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Int. J. Middle East Stud.

44 (2012), 93110
doi:10.1017/S0020743811001267

Joas Wagemakers

THE ENDURING LEGACY OF THE SECOND


S A U D I S TAT E : Q U I E T I S T A N D R A D I C A L
WA H H A B I C O N T E S TAT I O N S O F A L - W A L A
W A - L - B A R A

Abstract
The concept of al-wala wa-l-bara (loyalty to Islam, Muslims, and God and disavowal of everything else) has developed in various ways in Wahhabi discourse since the 19th century. This can
partly be ascribed to the civil war that caused the collapse of the second Saudi state (182491)
and the lessons that both quietist and radical Wahhabi scholars have drawn from that episode. In
this article, I contend that Wahhabi contestations of al-wala wa-l-bara can be divided into two
distinct trendsone social and the other politicaland that both show the enduring legacy of the
second Saudi state, which can still be discerned in Wahhabi scholarly writings on the subject of
al-wala wa-l-bara today.

Wahhabism, the version of Islam serving as Saudi Arabias guiding ideology and named
after one of the countrys founding fathers (Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, 170392),
is often popularly associated with rigidity andparticularly after 9/11terrorism.1 A
concept that seemingly embodies the inflexible character of Wahhabism is al-wala wa-lbara (loyalty and disavowal). The concept has its origins in pre-Islamic times. The term
tabarru (from the same root as bara) seems to have meant severing ties between family
members or the expulsion of unruly tribesmen.2 It was later incorporated into Islam and
the Quran, as expressed, for example, in Sura 9 (also known as surat baraa), where it is
said to have expressed the breaking of treaties between Muslims and non-Muslims.3 The
term wala was used in pre-Islamic times to refer to various kinds of ties between patrons
and their clients (mawal),4 but its Quranic use seems to indicate religious loyalty among
Muslims.5 The two concepts together became highly important among Shii Muslims6
and, partly through the writings of Taqi al-Din Ahmad b. Taymiyya (12631328),7 were
adopted by the scholars of Wahhabism.8 In Wahhabi writings, wala refers to the loyalty
that all Muslims should show to God, Islam, and their co-religionists in every sphere of
life, while bara denotes the notion that Muslims should disavow all other things so as
to stay away from anything considered un-Islamic. Wahhabi scholars thus believe that

Joas Wagemakers is a Lecturer in the Department of Islam and Arabic at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands; e-mail: j.wagemakers@rs.ru.nl
Cambridge University Press 2012 0020-7438/12 $15.00

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al-wala wa-l-bara is the guiding principle for Muslims relations with kuffar (infidels,
non-Muslims) and use it to make a strict distinction between Islam and everything else.
The civil war that took place at the time of the second Saudi state (182491) had a great
impact on the development of al-wala wa-l-bara among Wahhabi scholars. Although
several Western studies deal with this period in detail,9 general works on the Saudi state
pay little attention to 19th-century Arabia.10 Yet important events during that century
including not only the civil war but also the invasions by external enemiesproduced
Wahhabi writings that continue to reverberate in the scholarly debate on al-wala wa-lbara. This article focuses on how al-wala wa-l-bara is contested in Wahhabi discourse
and how events on the 19th-century Arabian peninsula, particularly the Saudi civil war,
have influenced these contestations over the meaning of the concept.
The article starts with an overview of the Saudi civil war and the religious debate
it generated, based mostly on secondary sources. I then show how both the war and
the debate have had an impact on the role of scholars in Saudi Arabia. First, I analyze
how prominent Saudi ulama in the past few decades have tried to present al-wala
wa-l-bara as an apolitical concept strictly relevant to societal and religious issues, a
position that has squared with Saudi policies. Second, I turn to the writings of radical
Wahhabi scholars in the past twenty years to show how they, in contrast to leading (and
mostly state-affiliated) ulama, have interpreted al-wala wa-l-bara as applicable to the
affairs of state, including Saudi Arabias foreign policy. This political interpretation of
the concept is often expressed through the notion of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar (asking nonMuslims for help, thereby showing them loyalty) that was developed by some scholars
during the civil war. These last two sections of the article are based almost entirely on
primary texts in Arabic and on fieldwork in several countries, including Saudi Arabia.
The purpose of this article is twofold. First, I intend to show that al-wala wa-l-bara
is a highly contested concept among Wahhabi scholars and that their interpretations
have developed into two distinct trends: one, used by quietist Wahhabi scholars, relates
strictly to societal and religious issues and is referred to as social in this article; the
other, used by radical Wahhabi scholars, is applied to the Saudi states internal and
external policies and is labeled political here. Second, I try to demonstrate that these
two trends are partly a result of the enduring legacy of the second Saudi state, which
continues to resonate in scholarly writings on the subject of al-wala wa-l-bara, and
thus to show how one Wahhabi concept has changed over time and that Wahhabism is
less uniform and inflexible than is popularly believed.

C I V I L WA R I N T H E S E C O N D S AU D I S TAT E

Background to the Civil War


The alliance between Muhammad b. Saud, the founder of the first Saudi realm, and
Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, which started in 1744 and still serves as the basis of
Saudi Arabias governing system, led to a successful imposition of Ibn Abd al-Wahhabs
doctrines on an expanding territory. The ambitions of the alliance between the Al Saud
and the Al al-Shaykh did not stop at the central Arabian region of Najd, where the
families originated. Other parts of the Arabian peninsula, including the Hijaz in the
west, with its two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, were added to the Saudi realm in

The Enduring Legacy of the Second Saudi State

95

the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The ruling Ottoman Empire increasingly viewed
the expanding Saudi state as a threat, particularly after the latter conquered the holy
places in the Hijaz at the expense of Ottoman control. It therefore called upon the new
ruler of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, whose army was possibly the most powerful in the region
and whose state was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, to reconquer the Hijaz on
behalf of Istanbul.11
Mehmet Alis armies arrived on Arabian soil in 1811 and conquered not only the
Hijaz but also the rest of Saudi territory in the years that followed, effectively ending
the first Saudi state by sacking its capital, al-Diriyya, in 1818.12 One factor that helped
the invading armies was that some Arabians living under Saudi rule switched their
allegiance to the Ottoman state. Having been forced to adopt Wahhabism as the ruling
doctrine and to suffer the consequences of regular raids aimed at expanding the realm,
many had been rather reluctant supporters of the alliance between the Al Saud and the
Al al-Shaykh. Some therefore welcomed the invasion of Mehmet Alis armies and even
called for the resumption of Egyptian attacks during a truce between the warring parties
in 1815. Not surprisingly, the Saudi rulers and Wahhabi ulama viewed these calls for
foreign invasion as grave acts of disloyalty.13
Amidst the turmoil caused by the war, one Wahhabi scholar addressed this issue
of disloyalty. Sulayman b. Abdallah Al al-Shaykh (17851818), a grandson of Ibn
Abd al-Wahhab and one of the most important Wahhabi ulama of his time, wrote a
treatise entitled al-Dalail fi Hukm Muwalat Ahl al-Ishrak (Evidence Against Loyalty
to the Polytheists), in which he addressed this topic through the concept of al-wala
wa-l-bara. Sulayman argues that if Muslims show loyalty (muwalat, linguistically
related to wala) to polytheists (mushrikun), they become like them and thus, in effect,
turn themselves into kuffar as well.14 Wahhabi scholars included the Ottomans in this
category of polytheists, probably because of their allegedly strong connections to Sufism
and to popular practices such as visiting graves, which Wahhabis condemned as shirk,
as well as their un-Islamic laws and their long-held enmity toward the Al Saud and
Wahhabism.15
Sulaymans treatise on loyalty to polytheists, interpreted in the context of Saudi
Ottoman rivalry, added a new political dimension to the concept of al-wala wa-l-bara
by applying the general term of loyalty to Islam to a situation in which two states were
involved in a conflict. Before that time, writings on al-wala wa-l-bara and on its underlying principle of separation between Islam/Muslims and other religions/non-Muslims
as found in the works of Ibn Taymiyya,16 Ibn Abd al-Wahhab,17 and others18 mostly
encompassed personal religious practices, such as refraining from engaging in relations
with non-Muslims by not traveling to infidel countries.19 Sulaymans treatise thus gave
the concept a new dimension. Although the first Saudi state collapsed shortly thereafter,
his work survived, and the extrapolation of al-wala wa-l-bara from the social to the
political sphere would be used during the civil war to change the concept even further.

