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Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab facts for kids

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Muḥammad bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb bin Sulaimān bin ʿAlī bin Muḥammad bin Aḥmad at-Tamīmī
محمد بن عبد الوهاب.png
Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb's name in Islāmic calligraphy
Religion Islām
Denomination Sunni
Born 1703 (1115 A.H)
Al-‘Uyainah, Najd
Died 22 June 1792 (1206 AH) (aged 88-89)
Dir‘iyah, First Saudi State
Senior posting
Title Sheikh Al-Islam
Influenced Muhammad bin Saud,
House of Saud
‘Abd al-‘Azīz ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Bāz,
Muḥammad ibn al-‘Uthaimīn,
Muḥammad Nāṣir ad-Dīn al-Albānī,
‘Abd ar-Raḥmān as-Sudais,
Su‘ūd ash-Shuraim
Arabic name
Personal (Ism) Muḥammad
Patronymic (Nasab) ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb ibn Sulaimān ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Rāshid
Teknonymic (Kunya) Abū al-Ḥasan
Epithet (Laqab) an-Najdī
Toponymic (Nisba) at-Tamīmī

Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb ibn Sulaimān at-Tamīmī ( Arabic: مُحَمَّدُ بنُ عَبْدِ الوَهَّابِ بنِ سُلَيْمَانَ التَّمِيْمِيُّ ; 1703 – 22 June 1792) was a religious leader, reformer, scholar and theologian from Najd in central Arabia, attributed as the founder of the Islamic doctrine and movement known as Wahhabism.

The name "Wahhabi" is not claimed by his followers but rather employed in criticism. Born to a family of jurists, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's early education consisted of learning a fairly standard curriculum of orthodox jurisprudence according to the Hanbali school of Islamic law, which was the school most prevalent in his area of birth. He promoted strict adherence to traditional Islamic Law, proclaiming the necessity of returning directly to the Quran and hadith, rather than relying on medieval interpretations and insisted that every Muslim – male and female – personally read and study the Qur'an. He opposed taqlid (blind following) and called for the use of ijtihad (independent legal reasoning through research of scripture). He had initial rudimentary training in classical Sunni Muslim tradition, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab gradually became opposed to many popular, yet contested, religious practices such as the visitation to and veneration of the shrines and tombs of Muslim saints, which he felt amounted to heretical religious innovation or even idolatry. His call for social reform in society was based on the key doctrine of Tawhid (oneness of God). Despite his teachings being rejected and opposed by many of the most notable Sunni Muslim scholars of the period, including his own father and brother, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab charted a religio-political pact with Muhammad bin Saud to help him to establish the Emirate of Diriyah, the first Saudi state, and began a dynastic alliance and power-sharing arrangement between their families which continues to the present day in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Al ash-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia's leading religious family, are the descendants of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, and have historically led the ulama in the Saudi state, dominating the state's clerical institutions.

The Austro-Hungarian born Muslim scholar Muhammad Asad noted that all modern Islamic Renaissance movements took inspiration from the spiritual impetus set in motion in 18th-century by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab.

Early years

Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab is generally acknowledged to have been born in 1703 into the sedentary and impoverished Arab clan of Banu Tamim in 'Uyayna, a village in the Najd region of central Arabia. Before the emergence of Wahhabism there was a very limited history of Islamic education in the area. For this reason, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab had modest access to Islamic education during his youth. Despite this, the area had nevertheless produced several notable jurists of the Hanbali school of orthodox Sunni jurisprudence, which was the school of law most prominently practiced in the area. In fact, Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab's own family "had produced several doctors of the school," with his father, Sulaymān b. Muḥammad, having been the Hanbali jurisconsult of the Najd and his grandfather, ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, having been a judge of Hanbali law.

Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab's early education was taught by his father and consisted of learning the Quran by heart and studying a rudimentary level of Hanbali jurisprudence and Islamic theology as outlined in the works of Ibn Qudamah (d. 1223), one of the most influential medieval representatives of the Hanbali school, whose works were regarded "as having great authority" in the Najd. As the veneration of Muslim saints (also known as the cult of saints) and the belief in their ability to perform miracles by the grace of God had become one of the most omnipresent and established aspects of Sunni Muslim practice throughout the Islamic world, being an agreed-upon tenet of the faith by the vast majority of the classical scholars, it was not long before Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab began to encounter the omnipresence of saint-veneration in his area as well; and he probably chose to leave Najd and look elsewhere for studies to see if the honoring of saints was as popular in the neighboring places of the Muslim world or the possibility that his home town offered inadequate educational resources. Even today, the reasoning for why he left Najd is unclear.

After leaving 'Uyayna, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab performed the Greater Pilgrimage in Mecca, where the scholars appear to have held opinions and espoused teachings that were unpalatable to him. After this, he went to Medina, the stay at which seems to have been "decisive in shaping the later direction of his thought." In Medina, he met a Hanbali theologian from Najd named ʿAbd Allāh b. Ibrāhīm al-Najdī, who had been a supporter of the neo-Hanbali works of Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), the controversial medieval scholar whose teachings had been considered heterodox and misguided on several important points by the vast majority of Sunni Muslim scholars up to that point in history.

Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's teacher, Abdallah ibn Ibrahim ibn Sayf, introduced the relatively young man to Mohammad Hayyat Al-Sindhi in Medina, who belonged to the Naqshbandi order (tariqa) of Sufism, and recommended him as a student. Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab and al-Sindhi became very close, and Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab stayed with him for some time. Muhammad Hayya also taught Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab to reject popular religious practices associated with walis and their tombs that resemble later Wahhabi teachings. Following his early education in Medina, Ibn ʿAbd-al-Wahhab traveled outside of the Arabian Peninsula, venturing first to Basra which was still an active center of Islamic culture.

Early preaching

His leave from Basra marked the end of his education and as he returned home, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab began to attract followers, including the ruler of 'Uyayna, Uthman ibn Mu'ammar. Once returned to Huraymila, where his father had settled, Ibn 'And al-Wahhab wrote his first work on the Unity of god. With Ibn Mu'ammar, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab agreed to support Ibn Mu'ammar's political ambitions to expand his rule "over Najd and possibly beyond", in exchange for the ruler's support for Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's religious teachings. Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab began to implement some of his ideas for reform. First, he persuaded Ibn Mu'ammar to help him level the grave of Zayd ibn al-Khattab, a companion of Muhammad, whose grave was revered by locals. Secondly, he ordered the cutting down of trees considered sacred by locals, cutting down "the most glorified of all of the trees" himself.

These actions gained the attention of Sulaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Ghurayr of the tribe of Bani Khalid, the chief of Al-Hasa and Qatif, who held substantial influence in Najd. Ibn Ghurayr threatened Ibn Mu'ammar by denying him the ability to collect a land tax for some properties that Ibn Mu'ammar owned in Al-Hasa if he did not kill or drive away from Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab. Consequently, Ibn Mu'ammar forced Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab to leave.

Emergence of Saudi state

Pact with Muhammad bin Saud

First Saudi State Big
First Saudi State (1744–1818)

Upon his expulsion from 'Uyayna, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab was invited to settle in neighboring Diriyah by its ruler Muhammad bin Saud. After some time in Diriyah, Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab concluded his second and more successful agreement with a ruler. Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab and Muhammad bin Saud agreed that, together, they would bring the Arabs of the peninsula back to the "true" principles of Islam as they saw it. According to one source, when they first met, bin Saud declared:

This oasis is yours, do not fear your enemies. By the name of God, if all Nejd was summoned to throw you out, we will never agree to expel you.

—Madawi al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia: 16

Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab replied:

You are the settlement's chief and wise man. I want you to grant me an oath that you will perform jihad against the unbelievers. In return, you will be imam, leader of the Muslim community and I will be leader in religious matters.

—Madawi al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia: 16

The agreement was confirmed with a mutual oath of loyalty (bay'ah) in 1744. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab would be responsible for religious matters and Ibn Saud in charge of political and military issues. This agreement became a "mutual support pact" and power-sharing arrangement between the Al Saud family, and the Al ash-Sheikh and followers of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, which has remained in place for nearly 300 years, providing the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion.

