|Biographical detail : ||A reformer who tried to affect a radical return to the fundamentals of Islam.
Abdul Wahhab’s Kitab at-Tawhid was the main text of the Wahhabi doctrines – a typical reformer, in the tradition of Ibn Taymiyyah. Abdul Wahhab believed that the current crisis was best met by the fundamentalist return to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and rejection of all later accretions. Wahhab’s puritanical teaching known as Wahhabism, based on a strictly literal interpretation of scripture and early Islamic tradition, is the form of Islam that is still practised today in Saudi Arabia.
Abdul Wahhab was expelled from his native place, in 1740, for his teaching that created real problems. It was harmless when he condemned Muslims who prayed at the shrines of holy men, criticised the custom of marking graves, and stressed the ‘unity of Allah’. But Wahhab went to the extent of denouncing Caliph in Istanbul, under whose rule of Ottoman Empire the Arab peninsula was, as heretic. He believed that the Ottoman had brought laxity and looseness to Islam.
After travelling four years and visiting Basra and Damascus, Wahhab, in 1744, settled in Deraiyah, capital of Najd, with all the more determination to restore Islam to its primitive purity. Najd at that time was under Muhammad Ibn Saud’s rule and who, was delighted to receive a preacher expelled by a rival potentate. The two men as if were made for each other – the emir and the preacher agreed to a mithaq, a binding agreement, that would be honoured by their successor in eternity.
The covenant between Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab and Muhammad Ibn Saud was sealed by a marriage. Ibn Wahab’s daughter became one of Ibn Saud’s wives. Thus was laid the basis for a political and confessional intimacy that would shape the politics of the peninsula – Wahhabiyah the dominant force in Arabia since 1800.
Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, son of a theologian, was born in the small and relatively prosperous oasis-town of Uyaynah (Arabia) and he was educated in Madinah, as a theologian. He bagan to preach locally, calling for a return to the ‘pure belief’ of olden times.