The term "Wahabism" has been in vogue for over a century and it began to be used in India and spread to the whole of the Muslim world. It is a derogatory and an accusatory term used to denigrate Muslims of certain aqeedah and who shun certain practices, perceived by others to be Islamic. According to users of the term "Wahabism" it refers to Muhammad Ibn Abdulwahhab of Nejd in the Arabian peninsula who lived in the eighteenth century C.E.
In Muslim culture when a group is attributed or associated with a person it is done for the following commonality: 1) When people belong to a certain tribe or a place or country or ancestry, such as Ansari, Jaafari, Pakistani, Hindi, Johani, Saudi, Bukhari and so on. 2) When people belong to a certain aqeedah, such as, Ashari, Juhaimi, Sunni, Shi'ah, Khwariji, Zahiri, Batini, and many others. 3) When people belong to a certain Sufi order, such as Chishti, Suhrawardi, Quadri, Naqshbandi, Shadhli, Tijani and so on. 4) When people belong to a certain madhhab or school of thought of fiqh, such as Jaafri, Zaidi, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafe'i, Hanbali, Salafi and so on.
Let us examine "Wahabism" to find which of the above categories it fits.
There is no place or tribe or country or nation or family by the name of "Wahab"; it is therefore, not applicable. If we examine to see if Muhammad Ibn Abdulwahhab originated a new aqeedah we find no such thing in his teachings to give credit to him for something new. Did he originate a new Sufi order? We discover that he was neither a sufi nor did he support them. In fact, he fought against certain innovations of the sufis. Did Muhammad Ibn Abdulwahhab presented any new school of fiqhi principles? We find that he was himself an ardent follower of HANBALI madh-hab, and he revered Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. One of the major contributions of Muhammad Ibn Abdulwahhab is that he discovered and brought into the limelight another great Hanbali scholar, Imam Ibn Taimiyah and his student Ibn Qayyim. We find that Muhammad Ibn Abdulwahhab remained throughout his life a follower of Hanbali madh-hab and did not deviate much from it.
In the light of what has been said there is no definition of the term "Wahabism" possible except as a label to bring hatred against certain group of people. It is stereotyping, slanderous and a hate-mongering term; no educated person should allow himself to the use of this term. Those who made their goal to fight "Wahabism" are fighting a non-existent enemy, a creation of a figment of their own mind, an imaginary ghost.
Alleged "Wahabis" do not call any one to follow any new fiqh, any sufi order, any new aqeedah but they call Muslims to follow the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Prophet (S) found in the famous books of Hadith like Bukhari, Muslim, Muwatta, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud and others. The books of Hadith mentioned are famous and all Sunni Muslims give lip service to them. It is unfortunate that those who call you to go one step beyond lip service to the Qur'an and Sunnah and implement the teachings in your lives are labelled as Wahabis by their opponents.
Who was Muhammad Ibn Abdulwahhab? He was a reformer and called people to the Qur'an and Sunnah instead of getting trapped into following personality cults of self-appointed, ignorant religious leaders leading masses into the pit of disgrace in this world and the pit of fire in the life hereafter. He did hurt the business of selfish, ignorant and arrogant religious leaders of Arabian Peninsula and he tried to eliminate shirk (associationism with Allah) and bid'ah (innovation in the deen al-Islam). Naturally, those who were hurt by Muhammad's teaching screamed and fought back with their own devilish instruments of slander, lies and hate mongering.
The Crusaders of Europe wanted to evict Muslims from Jerusalem but could not do so without creating hate hysteria in the European population. Today, in America there are Christian Crusaders of pen and tongue, like Anis Shorrosh, Robert Morey, John Ankerberg and others who are fanning the flames of hatred against Muslims through slander, lies and fabrications about Islam and Muslims. In our age, our enemies have adopted another Christian term to denigrate Muslims, that is, fundamentalism, a term without definition but made derogatory.
All educated, intelligent and thinking Muslim brethren have a duty to isolate all those who use the term "Wahabism" or "Wahabis" and associate them with hate mongering groups. We have a duty to love all those who profess to be Muslims and educate those who are ignorant of the true teachings of Islam, rather than creating hate. Those who use the term 'Wahabism or Wahabis" are agents of our enemies, particularly our worst enemy, Shaytan. We have a duty to do all we can to free our brethren from the clutches of Shaytan and his friends.
In our time, when Islam and Muslims are under attack from all sides, from Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and secular nationalists, it is not right for us to divide ourselves and fight against each other. We have to pool our resources together and fight the common enemies of Islam and Muslims. If a group among us is different, we should learn to ignore the differences, emphasize the commonality and call each other to the true teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah of the Messenger (S) of Allah. We should not call any group of people by any name which they do not like, that is slander. There is no group of people who like to be called "Wahabis", therefore, this term should be dropped by the Muslims. The term "Wahabis" and "Wahabism" was the invention of the British to divide Muslims and fight against each other and weaken each other, so that the British could continue to conquer Muslims land and rule them. We should not allow ourselves to continue to be the victims of Imperialist designs.