What is Wahhabism?

Wahhabi is a doctrine within Islam.
Wahhabi is a doctrine within Islam.

Wahhabism is a conservative movement and doctrine within the Sunni branch of Islam. Its name comes from its founder Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab who was born in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century. Wahhabism advocates for a pure form of Islam by focusing on the origin of the religion and the sovereignty of Allah.

Where Is Wahhabism Practiced?

The doctrine of Wahhabism was initially limited to Saudi Arabia but has since spread to other Muslim-majority states across the world. The name “Wahhabism” is considered pejorative, and followers of the movement prefer calling themselves “Salafis” in reference to the generation of people who lived during the reign of Prophet Muhammad. Some followers prefer calling themselves true Muslims implying that followers of the religion who do not concur with the ideology are not proper Muslims.

The Spread Of Wahhabism

Wahhabism ensured its long-span survival by gaining support and approval of the royal family since 1744 and has since then helped establish Saudi Arabia as the home of Islam. Wahhabism was rejuvenated in the 20th century by Abdulaziz ibn Saud who saw it as a force to reunite different tribes. In 1979, the royal family used it as a tactic to encourage and recruit Muslim men to fight against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Controversies Of Wahhabism

Critics of Wahhabism argue that it has gone hand-in-hand with violence and terrorism since its inception. Its founder, Wahhab was expelled from his community for attacking and dismantling the tombs of early Muslims and declaring a jihad war on Muslims who disowned the movement. After the death of Wahhab, the followers reigned terror across the land forcing Mecca to surrender in 1803. The European Parliament declared Wahhabism and Salafism the primary drivers of global terrorism, linking the ideology to the attacks in Benghazi, Syria, and Iraq. 

The movement is also blamed for being the root of the Islamic State of Syria and Levant that seeks to establish a caliphate within Syria and Iraq. Islamic conservatives argue that Wahhabism is a movement that aims to deliver Islam from foreign accretions. Many described it as a strict form of Sunni Islam. Critics of Wahhabism say that it is a distorted version of the religion not based on the acceptable Sharia law. The doctrines of Wahhabi are visible in Saudi Arabia in the manner in which the public conforms to dressing, regulations, and the prayer schedule.


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