Abdallah, Saud, and the Ulama


Although the victory of the Egyptians over the Saudis had been complete, the latter
quickly regained power. The occupation of the Arabian peninsula by Egyptian troops
had resulted in oppression and hardship for the population and when another member

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of the Al Saud, Turki b. Abdallah, tried to restore his familys rule, he found enough
support to reconquer his lost homeland. The capture of the new capital, Riyadh, in 1824
marked the beginning of the second Saudi state.20
The new statenotwithstanding a renewed Egyptian invasion in the 1830s21 was
fairly successful, particularly during the reign of Turkis son Faysal, but this changed
dramatically when Faysal died in 1865 and his son Abdallah became the new ruler.
Abdallah enjoyed support from the Wahhabi scholars and his succession of his father
seemed obvious. The legitimacy of Abdallahs rule was challenged militarily, however,
by his brother Saud. Although Abdallah was able to retain control for several years,
Saud succeeded in gaining power at the expense of his brother in 1871, and a civil war
grew out of the conflict between the two siblings. It continued for more than a decade,
eventually weakening the state so much that it was easily overrun by Muhammad b.
Rashid, the leader of a rival Arabian dynasty, thereby ending the second Saudi state in
the late 19th century.22
The relevance of the second Saudi state and the civil war in particular to the development of al-wala wa-l-bara lies in the scholarly debate that took place during this period
about a decision made by Abdallah. In his attempts to repel Sauds efforts to rule the
land, Abdallah had called on the polytheistic Ottoman rulers in neighboring Iraq for
military aid. The help came, and Abdallah temporarily cooperated with the Ottomans.23
Most ulama believed that the precarious situation and Sauds illegitimate claim to the
throne necessitated the action. A powerful minority, however, stated that Abdallahs
decision amounted to loyalty to polytheists by asking the infidel Ottomans for help
in fighting other Muslims (al-istia na bi-l-kuffar).24 One of these, Hamd b. Atiq (d.
188384), went further and applied excommunication (takfr) to Muhammad b. Ibrahim
b. Ajlan, a Wahhabi judge, for supporting Abdallahs decision.25
Much as the Egyptian occupation of Arabia in the early 19th century led to a new
dimension of al-wala wa-l-bara through the treatise by Sulayman, events during the
civil war pushed the development of the concept further through a book written by the
aforementioned Ibn Atiq. In Sabil al-Najat wa-l-Fikak min Muwalat al-Murtaddin wal-Atrak (Fleeing and Separating from Loyalty to Apostates and the Turks)26 which
partly builds on the earlier work by Sulayman27 and has been all but ignored by
Western scholars of the second Saudi state28 Ibn Atiq argues that Muslims should
not only refrain from giving loyalty to non-Muslims but should also actively disavow
them. He even states that Muslims only show their faith properly if they disavow
infidels,29 thereby shifting the emphasis from inadmissible wala to compulsory
bara.
As mentioned previously, Ibn Atiq was strongly against Abdallahs call to the Ottomans (the Turks)30 for help, and he wrote this book specifically to condemn it.31
This view was shared in the writings of the leading Wahhabi scholar at that time, Abd
al-Latif b. Abd al-Rahman Al al-Shaykh (d. 1876), who sided with Ibn Atiq in the
debate. He openly scolded Abdallah for his loyalty to the Ottomans and wrote letters
defending his view, including one to Ibn Ajlan, who had supported Abdallahs call
for help, in which he stated that as for the question of asking them [the Ottomans] for
help, that is controversial, but the correct [view] is . . . that it is absolutely forbidden.32
Instead of showing loyalty to the Ottomans by asking them for help, Abd al-Latif called
on Muslims in general and Saud in particular to wage jihad against them.33

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97

The writings of Ibn Atiq and Abd al-Latif show that these scholars were willing
to criticize the rulers for what they believed were grave mistakes and that they used
the concept of al-wala wa-l-bara to express their criticism. Together with the earlier
treatise by Sulayman, these writings reinterpreted the meaning of the concept by giving
it a political dimension that was relevant to interstate relations. As we will see, the
scholars realized that the collapse of the second Saudi state deprived them of their power
base and diminished their influence. This realization proved to be the most important
legacy of the second Saudi state for politically quietist Wahhabi scholars.
T H E Q U I E T I S T L E G A C Y: AL-WALA  WA-L-BARA  A S A
SOCIAL CONCEPT

The shock of the second Saudi states collapse caused Wahhabi scholars to rethink their
positions vis-`a-vis the state, in part because the collapse meant the loss of a strong ruler
who could guarantee their influence and protect them. This, in turn, was detrimental to
the unity and stability of the community (jamaa) of Muslims they envisioned. Because
they realized that their ideas could only be implemented under the protection of a leader,
they vowed to remain subservient to the ruler and avoid the fitna (chaos, strife) of civil
war in the future.34 This attitude could be seen in their writings, which began stressing
sam (listening) and .ta a (obedience) to the ruler as necessary for the survival of the
jamaa and indeed of Islam itself. This was summed up in the expression la dn illa
bi-jamaa wa-la jamaa illa bi-imama wa-la imama illa bi-sam wa-t.a a (there is no
religion except through community, no community except through leadership, and no
leadership except through listening and obedience).35
It should be pointed out that the obedience of the Wahhabi scholars to their ruler was
not absolute36 nor was it caused by the shock of the civil war. The tradition that Muslim
scholars should be subservient to their ruler, provided he applies Islamic law (sharia),
is centuries older than the second Saudi state and was applied by Wahhabi scholars long
before the conflicts between the two princes.37 The civil war provided a strong impetus
for the scholars to reinforce their subservience, however, and this trend continued and
even increased in the 20th century under the first king of the third Saudi state, Abd
al-Aziz b. Abd al-Rahman (d. 1953), and his successors.38 Al-wala wa-l-bara is
one religious concept in which the subservience of the scholars was reflected. As they
increasingly shied away from criticizing their rulers, they often avoided the controversial
19th-century writings, stripped al-wala wa-l-bara of the political relevance that it had
acquired, and turned it into an apolitical and strictly social concept that was applicable
only to interpersonal relations.39
This process of presenting al-wala wa-l-bara as a social concept by 20th-century
Wahhabi scholars was accomplished first of all through a thorough explanation of the
concepts meaning and its roots in the Quran. On the basis of numerous verses, such
as Q. 5:51, 58:22, 60:1, and 60:4, the scholars concluded that forbidden wala entailed
friendship, love, and affection for non-Muslims and their religion. They concluded
that Muslims should instead treat non-Muslims by showing them bara, equated with
disassociation, hatred, and enmity.40 The way many Wahhabi scholars applied this in
practice clearly shows that they had abandoned the political relevance of the concept that
could be discerned in the 19th-century writings mentioned previously. A major theme in

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their treatment of al-wala wa-l-bara was and still is participation in non-Islamic feasts.
Muhammad b. Ibrahim Al al-Shaykh (d. 1969), for instance, a former mufti of Saudi
Arabia and one of the most prominent Wahhabi scholars of the 20th century, states that
God has given Muslims only two feasts (d al-fit.r and d al-ad.h.a )adding any other
would mean resembling the unbelievers (mushabahat al-kuffar), which is forbidden
(tah.rm).41 Other Wahhabi scholars also assert that it is not permissible to participate in
the feasts of Jews and Christians or to congratulate non-Muslims on the occasion of their
religious holidays.42 A second recurring theme in social interpretations of al-wala wa-lbara is the permissibility of greeting non-Muslims. Two major Saudi scholars who have
paid special attention to this are Abd al-Aziz b. Baz (d. 1999) and Muhammad b. Salih
al-Uthaymin (d. 2001). Based on a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, both conclude
that it is necessary to distinguish oneself from non-Muslims by never greeting them
first43 or using a hand gestureconsidered part of the manners of non-believersto
greet another Muslim instead of saying al-salamu alaykum.44
Among other issues to which al-wala wa-l-bara is applied are the various conditions
under which one may travel to non-Muslim countries and how one should behave there
so as not to show any loyalty to infidels45 ; how to avoid resembling them in dress,
behavior, or names46 ; and how to conduct everyday relations with Shii Muslims.47
These rulings have two things in common. First, they serve to keep Muslims away from
anything that might stain the purity of their beliefs and lead to loyaltyexpressed as love,
affection, or friendshipfor supposedly un-Islamic things. Second, they deal only with
social issues and do not address anything political that might lead to criticism of the state.
This is also how al-wala wa-l-bara is presented in Saudi schoolbooks.48 On the rare occasions that such scholars deal with political issues in their writings, their arguments and
conclusions avoid references to the 19th-century events or works mentioned previously
(even if these are highly relevant)49 and clearly show their subservience to the Saudi
state. Ibn Baz, for example, despite his statements that having a meal with Christians
is only admissible under certain conditions,50 that brotherhood or friendship between
Muslims and Christians is contrary to the sharia,51 and that disavowal and enmity, not
dialogue, are the correct way to deal with Jews and non-Muslims in general,52 does not
condemn (political) efforts to establish peace (s.ulh.) with Israel (the Jews) because
bilateral issues such as the exchange of ambassadors supposedly do not require true
friendship (mawadda) or loyalty (muwalat).53 Similarly, Salih b. Fawzan al-Fawzan (b.
1935), one of the most prominent Wahhabi scholars alive, states that the necessity to
disavow non-Muslims and their beliefs means that one can still engage in trade relations
with them, a common practice of the Saudi state.54
The fact that many Wahhabi scholars apply al-wala wa-l-bara only in the social
sphere is perhaps not surprising considering their traditional (and doctrinally supported)
attitude of obedience to the rulers, especially after it was reinforced following the civil
war.55 Yet some Wahhabi scholars go even further. They do not just strip the concept of its
political components but also try to counter the claims that helping unbelievers or asking
them for help against Muslims (al-istia na bi-l-kuffar)the dimension of al-wala wal-bara that Sulayman, Ibn Atiq, and Abd al-Latif condemned as unbelief (kufr) during
the first and second Saudi statesare necessarily acts of kufr. Without actually denying
the validity of the arguments of the 19th-century scholars mentioned, the Wahhabi
scholar Hatim b. Arif al-Awni, in a book distributed by the Saudi-sponsored Muslim

