It is striking that not one of the great muhaddiths, mufassirs, grammarians, historians, or legists of Islam has emerged from the region known as Najd, despite the extraordinary and blessed profusion of such people in other Muslim lands. This essay offers to Muslims with open minds an explanation of this remarkable fact.
The Hadith of Najd: a correction
The land of Najd, which for two centuries has been the crucible of the Wahhabi doctrine, is the subject of a body of interesting hadiths and early narrations, which repay close analysis. Among the best-known of these hadiths is the relation of Imam al-Bukhari in which Ibn Umar said: ‘The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) mentioned: “O Allah, give us baraka in our Syria, O Allah, give us baraka in our Yemen.” They said: “And in our Najd?” and he said: “O Allah, give us baraka in our Syria, O Allah, give us baraka in our Yemen.” They said: “And in our Najd?” and I believe that he said the third time: “In that place are earthquakes, and seditions, and in that place shall rise the devil’s horn [qarn al-shaytan].”’
This hadith is clearly unpalatable to the Najdites themselves, some of whom to this day strive to persuade Muslims from more reputable districts that the hadith does not mean what it clearly says. One device used by such apologists is to utilise a definition that includes Iraq in the frontiers of Najd. By this manoeuvre, the Najdis draw the conclusion that the part of Najd, which is condemned so strongly in this hadith, is in fact Iraq, and that Najd proper is excluded. Medieval Islamic geographers contest this inherently strange thesis (see for instance Ibn Khurradadhbih, al-Masalik wa’l-mamalik [Leiden, 1887], 125; Ibn Hawqal, Kitab Surat al-ard [Beirut, 1968],18); and limit the northern extent of Najd at Wadi al-Rumma, or to the deserts to the south of al-Mada’in. There is no indication that the places in which the second wave of sedition arose, such as Kufa and Basra, were associated in the mind of the first Muslims with the term ‘Najd’. On the contrary, these places are in every case identified as lying within the land of Iraq