Madkhalism is a strain of Islamist thought within the larger Salafist movement based on the writings of Rabee al-Madkhali.[1][2][3][4] Arab states have generally favored Madkhalism due to its support for secular forms of government as opposed to other strains of Salafism,[5] and Madkhalism's decline in Saudi Arabia has been connected with a decline in support for secular forms of government in the Muslim world.[6]

Though originating in Saudi Arabia, the movement lost its support base in the country and has mostly been relegated to the Muslim community in Europe,[7] with most Saudi Arabians not taking the edicts of Madkhalists seriously.[8] Political scientist Omar Ashour has described the movement as resembling a cult,[9] and English-language media has referred to the group as such.[8]


The movement has, in essence, been a reaction against the Muslim Brotherhood, rival Sahwa movement as well as the Qutbi movement;[10] Sayyid Qutb, that movement's figurehead, is considered to be an apostate by Madkhali and his movement.[11] At the Madkhalist movement's inception in the early 1990s, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt promoted the group as a counterbalance to more extreme elements of the wider Islamist movement.[3][12][13][14][15] During this time, a number of radical Jihadists converted to Madkhalism, especially in the Salafist stronghold of Buraidah.[16] In Kuwait, the Madkhali movement was nurtured around individuals who would separate from "mainstream" Salafism in 1981 due to many amongst them entering into political arena .[17]

After high-ranking members of Saudi Arabia's religious establishment denounced the movement in general, and Saudi Grand Mufti and Permanent Committee head Abdul-Azeez ibn Abdullaah Aal ash-Shaikh's criticism of Rabee al-Madkhali specifically, the movement lost its support base within the wider Arab world.[7] The remaining followers of Madkhali within Saudi Arabia tend to be foreign workers of Western origins, Saudis from Rabee al-Madkhali's hometown, and Kuwaitis and Yemenis.[11] Madkhali also retains a national network of disciples to promote his work and monitor the activities of competitor clerics,[5] and although Madkhalists are outnumbered by followers of Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage in Kuwait, they retain an extensive international network in the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia.[17] Despite losing its audience in its country of origin, the movement had branched outward by the early 2010s, with Madkhalists gaining followers in western Kazakhstan, where the Government of Kazakhstan views them and other Islamists with suspicion.[18][19] Regardless of these gains, Western analysts have still described the movement as now being relegated to a primarily European phenomenon.[7][20] Analysts have estimated that Madkhalists and their allies comprise just over half of the Salafist movement in the Netherlands.[21]

On Friday, 24 August 2012, Islamists loyal to Muhammad al-Madkhali, one of the movement's figureheads and Rabee al-Madkhali's brother,[22] demolished Sufi shrines in Zliten in Libya with construction equipment and bulldozers.[23] The act was condemnded by twenty-two NGOs, in addition to the post-war Libyan government's top religious official and UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova.[24][25][26] The post-war Libyan government filed a complaint with the Saudi government regarding Muhammad al-Madkhali, who is a professor at the Islamic University of Madinah.[27]

Another break between Madkhalists and the mainstream of purist Salafism has been the reaction to the Arab Spring. While most purist Salafists initially opposed both the Libyan Civil War and the Syrian Civil War, eventually they threw their support behind the opposition in both cases due to the extreme violence on the part of the Qaddafi and Asad regimes; the Madkhalists attacked the mainstream purists for these stances.[17]


Madkhalism is often compared to Wahhabism, sharing a number of tenents with the wider movement.[3][15] Media analysts have warned against generalizing such Islamists movements despite their differences, however.[18] Madkhali has borrowed heavily from elder Salafist scholar Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani; Madkhali adopted more extreme positions than Albani in his teaching, however, and Madkhalists were dismayed when Albani praised hardline clerics Safar Al-Hawali and Salman al-Ouda.[5]

A cornerstone of Madkhalist discourse is unquestioning loyalty to governments, even those that use extreme and unjustified violence against their subjects.[17] Unlike other Islamist groups which often oppose dictatorial government in the Middle East, the Madkhalist movement is openly supportive of such regimes.[9][28][29][30] Madkhalists argue that the governments of Arab countries rule by divine right, otherwise God would not have allowed them to take power; anyone who opposes their view is labeled as a member of the Khawarij, an ancient Muslim sect.[11]

