Islamic schools and branches
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This article summarizes the different branches and schools in Islam. The best known split, into Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, and Kharijites, was mainly political at first, but eventually acquired theological and juridical dimensions. There are three traditional types of schools in Islam: schools of jurisprudence, Sufi orders and schools of theology. The article also summarizes major denominations and movements that have arisen in the modern era.
The first centuries of Islam gave rise to three major sects: Sunnis, Shi'as and Kharijites. Each sect developed distinct jurisprudence schools (madhhab) reflecting different methodologies of jurisprudence (fiqh).
Shi'a, on the other hand, is divided into three major sects known as Fivers, Seveners and Twelvers. Qarmatians, Ismailis, Fatimids, Assassins of Alamut and Druses all emerged from the Seveners. Isma'ilism later split into Nizari Ismaili and Musta’li Ismaili, and then Mustaali was divided into Hafizi and Taiyabi Ismailis. Moreover, Imami-Shi'a later brought into existence Ja'fari jurisprudence. Akhbarism, Usulism, Shaykism, Alawites and Alevism were all developed from Ithna'asharis.
Similarly, Kharijites were initially divided into five major branches: Sufris, Azariqa, Najdat, Adjarites and Ibadis. Among these numerous branches, only Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali, Imamiyyah-Ja'fari-Usuli, Nizārī Ismā'īlī, Alevi, Zaydi, Ibadi, Zahiri, Alawite, Druze and Taiyabi communities have survived. In addition, new schools of thought and movements like Quranist Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims and African American Muslims later emerged independently.
Main traditional branchesEdit
Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination of Islam and are known as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h or simply as Ahl as-Sunnah. The word Sunni comes from the word sunnah, which means the teachings and actions or examples of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Therefore, "Sunni" refers to those who follow or maintain the sunnah of Muhammad. In many countries, overwhelming majorities of Muslims are Sunnis, so that they simply refer to themselves as "Muslims" and do not use the Sunni label.
The Sunnis believe that Muhammad did not specifically appoint a successor to lead the Muslim ummah (community) before his death, and after an initial period of confusion, a group of his most prominent companions gathered and elected Abu Bakr, Muhammad's close friend and a father-in-law, as the first caliph of Islam. Sunni Muslims regard the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, `Umar ibn al-Khattāb, Uthman Ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abu Talib) as "al-Khulafā’ur-Rāshidūn" or "The Rightly Guided Caliphs." Sunnis also believe that the position of caliph may be attained democratically, on gaining a majority of the votes, but after the Rashidun, the position turned into a hereditary dynastic rule because of the divisions started by the Umayyads and others. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, there has never been another caliph as widely recognized in the Muslim world.
Shia Islam (شيعة Shia, sometimes Shi'a; adjective "Shia"/Shi'ite) is the second-largest denomination of Islam, comprising 10–13% of the total Muslim population in the world. Shia Muslims, though a minority in the Muslim world, constitute the majority of the populations in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan as well as a plurality in Kuwait, Yemen and Lebanon. In addition to believing in the authority of the Qur'an and teachings of Muhammad, Shia believe that Muhammad's family, the Ahl al-Bayt (the "People of the House"), including his descendants known as Imams, have special spiritual and political authority over the community and believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad, and thus reject the legitimacy of the first three Rashidun caliphs.
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The Shia Islamic faith is broad and includes many different groups. There are various Shia theological beliefs, schools of jurisprudence, philosophical beliefs, and spiritual movements. The Shia identity emerged soon after the martyrdom[dubious ] of Hussain son of Ali (the grandson of Muhammad) and Shia theology developed as a result of a shift from the political to the ideological in second century Shi'ism[dubious ] and like the Sunni (for example, Umayyad caliphate), the first Shia governments (for example, Idrisid dynasty in Morocco or Justanids in Iran) were established by the 7th and 8th century.
- The Twelvers believe in twelve Imams.
