May 18, 2024
Wahhabi Movement

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (May Allah have mercy on him), from Banu Tamim, initiated his movement in the region of Najd in central Arabia, which was relatively independent and not under direct Ottoman control. His movement, known as Wahhabism or the Wahhabi movement, emerged in the 18th century within the context of the Arabian Peninsula’s socio-political landscape.

What is Wahhabism?

Indeed, the term “Wahhabi” or “Wahhabism” is not typically embraced by followers of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings but has been widely used by Western scholars, as well as critics of his movement, to describe the theological and ideological orientation associated with his teachings. Here’s an expansion on this:

  1. Origins of the Term: The label “Wahhabi” originates from the name of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of the movement. However, it was not adopted by his followers to describe themselves, as they generally refer to their adherence to Hanbali or Athari creed, emphasizing their commitment to the teachings of the early generations of Islam (Salaf al-Salih) and the textual sources of the Quran and the Hadith.
  2. Western Scholarship: Western scholars of Islam, so-called Orientalists, , particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, used the term “Wahhabi” to categorize and analyze the religious movement associated with Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. This labeling was often influenced by colonial perspectives and Orientalist frameworks, which sought to classify and understand non-Western religious movements within Eurocentric paradigms.
  3. Critics’ Usage: Critics of the Wahhabi movement, both within and outside of the Muslim world, have employed the term “Wahhabi” as a pejorative label to characterize the perceived strictness, puritanism, and doctrinal rigidity associated with Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings. Some critics have used the term to highlight what they see as the movement’s intolerance towards religious diversity and its opposition to practices considered traditional or culturally embedded in Islam.
  4. Rejection by Followers: Followers of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings generally reject the label “Wahhabi” due to its association with external categorization and negative connotations. They view themselves as adherents of a pure and authentic form of Islam, seeking to emulate the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions without undue influence from later traditions or innovations.
  5. Diverse Interpretations: It’s important to recognize that the Wahhabi movement, like any religious movement, encompasses a range of interpretations and practices among its followers. While some may adhere strictly to Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings, others may adopt a more nuanced approach that incorporates elements of cultural adaptation or engagement with contemporary issues.
  6. Whhabi movement was characterised by the Hanbali Madhab

In summary, while the term “Wahhabi” has been widely used by Western scholars and critics to describe the religious movement associated with Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, it is not typically embraced by his followers themselves. Instead, they prefer terms such as Salafi or Athari creed to describe their theological orientation and commitment to the early sources of Islam.

Who is Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab?

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703–1792 CE) was a devout Islamic scholar and theologian who lived during the 18th century in the Arabian Peninsula. Here’s a short character sketch of him:

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was a man of strong conviction and unwavering dedication to his religious beliefs. Born into a scholarly family in Najd, central Arabia, he displayed a keen intellect and a thirst for knowledge from a young age. He devoted himself to the study of Islamic theology, jurisprudence, and the Quran, seeking to deepen his understanding of the faith.

Driven by a profound sense of religious fervor and a desire for reform, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab became increasingly critical of what he perceived as deviations from the pure teachings of Islam prevalent in his society. He embarked on a mission to purify the practice of Islam, advocating for a return to the original principles and practices of the faith as exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings emphasized the absolute unity of God (Tawhid) and the rejection of idolatry and polytheism. He called for the abandonment of religious innovations (Bid’ah) and the strict adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah (teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). His message resonated with many in Najd, attracting followers who shared his vision of religious renewal and revival.

Despite facing opposition from some quarters, including local rulers and religious scholars, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab remained steadfast in his convictions and continued to propagate his teachings. His alliance with Muhammad bin Saud, the ruler of Diriyah, led to the establishment of the first Saudi state and the spread of Wahhabism throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s legacy continues to be debated and interpreted in various ways. To some, he is revered as a reformer and revivalist who sought to purify Islam from perceived impurities and innovations. To others, he is a controversial figure whose teachings have been associated with extremism and intolerance. Regardless of differing perspectives, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s influence on Islamic theology and practice, particularly in Saudi Arabia and beyond, remains profound.

Manhaj of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab said:

عقيدتي وديني الذي أدين به : مذهب أهل السنة والجماعة الذي عليه أئمة المسلمين مثل الأئمة الأربعة وأتباعهم إلى يوم القيامة .


