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The basic text of this form of Islam is the Kitab at-tawhid (Arabic, "Book of Unity").
Central to Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab's message was the essential oneness of
God (tawhid). The movement is therefore known by its adherents as ad dawa lil
tawhid (the call to unity), and those who follow the call are known as ahl at
tawhid(the people of unity) or muwahhidun (unitarians). Most Wahhabi people live
in Saudi Arabia. Almost all people in Mecca and Medina belong to this school.
The Caliphate was brought into being by the implementation of Islam for about
three decades. They called this shortlived experiment Khilafat Rashidah, the rightlyguided Caliphate, implying thereby that the rulers that followed were misguided.
Fundamentalists seek the restoration of the Islamic State i.e. the Khilafah, and by
electing a Khaleefah and taking a bay'ah on him that he will rule by the Word
of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta'Ala) i.e. he will implement Islamic laws in the country
where the Khilafah has been established.
Wahhabism [Wahabism] is a reform movement that began 200 years ago to rid
Islamic societies of cultural practices and interpretation that had been acquired over
the centuries. The followers of Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) began as a movement to
cleanse the Arab bedouin from the influence of Sufism. Wahhabis are the followers
of Ibn 'Abd ul-Wahhab, who instituted a great reform in the religion of Islam in
Arabia in the 18th century.
His instructions in the matter of extending his religious teaching by force were
strict. All unbelievers (i.e. Moslems who did not accept his teaching, as well as
Christians, &c.) were to be put to death. Immediate entrance into Paradise was
promised to his soldiers who fell in battle, and it is said that each soldier was
provided with a written order from Ibn 'Abd ul-Wahhab to the gate-keeper of
heaven to admit him forthwith. In this way the new teaching was established in the
greater part of Arabia until its power was broken by Mehemet Ali. Ibn'Abd ulWahhab is said to have died in 1791.
The teaching of ul-Wahhab was founded on that of Ibn Taimiyya (1263-1328), who
was of the school of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Copies of some of Ibn Taimiyya's works
made by ul-Wahhab are now extant in Europe, and show a close study of the
writer. Ibn Taimiyya, although a Hanbalite by training, refused to be bound by
any of the four schools, and claimed the power of a mujtahid, i.e. of one who can
give independent decisions. These decisions were based on the Koran, which, like
Ibn Hazm, he accepted in a literal sense, on the Sunna and Qiyds (analogy). He
protested strongly against all the innovations of later times, and denounced as
idolatry the visiting of the sacred shrines and the invocation of the saints or of
Mahomet himself. He was also a bitter opponent of the Sufis of his day.
The Wahhabites also believe in the literal sense of the Koran and the necessity of
deducing one's duty from it apart from the decisions of the four schools. They
also pointed to the abuses current in their times as a reason for rejecting the
doctrines and practices founded on Ijma, i.e. the universal consent of the believer or
their teachers. They forbid the pilgrimage to tombs and the invocation of saints. The
severe simplicity of the Wahhabis has been remarked by travellers in central Arabia.
They attack all luxury, loose administration of justice, all laxity against infidels,
addiction to wine, impurity and treachery.
Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab's mission in his own district was not attended by
success, and for long he wandered with his family through Arabia. Realizing that he
needed political support and authority to effectively reverse the status quo, Ibn
Abdul-Wahhab presented his program of reform to the governors of the central
Arabian city-states. He began by approaching Othman ibn Mu’amar, the governor of
Uyayna, his home state. Ibn Mu’amar was receptive to Abdul-Wahhab’s ideas and
allowed him to preach within the city. As word of the movement spread, however,
strong pressure to silence Ibn Abdul-Wahhab came from powerful tribes in the
region who viewed change as a threat to their decadent lifestyle. Fearing invasion,
Othman ibn Mu’amar felt compelled to ask the reformer to leave Uyayna.
At last he settled in Dara'iyya, or Deraiya (in the Nejd), where he succeeded in
converting the greatest notable, Mahommed ibn Sa'ud, who married his daugther,
and so became the founder of an hereditary Wahhabite dynasty. This gave the
missionary the opportunity of following the example of Mahomet himself.
