To understand Salafism and Wahhabism, one must understand that these movements began in opposition to the Ottoman Empire.

There are just so many things where, if the Ottoman State had one stance, the Salafis and Wahhabis take another often polar opposite.

The Ottomans were patrons of the Sufi orders: the Sultans were often initiates of the Mevlevi Order, officials and professionals were often Naqshbandi Sufis, and the Janissaries were Bektashi dervishes.

The Salafis and Wahhabis despise the Sufis. Some of them virulently so.

During its 600 year history, the Ottomans had their own lawmakers and clerics of various ethnicities making fatwas and religious rulings.

Salafis and Wahhabis cast back to ibn Taymiyya, the last great Arab cleric before the rise of the Ottoman State and pretend the Ottoman corpus of religious rulings don’t exist.

The Ottomans renovated the mosque in Mecca and restored historical sites such as the houses of the Prophet’s wives and the Companions, and their graves, venerating historical relics.

The Saudis are busy tearing down Ottoman era edifices in Mecca and elsewhere, almost gleefully demolishing historical sites the Ottomans preserved.

The clerical class in the Ottoman Empire, the scholars and ulema and lawmakers had a wide ethnic base. They weren’t just Turks or Arabs. There were Albanians, ethnic Greek, Tatar, Persian, Bosniak, Bulgars, Kurds. When Suleyman the Magnificent reigned and made Islamic Law supersede old Turkish laws, his Seyhul-Islam (Supreme Shaykh) was a Kurd. The second-last Seyhul-Islam before the post was abolished was a Daghestani.

The core clerics of the Salafis and Wahhabis are exclusively Arab.

I’ve talked to some of them. I get the impression they have a chip on their shoulder that the last 1,000 years of Islamic history was basically Turkish history, beginning from the rise of the Seljuks around 900 or so, and succeeded by the Ottomans until the 20th Century.

 

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