“My creed and religion which I adhere to: the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, followed by the Muslim Imams such as the four imams and their followers until the Day of Judgment.”

[Ad-Durar al-Saniyyah:1/64]

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s statement underscores his adherence to the mainstream Sunni tradition, known as the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. Here’s an explanation of his statement:

  1. Creed and Religion: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab begins by affirming his creed and religious affiliation. This signifies his firm commitment to a specific set of beliefs and practices within Islam.
  2. Doctrine of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah: Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah refers to the mainstream Sunni tradition within Islam. It encompasses the beliefs, practices, and methodology followed by the majority of Muslims throughout history. This includes adherence to the Quran, the Sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad, and the consensus (ijma) of the Muslim community.
  3. Followed by the Muslim Leaders: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab acknowledges the authority and guidance of the Muslim leaders, particularly the four imams: Abu Hanifa, Malik ibn Anas, Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi’i, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. These imams are renowned scholars of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) whose teachings have had a significant influence on Sunni Islam.
  4. Their Followers Until the Day of Judgment: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab affirms the continuity and relevance of the teachings of the four imams and their followers until the Day of Judgment. This indicates his belief in the enduring validity of Sunni Islamic scholarship and the importance of adhering to the established legal and theological principles laid down by these scholars.

Overall, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s statement reflects his commitment to the orthodox Sunni tradition and his recognition of the authority of established Islamic scholarship. It emphasizes the importance of following the mainstream Sunni path and adhering to the teachings of recognized authorities in Islamic jurisprudence and theology.

Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Affiliation with Hanbali Madhab

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab never claimed to be Mujtahid Mutlaq, but he adhered to the principles of Hanbali Madhab. Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Hanbali affiliation was deeply rooted in his familial and cultural upbringing. Born into a family of Hanbali jurists in the Najd region of central Arabia, he inherited a legacy of scholarly tradition and religious orthodoxy. Here’s an expansion focusing on his Hanbali affiliation:

  1. Family Legacy: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Hanbali affiliation was inherited from his family, particularly his grandfather Sulayman. Sulayman was renowned as one of the most distinguished scholars of Najd during the 17th century and served as the judge (qadi) of al-’Uyaynah. His authority in matters of Hanbali jurisprudence (fiqh) earned him respect and recognition among his contemporaries.
  2. Hanbali Tradition: The Hanbali school of Islamic law held a prominent position in the Najd region, where Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was born and raised. This school of thought, known for its adherence to the literal interpretation of religious texts and conservative legal rulings, provided the intellectual framework within which Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s religious education and upbringing took place.
  3. Scholarly Environment: Growing up in a family of Hanbali jurists, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was immersed in a scholarly environment that nurtured his intellectual curiosity and religious zeal. He received a comprehensive education in Hanbali jurisprudence, theology, and Quranic studies from a young age, laying the groundwork for his later theological innovations and reformist agenda.
  4. Continuation of Tradition: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s affiliation with the Hanbali school represented a continuity of his family’s scholarly tradition and religious legacy. He built upon the teachings and methodologies of previous Hanbali scholars, incorporating them into his own theological framework and reformist vision.
  5. Integration of Hanbali Principles: Throughout his writings and teachings, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab demonstrated a deep appreciation for Hanbali principles of jurisprudence, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the Quran and the Sunnah while rejecting religious innovations and deviations from orthodox Islamic doctrine. His Hanbali upbringing provided him with a solid foundation upon which to articulate his theological positions and propagate his reformist message.

In summary, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Hanbali affiliation was a central aspect of his religious identity and intellectual formation. Grounded in a family tradition of Hanbali scholarship, he drew upon Hanbali principles and methodologies in articulating his vision for religious renewal and reform in the Arabian Peninsula, ultimately shaping the trajectory of Islamic thought and practice in the region.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (May Allah have mercy on him), a prominent medieval Hanbali scholar and jurist, had a profound influence on Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s theological and ideological development. Ibn Taymiyyah’s teachings, which emphasized adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah, strict monotheism (Tawhid), and opposition to religious innovations (Bid’ah), resonated deeply with Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s own convictions.