This association between the Al Saud and the Al ash Shaykh, as Muhammad ibn Abd
al Wahhab and his descendants came to be known, effectively converted political
loyalty into a religious obligation. According to Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab's
teachings, a Muslim must present a bayah, or oath of allegiance, to a Muslim ruler
during his lifetime to ensure his redemption after death. The ruler, conversely, is
owed unquestioned allegiance from his people so long as he leads the community
according to the laws of God. The whole purpose of the Muslim community is to
become the living embodiment of God's laws, and it is the responsibility of the
legitimate ruler to ensure that people know God's laws and live in conformity to
Under 'Abd ul-Azlz they instituted a form of Bedouin (Bedawi) commonwealth,
insisting on the observance of law, the payment of tribute, militaiy conscription for
war against the infidel, internal peace and the rigid administration of justice in
courts established for the purpose. Wahhabis consider Wahhabism to be the only
true form of Islam. They do not regard Shi'as as true Muslims are particularly hostile
to Sufism.
It is clear that the claim of the Wahhabis to have returned to the earliest form of
Islam is largely justified. The difference between ul-Wahhab's sect and others is that
the Wahabis rigidly follow the same laws which the others neglect or have ceased
altogether to observe. Even orthodox doctors of Islam have confessed that in Ibn
'Abd ul-Wahhab's writings there is nothing but what they themselves hold. At the
same time the fact that so many of his followers were rough and unthinking
Bedouins has led to the over-emphasis of minor points of practice, so that they often
appear to observers to be characterized chiefly by a strictness (real or feigned) in
such matters as the prohibition of silk for dress, or the use of tobacco, or of the
rosary in prayer.
Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab died in 1792.
The Wahhabi ulama reject reinterpretation of Quran and sunna in regard to issues
clearly settled by the early jurists. By rejecting the validity of reinterpretation,
Wahhabi doctrine is at odds with the Muslim reformation movement of the late
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This movement seeks to reinterpret parts of the
Quran and sunna to conform with standards set by the West, most notably
standards relating to gender relations, family law, and participatory democracy.
However, ample scope for reinterpretation remains for Wahhabi jurists in areas not
decided by the early jurists.
The 1920s marked the beginnings of modern Arabia. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz understood the
potential advantages Western technology offered; the importation of a fleet of
automobiles and, later, the building of airstrips gave him the means of reaching
distant parts of his territory in a fraction of the time required previously. He also
ordered the creation of an extensive information network based on the wireless
telegraph, through which he was able to extend his "eyes and ears" across the
country. However, some of his followers were less than enthusiastic, and their
leader spent much time and effort explaining personally the value of the telephone
in particular. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz finally overcame their opposition by inviting skeptics to
listen to recitations from the Qur‘an being read down the phone line.
Aware that the fledgling nation would be ill-equipped to function in the 20th
century without industrial modernization, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was eager to embrace
technology; however, he was no less aware that change had to be selective and
gradual if it was to be accepted by the citizenry. Arabist and historian Leslie
McLoughlin pointed out that "it was the insight of Ibn Sa‘ud that slow change
without disabling disputes was better than speed of change with great disruption."
Under Al Saud rule, governments, especially during the Wahhabi revival in the
1920s, have shown their capacity and readiness to enforce compliance with Islamic
laws and interpretations of Islamic values on themselves and others. The literal
interpretations of what constitutes right behavior according to the Quran and hadith
have given the Wahhabis the sobriquet of "Muslim Calvinists." To the Wahhabis, for
example, performance of prayer that is punctual, ritually correct, and communally
performed not only is urged but publicly required of men. Consumption of wine is
forbidden to the believer because wine is literally forbidden in the Quran. Under the
Wahhabis, however, the ban extended to all intoxicating drinks and other
stimulants, including tobacco. Modest dress is prescribed for both men and women
in accordance with the Quran, but the Wahhabis specify the type of clothing that
should be worn, especially by women, and forbid the wearing of silk and gold,
although the latter ban has been enforced only sporadically. Music and dancing have
also been forbidden by the Wahhabis at times, as have loud laughter and
demonstrative weeping, particularly at funerals.
