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Wahhabis, Sufis and Salafis in early twentieth century Damascus

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines how allegations of Wahhabi influence became a point of controversy between rival camps of religious scholars in early twentieth century Damascus. Thus the focus here is on what "Wahhabi" meant in that context and how it was used in the polemics contained in religious treatises published between 1900 and the early 1920s. From these works, it appears that the Wahhabi issue and local religious discourse evolved over time. A model study of Wahhabism's reception in one locality is Bernard Haykel's splendid monograph on the Yemeni scholar Muhammad al-Shawkani. The reappraisal of the Wahhabis was undertaken by ʿulamaʾ in the Salafi movement. As for those defenders, we have a treatise by the Salafi writer Muhammad Bahjat al-Bitar, published under the pseudonym Abu al-Yasar al-Dimashqi al-Maydani. In conclusion, the first set of essays from 1900-1901 conform to a purely traditional mode of anti-Wahhabi discourse.

Keywords: Salafi movement; twentieth century Damascus; Wahhabis



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