Emirate of Diriyah (First Saudi State)

Further information: Demolition of al-Baqi, Wahhabi sack of Karbala, and Wahhabi War

The 1744 pact between Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab marked the emergence of the first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah. By offering the Al Saud a clearly defined religious mission, the alliance provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion. First conquering Najd, Al Saud's forces expanded the Salafi influence to most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia, eradicating various popular practices they viewed as akin to polytheism and propagating the doctrines of ʿAbd al-Wahhab.


According to academic publications such as the Encyclopædia Britannica while in Baghdad, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab married an affluent woman. When she died, he inherited her property and wealth. Muhammad ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab had six sons; Hussain (died 1809), Abdullah (1751–1829), Hassan, Ali (died 1829), Ibrahim and Abdulaziz who died in his youth. Four of his sons, Hussain, Abdullah, Ali and Ibrahim, established religious schools close to their home in Diriyah and taught the young students from Yemen, Oman, Najd and other parts of Arabia at their majlis. One of their pupils was Husayn Ibn Abu Bakr Ibn Ghannam, a well-known Hanbali scholar.

The descendants of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, the Al ash-Sheikh, have historically led the ulama in the Saudi state, dominating the state's religious institutions. Within Saudi Arabia, the family is held in prestige similar to the Saudi royal family, with whom they share power, and has included several religious scholars and officials. The arrangement between the two families is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh's authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Salafi doctrine. In return, the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud's political authority thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimize the royal family's rule.


Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab considered his movement an effort to purify Islam by returning Muslims to what, he believed, were the original principles of that religion. His works were generally short, full of quotations from the Qur'an and hadiths and wrote the book Kitab al-Tawhid. He taught that the primary doctrine of Islam was the uniqueness and oneness of God (Tawhid) and denounced popular beliefs of polytheism (shirk).

The "core" of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's teaching is found in Kitab al-Tawhid, a short essay which draws from material in the Quran and the recorded doings and sayings (hadith) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It preaches that worship in Islam includes conventional acts of worship such as the five daily prayers (salat); fasting (sawm); supplication (Dua); seeking protection or refuge (Istia'dha); seeking help (Ist'ana and Istighatha) of Allah.

Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab was keen on emphasizing that other acts, such as making dua or calling upon/supplication to or seeking help, protection or intercession from anyone or anything other than Allah, are acts of shirk and contradict the tenets of tawhid and that those who tried would never be forgiven.

Traditionally, most Muslims throughout history have held the view that declaring the testimony of faith is sufficient in becoming a Muslim. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab did not agree with this. He held the view that an individual who believed that there could be intercessors with God was actually performing shirk. This was the major difference between him and his opponents and led him to declare Muslims who engaged in shirk to be apostates (takfir) and idolators (mushrikin).

Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's movement is today often known as Wahhabism. Contrary to popular belief, the name itself is derived from his father's name 'Abd al-Wahhab (servant of the Bestower of gifts) rather than Muhammad's own name. Many adherents consider the term Wahhabism as a derogatory term coined by his opponents, and prefer it to be known as the Salafi movement. Scholars point out that Salafism is a term applied to several forms of puritanical Islam in various parts of the world, while Wahhabism refers to the specific Saudi school, which is seen as a more strict form of Salafism.

On Sufism

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab praised Tasawwuf. He stated the popular saying: “From among the wonders is to find a Sufi who is a faqih and a scholar who is an ascetic (zahid).” He describes Tasawwuf as "the science of the deeds of the heart, which is known as the science of Suluk" and considered it as an important branch of religious sciences.

At the end of his treatise, Al-Hadiyyah al-Suniyyah, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab's son 'Abd Allah speaks positively on the practice of tazkiah (purification of the inner self).

Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab ends his treatise saying:

We do not negate the way of the Sufis and the purification of the inner self from the vices of those sins connected to the heart and the limbs as long as the individual firmly adheres to the rules of Shari‘ah and the correct and observed way. However, we will not take it on ourselves to allegorically interpret (ta’wil) his speech and his actions. We only place our reliance on, seek help from, beseech aid from and place our confidence in all our dealings in Allah Most High. He is enough for us, the best trustee, the best mawla and the best helper. May Allah send peace on our master Muhammad, his family and companions.

