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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]

Rabee' Ibn Haadee 'Umayr al-Madkhalee is a former head of the Sunnah Studies Department at the Islamic University of Madinah. He is a Salafist Muslim scholar, founder of the Madkhalism movement and is considered one of Salafism's most radical thinkers.


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]

Saudi Arabia Country in Western Asia

Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest sovereign state in the Middle East, the second-largest in the Arab world, the fifth-largest in Asia, and the 12th-largest in the world. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland and mountains. As of October 2018, the Saudi economy was the largest in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world. Saudi Arabia also enjoys one of the world's youngest populations; 50% of its 33.4 million people are under 25 years old.

Islam in Europe practice of Islam in Europe

Islam is the second-largest and fastest-growing religion in Europe. Although the majority of Muslim communities in Europe formed recently, there are centuries-old Muslim societies in the Balkans.

Omar Ashour is a political scientist, human rights activist, and a martial arts champion from Montreal.


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]

Muslim Brotherhood Transnational Sunni Islamist organization

The Society of the Muslim Brothers, better known as the Muslim Brotherhood, is a transnational Sunni Islamist organization founded in Egypt by Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928. The organization gained supporters throughout the Arab world and influenced other Islamist groups such as Hamas with its "model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work", and in 2012 sponsored the elected political party in Egypt after the January Revolution in 2011. However, it faced periodic government crackdowns for alleged terrorist activities, and as of 2015 is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sahwa movement

Sahwa Movement or Al–Sahwa Al-Islamiyya is a faction of Saudi Qutbism. In Saudi Arabia, it has been involved in peaceful political reform. Safar Al-Hawali and Salman al-Ouda are representatives of this trend. Because of being active on social media they have earned some support amongst the more educated youth.

Qutbism is an Islamist ideology developed by Sayyid Qutb, the figurehead of the Muslim Brotherhood. It has been described as advancing the extremist jihadist ideology of propagating "offensive jihad" – waging jihad in conquest – or "armed jihad in the advance of Islam"

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]

A Grand Mufti is the leading mufti of a state. The office originated in the early modern era in the Ottoman empire and has been later adopted in a number of modern countries.

Arab world Geographic and cultural region in Africa and the Middle East

The Arab world, also known as the Arab nation, the Arabsphere or the Arab states, currently consists of the 22 Arab countries of the Arab League. These Arab states occupy North Africa and West Asia; an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The contemporary Arab world has a combined population of around 422 million inhabitants, over half of whom are under 25 years of age.

The Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage (RIHS) is a Kuwait-based NGO with branches in a number of countries.

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 condemned 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]

Zliten Town in Tripolitania, Libya

Zliten is a town in Murqub District of Libya. It is located 160 km to the east of Tripoli.

Libya Country in north Africa

Libya, officially the State of Libya, is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. The sovereign state is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

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 Gaddafi and Assad regimes; the Madkhalists attacked the mainstream purists for these stances. [17]

Arab Spring Protests and revolutions in the Arab world in the 2010s

The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in late 2010. It began in response to oppressive regimes and a low standard of living, beginning with protests in Tunisia. In the news, social media has been heralded as the driving force behind the swift spread of revolution throughout the world, as new protests appear in response to success stories shared from those taking place in other countries. In many countries, the governments have also recognized the importance of social media for organizing and have shut down certain sites or blocked Internet service entirely, especially in the times preceding a major rally. Governments have also scrutinized or suppressed discussion in those forums through accusing content creators of unrelated crimes or shutting down communication on specific sites or groups, such as through Facebook.

Syrian Civil War Ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations.

Muammar Gaddafi Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi, was a Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He governed Libya as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977, and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. He was initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism but later ruled according to his own Third International Theory.

As of early 2019, Madkhalists continue to be supported by the Saudi government [28] and have found common cause with Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar. [29]


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] [30] [31] [32] 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. [33] [34] 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. [35]

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. [36] [37] Such politically active Salafists are often described by followers of Madkhalism as part of an international conspiracy against "true Salafism." [38] 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. [39]

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. [40] 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. [41]

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. [31] 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. [42] 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. [43]


  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. "Khalifa Haftar, Libya's strongest warlord, makes a push for Tripoli". The Economist . 5 April 2019.
  29. "Khalifa Haftar, Libya's strongest warlord, makes a push for Tripoli". The Economist . 11 April 2019.
  30. Martijn de Koning, pg. 171.
  31. 1 2 Richard Gauvain, Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God, pg. 41. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  32. The Jamestown Foundation, Salafists Challenge al-Azhar for Ideological Supremacy in Egypt. 16 September 2010, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 35
  33. Noorhaidi Hasan, Laskar Jihad, pg. 151. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 2006.
  34. 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.
  35. 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
  36. Martijn de Koning, pg. 169.
  37. George Joffé, Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East: Reassessing the Causes of Terrorism, pg. 317. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013.
  38. Meijer, "Politicizing," pg. 388.
  39. 'U.S. could discretely fund mainstream Salafi figures like Madkhali ...' .
  40. Martijn de Koning, pg. 166.
  41. Martijn de Koning, pg. 174.
  42. Meijer, "Politicizing," pg. 381.
  43. 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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