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IBN `ABD AL-WAHHAB, MUHAMMAD (1703-22 June 1792), Saudi Arabian conservative theologian and reformer. Born in al-`Uyaynah inNajd, Ibn `Abd alWahhab belonged to a prestigious family of jurists, both theologians and qadis (judges). Under the tutorship of his father, young Muhammad studied Hanbali jurisprudence and read classical works on tafsir (exegesis), hadith (tradition) and tawhid (monotheism). In his early twenties he began to denounce what he described as the poly theistic beliefs and practices of his society, rejecting its laxity and insisting on strict adherence to the shari`ah.

His beliefs alienated him from the establishment `ulama’ and led to the dismissal of his father from the position of qadi. Subsequently Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab’s family, including his father, had to leave al-`Uyaynah to neighboring Huraymila in 1726. He himself remained in al-`Uyaynah for a while, but after the `ulama’ defamed his reputation and instigated the populace against him, he left al-`Uyaynah and went to Hejaz. In Hejaz, Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab made his pilgrimage toMeccaandMedina, where he attended lectures on different branches of Islamic learning. Ibn Bishr reports in `Unwan al-majd ft tdrikhNajd(Riyadh, n.d., p. 6), that Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab studied under shaykh `Abd Allah ibn Ibrahim ibn Sayf and Shaykh Hayat al-Sindi, both of whom were admirers of the hanbali Ibn Taymiyah. Like Ibn Taymiyah, they opposed taqlid (imitation), which was commonly accepted by the followers of the four Sunni schools of jurisprulence. Both scholars felt the urgent need to reform the acioreligious situation of Muslims inNajdand else where. Their teachings had a great impact on Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, who began to take a more aggressive attitude toward the establishment `ulania’.

Another important event in the intellectual evolution of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab was his visit toBasra. There he widened his study of hadith and jurisprudence and came into contact with the Shi`is, who venerate `Ah’s shrine in Najaf and the tomb of Husayn in neighboring Karbala. Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab’s call to reform the Muslim world was rejected by the ‘ulama’ of bothBasraandKarbala, and he was ultimately forced to leave the area.

Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab returned to Huraymila to rejoin his father and immediately began to criticize the innovations and polytheistic acts practiced by NajdIs and others. His criticism seems to have been so bitter that he met strong opposition from the ‘ulama’ and even from his own father. During this period he composed his most famous work, Kitdb al-tawhid (Book of Monotheism), copies of which circulated quickly and widely inNajd. The year 1740 witnessed the death of his father and the consolidation of the Wahhabi movement. The death of his father allowed Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab to adopt a more aggressive line, because he felt less constrained than before. He declared war on those who by word or act were violating the doctrine of monotheism.

In a relatively short time the influence of Ibn `Abd alWahhab spread widely. The consolidation of his movement took place when the ruler of al `Uyaynah, `Uthman ibn Mu’ammar, offered him protection. Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab accepted the invitation to reside in al`Uyaynah because it allowed him to return to his birthplace, where his family enjoyed high social status, and provided the protection he needed to propagate his ideology. To cement his ties with the town’s leader, Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab married al-Jawharah, `Uthman’s aunt.

The ruler of al `Uyaynah ordered his townsmen to observe the teachings of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, who began to implement the principles of his call. Among his earliest acts was the destruction of the monument where Zayd ibn al-Khattab was believed to be buried, as well as the tombs of other companions of the Prophet, all of whom were objects of veneration. He also revived the Islamic law of stoning an adulterous woman to death. Both incidents mark the establishment of a Wahhabi society in which the doctrines of tawhid were strictly observed; indeed, tawhid is considered the central theme in Wahhabi doctrine.

Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab’s activities and the protection he received from the leader of al-`Uyaynah antagonized the `ulama’ of the region and led them to intensify their attacks on the Wahhabi movement, warning the rulers that Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab was encouraging the common folk to revolt against established authority. Consequently, the ruler of al-`Uyaynah terminated his support and asked the teacher to leave the town.

From al `Uyaynah, Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab sought refuge in al-Dir`iyah at the invitation of its ruler, Muhammad ibn Sa`ud. For more than two years Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab propagated his views and wrote letters to various rulers, scholars, and tribal leaders inArabia. The response he elicited was as much a product of political and economic considerations as of religious dogma. Some leaders joined the new movement because they saw it as a means of gaining an ally against their local rivals. Others feared that their acceptance of the call would diminish their authority in favor of Ibn Sa`ud and oblige them to pay him at least part of the revenues they collected from their subjects.

By 1746 the time seemed ripe for Ibn Sa’ud and Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab to declare jihad on those who opposed Wahhab! teachings. In 1773 the principality ofRiyadhfell to them, marking a new period in the career of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab. He concentrated on teaching and worship until his death in 1791. His death, however, did not stop the expansion of the new state. Not only was the movement able to resist its opponents and gain territories in neighboring principalities, it was able within a relatively short period to spread to Mecca and Medina, which were captured in 1805 and 18o6, respectively. A new order was established in theArabian Peninsula, ushering in the period of the first Saudi state and establishing the Wahhabiyah as the religio-political driving force in the peninsula during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

[See alsoSaudi Arabia; and Wahhabiyah.]


Lebkicher,Roy, et al. TheArabiaof Ibn Saud.New York, 1952. Philby, H. St. John. Arabian Highlands.Ithaca,N.Y., 1952. Schacht, Joseph, ed. The Legacy of Islam. 2d ed.Oxford, 1974. Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Islam in Modern History.Princeton, 1957.



  • Kitab al-Quran (The book of Allah)
  • Kitab at-Tawhid (The Book of the Unity of God)
  • Kashf ush-Shubuhaat (Clarification Of The Doubts)[
  • Al-Usool-uth-Thalaatha” (The Three Fundamental Principles)
  • Al Qawaaid Al ‘Arbaa’ (The Four Foundations of Shirk)
  • Al-Usool us Sittah (The Six Fundamental Principles)
  • Nawaaqid al Islaam (Nullifiers of Islaam)
  • Adab al-Mashy Ila as-Salaa (Manners of Walking to the Prayer)
  • Usul al-Iman (Foundations of Faith)
  • Fada`il al-Islam (Excellent Virtues of Islam)
  • Fada`il al-Qur’an (Excellent Virtues of the Qur’an)
  • Majmu’a al-Hadith ‘Ala Abwab al-Fiqh (Compendium of the Hadith on the Main Topics of the Fiqh)
  • Mukhtasar al-Iman (Abridgement of the Faith; i.e. the summarised version of a work on Faith)
  • Mukhtasar al-Insaf wa`l-Sharh al-Kabir (Abridgement of the Equity and the Great Explanation)
  • Mukhtasar Seerat ar-Rasul (Summarised Biography of the Prophet)
  • Kitaabu l-Kabaair (The Book of Great Sins)
  • Kitabu l-Imaan (The Book of Trust)

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ibn-abd-al-wahhab-muhammad/

  • writerPosted On: April 5, 2014
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