The Wahhabi emphasis on conformity makes of external appearance and behavior a
visible expression of inward faith. Therefore, whether one conforms in dress, in
prayer, or in a host of other activities becomes a public statement of whether one is
a true Muslim. Because adherence to the true faith is demonstrable in tangible ways,
the Muslim community can visibly judge the quality of a person's faith by observing
that person's actions. In this sense, public opinion becomes a regulator of individual
behavior. Therefore, within the Wahhabi community, which is striving to be the
collective embodiment of God's laws, it is the responsibility of each Muslim to look
after the behavior of his neighbor and to admonish him if he goes astray.
In the 1990s, Saudi leadership did not emphasize its identity as inheritor of the
Wahhabi legacy as such, nor did the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab,
the Al ash Shaykh, continue to hold the highest posts in the religious bureaucracy.
Wahhabi influence in Saudi Arabia, however, remained tangible in the physical
conformity in dress, in public deportment, and in public prayer. Most significantly,
the Wahhabi legacy was manifest in the social ethos that presumed government
responsibility for the collective moral ordering of society, from the behavior of
individuals, to institutions, to businesses, to the government itself. King Fahd ibn
Abd al Aziz Al Saud repeatedly called for scholars to engage in ijtihad to deal with
new situations confronting the modernizing kingdom. (Source)
Wahhabism is a puritanical form of Sunni Islam and is practiced in
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, although it is much less rigidly enforced in the latter. The
word “Wahhabi” is derived from the name of a Muslim scholar, Muhammad bin Abd
al Wahhab, who lived in the Arabian peninsula during the eighteenth century (17031791). Today, the term “Wahhabism” is broadly applied outside of the Arabian
peninsula to refer to a Sunni Islamic movement that seeks to purify Islam of any
innovations or practices that deviate from the seventh-century teachings of the
Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
In most predominantly Muslim nations, however, believers who adhere to this
creed or hold similar perspectives prefer to call themselves “Unitarians”
(muwahiddun) or “Salafiyyun” (sing. Salafi, noun Salafiyya). The latter term derive
from the word salaf meaning to “follow” or “precede,” a reference to the followers
and companions of the Prophet Mohammed. Some Muslims believe the Western
usage of the term “Wahhabism” unfairly carries negative and derogatory
connotations. Although this paper explains differences in these terms, it will refer to
Wahhabism in association with a conservative Islamic creed centered in and
emanating from Saudi Arabia and to Salafiyya as a more general puritanical Islamic
movement that has developed independently at various times and in various places
in the Islamic world.
Muhammad bin Abd al Wahhab, whose name is the source of the word “Wahhabi,”
founded a religious movement in the Arabian peninsula during the eighteenth
century (1703-1791) that sought to reverse what he perceived as the moral decline
of his society. In particular, Abd al Wahhab denounced many popular Islamic beliefs
and practices as idolatrous. Ultimately, he encouraged a “return” to the pure and
orthodox practice of the “fundamentals” of Islam, as embodied in the Quran and
in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad bin Saud, the ancestral founder of
modern-day Al Saud dynasty, partnered with Abd al Wahhab to begin the process of
unifying disparate tribes in the Arabian Peninsula. Their partnership formed the
basis for
a close political relationship between their descendants that continues today.
Since its emergence, Wahhabism’s puritanical and iconoclastic philosophies have
resulted in conflict with other Muslim groups. Wahhabism opposes most popular
religious practices such as saint veneration, the celebration of the Prophet’s
birthday, most
core Shiite traditions, and some practices associated with the mystical teachings of
Sufism. In the past, this has brought Wahhabis based in the Arabian peninsula and
elsewhere into confrontation with non-Wahhabi Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, and
nonMuslims in neighboring areas. The first Saudi kingdom was destroyed by
Ottoman forces
in the early 19
century after Wahabbi-inspired warriors seized Mecca and Medina and
threatened Ottoman dominance. Similarly, during the 1920s, Wahhabi-trained
warriors allied with the founder of the modern Saudi kingdom, Abd al Aziz ibn Saud,
attacked fellow Sunnis in western Arabia and Shiites in southern Iraq, leading to
confrontations and military engagements with the British empire.
Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia Today. Since the foundation of the modern
kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, there has been a close relationship between the
ruling family and the Wahhabi religious establishment.
Wahhabi-trained Bedouin
warriors known as the Ikhwan were integral to the Al Saud family’s military
to reconquer and unify the Arabian peninsula from 1912 until an Ikhwan rebellion
put down by force in 1930. Thereafter, Wahhabi clerics were integrated into the
new kingdom’s religious and political establishment, and Wahhabi ideas formed the
basis of
the rules and laws adopted to govern social affairs in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism also
shaped the kingdom’s judicial and educational policies. Saudi schoolbooks
have denounced teachings that do not conform to Wahhabist beliefs, an issue that
controversial within Saudi Arabia and among outside observers.
In September 2007, the State Department again designated Saudi Arabia as a
“Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act
“religious freedom remains severely restricted.” According to the State
2007 International Religious Freedom Report on Saudi Arabia, “the Saudi
confirmed a number of policies to foster greater religious tolerance, to halt the
dissemination of intolerant literature and extremist ideology within Saudi Arabia
around the world, to protect the right to private worship and the right to possess
and use
personal religious materials, to curb harassment by the religious police, to empower
Human Rights Commission, to eliminate discrimination against non-Muslim
minorities, and to respect the rights of Muslims who do not follow the Government's
interpretation of Islam.” The report also notes that members of the Shiite Muslim
minority continue to face political, educational, legal, social, and religious
and that there is “no legal recognition or protection of religious freedom.”
Political and Religious Factors
What Is Salafiyya? As noted above, among adherents in general, preference is
given to the term “Salafiyya” over “Wahhabism.” These terms have distinct
roots, but they have been used interchangeably in recent years, especially in the
Wahhabism is considered by some Muslims as the Saudi form of Salafiyya. Unlike
eighteenth-century Saudi roots of Wahhabism, however, modern Salafi beliefs grew
a reform-oriented movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century,
developed in various parts of the Islamic world and progressively grew more
conservative. In line with other puritanical Islamic teachings, Salafis generally
that the Quran and the Prophet’s practices (hadith) are the ultimate religious
authority in
Islam, rather than the subsequent commentaries produced by Islamic scholars that
interpret these sources.
Salafiyya is not a unified movement, and there exists no single
Salafi “sect.” However, Salafi interpretations of Islam appeal to a large number of
Muslims worldwide who seek religious renewal in the face of modern challenges.
The Use of Violence. According to a number of scholars, the waging of violent
is not inherently associated with puritanical Islamic beliefs. Among certain
puritanical Muslims — be they self-described Salafis or Wahhabis — advocacy of
is a relatively recent phenomenon and remains highly disputed within these groups.
Although Wahhabi clerics and converts have advocated religiously motivated
and played military roles at key moments in Saudi history, most scholars date the
ascendancy of militancy within the wider Salafi community to the war of resistance
against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s. The war against the
Soviets gained wide support throughout the Muslim world and mobilized thousands
volunteer fighters. Radical beliefs spread rapidly through select groups of mosques
madrasas (Islamic religious schools),
located on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which
were created to support the Afghan resistance and funded primarily by Saudi
Similar U.S. and European funding provided to Pakistan to aid the Afghan
also may have been diverted to fund the construction and maintenance of madrasas.
Following the war, militant Salafis with ties to the Afghan resistance denounced
of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt as “apostates” and as vehicles for
Western imperialism. The Taliban movement also emerged from this network of
Violent Salafist-inspired groups such as Al Qaeda continue to advocate the
overthrow of the Saudi government and other regimes and the establishment of
states that
will sustain puritanical Islamic doctrine enforced under a strict application of shari’a
Islamic law. Although the majority of Salafi adherents do not advocate the violence
enshrined in Bin Laden’s message, violent Salafist ideology has attracted a number
followers throughout the Muslim world. Analysts note that some receptive groups
drawn to the anti-U.S. political messages preached by Bin Laden and his supporters,
despite the fact that these groups may hold different religious beliefs (Source)