ibn Abd al-Wahhab
محمد بن عبد الوهاب

Imam: Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab
Aranic: محمد بن عبد الوهاب

Decorative Lines


Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (Arabic:  الوهاب بن عبد بن محمد 1703 – 22 June 1792) was an Arabian Islamic scholar and founder of a movement that sought to eradicate anti-Islamic practices that had cropped up in Arabia in the 18th century (examples being seeking solace on the graves and burial grounds of various individuals, etc.).

Detractors of this movement, especially those outside of the Arabian Peninsula ended up coining the totally alien term “wahabi” or “wahabism” – neither Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab nor any of the participants of this reform effort in any span of time ever coined the term or referred to themselves or their efforts as “wahabis” or “wahabism”. ]”.

His pact with Muhammad bin Saud helped to establish the first Saudi state and began a dynastic alliance and power-sharing arrangement between their families which continues to the present day in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The descendants of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, the Al ash-Sheikh, have historically led the ulama in the Saudi state, dominating the state’s clerical institutions.

Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb:  الوهاب بن عبد بن محمد

  • Full name: Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab
  • Born: 1703 ‘Uyayna, Najd
  • Died: 1792 (aged 88–89) Emirate of Diriyah
  • Era: 18th century
  • Region: Najd
  • School or tradition: Wahhabi Islam
  • Notable ideas: Views on innovations within Islam (bid’ah), Islamic monotheism (Tawhid) and polytheism (shirk), Takfeer of those who invoke dead saints and prophets

Early life and education

Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab is generally acknowledged to have been born in 1703 into the Arab tribe of Banu Tamim (the Banu Tamim were not a nomadic bedouin tribe[citation needed]) in ‘Uyayna, a village in the Najd region of the modern Saudi Arabia.

He was thought to have started studying Islam at an early age, primarily with his father, ʿAbd al-Wahhab as his family was from a line of scholars of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence.

Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab reportedly spent some time studying with Muslim scholars in the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina after performing Hajj (Mohammad Hayya Al-Sindhi) and in Basra (in southern Iraq).

In Mecca, the Hanbali mufti, Ibn Humaydi, perceived Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab to be a poor student, and arrogant and defiant with his teachers, which upset his father. Consequently, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab did not complete his studies.

Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab’s teacher Abdallah ibn Ibrahim ibn Sayf introduced the relatively young man to Mohammad Hayya Al-Sindhi in Medina and recommended him as a student. Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and al-Sindi became very close and Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab stayed with him for some time.

Scholars have described Muhammad Hayya as having an important influence on Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, who taught Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab to utilize informed individual analysis (ijtihad). Muhammad Hayya also taught Mohammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab to reject popular religious practices associated with walis and their tombs that resembles later Wahhabi teachings. Muhammad Hayya and his milieu are important for understanding the origins of at least the Wahhabi revivalist impulse.[not in citation given]

Following his early education in Medina, Abdul Wahhab traveled outside of the peninsula, venturing first to Basra. He then went to Baghdad, where he said to have got married to a woman of Najdi origin and settled down for five years. Most sources agree that Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab’s reformist ideas were formulated while living in Basra. He returned to ‘Uyayna in 1740.[citation needed]

Early preaching

After his return home, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab began to attract followers, including the ruler of ‘Uyayna, Uthman ibn Mu’ammar. With Ibn Mu’ammar, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab came to an agreement to support Ibn Mu’ammar’s political ambitions to expand his rule “over Najd and possibly beyond”, in exchange for the ruler’s support for Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s religious teachings.

ʿAbd al-Wahhab began to implement some of his ideas for reform. First, citing Islamic teachings forbidding grave worship, he persuaded Ibn Mu’ammar to help him level the grave of Zayd ibn al-Khattab, a companion of Muhammad, whose grave was revered by locals. Secondly, he ordered the cutting down of trees considered sacred by locals, cutting down “the most glorified of all of the trees” himself. And last he personally organised the stoning of a woman who confessed to having committed adultery.

These actions gained the attention of Sulaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Ghurayr of the tribe of Bani Khalid, the chief of Al-Hasa and Qatif, who held substantial influence in Najd. Ibn Ghurayr threatened Ibn Mu’ammar with denying him the ability to collect a land tax for some properties that Ibn Mu’ammar owned in Al-Hasa if he did not kill or drive away Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab. Consequently Ibn Mu’ammar forced Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab to leave.

Pact with Muhammad bin Saud

Upon his expulsion from ‘Uyayna, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab was invited to settle in neighboring Diriyah by its ruler Muhammad bin Saud. After some time in Diriyah, Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab concluded his second and more successful agreement with a ruler. Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab and Muhammad bin Saud agreed that, together, they would bring the Arabs of the peninsula back to the “true” principles of Islam as they saw it. According to one source, when they first met, bin Saud declared:

“This oasis is yours, do not fear your enemies. By the name of God, if all Nejd was summoned to throw you out, we will never agree to expel you.”

  • Madawi al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia: 16

Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab replied:

“You are the settlement’s chief and wise man. I want you to grant me an oath that you will perform jihad (Struggle to spread Islam) against the unbelievers. In return you will be imam, leader of the Muslim community and I will be leader in religious matters.”

  • Madawi al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia: 16

The agreement was confirmed with a mutual oath of loyalty (bay’ah) in 1744. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab would be responsible for religious matters and Ibn Saud in charge of political and military issues. This agreement became a “mutual support pact”[citation needed] and power-sharing arrangement between the Al Saud family, and the Al ash-Sheikh and followers of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, which has remained in place for nearly 300 years, providing the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion.