- The Alawites are a distinct religion that developed in the 9th/10th century. Historically, Twelver Shia scholars (such as Shaykh Tusi) did not consider Alawites as Shia Muslims while condemning their heretical beliefs. Ibn Taymiyyah also pointed out that Alawites were not Shi'ites.
- Ismailism, including the Nizārī, Sevener, Mustaali, Dawoodi Bohra, Hebtiahs Bohra, Sulaimani Bohra and Alavi Bohra sub-denominations.
- The Druze are a distinct traditional religion that developed in the 11th century.
- The Zaidiyyah historically come from the followers of Zayd ibn Ali.
Ghulāt movements in historyEdit
Muslim groups who either ascribe divine characteristics to some figures of Islamic history (usually a member of Muhammad's family, Ahl al-Bayt) or hold beliefs deemed deviant by mainstream Shi'i theology were called as Ghulāt.
Kharijite (literally, "those who seceded") is a general term embracing a variety of Muslim sects which, while originally supporting the Caliphate of Ali, later on fought against him and eventually succeeded in his martyrdom while he was praying in the mosque of Kufa. While there are few remaining Kharijite or Kharijite-related groups, the term is sometimes used to denote Muslims who refuse to compromise with those with whom they disagree.
The major Kharijite sub-sect today is the Ibadi. The sect developed out of the 7th century Islamic sect of the Kharijites. While Ibadi Muslims maintain most of the beliefs of the original Kharijites, they have rejected the more aggressive methods.
A number of Kharijite groups went extinct in the past:
- Sufris were a sect of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, and a part of the Kharijites. Their most important branches were the:
- Harūrīs were an early Muslim sect from the period of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs (632-661 CE), named for their first leader, Habīb ibn-Yazīd al-Harūrī.
Sufism is Islam's mystical-ascetic dimension and is represented by schools or orders known as Tasawwufī-Ṭarīqah. It is seen as that aspect of Islamic teaching that deals with the purification of inner self. By focusing on the more spiritual aspects of religion, Sufis strive to obtain direct experience of God by making use of "intuitive and emotional faculties" that one must be trained to use.
The following list contains some notable Sufi orders:
- The Azeemia order was founded in 1960 by islamic saint Syed Muhammad Azeem Barkhiya aka Qalandar Baba Aulia, at Karachi, Pakistan.
- The Bektashi order was founded in the 13th century by the Islamic saint Haji Bektash Veli, and greatly influenced during its fomulative period by the Hurufi Ali al-'Ala in the 15th century and reorganized by Balım Sultan in the 16th century. Because of its adherence to the Twelve Imams it is classified under Twelver Shia Islam.
- The Chishti order (Persian: چشتیہ) was founded by (Khawaja) Abu Ishaq Shami ("the Syrian"; died 941) who brought Sufism to the town of Chisht, some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day Afghanistan. Before returning to the Levant, Shami initiated, trained and deputized the son of the local Emir (Khwaja) Abu Ahmad Abdal (died 966). Under the leadership of Abu Ahmad's descendants, the Chishtiyya as they are also known, flourished as a regional mystical order. The founder of the Chishti Order in South Asia was Moinuddin Chishti.
- The Kubrawiya order was founded in the 13th century by Najmuddin Kubra in Bukhara in modern-day Uzbekistan.
- The Mevlevi order is better known in the West as the "whirling dervishes".
- Mouride is most prominent in Senegal and The Gambia, with headquarters in the holy city of Touba, Senegal.
- The Naqshbandi order was founded in 1380 by Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari. It is considered by some to be a "sober" order known for its silent dhikr (remembrance of God) rather than the vocalized forms of dhikr common in other orders. The Süleymani and Khalidiyya orders are offshoots of the Naqshbandi order.
