Wahhabism is a religious movement or a branch of Islam. It was developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian (Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab) (1703–1792) from Najd, Saudi Arabia. Ibn Abdul Al-Wahhab advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations. Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia.
Wahhabism claims to adhere to the correct understanding of the general Islamic doctrine of Tawhid, the Uniqueness and Unity of God, shared by the majority of Islamic sects, but uniquely interpreted by Abdul Al-Wahhab . Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab was influenced by the writings of Ibn Taymiyya and questioned classical interpretations of Islam, claiming to rely on the Qur'an and the Hadith. He attacked a "perceived moral decline and political weakness" in the Arabian Peninsula and condemned what he perceived as idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation.
The terms Wahhabi and Salafi (as well as ahl al-hadith, people of hadith) are often used interchangeably, but Wahhabi has also been called "a particular orientation within Salafism", an orientation some consider ultra-conservative and heretical.
According to Riadh Sidaoui, habitual use of the term Wahhabism is scientifically false, and it should substitute the concept of Saudi Wahhabism ; Indeed, it is an Islamic doctrine which is based on the historical alliance between the political and financial power represented by Ibn Saud and the religious authority represented by Abdul Al-Wahhab, the doctrine continues to exist to this day thanks to this alliance, the financing of several religious channels and the formation of several sheikhs.
- 1 History
- 2 Beliefs
- 3 Criticism and controversy
- 4 International influence and propagation
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Mohammad Hayya Al-Sindhi
Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's teacher Abdallah ibn Ibrahim ibn Sayf introduced the relatively young man to Mohammad Hayya Al-Sindhi in Medina and recommended him as a student. Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and al-Sindi became very close and Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab stayed with him for some time. Scholars have described Muhammad Hayya as having an important influence on Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, encouraging him to denounce rigid imitation of classical commentaries and to utilize informed individual analysis (ijtihad). Muhammad Hayya also taught Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab to reject popular religious practices associated with walis and their tombs that resembles later Wahhabi teachings. Muhammad Hayya and his milieu are important for understanding the origins of at least the Wahhabi revivalist impulse.
Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab
Mohammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab studied in Basra (now in southern Iraq) and is reported to have developed his ideas there. He is reported to have studied in Mecca and Medina while there to perform Hajj before returning to his home town of 'Uyayna in 1740.
After his return to 'Uyayna, ibn Abd-al-Wahhab began to attract followers, including the ruler of the town, Uthman ibn Mu'ammar. With Ibn Mu'ammar's support, ibn Abd-al-Wahhab began to implement some of his ideas such as leveling the grave of Zayd ibn al-Khattab, one of the Sahaba (companions) of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, and ordering that an adulteress be stoned to death. These actions were disapproved of by Sulaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Ghurayr of the tribe of Bani Khalid, the chief of Al-Hasa and Qatif, who held substantial influence in Nejd and ibn Abd-al-Wahhab was expelled from 'Uyayna.
Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab was invited to settle in neighboring Diriyah by its ruler Muhammad ibn Saud in 1740 (1157 AH), two of whose brothers had been students of Ibn Abdal-Wahhab. Upon arriving in Diriyya, a pact was made between Ibn Saud and Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, by which Ibn Saud pledged to implement and enforce Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's teachings, while Ibn Saud and his family would remain the temporal "leaders" of the movement.
Beginning in the last years of the 18th century Ibn Saud and his heirs would spend the next 140 years mounting various military campaigns to seize control of Arabia and its outlying regions, before being attacked and defeated by Ottoman forces.
The Saudi government established the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a state religious police unit, to enforce Wahhabi rules of behaviour.
The Wahhabi subscribe to the primary doctrine of the uniqueness and unity of God (Tawhid). The first aspect is believing in God's Lordship that He alone is the believer's lord (Rabb). The second aspect is that once one affirms the existence of God and His Lordship, one must worship Him and Him alone.
Wahhabi theology treats the Quran and Hadith as the only fundamental and authoritative texts. Commentaries and "the examples of the early Muslim community (Ummah) and the four Rightly Guided Caliphs (AD 632-661)" are used to support these texts but are not considered independently authoritative.
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab further explains in his book Kitab al-Tawhid (which draws on material from the Quran and the narrations of the prophet) that worship in Islam includes conventional acts of worship such as the five daily prayers; fasting; Dua (supplication); Istia'dha (seeking protection or refuge); Ist'ana (seeking help), and Istigatha (seeking benefits). Therefore, making dua to anyone or anything other than Allah, or seeking supernatural help and protection that is only befitting of a divine being from something other than Allah are acts of "shirk" and contradict Tawhid. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab further explains that Prophet Muhammad during his lifetime tried his utmost to identify and repudiate all actions that violated these principles.