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99

World League, claims that unbelief in ones heart is a necessary condition for wrongful
wala to lead to takfr. Asking infidels for help in fighting other Muslims, in other
words, does not turn one into a kafir unless it is accompanied by clear proof of unbelief
in ones heart. This means that only Muslims who openly state that they renounce Islam
by showing loyalty to non-Muslims can be called kuffar. Since Muslims are highly
unlikely to recant their faith openly when asking non-Muslims for help, this basically
disqualifies al-istia na bi-l-kuffar (and al-wala wa-l-bara in general) as a tool that may
be used for excommunicating Muslims.56
Another scholar who has gone to new lengths to depoliticize al-wala wa-l-bara is
the aforementioned al-Fawzan, who dedicated an entire book to explaining the 19thcentury treatise by Sulayman. Although he acknowledges that Sulaymans text deals
with two countries that are at war with one another and thus implicitly admits that
al-wala wa-l-bara may have some relevance at the state level, his explanation of the
text is remarkable. He claims that Sulayman wrote this treatise condemning this kind
of betrayal not because some Arabians had asked polytheist outsiders for help but
because they provided aid to a particular army (that of Mehmet Ali) whose intent was
to destroy Islam. The plan of the invading armies, according to al-Fawzan, was not to
solve a strictly military or territorial conflict but to uproot the creed of the unity of God
[aqdat al-tawh.d] and support grave-worshipping [quburiyya].57 With this argument,
al-Fawzan effectively defangs Sulaymans treatise, since any modern-day application of
its reasoning would have to involve a state that wants to destroy Islam. As no country in
the world has that policy objectiveeven though some Muslims believe otherwiseany
analogy with present-day Saudi Arabias ties with the United States, for example, would
be erroneous.
In a sense, this argument brings the development of the concept of al-wala wa-l-bara
full circle, returning it to its pre-19th-century quietist origins by recuperating Sulaymans
treatiseone of the documents that first applied al-wala wa-l-bara to politicsinto
the strictly social interpretation of the concept. Al-Fawzans book may indicate that the
civil war had such a strong impact on Saudi scholars that they not only reaffirmed their
obedience to the state but ultimately even incorporated one of the books that started
applying al-wala wa-l-bara to inter-state relations into this tradition of subservience.58

T H E R A D I C A L L E G A C Y: AL-WALA  WA-L-BARA  A S A P O L I T I C A L
CONCEPT

The social interpretations of al-wala wa-l-bara by recent Wahhabi scholars may give
the impression that they are simply trying to mold the concept in such a way that it
can be incorporated into their generally obedient attitude to the Saudi state. Yet this
conclusion would not be entirely accurate, since some of these social interpretations of
al-wala wa-l-bara, such as the need for Muslims to avoid non-Muslim feasts,59 the
proper way to greet infidels,60 and the strict conditions under which believers may
travel to or live in non-Islamic countries,61 have long been part of Salafi62 and Wahhabi
literature. This is probably also why radical 20th-century Wahhabi scholars critical of the
Saudi state have continued this dimension of al-wala wa-l-bara.63 One of the Wahhabi
scholars who continued this tradition of al-wala wa-l-bara as a social concept while

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simultaneously playing a prominent role in reintroducing its political relevance is the


PalestinianJordanian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.64
Al-Maqdisi (b. 1959) studied briefly in Medina in the early 1980s, where he first
became acquainted with al-wala wa-l-bara and, more specifically, with the idea of
al-istia na bi-l-kuffar as defined by Sulayman and Ibn Atiq.65 He went on to write
extensively about the concept in different ways; for the purposes of this article, his
most important contribution was reintroducing the notion of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar as
an inadmissible form of wala.66 This was first expressed in his book Millat Ibrahim
(The Religion of Abraham), in which he states that Muslims should show bara to shirk
and its adherents (mushrikun) and that this is a condition of their true faith, preferably
expressed through jihad and fighting against the mushrikun.67 Al-Maqdisi applies this
version of bara against the rulers of the Muslim world (including Saudi Arabia), whom
he accuses of un-Islamic forms of wala.68 In short, he reintroduces the political element
of the concept of al-wala wa-l-bara by turning it into a call for jihad against nominally
Muslim states. Interestingly, he arrives at this conclusion by making extensive use of
the 19th-century Wahhabi writings that point to the political relevance of al-wala wa-lbara, although he does so in an anti-Saudi, revolutionary mode that probably was never
intended by the 19th-century scholars. Whereas quietist Wahhabi scholars often try to
avoid these writings or at least their political implications, al-Maqdisi quotes Sulayman,
Abd al-Latif, and especially Ibn Atiq69 repeatedly.
Al-Maqdisis efforts to show the relevance of these 19th-century writings and to make
his own case through them were taken to the next level in al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya fi Kufr
al-Dawla al-Saudiyya (The Manifest Revelations of the Unbelief of the Saudi State). In
this work, he scolds Saudi Arabia for various errors,70 including the regimes ties with
the United States, and claims that the United States is the real power behind the Saudi
throne.71 What is important about this accusation is that al-Maqdisi frames it as an issue
of al-wala wa-l-bara, approvingly citing a report that claims that the complete loyalty
of the government of Saudi Arabia to the United States and its reliance on it [the United
States] have totally robbed it of the freedom to take decisions.72 He further states that
Saudi Arabia pretends to rule in accordance with Islam and its laws . . . but it is an
infidel liar [kadhiba kafira] . . . because of its loyalty to the enemies of the religion
[muwalataha li-ada al-dn].73 He believes that the Saudi relationship with America
is directed against Islam and goes on to quote several Wahhabi scholars to show that
helping the polytheists and aiding them against the Muslims is kufr. To complete his
reintroduction of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar, he points to the relevant writings by Sulayman
and Ibn Atiq and the similarities between Saudi Arabias ties with the United States and
Arabian calls for Ottoman help in the 19th century.74
The importance of this rediscovery of the 19th-century political interpretations of
al-wala wa-l-bara in al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya is twofold. First, it shows that at least
one Wahhabi concept could be used against the Saudi state and that Wahhabism as
an ideology could therefore not automatically be equated with its subservient version,
which the regime has tried to promote. Second, al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya, which deals so
extensively with the countrys ties with the United States, appeared shortly before the
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. As a result of this conflict, the Saudi government
decided to invite 500,000 U.S. troops to protect it against a potential attack by Iraqi
dictator Saddam Husayn. This decision to invite infidel soldiers from a country that