On non-Muslims

According to the political scientist Dore Gold, Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab presented a strong anti-Christian and anti-Judaic stance in Kitab al-Tawhid, describing followers of both the Christian and Jewish faiths as sorcerers who believed in devil-worship, and cited a hadith attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad stating that punishment for the sorcerer is "that he be struck with the sword". Wahhab asserted that both religions had improperly made the graves of their prophet into places of worship and warned Muslims not to imitate this practice. Wahhab concluded that "The ways of the people of the book are condemned as those of polytheists."

However, the scholar Natana J. DeLong-Bas defended Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, stating that

despite his at times vehement denunciations of other religious groups for their supposedly heretical beliefs, Ibn Abd al Wahhab never called for their destruction or death … he assumed that these people would be punished in the Afterlife …"

Historical accounts of Wahhab also state that "Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab saw it as his mission to restore a more purer and original form of the faith of Islam. […] Anyone who didn't adhere to this interpretation were considered polytheists worthy of death, including fellow Muslims (especially Shi'ite who venerate the family of Muhammad), Christians and others. He also advocated for a literalist interpretation of the Quran and its laws".

On saints

Ibn Wahhab strongly condemned the worship of Saints, labeling it as shirk, or associating divinity to beings other than God. Despite his great aversion to venerating the saints after their earthly passing and seeking their intercession, it should nevertheless be noted that Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab did not deny the existence of saints as such; on the contrary, he acknowledged that "the miracles of saints (karāmāt al-awliyāʾ) are not to be denied, and their right guidance by God is acknowledged" when they acted properly during their life.

Contemporary recognition

The national mosque of Qatar is named after him. The "Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque" was opened in 2011, with the Emir of Qatar presiding over the occasion. The mosque can hold a congregation of 30,000 people. In 2017 there has been a request published on the Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz signed by 200 descendants of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab that the name of the mosque be changed, because according to their statement "it does not carry its true Salafi path", even though most Qataris adhere to Wahhabism.

Despite Wahhabi destruction of many Islamic, cultural, and historical sites associated with the early history of Islam and the first generation of Muslims (Muhammad's family and his companions), the Saudi government undertook a large-scale development of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab's domain, Diriyah, turning it into a major tourist attraction. Other features in the area include the Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab Foundation, which is planned to include a light and sound presentation located near the Mosque of Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulwahab.


  • Risālah Aslu Dīn Al-Islām wa Qā'idatuhu
  • Kitab al-Quran (The book of Allah)
  • Kitab at-Tawhid (The Book of the Oneness of God)
  • Kashf ush-Shubuhaat (Clarification of the Doubts)
  • Al-Usool-uth-Thalaatha (The Three Fundamental Principles)
  • Al Qawaaid Al 'Arbaa (The Four Foundations)
  • Al-Usool us Sittah (The Six Fundamental Principles)
  • Nawaaqid al Islaam (Nullifiers of Islam)
  • Adab al-Mashy Ila as-Salaa (Manners of Walking to the Prayer)
  • Usul al-Iman (Foundations of Faith)
  • Fada'il al-Islam (Excellent Virtues of Islam)
  • Fada'il al-Qur'an (Excellent Virtues of the Qur'an)
  • Majmu'a al-Hadith 'Ala Abwab al-Fiqh (Compendium of the Hadith on the Main Topics of the Fiqh)
  • Mukhtasar al-Iman (Abridgement of the Faith; i.e. the summarised version of a work on Faith)
  • Mukhtasar al-Insaf wa'l-Sharh al-Kabir (Abridgement of the Equity and the Great Explanation)
  • Mukhtasar Seerat ar-Rasul (Summarised Biography of the Prophet)
  • Kitaabu l-Kabaair (The Book of Great Sins)
  • Kitabu l-Imaan (The Book of Trust)
  • Al-Radd 'ala al-Rafida (The Refutation of the Rejectionists)
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