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In today's post-9/11 world, the everyday news shows us images of fanatic fighters and suicide bombers willing to die in holy war, martyrs for jihad. But what are the roots of this militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in the eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and In today's post-9/11 world, the everyday news shows us images of fanatic fighters and suicide bombers willing to die in holy war, martyrs for jihad. But what are the roots of this militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in the eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his followers--the Wahhabi--who sought the restoration of Islamic purity and declared violent jihad on all who opposed them, Moslems and pagans alike. As the Wahhabi teaching spread in the nineteenth century, first, to the Arabian peninsula, and then, to the region around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, their followers brought with them a vicious brand of political ideology and militant conflict. The Wahhabi deeply influenced the rulers of modern Saudi Arabia and their establishment of a strict Islamic code. A more militant expression of Wahhabism took root in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where fierce tribes have waged holy war for almost two hundred years. The ranks of the Taliban and al-Qaeda today are filled with young men who were taught the Wahhabi theology of Islamic purity while rifles were pressed into their hands for the sake of jihad. God's Terrorists sheds shocking light on the historical roots of modern terrorism and shows how this dangerous theology lives on today.


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In today's post-9/11 world, the everyday news shows us images of fanatic fighters and suicide bombers willing to die in holy war, martyrs for jihad. But what are the roots of this militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in the eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and In today's post-9/11 world, the everyday news shows us images of fanatic fighters and suicide bombers willing to die in holy war, martyrs for jihad. But what are the roots of this militant fundamentalism in the Muslim world? In this insightful and wide-ranging history, Charles Allen finds an answer in the eighteenth-century reform movement of Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and his followers--the Wahhabi--who sought the restoration of Islamic purity and declared violent jihad on all who opposed them, Moslems and pagans alike. As the Wahhabi teaching spread in the nineteenth century, first, to the Arabian peninsula, and then, to the region around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, their followers brought with them a vicious brand of political ideology and militant conflict. The Wahhabi deeply influenced the rulers of modern Saudi Arabia and their establishment of a strict Islamic code. A more militant expression of Wahhabism took root in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where fierce tribes have waged holy war for almost two hundred years. The ranks of the Taliban and al-Qaeda today are filled with young men who were taught the Wahhabi theology of Islamic purity while rifles were pressed into their hands for the sake of jihad. God's Terrorists sheds shocking light on the historical roots of modern terrorism and shows how this dangerous theology lives on today.

30 review for God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aasem Bakhshi

    One way to find what is wrong with this book is to see reviews of those who end up liking it. Take for instance the readers who claim that Charles Allen's narrative is important for those who want to 'familiarize themselves with religions they don't know', or 'insightful read into the origins of Jihad' etc; one five star reader even calls it a 'must read for those who want to understand Afghanistan'. Therefore, I would consider it a dangerous text as it ends up portraying itself (perhaps inadver One way to find what is wrong with this book is to see reviews of those who end up liking it. Take for instance the readers who claim that Charles Allen's narrative is important for those who want to 'familiarize themselves with religions they don't know', or 'insightful read into the origins of Jihad' etc; one five star reader even calls it a 'must read for those who want to understand Afghanistan'. Therefore, I would consider it a dangerous text as it ends up portraying itself (perhaps inadvertently) as a coherent commentary on religion, theology and Islamic thought in general. I read it as a crass, oversimplistic, irresponsible and slightly Islamophobic text. There are instances when it is so casually written to make one wonder whether Allen really knows the difference between 'Mujahid' and 'Mujahideen'. An example of this crassitude is how Allen finds it enough to observe that there was one common teacher (among many) of Shah Wali Ullah and Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab, in order to make their ideologies comparable. It is true that there are historical patterns of Islamic authoritarianism and extremism but Allen miserably fails to even start exploring them. The reason I didn't dislike this books because it accumulates some important pieces of information regarding struggles for sovereignty in South East Asia during imperial Raj.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dipankar Sarkar

    My first read about this region, great starter to figure out what more to read! Will definitely read his other works.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Krishna