Relations with governments of countries which are Muslim but not Arab have not always been as smooth. Both Madkhali brothers actively encouraged Muslims inside and outside of Indonesia to join the armed Maluku sectarian conflict which continued from the late 1990s until the early 2000s.[31][32] In the year 2000, Muhammad al-Madkhali went so far as to declare the prohibition of jihad by then Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, himself an internationally recognized Islamic scholar, as being contrary to sharia law.[33]

Though often lumped together with all other Salafists and Islamists, the Madkhalists have been noted for their opposition to and mutual rivalry with Salafist jihadism.[18] The Madkhalist movement has been described as politically quietist, eschewing the organized political efforts of the mainstream of Salafism and even going as far as to declare those who participate in modern political system to be heretics or even apostates.[34][35] Such politically active Salafists are often described by followers of Madkhalism as part of an international conspiracy against "true Salafism."[36] On the other hand, Western intelligence agencies have identified Madkhalists as a group which can be supported and funded discreetly by the US, in comparison to the rest of the groups seen under the wider Salafi movement.[37]

Interaction with non-Muslim societies, where most Madkhalists reside, also distinguishes the movement. While most Salafists in the Western world are noted for lack of participation in the wider society, Madkhalists in particular are noted for minimizing contact with non-Muslims.[38] Also unlike the wider Islamist movement, Madkhalists seem uninterested in converting Western societies to Islam, preferring to simply accept and defend their rights as a minority community.[39]

The polemics of the Madkhalists are markedly different from other Salafist groups as well. A noted feature of Madkhalism during Muslim dogmatic exchanges is attacking the opponent instead of discourse regarding the actual topic of discussion.[29] The person of the movement's leader, Rabee al-Madkhali, also carries a heavy focus uncharacteristic of rival movements such as Qutbism. Madkhalists have been described as obsessed with defense of the movement's leader, often dramatising or exaggerating praise given by Salafist scholars and attempting to stifle or intimidate Salafists with opposing views to those of Madkhali and Madkhalists.[40] A common mantra promoted by Madkhali is that questioning the movement's clerics is forbidden as a general rule, and only allowed in cases of necessity.[41]


