Tag Archives: Hilali-Khan

All the Korans you will ever need

madrassa

I still come across people whose only source for the Koran is the paperback Yusuf Ali translation they bought in 1985, unaware that there are many presentations of the accursed book now available online which provide the opportunity to contrast and compare. So this post is intended to be a wander round some of the different online presentations for the benefit of the Luddites among us, ending in a shameless plug for one particular presentation with the admission that I might be biased since I had a hand in creating it.

First stop for the diligent enquirer must be the Muslim site Islam Awakened (lets hope they never find out how helpful they are to our side) which gives the literal word for word translation from the Arabic for each verse, plus fifty scholarly translations. The site shows how widely they differ, allowing readers to select their meaning according to taste. For instance, regarding the disputed concept of jihad, here is verse 47:31.

The word for word translation for the Arabic phrase “almujahideena minkum” is “those who strive among you”.

– Muhsin Khan and Muhammad al-Hilali (aka Hilali-Khan) translate it as “those who strive hard (for the Cause of Allah)”.
– Upping the bellicosity, Ali Quli Qura’i translates it as “those of you who wage jihad”.
– Aisha Bewley makes things plain with “the true fighters among you”.
– But Syed Vickar Ahamed avoids any hint of violence with the very anodyne ”those among you who do their very best”.

Two things we do know are that in the Koran the word “jihad” is overwhelmingly used in the context of war and never in the context of spiritual improvement. That idea of the greater jihad comes solely from a late and disputed hadith.

And here is verse 70:30, about who a Muslim man can have sex with, apart from his wives:

The word for word translation is “what they possess rightfully”.

– The Monotheist Group (2011 edition) translates it as ”those committed to by oath”.
– T B Irving translates it as ”those living under their control”.
– Kamal Omar translates it as ”the women who are given in guardianship of adult males as their wives under a document prepared by the Muslim state)”.
– Mohammed Sarwar, dispensing with the euphemisms, gives us simply ”slave girls”.
– And Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali gives us the familiar and chilling phrase “what their right hand possesses”.

The Hilali-Khan translation is an eye opener for anyone wishing to believe that Islam is just a religion like any other. Also known as the “Wahhabi Koran”, it was commissioned by the Saudi government and is widely disseminated throughout the western world courtesy of all those Saudi funded mosques.

Hilali and Khan make it clear that jihad was not restricted to Mohammed’s battles in the Mecca/Medina area circa 630 AD but is very much a duty for Muslims today:

“And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (8:60)

And, putting the matter beyond doubt, here is a footnote to verse 2:190 to be found in the paper edition (you can download a PDF version here). Note the present tense throughout:

”Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established. Allah’s Word is made superior, (His Word being La ilaha illaliah which means none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s comically deceptive version. In 2010 he produced a “no ifs or buts” fatwa condemning all terrorism as unIslamic. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch wondered why there was no attempt in it to explain why the so called terror verses do not mean what they appear to mean.

It turned out that there was no need because Tahir-ul-Qadri was working from his own translation of the Koran in which he simply interpolated comments magically taking the sting out of the jihad verses by making them always defensive. For instance, here is his version of the infamous 9:29:

(O Muslims!) Wage (also a defensive) war against those of the People of the Book (who infringed the peace treaty signed with you, and despite being in exile, provided full support to the disbelieving Meccan invaders who imposed the battle of al-Ahzab [the Confederates] on Medina, and have continued every possible conspiracy against you even now). They do not have faith in Allah and the Last Day…etc”.

Here is the excellent Skeptic’s Annotated Quran. It highlights verses according to 14 categories such as Injustice, Intolerance, Cruelty and Violence, Absurdity etc. It even has a sparsely populated category entitled Good Stuff.

A Koranic search facility like this one is useful too. As an example you could enter “fire” to find out about all the interesting things Allah intends to do to you once he gets you in Jahannam.

Some commentaries may be helpful too. Here Robert Spencer goes through the Koran highlighting what various mediaeval Islamic commmentators had to say about individual verses. Here is the most famous of those commentaries, the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir (but is is not exactly an easy read).

