Here's an extremely rough draft of a paper I'm writing over Wahhabi Islam. Some of you might like to check it out as a furthering of your understanding of the movement and the founding of Saudi Arabia.
You'll find some disjointed ideas b/c of my writing process - I don't outline, I just start with a basic paper and revise, revise, revise - but there is some good info in there too. I have 10 books on my desk this data and the rest of the paper comes from. Please rip apart my errors. This is just the first third, if you guys want I'll post the rest when it's done.
very nice...;however, the problem with Ibn abd al Wahhab isn't just that his followers are crazy lunatics bent on the destruction of non-Muslims, but that he really had no credibility in terms of his level of education of Islamic law. One can seek reform, yes, but he took the rationale of removing everything he saw as a bid'a, without validating his opinion with the Hadiith and the scholars of the four Madhabs of Sunni Islam.
"Wahhabism" is in of its self a very tempting offer, much like fundamentalist Protestantism is; it scrapes away all of the metaphorical interpretation and leaves you with a ground set of rules that cannot be violated and are simple to understand - it provides order where many of the ignorant see disorder in their faith. The problem is that if fundamentalists looked deeper, they would find that straight up literal interpretation without regards to context and timeframe leads to isolation and frustration with those who do not follow your exact set of beliefs, and these frustrations eventually lead to civil war within your faith and war with outsiders to your faith. The minute religious followers outlay what they think makes a "good" believer and what makes a "bad" believer is the minute that a schism in the faith is produced, one which more than likely will turn violent.
I personally dislike "Wahhabists", but it is not up to me to say whether or not they are bad Muslims any farther than what discrepancies their actions have with the Sunnah.
EDIT: My main problem with "Wahhabists" is that I can easily see myself becoming that way, and it honestly scares me to think I would take on a view of my faith that requires me to kill/disown most of my friends and family simply because of their religious affiliation.
Thanks for the comments, I agree with much of your second point.
On this point, one of my sources (Wahhabi Islam by Natana J. Delong-Bas) specifically cites al-Wahhab's study with "two of the most prominent hadith scholars of the time, the Najdi Shaykh Abd Allah ibn Ibrahim ibn Sayf and the Indian Shayhk Muhammad Hayat al-Sindi."
Further, his grandfather had the reputation of being "recognized as the greatest scholar and authority on Hanbali jurisprudence in Najd during his lifetime".
These are some pretty solid guys to learn under. Can you tell me what info you have that dismisses his credibility?
You can study, but not learn. You may know more than me, but in general, most of the hadiith scholars have between 50,000 and 100,000 hadiith memorized, including the chains of narration and what not; did ibn abd al Wahhab have this level of expertise?
It is really hard to be able to definitely say,"All these madhabs are wrong and are full of bid'a" unless you know all of the rulings in all of the schools, something that takes a lifetime to learn.
I see your point. I don't presume to know anything about al-Wahhab outside of what I have read in the past few weeks. I will check into it more.
slight correction: it's ibn abd-al-Wahhab, Al-Wahhab is another name for Allah, and if you say "ibn al Wahhab" that is saying he is the son of Allah(I have made a few typos like this before, really sucks).
tag for later reading
Thanks for the correction. Did al-Wahhab gain that meaning because of the reform movement or has it always been a synonym for God? BTW, the Delong-Bas book has a chapter the deals in-depth w/ Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's education and the roles various material played in his religious philosophy. I'm reading through that now. It seems (I believe this relates to your earlier statement) that he did not agree with much of the reverence directed towards the four rightly guided caliphs aside from their ruling on awqaf.
Got time to finish up the rough draft, here is the first version of the overall paper - there is still much editing ahead. I know the last 1/8 or so of the paper is currently weak, but I was getting a little fatigued by that point.
In the past two hundred and fifty years, an Islamic reform movement has evolved from the ideas of one man to the state philosophy for Saudi Arabia, the most economically powerful country in the Arab world. 1 How did the reform movement Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab constructed go from a largely scorned radical idea in an insulated province of the Arabian Peninsula to one of the mechanisms for developing the sociopolitical infrastructure for such an important country? The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief objective look towards answering that question and understanding what role Wahhabi Islam has played in the Muslim world as it revolves around the Arabian Peninsula.