- The Ni'matullahi order is the most widespread Sufi order of Persia today. It was founded by Shah Ni'matullah Wali (d. 1367), established and transformed from his inheritance of the Ma'rufiyyah circle. There are several suborders in existence today, the most known and influential in the West following the lineage of Javad Nurbakhsh, who brought the order to the West following the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
- The Noorbakshia order, also called Nurbakshia, claims to trace its direct spiritual lineage and chain (silsilah) to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, through Ali, by way of Ali Al-Ridha. This order became known as Nurbakshi after Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani, who was aligned to the Kubrawiya order.
- The Oveysi (or Uwaiysi) order claims to have been founded 1,400 years ago by Uwais al-Qarni from Yemen.
- The Qadiri order is one of the oldest Sufi Orders. It derives its name from Abdul-Qadir Gilani (1077-1166), a native of the Iranian province of Gīlān. The order is one of the most widespread of the Sufi orders in the Islamic world, and can be found in Central Asia, Turkey, Balkans and much of East and West Africa. The Qadiriyyah have not developed any distinctive doctrines or teachings outside of mainstream Islam. They believe in the fundamental principles of Islam, but interpreted through mystical experience. The Ba'Alawi order is an offshoot of Qadiriyyah.
- Senussi is a religious-political Sufi order established by Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi. As-Senussi founded this movement due to his criticism of the Egyptian ulema.
- The Shadhili order was founded by Abu-l-Hassan ash-Shadhili. Followers (murids Arabic: seekers) of the Shadhiliyya are often known as Shadhilis.
- The Suhrawardiyya order (Arabic: سهروردية) is a Sufi order founded by Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi (1097–1168).
- The Tijaniyyah order attach a large importance to culture and education, and emphasize the individual adhesion of the disciple (murid).
Schools of jurisprudenceEdit
- the Hanafi school, founded by Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man, including subgroups like Barelvis and Deobandi.
- the Maliki school, founded by Malik ibn Anas.
- the Shafi'i school, founded by Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi'i.
- the Hanbali school, founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The majority of the Salafist movement claims to follow this school.
- the Ẓāhirī school, founded by Dawud al-Zahiri.
The major Shia school of jurisprudence is the Ja'fari or Imāmī school. It is further divided into two branches, the Usuli school, which favors the exercise of ijtihad, and the Akhbari school, which holds the traditions (aḵbār) of the Imams to be the main source of religious knowledge. Minor schools include the Ismāʿīlī school (Mustaʿlī Fāṭimid Ismāʿīlīyah), and the Zaydī school, which have closer affinity to Sunni jurisprudence.
The fiqh or jurisprudence of Ibadis is relatively simple. Absolute authority is given to the Qur'an and hadith; new innovations accepted on the basis of qiyas, or analogical reasoning, were rejected as bid‘ah by the Ibadis. That differs from the majority of Sunnis but agrees with most Shi'ites and the Zahiri and early Hanbali schools of Sunnism.
Schools of Islamic theologyEdit
Aqidah is an Islamic term meaning "creed", doctrine, or article of faith. There have existed many schools of Islamic theology, not all of which survive to the present day. Major themes of theological controversies in Islam have included predestination and free will, the nature of the Quran, the nature of the divine attributes, apparent and esoteric meaning of scripture, and the role of dialectical reasoning in the Islamic doctrine.
Kalām is the Islamic philosophy of seeking theological principles through dialectic. In Arabic, the word literally means "speech/words". A scholar of kalām is referred to as a mutakallim (Muslim theologian; plural mutakallimūn). There are many schools of Kalam, the main ones being the Ash'ari and Maturidi schools in Sunni Islam.
Ash'arism is a school of theology founded in the 10th century by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari. The Asharite view was that comprehension of the unique nature and characteristics of God were beyond human capability.