But to return to the Koran itself, the presentation I turn to first is Koran At A Glance. The translation used is that of Marmaduke Pickthall. Apart from being particularly quick and easy to navigate, Koran At A Glance has several useful features:

1. Four themes are highlighted by colour, Allah, Believers, Unbelievers and Jihad.

2. It is chronologically presented with the front page showing visually how Mohammed turned from being just a warner, as he called himself in Mecca, to a warlord in Medina, predominantly concerned with jihad.

3. All abrogated verses are highlighted, with popups of their abrogating verses.

4. It saves a hell of a lot of time by pointing out the parts which really concern non-Muslims.

Three or four years ago I came across the site of a Dutch blogger called Red Bee. He had two good ideas, firstly colour coding the text and secondly the likely effect on children of reciting the horrific content of the Koran. I suggested working together to produce a full working Koran site incorporating those two elements but we could not agree on how to proceed and went our separate ways. Fortunately I found two other people interested in the project. I produced the colour-coded text and they did the clever stuff producing the thumbnail pictures and putting it all together in a website.

The themes chosen are not arbitrary. Unbelievers and Jihad are relevant to the concerns of non-Muslims but we believe all four are acutely relevant to children learning (ie being indoctrinated) about Islam.

As it says in the About section:

“Other themes could have been drawn out but the ones presented are arguably those likely to have the deepest impact on Muslim children who are made to recite the Koran from an early age. Adults may argue about scholarly interpretations but they mean nothing to a ten year old. Surely, all a child is likely to get out of the Koran is the message of terror of Allah who knows what he or she is thinking and who might decide to torture them forever, the lure of a distinctly sensual paradise, loathing for unbelievers and the requirement to “strive in Allah’s way”. Is this not why we see so many teenagers, particularly the more devout ones, run off to kill and die for ISIS?”

Ali Sina liked it. So did Citizen Warrior. WikiIslam suggested we spend some money on it.

An unknown person or group liked it too, using it as the basis for an extended version with notes and a couple more themes. Very sensible, but I cannot understand why they thought it an improvement to turn it back to front. There is no explanation in the PDF but if you can see the benefit then The Koran In Reverse Chronological Order is for you.

Looking toward the future, perhaps the idea of colour coding different themes could be extended further in more sophisticated presentations than ours, with an indexing system so that all examples of a particular theme could be brought up on screen together. And the idea of popups could be expanded by, for instance, bringing up commentaries for individual verses.

Good luck to anyone who might decide to take up the challenge.

[Update 20/06/2018 – Peter McLoughlin’s and Tommy Robinson’s recently published Mohammed’s Koran is also presented in reverse chronological order, with the reason given in the preface that “the latest – and most violent – commands spoken by Mohammed are the first thing the reader sees”.

It also says in the preface that Mohammed’s Koran “is also the only known attempt to visually indicate which parts of the Koran are known to have been cancelled by Mohammed’s later commands”. So there are now two presentations highlighting abrogation. Good. Let’s hope there will be others since it seems like it should be a useful feature for those struggling to understand a very confusing book.

[Update 01/03/2019 – Amazon have dropped the above book from from their titles with no explanation. This is the modern equivalent of book burning and should be taken as a recommendation!

Never mind, you can get it direct from HERE.

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Slay the idolaters….but which idolaters?

koran11

In the counter-jihad world it is widely taken as unquestionable that the jihad verses of the Koran sanction eternal warfare against non-Muslims until the whole world is converted or subjugated. This is because they are open ended and therefore refer to you and me in London and New York today just as much as they do to Mohammed’s tribal enemies in Mecca in 630 AD. That is what I find when discussing it with counter-jihadists anyway, and it is what I believed until I had a long and bitter debate with someone making the case that mainstream Islam is not unavoidably supremacist because those verses should be interpreted contextually.

It was only some time after that I looked more closely at the jihad verses, and those surrounding them, and realised to my horror that she was right. Or half right anyway. Right that they can very plausibly be interpreted contextually but wrong that Islam is therefore not inherently and unavoidably supremacist. How come?