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many saw as an enemy was a controversial one in ruling circles as well as among the
ulama and led to astonishment in the broader Muslim world.75 In Saudi Arabia itself it
led to a wave of protests and petitions by various groups that was not fully brought under
control by the regime until the mid-1990s.76 Most important for this study, al-Maqdisis
book criticizing SaudiU.S. ties and comparing them with the 19th-century call for help
from the Ottomans suddenly became highly topical. Although it took some years for the
book to permeate the circles of radical Wahhabi scholars and thinkers,77 its comparison
between the Saudi calls for Ottoman and American aid helped initiate a revival of the
notion of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar, which many quietist scholars had tried to reason away.
Reclaiming the Past: Beyond the Gulf War
While al-Maqdisi played a role in reviving the notion of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar, it did not
feature very prominently in his writings, and it was therefore left to others to further
develop this aspect of al-wala wa-l-bara. One book that did so was the anonymously
written al-Nizam al-Saudi fi Mizan al-Islam (The Saudi System in the Balance of Islam).
Part of the book deals with al-wala wa-l-bara and, on the basis of the 19th-century
scholars mentioned previously, sharply criticizes Saudi Arabia. It states that the scholars
of the Muslims agree that the state, community or individual that helps the enemies of
Islam against the Muslims with money, men, weapons or espionage and information
[al-tajassus wa-l-malumat] is excluded from Islam [kharij min al-milla].78 The book
then compares this description with Saudi Arabias behavior and concludes that the
countrys ties with the United States constitute the type of relationship that scholars
should condemn, specifically naming the Saudi invitation of 500,000 soldiers during the
Gulf War as an example.79
Although the identity of this books author(s) is not entirely clear, it is certain that it
was at least partly written by Saudi exiles in London.80 From the late 1990s onward,
these critics of the state were joined by radical scholars from inside Saudi Arabia, most
prominently by what Hegghammer refers to as the Shuaybi school, a group of radical
scholars centered around Humud b. Uqala al-Shuaybi (19272002), a retired professor
at Imam Muhammad b. Saud University who sympathized with al-Qaida and approved
of 9/11.81 The group proved instrumental in promoting the political dimension of
al-wala wa-l-bara into an influential position espoused by many other Wahhabi radicals. This process was started by al-Shuaybi himself. In al-Qawl al-Mukhtar fi Hukm
al-Istiana bi-l-Kuffar (The Preferred View on the Ruling of Asking the Infidels for
Help), he deals extensively with the notion of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar, as the title suggests,
and is very clear in his judgement. He interprets the concept in a political way and refers
specifically to states, concluding that asking non-Muslims for help in fighting other
Muslims is forbidden.82 He claims that asking a state for help in fighting other Muslims
is even worse than asking individuals, because states are more powerful and can thus
do more damage to Islam.83 Although Humud b. Uqala, who explicitly refers to Abd
al-Latifs 19th-century writings on this issue,84 does not mention Saudi Arabia in his
book, his sympathy for al-Qaida as well as the statements referred to previously seem
to speak for themselves.
Other members of the Shuaybi school also emphasized this political dimension
of al-wala wa-l-bara in their writings but in a slightly later and different international

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context. Whereas the Gulf War and Saudi Arabias call for help from the United States
in 1990 had rekindled the interest in al-istia na bi-l-kuffar, the terrorist attacks of 9/11
and the war on terror launched by the United States in response gave new relevance
to the term. Despite two U.S.-led wars against Muslim countries (Afghanistan and
Iraq), Saudi Arabia retained its strong relations with the United States, and radical
scholars therefore took the political relevance of al-wala wa-l-bara to a new level,
criticizing Saudi Arabia not so much for asking kuffar for help as for actively helping
kuffar.85
Within the Shuaybi school, the most extensivethough not the only86 treatment
of the inadmissibility of helping kuffar fight other Muslims is undoubtedly al-Tibyan fi
Kufr Man Aana al-Amrikan (The Demonstration of the Unbelief of Those Who Help
the Americans) by Nasir b. Hamd al-Fahd (b. 1968).87 The author first gives a lengthy
overview of what he sees as American immorality and debauchery and of the U.S. war
on Islam88 and then points out that supporting the United States in its fight against
Muslims equals kufr. Although, like Humud b. Uqala, al-Fahd does not mention Saudi
Arabia by name, it seems clear that this book is (also) aimed at Saudi Arabia. As
Al-Rasheed states: Al-Fahads interpretations, although coined in an abstract manner,
indirectly implicate the Saudi regime, which was increasingly seen as a regime willing to
offer iana (assistance) to Americans during their war on Afghanistan.89 Such behavior
is roundly condemned by al-Fahd, who states that
The infidel Crusader attack [al-h.amla al-s.albiyya al-kafira] that the enemies of God [the
Americans] and their friends [awliyauhum] from among the other infidels and hypocrites lead
is targeting Islam and the Muslims, so know that helping them in their war, be it with the body
[bi-l-badan], weapons, the tongue, the heart, the pen, money, advice [al-ray] or something other
than that, is unbelief and apostasy from Islam.90

He then backs up his claims with numerous sources, making extensive use of the
relevant writings by Sulayman, Abd al-Latif, and Ibn Atiq, explicitly pointing to the
19th-century events that motivated Sulayman and Ibn Atiq to write their treatises.91
The political interpretation of al-wala wa-l-bara among radical Wahhabi scholars
has not remained limited to the Shuaybi school. It had a major impact on radical
Saudi activists in the 2000s, including those of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula
(QAP).92 As Hegghammer points out, these militants needed religious justification
for their violent actions from authoritative Wahhabi scholars and thus sought advice
from the Shuaybi school.93 The political interpretation of al-wala wa-l-bara was
adopted by, for example, QAP leader Yusuf al-Uyayri (d. 2003), who tries to refute
the ideaexpressed by scholars such as the aforementioned Ibn Arif al-Awnithat
al-istia na bi-l-kuffar needs to be accompanied by unbelief in ones heart in order to lead
to expulsion from Islam.94 Al-Uyayri dismisses this idea and claims that Saudi Arabias
loyalty to America and other allies prevents many Saudi scholars from speaking out
against those countries atrocities against Muslims. By doing so, the scholars sully the
image of al-wala wa-l-bara, he claims.95 Similarly, the QAP-affiliated author Mujab
al-Dawsari, who wrote a summarized version of al-Maqdisis al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya,
describes Saudi Arabias misplaced loyalty as respecting them [the kuffar], praising
them, helping them, aiding them and associating [with them] against the Muslims without
clear disavowal of them. This is apostasy [ridda].96 Other radical Saudi militants who

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adopted this interpretation of al-wala wa-l-bara include QAP members Abu Jandal alAzdi,97 Sultan b. Bijad al-Utaybi,98 Hamd b. Rayyis al-Rayyis,99 and al-Qaida activist
Abu Umar al-Sayf.100
The politicized version of al-wala wa-l-bara, which seems to have derived either
directly from the works of al-Maqdisi or from the Shuaybi school, thus developed
into a position held by many Saudi radical activists and scholars. Although some of the
writings by Saudi militants seem to have lost the direct connection with the 19th-century
events that inspired the reinterpretation of al-wala wa-l-bara, they can nevertheless
be seen as indirect continuations of the writings produced in that era. Moreover, the
political interpretation of al-wala wa-l-bara was widely adopted beyond Saudi radical
circles, for example, by al-Qaidas Ayman al-Zawahiri,101 and has in fact become so
mainstream among radical Islamists that Brachmann (rightly) calls the concept one of
the most important doctrinal elements of Jihadism.102
Apart from the concepts widespread adoption by radical scholars, the actual development of al-wala wa-l-bara was taken one step further by Muhammad al-Masari, a
Saudi without a formal religious education living in London who is very critical not only
of Saudi Arabia but also of Wahhabism. He believes Wahhabism deals with all kinds
of trivial issues that should not even be discussed and has described it as backward
and weak and some of its ideas as rubbish. This attitude is reflected in his treatment
of al-wala wa-l-bara, which he states should not be equated with issues like love
and friendship or greeting non-Muslims first. These, he believes, are major Wahhabi
fundamental blunders. Instead, he believes that al-wala wa-l-bara has to do only with
war and peace. People can adopt each others customs and traditions without violating
the principle of al-wala wa-l-bara as long as they are loyal to the right side when a
war starts, according to al-Masari.103
He has nevertheless been influenced by Wahhabism and by al-Maqdisi in particular,
as indicated by the fact that he took al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya as the basis for a book of his
own.104 More important than this book, however, are his writings about al-wala wa-lbara,105 in which he gives detailed descriptions of what the term entails and criticizes
scholars such as al-Fawzan, whom he accuses of defining all kinds of unimportant acts
as forms of faulty wala. He also states that at the same time al-Fawzan and others
were addressing such issues of allegedly misguided wala in the personal sphere, they
did not see anything wrong in accepting hundreds of thousands of infidel American
soldiers [in 1990] to fight Iraq and destroy it.106 The mistake that al-Fawzan and others
have made, according to al-Masari, is to equate the prohibition of resembling the
infidels (tashabbuh al-kuffar) with al-wala wa-l-bara. He believes these are actually
two different issues; the former is simply sinful behavior while the latter refers to grave
acts of kufr in times of war and peace.107
Al-Masari ultimately defines loyalty as helping the infidel soldiers, allying with
them . . . supporting them, aiding them against the Muslims, revealing the security and
military secrets of the Muslims to the infidels, inciting the infidels to fight the Muslims
or helping them in preparing for war on the Muslims.108 Al-Masari thus defines wala
in a political way, similar to how it is defined in the writings of Sulayman, Abd al-Latif,
and Ibn Atiq in the 19th century and of modern-day radical Wahhabis. Unlike them,
however, al-Masari completely discards the social aspects of the concept that the other
scholars all retained or at least did not reject. Al-Masaris definition is thus the polar