    Challenging the notion that the Taliban arose following the anti-Soviet mujahedeen movement in the 1980s, Charles Allen traces the antecedents of the movement to the period following the collapse of Mughal power in India and the rise of the British in the 18th-19th centuries. The ideology of the Taliban can be traced even further back to ibn Taymiyya, the 13th cenutry scholar, jurist and reformer. He lived through the devastation of the Islamic world following the Mongol invasions, and advocated Challenging the notion that the Taliban arose following the anti-Soviet mujahedeen movement in the 1980s, Charles Allen traces the antecedents of the movement to the period following the collapse of Mughal power in India and the rise of the British in the 18th-19th centuries. The ideology of the Taliban can be traced even further back to ibn Taymiyya, the 13th cenutry scholar, jurist and reformer. He lived through the devastation of the Islamic world following the Mongol invasions, and advocated a return to the purity and austerity of the Prophet's time to revive the lost glory. That message resonated with al Wahhab and his near contemporary, Sheikh Waliullah of Delhi in the early 18th century, who took ibn Taymiyya's teachings back to their respective communities. Sheikh Waliullah too lived through the collapse of Mughal power in India, after the death of Aurangazeb as the Marathas first and later the British eroded the empire. But the radicalization of the Pathan tribes began with the activities of Syed Ahmad, a preacher from Rae Bareilli, who witnessed the increasing encroachments of the British and wanted to initiate a religious resistance to colonial domination. But a jihad could only be launched from a 'dar ul islam" and not from a "dal ul harb" (zone of war or ungodliness), and therefore a search was on for a sanctuary where a willing amir would govern on religious principles. An alliance with the Pathan tribes on the remote northwestern frontier was the answer. Since the 1820s, for close to a century, a remote fortress at Sittana in the foothills of the Mahabun mountains on the edge of the vale of Peshawar became the "Hindustani fanatic's" camp. It is from here that a number of military actions were planned, and in turn it was this region that became a target for British retaliatory expeditions, including the infamous Ambeyla campaign. Interestingly, Syed Ahmad and his followers managed to create a supply network from the "chota gudam" at Patna, to the "bada gudam" at Sittana, ferrying men and materiel right under the noses of the British. It was also interesting to read that the 1857 insurrection, considered largely a spontaneous uprising of Indian soldiers under British employ, was also to an extent planned and coordinated. Several groups such as the Hindustani Fanatics had created communication and logistics networks, with the result that revolts broke out simultaneously in half-a-dozen sites across northern and eastern India. But once the insurrection began, the Hindustani Fanatics took a backseat, since their Wahabbi idealogy forbade them to cooperate with Shias and Hindus. In a parallel narrative, Allen also covers the origin and growth of Wahabbism in the Arabian peninsula. al Wahhab established a partnership, later cemented by a matrimonial alliance for his son, with the al Saud family. The al Sauds, originally tribal leaders from the Nejd, eventually manage to bring the Hijaz and progressively the entire Arabian peninsula under their control. But their growth was far from smooth. An initial setback followed from their sack of Mecca, then under the protection of the Ottomans and their agents, which made them reviled throughout the Muslim world. An Egyptian army acting on behalf of the Ottomans pushed them back into the Nejd. But the Wahhab-Saud alliance eventually managed to unify all the Arab tribes, by promoting a religious ideology that suppressed tribal loyalties and substituted devotion to the amir-imam partnership. These two streams of narrative -- the radicalization of the Pathans consequent to the Hindustani Fanatics movement, and the Wahhabbi ideology imported from the Arabian peninsula -- were to merge in the rise of the Taliban. Osama bin Laden, the Yemeni raised in Saudi Arabia who found sanctuary in the Afghan borderlands, epitomizes this evil alliance. Allen does not cover the modern period in much detail, since there are in-depth treatments available from contemporary sources. Allen's main contribution lies in identifying the historical roots of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and tracing these roots further back than most other authors do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Don't be put off by all of the names. I learned pretty quickly that unless and until Allen distilled Arabic names to their basic form I didn't need to try to remember every person mentioned. Another "must read" for those interested in religions with which they may not be familiar. Most Americans by now have heard of Sunni, Shia, and even Sufi Muslims. How many are familiar with Wahhabism? Well, we need to be! I was excited a couple of years ago when one of the major news magazines actually did a Don't be put off by all of the names. I learned pretty quickly that unless and until Allen distilled Arabic names to their basic form I didn't need to try to remember every person mentioned. Another "must read" for those interested in religions with which they may not be familiar. Most Americans by now have heard of Sunni, Shia, and even Sufi Muslims. How many are familiar with Wahhabism? Well, we need to be! I was excited a couple of years ago when one of the major news magazines actually did a cover story on the Sunnis and the Shias and how they are different. There was not ONE WORD about radical Wahhabism, the form of Islam on which Saudi Arabia was founded and is still ruled. Shouldn't we know these things?? Read the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    KNowing that his Western' readers have trouble keeping track of Middle-Eastern names, the author provides a handy reference in the back, but It is still as difficult as keeping track of all the Henrys, Edwards and Richards in English History. The author sheds light on the 18th century origins of the Wahabi strain of Islam that is the religion of the ruling Sauds in Saudi Arabia as well as being the genesis of the Taliban in Afganistan. He delineates how the sect started in Iran and then transfer KNowing that his Western' readers have trouble keeping track of Middle-Eastern names, the author provides a handy reference in the back, but It is still as difficult as keeping track of all the Henrys, Edwards and Richards in English History. The author sheds light on the 18th century origins of the Wahabi strain of Islam that is the religion of the ruling Sauds in Saudi Arabia as well as being the genesis of the Taliban in Afganistan. He delineates how the sect started in Iran and then transfered to the Hindustani sections of British ruled India