The most important of these commentaries are those by Ibn Abd al-Wahhab in particular his book Kitab al-Tawhid, and the works of Ibn Taymiyyah. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was a follower of Ahmad ibn Hanbal's school of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) like most in Nejd at the time, but "was opposed to any of the schools (Madh'hab) being taken as an absolute and unquestioned authority". Therefore, he condemned taqlid, or blind adherence, at the scholarly level. Although Wahhabis are associated with the Hanbali school, early disputes did not center on fiqh and the belief that Wahhabism was borne of Hanbali thought has been called a "myth".
Condemnation of "Priests" and other religious leaders
Wahhabism denounces the practice of blind adherence to the interpretations of scholars, and of practices passed on within the family or tribe. Ibn Al-Wahhab brought a new interpretation of many verses, which he used to support his idea that the majority of Muslims, and the scholars of the Ottoman Empire, and what was at the time consensus opinion amongst scholars. His idea was that what he perceived to be blind deference to religious authority obstructs this direct connection with the Qur'an and Sunnah, leading him to deprecate the importance of leaders such as the scholars and mufti's of the age. When arguing for his positions, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab would use translations and interpretation of the verses (known as ayat in Arabic) of the Qur'an that were contrary to the consensus amongst the scholars of the age, and positions against which there had been consensus for centuries. This methodology is considered extremely controversial, and erroneous by most scholars.
The Wahhabis/Salafis consider themselves to be 'non-imitators' or 'not attached to tradition', and therefore answerable to no school of law at all, observing instead what they would call the practice of early Islam. However, to do so does correspond to the ideal aimed at by Ibn Hanbal, and thus they can be said to be of his 'school'.
Criticism and controversy
Naming controversy: Wahhabism and Salafism
Ibn Abd-Al-Wahab's aversion to the elevation of scholars and other individuals helps explain the preference of so-called "Wahhabi's" for the term "Salafist". Among those who criticize the use of the term "Wahhabi" is social scientist Quintan Wiktorowicz. In a footnote of his report, Anatomy of the Salafi Movement, he wrote:
Opponents of Salafism frequently affix the "Wahhabi" designator to denote foreign influence. It is intended to signify followers of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and is most frequently used in countries where Salafis are a small minority of the Muslim community but have made recent inroads in "converting" the local population to the movement ideology. ... The Salafi movement itself, however, never uses this term. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find individuals who refer to themselves as Wahhabis or organizations that use "Wahhabi" in their title or refer to their ideology in this manner (unless they are speaking to a Western audience that is unfamiliar with Islamic terminology, and even then usage is limited and often appears as "Salafi/Wahhabi").
Other observers describe the term as "originally used derogatorily by opponents", but now commonplace and used even "by some Najdi scholars of the movement".
Criticism by other Muslims
Amongst the first ones to oppose this new trend within Islam, as introduced by Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, were his father Abd al-Wahhab, his brother Salman Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who was an Islamic scholar, and a qadi (judge in an Islamic court), who wrote a book in refutation of his brothers' new teachings, called: "The Final Word from the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the Sayings of the Scholars Concerning the School of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab"), also known as: "Al-Sawa`iq al-Ilahiyya fi Madhhab al-Wahhabiyya" ("The Divine Thunderbolts Concerning the Wahhabi School"). In "The Refutation of Wahhabism in Arabic Sources, 1745–1932", Hamadi Redissi provides original references to the description of Wahhabis as a divisive sect (firqa) and outliers (Kharijites) in communications between Ottomans and Egyptian Khedive Muhammad Ali. Redissi details refutations of Wahhabis by scholars (muftis); among them Ahmed Barakat Tandatawin, who in 1743 describes Wahhabism as ignorance (Jahala).
In 1801 and 1802, the Saudi Wahhabis under Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn Saud attacked and captured the holy muslim cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq, massacred parts of the muslim population and destroyed the tombs of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, and son of Ali (Ali bin Abu Talib), the son-in-law of Muhammad. (see: Saudi sponsorship mentioned previously) In 1803 and 1804 the Saudis captured Makkah and Medina and destroyed historical monuments and various holy Muslim sites and shrines, such as the shrine built over the tomb of Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, and even intended to destroy the grave of Muhammad himself as idolatrous. In 1998 the Saudis bulldozed and poured gasoline over the grave of Aminah bint Wahb, the mother of Prophet Muhammad, causing resentment throughout the Muslim world.
Some Muslims, such as one of the most renowned Sunni scholar of Islam, Dr. Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti  as well as Islamic Supreme Council of America, and Abdul Hadi Palazzi classify Wahhabbism as extremist and heretical mainly based on Wahhabbism's rejection of traditional Sunni scholars and interpretation as followed by 96% of the world's Muslim population.