Maturidism is a school of theology founded by Abu Mansur Al Maturidi, which is a close variant of the Ash'ari school. Points which differ are the nature of belief and the place of human reason. The Maturidis state that belief (iman) does not increase nor decrease but remains static; it is piety (taqwa) which increases and decreases. The Ash'aris say that belief does in fact increase and decrease. The Maturidis say that the unaided human mind is able to find out that some of the more major sins such as alcohol or murder are evil without the help of revelation. The Ash'aris say that the unaided human mind is unable to know if something is good or evil, lawful or unlawful, without divine revelation.
Traditionalist theology, sometimes referred to as the Athari school, derives its name from the word "tradition" as a translation of the Arabic word hadith or from the Arabic word athar, meaning "narrations". The traditionalist creed is to avoid delving into extensive theological speculation. They rely on the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and sayings of the Sahaba, seeing this as the middle path where the attributes of Allah are accepted without questioning their nature (bi la kayf). Ahmad bin Hanbal is regarded as the leader of the traditionalist school of creed. The term athari has been historically synonymous with Salafi. The central aspect of traditionalist theology is its definition of Tawhid, meaning literally unification or asserting the oneness of Allah.
Qadariyyah is an originally derogatory term designating early Islamic theologians who asserted that humans possess free will, whose exercise makes them responsible for their actions, justifying divine punishment and absolving God of responsibility for evil in the world. Some of their doctrines were later adopted by the Mu'tazilis and rejected by the Ash'aris.
Mu'tazili theology originated in the 8th century in al-Basrah when Wasil ibn Ata left the teaching lessons of Hasan al-Basri after a theological dispute. He and his followers expanded on the logic and rationalism of Greek philosophy, seeking to combine them with Islamic doctrines and show that the two were inherently compatible. The Mu'tazili debated philosophical questions such as whether the Qur'an was created or eternal, whether evil was created by God, the issue of predestination versus free will, whether God's attributes in the Qur'an were to be interpreted allegorically or literally, and whether sinning believers would have eternal punishment in hell.
Jahmis were the alleged followers of the early Islamic theologian Jahm bin Safwan who associate himself with Al-Harith ibn Surayj. He was an exponent of extreme determinism according to which a man acts only metaphorically in the same way in which the sun acts or does something when it sets.
The Batiniyyah is a name given to an allegoristic type of scriptural interpretation developed among some Shia groups, stressing the bāṭin (inward, esoteric) meaning of texts. It has been retained by all branches of Isma'ilism and its Druze offshoot. The Alawites practice a similar system of interpretation.
Many slaves brought from Africa to the Western hemisphere were Muslim. Although it is thought that the Islam of slaves did not survive past the 1920, the early twentieth century saw the rise of distinct Islamic movements within the African-American community, such as the Moorish Science Temple of America and the Nation of Islam. They sought to ascribe Islamic heritage to African-Americans, thereby giving much emphasis on racial aspects (see Black nationalism). These Black Muslim movements often differed greatly in doctrine from mainstream. They included:
- Moorish Science Temple of America, founded in 1913 by Noble Drew Ali (born Timothy Drew). He claimed it was a sect of Islam but he also drew inspiration from Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism and Taoism. Its significant divergences from mainstream Islam and strong African-American ethnic character make its classification as an Islamic denomination a matter of debate among Muslims and scholars of religion.
- Nation of Islam, founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad in Detroit in 1930, with a declared aim of "resurrecting" the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of the black man and woman of America and the world. The group believes Fard Muhammad was God on earth, a belief viewed as shirk by mainstream Muslims. It does not see Muhammad as the final prophet, but Elijah Muhammad as the "Messenger of Truth" and only allows people of black ethnicity and believes they are the original race on earth.
- American Society of Muslims: in an attempt to bring the teachings of the Nation of Islam more in line with mainstream Sunni Islam, Warith Deen Mohammed established the American Society of Muslims in 1975. This offshoot wanted to bring its teachings more in line with mainstream Sunni Islam, establishing mosques instead of temples and promoting the Five pillars of Islam.