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rajendra Dave

    An interesting story of the roots of present day fanaticism, especially on the western frontier of the sub-continent. It is a very well researched book. Maybe that is the reason for sometime draggingly long narratives of events.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Recounts the mid 18th century encounter of British officials in India and Afghanistan to the new strain of Wahhabi Islam and the reactions of other Muslims.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    A hard read but a must read for anyone wishing to understand Afghanistan.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim and Popie Stafford

    A really interesting and worthwhile book. The Taliban has deep roots, centuries deep, in India and Saudi Arabia as well as Afghanistan.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abhay Nair

    A bit dry on narrative & one dimensional! The book that traces the progress of radical Islamic Fundamentalism from an isolated & discarded tribe in Nejd (in present day Saudi Arabia) to the Khandahar (Afghanistan). Chronologically it draws from notes, reports and experiences of British individuals spanning more than two centuries. It states the dynamics that evolved this extreme puritan form of Islam from spurts of aggression to the world's most efficiently organized terrorist outfit. Though an ou A bit dry on narrative & one dimensional! The book that traces the progress of radical Islamic Fundamentalism from an isolated & discarded tribe in Nejd (in present day Saudi Arabia) to the Khandahar (Afghanistan). Chronologically it draws from notes, reports and experiences of British individuals spanning more than two centuries. It states the dynamics that evolved this extreme puritan form of Islam from spurts of aggression to the world's most efficiently organized terrorist outfit. Though an outsider gets immense amount of information about formation of Modern Jihad it doesn't engage the reader. It reads almost like browsing through archived newspaper articles. Only towards the end of the 400 odd pages Allen gives a humane tone to the narrative. He summaries the book in 2 pages flat, with a plea to wither off this movement by withdrawing it's source of motivation and funding. A decent first read. But fails miserably in presenting "Why the majority of the Islamic world is the movement's foremost enemy". For this singular reason, it becomes a very dangerous book to form ones opinion from!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I really enjoyed this book for it's historical value. I really knew nothing about the 17, 1800's in this part of the world. As a newbie, I found it hard to "stay" with this book at times, but found it very worthwhile and rewarding reading in the end.

