Deep Roots

Although undoubtedly most Americans were taken by surprise that two brothers from the Caucasus area in southern Russia were the perpetrators of a Salafi jihad attack on American athletes during the Boston Marathon, the source of the violence has deep roots. Very deep roots.

The Arabic word salaf means “predecessor,” roughly equivalent to the American term “founding father.” The Salafi branch of Islam reportedly refers to the first three generations of Mohammad’s followers. What does this have to do with the terrorist bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Everything!

At the time that the Muslims were expanding from the Arabian peninsula (today’s Saudi Arabia and Arab emirates), they were ruled by caliphs called Rashidun, considered in many ways the ideal role models of today’s Salafi Muslim jihadists. The Rashidun caliphs had two enemies: one was Iran, whom they later conquered and converted to Islam.

The other enemy was the Roman Empire, in particular, the Eastern branch where Greek was spoken rather than Latin. Scholars called this Roman branch the Byzantine Empire, but the subjects of the empire, mostly Christians at the time, called themselves (in Greek) “Romans.”

After much bloody warfare, the Muslim Arabians conquered the Byzantine Empire and destroyed it as an imperial entity. It no longer exists.

However, Christian missionaries from the Byzantine Empire had spread their religion to the north and east, and created a new empire, which was consolidated centuries later under a Tsar named Ivan “The Terrible.” That new empire was, and still is Russia. It no longer has a Tsar, but a president: Vladimir Putin, admired by Obama. Russia became the new Byzantine Empire. They write in an alphabet imported by Saint Cyril, with mostly Greek letters, and the state religion, Russian Orthodoxy, closely resembles the Byzantine religion, Greek Orthodox Christianity.

In the southern part of Russia, small nations of Turkic and Iranian origin never converted to Christianity, but retained the Islam of the Muslim Conquest. Among those nations is Chechnya, the ethnic (but not geographic) origin of the Tsarnaev terrorist brothers. Chechnya has had bitter bloody battles with the Moscow Russians since then, and today is a thorn in the side of Putin, who, by the way, reportedly has converted back from Marxist atheism to Russian Orthodoxy.

Meanwhile, back in Arabia, the Salafi movement had grown under the influence of a chap named Abdul Wahhab, a founding father of Saudi Salafism. We are supposed to believe that there are two kinds of Wahhabi Salafists today: the mellow non-violent kind, who have become good buddies of Obama and, before him, the Bush clan; and the nasty, violent kind, exemplified by Osama bin Ladin, said to have been buried at sea by Obama.

Well, that’s us, but what about Chechnya? It seems that Saudi Wahhabists have been egging on Chechen Muslims to wage jihad against the Russians. Putin knows it, and if he didn’t know it before, Obama, counseled by Putin, knows it now.

Almost as a footnote to this tale, an Israeli-themed intelligence website named DEBKAfile has suggested that the Tsarnayev brothers were double agents working for the US government and the Saudis (presumably the non-violent Saudis) to infiltrate Wahhabis in Chechnya and report back on their skulduggery. DEBKAfile then suggests that the double agents then double-crossed US intelligence and blew the legs off Boston Marathon athletes, trashing Obama’s boast that the war on terror was over, and probably also trashing Putin’s big expectation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Could DEBKAfile’s allegations be true? Who knows? Will we ever find out? Maybe. Maybe not.

[Muhammad Tawfiq] Sidqi argued that details of [Prophet] Muhammad’s [SAW] behavior were never meant to be imitated in every particular. Thus Muslims should rely solely on the Qur'an. Sidqi’s own motivations, made explicit in the article itself, were directly related to the doctrine of the salafiyya - rejection of taqlid and a quest for authenticity. He simple extended these principles a step further than they had previously been taken. It is clear, however, that his views do not represent a sharp break with salafi ideology. The rejection of hadith as a source of authority was simply a new variation on an old salafi theme.

Rethinking Tradition in Islamic Thought, David Brown

Learning about the rise of the Salafi movement and resulting philosophies that branched away from it through the history of hadith criticism provides a really fascinating perspective. Muhammad Tawfiq Sidqi wrote a controversial article in 1906 calling for a return to pure Islam by relying on the Qur'an alone, and debates about this single article continued for four years. He was later forced to recant his ideas placed in the article by the very person who allowed it to be published.