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A New Dawn The Movement of Mohamed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab*

At the turn of the Twelfth Century after the Hijrah-The eighteenth century CE-ignorance and backwardness in all venues of life afflicted the Islamic world. The light of faith had faded from the hearts of many Muslims, and Shari'ah was smeared and distorted, to the extent that many Muslims fell victims to various types of Shirk or polytheism. They ascribed partners with Allah, and indulged in Jaheliyah (state of religious ignorance) similar to that which was rampant before the advent of Islam. Many Muslims in those days believed in the sacredness of certain persons, who were, according to their twisted understanding, capable of granting them provisions, victory, health, etc. Superstition, fables and innovations were abounding. Much wealth and materials were wasted in building tombs and shrines to which they made pilgrimage, and at whose thresholds they offered animal sacrifices. Furthermore, they glorified and worshiped special trees and stones. They sought barakah or blessings from those false Deities. It is a fact that people in Baghdad, for instance, used to seek barakah from a rusted ottoman canon. They would take their children to this canon invoking it to make them eloquent and fluent in speech.

            In those days, the Arab peninsula was in an extreme state of division. Every village had its own Emir, and the relations among those villages were enmity-based, not to mention the bitter hostilities that characterized the relationship between the cities and the rural areas. Individuals from the nomadic tribes would seize any opportunity to raid and steal belongings and properties of the dwellers of towns and cities. The pathways and road were unsafe and travel was treacherous.

            From the heart of that chaos, darkness and disorder, a voice was heard, calling the people to return to the purity and beauty of aqueedah or faith, to the pure belief and full servitude to Allah, the tawheed.

            That voice was the voice of Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1115-1206 AH/ 1791-1703 CE). He called for the renewal, revival and resurrection of the true aspects and features of Islam that were then blurred or covered by false beliefs and practices. Allah blessed the Shaikh's movement and efforts with success. His teachings widely spread. His following began to grow in numbers.

            That voice was the voice of Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1115-1206 AH/ 1791-1703 CE). He called for the renewal, revival and resurrection of the true aspects and features of Islam that were then blurred or covered by false beliefs and practices. Allah blessed the Shaikh's movement and efforts with success. His teachings widely spread. His following began to grow in numbers.

            Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab acquired Islamic sciences from his father who too was a judge and a noted scholar. Then his appetite and yearning for knowledge took him to Madinah in Hijaz region where he acquired Ilm (Islamic Knowledge) from a number of scholars like Muhammad As-Sindi. After that he moved to Iraq where he studied Hadeeth, jurisprudence and Arabic language. His original intention was to travel to Damascus from Iraq, but for some reasons, he could not. Therefore, he went back to his village al-Uyynah, and started propagating his teachings. He called upon his people to abstain from the erroneous and unauthentic religious practices and follow the original deen and Shari'ah that were embraced and practiced by the first and righteous generation of Islam. He criticized and denied their polytheistic practices, rites and inventions, not only theoretically, but he followed up his preaching with deeds. He destroyed the shrines and tombs that were erected on the graves of his people's sacred persons. He felled the trees that were glorified by people.

            Soon the efforts of Ibn Abdul Wahhab and people around him started yielding positive results. Many people came to him to learn Ilm. The news of this Shaikh and his teachings hit the neighboring villages and towns. The ruling entities in those areas and heads of the different tribes were worried and fearful of the danger his teachings might pose to their authorities, for it calls for the liberation of people from the darkness of ignorance and from the excesses and oppressions of corrupted and manipulative establishments. And they were just right. So far, their subjects' ignorance was the main guarantee for the survival and continuity of these privileges.

            Therefore, the heads of those villages and towns exerted tremendous pressures on the chief of al-Uyynah to expel the Shaikh. The chief eventually succumbed to their demand and asked Shaikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab to leave al-Uyynah. Following his eviction from al-Uyynah the Shaikh headed for the village of ad-Dir'iyah, which was, at that time, under the rule of Muhammad ibn Saud. Not only did Ibn Saud accept the teachings of Ibn Abdul Wahhab and embraced his principles, but he also pledged allegiance to him and his call for the application of the authentic Shari'ah laws, and propagation of the pure Islamic teachings.

            Consequently, Shaikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab began contacting the leaders, the judges and the Imams of masajid in the Najd area acquainting them with his dawah. Some of them responded positively to his call, others rejected it and a few even wrote treatises denouncing and ridiculing his teachings. Shaikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab responded by writing back commenting and refuting their objections. In the meantime, the army of Ibn Saud was available to fight or scare those who dare to threat the safety of the Shaikh or try to stop and limit the progress of spreading and teaching the revival of the Islamic dawah. And after a short while the whole region of Najd and the neighboring Eastern regions of Arabia accepted this dawah and became part of the new revival movement of Islam.

            Shaikh Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahhab lived to see the prevalence of his principles-he was ninety years old when he died. At his death in 1218 CE, the whole region of Hijaz and most of the regions of the Arab peninsula had become unified under the banner of tawheed, the cornerstone of the dawah of Ibn Abdul Wahhab.

            Tawheed mean denying all deities other than Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala. And thus, no prophet, sacred person or angel deserves to be worshiped, or submitted to. All must submit only to Allah and to him alone. Tawheed liberates humans from their influence and domination of the clergy or any one who happens to manipulate religion and use it to consolidate power or authority into his hands. It is a 'revolt' against all forms of enslavement, and all attempts to compromise the dignity of the human being. It rubs off traces of psychological defeat so that the Ummah will continue to be capable of renewing itself; firmly believing in the approach it has willingly chosen. Tawheed is the antonym of blind following that hampers the renewal. It takes the human back to Allah's norms and laws that govern the universe. It unifies the human psyche, and realizes the much-required balance between the spiritual aspirations and the worldly inclinations. Tawheed also has practical manifestations: it refines and polishes morals, brings peace of mind and comfort of conscience and strengthens the trust of the believers in Allah, his creator. The utmost sin a man could commit is to associate partners with Allah, and claim or believe that Allah's Attributes and Acts or Ability can be similar to any of His creatures or vise versa. “ Abdullah ibn Masoud said: I asked the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam: What is the greatest sin ever? He answered: The greatest sin is to associate partners with Allah who created you” (Muslim).

            The influence of the dawah of Ibn Abdul Wahhab had reached far places in India, Yemen and North Africa, because of the efforts and hard work of many scholars and callers (du'at) who came to know the Islamic teachings, revived by the Shaikh, during their visits to Makkah to perform Hajj or Umrah, the minor pilgrimage. They were impressed by the simplicity and nobility of the revivalist dawah of Shaikh Ibn Abdul Wahhab, and took pains to spread it in their countries and everywhere they could.

            Finally, I reiterate and stress that there is an important lesson to be learned from the dawah of Ibn Abdul Wahhab and the striking success it achieved. A lesson to be thought of and heeded by those of us who are seeking to restore to the deen its past glory and influence. This lesson is that any Islamic revival movement that aspires to success must be based on the basic fundamentals of Islam as they were specified and practiced by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. At the top of these fundamentals is tawheed which in fact the thread that runs through the entire body of the Islamic system of beliefs and worships. Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab grasped this fact and held it dearly and served it unwaveringly, and for that reason his efforts in dawah flourished and achieved the marvelous success that we all know and feel.

[*]This article was published in AL-JUMUAH magazine in issue#7, page37. You can contact the magazine on the following address:Riyadh office: P.O.Box 26970 Riyadh 11496 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tel:(+966-1)464-1222.
Note: we have authorization from them to publishing its articles.


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