Imam Muhammad Abu Zahrah (r.a.) Explains Wahhabism

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following article is adapted from “Wahhabism: Imam Muhammad Abu Zahrah Explains” as answered by Shaykh Gibril F. Haddad.

The Wahhabiyyah are the most important sect of latter-day Islam.  The late great scholar of al-Azhar and specialist of juridical principles, uswul, Imam Muhammad Abu Zahrah (r.a.), wrote in his book on the history of the madzahib, schools, in Islam titled Tarikh al-Madzahib al-Islamiyyah, “History of the Islamic Schools”, “The Wahhabis appeared in the Arabian Desert,” continuing, “and revived the school of ibn Taymiyyah.  The founder of the Wahhabiyyah is Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab who died in 1786 CE.  He had studied the books of ibn Taymiyyah which became inestimable in his sight, deepening his involvement in them until he brought them out from the realm of opinion into the realm of practice.”  The Wahhabis exaggerated Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah’s (r.a.) positions and instituted practical matters that can be summarised thus below.

They did not restrain themselves to view worship in the same way that Islam had stipulated in the Qur’an and sunnah and as Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) had mentioned, but they wished to include customs also into the province of Islam so that Muslims would be bound by them.  Thus, they declared cigarette smoking haram and exaggerated this ruling to the point that their general public considered the smoker a mushrik.  As a result, they resembled the Khwarij who used to declare apostate whoever committed a sin.

In the beginning of their sway they would also declare coffee and whatever resembled it as haram to themselves but it seems that they became more lenient on this point as time went by.

The Wahhabis did not restrain themselves to proselytism only, but resorted to warmongering against whoever disagreed with them on the grounds that they were fighting innovation, and innovations are an evil that must be fought, and it is obligatory to command good and forbid evil.  The leader of Wahhabi thought in the field of war and battle was Muhammad ibn Sa’ud, the ancestor of the ruling Sa`udi family in the Arabian lands.  He was a brother-in-law to Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and embraced his madzhab, defending it fervently and calling unto it by force of arms.  He announced that he was doing this so as to uphold the sunnah and eradicate bid’ah.  Perhaps, this religious mission that took a violent turn was carrying with itself a rebellion against Ottoman rule.  This was until the governor of Egypt, Muhammad ‘Ali Basha al-Albani, faced them and pounced on the Wahhabis with his strong army, routing them in the course of several battles.  At that time, their military force was reduced and confined to the Arabian tribes.  Riyadh and its vicinity was the center for this permanent da’wah that would turn violent whenever they found the strength and then lie still whenever they found violent opposition.

Whenever they were able to seize a town or city, they would come to the tombs and turn them into ruins and destruction and they would destroy whatever mosques were with the tombs also.

Their brutality did not stop there but they also came to whatever graves were visible and destroyed them also.  And when the ruler of the Hijaz regions caved in to them they destroyed all the graves of the companions and razed them to the ground.

They would cling to small matters which they condemned although they had nothing to do with idolatry nor with whatever leads to idolatry, such as photography.  We found this in their fatawa and epistles at the hands of their ‘ulama, although their rulers ignore this saying of theirs completely and cast it by the wayside.

They expanded the meaning of bid’ah to strange proportions, to the point that they actually claimed that draping the walls of the noble Rawdhah, near the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) chamber in Madina, is an innovated matter.  Hence, they forbade the renewal of the drapes that were in it, until they fell in tatters and became unsightly, were it not for the light that pours out to all that are in the presence of the Prophet (s.a.w.) or feels that in this place was the abode of Revelation on the Master of Messengers.  In fact, we find among them, on top of this, those who consider that the Muslim's expression, “Sayyiduna Muhammad,” is an impermissible bid`ah and they show true extremism about this and, for the sake of their mission, use foul and furious language until most people actually flee from them as fast as they can.

In truth, the Wahhabis have actualised the opinions of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) and are extremely zealous followers and supporters of those views.  They adopted the positions of Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) that we explained in our discussion of those who call themselves “Salafiyyah.”  However, they expanded the meaning of bid`ah and construed as innovations things that have no relation to worship.  In fact, it has been noticed that the ‘ulama of the Wahhabis consider their own opinions correct and not possibly wrong, while they consider the opinions of others wrong and not possibly correct.  More than that, they consider what others than themselves do in the way of erecting tombs and circumambulating them, as near to idolatry.  In this respect, they are near the Khwarij who used to declare those who dissented with them apostate and fight them as we already mentioned.  This was a relatively harmless matter in the days when they were cloistered in the desert and not trespassing its boundaries; but when they mixed with others until the Hijaz country was in the hand of the Sa`ud family, the matter became of the utmost gravity.  This is why the late King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz of the Sa`ud family opposed them, and treated their opinions as confined to themselves and irrelevant to others.

