Book Synopsis

Faith Based Violence and Deobandi Militancy in Pakistan highlights the South Asian extension of Salafi-Wahhabi violence and terrorism. Within the context of the Middle East, the Wahhabi/Salafi doctrines that drive the violence of terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda are ignored by the mainstream media and to a certain extent, academia as well. Deobandi violence presents a double-layered problem:

The Deobandi sect and its theocratic doctrines are ignored by the mainstream media and academia as important drivers of faith-based militancy in Pakistan and the Subcontinent. It is subsumed under the vague and generalized category of “Islamic” or “Islamist” violence and hence deflecting current political and academic discourse from the critical role that the group’s theological and legal doctrines play in its militancy.

In mainstream media and academic discourse, there is a perceived doctrinal and political disconnect between Wahhabi/Salafi and Deobandi militant activism.

This book offers a corrective to the above-mentioned problems in two important ways. First, it suggests that Although Deobandis follow the Hanafi school of law as opposed to mainstream Wahhabism (the latter tentatively following a modernized version of the Hanbali school), Deobandism nevertheless follows the theological, theocratic and sectarian assumptions of Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) and Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703-1792), the two major founders of the Wahhabi/Salafi current.

Second, it suggests that the intertwining of South Asian Deobandi and transnational Wahhabi/Salafi violence is not accidental nor is it recent. The theological affinity between the two groups plays a critical role in the coordination and fusing of Deobandi and Wahhabi/Salafi militancy. Like their transnational counterparts, Deobandis have been involved in excommunicative and sectarian (takfiri) violence in South Asia directed towards various Muslims sects (e.g. Shias, Sufis, Ahmadis, Barelvis) as well as non-Muslim groups such as Sikhs and Hindus. This faith-based violence has been fueled by the same theological principles and authors who animate transnational Wahhabi/Salafi takfiri violence.

Once the theological link is established between Wahhabism/Salafism and its South Asian counterpart (Deobandism), the book provides case by case evidence of how this doctrinal affinity has allowed Deobandism to quickly and easily assimilate into the theocratic architecture of Al-Qaeda and more recently ISIS.

The book thus concludes that the theological and legal tenets of Deobandism help explain three major phenomena that we are currently observing in the twenty-first century Muslim world: 1) the religious insistence of reviving an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Taliban which happens to be the most notorious manifestation of the Deobandi sect and 2) the presence of Deobandi militants within the ranks of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and 3) the allegiance of Deobandi militant organizations, students (both male and female) and clerics to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the current leader and “caliph” of ISIS.”

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