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opposite of those of the Wahhabi scholars who see al-wala wa-l-bara as a purely
social concept. He reinterprets the concept in such a way to suggest that generations
of scholars have been wrong about al-wala wa-l-bara and that only ulama who saw
the political side of the concept caught a glimpse of its true meaning. Just as al-Fawzan
tries to incorporate Sulaymans treatise on aiding kuffar against the Muslims during war
into his own social interpretation of al-wala wa-l-bara, al-Masari, by equating the
19th-century political dimension added to al-wala wa-l-bara with the concept itself,
has brought it back to what seems to be its final radical destination.109
CONCLUSION

The concept of al-wala wa-l-bara (loyalty to Islam, Muslims, and God and disavowal
of everything else) has developed in various ways in Wahhabi discourse since the 19th
century. The ways the interpretations of the concept have changed are related in part
to the civil war that caused the collapse of the second Saudi state (182491). The
states downfall caused Saudi religious scholars, who realized that they needed a state
to guarantee their protection and influence, to adopt or reinforce an attitude of quietism
and subservience to the Saudi king, resulting in strictly social interpretations of al-wala
wa-l-bara, at the expense of the political aspects of the concept that had been developed
in several treatises in the 19th century.
In the 1980s, however, the political aspects of these writings were rediscovered by
the radical scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who saw their potential as Wahhabi
weapons against the Saudi state and its close relations with the United States. By using
the inadmissibility of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar (asking infidels for help)as developed
by 19th-century Wahhabi scholars vis-`a-vis the Ottoman Empireagainst the current
Saudi state, al-Maqdisi helped revive a powerful discourse. This became particularly
salient after the Saudi king asked the United States for help against Iraq in 1990.
That decision caused other radical Wahhabis, particularly the scholars of the so-called
Shuaybi school, to develop the concept of al-wala wa-l-bara further. This process
led to a trend of wide-scale adoption of the concepts political interpretation by radical
scholars and activists of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, which resulted
in Saudi Arabia being criticized on the basis of writings that represented part of what
it was supposed to embody as a Wahhabi Islamic state. Al-wala wa-l-bara in its
political version eventually became a mainstream concept among extremist jihadis and
for at least one radical thinker lost its social relevancewhich was the only dimension
acknowledged by quietist scholarsaltogether.
The development of al-wala wa-l-bara in Wahhabi discourse shows that the concept
is a highly contested and flexible one and that the civil war has had a major impact on
this process, albeit in contradictory ways. For quietist scholars, the civil wars relevance
was that it emphasized the need for unity and obedience to the ruler because only he
could guarantee the security of their position. For recent radical scholars, however, it was
precisely the 19th-century writings emphasizing the political dimensions of the concept
that were considered important, since they could be used to challenge the current Saudi
state on its own terms. Considering the fact that all these Wahhabi scholars and thinkers
involved in developing al-wala wa-l-bara believe that they truly grasp the meaning
of the concept, even while they are diametrically opposed to one another, Wahhabism

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105

should probably be seen as somewhat more flexible and heterogeneous than is popularly
assumed.

N OT E S

Authors note: I am indebted to David Commins, Bernard Haykel, Roel Meijer, Harald Motzki, Saud alSarhan, and the anonymous IJMES reviewers, who gave excellent comments on previous drafts of this article,
as well as to Beth Baron and Sara Pursley for their useful editorial advice. I also thank David Commins for
inviting me to a panel on Salafism at the MESA Annual Meeting in Boston, November 2009, where I presented
an earlier version of this paper.
1 The most sustained versions of this idea can be found in publications such as Dore Gold, Hatreds
Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing,
Inc., 2003); and Stephen Schwartz, The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism
(New York: Anchor Books, 2003).
2 Etan Kohlberg, Bar
aa in Sh Doctrine, Jerusalem Studies of Arabic and Islam 7 (1986): 13941.
3 Uri Rubin, Bar
aa: A Study of some Quranic Passages, Jerusalem Studies of Arabic and Islam 5
(1984): 1332.
4 A major study on this subject is Monique Bernards and John Nawas, eds., Patronate and Patronage in
Early and Classical Islam (Leiden and Boston: E. J. Brill, 2005).
5 See, for example, Q. 5:51, which (in the translation of A. J. Arberry) reads: O believers, take not Jews
and Christians as friends [awliya]; they are friends of each other. Whoso of you makes them his friends [man
yatawallahum minkum] is one of them. . . .
6 Kohlberg, Bar
aa, 14475.
7 An influential work in this respect is Ahmad b. Abd al-Halim b. Abd al-Salam b. Taymiyya, Iqtida
al-Sirat al-Mustaqim li-Mukhalafat Ashab al-Jahim, 2 vols. (Riyadh: Dar al-Ishbiliya li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzi,
1997/1998).
8 Joas Wagemakers, The Transformation of a Radical Concept: al-Wala wa-l-Bara in the Ideology of
Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, in Global Salafism: Islams New Religious Movement, ed. Roel Meijer (London:
Hurst & Co., 2009), 8588.
9 David Commins, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006);
M. J. Crawford, Civil War, Foreign Intervention, and the Question of Political Legitimacy: A NineteenthCentury Saudi Qadis Dilemma, International Journal of Middle East Studies 14 (1982): 22748; Abdulaziz
H. al-Fahad, From Exclusivism to Accommodation: Doctrinal and Legal Evolution of Wahhabism, New York
University Law Review 79 (May 2004): 485519; Guido Steinberg, Religion und Staat in Saudi-Arabien: Die
wahhabitische Gelehrten, 19021953 (Wurzburg, Germany: Ergon, 2002); R. Bayly Winder, Saudi Arabia in
the Nineteenth Century (New York: St. Martins Press, 1965).
10 See Daryl Champion, The Paradoxical Kingdom: Saudi Arabia and the Momentum of Reform (New
York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 3335; David E. Long, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Gainsville,
Fla.: University Press of Florida, 1997), 2728; Tim Niblock, Saudi Arabia: Power, Legitimacy and Survival
(London and New York, 2006), 29; Madawi Al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002), 2425; and Nadav Safran, Saudi Arabia: The Ceaseless Quest for Security (Ithaca,
N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 1988), 1718. Two exceptions are Alexei Vassiliev, The History of
Saudi Arabia (London: Saqi Books, 2000), 192202; and H. St. John Philby, Saudi Arabia (Beirut: Librairie
du Liban, 1968 [1955]), 21836.
11 Commins, Wahhabi, 3133; Al-Rasheed, History, 2123.
12 For a detailed account of the Egyptian invasion of the Arabian peninsula, see Vassiliev, History, 14055.
13 Commins, Wahhabi, 33; Al-Rasheed, History, 23.
14 See the collection of Wahhabi writings, Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. Qasim al-Asimi al-Najdi
al-Hanbali (hereafter Ibn Qasim), ed., al-Durar al-Saniyya fi al-Ajwiba al-Najdiyya, 16 vols., 7th ed. (n.p.,
2004), 8:12122. Sulaymans treatise is also available separately at www.tawhed.ws; all documents from this
website mentioned herein were available on 3 April 2011. See also Commins, Wahhabi, 3536.
15 For a highly polemical treatise against the Ottomans from a Wahhabi point of view, see Nasir b. Hamd
al-Fahd, al-Dawla al-Uthmaniyya wa-Mawqif Dawat al-Shaykh Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab minha