Imagine that Islam never spread out of Arabia, that perhaps the Persian and Byzantine empires rallied and squashed it, never to be heard of again. Then imagine coming across this strange old book in the loft of a church or synagogue in the one-camel town of Mecca 1400 years later. What would you make of it? I suggest that you would probably think it a collection of tales and motivational sermons from some cult leader to his followers in their bid to take over Mecca and the surrounding area. Would you see anything in it that suggests any ambitions beyond that, anything that clearly mandates eternal application over the whole world?

Take the infamous verse 9:5:

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Which idolaters is it referring to? There is nothing which identifies all idolaters for all time. Looking at the previous verses:

In verse 1 and verse 3 Allah is giving Mohammed permission to annul the treaty he made with neighbouring idolaters. In verse 4 Allah makes an exception of those of the idolaters who have abided by the terms of the treaty. So who are the idolaters to be ambushed as instructed in verse 5? Presumably the idolaters who supposedly broke the treaty. Jihadis (and counter-jihadists) claim that the verse refers to all idolaters for all time but they have to derive that interpretation from elsewhere because it is clearly not in the text.

Moreover, the sacred months referred to were a specifically local custom, tying the verse even more firmly to its context. Mohammed got so much grief for carrying out his first caravan raid during that time that Allah was obliged to send down a special revelation to get him off the hook.

Likewise with 9:29:

Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.

In verse 25 and verse 26 Allah is addressing those Muslims who took part in the Battle of Huneyn. In verse 28 he is referring to those idolaters, necessarily within reach of Mecca, who must not be allowed near the Inviolable Place of Worship, ie the Kaaba in Mecca.

But 9:29 means Jews and Christians everywhere and forever? Really? What would William of Occam (he of the razor) say?

Even with 8:39, one of the two most apparently supremacist verses in the Koran:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah

the standard translations say nothing about everywhere and forever. The verse could plausibly be read as being fulfilled when Mohammed marched into the Kaaba and destroyed the 360 other gods.

Verse 34 talks of the Meccans who kept the Muslims from the Kaaba.
Verse 41 is about establishing Mohammed’s cut of the loot.
In verse 42 Allah reminisces about the Battle of Badr.

Who are the unbelievers who must be fought until religion is all for Allah, all unbelievers forever and everywhere or just the Meccans? I see nothing about holy war “without limit of time or space”, just a very specific campaign over control of the Kaaba and booty.

It took Hilali and Khan, the Saudi government’s own translators, to turn it into:

And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]

Likewise, they turned 8:60 from the 7th century:

Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah…

into the decidedly 21st century:

And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah…

Admittedly it is the Hilali-Khan translation which is to be found in all those Saudi funded mosques around the world, influencing generations of Salafis, but that adds nothing to its validity, only to its malign effect.

The other most apparently supremacist verse, 48:28, is much the same:

He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion. And Allah sufficeth as a Witness.

The previous verses are clearly about the Muslims’ campaign for control of Mecca and the Kaaba (verse 24, verse 25 and verse 27). That being so, is there any reason to suppose that “all religion” was intended to refer to all religion in the entire world rather than all the religion practised in the vicinity of Mecca?

We could go on but you get the point. I have been through all the 160 or so jihad verses, conveniently highlighted in mauve here, (and their surrounding verses) and can find none which clearly point to a place or time beyond Mohammed’s military campaigns. If you can I would be grateful to hear of them.

Surprisingly, it is a non-jihad verse which seems to provide the strongest support for the supremacist view albeit indirectly, 33:21:

Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much.

Much hangs on this verse. The Sunnah is the example of Mohammed and Sunnis are those who follow it. So what do we find in the example of Mohammed? Some people manage to concentrate on the benign parts of Mohammed’s example but to jihadis (and to those among us who unaccountably harbour an irrational fear of Islam) the example of Mohammed is indisputably red in tooth and claw.

Is it reasonable to think that Allah meant Mohammed’s good example should cease to be taken as such after his death? General examples of any kind are usually regarded as being without an expiry date, probably more so when given by entities who were supposedly there at the beginning of the universe and who will be there at the end.

