Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab

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Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab al-Tamimi (1703AD – 1792AD) (Arabic:محمد بن عبد الوهاب التميمى) was an Arab theologian born in the Najd, in present-day Saudi Arabia and the most famous scholar of the Wahhabi movement.

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[edit] Legacy

He considered this movement an effort to purify Islam by returning all Muslims to what he believed were the original principles of Islam, as typified by the as-salaf as-saliheen (the earliest converts to Islam) and rejected what he regarded as corruptions introduced by Bida (innovation, reformation) and Shirk (idolatry).

During his time, he denounced practices of various sects of Sufism as being hereticial and unorthodox, such as their veneration of saints. Although all Muslims pray to one God, Abd-Al-Wahhab was keen on emphasising that no intercession with God was possible, which was something supported by the majority of all Muslims. Specific practices, such as celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad were also deemed as innovations.

He is considered by his followers to be a great reformer of Islam, while the Sufis regard him a deviant.

Regardless of what one's personal stance may be towards him, it is indisputable that he has had a tremendous impact on modern Islam.

ibn Abd-Al-Wahhab revived interest in the works of the Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiya; The followers of this revival (see Islamism) are often called Wahhabis, but they reject the usage of this term on the grounds that ibn Abd-Al-Wahhab's teachings were the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed, not his own. Thus, they refer to themselves as Salafists or Muwahhidun, meaning, "the monotheists."

He struck a deal with Muhammed Ibn Saud, a chief of desert raiders in Najd. As per the deal Ibn Saud and his house will be the chief of political administration whereas Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab and his house will be the chief of Islamic interpretation. Today the royal family of Saudi Arabia belongs to the House of Saud and Grand Mufties from the House of Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab (Aa;-Sheikh). Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab declared the rulers of Hijaz (holy Land of Arabia with holy cities like Makkah and Madinah) to be non-Muslims and therefore worthy of attack and occupation.[citation needed] Refer to David Holden's biography The House of Saud for citation (mentioned in the reference section).

[edit] Biography

[edit] Childhood

The early life of Muhammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab remains fairly uncertain despite the existence of several studies on the subject. Historians at the time had no interest in the life of an obscure, young scholar and most of the contemporary journals do not cover it. Thus, there are only two official histories of Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab and his religious movement, Ibn Ghannam's Tarikh Najd and Ibn Bishr's Unwan al-Majd fi Tarikh Najd.

Three points should be taken into account regarding these sources for the early life of Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab. First, they rarely mention specific dates of events. Secondly, both authors were Wahhabis themselves and therefore had a political and religious agenda to consider. Finally, each was written after the death of Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab.

[edit] Reforms

In the year 1744, Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab began to attract followers in the small town Al-Uyayna, within the Najd region (the central region of modern Saudi Arabia). Lacking a base of support at the time, Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab's teachings were challenged by Sulayman Ibn Muhammed al-Hamidi of the Banu Khalid, the chief of Al-Hasa and Qatif. The latter threatened the ruler of the city that he would not pay him a land tax for his properties if he did not kill Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab - which he declined to do, although Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab was forced to leave.

Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab made a name for himself through a series of actions. First, after he returned to al-Uyayna, he persuaded the ruler of the town to destroy a sacred tomb revered by local Muslims, citing the Prophet Muhammed's teaching that forbade idol-worship. Secondly, he ordered that an adulteress be stoned to death, a practice that had become uncommon in the area. Additionally, he practiced the Islamic concept of rihla fi talab al-'ilm, "traveling the land in order to seek knowledge." The full extent of such travels remains uncertain.

It is known that Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab spent some time in Basra (within modern day Iraq), and it is assumed that as a devout Muslim he traveled to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina before traveling to Basra. Official sources on Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab's life put his visits to these cities in different chronological order.

Almost all sources agree that his reformist ideas were formulated while living in Basra, where he became somewhat famous for his debates with the Islamic scholars there, and wrote the Kitab Al Tawhid ("The Book of Monotheism"). Dates are missing in a great many cases, so it would be impossible to reconstruct a chronology of his life up until 1743, when the Meccan Epistle was written.