  1. Omayma Abdel-Latif, "Trends in Salafism." Taken from Islamist Radicalisation: The Challenge for Euro-Mediterranean Relations, pg. 74. Eds. Michael Emerson, Kristina Kausch and Richard Youngs. Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies, 2009. ISBN 9789290798651
  2. Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Sheikh Rabi’ Ibn Haadi ‘Umayr Al Madkhali. The Muslim 500: The World's Most Influential Muslims
  3. 1 2 3 ICG Middle East Report N°31. Saudi Arabia Backgrounder: Who Are the Islamists? Amman/Riyadh/Brussels: International Crisis Group, 21 September 2004.
  4. Roel Meijer, Global Salafism: Islam's New Religious Movement, pg. 49. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 Jarret M. Brachman, Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice, pg. 29. London: Routledge, 2008. ISBN 9781134055418
  6. Kasra Shahhosseini, The Rise of ISIS: Who’s to Blame? International Policy Digest, October 20, 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 Roel Meijer, "Politicizing al-jarh wa-l-ta'dil: Rabi b. Hadi al-Madkhali and the transnational battle for religious authority." Taken from The Transmission and Dynamics of the Textual Sources of Islam: Essays in Honour of Harald Motzki, eds. Nicolet Boekhoff-van der Voort, Kees Versteegh and Joas Wagemakers, pg. 382. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2011.
  8. 1 2 Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami, Arab Counter-revolution on Threshold of Plummeting. World Bulletin, Sunday, September 21, 2014.
  9. 1 2 Omar Ashour, Libyan Islamists Unpacked Archived 2013-06-17 at the Wayback Machine.: Rise, Transformation and Future. Brookings Doha Center, 2012.
  10. Thomas M. Pick, Anne Speckhard and Beatrice Jacuch, Home-Grown Terrorism, pg. 86. Amsterdam: IOS Press, 2009.
  11. 1 2 3 Jarret M. Brachman, Global Jihadism, pg. 30.
  12. Notes, Whatever Happened to the Islamists?: Salafis, Heavy Metal Muslims and the Lure of Consumerist Islam, pg. 291. Eds. Amel Boubekeur and Olivier Roy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780231154260
  13. Hossam Tammam and Patrick Haenni, Islam in the insurrection? Archived 2013-06-17 at the Wayback Machine. Al-Ahram Weekly, 3–9 March 2011, Issue No. 1037.
  14. Professor Girma Yohannes Iyassu Menelik, The Emergence and Impacts of Islamic Radicalists, pg. 16. Munich: GRIN Publishing GmbH, 2009.
  15. 1 2 Sherifa Zuhur, Saudi Arabia: Islamic Threat, Political reform, and the Global War on Terror, pg. 26. Strategic Studies Institute, March 2005.
  16. ICG Interviews, Riyadh, 2004.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Zoltan Pall, Kuwaiti Salafism and Its Growing Influence in the Levant. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 7, 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 Almaz Rysaliev, "West Kazakhstan Under Growing Islamic Influence." Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine. Institute for War and Peace Reporting. RCA Issue 653, 21 July 2011. Accessed 29 January 2013.
  19. Reporting Central Asia No. 653
  20. Samir Amghar, "Salafism and Radicalisation of Young European Muslims." Taken from European Islam: Challenges for Public Policy and Society, pg. 44. Eds. Samir Amghar, Amel Boubekeur and Michaël Emerson. Brussels: Center for European Policy Studies, 2007. ISBN 9789290797104
  21. Martijn de Koning, "The 'Other' Political Islam: Understanding Salafi Politics." Taken from Whatever Happened to the Islamists?: Salafis, Heavy Metal Muslims and the Lure of Consumerist Islam, pg. 159. Eds. Amel Boubekeur and Olivier Roy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780231154260
  22. Mansoor Jassem Alshamsi, Islam and Political Reform in Saudi Arabia: The Quest for Political Change and Reform, pg. 111. London: Routledge, 2010. ISBN 9781134126538
  23. Enas Saddoh, Extremists demolish Libya’s shrines using bulldozers, explosives. France 24, 29/08/2012.
  24. Mohamed, Essam (27 August 2012) Libyan salafists destroy Sufi shrines
  25. Fornaji, Hadi (28 August 2012) Widespread condemnation of mosque attacks and demands for government action
  26. UNESCOPRESS (28.08.2012) UNESCO Director-General calls for an immediate halt to destruction of Sufi sites in Libya
  27. Jamie Dettmer, Ultraconservative Salafists Destroy sufi Landmarks in Libya. September 4th, 2012.
  28. Martijn de Koning, pg. 171.
  29. 1 2 Richard Gauvain, Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God, pg. 41. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  30. The Jamestown Foundation, Salafists Challenge al-Azhar for Ideological Supremacy in Egypt. 16 September 2010, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 35
  31. Noorhaidi Hasan, Laskar Jihad, pg. 151. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 2006.
  32. Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda: global network of terror, pg. 201. Volume 3 of the University of St Andrews' Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence series. London: C. Hurst & Co., 2002.
  33. Robert W. Hefner, "Civil Pluralism Denied?" Taken from New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere, pg. 170. Eds. Dale F. Eickelman and Jon W. Anderson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. ISBN 9780253342522
  34. Martijn de Koning, pg. 169.
  35. George Joffé, Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East: Reassessing the Causes of Terrorism, pg. 317. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013.
  36. Meijer, "Politicizing," pg. 388.
  37. 'U.S. could discretely fund mainstream Salafi figures like Madkhali ...' .
  38. Martijn de Koning, pg. 166.
  39. Martijn de Koning, pg. 174.
  40. Meijer, "Politicizing," pg. 381.
  41. Roel Meijer, "The Problem of the Political in Islamist Movements." Taken from Whatever Happened to the Islamists?: Salafis, Heavy Metal Muslims and the Lure of Consumerist Islam, pg. 49. Eds. Amel Boubekeur and Olivier Roy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780231154260
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