Emirate of Diriyah

First Saudi State (1744–1818)

The 1744 pact between Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab marked the emergence of the first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah. By offering the Al Saud a clearly defined religious mission, the alliance provided the ideological impetus to Saudi expansion. First conquering Najd, Saud’s forces expanded the Salafi influence to most of the present-day territory of Saudi Arabia, eradicating various popular and Shia practices and propagating the doctrines of ʿAbd al-Wahhab.

Family | Al ash-Sheikh

While in Baghdad, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab married an affluent woman. When she died, he inherited her property and wealth. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Al-Wahhab had six sons; Hussain, Abdullah, Hassan, Ali and Ibrahim and Abdul-Aziz who died in his youth. All his surviving sons established religious schools close to their homes and taught the young students from Diriyah and other places.

The descendants of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, the Al ash-Sheikh, have historically led the ulama in the Saudi state, dominating the state’s religious institutions. Within Saudi Arabia, the family is held in prestige similar to the Saudi royal family, with whom they share power, and has included several religious scholars and officials.

The arrangement between the two families is based on the Al Saud maintaining the Al ash-Sheikh’s authority in religious matters and upholding and propagating Salafi doctrine. In return, the Al ash-Sheikh support the Al Saud’s political authority thereby using its religious-moral authority to legitimise the royal family’s rule.


Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab considered his movement an effort to purify Islam by returning Muslims to what, he believed, were the original principles of that religion, as typified by the Salaf and rejecting, what he regarded, as religious innovations (Bid’ah) and polytheism (Shirk). He taught that the primary doctrine of Islam was the uniqueness and unity of God (Tawhid).

The first aspect of Tawhid is belief in Allah and His Lordship, that He alone is the believer’s lord (Rabb). The second is the oneness of worship to Allah and Allah alone. The third being belief and affirmation of Allah’s Names and Attributes.

The “core” of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s teaching is found in Kitab al-Tawhid, a short essay which draws from material in the Quran and the recorded doings and sayings (hadith) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

It preaches that worship in Islam includes conventional acts of worship such as the five daily prayers (salat); fasting (sawm); supplication (Dua); seeking protection or refuge (Istia’dha); seeking help (Ist’ana and Istighatha) of Allah.[page needed]

Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab was keen on emphasising that other acts, such as making dua or calling upon/supplication to or seeking help, protection or intercession from anyone or anything other than Allah, are acts of shirk and contradict the tenets of Tawhid and that those who tried would never be forgiven.[page needed]

Although all Muslims pray to one God (Allah), the highlight of this movement was that no intercession with God was possible, Muhammad strictly advocated Takfir of those who considered themselves Muslim but were actually (Ibn Abdul-Wahhab believed) polytheists (mushrikeen).

By contemporaries

As with the early Salafists, Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s teachings were criticized by a number of Islamic scholars for disregarding Islamic history, monuments, traditions and the sanctity of Muslim life. His own brother, Sulayman, was particularly critical, claiming he was ill-educated and intolerant, classing Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s views as fringe and fanatical. A list of scholars with opposing views, along with names of their books and related information, was compiled by the Islamic scholar Muhammad Hisham.

By modern scholars: Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab is accepted by Salafi scholars as an authority and source of reference.


  • Risālah Aslu Dīn Al-Islām wa Qā’idatuhu
  • Kitab al-Quran (The book of Allah)
  • Kitab at-Tawhid (The Book of the Unity of God)
  • Kashf ush-Shubuhaat (Clarification of the Doubts)
  • Al-Usool-uth-Thalaatha” (The Three Fundamental Principles)
  • Al Qawaaid Al ‘Arbaa’ (The Four Foundations of Shirk)
  • Al-Usool us Sittah (The Six Fundamental Principles)
  • Nawaaqid al Islaam (Nullifiers of Islaam)
  • Adab al-Mashy Ila as-Salaa (Manners of Walking to the Prayer)
  • Usul al-Iman (Foundations of Faith)
  • Fada’il al-Islam (Excellent Virtues of Islam)
  • Fada’il al-Qur’an (Excellent Virtues of the Qur’an)
  • Majmu’a al-Hadith ‘Ala Abwab al-Fiqh (Compendium of the Hadith on the Main Topics of the Fiqh)
  • Mukhtasar al-Iman (Abridgement of the Faith; i.e. the summarised version of a work on Faith)
  • Mukhtasar al-Insaf wa’l-Sharh al-Kabir (Abridgement of the Equity and the Great Explanation)
  • Mukhtasar Seerat ar-Rasul (Summarised Biography of the Prophet)
  • Kitaabu l-Kabaair (The Book of Great Sins)
  • Kitabu l-Imaan (The Book of Trust)


There are two contemporary histories of Muhammed ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab and his religious movement from the point of view of his supporters: Ibn Ghannam’s Rawdhat al-Afkar wal-Afham or Tarikh Najd (History of Najd) and Ibn Bishr’s Unwan al-Majd fi Tarikh Najd. Husain ibn Ghannam (d. 1811), an alim from al-Hasa was the only historian to have observed the beginnings of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s movement first-hand. His chronicle ends at the year 1797.

Ibn Bishr’s chronicle, which stops at the year 1854, was written a generation later than Ibn Ghannam’s, but is considered valuable partly because Ibn Bishr was a native of Najd and because he adds many details to Ibn Ghannam’s account.

A third account, dating from around 1817 is Lam’ al-Shihab, written by an anonymous Sunni author who respectfully disapproved of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s movement, regarding it as a bid’ah. It is also commonly cited because it is considered to be a relatively objective contemporary treatment of the subject. However, unlike Ibn Ghannam and Ibn Bishr, its author did not live in Najd and his work is believed to contain some apocryphal and legendary material with respect to the details of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s life.