Wahabbism is intensely opposed by Hui Muslims in China, by the Hanafi Sunni Gedimu and Sufi Khafiya and Jahriyya. The Yihewani (Ikhwan) Chinese sect, which is fundamentalist and was founded by Ma Wanfu who was originally inspired by the Wahhabis, reacted with hostility to Ma Debao and Ma Zhengqing, who attempted to introduce Wahhabism/Salafism as the main form of Islam. They were branded as traitors, and Wahhabi teachings were deemed as heresy by the Yihewani leaders. Ma Debao established a Salafi/Wahhabi order, called the Sailaifengye (Salafi) menhuan in Lanzhou and Linxia, separate from other Muslim sects in China. Salafis have a reputation for radicalism among the Hanafi Sunni Gedimu and Yihewani. Sunni Muslim Hui avoid Salafis, including family members. The number of Salafis in China is so insignificant that they are not included in classifications of Muslim sects in China.
The Kuomintang Sufi muslim general Ma Bufang, who backed the Yihewani (Ikhwan) Muslims, persecuted the Salafi/Wahhabis. The Yihewani forced the Salafis into hiding. They were not allowed to move or worship openly. The Yihewani had become secular and Chinese nationalist, and they considered the Salafis to be "Heterodox" (xie jiao), and people who followed foreigner's teachings (wai dao). After the Communist revolution the Salafis were allowed to worship openly until a 1958 crackdown on all religious practice.
As proof,the Shaykh also cites a letter in which Abd-al-Wahhab writes
We do not negate the way of the Sufis and the purification of the inner self from the vices of those sins connected to the heart and the limbs as long as the individual firmly adheres to the rules of Shari‘ah and the correct and observed way. However, we will not take it on ourselves to allegorically interpret (ta’wil) his speech and his actions. We only place our reliance on, seek help from, beseech aid from and place our confidence in all our dealings in Allah Most High. He is enough for us, the best trustee, the best mawla and the best helper. May Allah send peace on our master Muhammad, his family and companions
Wahhabism in the United States
A study conducted by the NGO Freedom House found Wahhabi publications in mosques in the United States. These publications included statements that Muslims should not only "always oppose" infidels "in every way", but "hate them for their religion ... for Allah's sake", that democracy "is responsible for all the horrible wars of the 20th century", and that Shia and certain Sunni Muslims were infidels.
The Saudi government issued a response to this report, stating: "[It has] worked diligently during the last five years to overhaul its education system [but] [o]verhauling an educational system is a massive undertaking... As with previous reports, Freedom House continues to exhibit a disregard for presenting an accurate picture of the reality that exists in Saudi Arabia."
A review of the study by Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) complained the study cited documents from only a few mosques, arguing most mosques in the U.S. are not under Wahhabi influence. ISPU comments on the study were not entirely negative however, and concluded:American-Muslim leaders must thoroughly scrutinize this study. Despite its limitations, the study highlights an ugly undercurrent in modern Islamic discourse that American-Muslims must openly confront. However, in the vigor to expose strains of extremism, we must not forget that open discussion is the best tool to debunk the extremist literature rather than a suppression of First Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Militant and political Islam
What connection, if any, there is between Wahhabism and Jihadi Salafis is disputed. Natana De Long-Bas, senior research assistant at the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, argues:The militant Islam of Osama bin Laden did not have its origins in the teachings of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and was not representative of Wahhabi Islam as it is practiced in contemporary Saudi Arabia, yet for the media it came to define Wahhabi Islam during the later years of bin Laden's lifetime. However "unrepresentative" bin Laden's global jihad was of Islam in general and Wahhabi Islam in particular, its prominence in headline news took Wahhabi Islam across the spectrum from revival and reform to global jihad.
Noah Feldman distinguishes between what he calls the "deeply conservative" Wahhabis and what he calls the "followers of political Islam in the 1980s and 1990s," such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and later Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. While Saudi Wahhabis were "the largest funders of local Muslim Brotherhood chapters and other hard-line Islamists" during this time, they opposed jihadi resistance to Muslim governments and assassination of Muslim leaders because of their belief that "the decision to wage jihad lay with the ruler, not the individual believer".
Destruction of Islam's early historical sites
The Wahhabi teachings disapprove of veneration of the historical sites associated with early Islam, on the grounds that only God should be worshipped and that veneration of sites associated with mortals leads to idolatry. Many buildings associated with early Islam, including mazaar, mausoleums and other artifacts have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia by Wahhabis from early 19th century through the present day. This practice has proved controversial and has received considerable criticism from Sunni and Shia Muslims and in the non-Muslim world.
International influence and propagation
According to observers such as Gilles Kepel, Wahhabism gained considerable influence in the Islamic world following a tripling in the price of oil in the mid-1970s and the progressive takeover of Saudi Aramco in the 1974-1980 period. The Saudi government began to spend tens of billions of dollars throughout the Islamic world to promote Wahhabism, which was sometimes referred to as "petro-Islam". According to the documentary called The Qur'an aired in the UK, presenter Antony Thomas suggested the figure may be "upward of $100 billion".