To understand the factors which lead to the development of the Wahhabist movement one must look to 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya, who according to Mary Habeck heavily influenced modern Islamists and jihadis with his views on shari’a (Islamic law).2 Taymiyya not only denounced Muslims who adopted Christian practices, 3 he sanctioned battling Muslims who would not join in jihads against the heretics, apostates, hypocrites, sinners, and unbelievers (including the people of the book, i.e. Christians and Jews).
Ibn Taymiyya died in 1328, after adding much of his views to the conservative school of Islamic law known as Hanbali, a fact that later serves as the connection between his philosophies and the founder of the Wahhabist movement, Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Born at the start of the 18th century, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was the son of a prominent local Hanbali judge (qadi) in al-Uyaynah of the Najd Province on the Arabian Peninsula. The family had a strong background in the conservative aspects of shari’a law, including not only Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s father from whom he received much of his early education but his grandfather and uncle as well. Unlike the international cities of Mecca and Medina in the Hijaz Province to the west, Najd was an introverted plateau area where little outside influence was seen. In this environment there was little in the way of outside influence to detract from the primary conservative Sunni influence of al-Wahhab’s family. His religious studies were intense; Ibn Abd was reported to have memorized the Quran before he was ten years old, and he made his first hajj to Mecca in his teenage years.
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s views were coming into shape. He believed that the doctrine of monotheism (tawhid) was the basis from which Muslims had deviated and to rectify what he saw as moral decay they needed to return. He began to express those beliefs in his hometown through small meetings and made some progress in swaying the local people. The leaders of the area began to see him as a threat and ultimately ran al-Wahhab out of town. During this time, he traveled to Medina, where he continued his education. He also traveled to Iraq, Syria, and some Persian cities. This had the effect of exposing al-Wahhab to a broad range of Islamic beliefs, which he measured and analyzed to further develop his own measure of correct Muslim faith.
With his mind set on reforming the tawhid, al-Wahhab set out to struggle against the polytheists (mushrikun). Utilizing the backing of the new ruler of al-Uyaynah, Uthman Ibn Hamid Ibn Muammar, he destroyed several monuments that ran contrary to al-Wahhab’s view of tawhid, including a monument over the tomb of one of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions. These incidents had the effect of letting the people know exactly what they were expected to divert from in their actions.
The most significant event of these early years of al-Wahhab’s quest was the punishment handed out to an adulteress. In accordance with Shari’a law, al-Wahhab sentenced her to death by stoning. There are opposing viewpoints as to the coldness of this occurrence however, as Natana Delong-Bas points out. According to her, al-Wahhab gave the woman several chances to cease her adulteress behavior, informing her of the potential penalty. It was only after she repeated and confessed to her violations on several subsequent dates that the death sentence was handed down. Delong-Bas makes this distinction as part of her substantial case for the idea that al-Wahhab was not a zealot but actually a man devoted to social justice and has been misused by those utilizing his teachings as rational for their violent behavior.
Eventually, al-Wahhab’s protection deal with Ibn Muammar fell through and he was able to partner with the ruler of Diriyah, Muhammad Ibn Saud, in 1744. The terms were similar to his previous deal with Muammar; in exchange for protection from Ibn Saud and the utilization of his forces to prosecute a war on non-Muslims and those Muslims who did not conform to al-Wahhab’s ideal form of Islam, al-Wahhab would provide religious legitimacy to Ibn Saud’s rule. This partnership, known as al-da’wa ila al-tawhid (“the call to the doctrine of the Oneness of God”) or Wahhabism in the western world, placed Ibn Saud in the role of amir (political leader) and al-Wahhab as the imam (religious leader). It also had other benefits for Ibn Saud; he married al-Wahhab’s daughter which served to create a dynasty for the first Saudi state.
(new material starts here)
Here is where al-Wahhab took a much more aggressive stance. His doctrine of takfir, as Dore Gold explains, asserted that Muslims could become infidels by engaging in improper religious activities such. The term infidel was defined by al-Wahhab in a letter as one “who has known the religion of the Prophet and yet stands against it, prevents others from accepting it, and shows hostility to those who follow it.” Those points effectively legitimized jihad against fellow Muslims and propelled al-Wahhab and Ibn Saud’s in pursuit of a conquest of the Arabian Peninsula.