Here’s an expansion on the significance of Ibn Taymiyyah’s influence on Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab:

  1. Doctrinal Affinity: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab regarded Ibn Taymiyyah as a preeminent scholar whose writings and teachings embodied the true spirit of Islam. He admired Ibn Taymiyyah’s rigorous adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah, as well as his uncompromising stance against what he perceived as deviant beliefs and practices within the Muslim community.
  2. Intellectual Legacy: Ibn Taymiyyah’s works, including his extensive writings on theology, jurisprudence, and Islamic philosophy, served as a source of inspiration and guidance for Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab in formulating his own theological framework. Ibn Taymiyyah’s emphasis on the purification of Islamic belief and practice from extraneous influences profoundly influenced Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s reformist vision.
  3. Rejection of Innovation: Both Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab shared a staunch opposition to religious innovations and practices not grounded in the Quran and the Sunnah. They viewed Bid’ah as a corruption of true Islamic teachings and advocated for a return to the pristine Islam practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions.
  4. Historical Continuity: Ibn Taymiyyah’s legacy as a reformer and revivalist within Islamic tradition provided Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab with a historical precedent and intellectual framework for his own reformist endeavors. The continuity of their theological principles and doctrinal positions underscores the enduring significance of Ibn Taymiyyah’s influence on subsequent generations of Islamic scholars and reformers, including Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab.

In summary, the teachings of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah played a pivotal role in shaping Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s theological outlook and reformist agenda. Their shared emphasis on scriptural authenticity, doctrinal purity, and opposition to religious innovation laid the foundation for the Wahhabi movement and its adherence to a strict interpretation of Islam based on the Quran, the Sunnah, and the teachings of the early Muslim community.

Najd: An Independent Region

  • Central Arabia, also known as Najd, comprised the vast desert region in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. This area was traditionally characterized by its tribal structure and relative isolation from external powers.
  • The Ottomans exerted limited control over central Arabia, primarily through indirect means such as alliances with local tribal leaders or the appointment of Ottoman governors in key cities like Madinah and Makkah.
  • However, the central Arabian tribes maintained a degree of autonomy and often resisted attempts by external powers to assert authority over their territories. The Ottomans faced logistical challenges in exerting direct control over the vast and inhospitable desert landscape.

While the Ottoman Empire had influence in some parts of the Arabian Peninsula, including the Hejaz region where Makkah and Madinah are located, Najd maintained a degree of autonomy and was not directly governed by the Ottomans. Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings gained traction in Najd, particularly through his alliance with the local tribal leader Muhammad bin Saud. This alliance laid the foundation for the establishment of the first Saudi state, with Ibn Saud’s descendants eventually forming the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Although the Athari movement did not originate as a direct revolt against the Ottoman Empire, it posed a challenge to Ottoman authority in the Arabian Peninsula due to its religious and ideological opposition to what it perceived as innovations (bid’ah) and deviations from orthodox Islam.

The spread of Athari teachings and the establishment of the first Saudi state brought Najd into conflict with Ottoman-backed rulers in the neighboring Hejaz region, leading to intermittent clashes and tensions between the two powers. However, it’s important to note that the so-called Wahhabi movement’s primary focus was on religious reform and revival rather than outright rebellion against the Ottoman Empire as a political entity.

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab in Diriyah

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s establishment of ties with Muhammad ibn Saud was a pivotal moment in the history of the Arabian Peninsula, marking the beginning of a partnership that would significantly shape the region’s religious and political landscape. Here’s a brief overview of how this alliance was formed:

  1. Shared Religious Vision: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, driven by his fervent commitment to purifying Islam from what he perceived as deviations and innovations, sought allies who shared his religious vision. He preached a strict adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah, rejecting practices that he deemed incompatible with authentic Islamic teachings.
  2. Encounter with Muhammad ibn Saud: In the early 18th century, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab encountered Muhammad ibn Saud, the ruler of Diriyah, a small oasis town in the Najd region of central Arabia. Recognizing a mutual commitment to religious reform and purification, the two men formed an alliance based on shared religious principles and strategic interests.
  3. Alliance and Agreement: Around 1745, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and Muhammad ibn Saud entered into a formal agreement known as the “Pledge of Unification” (Bay’ah), in which they pledged to work together to establish a state based on Islamic principles and to propagate their reformist message throughout the region. This alliance provided Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab with political support and protection, while Muhammad ibn Saud gained religious legitimacy and ideological reinforcement for his rule.
  4. Consolidation of Power: With the support of Muhammad ibn Saud and his tribal followers, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s religious movement gained momentum, attracting followers and supporters from various tribes and communities in the Najd region. Together, they embarked on a campaign to establish their authority and enforce their interpretation of Islam, often through military conquests and the imposition of religious orthodoxy.

