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Reaction, Restoration, and the Return of Alpha-Islam

Sheikh, Naveed S.



While the ambiguous notion of “Wahhabism” has captured both the popular imagination and public discourses of officialdom across the Western world, its precise theological and sociological entailments have been left for scholars to discern. This chapter seeks to advance our understanding of the Wahhabi phenomenon by five overarching analytic engagements. After an introductory incursion into the (contested) signification of Wahhabism, the chapter investigates epistemic commitments in Wahhabi thought, as it has emerged and developed since the mid-eighteenth century, outlining its doctrinal divergences from other expressions of Sunni Islam. Subsequently, the chapter discusses the (conditional) applicability of the term fundamentalism to the Wahhabi dispensation, proceeding to identify it as a form of “alpha-Islam,” which is, in turn, predicated on the construction of insular social identities and the production of a distinct “retrotopian” counter-culture. The following section turns to a conceptual dissection of Wahhabism from the broader repertoire of Salafism, offering in the process both an analytic disaggregation of variant schools with Salafism and diverging streams within Wahhabism. The conclusion seeks to offer thoughts on the nature and future of Wahhabi thought and praxis.


Sheikh, N. S. (2023). Reaction, Restoration, and the Return of Alpha-Islam. In Routledge Handbook of Non-Violent Extremism (100-121). (1). Routledge.

Publication Date Jan 13, 2023
Deposit Date Jun 5, 2023
Publisher Routledge
Pages 100-121
Edition 1
Book Title Routledge Handbook of Non-Violent Extremism
Chapter Number 6
ISBN 9781003032793
Publisher URL