[edit] Criticisms

The Egyptian Islamic scholar Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ahamd Barakat al-Shafe'i al-Azhari al-Tantawi wrote an early criticism of ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's reforms in the book, Kitab Rad` al-Dalala wa Qam` al-Jahala ("The Book of the Prevention of Error and the Suppression of Ignorance.") Oddly, Tantawi did not specifically name Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab in the text, but referred to him as 'Sheik al-Nas' (Scholar of the people). This may be seen as either an effort to not humiliate Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab or to simply not draw unwanted attention to the Wahhabi movement. Tantawi wrote that he received word of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's teachings through word-of-mouth and letters from local "authorities." The content of Tantawi's arguments also suggest this, as they do not appear to be based on any writings of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's, instead disputing his general ideas, quoting a considerable number of Qur'anic verses.

Another critic of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab at the time was a major Sufi theologian, Ali al-Shafe'i al-Basri al-Shahir bel-Qabbani. A historian at the time, Ibn Turki, considered Qabbani to be among the four most prolific refuters of Wahhabism, particularly because - unlike Tantawi - he had actually read Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's writings. Qabbani wrote two texts criticizing Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, the Fasl al-Khitab fi Rad Dalalat Ibn Abd al-Wahhab ("the unmistakable judgement in the refutation of the delusions of Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab,") and the Kashf al-Hijab an Wajh Dalalat Ibn al-Wahhab ("lifting the veil from the face of the delusions of Ibn al-Wahhab,"). Qabbani later wrote a formal, anti-Wahhabis tract, citing both sources.

Amongst his supporters are the late Ibn Baz and Ibn Uthaymeen of Saudi Arabia.

[edit] From Death to the Present

During his life, Muhammed Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab forged a pact with Najd chieftain Muhammad bin Saud, ensuring that regions conquered by the Saudi tribe would be ruled according to Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab's peculiar teachings on Islam. Bin Saud and his heirs would spend the next 140 years mounting various military campaigns to seize control of Arabia and its outlying regions. The most successful of these would establish the present-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, providing the Wahhabi movement with a state. Vast wealth from oil discovered in the following decades, coupled with Saudi - and thus Wahhabi - control of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have since fueled Wahhabi missionary activity.

[edit] Commentary

Perceptions of Muhammed Abd Al-Wahhab are varied. To many Muslims who reside in Saudi Arabia or whose Islamic education came from Saudi Arabian instructors (of which there are many abroad, especially in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and other Islamic countries which have prominent Saudis), Abd-al-Wahhab is a leading luminary in the proud tradition of Islamic scholarship. A great number of Sunni Muslims regard him as a pious scholar whose interpretations of Qur'an and Hadith were nevertheless out of step with the mainstream of Islamic thought, and thus discredited.

[edit] Works

Books written by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab include:

  • Kitab at-Tawheed (The Book on Islamic Monotheism)
  • Thalaath al-Usool (The Three Fundamental Principles)
  • Kashif al-Shubuhat (Critical Study of Shirk)
  • Nawaaqidh al-Islaam (Things That Nullify One's Islam)
  • al-Qawaa'id al-'Arba'ah (Four Principles of Shirk)


[edit] References

  • David Holden & Richard Johns, The House of Saud, Pan, 1982, 0-330-26834-1
  • Gold, Dore. Hatred's Kingdom, New York: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2003.
  • Goldberg, Jeffrey. "Inside Jihad U.: The Education of a Holy Warrior," The New York Times Magazine. June 25, 2000.
  • Traboulsi, Samer. Die Welt des Islams, Nov2002, Vol. 42 Issue 3, p373, 43p; (AN 9117682)
  • Qadhi, Yasir. A Critical Study of Shirk: Being a Translation and Commentary of Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab's Kashf al-Shubuhat, al-Hidaayah Publications, Birmingham, UK, 2002.
  • Qadhi, Yasir. The Four Principles of Shirk of Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab, al-Hidaayah Publications, Birmingham, UK, 2001.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

de:Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab fa:محمد پسر عبدالوهاب fr:Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab id:Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab nl:Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhaab pl:Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab

Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab

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