Among the titles Wahhabis gave themselves are the names, Muwahhidun, “Monotheists”; Iwslahiyyun, “Reformists”; and Salafiyyun, “Followers of the Pious Predecessors”; while their opponents name them Hashwiyyah, “Illiterates” or literally, “Visceralists”; Mujassimah; “Anthropomorphists”; and Khwarij, “Seceders”.  They name Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “Shaykh al-Islam”, although he was, by his own Hanbali madzhab’s account. a minor figure, and name his descendants “Ahl ash-Shaykh”, “House of the Shaykh”, while his brother, Shaykh Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (r.a.) declared him an heretic in his fatwa printed under the title, Faswl al-Khithab min Kitabullah wa Ahadits ar-Rasul Swallallahu `alayhi wa as-Sallam wa-Kalam uli al-Albab fi Madzhab ibni ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “The Final Word from the Qur’an, the Ahadits, and the Sayings of the Scholars Concerning the School of ibn `Abd al-Wahhab”, also known as as-Sawa`iq al-Ilahiyyah fi Madzhab al-Wahhabiyyah, “The Divine Thunderbolts Concerning the Wahhabi School.”

This book is the earliest refutation of the Wahhabi sect in print, consisting in over forty-five concise chapters spanning 120 pages that show beyond doubt the fundamental divergence of the Wahhabi school, not only from the consensus and uswul of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah and the fiqh of the Hanbali madzhab, but also from their putative a’immah, Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) and Imam ibn al-Qayyim (r.a.) on most or all the issues reviewed.  The last point shows the fundamental dishonesty of Salafism toward the very a’immah they claim as their true link to the Salaf.

Other reliable literature on that sect includes the following.

The Yemeni contemporary of Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, Sayyid `Alawi ibn Ahmad ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Quthb ‘Abdullah al-Haddad (q.s.) wrote Miswbah al-Anam fi Radd Shubuhat al-Bid`ih an-Najdi Aladzi Adalla biha al-`Awamm, “The Lamp of Mankind in Refuting the Insinuations Used by the Innovator from Najd to Misguide the Public”.  Shaykh Haddad (q.s.) translated the introduction and outline of this important book in full and it is available in the UK appended to Sayyid Yusuf ar-Rifa`i's (q.s.) pamphlet, Advice to Our Brethren, the Scholars of Najd.  The following are excerpts.

Sayyid ‘Abdullah ibn Hasan ibn Fadhl Ba’Alawi (q.s.) wrote Swidq al-Khabar fi Khwarij al-Qarn al-Tsani `Ashar, “The Truthful News Concerning the Kharijis of the Twelfth Century.”

Shaykh Hasan ibn `Umar ibn Ma`ruf ash-Shatti al-Hanbali (r.a.) wrote an-Nuqul ash-Shari’ah fi ar-Radd ‘ala al-Wahhabiyyah, “The Legal Texts that Refute the Wahhabis.”

Sayyid Ahmad ibn Zayni ad-Dahlan (q.s.) wrote ad-Durar as-Saniyyah fil-Radd ‘ala al-Wahhabiyyah, “The Resplendent Pearls in Refuting the Wahhabis.”

Shaykh Ibrahim as-Samannudi al-Manswuri (r.a.) wrote Sa`adat ad-Darayn fi ar-Radd `ala al-Firqatayn al-Wahhabiyyah wa al-Zhahiriyyah, “The Bliss of the Two Abodes in the Refutation of the Two Sects: Wahhabis and Zhahiris.”

Shaykh Salamat al-`Azzami (r.a.) wrote al-Barahin as-Sathi`ah fi Radd Ba`d al-Bid’ah ash-Sha'i’ah, “The Radiant Proofs in Refuting Certain Widespread Innovations.”

The esteemed contemporary Yemeni shaykh of Jeddah, Habib Zayn al-‘Abidin as-Sumayth al-‘Alawi (q.s.) wrote al-Ajwibah al-Ghaliyah fi `Aqidat al-Firqat an-Najiyyah, “The Precious Replies Concerning the Doctrine of the Saved Group.”


  1. Brilliant. Masha'allah. Another blogger talks about this...


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