Delong-Bas contends that this expansionism by the sword was almost exclusively the work of Ibn Saud, and that al-Wahhab would detach himself from Ibn Saud during such campaigns. She also cites the fact that al-Wahhab left in 1773 as proof al-Wahhab was opposed to forceful conversion/subjugation. That argument looses steam when one considers that Ibn Saud died in 1763-1765 and his son Abd al-Aziz had been amir for eight years when al-Wahhab stepped down as imam.
What is not totally clear is just how the sincere the amir Ibn Saud was in pursuing religious reform as his motive for raiding neighbors. There is evidence that perhaps that made for a convenient excuse, as Domingo Badia y Leblich points out:
The reform of Abdoulwehhab being admitted by Ibn Saaoud, was embraced by all the tribes subject to his command. This was a pretext for attacking the neighboring tribes, who were successively reduced to the alternative of embracing the reform or of perishing under the sword of the reformer. [sic]
We see that a theme often repeated in history may be at play here too; that is, secular motives cloaked in religions rationalizations. Whatever the case may be, the Wahhabist movement spread across the eastern Arabian Peninsula, converting through persuasion or violence all who fell in their path. By the time al-Wahhab stepped down, Abd al-Aziz had made clear the fact the the Al Saud family was now concerned with expanding its power throughout the peninsula regardless of whether or not they had religious legitimization.
Al- Wahhab spent the rest of his life in relative peace, devoting his time to further studies. He died 1791-1792. At the time of his death, Abd al-Aziz had advanced to the edges of Kuwait and Bahrain. They had battled with forces from the Ottoman Empire stationed in Hijaz once, soundly defeating them. In the 1800’s Abd al-Aziz’s forces sacked the Shiite holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf in Iraq, defacing Shiite shrines and massacring the residents. They also captured Mecca and Medina, where they destroyed monuments and even attempted to destroy the structures over the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb. Abd al-Aziz was assassinated in 1804. Saud, al-Aziz’s son, soon took control of the Wahhabist movement.
By 1810 the House of Saud controlled most of the peninsula. According to Gold, the Arabian Peninsula had not seen a political force that big since the Prophet Muhammad. Saud died in 1814 and his son Abdullah took control of a Saudi state besieged by both the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. The Saudi’s were not up to the task, and were defeated in 1818 with Abdullah beheaded. Wahhabism survived on in India and Pakistan (then Punjab and Peshawar), and in outposts like Sumatra while the Ottomans enjoyed their victory.
In 1823, Abdullah al-Saud’s cousin Turki began to lead raids into Egyptian controlled lands in Arabia, eventually regaining control of Riyadh. This period, the rise of the second Saudi state, saw al-Wahhab’s grandson Abdul Rahman ibn Hasan Al al-Sheikh return to the Najd Province and begin to meet with tribes to rebuild support for al-da’wa ila al-tawhid. Turki ruled until 1832, when he was assassinated. His brother Faisal ascended to power but was captured by Egyptian forces in 1838. He escaped and regained control in 1843. Abdul Rahman, who had been mustering followers to the Wahhabi cause, served as a judge in the state and was considered the chaplain of the palace.3 The death of Faisal in 1865 brought about the collapse of the second Saudi state, as his four sons were too busy fighting amongst each other for succession to attend to matters of important state business. The Ottoman Empire was able to keep them in check as a result.
In 1902, Faisal’s grandson Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud retook Riyadh and began retaking other family territories. His primary opponents initially were Rashidi amirs, who were northern Najd Province members of the large Shammar tribe. At the same time, a branch of Wahhabism known as Ikhwan was developing in the Najd village of al-Artawiya. Lead by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab’s descendent Abdullah bin Abdul Latif, this sect organized itself into what were essentially farming communes and lived as strict Wahhabi Muslims. Rahman Al Saud saw an opportunity to utilize this movement to gain political power and religious authority for his campaigns. He would command tribes to submit to his rule and join the Ikhwan. Failure to do so would mean that Ikhwan would target them as polytheists. The brutal nature of Ikhwani attacks motivated many Arabian tribes to join Al Saud.
The Rashidi were allied with the Ottoman Empire, who supplied them with logistics and manpower. Al Saud was able to gain the approval of Britain by securing an alliance with the Kuwaitis. Thus Rahman Al Saud was able to offset his numerical disadvantage and gain ground. The British were also working with the Ottoman-appointed Hashemite leader Sharif Hussein to undermine the Ottomans. At the end of World War I, which saw the crumbling of the Ottoman Empire, Hussein began to attempt to secure areas outside his rule’s borders. This put him and Al Saud in conflict with each other. The Ikhwan were called upon to drive Hussein’s forces out of the area between the two rulers’ territories, which they did successfully.
