Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Islam » Denominations & Sects » Sunni » Wahhabi

Wahhabism is probably the best known of the 18th-century Islamic reform movements, known to those on the outside as a source of global terrorism.

Its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, was trained in law and theology at Mecca and Medina. Drawn to the Hanbali school, the strictest of the Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and to the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah, he came to regard the condition of Islamic society as no better than that of pre-Islamic Arabia. He was disgusted with many of the Islamic practices that had become common in that time, such as the veneration of saints and their tombs, which he compared to pagan superstition and idolatry.

He began a reform movement in the sparsely populated region of Najd, and formed an alliance with Muhammad ibn Saud, a local tribal leader.

Although generally known as Wahhabi, the group referred to itself as the Muwahiddun, which was a reference to unitarians who would uphold and practice monotheism.

The alliance between Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad ibn Saud gave the group a combination of religious zeal and military power, and any Muslims who resisted them were viewed as unbelievers, and enemies who must be subdued.

The Wahhabis viewed the Islamic world as politically weak and in moral decline due to its having departed from the path of true Islam. The solution was a return to Islamic community life based solely on the Quran and the examples of the Prophet Muhammad and the Medina community.

To that end, Wahhabi forces destroyed Sufi shrines and tombs in Mecca and Medina, including those of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. They also destroyed the tomb of Husayn at Karbala, a major Shiite pilgrimage center, an act that continues to foster bad blood between the Wahhabi and the Shia.

Wherever Wahhabism came to power, such as in Saudi Arabia, Islamic law schools were subjected to review and reevaluation in the light of Islam's fundamental sources, and beliefs and practices found to be un-Islamic by the Wahhabis were rooted out.

As they were based in Arabia, "Arab" and "Islam" began to be equated.

Salafism and Wahhabism are said to be movements that had different roots, but which have merged since the 1960s. Today, Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative orientation within the larger Salafi community, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Most Sunni and Shia Muslims disagree with the interpretation of Wahhabism, which is denounced as an extremist sect by many Muslims. For their part, Wahhabis label Muslims who disagree with their brand of Islam as apostates, which justifies their killing.

Within Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism is the state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam. Due to huge investments by the Saudi government, Wahhabism has grown considerably since the 1970s, and has worldwide influence.

Many Wahhabis do not like the term. The founder of Wahhabism, Abd-Al-Wahhab, was opposed to the use of scholars or other individuals as a label for an Islamic school, and preferred the name Muwahhidun, or to simply be referred to as Muslims, as he considered the Wahhabi creed to be pure Islam.

Other terms that Wahhabis have used include Ahl al-hadith, Salafi Da'wa, al-da'wa Ila al-tawhid, Ahl ul-Sunna Wal Jama'a, Ahl al-Sunnah, or as the reform of the Salafi movement of the Sheikh.

Still other Wahhabis prefer the use of the term Salafi, arguing that few Wahhabis refer to themselves or their organizations using "Wahhabi" in the title.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has refuted the use of the term as "a doctrine that doesn't exist here."

However, none of these arguments or terms have caught on so, like many other religious groups, they are most often referred to by a name given them by their detractors.

For the sake of categorization, we are doing the same, while acknowledging that it is not a term that they would use of themselves.

Although Wahabbism is generally considered to be a group within Salafism, we will place its category on the same level as the Salafi category, in order to avoid unnecessary category depth, and because of the prominence of the Wahhabis in the larger community.

Topics related to Wahhabism, by whatever name, or to the Wahhabis, are the focus of this category. Any website whose chief topic is Wahhabism, whether supportive or oppositional, is appropriate for this category.



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