Monday, April 9, 2012


        Wahhabism is a fundamentalist, militant Islamic movement founded in the Arabian peninsula by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792). Followers of 'Abd al-Wahhab  didn't  call themselves the term Wahhabi, Wahhabis used the word al-Muwanhhidun, meaning “those who profess the unity of God”.1  

In 1740, Wahhabi founder Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab started preachin the need for Islamin reform and revival. Local clerics in the Arabian peninsula generally did not agree with his ideas. Abd al-Wahhab faced some opposition, his cognitive content deemed expellable from countries and was expelled several times by local elites, including clerical establishments. After being ejected from different areas, he eventually returned to his home land located in central Arabia, in the Najd region (present day Saudi Arabia).2 Here he formed a vital alliance with local chieftain, Muhammad ibn Saud of al-Diri'yyah.3 Together they established the first Saudi empire.
Ibn Saud had the goal of taking over, unifying the Arabian peninsula.. The chieftain of al-Diri'yyah copied the ruling styles of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, as well as from the West to create a modern regime. However, the religious society was split between going along with the West or reverting to a fundamental form of Islam. Ibn Saud agreed with the latter and 'Abd al-Wahhab's teachings,contributing greatly to the spread of Wahhabism throughout Arabia.
Wahhabism became the basis of the budding Saudi state. In this new assemblage, al-Wahhab became the shaykh or religious head of state.  In his official position, he continued  to preach Wahhabism, which he did through the issuance of letters and violent jihad. Taxes were placed on those who were not of the same ideals (Shi'is and Sufis especially).
With the message of Wahhabiyya spreading and gaining followers, Mecca and Medina started to take notice. Tension started to grow between Mecca and al-Diri'yyah  to the point voilence. After breaking a peace treaty, the Saudi Wahhabis took over Mecca in 1802-3, though this military control only lasted for two and a half months. The Saudis tried again in 1805, this time taking Medina and 1806. Mecca was once again under Saudi-Wahhabi control. While they ruled, the religious sect began to destroy sacred sites with the thought they are being idolized, this included the grave of the Prophet Muhammad.  Much to everyones surprise, the tomb was not destroyed like the graves around the spot. The Saudi-Wahhabis ruled over the Harayman (the combined area of Mecca and Medina) until 1812.5
Having ruled the Harayman, the Wahhabi's message spread quickly through out the Middle East. The aid of oil revenue continued to support the sect. The Saudi-Wahhabis laid the foundations for what became modern day Saudi Arabia as well use of the military for fundamentalism.6 The alliance also set a precedent of spreading Islamic fundamentalism by force.

The rejection of immorality was a driving force behind the Wahhabi movement. Abd al-Wahhab thought that the Umma (the Muslim community as a whole) was in a state of religious stupor, with the belief that most Muslims were not living according to the proper beliefe in one God7 (especially Non Sunnis).  Abd al-Wahhab’s follwers believed that non Wahhabis were practicing shirk or the practice of polytheism. The offense of shirk was punishable by death, placing other Muslims open to takfir (infidel appointment; jihad was allowable).
To fight shirk was one to express belief in tawhid (monotheism; there is only one, unique God).9 This was believed to be the most important belief in Islam, but  thought to be ignored by most Muslims.  This thought was due to Wahhabis accused Muslims of which they equated with shirk the worshiping tombs (such as the grave of Prophet Muhammad as mentioned above), trees, and other objects. Even some sacred festivals were held as objectionable, such as the celebration of Prophet Muhammad's birthday, Sufi theological virtue, and Shi'i grieving ceremonies.9  The Wahhabis even viewed some Islamic festivals as objectionable.  Tawhid was thought to be unheeded as a result of scholars leading Muslims in the wrong direction. This believed misguidance lead to a rejection of madhhabs (legal schools).10
The madhhabs and scholars were leading people astray, according to the Wahhabis, whi suggest that they are only a tool of the ignorant.11 Abd al-Wahhab believed that the Qu'ran and Sunnah are the only true sources of the Islamic faith and law.12 He thought the Qu'ran was clear to the average Muslim, which led him to reject the imitation of scholarly judgments (taqid).13

Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the Wahhabism, was born in the city of 'Uyayna in the beginning of the eighteenth century. He had came from a long line of scholars, his father, being leading Hanbali judge in the area.14 Following the line of his elders, 'Abd al-Wahhab attended the Hanbali maddhab, one of the most strict Sunni law schools. He then left his home and traveled to Mecca and Medina to further his education. 15
While increasing his knowledge of Sunni thought, 'Abd al-Wahhab began to focus his study on the hadith (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers.)16 Upon looking at what the Prophet and his companions were saying about the Umma  at the time versus what he was seeing, 'Abd al-Wahhab perceived a vast difference. His desire to reconcile this gap became the basis of his thought.

End Notes

1. Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”  Accessed Feburary 2, 2012,
2. Voll, John Obert, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World ( New York: Syracuse University Press, 1994) 54
3. Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”
4.  Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”
5. Commins, David, Wahhabi Mission in Saudi Arabia (New York:  L.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.,2009) 104
6. Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”
7. Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World, 56
8. “Wahhabi”, last modified 2012,
9. “Wahhabi”, last modified February 12, 2012,
10. Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”
11.  Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”
12.  Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World, 55
13. Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”
14.Subhami, Ayatullah Ja'far . Wahhabism (Naba' Organization 1996), accessed Feburary 15, 2012,
15. Voll, Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World, 54
16. Egger, Vernon O. A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization (New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2004) 321
17. Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”


Brill Online, s.v. “Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition: Wahhabiyyah”  Accessed Feburary 2, 2012,

Commins, David. Wahhabi Mission in Saudi Arabia. New York:  L.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2009

Egger, Vernon O. A History of the Muslim World to 1405: The Making of a Civilization. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2004

Global “Wahhabi”. Last modified 2012.

Google. “Wahhabi”. Last modified February 12, 2012.

Though Wikipedia is generally frowned upon for scholarly research, it gives a large amount of credited information on Islam. Within the site, one may find a whole sub division of Google about Islam, the different sects, beliefs, images and much more. It's easy to  navigate and is accessible through nearly any electronic devise.

Subhami, Ayatullah Ja'far . Wahhabism. Naba' Organization 1996. Accessed Feburary 15, 2012. is a website to help and educate people about the beliefs of Islam. Within the site, one can find all kinds of resouces, from pictures, speeches, books or videos on various subjects dealing with Islam. Much of the material is provided by the Ahlul  Bayat Digital Library. The website is easy to journey through and is great for those who want to expand their knowledge of Islam.

Voll, John Obert. Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1994

1 comment:

  1. Our Holy Islam demonstrate us lesson of worship and kind to Islamic Classes. Quran is our glorious and last book of religious Islam. Quran indicate us to spend our life as indicated by Allah,s solicitations and Muhammad (PBUH), orders. I am doing my commitment to educate the Quran to my Islamic kin. We should must teach and learn Quran to grasp the Islam and Allah and his Last prophet of Allah Muhammad (PBUH).