- Five-Percent Nation
- United Nation of Islam
The Ahmadiyya movement was founded in India in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the promised Messiah ("Second Coming of Christ"), the Mahdi awaited by the Muslims and a "subordinate" prophet to Muhammad whose job was to restore the Sharia given to Muhammad by guiding or rallying disenchanted Ummah back to Islam and thwart attacks on Islam by its opponents. The followers are divided into two groups, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam, the former believing that Ghulam Ahmad was a non-law bearing prophet and the latter believing that he was only a religious reformer though a prophet in an allegorical sense. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims and claim to practice the pristine form of Islam as re-established with the teachings of Ghulam Ahmad.
In many Islamic countries the Ahmadis have been defined as heretics and non-Muslim and subjected to persecution and often systematic oppression.
Gülen / Hizmet movementEdit
The Gülen movement, usually referred to as the Hizmet movement, established in the 1970s as an offshoot of the Nur Movement and led by the Turkish Islamic scholar and preacher Fethullah Gülen in Turkey, Central Asia, and in other parts of the world, is active in education, with private schools and universities in over 180 countries as well as with many American charter schools operated by followers. It has initiated forums for interfaith dialogue. The Cemaat movement's structure has been described as a flexible organizational network. Movement schools and businesses organize locally and link themselves into informal networks. Estimates of the number of schools and educational institutions vary widely; it appears there are about 300 Gülen movement schools in Turkey and over 1,000 schools worldwide.
Islamism is a set of political ideologies, derived from various fundamentalist views, which hold that Islam is not only a religion but a political system that should govern the legal, economic and social imperatives of the state. Many Islamists do not refer to themselves as such and it is not a single particular movement. Religious views and ideologies of its adherents vary, and they may be Sunni Islamists or Shia Islamists depending upon their beliefs. Islamist groups include groups such as Al-Qaeda, the organizer of the September 11, 2001 attacks and perhaps the most prominent; and the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and perhaps the oldest. Although violence is often employed by some organizations, most Islamist movements are nonviolent.
The Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun (with Ikhwan الإخوان brethren) or Muslim Brotherhood, is an organisation that was founded by Egyptian scholar Hassan al-Banna, a graduate of Dar al-Ulum. With its various branches, it is the largest Sunni movement in the Arab world, and an affiliate is often the largest opposition party in many Arab nations. The Muslim Brotherhood is not concerned with theological differences, accepting Muslims of any of the four Sunni schools of thought. It is the world's oldest and largest Islamist group. Its aims are to re-establish the Caliphate and in the mean time push for more Islamisation of society. The Brotherhood's stated goal is to instill the Qur'an and sunnah as the "sole reference point for... ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community... and state".
The Jamaat-e-Islami (or JI) is an Islamist political party in the Indian subcontinent. It was founded in Lahore, British India, by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (with alternative spellings of last name Maudoodi) in 1941 and is the oldest religious party in Pakistan and India. Today, sister organizations with similar objectives and ideological approaches exist in India (Jamaat-e-Islami Hind), Bangladesh (Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh), Kashmir (Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir), and Sri Lanka, and there are "close brotherly relations" with the Islamist movements and missions "working in different continents and countries", particularly those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (Akhwan-al-Muslimeen). The JI envisions an Islamic government in Pakistan and Bangladesh governing by Islamic law. It opposes Westernization—including secularization, capitalism, socialism, or such practices as interest based banking, and favours an Islamic economic order and Caliphate.
Liberal and progressive movements have in common a religious outlook which depends mainly on Ijtihad or re-interpretations of scriptures. Liberal Muslims at thought have led to the birth of certain small denominations from primarily unaffiliated followers who believe in greater autonomy of the individual in interpretation of scripture, a critical examination of religious texts, gender equality, human rights, LGBT rights and a modern view of culture, tradition, and other ritualistic practices in Islam.
Mahdavia or Mahdavism, is a Mahdiist sect founded in late 15th century India by Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri, who declared himself to be the Hidden Twelfth Imam of the Twelver Shia tradition. They follow many aspects of the Sunni doctrine. Zikri Mahdavis, or Zikris, are an offshoot of the Mahdavi movement.
