Academic journal article Journal for Islamic Studies

For the Saudi's Kingdom or for the Umma? Global 'Ulama' in the Dar Al-Hadith in Medina

Academic journal article Journal for Islamic Studies

For the Saudi's Kingdom or for the Umma? Global 'Ulama' in the Dar Al-Hadith in Medina

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this article, I illustrate how 'ulama from south Asia, west Africa and Egypt had come together in the Dar al-Hadïth College in Medina and its branch in Mecca in order to support Ibn Sa'üd's regime in teaching the Salari doctrine. The article argues that the support of these 'ulama for Ibn Sa'üd's regime was not politically but religiously motivated. The fact that the Dar al-Hadïth, originally created in South Asia, came to be directed in Medina by 'ulama from West Africa illustrates the role played by the West African 'ulama in Islamic Reform. The article challenges the tradition of distinguishing an Islam of the Middle East, an Islam of Africa south of Sahara, an Islam of South Asian and an Islam of South-West Asia. This way of compartmentalizing Islam and Muslims, dominant in the studies of Islam, produces an understanding of Islam that is also compartmentalized and incomplete.

This article intends to illustrate the role played by the Dar al-Hadïth College in Medina and its branch in Mecca in the consolidation of the Äl Sa'üd's power. Firstly, the Indian 'ulama of the Dar al-Hadïth would not have succeeded in Saudi Arabia without the support received from the West African 'ulama and from the 'ulama' from the Middle East, particularly the 'ulama from the Ansar as-Sunna al-Muhammadiyya, a Salari movement founded in Egypt in 1926 by Shaykh Muhammad Hamid al-Fiqqï. The main argument presented in this article is to maintain that, even if at the end the work of these 'ulama contributed significantly to the expansion and establishment of the Saudi State, their intention was not to support Saudi Arabia as a political entity or any other state, but rather the Islamic Umma (the worldwide community of believers). And the Islamic Umma was not, for the Dar al-Hadïth, a political but rather a spiritual entity. Thus, the religious and political project of Ibn Sa'üd appeared to them as a project of the entire Umma, and it was presented as such by Ibn Sa'üd.

The second aim of the article is to show how this institution (Dar alHadïth), originally created in South Asia, came to be directed in Medina by 'ulama from West Africa. This article will trace the biographical outline of two West African Islamic Scholars, namely Shaykh 'Abdurrahman alIfrïqï and his student Shaykh 'Umar Fallata, both successive directors of the Dar al-Hadïth from the 1940s and the end of the 1970s.1 This also shows the role played by the West African 'ulama in the Islamic Reform, which was promoted during this period by many 'ulama, organized in networks throughout the Muslim world. Moreover, this shows, again, how wrong the tradition is of distinguishing an Islam of the Arab world or an Islam of the Arab-Turkish-Iranian world (which would be a most important and most interesting subject for study), and an Islam of Africa south of Sahara, an Islam of South Asian and an Islam of Southwest Asia (which would be less important and less interesting for study). This way of compartmentalizing Islam and Muslims, though dominant in the studies of Islam, produces an understanding of Islam that is also compartmentalized and incomplete.

The Dar al-Hadïth in Medina

While there was a Dar al-Hadïth in Baghdad since the 11th century as a result of what Makdisi called the victory of traditionalism over rationalislm, one should remember that the Dar al-Hadïth movement of the 19th and 20th centuries is an offshoot of the Ahi al-Hadïth of the alHaramayn in the 18th century. 2 This is a school of thought that originated in the 18th century, first in Medina and then in Mecca. The ideas of this movement were then propagated in Yemen, North and West Africa, Asia and particularly in South Asia. In the 19th century, the movement was engulfed by the emerging Salafiyya-Wahhäbiyya. It was only in South Asia that the movement was able to maintain its organizational independence, and thereafter operate in other parts of the Muslim world, including Mecca and Medina. …

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