Question # 297: Why do people called the follower of muhammad ibn abdul wahhab. As wahabbi he was on a good path of tawheed he follows sunnah of muhammad (s.a.w) and. Quran?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: Whenever people of desires, innovations and misguidance are confronted with truth and they intend to reject it, they create labels (names) to scare people away; the label “Wahhaabis” is one such creation by the people of misguidance. In fact, Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab called Muslims to Tawheed, who were found committing shirk by worshipping trees, stones, idols, graves, etc. during his time. Hence, his message was in accordance with the Book of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم). He followed the ways of the righteous Salaf and the Taabi’een (i.e., the earliest generations of Islam), as is indicated by his books and fatawa, and the books of his followers. (All of these books are in circulation and available in printed form) However, his opponents fabricated lies against him and spread it among the ummah. All the false claims against him such as: According to Sufis, he was a man of fitna (tribulation) because he came from the place (Najd) from where came the horns of satan (about whom the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) prophesized) or he was from a cursed tribe (Bani Tamim); he was secret agent of the British; he invented a new madhhab and many more are easily refutable with authentic evidences.

Any fair-minded person, who studies the biography and books of this noble man, will know that he is one of those who call people to Allah with sure knowledge, and that he bore many difficulties and hardships in order to restore Islam to its pure form, when it had been altered a great deal at his time, and that was because of his opposition to the whims and desires of the leaders, who stirred up the ignorant masses of the common people against him, so that these so-called leaders could continue to enjoy their positions of worldly leadership and wealth.

Long Answer: It is obligatory upon every Muslim to follow the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), according to the way of the righteous salaf who followed the guidance of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), the Sahabah and those who followed them (رضي الله عنهم). These people are called Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah (the People of the Sunnah and the Community). Everyone who follows the way brought by the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is one of them. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) brought the message of Tawheed (absolute Oneness of Allah) and rejection of shirk (polytheism, or association of others with Allah); he called people to worship Allah alone and none other.

As for the word “Wahhaabis”, some people use this word to refer to the message of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab ibn Sulaymaan al-Tameemi al-Hanbali (may Allah have mercy on him), and they call him and his followers Wahhaabis. Everyone who has any knowledge of the movement of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab and his message knows that he sought to spread the message of pure Tawheed and to warn against shirk in all its forms, such as attachment to the dead, or to trees and rocks, etc. In his ‘aqeedah (belief), he was following the way of the righteous Salaf and the Taabi’een [i.e., the earliest generations of Islam], as is indicated by his books and fatwas, and the books of his followers among his sons and grandsons and others. All of these books are in print and are in circulation among the people. His message was in accordance with the Book of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and the Sunnah of His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Hence, Wahhaabism is not a new way or a new school of thought; rather it is a call to Tawheed and the revival of aspects of the religion that had been forgotten. Hence, we have to beware of those who warn against the Wahhaabis, because such people are warning us against following the truth and the early generation of this ummah. Applying the word “Wahhaabis” to those who adhere to correct belief and warning people against them is the way of the ignorant and biased. (Fataawa al-Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him))

Aqeedah of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab

Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Al-Wahhaab called people to Tawheed and he wrote his famous book on that topic which is called Kitaab al-Tawheed. In this book, he limited himself to quoting only the clear evidence from the verses of the Qur’an and the sahih ahadith of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Commentaries on this book were written by his grandson ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Hasan and other scholars. Hence none of his opponents can refute this book or claim that his evidence is false. They fabricated lies and believed them, so they believed that he was misguided. (Shaykh Ibn Jibreen)

In his book, Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab said, describing himself: “I tell you that– praise be to Allah – my belief and my religion, according to which I worship Allah, is the way of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah, which was the way of the imams of the Muslims, such as the four Imams and their followers until the Day of Resurrection. But I explain to people that they must devote their worship sincerely to Allah (ikhlaas). I forbid them to call upon the Prophets and the dead among the righteous and others, and from associating them with Allah in any act of worship that should be done for Allah alone, such as offering sacrifices, making vows, putting one’s trust, prostrating and other actions which are due to Allah and in which no one should be associated with Him, not any angel who is close to Him or any Prophet who was sent. This is the Message which was proclaimed by all the Messengers, from the first of them to the last of them, and this is the way of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jama’ah. I hold a high position in my village and people listen to me. Some of the leaders denounced that because it goes against the customs they grew up with. I also obliged those who are under me to perform regular prayer, pay zakah and fulfil other Islamic duties, and I forbade them to deal with riba, drink intoxicants and other kinds of forbidden things. The leaders could not criticize that or find fault with it, because it is something that is liked by the common folk, so they directed their criticism and enmity against that which I enjoin of Tawheed and that which I forbid of shirk, and they confused the common folk by saying that this goes against what everyone is doing, and they caused a great deal of fitnah…” (al-Durar al-Sunniyyah)