Al Saud then drove his forces into the Rashidi capital in 1921, finally succeeding in subjugating his enemy. In 1924 Al Saud turned the Ikhwan loose on Sharif Hussein in the Hijaz, seeking to oust the Hashemite who had proclaimed himself caliph following the abolishment of the Ottoman caliphate. The Ikhwan were furious with such a move and attacked Hijazi towns with zeal and much violence. In late 1924 Sharif Hussein stepped down and was replaced by his son Ali. Under the force of Ikhwan invasions Ali quickly abdicated, leaving power in the Hijaz Province in after roughly one year. Ibn Saud’s new title was King of the Hijaz and Sultan of Najd and Her Dependencies.
With his goals mostly achieved, and the British limiting his further moves, Ibn Saud tried to reel the Wahhabi Ikhwan back in. The Ikhwani however wanted to pursue further their campaign, and set their eyes on the large Shiite population in the al-Hasa Province to the south. The Ikhwani were also less than pleased with British involvement in the area, referring to them as an infidel power. The army of Ibn Saud and the Ikhwan forces clashed in 1929, where the Ikhwan were defeated. Ibn Saud felt it was politically necessary at this point to his rule to downplay the perception of Wahhabism as a violent and radical sect of Islam. He continued to rely on the Wahhabi ulama throughout his rule though, the influence the Wahhabi Muslims had built for themselves over the course of the last 150 years of conquest was so potent that it could not be ignored in Saudi Arabia.
In conclusion we see that Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s reform movement in inexorably linked to the rise of the House of Saud. Without the initial pact, al-da’wa ila al-tawhid, it is possible that the first Saudi state might never have occurred. By utilizing the intellect and dedication of the Wahhabi followers, the Saudis were able to co-opt a tremendous advantage to their political goals. The agenda-driven Najd tribe succeeded in carving out a new country largely by wielding the power of this reform movement. In doing so, they also rendered the unintended consequence of giving the Wahhabi following legitimacy in the state that continues to this day. Indeed, in modern Saudi Arabia the religious police (matawwa or mutawa’een) enforces conservative Islamic values with near unchecked power in some instances.
Though Saudi Arabia is the dominant power on the Arabian Peninsula, they will have to cede a role to the Wahhabi ulama for the foreseeable future. Without religious legitimacy and uniformity afforded by such an arrangement, Saudi Arabia could well open itself up to internal strife. Such an occurrence could lead to a change in power inside the House of Saud, or at worst unbalance the region enough so that alternate forces perceive Saudi Arabia as a reasonable target for their own expansionary goals. The reformist movement of the late 20th century and early 21st century also hold the possibility for a renewal and increase in Wahhabism in the region.
1. Based on Saudi Arabia’s GDP. Gause, The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia (The Foreign Policies of Middle East States)
2. Habeck, Mary R. Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Idealogy and the War on Terror. Yale University Press, Connecticut. 2006
3. Gold, Dore. Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism. Regnery Publishing Company, Washington D.C. 2003.
4. Delong-Bas, Natana J. Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad. Oxford University Press, New York. 2004.
5. Al-Rasheed, Madawi. A History of Saudi Arabia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. 2002.
6. Travels of Ali Bey. Printed for John Conrad at the Shakespeare Buildings. 1816.
7. Gause III, F. Gregory. The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia, in The Foreign Policies of Middle East States. Edited by Hinnebusch, Raymond & Ehteshami, Anoushiravan. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder London. 2002.
8. North, Peter & Tripp, Harvey. Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette: Saudi Arabia. Graphic Art Center Publishing Co., Portland Oregon. 2003.
Al-Wahhab is one of the 99 names of Allah, a very old list.
That is why you have abd-al-Wahhab; in Islam, have "abd" = "slave", in your name, requires that it be followed by either "Allah" or one of His names, no other names are acceptable, as Muslims are slave to noone but Allah.
Please indulge this brief hijack.
Re: the 99 names of Allah. How does the camel enter into the picture wrt the knowledge of the 100th name?
Ah, I did not know any of this. Here & here are lists of the names if anyone else wants to look them over.