Today in Middle Eastern history: the Wahhabi sack of Karbala (probably 1802)

Wahhabism has always taken a dim view of Shiʿism—really, denigrating the Shiʿa is at the core of the movement’s origins. Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792) based his teachings in large part on those of the very influential 13th-14th century Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyah, and Shiʿa were pretty much Ibn Taymiyah’s least favorite people in the world, maybe with the exception of philosophers. One of the things Ibn Taymiyah condemned was the practice, common among but certainly not limited to Shiʿa, of visiting the shrine of a respected religious figure (a “saint,” for lack of a better term) to venerate that figure and ask the him or her to intercede on one’s behalf with God. Ibn Taymiyah saw such practices as unequivocally shirk (placing someone or something on the same level with God, i.e. polytheism), and his condemnations are the intellectual justification for Salafis in modern times who, for example, destroy shrines of prominent Sufi figures (though I should note that Ibn Taymiyah was himself a Sufi—just not the kind who spent his time making pilgrimages to shrines).

Read the rest at my new home, Foreign Exchanges!

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