What then might someone who strives to follow Mohammed’s example make of it in Cardiff or Sydney today (literally today, 2nd May 2017 as an unexceptional example)? Even if Mohammed’s rampages were only ever local, it would be difficult to argue with those who come to the conclusion that Allah would approve of their playing out his murderous example on a larger stage until all unbelievers are converted or subjugated.

On the other hand there are two good pieces of contemporary evidence for Mohammed’s supremacism outside the Koran:

Firstly, there is the documentary evidence of his threatening letters to surrounding kings and even emperors. As far as I know they are undisputed, at least John Andrew Morrow who goes to heroic lengths to whitewash Mohammed in his book about the Covenants of Mohammed accepts them as genuine. The fact that Mohammed had the chutzpah to write to emperors in such terms is highly persuasive of his limitless ambitions but also, look how direct he is with the smaller fry in his neighbourhood:

“Be informed that my religion shall prevail everywhere (to Haudha bin Ali, governor of Yamama).

“Allah has sent me as a Prophet to all His creatures“ (to Jaifer, King of Oman).

Secondly, there is the circumstantial evidence of the actions of Mohammed’s immediate successors who, as his companions in life, presumably knew his intentions best. Did they settle down and turn Arabia into a model theocracy, happy to let the surrounding infidels get on with their thing? No they consolidated their power with the brutal Ridda Wars then took Islam from Spain to India (and not by knocking on doors). They stopped there not because they had spread the word of Allah far enough but because opposing armies halted them.

Leaving the 7th century behind us, more than 100 years after Mohammed’s death Ibn Ishaq tells us in his biography, which is the foundation of the Sira, that it was Mohammed himself who sent jihad beyond Arabia by ordering an attack against Byzantine Syria from his deathbed.

Ibn Ishaq also tells us that after hitting a stone with his pickaxe during preparations for the Battle of the Trench Mohammed said:

“The first spark means that Allah has promised me the conquest of Yemen ; the second that Allah has granted me the conquest of Syria and the West ; and the third that Allah has bestowed upon me victory over the East.”

Another 100 years after that we see this sort of thing in the Hadiths:

“Allah drew the ends of the world near one another for my sake. And I have seen its eastern and western ends. And the dominion of my Ummah would reach those ends… Sahih Muslim (41:6904)

I would not want to be convicted on evidence passed down by word of mouth over 200 years but the point is that Mohammed’s supremacism becomes ever more entrenched in Islam. The process is augmented with the great mediaeval commentaries, for instance:

“Allah the Exalted and Most Honored said, while delivering the glad tidings to the believers that the Messenger will triumph over his enemies and the rest of the people of the earth. Tafsir of Ibn Kathir.

And by the various schools of Islamic Law, for instance:

“Among the things that entail apostasy from Islam are…to deny that Allah intended the Prophet’s message (Allah bless him and give him peace) to be the religion followed by the entire world. The Reliance of the Traveller.

What can we conclude then?

1. The jihad verses do not show that Mohammed was supremacist – ie globally and eternally supremacist.

2. There is good evidence elsewhere that he was, and this has been amplified over the centuries in Islamic scriptures.

I submitted my findings to some knowledgeable people and they said with one voice “So what? Try telling that to Muslims”.

But I do not want to persuade Muslims that Mohammed was not supremacist. I want to persuade non-Muslims that he was despite the limited scope of the jihad verses. As things stand it is too easy for people who know only the Koran to wrongly conclude that Mohammed was not supremacist and therefore Islam isn’t.

They are of course encouraged in this mindset by the many deceptive Islamic apologists (Mehdi Hasan and Reza Aslan come to mind) and by Western (not Eastern) imams. Those people know that there is more to Islam than the Koran but why disturb the infidels’ comfortable illusions? Think beekeepers, smoke, bees.

No, the claim that Mohammed’s supremacism is demonstrated by the jihad verses is not a defensible position. By insisting on something which can be so easily debunked we are undermining our own credibility and reinforcing the preconceptions of a generation who have been told that only phobes and worse challenge the “Religion of Peace” story. Better to abandon it and concentrate on pointing out the evidence elsewhere for both Mohammed’s and Islam’s lust for dominion “without limit of time or space”. Who knows, perhaps the odd rejecter of the counter-jihad message may be persuaded…one less of them, one more of us.