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(www.tawhed.ws). Although this is a recent booklet, it also lists the positions of 19th-century Wahhabi
scholars.
16 See Ibn Taymiyya, Iqtida, 1:9294, for example, which condemns resembling non-Muslims and their
customs and participating in their traditions. This is a major theme throughout the whole book.
17 See Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, Mufid al-Mustafid fi Kufr Tarik al-Tawhid, www.tawhed.ws, pp.
1624, where the idea of separation from and enmity toward non-Muslims as a compulsory task for believers
is clearly present, though in a general way and without referring to specific forms of loyalty and disavowal.
18 See, for example, Sulaymans writings on non-political dimensions of al-wal
a wa-l-bara in Ibn Qasim,
al-Durar, 8:16667. See also Sulayman b. Abdallah Al al-Shaykh, Awthaq Ura al-Iman, www.tawhed.ws.
See also Elizabeth Sirriyeh, Wahhabis, Unbelievers and the Problems of Exclusivism, BRISMES Bulletin
16 (1989): 12332.
19 See, for example, the numerous references to the prohibition of living in or traveling to non-Muslim
countries in Ibn Qasim, al-Durar, vol. 8. Sulayman himself wrote a fatwa in which he upheld this prohibition
for Muslims incapable of showing their religion and remaining loyal to God (according to strict Wahhabi
standards) among non-Muslims. See Ibn Qasim, al-Durar, 8:16162. Although Sulaymans fatwa did allow
Muslims to travel abroad if they were capable of upholding and showing their religious beliefs and of remaining
loyal to God, this clearly did not go far enough for more moderate scholars. Some of the latter were quite aware
of the need to conduct trade with other countries and apparently sought more leeway for Muslims engaged in
these activities. See al-Fahad, Exclusivism, 500501.
20 Winder, Saudi Arabia, 6064.
21 This invasion led to an interesting debate among scholars about whether it is permissible to continue
living under Ottoman infidel rule or not. This discussion, in which Wahhabi scholar Hamd b. Atiq played
an important role, echoed, as Commins rightly states, the treatise of Sulayman b. Abdallah mentioned earlier.
See Commins, Wahhabi, 4649.
22 The most comprehensive account in English of the conflict between Abdallah and Saud and its
aftermath can be found in Winder, Saudi Arabia, 22978. See also Vassiliev, History, 192204.
23 Winder, Saudi Arabia, 24956.
24 The idea that asking non-Muslims for help is wrong in general can be traced back to a saying by the
Prophet Muhammad and thus made its way into writings on Islamic law. See for example Majid Khadduri,
The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybans Siyar (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966), 90.
25 Crawford, Civil War, 23638; al-Fahad, Exclusivism, 501504; Guido Steinberg, The Wahhabi
Ulama and the Saudi State: 1745 to the Present, in Saudi Arabia in the Balance: Political Economy, Society,
Foreign Affairs, ed. Paul Aarts and Gerd Nonneman (London: Hurst & Co., 2005), 19; idem, Religion, 429.
Ibn Atiq and Ibn Ajlan had strongly disagreed on the issue of whether one was allowed to live under infidel
Ottoman rule. See note 12.
26 This book is also known under a different title in which the word al-Atrak (the Turks) has been replaced
by Ahl al-Ishrak (polytheists). The title given previously is probably the correct one, however, since Ibn Atiq
himself mentions this specifically as the title of the book. See Hamd b. Ali b. Atiq, Sabil al-Najat wa-l-Fikak
min Muwalat al-Murtaddin wa-l-Atrak, www.tawhed.ws, 2.
27 Ibid., 29.
28 The only exception I found is Commins, who refers to Ibn Atiqs book as part of an edited volume for
information on its author. See Commins, Wahhabi, 229n26.
29 Ibn Atiq, Sabil, 2728, 3839.
30 Ibn Atiq also wrote a letter to Saud condemning the practice of maintaining contact with the Ottoman
rulers of the holy places in Mecca and Medina. See Ibn Qasim, al-Durar, 9:4849.
31 Personal interview with Saud al-Sarhan, London, 2 July 2008.
32 See Ibn Qasim, al-Durar, 8:32487, quote at 36667.
33 Crawford, Civil War, 23639.
34 Steinberg, Religion, 42731; idem, The Wahhabi Ulama and the Saudi State, 1819.
35 Steinberg, Religion, 43031. For writings stressing sam and ta
. a, see for example Ibn Qasim, al-Durar,
9:7879, 19697. That this subservience was applied in practice became clear several decades later when the
Saudi king Abd al-Aziz was challenged by his own Wahhabi-inspired fighting force, the Ikhwan (Brethren).
During the mediation that took place between the two parties, the scholars agreed with the Ikhwans demands
but, not wanting to be disobedient, overwhelmingly sided with Abd al-Aziz anyway, even going so far as to
support his defeat of the Ikhwan at the Battle of Sibilla in 1929. See Commins, Wahhabi, 7592; John S. Habib,

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107

Ibn Sauds Warriors of Islam: The Ikhwan of Najd and Their Role in the Creation of the Saudi Kingdom, 1910
1930 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978), 12155; Joseph Kostiner, On Instruments and Their Designers: The Ikhwan
of Najd and the Emergence of the Saudi State, Middle Eastern Studies 21 (July 1985): 31318; Steinberg,
Religion, 43169; and idem, Wahhabi Ulama and the State in Saudi Arabia, 1927, in The Modern Middle
East: A Sourcebook for History, ed. Camron Michael Amin, Benjamin C. Fortna, and Elizabeth Frierson
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 5761. Interestingly, while King Abd al-Aziz had strong ties to the
British at the time, there does not seem to be any indication that the concept of al-istia na bi-l-kuffar played a
role in the conflicts between the king and the Ikhwan.
36 In the conflict between the Ikhwan and Abd al-Aziz, for example, several less prominent Wahhabi
scholars are said to have sided with the former. See Steinberg, Religion, 46566.
37 Crawford, Civil War, 23233; Steinberg, Religion, 429; idem, The Wahhabi Ulama and the Saudi
State, 19.
38 Commins, Wahhabi, 93103. For more detailed accounts of the role of religious scholars in Saudi
politics and the declining influence of the Al al-Shaykh, see, respectively, Joseph A. Kechichian, The Role
of the Ulama in the Politics of an Islamic State: The Case of Saudi Arabia, International Journal of Middle
East Studies 18 (1986): 5371; and Alexander Bligh, The Saudi Religious Elite (Ulama) as Participant in the
Political System of the Kingdom, International Journal of Middle East Studies 17 (1985): 3750.
39 Madawi Al-Rasheed, Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2007), 3637.
40 This interpretation of bar
a is limited to hating non-Muslims because of their unbelief, not as persons.
See for example Abd al-Aziz b. Baz, Mana al-Wala wa-l-Bara, www.binbaz.org.sa, 1; all documents
from this website used herein were accessed on 30 August 2007. General works by Wahhabis dealing with
al-wala wa-l-bara include al-Jawhara bt. Abdallah, Waqfa hawla al-Wala wa-l-Bara fi al-Islam (Riyadh:
Dar al-Samii li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzi, 1991); Muhammad b. Said al-Qahtani, al-Wala wa-l-Bara fi al-Islam
min Mafahim Aqidat al-Salaf al-Salih, 12th ed. (Riyadh: Dar Tayyiba li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzi, 2007); Ali b.
Nayif al-Shuhud, ed., al-Mufassal fi Sharh Ayat al-Wala wa-l-Bara, http://saaid.net (2004); all documents
used from this website used herein were accessed on 3 April 2011. See also Humud al-Tuwayjiri, Tuhfat
al-Ikhwan bi-ma Jaa fi al-Muwalat, www.tawhed.ws (1963).
41 Muhammad b. Ibrahim Al al-Shaykh, Hukm al-Ihtifal bi-l-Id al-Watani, www.tawhed.ws (1965), 2.
42 See for example, Abd al-Aziz b. Baz, Hukm Musharakat al-Nasara fi Ayadihim, www.binbaz.org.sa;
Salih b. Fawzan al-Fawzan, al-Wala wa-l-Bara fi al-Islam, http://saaid.net, 7; Muhammad b. Salih
al-Uthaymin, al-Wala wa-l-Bara, http://saaid.net, 1213, 2021.
43 Abd al-Aziz b. Baz, La Yajuzu Bad al-Kuffar bi-l-Salam, www.binbaz.org.sa; idem, Musafahat alNasrani aw al-Yahudi hal Tabtulu al-Wudu, www.binbaz.org.sa; al-Uthaymin, al-Wala, 1316.
44 Abd al-Aziz b. Baz, Hukm al-Salam bi-l-Ishara bi-l-Yad, www.binbaz.org.sa.
45 Abd al-Aziz b. B
az, Hukm al-Sakn maa al-Awail fi al-Kharij, www.binbaz.org.sa; idem, Hukm
Iqamat al-Muslim fi Bilad al-Kufr, www.binbaz.org.sa; idem, La Tajuzu al-Iqama fi Balad Yazharu fihi
al-Shirk wa-l-Kufr illa li-l-Dawa ila Allah, www.binbaz.org.sa; al-Fawzan, al-Wala, 45; Sulayman b.
Sahman, Irshad al-Talib ila Ahamm al-Matalib, www.tawhed.ws (1917), 1016; al-Uthaymin, al-Wala,
712.
46 Al-Fawzan, al-Wala, 4, 8.
47 Abd al-Aziz b. Baz, Hukm al-Muamala maa al-Shia, www.binbaz.org.sa; idem, al-Taqrib bayna
al-Rafida wa-Ahl al-Sunna ghayr Mumkin (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.).
48 Eleanor Abdella Doumato, Manning the Barricades: Islam According to Saudi Arabias School Texts,
Middle East Journal 57 (2003): 23641.
49 The clearest example of an obvious avoidance of these sources is Abd al-Aziz b. Baz, Hukm al-Istiana
bi-l-Kuffar fi Qital al-Kuffar (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.).
50 Idem, Hukm Akl al-Muslim maa al-Kafir (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.); idem, Hukm Ziyarat ghayr
al-Muslimin li-Dawatihim li-l-Islam (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.); idem, al-Kafir laysa Akhkhan li-l-Muslim
(www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.).
51 Idem, La Ikhwa bayna al-Muslimin wa-l-Kafirin wa-la Din Haqq ghayr Din al-Islam
(www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.).
52 Idem, Taqib ala Maqalat al-Shaykh Jad al-Haqq Shaykh al-Azhar bi-Unwan: Alaqat al-Islam bil-Adyan al-Ukhra (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.); idem, Wujub Adawat al-Yahud wa-l-Mushrikin wa-ghayrihim
min al-Kuffar (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.).