  12. 4 out of 5

    B. Henry

    You will get a complete disappointment, if you are looking for a complete history of Wahhabism and their long tentacles on the entire world history and every aspect of current world politics (particularly Middle East). On the other hand the book concentrates heavily on the Wahhabism and their heavy influence on the pre-independence history of India, Pakistan as well as the entire modern history of Afghanistan. (And there will be no surprise, especially if we know the fact that the author special You will get a complete disappointment, if you are looking for a complete history of Wahhabism and their long tentacles on the entire world history and every aspect of current world politics (particularly Middle East). On the other hand the book concentrates heavily on the Wahhabism and their heavy influence on the pre-independence history of India, Pakistan as well as the entire modern history of Afghanistan. (And there will be no surprise, especially if we know the fact that the author specializes in Indian subcontinent.) As such the book itself is a treasure trove of information and provides a clear insight into the root cause of current sectarian politics in India as well as in Pakistan and also the long standing rivalry between these countries. The major disqualifications of the book are:- 1)The author uses the first nine chapters as base to bring his point from the tenth chapter onwards. As such the readers may get the equivalent feeling of pre-credit scenes, which is more than three quarters of the entire length of the motion picture. 2) The irritating way in which phonetic representation of Hindi, Urdu and Arabic words are done in English. I am giving two out of five stars due to the above mentioned faults.

  13. 4 out of 5

    mukesh dangi

    A very well researched and laden with extensive details which needs quite a dedication to read this book. Good for people doing in depth research.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martin Willoughby

    A good, if laboured, account of the origins of Wahhabism and its effect on Saudi Arabia and modern Jihadism.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Heskett

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/14457961 I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/14457961

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sam Davison

    Interestingg, although solely from the Western point of view.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sajith Kumar

    Terrorism has been the most critical factor on global agenda, ever since the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. Almost the entire TV-viewing world knows who Osama bin Laden was and a few even know about the Wahhabi cult to which the master terrorist belonged. But the origin and development of the sect which envelops the whole of Saudi Arabia under its umbrella and protects the holy cities of Islam is a tale not told before in a popularly accessible book. Charles Allen does all this, Terrorism has been the most critical factor on global agenda, ever since the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. Almost the entire TV-viewing world knows who Osama bin Laden was and a few even know about the Wahhabi cult to which the master terrorist belonged. But the origin and development of the sect which envelops the whole of Saudi Arabia under its umbrella and protects the holy cities of Islam is a tale not told before in a popularly accessible book. Charles Allen does all this, in addition to linking it to the political unrest in India during the 19th century and goes on to provide a sequel to that all, in the post-Soviet resurgence of Islamic terrorism. By a long stretch of logic and narration of events, Allen has succeeded in making an impression of presenting a credible history. But to an observant eye, the link turns out to be tenuous and the message implicit in the text is that the Indian Mutiny of 1857, or the First War of Independence, is nothing but a battle stimulated by calls of jihad (holy war) and the rebellion may be compared to acts of sabotage and terrorism indulged by the fidayeen (suicide) warriors exploding themselves in the crowded streets of Baghdad or Peshawar. This is utterly illogical and the author has completely missed the thread of religious unity which bound the nation together for a brief moment in 1857 before being frayed out again towards the disastrous partition of the country in 1947. Basically, the book is structured into three parts – origin and growth of Wahhabi cult in Arabia during the 18th century, origin, growth and battles of fundamentalist and violent Islamic cults in India encouraged by the Wahhabi concept in 19th century, and the origin and growth of international terrorism in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. All of these phenomena is presented as the direct effects of Wahhabi influence in terms of religious sanction, fighting men and petro-dollars. However, when the last page was turned, it was felt that this book is a byproduct of the research which he had for his earlier work Soldier Sahibs and that Allen had found a conveniently attractive theme of Wahhabism to join them. For more, see http://sapientiasemita.blogspot.in