In summary, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s establishment of ties with Muhammad ibn Saud was a strategic partnership forged on the basis of shared religious beliefs and political ambitions. This alliance enabled them to consolidate power, propagate their reformist message, and ultimately establish the first Saudi state, which would play a central role in shaping the history of the Arabian Peninsula.

Establlishment of the First Saudi State

The alliance between Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and Muhammad ibn Saud Al Muqrin (1687–1765 CE) indeed laid the foundation for the establishment of the first Saudi state, marking a significant turning point in the history of the Arabian Peninsula. Here’s an expansion on how this alliance led to the establishment of the first Saudi state with Diriyah as its capital:

  1. Religious and Political Alignment: Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s reformist teachings resonated deeply with Muhammad ibn Saud, who saw in them an opportunity to legitimize his rule and consolidate his power in the region. The two men shared a vision of establishing an Islamic state based on the principles of Orthodox Islam, emphasizing strict adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah.
  2. Formation of the Alliance: Recognizing their shared goals and interests, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and Muhammad ibn Saud entered into a formal alliance known as the “Pledge of Unification” (Bay’ah). This agreement solidified their partnership and commitment to working together to propagate their reformist message and establish an Islamic state in the Arabian Peninsula.
  3. Military Campaigns: With the support of Muhammad ibn Saud and his tribal followers, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s religious movement gained momentum, attracting followers and supporters from various tribes and communities in the Najd region. Together, they embarked on a series of military campaigns to assert their authority and enforce their interpretation of Islam, often through conquest and the imposition of religious orthodoxy.
  4. Establishment of Diriyah: As their influence and control expanded, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and Muhammad ibn Saud established Diriyah as the capital of their nascent state. Located in the heart of the Najd region, Diriyah served as the political and administrative center of the first Saudi state, symbolizing the consolidation of their power and authority.
  5. Expansion and Governance: Under the leadership of Muhammad ibn Saud and with the religious guidance of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the first Saudi state expanded its influence and control over large parts of the Arabian Peninsula. They implemented Islamic law (Sharia) and governance based on Hanbali principles, establishing a system of justice and administration aligned with their religious beliefs.
  6. Regional Impact: The establishment of the first Saudi state with Diriyah as its capital had a significant impact on the broader geopolitical landscape of the Arabian Peninsula. It challenged the authority of the Ottoman Empire and other regional powers, asserting the sovereignty of the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance over vast territories previously under the control of various tribal and regional entities.

In summary, the alliance between Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and Muhammad ibn Saud paved the way for the establishment of the first Saudi state, with Diriyah as its capital. This alliance brought together religious authority and political power, shaping the history and destiny of the Arabian Peninsula for centuries to come.

Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud

Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud (1720–1803 CE), also known as Abdulaziz bin Saud, was born into the powerful Al Saud family, the ruling dynasty of the Emirate of Najd. He was the eldest son of Muhammad bin Saud, the founder of the Emirate, and was therefore heir to the leadership of the dynasty.

  1. Marriage to Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab’s Daughter: Abdulaziz cemented a crucial alliance by marrying the daughter of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, the prominent Islamic scholar and founder of the Wahhabi movement. This marriage alliance strengthened the religious and political collaboration between the Al Saud family and the Wahhabi movement, which advocated for a return to the original teachings of Islam.
  2. Rule over the Emirate of Diriyah: Abdulaziz succeeded his father, Muhammad bin Saud, as the ruler of the Emirate of Diriyah in 1765. During his reign, he continued his father’s policies of expanding the territory of the Emirate and ensuring the rule of Islamic law (Hanbali version) throughout the region.
  3. Nickname “Mahdi Zamanihi”: Abdulaziz earned the nickname “Mahdi Zamanihi” among his people, which translates to “the savior of his time” in Arabic. This title reflects his reputation as a fearless leader who defended his people and upheld their interests during a turbulent period marked by tribal conflicts and external threats.
  4. Promotion of Hanbali Madhab: Abdulaziz was a staunch supporter of Hanbali ideology and actively promoted its principles during his rule. Under his leadership, the alliance between the Al Saud family and the Wahhabi movement strengthened, laying the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the first Saudi state based on Hanbali principles.
  5. Legacy: Abdulaziz’s reign as the second ruler of the Emirate of Diriyah laid the foundation for the expansion of Wahhabi influence in the Arabian Peninsula and the establishment of the first Saudi state. His leadership contributed to the consolidation of Al Saud rule in central Arabia and the propagation of Wahhabi teachings, which would have a lasting impact on the region’s religious and political landscape.

