Wahhabi or Wahhabism (Arabic - Wahabiyyah)
also Wahhabi, Wahabi) is a
founded in the mid-eighteenth century by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. Wahhabi is the English name and the name used for them by other sects.
They call themselves Muwahidun (unitarians) and believe in strict asceticism. Muwahidun are the dominant religious sect of
Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabi or Muwahidun are a branch of fundamentalist
Salafi belief who reject innovation in Islam
and believe in returning to Islam as practiced in the days of
Muhammad. Their lifestyle results in
strict suppression and separation of women, which is enforced by religious police in Saudi Arabia. Some other prohibitions and practices of
- There is no other object for worship than God (Allaj)
- Holy men or women must not be used as intermediaries to win favors from God
- No other name than the names of Allah may be used in prayer
- No smoking of tobacco
- Beards must not be shaved (obviously not followed by members of the Saudi royal family)
- Very strict prohibition of alcoholic beverages
- Abusive language is forbidden
- Rosaries are forbidden
- Mosques must be without ornamental artwork or minarets
- All men must attend
Salat (prayer) in public
- Alms (Zakat) are due from all income.
- Butchers who perform
Halal ritual slaughter must be upright
persons, not only adept in the techniques of ritual slaughter.
Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab lived in Saudi Arabia. He studied in Basra, Iraq, and returned to his home town of 'Uyayna.
He was expelled from there for his teachings and settled in Dirriya soon after his return from Iraq, about 1740. He was
taken up as client by the clan of Muhammad ibn Saud. Saud vowed to carry on his teachings and spread them, and the Saud
family were made imams of the Wahhabi movement. The Sauds mounted raids throughout the region, including a rather
vicious raid on Karbala in modern Iraq in 1802, before being contained by the
Following the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, the Saud family seized the chance to conquer all of the Arabian peninsula
from the clan of Sherif Hussein, which had been guardians of the Muslim holy places. The Muwahidun, Wahhabism" became,
in effect, the official religion of Saudi Arabia.
About 1912, the Muwahidun had established farming communities that could also serve as a basis for proselytization,
and whose members were known as
(brothers). Mud huts and semi-permanent dwellings replaced the traditional
nomadic tents. The Ikhwan were presently dissatisfied with the nature of the new Saudi regime, which did not give
a large enough role to religion and to them, in their view, and they revolted against Ibn Saud in the 1920s. Their
revolt was put down with vigor, but the religious views of Saudi society remain generally in accord with Wahhabism. The
Ikhwan were absorbed in part into the Saudi National Guard.
Saudi Wahhabism expresses itself in several ways. A religious "virtue patrol" police ensures that women do not venture
outside their houses in improper attire or keep company with men. Wahhabism has also been the motivation for exporting
Islamist education as well as terrorism, though not all interpretations of the doctrine support terror.
When the price of oil began to soar in the 1970s, followers of Wahhabism used the revenues for "charity" which included
the founding of militant Madrassahs (religious schools) and funding of extremist groups in Afghanistan, Central Asia,
Palestine and elsewhere.
Wahhabism is criticized by other Muslims as being overly extreme, and has kindled antagonism in the west, as it is held
responsible for the rise of terrorism. Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al-Qaeda
is not considered to be a true follower of Wahhabi Islam.
However, he was nurtured in the Wahhabi tradition and in fact developed a
somewhat independent theology that is not totally inconsistent
apparently, with its tenets, based on the ideas of Hassan Al-Banna,
Ala Maududi, Afghani and others as transmitted by Ayman Zawahiri.
Many of his followers were originally Wahhabis and
many of the Madrassahs that turn out Al-Qaeda members are financed by Wahhabis.
Islamist groups draw on Wahhabi and Salafi traditions
and recruit in their Madrassahs, they are not the same ideologies.
or fundamentalists of the "old" type and should not be confused with
Islamist reformists. The two shout not be lumped together as "Salafi-Islamists"
or "Salafi-Jihadists" as some do. Wahhabi and Salafists generally have no
ambitions of social reform or rebellion against Muslim governments, as long as
those governments adhere to Sharia
law and usually oppose terror against other Muslims. The article about Salafi
discusses some of the critiques leveled by Salafi against Islamists.
Revised, December 19, 2008
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
History of Islam and the Arabs
Maududi, Abul ala