A Discussion About "Wahabis"

Taken From The American Open University Message Board

From A Sister,

Assalam alaykum, 1. I've heard this come up when I discuss the term "salafi" with my elders... "Wahabi". I get this idea that it is a negative thing, to be a wahabi (I don't understand it). The latter term is not discussed in the book Scientific Basis of Salafi Da'wah. I'm confused and I'm hoping to get a clearer understanding of the difference between salafi and wahabi, or at least, to understand how salafi actually equals wahabi, if this is true? And how is a person a Wahabi, exactly?


I know this question was for brother Muhammad but I also want to give my personal perspective. From my experiences the only people who use the term wahabi are the sufis, shiahs, braylwees, and Ahlul Bid'ah. You find the sufi teachers using that word wahabee most often. And I need not mention any names.... If your elders are from the Indian sub continent or Pakistan, then there is a lot of misconceptions taught by the ahlul bid'ah in that area, about the dawah of Imam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab. But alhamdulilah their are also very pious Muslims there as well, but not as much as the ahlul bid'ah there. If we teach then insha'allah their perceptions will change. I'm East Indian as well, so I know pretty much what goes on there, unislamic practises like mawlid etc.... I am also aware of the good scholars in that area. Since we respect Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab like all true monotheists do, they term us "Wahabis", because they did not like the dawah of tawheed and monotheism. So the true monothiests are all upon the way of the salaf, so it would not be a surprise if the people upon tawheed love a person who preached tawheed. If you read Kitab at-Tawheed, by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, then it is not the author's opinion but merely daleel from Al Qur'an wa Sunnah.

Wa alaykum as salam,

Once while giving a lecture to people in Madinah, a question came up and I replied by quoting a verse of the Qur'an. Someone smiled and said, "You must be a Wahabi". I've seen how the common people use this term Wahabi and it is often meant as "this is a guy who has a strange and radical way of interpreting Islam - so beware." The history of the term: Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab was a scholar who stood alongside the Saudi family in overcoming the Arabian Peninsula. Because the Turks were the ones who were ousted, Turks who were Sufis, they started a campaign to defame the claims of Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab and his followers. Thus the term "Wahabi" came into being.

Politics aside, what Ibn Abdul-Wahhab was trying to teach was nothing more then the return to the pure worship of Allah, without grave worship (which the Sufis did) and without good luck charms, amulets, or slaughtering for anyone other then Allah. His book, Kitaab At-Tawheed is nothing more then verses of Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet - sal Allahu alayhi wa salam.

Because Ibn Abdul-Wahhab used proof from the Qur'an and Sunnah, the other side (who technically had no proof for the innovation they were doing) had no defense except to label these people as Wahabis. That is why, in the Umrah lecture that I mentioned, when I quoted Qur'an, one of the elders was tipped to thinking I was a Wahbi because he was warned about people that use the proofs of the Qur'an and Sunnah. - Ahmed Hoti

As Salam Alaikum

Just a small historical background of the word Wahabi, from what I have read. It all started first by the Turkish government during the life time of Sheikh Abdul Wahab. The Turks wrote and published many books in their campaign of vilification and misrepresentation of the Sheikh's works. They started it around 1746 and continued for a long time even after the death of the Sheikh Abdul Wahab. But until that time the term Wahabi for a group of people was not yet in fashion. It was in 1822 that an Indian scholar Syed Ahmed (shaheed) went for Hajj and there came across the books of Ibn Tamiyah and Abdul Wahab. He was very impressed and spent some time there studying them. When he returned to India he started a movement for the return to the Quran and Sunnah. He had success but the British which ruled India didn’t like it that much. He declared Jihad against the Sikhs who ruled the present day northern half of Pakistan because the Muslims were in a majority in these areas. He attained martyrdom in a battle but the mujahideen he had trained spread all over India and spread his teachings.

It was in the 1860s that the British started to believe that the Great Mutiny against them was a result of a Muslim conspiracy. They started to study the works of Syed Ahmed and realized that it was similar to those of Sheikh Abdul Wahab. It was then that they started to label those who followed the ruling of Syed Ahmed as Wahabis. A few Shia scholars used to label the Wahabis as kafirs. The British caught thousands of Muslim scholars who opposed them, labeled them Wahabis and executed them. It was a great loss to the Muslims of India. The void left by the lack of scholars was quickly filled by two men whom the British intelligence introduced as great reformers for the Muslims. One was Ahmed Rida (Bareilawi) who started the Bareilawi sect which does not believe in Jihad and so made the British happy. He promoted grave, saint and Pirs worshipping and was given a lot of money by the British.

The other man introduced by the British was Ghulam Ahmed Qadiyani who introduced the Qadiyani sect, in which he declared himself the last prophet. The poor usually followed the Bareilawi’s and the educated the Qadiyanis. This divide and rule method employed by the British was very successful in harming Islam in India. The Barelawis declared almost everyone who followed the Quran and Sunnah as Wahabis. Fatwas were mass produced near the end of 19th century. You couldn’t marry a Wahabi, eat an animal slaughtered by a Wahabi, drink water from the well of a Wahabi, pray behind a Wahabi, or give zakat to them. Wahabis were declared worse than dogs and Hindus. You were not allowed to read the books of Wahabis especially the works of Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Al-Qayyim and of course of Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab. (al-Fatawa al-Ridwiyya)

This term Wahabi was used so frequently even in the British press of those days that it became a common term. Even today try stopping someone from asking a grave or saint for a son and he will immediately label you a Wahabi and continue doing their shirk.

A few good books on this topic:

The Bareilawis, by Ehsa Elahi Zaheer (1985)

The Evolution of Indo-Muslim Thought after 1857, by Dr L.S. May (1970)

The Wahabi Movement in India, by Qeyamuddin Ahmed (1994)

If I'm not mistaken, you are from Singapore correct? Because Sufism is present there and in that area, the teachers of Sufism have warned their followers to beware of these 'Wahabis', because they cannot defend with logical proof of Qur'an and Sunnah, they simply choose to fall back on name calling. When you speak to your elders there, don't get caught up in the name calling game. We are not Wahabis, nor are we a faction called 'Salafis'. We are Muslims and we follow the words of Allah and the statements of His Messenger - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. This is what you should call them to: Islam!

Muhammad Alshareef - Instructor, American Open University

Extracted 07/25/02 from Al Haramain Islamic Foundation


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