  18. 5 out of 5

    Razi

    If you want to know about the Wahhabi movement the Sub-Continent during the British Raj, this is one of the key texts quite frequently cited these days. Charles Allen specialises in the history of the British rule over India. Follow this text and you would find the followers of the three major religions in British India: Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism as troublemakers, passive and faithful to the their British masters respectively, a point of view which would not be very flattering to any of these If you want to know about the Wahhabi movement the Sub-Continent during the British Raj, this is one of the key texts quite frequently cited these days. Charles Allen specialises in the history of the British rule over India. Follow this text and you would find the followers of the three major religions in British India: Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism as troublemakers, passive and faithful to the their British masters respectively, a point of view which would not be very flattering to any of these groups. The author is not very keen to cite his sources although he does give an extensive bibliography at the end but the absence of footnotes or end notes makes him very unconvincing. There are some errors which are pointed out by other reviewers. Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani's name is spelled as 'Shabbar' Ahmad Uthmani both in the main text and in the Index at the end of the book. This book is important because it points at Wahhabism as the main source of trouble in Islamic countries. This phenomenon has not been popular for more than a a couple of decades outside the Arabian peninsula which is alarming. The rapid speed with which the 17th century teachings of Abdullah ibn i Wahab alNajadi spread in the wider Islamic world after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda, the recent attacks on civilians in the West and elsewhere,can all be understood as doings of the followers of a revivalist cult called Wahhabism which more and more people should understand in order to gain a better understanding of our contemporary world. This book gives an account of how the foundations of this violent revolution were laid over a period of two centuries. The final chapter explains the recent developments due to the money spent by Saudi Arabia to further develop and strengthen Wahhabi networks in poorer Islamic countries and among the immigrant Muslim communities in the West.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Uwais

    I finished reading the sections related to Wahabism in India. I felt the author needs to present facts rather than asserting his assumptions. Alongside with grave misrepresentation of texts is his novice and superficial knowledge of religious theology, not to mention the lack of understanding of the Indian culture and religious ideas of the time. All in all, the book is worth a read so that it gives an idea to people how historic events can be twisted and misrepresented. A clever way to show how I finished reading the sections related to Wahabism in India. I felt the author needs to present facts rather than asserting his assumptions. Alongside with grave misrepresentation of texts is his novice and superficial knowledge of religious theology, not to mention the lack of understanding of the Indian culture and religious ideas of the time. All in all, the book is worth a read so that it gives an idea to people how historic events can be twisted and misrepresented. A clever way to show how all religious and political movements that strove for revival can be shown to have links with al-Qaedah.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    The majority of this book was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I thought the author did a fairly decent job of describing the history of the Wahhabis, at least one perspective of it. Unfortunately, the end of the book illuminated his lack of understanding in some areas and seemed quite hurried. This was unfortunate because had he devoted the same level of research and understanding it could have been useful. I felt that his bias and lack of understanding then devalued the effort he The majority of this book was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I thought the author did a fairly decent job of describing the history of the Wahhabis, at least one perspective of it. Unfortunately, the end of the book illuminated his lack of understanding in some areas and seemed quite hurried. This was unfortunate because had he devoted the same level of research and understanding it could have been useful. I felt that his bias and lack of understanding then devalued the effort he put into the beginning because it calls into question his judgement and impartiality. Although I have enjoyed some of this authors previous works, this book was a disappointment.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aparna Singh

    While a worthy subject and offering some useful perspective to the present day Islamic terrorists, the book was ploddingly dull and I had to push myself to finish. The writing style was dry; the only characters humanised were the British officers in the East India company and army. The bulk of the mujahideen all sounded like each other, and there was little insight into their lives' circumstances, the historical events of the time or their motivations, beyond a simple recounting of key events in While a worthy subject and offering some useful perspective to the present day Islamic terrorists, the book was ploddingly dull and I had to push myself to finish. The writing style was dry; the only characters humanised were the British officers in the East India company and army. The bulk of the mujahideen all sounded like each other, and there was little insight into their lives' circumstances, the historical events of the time or their motivations, beyond a simple recounting of key events in the timeline.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pinko Palest

    a very interesting subject, but a rather tedious result: there are so many names crammed into every page that it is difficult to follow if you know little of indian history during the 19th century. This seems to be a conscious choice by the author, who is more concerned to discuss personalities rather than what these personalities stood for. Still, contains some very revealing and useful information, if one can just keep going

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrei

    One of the most important, or maybe the most important book to understanding of wahhabism and its base in India/Pakistan/Afghanistan. If you want to know the ties between taliban, tablighi, deobandi, salafi and wahhabi movements, it's the right book to learn it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rajitha

    the described storyline is enuf to create interest

  25. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    No, this is not a book about how Muslims are crazed Christian killers; rather, it is a historical look into the formation of the Taliban. Although dry and plodding at times, it is very informative.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frank Cardenas

    An interesting insight into the origins of Jihad and the different ideas behind Islam, a must if you want to understand the early beginnings of a widespread religion.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zaeem Arshad

  28. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sankarshan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christina

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