Did Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhāb rebel? The First Saudi State.

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Did Shaikh Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb rebel? The First Saudi State.


There are few scholars in Islamic history that have been more maligned and misrepresented than Shaikh al-Islām Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb , born 1115H (1703CE) and died 1206H (1792CE). The Sūfīs and Shiʿites, those who ascribe divinity and superstitious powers to the inhabitants of graves, despise him due to his condemnation of their un-Islamic and counter-orthodox beliefs which contradict the Qurānic commands that demand that worship be directed solely to Allāh and supplications of need, aid, refuge, and rescue be directed to Him alone. On the other side there are the radical Khārijite sects, some of whom regard him to be a cementer of the ‘throne’ of Imām Muhammad bin Saud , the founder and first leader of the Saudi state, and therefore a supporter of tyranny. They seem to have a schizophrenic relationship with him; some have used him as an example that allows them to rebel against the ruling authority, because they believe that he sanctioned rebellion against the ruling Ottoman Empire; yet others have attacked him on the basis, as they claim, that he rebelled against the Ottomans and therefore aided in the downfall of the Caliphate.

If one studies the life of Shaikh Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb  and his extensive writings, as well as those of his children and grandchildren (many of whom were scholars in their own right) it becomes clear that he did not rebel against the Ottomans, nor did he declare those who fell into innovations as unbelievers as some biased partisans have claimed. As an example, Talal Rajab of the Quilliam Foundation stated:

“Wahhabism is a literalist denomination in Islam based on the teachings of Muhammed Ibn Abd-al Wahhab (1703- 1792) in 18th century Saudi Arabia. Wahhab advocated the purification of Islam from what he referred to as innovations, arguing that anyone who practiced such innovations became a kafir [non-Muslim] and that killing such people was legitimate.” [1]

This type of propagandist writing does nothing except to add to the prejudice against this eminent scholar and the Salafis who study his books. A basic study of the writings of the Shaikh reveals the untruthfulness of the assertions of the Quilliam Foundation and others who malign his teachings. Contrary to what the Quilliam think-tank has asserted above against Muhammad Ibn ʿAbdul-Wahhāb, the Shaikh himself stated in response to the same allegations made in his lifetime:

“And I do not testify for anyone from the Muslims that they are in Paradise or in Hell except for those whom Allāh’s Messenger  has testified. However I hope for the righteous and fear for the sinner.

And I do not accuse anyone from the Muslims of being a kāfir (non-Muslim) due to a sin, and I do not expel them from the fold of Islām.” [2]

He then goes on to refute the ‘slanderous statements’ and ‘fabrications’ invented against him by those who falsely accuse him of declaring as unbelievers those who commit religious innovations! [3]

Those who try to use the teachings of Shaikh Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb  to justify rebellion against the tyrannical rulers also have no real basis. They misconstrue the words of the Shaikh, utilizing ambiguous speech whilst ignoring his categorical statements. Presented here is just one of many clear statements of Shaikh Muhammad Ibn ʿAbdul-Wahhāb  from his creed and open letter to the people and scholars of the town of al-Qasīm in which he states without ambiguity:

“And I hold the obligation of listening to and obeying the Muslim rulers, whether they be righteous or sinful, so long as they do not command disobedience to Allāh. Whoever takes hold of the Caliphate (rulership), the people gather behind him and are pleased with him – or if he has overpowered them with [the might of] his sword up until he becomes the Caliph, [even then] obedience is obligatory to him and it is not permissible to revolt against him.” [4]

Shaikh al-Fawzān, a Salafi scholar of our times, comments upon this saying:

“So it obligatory to obey the rulers and if they command with sin, then, ‘There is no obedience to the creation in disobedience to the Creator.’ [5] However, you cannot renounce your pledge of allegiance to them if they command you with sin. We do not obey them in sin but obedience remains in that which is good…” [6]

In contrast to this well-known Salafī position, the leading figureheads of modern-day extremists, such as Sayyid Qutb and Taqī ud-Din an-Nabahānī, reject what amounts to one of the great foundations of the Islamic creed, which is to hear and obey those in authority in whatever is considered good in the Sharīʿah and not to oppose them or exit from their obedience on account of tyranny or injustice [7]. Qutb and Nabahānī declared the entire Muslim world to be Dār al-Kufr (a Domain of Disbelief) and called for an all-inclusive revolution against it. Not a single Salafī scholar in modern history shares this view with them, rather they consider it to be the view of the heretical Khārijites who ought to be refuted and fought against.



* Map: The Birth of the Islamic Reform Movement in Saudi Arabia, Muhammad b. ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, Rentz, George. S.

1 Talal Rajab, Re-Programming British Muslims—A Study of the Islam Channel, p. 11, Quilliam Foundation, March 2010.
2 In a letter written to people of the village of Qasīm, Najd, Saudi Arabia entitled Risālah ilā Ahlil-Qasīm (A Letter to the People of Qasīm). They had asked him to clarify some of the rumours being spread about him, so he wrote this tract in response to them. This letter is found in the sixteen-volume work, ad-Durar as-Saniyyah fīl-Ajwibah an-Najdiyyah, vol. 1, pp. 29-35. It has also been published with the explanation of Shaikh al-Fawzān with the title, Sharh ʿAqīdah al-Imām al-Mujaddid Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb, Maktabah Dār al-Minhāj, Riyadh. Now also available in English, Sunnah Publications, Michigan, USA.
3 Sharh ʿAqīdah al-Imām al-Mujaddid Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb, pp.142-156.
4 Sharh ʿAqīdah al-Imām al-Mujaddid Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb, p. 127.
5 Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad from the hadīth of ʿAlī , 1/131, no. 1095; from the hadīth of Ibn Masʿūd , 1/409, no. 3889; from ʿImrān bin Husayn , 5/66, no. 20653; Muslim, no. 1840.
6 Sharh ʿAqīdah al-Imām al-Mujaddid Muhammad bin ʿAbdul-Wahhāb, p. 128.
7 Refer to their statements that have been documented in other chapters.

From the book: “The Rise of Jihadist Extremism in the West”, Salafi Publications, Birmingham.