How to Discern between a Scholar of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah & the Wahhabi Sect

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

When it comes to discerning whether a scholar or preacher is from the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, or from the Wahhabi sect, the following guidelines can help.  The first thing we scrutinise is the ijazat and the curriculum vitae.  In Islam, we know our scholars by their teachers.  As such, it is important to know the teachers and the chains of transmission.  A graduate from the University of Madina is likely a Wahhabi.  It is their premier institution set up by the Saudi state to promote their version of Islam.  The following are some of the more famous graduates from this institution: Mishari Rashid, Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, Bilal Philips, Zakir Naik, Ismail Menk and Feiz Mohammad.  This also includes graduates of derivative programmes by the alumni of the University of Madina such as Bilal Philips’ Islamic Online University.

The Saudi Wahhabi state also has several organisations to spread their doctrine.  This includes the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.  Al-Maghrib Institute and Al-Kauthar are funded through WAMY.  Almost every instructor from these two is from the University of Madina.  Unless one belongs to their sect, it is impossible to be appointed in any position.  Another organisation funded by them is Peace TV.  The most famous presenters on that programme are Zakir Naik, Yusuf Estes, Hussain Yee, Abdullah Hakim Quick and Bilal Philips.  The majority of the presenters are either hard-core Salafi, or sympathetic towards it.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are dominated by the Wahhabi sect.  It is almost impossible to be appointed to a state position concerning the religion unless one is connected to the Ahl ash-Shaykh, the descendants of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, or shares their ideology.  The a’immah that lead the swalat in Makkah and Madina must be a Wahhabi.  They will accept no other, considering them mushrikun.

This does not mean, however, that every graduate of the University of Madina, or every single person who took a course at the Islamic Online University, or every attendee of an Al-Maghrib programme is a Wahhabi.  The majority of Muslims are ignorant of their religion and unable to tell when something said is incorrect.  We look with the eye of rahmah, and husn azh-zhan.  We must understand that there are two types of people who are Wahhabi.  The first are those who have embraced their ‘aqidah and propagate it, condemning the position of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah and spreading an ‘aqidah that is essentially shirk.  These people are astray and are to be avoided.  And then there are those who have taken position from that doctrine unknowingly, because that was what they were taught and there was no one to tell them otherwise.  They are to be treated with compassion and if there is an opportunity, guided to something that is better.  Addressing them is also da’wah.

Aside from these, there are a multitude of preachers on social media who are known as such by the things they have said, or the positions they adhere to.  We identify them by what they say about certain key issues that depart from the position of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.  They include denying taqlid, or the need to follow a madzhab, unless one is a mujtahid.  They claim they are following the Qur’an and the sunnah.  In effect, they are denying the Qur’an and the sunnah.  This, in itself, is a huge topic and should be addressed separately.  They deny the Prophet (s.a.w.), the prophets and the saints, and the pious predecessors are alive in the qabr, the realm of the grave.  This is a major deviation since it denies the special Favour of Allah (s.w.t.) upon His friends, and denies by extension, any form of intercession.

The Wahhabi sect and its adherents deny tawaswswul, intercession.  They claim that this wasilah, this means, is shirk.  They use this as a basis to condemn the Muslims as mushrikun, polytheists.  It is on this basis that they make the blood of the Muslims halal in conflict.  The denial of tawaswswul also means that the recitation of swalawat, the congregational dzikr and the Mawlid are extensions of this shirk.  Many of them also deny the shafa’at, the intercession of the Prophet (s.a.w.) on the Day of Judgment.

They claim that the act of visiting the grave to pay homage, including especially, the Rawdhah of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in Madina is shirk.  They further state that it is shirk to perform swalat in any masjid where there is a grave, maqam.  This is why they have agitated and even tried several times to remove the body of the Prophet (s.a.w.) from Masjid an-Nabawi.  And this is the excuse they use to destroy the maqamat, tombs, of the pious predecessors, including previous prophets, the companions and saints, desecrating the bodies.

Finally, the Wahhabis take a literal position regarding the Attributes of God.  This includes believing that Allah (s.w.t.) is in a specific place above the ‘Arsh, believing that He has a physical body, and believing that He is neither Transcendent nor Immanent.  To the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, that is shirk, and clear kufr.  In support of this ideology, the Wahhabis, with exceptions, refuse to condemn these groups or even support groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah and Laskar Jihad.  Some of them have urged their followers to join in the struggle and take up arms.  Preachers and scholars aside from those already named above, who have explicitly taken a Wahhabi position in some or all of the above include Nouman Ali Khan, Musa Cerantonio, Yusha Evans, and Abdur Raheem Greene.

An indication that someone may be influenced by this sect can be found in the way they dialogue.  They will focus a lot on ahadits, but they will ignore any exegesis of it.  They will only accept what they consider ‘authentic’, swahih ahadits.  They have a strange affection for extra vowels, although this does not necessarily mean someone is a Wahhabi.  For example: Islaam, Aboo Yusuf, Imaan, Qur’aan.  And their conversation focuses a lot on the minutiae of externalities to the exclusion of context, diversity in opinion and culture, ‘urf, which is a valid concern in jurisprudence, fiqh.  This includes the emphasis that the beard is wajib in all circumstances, on extreme segregation, and the liberal use of the terms ‘shirk’, ‘kufr’, ‘haram’ and ‘bid’ah’ in all their forms, ignoring the lexical and jurisprudential understanding.


  1. Very relevant and Useful article.

  2. Very informative and enlightening

  3. "They have a strange affection for extra vowels, although this does not necessarily mean someone is a Wahhabi. For example: Islaam, Aboo Yusuf, Imaan, Qur’aan"

    This is gold! :)


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