In summary, Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud played a pivotal role in shaping the history of the Arabian Peninsula as the ruler of the Emirate of Diriyah. His alliance with the Wahhabi movement and his promotion of Wahhabi ideology were instrumental in the eventual establishment of the modern Saudi state based on Islamic principles.

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab in Riyadh

The capture of Riyadh by Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud in 1773 marked a significant milestone in the history of the Al Saud dynasty and the expansion of their influence in the Arabian Peninsula. Here’s an expansion on the events leading up to the capture of Riyadh and its significance:

  1. Conflict with Dahham bin Dawwas: Abdulaziz’s father, Muhammad bin Saud, initiated attacks against Dahham bin Dawwas, the ruler of Riyadh, in 1747. This marked the beginning of a protracted conflict between the Al Saud dynasty and the Dawasir tribe, to which Dahham belonged. The struggle for control over Riyadh and its surrounding territories lasted for nearly 25 years, characterized by intermittent battles and shifting alliances.
  2. Persistence and Strategic Planning: Despite facing numerous setbacks and challenges, Muhammad bin Saud and his successors, including Abdulaziz, remained steadfast in their determination to capture Riyadh. They employed various military strategies, including guerrilla tactics and alliances with neighboring tribes, to weaken Dahham bin Dawwas and undermine his rule.
  3. Capture of Riyadh: After years of relentless campaigning, Abdulaziz finally succeeded in capturing Riyadh in 1773. This victory was the result of meticulous planning, military skill, and perseverance in the face of adversity. The capture of Riyadh not only expanded the territory of the Emirate of Diriyah but also dealt a significant blow to the power and influence of the Dawasir tribe.
  4. Orthodox Approach to Religion: The military success of Abdulaziz and his father, Muhammad bin Saud, was not solely attributed to their military prowess but also to their orthodox approach to religion. The alliance between the Al Saud dynasty and the Wahhabi movement, led by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, appealed to many in the region who were drawn to the message of religious purity and reform. This religious fervor served to galvanize support for the Al Sauds and their mission to establish a state based on Islamic principles.
  5. Consolidation of Power: The capture of Riyadh and the subsequent expansion of the Emirate of Diriyah solidified the power and authority of the Al Saud dynasty in central Arabia. It marked the beginning of a period of territorial expansion and political consolidation that would eventually lead to the establishment of the first Saudi state. The success of Abdulaziz and his father in capturing Riyadh demonstrated their ability to overcome formidable obstacles and assert their dominance in the region.

In summary, the capture of Riyadh by Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud in 1773 was a turning point in the history of the Al Saud dynasty, signaling their rise to prominence and the expansion of their influence in the Arabian Peninsula. It was a testament to their military prowess, strategic acumen, and adherence to Wahhabi principles, which garnered them widespread support and established the foundation for the future Saudi state.

Abdulaziz bin Muhammad Al Saud governed the Emirate of Diriyyah for 38 years (1765-1803), including Riyadh and rest of the Najd. This period marked the rapid propagation of Wahhabi movement in the region. He established many centers of learning and Da’awah in Najd and continued his struggle until his death in 1792.

Focus on Da’wah

Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, as a Muslim reformist, recognized the crucial role of efficient religious preaching (da’wah) in advancing his reformist endeavor. Understanding that persuasion and reasoned discourse could have a more lasting impact than mere military conquest, he called upon his students to prioritize the path of reasoning and proselytizing over warfare. Here’s an expansion on this perspective:

