The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







(Redirected from Wahhabi)
This article forms part of the series
Vocabulary of Islam
Five Pillars
Profession of faith
Prayer · Alms · Fasting
Pilgrimage to Mecca
Prophets of Islam
Caliphs · Shia Imams
Companions of Muhammad
Holy Cities
Mecca · Medina · Jerusalem
Najaf · Karbala · Kufa
Kazimain · Mashhad · Samarra
Hijra · Islamic calendar · Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Adha · Aashura · Arba'in
Mosque · Minaret · Mihrab · Kaaba
Islamic architecture
Functional Religious Roles
Muezzin · Imam · Mullah
Ayatollah · Mufti
Interpretive Texts & Practices
Qur'an · Hadith · Sunnah
Fiqh · Fatwa · Sharia
Sunni: Hanafi · Hanbali · Maliki · Shafi'i
Shi'a: Ithna Asharia · Ismailiyah · Zaiddiyah
Others: Ibadi · Kharijite · Murjite · Mu'tazili
Sufism · Wahhabism · Salafism
Non-Mainstream Sects / Movements
Ahmadiyyah · Nation of Islam
Zikri · Druze
Related Faiths
Babism · Bahá'í Faith · Yazidi
The factual accuracy of this article is disputed.

Wahhabism (sometimes spelled Wahabbism or Wahabism) is a movement of Islam named after Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (17031792). It is a fundamentalist sect which branched off of the Sunni form of Islam and has become an object of increased interest because it is the major sect of the government and society of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, and claimed to be followed by Osama bin Laden, who was raised in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is an offending synonym for one form of Salafism. Osama bin Laden's recent alliance with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a presumed Salafi, at least shows his Salafi tendencies. Late great scholars of Wahhabsim declared bin Laden to be Khawarij and thus not belonging to the Salafi methodology. Some traditional Sunni scholars claim that Osama bin Laden is from the Qutbist branch of Salafism and not the Wahhabi branch. This is the view of some of those affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of America.


Origin of the term "Wahhabi"

The term "Wahhab" is derived from Al-Wahhab: the Generous Giver, a name of Allah in Islam. Some Wahhabis take this as an argumentative compliment when faced with Wahhabi as a derogatory term.

Many Wahhabi Muslims do not approve of this name. Historically, members of this movement call themselves al-Muwahhiddun, ("the monotheists") or al-Ikhwan ("the brethren"). (The name al-Muwahhidun should not be confused with the 12th century al-Muwahhidun movement and dynasty of Morocco.)

The Wahhabis claim to call to the way of the "Salaf as-Salih", the 'rightly guided or pious predecessors', the way of Mohammed and his companions. It is also why they are sometimes known as Salafis, i.e. people who are upon the way of the pious predecessors.


Wahhabism follows Islam, so the Quran and the Hadiths are its basic text. It also uses explanations of Quran and Hadiths from the writings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, from such books as Kitab al-Tawhid (Arabic, "Book of Monotheism") and works of scholars before him such as Ibn Taymiyya (1263–1328).


Wahhabi theology advocates a fundamentalist and legalistic stance in matters of faith and religious practice.

Wahhabism traces its origins and call all the way back to Prophet Mohammed and his Companions. They see their role as a movement to restore Islam from what they perceive to be innovations, superstitions, deviances, heresies and idolatries. During the time of Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, whose prominence gave name to this movement, there were many practices that they believed were contrary to Islam, such as:

  • Invoking any prophet, saint or angel in prayer, other than Allah alone (this is considered polytheism)
  • Grave worship, whether to saints' graves, or the prophet's grave
  • Celebrating annual feasts for dead saints
  • Wearing of charms, and believing in their healing power
  • Practicing magic, or going to sorcerers or witches seeking healing
  • Innovation in matters of religion (e.g. new methods of worship)
  • Erecting elaborate monuments over any grave

The opponents argue that these practices have adequate proofs from the Qur'an and Sunnah and have been accepted by Sunni scholars since the early days of Islam. They also see grave worship as intermediation (tawassul), and claim this is accepted and called for practice in Islam.