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al-Sulh maa al-Yahud aw ghayrihim min al-Kafara la Yalzamu minhu Mawaddatihim wa-la
Muwalatihim (www.binbaz.org.sa, n.d.).
54 Al-Fawzan, al-Bara min Din al-Kuffar wa-laysa bi-Tark al-Taamul maahum, Ukaz, 21 December
2003.
55 The fact that the Wahhabi scholars are generally obedient to their rulers does not mean that they have no
independence at all. In the social sphere, where dissenting views are considered less threatening to the regime,
the scholars enjoy a far greater freedom to speak out.
56 Hatim b. Arif al-Awni, al-Wala wa-l-Bara bayna al-Ghuluw wa-l-Jifa (fi Daw al-Kitab wa-lSunna) (Riyadh: Dar al-Samayi li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzi, 2005), 6983. For more on this discussion, see Joas
Wagemakers, Defining the Enemy: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisis Radical Reading of Surat al-Mumtahana,
Die Welt des Islams 48 (2008): 35358.
57 Salih b. Fawzan b. Abdallah al-Fawzan, Sharh Risalat al-Dalail fi Hukm Muwalat Ahl al-Ishrak (n.p.,
2007), 15.
58 The direct reason al-Fawzan wrote this book was probably the use of Sulaymans treatise against the
Saudi state by members of the (violent) Islamic opposition after the Gulf War of 1990, which will be dealt
with in more detail.
59 See, for example, Ibn Taymiyya, Iqtida, 1:17685. This book is dedicated to warning Muslims about
the feasts and customs of Jews and Christians and calls on believers not to adopt these non-Islamic ways. Ibn
Taymiyya clearly deals with this topic through the prism of loyalty and disavowal.
60 See for example Shams al-Din Abi Abdallah Muhammad b. Abi Bakr b. Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Ahkam
Ahl al-Dhimma, 3 vols. (Dammam/Beirut: Ramadi li-l-Nashr/Dar Ibn Hazm, 1997). In this book Ibn al-Qayyim
(12921350) deals extensively with this issue; see esp. 1:40926.
61 See Hamd b. Ali b. Atiq, al-Tahdhir min al-Safar ila Bilad al-Mushrikin (www.tawhed.ws, n.d.); Ahmad
b. Yahya al-Wansharisi, Asna al-Matajir fi Bayan Ahkam man Ghalab ala Watanihi al-Nasara wa-lam Yuhajir
wa-ma Yatarattabu alayhi min al-Uqubat wa-l-Zawajir (www.tawhed.ws, n.d.).
62 I define Salafism as the broader trend of trying to adhere to the ways of the first three generations of
Muslimsthe pious predecessors (al-salaf al-s.a lih.)as closely and in as many spheres of life as possible,
and Wahhabism as the Najdi version, encompassing the entire Salafi tradition originally emanating from this
central Arabian region and not just its regime-friendly version.
63 See, for example, on non-Islamic feasts, Humud b. Uqala al-Shuaybi, Hukm al-Musharaka fi Ihtafalat
al-Nasara (www.tahwed.ws, n.d.); idem, Hukm Tahniat al-Kuffar bi-Ayadihim (www.tawhed.ws, 2000); on
greeting non-Muslims, Sulayman b. Nasir al-Ulwan, Hukm Badaa Ahl al-Kitab bi-l-Salam (www.tawhed.ws,
2000); on living or settling in non-Muslim countries, Humud b. Uqala al-Shuaybi, Hukm Akhdh al-Jinsiyya
li-l-Makrah min Dawla Kafira (www.tawhed.ws, 2001); and Abd al-Aziz b. Salih al-Jarbu, al-Ilam bi-Wujub
al-Hijra min Dar al-Kufr ila Dar al-Islam (www.tawhed.ws, 2001).
64 See, for example, some of his fatwas: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Majmu Fatawa al-Shaykh Abu [sic]
Muhammad al-Maqdisi (n.p.: Muassasat Ard al-Ribat al-Ilamiyya, 2007), 9091, 122, 124. These fatwas are
also available separately on www.tawhed.ws.
65 Personal interview with Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Amman, 13 January 2009.
66 For more on al-Maqdisis use of al-wal
a wa-l-bara and his ideology as a whole, see Joas Wagemakers,
A Purist Jihadi-Salafi: The Ideology of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, British Journal of Middle Eastern
Studies 36 (2009): 28197.
67 Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Millat Ibrahim wa-Dawat al-Anbiya wa-l-Mursalin wa-Asalib al-Tughat
fi Tamyiiha wa-Saraf al-Duat anha (www.tawhed.ws, 1984), 47.
68 This accusation by al-Maqdisi is mostly based on the belief that the rulers of the Muslim world adhere to
and implement man-made laws instead of the sharia. Al-Maqdisi also considers this practice a wrong form of
wala. For more on this, see Wagemakers, Transformation, 9295. Since this legislative version of al-wala
wa-l-bara is not central to this article, it will not be discussed any further here.
69 For Sulayman, see al-Maqdisi, Millat, 35, 64; for Abd al-Latif, see ibid., 15, 20, 24, 29, 39; for Ibn
Atiq, see ibid., 15, 19, 24, 29, 44, 5760, 6364.
70 The most important of these is the countrys alleged reliance on man-made laws instead of on the sharia.
He also accuses the state of participating in local and global organizations that are governed by rules and
regulations not rooted in the sharia. See Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya fi Kufr al-Dawla
al-Saudiyya (www.tawhed.ws, 1989), 1557, 5884, 10539.
71 Ibid., 84105.
53 Idem,