  1. Intellectual Engagement: Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb emphasized the importance of engaging with others through intellectual discourse and debate. He encouraged his students to develop their skills in argumentation, critical thinking, and theological reasoning in order to effectively convey the principles of his reformist movement to other Muslims.
  2. Persuasion Through Knowledge: Recognizing that many Muslims may not initially embrace his reformist ideas, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb believed in the power of knowledge and persuasion to change hearts and minds. He urged his followers to acquire a deep understanding of Islamic theology, jurisprudence, and scripture, as well as proficiency in classical Arabic language and rhetoric, to effectively communicate their message to others.
  3. Dialogue and Outreach: Rather than resorting to coercive methods or violence, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb advocated for peaceful dialogue and outreach to engage with fellow Muslims and address their concerns and misconceptions. He believed that by engaging in constructive conversations and addressing theological misunderstandings, it would be possible to win support for his reformist agenda without resorting to force.
  4. Community Building: Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb saw the process of religious preaching as a means of building a strong and cohesive community of believers committed to the principles of his reformist movement. By fostering a sense of belonging and solidarity among his followers, he sought to create a grassroots movement that could effectively propagate his message and bring about meaningful change within the Muslim community.
  5. Long-Term Impact: While military conquests might yield immediate results, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb understood that lasting change could only be achieved through intellectual persuasion and spiritual transformation. By focusing on the path of reasoning and proselytizing, he aimed to lay the groundwork for a sustained and enduring reformist movement that would continue to influence Islamic thought and practice for generations to come.

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab authored several works to promote his Da’wah (religious preaching) and propagate his reformist ideas. Some of his notable literary contributions include:

  1. Kitab at-Tawhid (The Book of Monotheism): This seminal work is considered one of Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s most influential writings. It focuses on the concept of Tawhid (monotheism) and addresses various aspects of Islamic theology, including the worship of Allah alone, the rejection of shirk (associating partners with Allah), and the importance of adhering to the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah. Kitab at-Tawhid served as a foundational text for the Wahhabi movement and continues to be studied and revered by its followers.
  2. Al-Usool ath-Thalatha (The Three Fundamental Principles): Another key work by Ibn Abdul Wahhab, Al-Usool ath-Thalatha outlines the three fundamental principles of Tawhid, worship, and the attributes of Allah. It provides a concise yet comprehensive overview of essential Islamic beliefs and practices, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the pure teachings of Islam as derived from the Quran and the Sunnah.
  3. Mukhtasar al-Iman (Abridgment of Faith): This treatise focuses on the concept of Iman (faith) in Islam, covering topics such as belief in Allah, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Day of Judgment, and divine decree. Mukhtasar al-Iman presents a concise exposition of the core beliefs of Islam and serves as a primer for understanding the foundations of Islamic faith according to the teachings of Ibn Abdul Wahhab.
  4. Letters and Treatises: In addition to his major works, Ibn Abdul Wahhab also wrote numerous letters and treatises addressing various religious and theological issues. These writings were often circulated among his followers and used to disseminate his reformist ideas to a wider audience. They covered topics such as the prohibition of Bid’ah (innovation), the importance of enjoining good and forbidding evil, and the necessity of returning to the authentic teachings of Islam.

The impact of Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s literature on Da’wah was profound and far-reaching. His works provided a systematic and coherent framework for understanding Islamic theology and jurisprudence, grounded in the principles of Tawhid and adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah. They served as a rallying point for his followers and helped to mobilize support for his reformist movement, both within the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s writings played a central role in shaping the ideological foundations of the Wahhabi movement and contributed to its spread and influence over subsequent centuries. His emphasis on the purification of Islamic beliefs and practices, rejection of religious innovations, and promotion of a strict interpretation of Islam resonated with many Muslims seeking a return to the pristine teachings of the faith. Despite controversy and criticism, Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s literature continues to be studied, debated, and revered by adherents of the Hnabali and Salafi movements, reflecting its enduring impact on Islamic thought and practice.

In summary, Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb’s emphasis on efficient religious preaching as a means of advancing his reformist agenda reflects his strategic vision and commitment to peaceful means of change. By prioritizing persuasion over warfare, he sought to win hearts and minds and bring about a lasting transformation within the Muslim community based on the principles of Islamic reform and revival.