***  UPDATE  ***
After all this time and trouble I have finally come across a verse which does appear to unambiguously declare Allah/Mohammed’s universally supremacist intent!

Allah hath promised such of you as believe and do good work that He will surely make them to succeed (the present rulers) in the earth even as He caused those who were before them to succeed (others) (24:55)

This seems to be a conclusive rebuttal to the contextual argument, ie that there is no Koranic support for Islamic supremacism beyond the Mecca/Medina area of 630 AD.

Ibn Kathir, in his commentary on sura 24, makes his understanding of verse 55 clear:

“This is a promise from Allah to His Messenger that He would cause his Ummah to become successors on earth, i.e., they would become the leaders and rulers of mankind, through whom He would reform the world and to whom people would submit”.

What would those who claim that Islam can live permanently as equals with other religions, without the aim of eventual domination, make of the verse? I never hear them tackle it.
————————————————————————————————————————————-

A deadly translation

isis

The “Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language” (aka the Hilali-Khan translation) is an ultra conservative version of the Koran made more so by interpolations and footnotes derived from the commentaries of mediaeval scholars Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir.

First published in 1993, it has been subsidised and widely promoted by the Saudi government. Now it is reportedly the most widely disseminated Koran in the English-speaking world via Islamic bookstores and Sunni mosques.

Reactions to it include:

“…more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture” Khaleel Mohammed.

“Perhaps the most extremist translation ever made of the Qur’an.” Robert Crane.

“This current crisis (and many others), I believe is a direct result of such translations as the Hilali-Khan which have been responsible for influencing some Muslims with extremist interpretations (and also providing them “justification” for criminal actions), and for providing Islamophobes with “proof” of the supposed “savagery” of Islam. Basically, this translation (and others like it) are propaganda coming out of Saudi Arabia which attempts to spread their particular supremacist, divisive, bigoted, and very dangerous interpretation of Islam.”
Sheila Musaji.

This is it:

http://www.noblequran.com/translation/index.html (whatever you do, don’t look up 2:223)

What does it say on various contentious issues?

Jews and Christians
1:7
The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).

This understanding is widely assumed in the Muslim world but the Hilali-Kahn translation is the only one which makes it explicit.

Religious tolerance
3:110
You [true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fasiqun (disobedient to Allah – and rebellious against Allah’s Command).

The footnote in the paper edition clarifies the meaning as “the best for the people, as you bring them with chains on their necks till they embrace Islam (and thereby save them from the eternal punishment in the Hell-fire and make them enter Paradise in the Hereafter.”

Supremacism
Are there geographical limits?
8:39
And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.

Or temporal limits?
8:60
And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly.

Jihad
2:190
And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors. [This Verse is the first one that was revealed in connection with Jihad, but it was supplemented by another (V.9:36)].

Footnote for 2:190 (note the present tense):
Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established. Allah’s Word is made superior, (His Word being La ilaha illaliah which means none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.

The Caliphate
8:73
And those who disbelieve are allies to one another, (and) if you (Muslims of the whole world collectively) do not do so (i.e. become allies, as one united block with one Khalifah – chief Muslim ruler for the whole Muslim world to make victorious Allah’s Religion of Islamic Monotheism), there will be Fitnah (wars, battles, polytheism, etc.) and oppression on earth, and a great mischief and corruption (appearance of polytheism).

Are these fair interpretations or are they distortions of the Koran? Not being Islamic scholars, we cannot say for sure but let us take one relatively accessible example. Does the interpolation in 8:39 [in the whole of the world] do any more than make explicit what was always implicit?

Surely the more important point is that these are the interpretations imbibed by so many Sunni Muslims, courtesy of the Saudi government. Why did the Saudis promote them so assiduously and what are the implications for themselves? The reason these interpretations present a problem for the Saudis lies in the long established fault line between religion and the state in the Kingdom. To understand this we need to take a brief look at the history of the House of Saud [for the full story see the comprehensive account by Alastair Crooke].