The call of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab in the twelfth century AH was a continuation of the call of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah which appeared in the seventh and eighth centuries AH.  The Imam was influenced by it because it was in agreement with the basic principles of Islam with regard to beliefs and rulings. These principles included the following:

  • Relying on the Holy Qur’an and the sahih Sunnah as the primary sources of legislation
  • Keenness to adhere to the way of the righteous salaf, namely the Sahaabah, Taabi’een, the four imams and those who followed them.
  • Calling people to Tawheed and rejection of shirk.
  • Affirming that which Allah has affirmed for Himself and denying that which He has denied for Himself with regard to the divine names and attributes.
  • Rejection of fanaticism in following imams and calling for adherence to the truth based on evidence.
  • Promotion of the Sunnah and fighting innovation.

His enemies claimed – falsely – that the Shaykh claimed to be a prophet, and that he did not respect the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) properly, and that he condemned all the ummah as kaafirs… and other fabrications and lies that were told about him. Anyone who examines these claims will realize for sure that they are all lies and fabrications. The books of the Shaykh which are widely circulated bear the greatest witness to that, and his followers who answered his call never mentioned anything to that effect. If the matter were as they claim, his followers would have conveyed the same ideas, otherwise they would have been disloyal to him. If one wants to know more details about this and to clarify the matter, he/she should read the book ‘Da’aawa al-Manaawi’een li Da’wah al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab’ by Dr ‘Abd al-‘Azeez al-‘Abd al-Lateef, which will answer all your questions, if Allah wills. (Manhaaj al-Firqat al-Naajiyah by Shaykh Muhammad Jameel Zayno)

Short History

During the time of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, the people, who committed shirk, were offended with his call, as they considered that the ways of their forefathers were being demeaned and belittled. Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab exposed their practices as being polytheistic and acts of Jahiliyah (ignorance); the knowledgeable among them were more offended as it jeopardized their status and put their sincerity in question among the masses.  Hence, Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab faced stiff resistance from his contemporary so-called scholars, who rejected the truth and employed useless arguments and defamation to attack his methodology. They felt threatened by the wide spread acceptance of the call of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab; and therefore, erected obstacles in the path of dawah by committing aggression against him and his followers. Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab made a pact with Muhammad Ibn Saud (ruler of al-Diriyyah, Najd) to defend the dawah without revolting against any state. Those who rejected the message of Tawheed, thought this to be dangerous, so they directed their attack against Muhammad Ibn Saud; hence, most of the early battle were in defense, but later they retaliated by attacking the rejecters in their areas to remove the barriers to the message of Tawheed. Consequently, there were lot of collateral damages. This is similar to the situation at the time of Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه), when the whole of Arabia went back to kufr and shirk and stopped paying zakah; consequently, Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه), in consultation with Umar Ibn Khattab (رضي الله عنه), agreed to fight those people. After Muhammad Ibn Saud met Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, the former became a scholar; also, his son, Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad Ibn Saud turned out to be a scholar and he ruled until the Wahhaabi movement took over Makkah and Madinah.

The dawah also reached the colony under British control India; many scholars of India supported the dawah of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab. The British witnessed the dawah flourish as its followers included an impressive group of scholars throughout the Muslim world. During that time, the British was also nurturing the Qadiani Sect to replace the mainstream Islamic ideas. They wanted to extend their control over India, while rely on this sect, which was its own creation. With the spread of dawah, came the slogan of jihad against the foreign occupiers. Britain became worried and branded the dawah and its supporters as Wahhaabis to discourage Indian Muslims from joining it.  Many scholars, who supported the dawah, were captured, imprisoned and killed.

In fact, the first one to coin the name “Wahhaabi” was the British Captain Sadlier, who sent his felicitations to Ibrahim Pasha (who was from the Muhammad Ali dynast, which ruled Egypt and Sudan from the 19th to mid-20th century and was instrumental in destroying the first Saudi State) for destroying the Wahhaabi State. During that time, Egypt was completely under French influence and Muhammad Ali (father of Ibrahim Pasha) allowed the French Navy to go in to the Red Sea for the first time.  Muhammad Ali was the one who got instruction from the Ottoman Caliphate to go into Arabia and destroy the Wahhaabi movement by calling them deviants and inventing fabrications against them.