The Crux of Wahhabi Movement

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi movement, indeed emphasized the prohibition of grave worship as one of the major evils that needed to be addressed within the Muslim community. Here’s an expansion on this aspect of his teachings and the rationale behind his opposition to grave worship:

  1. Islamic Monotheism (Tawhid): Central to Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings was the principle of Tawhid, or the absolute monotheism of Allah. He emphasized the exclusive worship of Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him, as the fundamental tenet of Islam. Grave worship, or the practice of seeking intercession or blessings from the deceased at their gravesites, was seen as a violation of Tawhid, as it involved attributing divine qualities or powers to individuals other than Allah.
  2. Prophetic Condemnation: Ibn Abdul Wahhab drew upon the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to highlight the prohibition of grave worship. The Prophet (peace be upon him) explicitly warned against excessive veneration of graves and cautioned against turning them into places of worship. He emphasized the importance of worshipping Allah alone and seeking His assistance directly, without intermediaries.
  3. Misguided Practices: Ibn Abdul Wahhab observed that many Muslims had deviated from the teachings of Islam and fallen into the practice of grave worship due to cultural influences or misunderstandings of religious doctrine. He believed that such practices had no basis in the Quran or the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and were contrary to the spirit of Islamic monotheism.
  4. Call for Reform: In response to the prevalence of grave worship among the Muslim populace on the birthplace of Islam (Arabian Peninsula), Ibn Abdul Wahhab called for a revival of authentic Islamic teachings and a rejection of religious innovations (Bid’ah). He urged Muslims to return to the pristine monotheism of Islam, free from superstitions and idolatrous practices. This included educating the masses about the dangers of grave worship and encouraging them to seek guidance solely from the Quran and the Sunnah.
  5. Impact on Islamic Thought: Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s opposition to grave worship and his emphasis on Tawhid had a profound impact on Islamic thought and practice, particularly within the Arabian Peninsula. His teachings catalyzed a reformist movement that sought to purify Islam from perceived deviations and restore its original purity. While his views were met with controversy and opposition from some quarters, they also found resonance among those who shared his commitment to monotheism and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In summary, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s stance against grave worship stemmed from his unwavering commitment to Islamic monotheism and his belief in the importance of upholding the authentic teachings of Islam as conveyed in the Quran and the Sunnah. His efforts to combat grave worship were part of a broader mission to reform and revitalize Islamic faith and practice in accordance with the principles of Tawhid.

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Legacy

Indeed, the legacy of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab extends beyond the Arabian Peninsula and has influenced various Muslim movements around the world, including al-Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood) and Jamaat-e-Islami. Here’s how his teachings and ideology have left a lasting imprint on these movements:

  1. Emphasis on Tawhid (Monotheism): Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s emphasis on the absolute unity and oneness of Allah (Tawhid) as the central tenet of Islam resonates with many Islamic movements. His insistence on purifying Islamic belief and practice from perceived deviations and innovations has been embraced by groups seeking to return to what they view as the authentic teachings of Islam.
  2. Call for Religious Reform: Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s call for religious reform and revival has inspired movements seeking to address perceived moral and spiritual decline within the Muslim community. His rejection of Bid’ah (innovation) and emphasis on adhering strictly to the Quran and the Sunnah (teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad) have provided a doctrinal framework for reformist efforts aimed at revitalizing Islamic societies.
  3. Activism and Social Justice: The teachings of Ibn Abdul Wahhab have also influenced movements that advocate for social justice, political activism, and Islamic governance. His emphasis on enjoining good and forbidding evil, as well as his vision of establishing an Islamic state based on Sharia (Islamic law), has resonated with groups seeking to address social inequalities and promote Islamic values in the public sphere.
  4. Educational and Da’wah Initiatives: Many Islamic movements inspired by Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings have prioritized educational and da’wah (religious outreach) initiatives aimed at disseminating his reformist message and mobilizing support for their cause. These movements often establish schools, mosques, and media outlets to propagate their interpretation of Islam and attract followers to their ideological platform.
  5. Criticism and Controversy: While Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings have found resonance among certain Muslim movements, they have also sparked controversy and criticism from those who view his interpretation of Islam as too strict or intolerant. Critics argue that his rejection of religious pluralism and his calls for puritanical enforcement of Islamic law have contributed to sectarianism and intolerance within the Muslim world.

In summary, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s legacy continues to influence a diverse array of Muslim movements worldwide, shaping their ideological orientations, organizational strategies, and visions for the future of Islam. While some embrace his teachings as a source of inspiration and guidance, others critique his ideas as divisive or overly rigid. Nonetheless, Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s impact on Islamic thought and practice remains a significant aspect of contemporary Muslim discourse.

While Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (May Allah have mercy on him) lived several centuries before the emergence of the Wahhabi movement in the 18th century, his teachings and methodologies have been embraced by scholars associated with the movement. The Wahhabi movement, founded by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, shares a commitment to returning to the original teachings of Islam and rejecting religious innovations. As such, the research standards set by Ibn Taymiyyah align closely with the ethos of the Wahhabi movement, and his works are often cited and studied by its adherents.

One of the hallmarks of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s methodology was his emphasis on returning to the authentic sources of Islam—the Quran, the Sunnah, and the consensus (ijma) of the early Muslim community. He advocated for strict adherence to these sources in deriving Islamic rulings and beliefs, rejecting interpretations and practices that he deemed inconsistent with the original teachings of Islam.

Criticism of the Wahhabi Movement

One of the major criticisms of the Wahhabi movement in consideration marks a strict literalist approach to understanding and interpreting religious texts, particularly the Quran and the Hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him). This approach, known as Salafism or Salafiyyah, emphasizes a return to the practices and beliefs of the early generations of Muslims, known as the Salaf al-Salih (righteous predecessors), without delving into critical thinking.

Some of the main criticisms raised against the Wahhabi movement include:

  1. Literalism and Rigidity: One of the primary criticisms leveled against the Wahhabi movement is its perceived literalist and rigid interpretation of Islam. Critics argue that Wahhabi scholars tend to adhere strictly to textual sources, such as the Quran and the Hadith, without sufficient consideration for contextual factors or the evolving needs of contemporary society. This approach is seen as lacking flexibility and nuance in dealing with complex religious and social issues.
  2. Takfir (Excommunication): The Wahhabi movement has been accused of adopting a narrow and exclusivist understanding of Islam, leading to the practice of takfir, or excommunication, against Muslims deemed to be deviant or heretical. Critics argue that this tendency to label others as non-Muslims based on perceived differences in religious interpretation has contributed to sectarianism and intolerance within the Muslim community.
  3. Destruction of Cultural Heritage: Wahhabi ideology has been associated with the destruction of historical and cultural artifacts, including shrines, tombs, and monuments, deemed to be inconsistent with their interpretation of Islamic monotheism. Critics argue that this iconoclastic approach to heritage preservation disregards the rich diversity of Islamic traditions and erases important aspects of Muslim history and heritage.
  4. Authoritarianism and Intolerance: Some critics of the Wahhabi movement argue that its strict adherence to religious orthodoxy and enforcement of Sharia (Islamic law) can lead to authoritarianism and intolerance. Wahhabi-influenced governments and religious authorities have been accused of suppressing dissent, restricting freedom of expression, and imposing harsh punishments for perceived moral infractions, which critics argue stifles individual liberties and undermines pluralism within Muslim societies.
  5. Role in Sectarian Conflicts: The Wahhabi movement has been implicated in fueling sectarian tensions and conflicts within the Muslim world, particularly in regions where it holds sway. Critics argue that Wahhabi ideology promotes a sectarian worldview that fosters hostility towards non-Wahhabi Muslims, exacerbating divisions and undermining efforts towards unity and solidarity within the ummah (Muslim community).
  6. Allegations of Extremism and Terrorism: Some critics have accused certain factions within the Wahhabi movement of promoting extremist ideologies and providing ideological justification for acts of terrorism and violence. While the vast majority of Wahhabis reject violence and extremism, critics argue that Wahhabi teachings can be exploited by extremist groups to recruit followers and justify their actions.

In summary, the Wahhabi movement has faced criticism from various quarters within the Muslim community, with opponents raising concerns about its literalist interpretation of Islam, its propensity for excommunication, its destruction of cultural heritage, its promotion of authoritarianism and intolerance, its role in sectarian conflicts, and its association with extremism and terrorism. These criticisms reflect broader debates within Islam regarding religious authority, diversity, and the proper interpretation of Islamic teachings.

The opponents have been leveling cricism against all the Muslim reformers, so it’s not new to the Wahhabi movement. However, the only criticism that carries some weight is against their literalist and rigid interpretation of Islam. Some Wahhabi scholars criticise the scientific explorations in general, even some of them support flat earth theory. Still, it is a matter of fact that if there was no Wahhabi movement, the most sacred cities of Islam (Makkah and Madinah) would be the center of grave worship today.

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