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Volume :2 Issue : 5 1976      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE ORIGIN OF THE MUSLIM-BROTHERS MOVEMENT IN ARABIA

Auther : Dr. John Habib

 
 
         This article deals with the origin and rise of the Muslim-brothers (Ikhwan) as a movement created by Ibn Saud to help him spread his rule over certain parts of Arabia other than those of Najd and Al-ihsa.
 
         To fulfill his aim of unifying the Peninsula under his ruled, Ibn Saud needed a large, new army.  He had already used the townsmen in his battles against Ibn Rashid and Turks, but now he could not take those townsmen away from their fields and shops in Najd and Al-Ihsa to fight for him in other provinces.  The only choice left for Ibn Saud was the Bedouins whom he decided to remold and recast in a way so as to make an army out of them.
 
         The Bedouins, however, were known for a number of characteristics some of which Ibn Saud had to change.  Those Bedouins were characterized by fickleness and political unreliability, which resulted from their inherent individualism.  Raids, to them, were merely a kind of sport and a mean of diverting and redistributing wealth.  They were not good fighters, and they would not fight for the Sheikh if it was not to their convenience and material gain.  Sanctions could not be placed upon them, for they had no land, no houses, and only a very little material wealth.  In short, the Bedouins were not a reliable element from which to create an army.
 
         Ibn Saud was in need of a fighting force that had the mobility of the Bedouins and the loyalty, bravery, dedication and stability of the townsmen.  Within a few years, he was able to change the negative qualities which characterized the Bedouins into positive ones.  He built them special settlements called “Hujar”, and succeeded in convincing them to give up their nomadic life and settle down in these “Hujar”, where they were taught the fundamentals of Islam of the Hanbali School as preached by Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahab. At the same time, Ibn Saud was able to make out of those bedouins a new force, which was mobile and sedentary enough to rely on, and which came to be known as the Ikhwan who would readily sacrifice themselves to raise the word of God under Ibn Saud‘s leadership.  Thus, the “Hujar” served Ibn Saud as military supply outposts.  At first Ibn Saud kept the development of the Ikhwan movement as secret, especially from the British.  But when this movement became strong enough, he started using it in his interests, especially to fight against his enemies, the non-Wahabi Muslims, in Hijaz.
 
         While all the Ikhwan were Wahabis, not all the Wahabis were Ikhwan.  The majority of the people in the town and villages of Najd were adherent, non-Ikhwan, Wahabis whom Ibn Saud used later on, together with some Ikhwan loyal to him, to quench the Ikhwan rebellion.
 
         The Ikhwan movement was sometimes identified with socialism and at other times even with communism.  It was frequently described as a political society created by Ibn Saud in the cloak of religion.  And while the Ikhwan did not form a secret society, yet they were known for a number of secondary characteristics, such as dress, fanaticism, forced conversion and economic subsidization, which made them a distinguishable group.
 
         However, the rapid spread of the Ikhwan movement and the increasing number of the Hujar became later a threat to the power and authority of Ibn Saud.  Disputes soon broke out between the Ikhwan leaders and Ibn Saud over the strict application of the Wahabi Islamic teachings.  Those leaders accused Ibn Saud of being lax with the application of these teachings, of co-operating with unbelievers (the English), with the introduction of unlawful foreign habits (the use of the telephone, telegraph, and the radio), and with failing to pursue new conquests outside Arabia. Nevertheless, the matter was decisively settled in Ibn Saud’s favour after a number of attempts at rebellion on the part of Ikhwan.
 
        Even after the demise of the movement, the Ikhwan remained a significant political-religious factor in the country.

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