(First published 2006)
This is one detailed work not so much as on the origins of Wahhabism in Nejd (present day Saudi Arabia) but on its spread in the Indian Subcontinent. For that matter, the title of the book is quite misleading. Only a chapter or so talk about the “Wahhabi Cult” and its relationship with “modern Jihad”. Rather, it is a book which extensively charts the introduction and spread of Wahhabism in British India.
Shah Waliullah and the founder of Madrasah Naeemiya of Delhi [whose name slips my mind!] were instrumental in propagating early versions of what they claimed was “pure Islam of the salaf”, italics meaning the first Muslims. In India, at that time, this movement had not yet been identified as Wahhabism. It was with the rise of Syed Ahmed and his influential close aides, including famous names in Indian Muslim nobility, who stood up and fought against British rule in the name of Jihad, that Indian Wahhabism was officially thrown into limelight.
Charles Allen charts Syed Ahmed’s all uprisings and battles, especially in NWFP – now in Pakistan – and makes an interpretation that those battles cannot be categorised solely as national struggle of the indigenous people against hegemonic imperial rule. They were, in most part, religiously motivated. The underlying rationale with which those battles were fought was something new to Indian Muslims. No other Muslim sect carried out their struggle against British Raj in the name of Jihad per se, save this group of budding Wahhabis.
The author makes an interesting point that Syed Ahmed and his followers were already fighting the British before the Rebellion of 1857 but, interestingly, they did not join forces with the “mutineers”, which included people of all religions, Hindus as well as Muslims, when they rebelled against the British and symbolically gathered under the banner of the nominal Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar. It is because Syed Ahmed’s Wahhabis saw their Jihad as exclusively as a religious duty and it could be only waged if special criteria were met. Only a God-inspired Imam could declare Jihad and Indian Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was not a qualified Imam; for Wahhabis, the Imam was Syed Ahmed.
A book worth reading if you have patience for long and confusing Subcontinental names and don’t mind reading extensively detailed accounts of each and every battle fought between the Wahhabis and Britishers in the mountain passes situated at the extreme edge of the then British India.
The title of the book should be: “The Wahhabi Jihad: It’s Origins and Spread in British India”.
My rating 4/5. Here is the link from AMAZON