with Vietnam's Đổi mới reforms, return of hazard religious tolerance and Badri's death, his son Abdulazim Badri continued his father's path and stayed conflict with majority Cham Sufi Muslims.[172] In 2001, Vietnamese scholar Phạm Hữu Đạt, a Kinh, accused the Cham Salafis for trying to using aids from Gulf Arab states to finance for Salafi activities, taking refuge in Malaysia to spread radical Salafism and sought them to be banned.[172]

In 2014, a Cham Salafi cleric who studied in Saudi Arabia, stated the role of women as inferior, and sought to make Islam purified in the ideology of Salafism. His statement marked with heavy criticisms from Vietnamese Muslim Association including Sufis, accusing him for being an Islamic extremist.[173]

The Government of Vietnam, having long complex relations with the Chams, maintains heavy security surveillance over both Sufis and Salafis, especially Salafi community, in fear of spreading Islamic extremism in the country; and has limited a number of Islamic scholars entering the country without possible requirements.[174]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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