Quranism (Arabic: قرآنيون, translit. Qur'āniyūn) is an Islamic branch that holds the Qur'an to be the only canonical text in Islam, as opposed to hadith and often sunnah collections. This is in contrast to orthodox Muslims, who consider hadiths essential to the Islamic faith. Quranistic movements include Abdullah Chakralawi's Ahle Qur'an and Rashad Khalifa's United Submitters International.
Salafism and WahhabismEdit
Ahl-i Hadith is a movement which emerged in the Indian subcontinent in the mid-19th century. Followers call themselves Ahl-i Hadith or Salafi, while others consider them to be a branch of the Salafi or Wahhabi movement.
The Salafi movement is an ultra-conservative reform movement within Sunni Islam that emerged in the second half of the 19th century and advocated a return to the traditions of the "devout ancestors" (the salaf). The doctrine can be summed up as taking "a fundamentalist approach to Islam, emulating the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers—al-salaf al-salih, the 'pious forefathers'....They reject religious innovation, or bid'ah, and support the implementation of sharia (Islamic law)." The movement is often divided into three categories: the largest group are the purists (or quietists), who avoid politics; the second largest group are the activists, who get involved in politics; the smallest group are the jihadists, who form a small (yet infamous) minority. Most of the violent terrorist groups come from the Salafi movement and their subgroups. In recent years, the Salafi doctrine has often been correlated with the jihad of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and those groups in favor of killing innocent civilians. The Salafi movement is often described as being synonymous with Wahhabism, but Salafists consider the term "Wahhabi" derogatory.
Islamic Modernism, also sometimes referred to as Modernist Salafism, is a movement that has been described as "the first Muslim ideological response" attempting to reconcile Islamic faith with modern Western values such as nationalism, democracy, civil rights, rationality, equality, and progress.
The Wahhabi movement was created by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab in the Arabian peninsula, and was instrumental in the rise of the House of Saud to power. The terms Wahhabism and Salafism are often used interchangeably, although the word Wahhabi is specific for followers of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. Wahhabism has been accused of being "a source of global terrorism" and causing disunity in Muslim communities, and criticized for destruction of historic sites by its followers.
Population of the branchesEdit
|Sunni||1.2 billion||largest popular sect in the world.|
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Anyone who has travelled to Central Asia knows of the non-denominational Muslims – those who are neither Shiites nor Sounites, but who accept Islam as a religion generally.
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THE appalling and catastrophic pictures of the so-called new extremist Isis Jihadist group made me think about someone who can say I am a Muslim of a non-denominational standpoint, and to my surprise/ignorance, such people exist. Online, I found something called the people's mosque, which makes itself clear that it's 100 per cent non-denominational and most importantly, 100 per cent non-judgmental.
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Ball State Student Sadie Sial identifies as a non-denominational Muslim, and her parents belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. She has participated in multiple blood drives through the Indiana Blood Center.
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Ahl-e-Hadith ... a branch of the international Salafi ... tradition, heavily influenced by Wahabism.
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Journalists and experts, as well as spokespeople of the world, have said that Wahhabism is the source of the overwhelming majority of terrorist atrocities in today's world, from Morocco to Indonesia, via Israel, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya.--Jon Kyl, US Senator for Arizona
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It is the undisputed case that the Taliban justification for this travesty [the destruction of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan] can be traced to the Wahhabi indoctrination program prevalent in the Afghan refugee camps and Saudi-funded Islamic schools (madrasas) in Pakistan that produced the Taliban. ...In Saudi Arabia itself, the destruction has focused on the architectural heritage of Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, where Wahhabi religious foundations, with state support, have systematically demolished centuries-old mosques and mausolea, as well as hundreds of traditional Hijazi mansions and palaces.[permanent dead link]
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