Its largess funded an estimated "90% of the expenses of the entire faith", throughout the Muslim world, according to journalist Dawood al-Shirian. The funds supported children's madrasas, high-level scholarship, mosque construction ("more than 1500 mosques were built from Saudi public funds over the last 50 years") were paid for.) and operation and many other activities. It rewarded journalists and academics, who followed it and built satellite campuses around Egypt for Al Azhar, the oldest and most influential Islamic university.
This financial power has done much to overwhelm less strict local interpretations of Islam, according to observers like Dawood al-Shirian and Lee Kuan Yew, and has caused the Saudi interpretation to be perceived as the correct interpretation in many Muslims' minds.
The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad during the past two decades, and the scale of financing is believed to have increased in the past two years. The bulk of this funding goes towards the construction and operating expenses of mosques, madrasas, and other religious institutions that preach Wahhabism. It also supports imam training; mass media and publishing outlets; distribution of textbooks and other literature; and endowments to universities (in exchange for influence over the appointment of Islamic scholars). Some of the hundreds of thousands of non-Saudis who live in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf have been influenced by Wahhabism and preach Wahhabism in their home country upon their return. Agencies controlled by the Kingdom's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Da'wah and Guidance are responsible for outreach to non-Muslim residents and are converting hundreds of non-Muslims into Islam every year.
Explanation for influence
Khaled Abou El Fadl attributed the appeal of Wahhabism to some Muslims as stemming from
- Arab nationalism, which followed the Wahhabi attack on the Ottoman Empire;
- Reformism, which followed a return to Salaf (as-Salaf aṣ-Ṣāliḥ;)
- Control of Mecca and Medina, which gave Wahhabis great influence on Muslim culture and thinking;
- Oil, which after 1975 allowed Wahhabis to promote their interpretations of Islam using billions from oil export revenue.
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- Analysis: Inside Wahhabi Islam
- Wahhabism: Understanding the roots and role models of islamic extremism
- The 'Wahhabi' Nemesis: Exposing those responsible for causing terror
- Wahabi Way
- Definitive Wahhabi Profile
- Refutation of Wahabism
- Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology
- Salafi Home
- Salafi dawa
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Wahhabi — or Wahabi [wä hä′bē] n. [Ar wahhābī] any member of a strict Muslim sect which adheres closely to the Koran: it was founded by Abdul Wahhab (1703? 92?) and flourishes in Saudi Arabia Wahhabism n. Wahabism [wä hä′biz΄əm] Wahhabite [wä hä′bīt΄] n.,… … English World dictionary
Wahhabi — / Wahhabism An Islamic sect named for Muhammad Abd al Wahhab, who was born at ‘ Uyaynah in central Arabia in 1703. His father was a local Islamic judge ( qadi ) and a follower of the Hanbali school of Islamic law. Wahhab became an Islamic… … Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914
Wahhabi — /weuh hah bee, wah /, n., pl. Wahhabis. Islam. a follower of Abd al Wahhab (1703 1792), who stringently opposed all practices not sanctioned by the Koran. The Wahhabis, founded in the 18th century, are the most conservative Muslim group and are… … Universalium
Wahhabi — also Wahabi noun Etymology: Arabic wahhābī, from Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al Wahhāb (Abdul Wahhab) died 1787 Arabic religious reformer Date: 1807 a member of a puritanical Muslim sect founded in Arabia in the 18th century by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and … New Collegiate Dictionary
Wahhabi — noun a member of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect from Saudi Arabia; strives to purify Islamic beliefs and rejects any innovation occurring after the 3rd century of Islam Osama bin Laden is said to be a Wahhabi Muslim • Syn: ↑Wahabi •… … Useful english dictionary
Wahhabi — noun an adherent of the puritanical reform movement that arose in 18th century Arabia … Wiktionary
wahhabi — n. member of a very conservative Muslim group founded in the 18th Century that opposes all practices not sanctioned by the Koran … English contemporary dictionary
Wahhabi — [wə hα:bi] (also Wahabi) noun (plural Wahabis) a member of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect, the predominant religious force in Saudi Arabia. Derivatives Wahhabism noun Wahhabist noun Origin named after the founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al… … English new terms dictionary
wahhabi — wah·ha·bi … English syllables
Wahhabi — Wah•ha•bi or Wa•ha•bi [[t]wəˈhɑ bi, wɑ [/t]] also Wah•ha•bite [[t] baɪt[/t]] n. pl. bis also bites ear a member of a conservative Muslim group founded orig. by followers of ‘Abd al Wahhab (1703–92) • Etymology: 1800–10; < Ar, =‘Abd al Wahhab+… … From formal English to slang