Wahhabism is often maligned and attacked by adherents of Ash'ari belief as being anthropomorphist, which was a common accusation of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal by his Mu'tazilite detractors, and Ibn Taymiyya by Ash'ari contemporaries.

Some critiques of Wahhabism are as follows:

  • Since they developed within a desert and tribal environment, not in a metropolis, they were affected by that environment. They were confined to tribal customs and practices in many areas, for example, the minority view of women having to cover their face becomes the only valid view, despite centuries of scholars from more liberal sects of Islam saying otherwise.
  • Having not been exposed to non-Muslims, or to a more vibrant and open society (such as a metropolis), their views are not favorable towards non-Muslims, and depend mainly on hearsay. Ironically, they are the fastest growing Muslim way in western countries.
  • They are literalist and legalistic to the extreme.
  • They lack flexibility.

Many Sunni Muslims criticise Wahhabism for its lack of flexibility and general intolerance towards other religions and even towards other Muslim sects. A number of moderate Islamic groups have publicly condemned Wahhabism as being a distortion of historic Islam.

Early history of Wahhabism

Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia began with a surge of reformers seeking to reclaim orthodox Islam from innovation by various sects of Sunni Muslims. In the 18th century, it spread in Najd along with the expansion of the First Saudi State under Muhammad bin Saud and his successors.

Modern spread of Wahhabism

Wahhabism is the official form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. In 1924 the Wahhabi al-Saud dynasty conquered Mecca and Medina, cities holy to Muslims, creating the Saudi state. The spread of Wahhabi Islam has been facilitated by Saudi oil revenues; Saudi laypeople, government officials and clerics have donated many tens of millions of dollars to create Wahhabi-oriented religious schools, newspapers and outreach organizations.

Some Wahhabis believe that many Muslim Brotherhood scholars — Sayyed Qutb and Yusuf al-Qaradawi are sometimes cited — are corrupted due to their innovations in Islam, and their call to revolution and rebellion against the rulers of Muslim countries. For the same reason, they often hold that Osama bin Laden is not a true Wahhabi, but a Qutbee (follower of Sayyed Qutb), due to his rebellion against the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

Wahhabis ban pictures, photographs, musical instruments, singing, video, suicide bombings, and celebrating Mohammed's birthday, among many other things, based on their interpretation of the hadiths (classical collections) of Mohammad.

Many contend that Wahhabism is or has become a dominant form of Islam through proselytization driven by Saudi funding; others contend that its influence is less widespread and that the practice and observance of Wahhabism and the political manifestations that flow therefrom are more nuanced than its most doctrinaire interpretations.

Differences between Wahhabis and traditional Sunni Muslims

There are three main differences between Wahhabi Muslims and Sunni Muslims. These three differences are jurispudence (fiqh), beliefs (aqeedah), and sufism (tassawuf). Wahhabi Muslims do not believe in blind following (taqleed) of one of the 4 mainstream schools of Sunni Islamic law: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali; while Sunnis hold this necessary and essential. In beliefs, Wahhabi Muslims take the entire Qur'an literally, even statements such as "Allah's hand" and therefore have anthropomorphic tendencies. Sunni Muslims either take these statements with figurative interpretations or use the principle of "billa kayf" or "without asking how." Wahhabi Muslims hold Sufism as gross innovation, even going as far as calling many Sufis pagans while Sunni Muslims hold Sufism is an essential part of Islam.

External links

  • The Wahhabi Myth
  • Britannica Concise Encyclopedia article
  • A Correction Of Misunderstandings Found In Non-Arabic Sources About The Movement Of Sheikh Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab - A compendium of Wahhabi apologetics targeted to Muslims
  • A discussion of alleged Wahhabi anthropomorphism
  • 1911 Encyclopedia article on Wahhabis
  • Wahhabism by Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani offers a Shia view
  • A Western view of Wahhabism
  • Anti Wahabi's
  • The Differences between Salafis, Wahhabis, and Qutbists

See also

Last updated: 02-08-2005 15:36:51
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01