In 1741 a wandering cleric was given protection by a tribal leader in central Arabia. The cleric was Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a fiercely intolerant and puritanical follower of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah. Both looked back to the Medina of Mohammed and the example the first three generations of Muslims, the Salaf, as the ideal for Muslim society. Al-Wahhab demanded that all Muslims must pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader, the Caliph. Those not complying should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated. The list of those meriting death included, along with infidels, Shiites, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, who al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.

The tribal leader was Ibn Saud who saw in al-Wahhab’s teachings a religious ideology which validated his normal practice of tribal raiding as jihad, and a partnership was formed which has survived on and off to the present day.

What became known as the first Saudi state grew throughout the 18th century to control most of Arabia but in 1818 it was crushed by the Ottoman empire.The followers of al-Wahhab were quiescent throughout the 19th century but rose to prominence once more in the chaos of the First World War and its aftermath. The Saudi leader Abd-al Aziz (also known as Ibn Saud) created the Saudi Ikhwan (not to be confused with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), a fighting force of Wahhabi zealots, which enabled Aziz to capture Mecca, Medina and Jeddah by 1926. In 1927 Aziz signed the Treaty of Jeddah by which Britain recognised his authority as King of Nejd (central Arabia) and Hejaz (Western Arabia). By 1928 Aziz’s forces had overrun most of the rest of Arabia, leaving only areas which also had treaties with Britain. Aziz forbade further raiding which angered the Ikhwan who regarded all non-Wahhabis as infidels who had to be converted by force.

The Ikwhan revolted, leading to a civil war which lasted for two years. Aziz eventually crushed them and in 1932 united his dominions into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary jihad to a conservative religious authority tasked with upholding the legitimacy of the Saudi regime. An uneasy division of power between Palace and Mosque remained in place as the oil wealth started to flow into the Kingdom accompanied by the inevitable westernisation.

In 1975 King Faisal was shot dead by his nephew, angered by the encroachment of western beliefs and innovation into Wahhabist society. More serious was the seizure in 1979 of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by a revived Ikhwan under Juhayman al-Otaybi. Among other doctrines they believed that it was necessary for “the Muslims to overthrow their present corrupt rulers who are forced upon them and lack Islamic attributes since the Quran recognizes no king or dynasty”. After three weeks al-Otaybi and his forces were flushed out and subsequently beheaded.

The Saudis’ response was to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home by exporting its brand of Islam. Since the seventies the Saudis have spent $100 billion promoting Wahhabism around the world through mosques, Imams, Islamic centres, schools, literature, scholarships, academics, journalists and prison conversion programmes. But of course what was needed above all was a distinctive scripture. That is why in 1993 the previously favoured Yusuf Ali translation was replaced by the Hilali-Khan one, a truly Wahhabi Koran.

Until now (written 2015) the Saudis have been able to suppress Wahhabist zealotry within their own borders while encouraging it abroad. Now they find themselves facing an army not far from their borders which does not recognise any temporal power other than the mosque and which actively disseminates the writings of their ideological predecessor Juhayman al-Otaybi. The Islamic State, like the Ikhwan, is Wahhabism without the concession to temporal power granted to the House of Saud.

Furthermore IS declares itself the restored Caliphate, an institution encouraged as we have seen in Hilali-Khan 8:73. Already IS is controlling territory the size of Britain, is self-financing through captured oil wells, is capable of attracting thousands of jihadis from around the Muslim world and has managed to drag the West into a war, confirming its position as the champion of Islam. If IS manages to grow to a position where it can directly confront Saudi Arabia which way will the Ikwhani tendency within the Kingdom jump? It must make King Abdullah and his regime very nervous.

For those of us who do not wish the House of Saud well, it must be gratifying to see the monster they created now coming back to threaten them. That of course will be scant recompense for the worldwide economic disruption which would ensue if the Arabian oilfields came under IS control or were rendered inoperative. Nevertheless in these interesting times we must take our compensations where we may.