The Enduring Legacy of the Second Saudi State


72 Ibid.,

109

104. It should be mentioned that al-Maqdisi was not the first modern-day ideologue who used
al-wala wa-l-bara against the Saudi state. It was done by Juhayman al-Utaybi, the leader of the rebels
who occupied the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 1979. Juhayman, however, made no attempt to incorporate the
19th-century writings into his ideology. See Juhayman b. Sayf al-Utaybi, Awthaq Ura al-Iman: al-Hubb fi
Allah wa-l-Bughd fi Allah (www.tawhed.ws, n.d.); idem, Raf al-Iltibas an Milla min Jalihi Allah Imaman
li-l-Nas (www.tawhed.ws, n.d.); idem, Risalat al-Imara wa-l-Baya wa-l-Taa wa-Hukm Talbis al-Hukkam
ala Talabat al-Ilm wa-l-Amma (www.tahwed.ws, n.d.). For more on Juhaymans ideology, see Thomas
Hegghammer and Stephane Lacroix, Rejectionist Islamism in Saudi Arabia: The Story of Juhayman alUtaybi Revisited, International Journal of Middle East Studies 39 (2007): 10322; and Joseph A. Kechichian,
Islamic Revivalism and Change in Saudi Arabia: Juhayman al-Utaybis Letters to the Saudi People, Muslim
World 80 (1990): 116.
73 Al-Maqdisi, al-Kawashif, 130.
74 Ibid., 14748.
75 Mordechai Abir, Saudi Arabia: Government, Society and the Gulf Crisis (London and New York:
Routledge, 1993), 174, 17779; James Piscatori, Religion and Realpolitik: Islamic Responses to the Gulf
War, Islamic Fundamentalisms and the Gulf Crisis, ed. James Piscatori (Chicago: American Academy of
Arts and Sciences, 1991), 69.
76 For more on the Saudi opposition in the early 1990s, see R. Hrair Dekmejian, The Rise of Political
Islamism in Saudi Arabia, Middle East Journal 84 (1994): 62743; Mamoun Fandy, Saudi Arabia and the
Politics of Dissent (New York: Palgrave, 1999); and Joshua Teitelbaum, Holier than Thou: Saudi Arabias
Islamic Opposition (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000), 2582.
77 Interviews with Mishari al-Dhayidi, Riyadh, 8 November 2008; Yusuf al-Dayni, Jeddah, 13 November
2008; and a Saudi government official who wished to remain anonymous.
78 Anonymous, al-Nizam al-Saudi fi Mizan al-Islam (www.tawhed.ws, 1996), 10.
79 Ibid., 11.
80 Al-Rasheed ascribes the book to Saudi dissident Sad al-Faqih (Al-Rasheed, History, 239). Al-Faqih
told me, however, that he wrote the book with several unnamed co-authors. Personal interview with Sad
al-Faqih, London, 11 March 2008. Fellow Saudi dissident Muhammad al-Masari later told me in an e-mail
conversation that the book was written by him, al-Faqih, and Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi ideologue Abu Qatada
al-Filastini.
81 Thomas Hegghammer, Jihad in Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2010), 8398.
82 Humud b. Uqala al-Shuaybi, al-Qawl al-Mukhtar fi Hukm al-Istiana bi-l-Kuffar (http://saaid.net,
1999), 85.
83 Ibid., 64.
84 Ibid., 7072, 88.
85 For more on Saudi Arabias role as a U.S. ally after 9/11, see Roger Hardy, Ambivalent Ally: Saudi
Arabia and the War on Terror, in Al-Rasheed, Kingdom, 99112, esp. 10410.
86 See, for example, Ali b Khudayr al-Khudayr, al-Hadd al-Fasil bayna Muwalat wa-Tawalli al-Kuffar
(www.tawhed.ws, n.d.).
87 See also Al-Rasheed, Contesting, 13948.
88 Nasir b. Hamd al-Fahd, Al-Tibyan fi Kufr Man Aana al-Amrikan, 2 vols. (www.tawhed.ws, 2001),
1:2541.
89 Al-Rasheed, Contesting, 146.
90 Al-Fahd, al-Tibyan, 1:4445.
91 Ibid., 69. Al-Fahd seems to want to underline this point in a shorter treatise about the supposedly infidel
Ottoman Empire, which again makes extensive use of the writings by Sulayman, Abd al-Latif, and Ibn Atiq.
See al-Fahd, al-Dawla.
92 On the development of QAP, see Anthony Cordesman and Nawaf Obaid, Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia:
Asymmetric Threats and Islamist Extremists (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies,
2005); Thomas Hegghammer, Terrorist Recruitment and Radicalisation in Saudi Arabia, Middle East Policy
13 (2006): 3960; idem, Islamist Violence and Regime Stability in Saudi Arabia, International Affairs 84
(2008), 70115; idem, Jihad, Yes, but not Revolution: Explaining the Extraversion of Islamist Violence in
Saudi Arabia, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 36 (2009), 395416; idem, Violence politique
en Arabie Saoudite: Grandeur et decadence dAl-Qaida dans la peninsula arabique, in Quest-ce que le

110

Joas Wagemakers

Salafisme? ed. Bernard Rougier (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2008), 10521; Roel Meijer, The
Cycle of Contention and the Limits of Terrorism in Saudi Arabia, in Saudi Arabia in the Balance, ed.
Paul Aarts and Gerd Nonneman (London: Hurst & Co., 2005), 271311; Bruce Riedel and Bilal Y. Saab,
Al-Qaedas Third Front: Saudi Arabia, Washington Quarterly 31 (2008), 3346; and Joshua Teitelbaum,
Terrorist Challenges to Saudi Arabian Internal Security, Middle East Review of International Affairs 9
(2005), 111.
93 Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia, 97, 14849, 15255.
94 Yusuf al-Uyayri, Haqiqat al-Harb al-Salibiyya al-Jadida (www.tawhed.ws, 2001), 7486. For more
on al-Uyayri, see Roel Meijer, Yusuf al-Uyair and the Making of a Revolutionary Salafi Praxis, Die Welt
des Islams 47 (2007): 42259; and idem, Yusuf al-Uyairi and the Transnationalisation of Saudi Jihadism,
Kingdom without Borders: Saudi Arabias Political, Religious and Media Frontiers, ed. Madawi Al-Rasheed
(London: Hurst & Co., 2008), 22143.
95 Al-Uyayri, Haqiqat, 80.
96 Mujab al-Dawsari, Tahdhib al-Kawashif al-Jaliyya fi Kufr al-Dawla al-Saudiyya (www.tawhed.ws,
2003), 1923, quote at 23. Abu Umar al-Sayf, Hukm Muzaharat al-Amrikan ala al-Muslimin: al-Iraq
wa-Ghazu al-Salib: Durus wa-Taammulat (www.tawhed.ws, n.d.).
97 Abu Jandal al-Azdi, al-Ayat wa-l-Ahadith al-Ghazira ala Kufr Quwwat Dir al-Jazira (www.tawhed.ws,
n.d.), 3; idem, al-Bahith an al-Hukm Qatl Afrad wa-Dubbat al-Mabahith (www.tawhed.ws, 2002), 2831.
98 Sultan b. Bijad al-Utaybi, Risala fi al-Tawaghit (www.tawhed.ws, 2002), 26.
99 Hamd b. Rayyis al-Rayyis, Hadhihi Aqidatuna (www.tawhed.ws, 2003), 1416.
100 Abu Umar al-Sayf, Hukm Muzaharat al-Amrikan ala al-Muslimin: al-Iraq wa-Ghazu al-Salib: Durus
wa-Taammulat (www.tawhed.ws, n.d.).
101 Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Wal
a wa-l-Bara: Aqida Manqula wa-Waqi Mafqud (www.tawhed.ws, 2002).
For more on the adoption of the politicized version of the concept by non-Saudi radicals, see Joas Wagemakers,
A Quietist Jihadi-Salafi: The Ideology and Influence of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (PhD diss., Radboud
University Nijmegen, 2010), 18387.
102 Jarret M. Brachmann, Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice (New York: Routledge, 2009), 47.
103 Personal interview with Muhammad al-Masari, London, 10 March 2008.
104 Muhammad b. Abdallah al-Masari, al-Adilla al-Qatiyya ala adam Shariyyat al-Duwayla alSaudiyya, 6th ed. (London: Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights, 2002), 78.
105 Idem, al-Muwalat wa-l-Muadat, 3rd ed. (London: Tajdeed, 2004); idem, Hukm Tawalli al-Kuffar alHarbiyyin wa-Muzaharatihim fi al-Qital ala al-Muslimin (London: Committee for the Defence of Legitimate
Rights, 2002).
106 Idem, al-Muwalat, 40.
107 Ibid., 42.
108 Ibid., 63.
109 The Algerian scholar Abu Uzayr Abd al-Ilah Yusuf al-Yubi al-Hasani al-Jazairi recently released his
al-Ifrak fi Hawd Dalail fi Hukm Muwalat Ahl al-Ishrak (www.tawhed.ws, 2010), a huge work on the treatise
by Sulayman that started the developments described in this article. Although outside the scope of this article,
this book further underlines the continuing relevance of the events of the 19th century for scholars writing on
this issue.