What is Wahhabism?

· Islam

What is Wahhabism?


Let me first define “Wahhabism.”
(Published 09.05.10 incomplete:work in progress)

This branch of Islam is often referred to as “Wahhabi,”

Members of this form of Islam call themselves Muwahhidun (“Unitarians”, or “unifiers of Islamic practice”). They use the Salafi Da’wa or Ahlul Sunna wal Jama’a. The teachings of the reformer Abd Al-Wahhab are more often referred to by adherents as Salafi, that is, “following the forefathers of Islam.”

Book of Unity-Kitab at-tawhid

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). The word Wahhabi was originally used derogatorily by opponents, but has today become commonplace and is even used by some Najdi scholars of the movement. Most Wahhabi people live in Saudi Arabia. Almost all people in Mecca and Medina belong to this school (of thought.)

The Caliphate

The Caliphate was brought into being by the implementation of Islam for about three decades. They called this short lived experiment Khilafat Rashidah, the rightly-guided 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.

Cleansing Islam

Wahhabism [Wahabism] is a reform movement that began 200 years ago to rid Islamic societies of (bad) 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.

Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab focused on the Muslim principle that there is only one God, and that God does not share his power with anyone — not Imams, and certainly not trees or rocks.

Oneness of Allah

Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab’s emphasis on the oneness of God(Allah) was asserted in contradistinction to shirk, or polytheism, defined as the act of associating any person or object with powers that should be attributed only to God. He condemned specific acts that he viewed as leading to shirk, such as votive offerings, praying at saints’ tombs and at graves, and any prayer ritual in which the suppliant appeals to a third party for intercession with God. Particularly objectionable were certain religious festivals, including celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday, Shia mourning ceremonies, and Sufi mysticism. Consequently, the Wahhabis forbid grave markers or tombs in burial sites and the building of any shrines that could become a locus of shirk.

Death to Unbelievers

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

Return to Orthodoxy

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.

The Wahhabi ulama reject reinterpretation of Quran and sunna in regard to issues clearly settled by the early jurists. 

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.

Conformity Expression of Faith

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 Allah’s laws, it is the responsibility of each Muslim to look after the behaviour of his neighbour and to admonish him if he goes astray. [1]

I have studied Islam for some years now, and like the Scholars of Islam studies, I cannot detect any Wahhabi doctrines that are not in compliance with the Qur’an or the Hadith or the fundamental tenets of Islam. I can only see Wahhabism as reverting to the original, uncontaminated form of Islam as written in the Qur’an and the Hadiths in its “purest form.” There is nothing that contradicts the theology of Islam. In fact Wahhabism is reclaiming the original form of Islam from the corrupted ways of some other sects like Sufism. Can anyone challenge any of the Wahhabi beliefs as un-Islamic? Or not in accordance with Islam as Mohammed taught it?

So before we criticise or condemn a group of people, I hope we first study what that group really represents, and then criticise them on their concepts rather than generalisations and with bias.

NO I AM NOT IN FAVOUR OF WAHHABISM, but I am only seeking the justification for its condemnation. As a Muslim sect, Wahhabism does not violate any of the Islamic teachings that I know of. Hence my detailing what Wahhabism stands for.


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