False Claims and their refutation

The following are some of the false claims against him along with the refutations:

  • The Sufis have innovated very many lies and fabrications against Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab. Let’s discuss the ahadith, which the people use to accuse him:
  1. Narrated Ibn `Umar: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Sham! O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Yemen.” The People said, “And also on our Najd.” He said, “O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Sham (north)! O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Yemen.” The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! And also, on our Najd.” I think the third time the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “There (in Najd) is the place of earthquakes and afflictions and from there comes out the side of the head of Satan.” (Sahih Bukhari)
  1. Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri: While the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was distributing (war booty etc.) one day, Dhul Khawaisira, a man from the tribe of Bani Tamim, said, “O Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم)! Act justly.” The Prophets said, “Woe to you! Who else would act justly if I did not act justly?” `Umar said (to the Prophet), “Allow me to chop his neck off.” The Prophet said, “No, for he has companions (who are apparently so pious that) if anyone of (you compares his prayer with) their prayer, he will consider his prayer inferior to theirs, and similarly his fasting inferior to theirs, but they will desert Islam (go out of religion) as an arrow goes through the victim’s body (games etc.) in which case if its Nasl is examined nothing will be seen thereon, and if its Nady is examined, nothing will be seen thereon, and if its Qudhadh is examined, nothing will be seen thereon, for the arrow has gone out too fast even for the excretions and blood to smear over it. Such people will come out at the time of difference among the (Muslim) people and the sign by which they will be recognized, will be a man whose one of the two hands will look like the breast of a woman or a lump of flesh moving loosely.” Abu Sa`id added, “I testify that I heard that from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and also testify that I was with `Ali when `Ali fought against those people. The man described by the Prophet was searched for among the killed, and was found, and he was exactly as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had described him.” (Sahih Bukhari)

Using the above ahadith, the Sufis accused Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab because he was from Najd as well as the tribe of Bani Tamim. They said he is the man of fitna (tribulation) because he is the one, about whom the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) prophesized.

Refutation: Firstly, the places which were called Najd (means elevated land; [it also means East in Arabic]) at that time, were 13 in number and the most common one was Iraq. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) spoke about the fitna coming from East and that was in the direction of Iraq, according to Imam Ibn Hajar and other scholars. Ibn Fudail reported on the authority of his father that he heard Salim bin `Abdullah bin `Umar as saying: O people of Iraq, how strange it is that you ask about the minor sins but commit major sins [referring to the killing of Al-Hussein]? I heard from my father `Abdullah bin `Umar, narrating that he heard Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) as saying while pointing his hand towards the east: Verily, the turmoil would come from this side, from where appear the horns of Satan and you would strike the necks of one another…” (Sahih Muslim). There are similar other several narrations referring to Iraq in specific. And history has witness the turmoil in Iraq ever since the time of Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). Hence, referring to these ahadith, it is clear that when Najd was mentioned by Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), it was Iraq, one of the Najd.

Next, the man Dhul Khawaisira, who mentioned in the above hadith was from Bani Tamim; however, this narration does not make the entire tribe evil. This is proved from the following hadith: Narrated Abu Huraira: I have loved the people of the tribe of Bani Tamim ever since I heard, three things, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said about them. I heard him saying, these people (of the tribe of Bani Tamim) would stand firm against Ad-Dajjal.” When the Sadaqat (gifts of charity) from that tribe came, Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “These are the Sadaqat (i.e. charitable gifts) of our folk.” `Aisha had a slave-girl from that tribe, and the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to `Aisha, “Manumit her as she is a descendant of Ishmael (the Prophet). (Sahih Bukhari)

Secondly, the Sufis did not like his teachings, whereby he forbade Muslims from visiting graves for the purpose of praying to the dead persons (use them as intercessors) to ask for their forgiveness from Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), as this is shirk in Islam.

  • Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab is blamed to be the secret agent of the British government.

Refutation: Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab was born in 1115 H (1703) and died in 1206 H (1792). He spent good number of years seeking Islamic knowledge; he left Basra before starting his dawah in Arabia. Since he was not a famous person in Basra, the intention of the British Council to meet him and having a pact with him was absurd. According to authentic historical report, his father died in Huraimila, Najd in 1153 H (1740); and few years before that Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab moved to Huraimila, Najd and never left Arabia. It should be noted that the British military involvement in the Arabian Gulf started only in the 19th century and Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab died in the 17th century. Initially, the involvement of British was in the commercial aspect and not as a major military power in the Gulf; by the time, the British Council was recognized in Basra, it was 1767. The first British Council was approved by the Ottoman Caliphate in 1767. So, in fact, the British Council came to Basra at least 27 years after Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab left Basra. Hence, this allegation is a pure fabrication.

  • Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab start a new sect.

Refutation: During the time of Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, the four well-known established major school of thoughts existed. Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab learned from scholars as well as from his father (a major scholar of Hanbali madhhab in Huraimila) and practiced the Hanbali madhhab. He wrote books and gave fatawa based on Hanbali madhhab (which is clearly evidenced from his writings), and even his son Abdullah (who was also a scholar) wrote that from the Sunnis, we expect them to follow only one of the four established madhahib. Further, with regards to madhabib, …many orientalists hold the view that he had the purifying and reformist mission dedicated to returning people to the methodology of Salaf us-saalih. Since during the Abbasid Caliphate, the State was forced to follow the Hanafi madhhab, the mufti and the associated scholars at the time of succeeding Ottoman Caliphate were also Hanafis but they tolerated the other three madhahib. However, … the Ottoman State forcibly instructed some of its scholars to ascribe statement to Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab that were unsupported by what Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) revealed, to make people believe that he came up with a fifth madhhab.

Conclusion

Any fair-minded person who studies the books of this man will know that he is one of those who call people to Allah with sure knowledge, and that he bore many difficulties and hardships in order to restore Islam to its pure form, when it had been altered a great deal at his time, and that was because of his opposition to the whims and desires of the leaders, who stirred up the ignorant masses of the common people against him, so that they could continue to enjoy their positions of worldly leadership and wealth.

As a seeker of truth, one should avoid falsehood and error no matter who is promoting it. So, if one looks at any of the books by this shaykh – more specifically, ‘Kitaab al-Tawheed alladhi huwa haqq Allah ‘ala al-‘Abeed’ [Kitaab al-Tawheed is available in English translation], he/she will find out how great the Shaykh’s knowledge was, and how important his call is, and the extent to which his words have been twisted and accusations have been made against him.

The great scholar Shaykh Ahmad ibn Hajar Aal Bootaami mentioned many statements in his book al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, such as the following:

Manhaj Haroon said, refuting the English writer Count Wales: “Everything that Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab said has been said by others who came before him of imams and scholars, and the noble Sahabah. He did not go beyond anything that Imam Ahmad and Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on them) had said.”

Muhammad Diya’ al-Deen al-Rayyis said: “… Ibn Taymiyah is the direct teacher of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, even though there were four centuries between them. He read his books and was completely influenced by his teachings.”

Brockelmann said in History of the Islamic Peoples: “In Baghdad, Muhammad studied the fiqh of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, then he studied the writings of Ahmad ibn Taymiyah who had revived the teachings of Ibn Hanbal in the fourteenth century (CE). In fact, his study of the views of these two imams led him to the conclusion that Islam, in the form that was prevalent during his time, especially among the Turks, was mixed with a great deal of incorrect ideas that had nothing to do with the sound Islamic teachings.”

Ahmad Ameen said: “… In his da’wah and teachings, he followed the example of a great scholar and teacher who had appeared in the seventh century AH at the time of the Sultan al-Naasir, namely Ibn Taymiyah, who believed in ijtihad and was a free thinker within the limits set by the Qur’aan and Sunnah. It seems that Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab knew of Ibn Taymiyah, who was his imam and leader, and his example, the one who inspired him with regard to ijtihaad and calling for reform.” (‘Athar Da’wat Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah fi’l-Harakaat al-Islamiyyah al-Mu’aasirah’ by Salaah al-Deen Maqbool)

Shaykh Mullah ‘Imraan who was a Shi’a but Allah guided him to the Sunnah, said: “If the follower of Ahmad [the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)] is a Wahhaabi, then I affirm that I am a Wahhaabi. I reject the association of any other with Allah, for I have no Lord except the Unique, the Bestower (al-Wahhaab). Those who were called by the Prophet accused him of being a sorcerer and a liar.”  (Manhaaj al-Firqat al-Naajiyah by Shaykh Muhammad Jameel Zayno)

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Manzoor al-Nu’maani said: “The English (British) made the most of the hostility that existed in India towards Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab and they accused everyone who opposed them and stood in their way, or whom they regarded as dangerous, of being Wahhabis… Similarly, the English called the scholars of Deoband – in India – Wahhaabis, because of their blunt opposition to the English and their putting pressure on them.” (Di’aaya Mukaththafah Didd al- Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab)

(The above reply is based on the following resources:

  • Video Lecture – The Wahabi Myth – The Life of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab by Jalal Abualrub (paraphrased)
  • Video Lecture – Exposing Wahabism? – Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari (paraphrased)
  • Various answers provided by Islamqa.info on similar topics)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam