Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab
His Da`wah and biography
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All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon His servant, Messenger, and chosen one amongst His creatures, our master and Imam Muhammad ibn `Abdullah, and upon his family, Companions, and all those who follow him.
Dear brothers and sons, this brief lecture aims at enlightening your ideas, clarifying facts, and offering sincere advice to Allah's servants for the Sake of Allah. By this lecture, we are trying to give some of the rights due to the person whom the lecture is about. This lecture is about Shaykh
Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab,
His Da`wah (calling to Islam) and biography.
Definitely, it is good to hear about reformers, Du`ah (callers to Islam), and revivalists and to be reminded of their conditions, good traits, and righteous deeds, and to learn about their biographies, which serve as a testimony of their sincerity and honesty in Da`wah and reform, and about their manners and deeds. This topic, which makes the hearts feel at ease, is a favorite subject of every person who takes pride in Islam and desires reform and calling to the way of Al-Haqq (the Truth). That is why I thought of talking to you about a great man, an excellent reformer, and a devout Da`y (caller to Islam), namely, the revivalist of Islam in
the Arabian Peninsula
during the twelfth century of Hijrah (Prophet's migration to Madinah), Imam
Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab ibn Sulayman ibn `Aly Al-Tamimy Al-Hanbaly.
This Imam acquired great fame among Muslims, particularly among scholars and influential people, both inside and outside
the Arabian Peninsula.
There are copious writings about him, both brief and detailed. Many people compiled his writings, even Orientalists made
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him the theme of many of their works. Others mentioned him in their writings about reformers and history. Unbiased writers described him as a great reformer, a revivalist of Islam, a guided person, in addition to other descriptions that are just too many to list here.
Among those writers was the great author
Abu Bakr Al-Shaykh Husayn ibn Ghannam Al-Ahsa'y,
who wrote elaborately about the Shaykh and mentioned his biography and missions, giving him his due right. He quoted many of the Shaykh's treatises and deductions from the Qur'an. Also, Shaykh
`Uthman ibn Bishr
wrote in a book entitled Al-Majd (The Glory) about Shaykh Ibn `Abdul-Wahhab, his Da`wah, biography, battles, and Jihad (fighting in the Cause of Allah). Examples of other writers from outside the Arabian Peninsula were Dr.
in his book Zu`ama' Al-Islah (The Leaders of Reform), who fairly wrote about Shaykh Ibn `Abdul-Wahhab; Shaykh
who called him "the wronged reformer" and wrote a very good biography about him; and the outstanding Shaykh Prince
Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-San`any
who was almost contemporary to the Shaykh and followed his call when he learnt about it, and praised Allah for it.
Also, the great knowledgeable Shaykh
Muhammad ibn `Aly Al-Shawkany,
the author of Nayl Al-Awtar book, wrote about Ibn `Abdul-Wahhab and elegized him, in addition to many other renowned authors. Since many people do not know the true nature of this man, his life, and Da`wah, I thought of contributing to clarifying these facts and explaining his good biography, righteous Da`wah, and sincere struggle. I also thought of explaining a little of what I know about this Imam, so that anyone who has questions or doubts about this person or his Da`wah may know the truth.
He was born in 1115 A.H; this was the most well-known date of birth - may Allah have mercy on him. It is said that he was born in 1111 A.H, but the preponderant opinion is that he was born in 1115 A.H.
He was educated by his father in his homeland
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The distance between it and
is 70 kilometers. He (may Allah be merciful to him) was brought up righteously. He learned to recite the Qur'an at a very early age and applied himself to his studies and acquired Islamic knowledge at the hands of his father, Shaykh
`Abdul-Wahhab ibn Sulayman,
who was a great Faqih (Muslim jurist), an outstanding scholar, and the judge of
Having attained puberty, the Shaykh traveled to
where he learned from some of the scholars of
(the Sacred Mosque in Makkah). He, then, headed for
where he met the scholars and stayed there for some time. He was taught by two famous scholars in
at that time; Shaykh
`Abdullah ibn Ibrahim ibn Sayf Al-Najdy,
who was born in
and who was the father of Shaykh
Ibrahim ibn `Abdullah,
the author of Al-`Adhb Al-Fa'id fi `Ilm Al-Fara'id; and the eminent Shaykh
Muhammad Hayat Al-Sanady.
Ibn `Abdul-Wahhab was known for being a student of these two scholars in
There might have been other scholars unknown to us.
Shaykh Ibn `Abdul-Wahhab then moved to
to seek knowledge. He went to
and acquired from them as much knowledge as he could. He started his Da`wah there and called the people to follow Tawhid (belief in the Oneness of Allah) and hold fast to the Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet). He announced that it was the duty of every Muslim to practice Islam strictly in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah. He engaged in debates and discussions with scholars concerning this issue. One of his famous shaykhs was Shaykh
However, some unscrupulous scholars in
rebelled against him, and he along with his aforementioned Shaykh were harmed as a result. Consequently, he left Basra with the intention to head for
(the region covering Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine), but he was unable to go there, due to lack of finance. He, thus, left
then moved from
where he met its scholars and discussed some of the principles of Islam. He finally moved to
in the fifth decade of the twelfth Hijri century. (Allah knows best). He chose that city because his father was the judge of
and when a dispute arose between him and its ruler, he moved to
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in 1139 A.H. Shaykh
thus, went to his father in
1140 AH, or shortly thereafter. He settled there and was busy with his studies, teaching, and Da`wah
until his father died in 1153 A.H. After this, he faced much suffering at the hands of some people of
who even attempted to kill him. It was said that some of them tried to get to him by climbing the wall leading to his home, but they became frightened and escaped when some people saw them. As a result, the Shaykh (may Allah be merciful to him) moved to
The reason for the people's anger at him was his attempts to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. He even urged the rulers to inflict Ta`zir (discretionary punishment) on criminals who used to rob and harm people. When those wicked people, who were known as 'bondsmen', learned that the Shaykh was against them and their deeds and that he was urging rulers to punish them and curb their evils, they became enraged and tried to kill him, but Allah saved him. The Shaykh, thus, moved to
which was governed at the time by
`Uthman ibn Nasir ibn Ma`mar,
who welcomed the Shaykh with hospitality and promised him total support and help in his Da`wah.
The Shaykh worked in teaching, guidance, and Da`wah. He continued calling people to do good and love each other for the Sake of Allah. He, consequently, became famous in
and attracted people from neighboring villages. One day, the Shaykh said to Prince
"Let us destroy the dome built on the grave of
Zayd ibn Al-Khattab
(may Allah be pleased with him), for it was built without guidance and Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is not pleased with such deeds. Also, the Messenger (peace be upon him) has forbade building domes or Masjids (mosques) on graves. This dome has been a source of Fitnah (temptation) for the people, as it has affected their `Aqidah (creed) and led them to committing Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). Therefore, it must be destroyed." The Prince said: "I have no objection to what you are saying." The Shaykh said: "But I fear that the people of
may revolt against us."
was a village near the grave.
marched with an army of 600 soldiers to destroy the dome; and the Shaykh (may Allah be merciful to him) accompanied them. As soon as they approached the dome, the people
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went out to defend it, but when they saw Prince
with his army, they refrained. The Shaykh destroyed the dome with his hands and Allah's help. Let us briefly describe the prevailing conditions in
before the call of the Shaykh (may Allah be merciful to him) and about the reasons for it.
The people of
before the call of the Shaykh, lived in conditions that could not be approved of by any believer. Major Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship that takes the Muslim out of Islam) spread widely, and the people worshiped domes, trees, rocks, caves, or those who claimed to be Awliya' (pious people), even if they were insane and mindless. Also, sorcery and soothsaying prevailed in
The people used to ask practitioners of these evil deeds for help and believed them. No one expressed any disapproval of these deeds except those whom Allah willed. The people were only preoccupied with fulfilling their worldly concerns and desires. Only a few people would observe optional night Prayers or support Islam. The same conditions prevailed in
(the Two Sacred Mosques: the Sacred Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah). And in
where committing Shirk, building domes on the graves, and supplicating to the Awliya' and seeking their help became widespread. Thus, conditions were no different either in
where the people worshiped graves, caves, trees, and madmen. Invoking the Jinn (creatures created from fire) became common in
The people used to seek their help, offer them sacrificial animals, and place idols in their homes hoping for their help and fearing their harm. When the Shaykh saw that Shirk was dominating the people and that no one disapproved of it and was ready to call the people back to Allah, he decided to work singlehandedly and patiently in this field. He knew that nothing could be achieved without struggle, patience, and suffering. He, thus, exerted much effort in teaching, guiding, and instructing the people in
He wrote to many scholars requesting their support and struggled against acts of Shirk and superstitions. Many of the scholars of
and other places, responded and sent him letters of support. However, there were other scholars who disagreed with him, dispraised his call, and condemned and shunned him. Those who disagreed with him were of two types. One group consisted of the ignorant people,
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who knew nothing about Islam and Tawhid and followed falsehood, Shirk, Bid`ah (innovation in Islam), superstitions, etc., which their forefathers had upheld. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) says about them:
We found our fathers following a certain way and religion, and we guide ourselves by their footsteps.
The second group, on the other hand, were knowledgeable but responded negatively to the Shaykh due to envy and stubbornness. They were afraid that the people would question their integrity, and might ask why they remained silent without warning people against such abominations until
appeared and manifested Al-Haqq, although they were themselves scholars but did not object to this falsehood. They, thus, envied him and were embarrassed. They were obstinate regarding Al-Haqq and preferred this world to the Hereafter, like
We ask Allah to grant us safety.
The Shaykh carried on patiently and did his best in Da`wah. He received encouragement from scholars and influential persons inside and outside
the Arabian Peninsula.
He sought the help of his Lord (Glorified and Exalted be He). He had already started to study the Qur'an, and was skilled in Tafsir (exegesis of the meanings of the Qur'an) and deducing meanings from the Qur'an. He also worked hard in studying the Prophet's biography and that of his Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet). He embarked on his studies until he deduced what helped him stand firm in his Da`wah. He was determined to spread his Da`wah among the people and wrote to rulers and scholars requesting their help, without fearing the consequences of his actions.
Allah fulfilled his good hopes, granted him success in spreading the Da`wah, made him a supporter of Al-Haqq, and provided him with followers and helpers. Consequently, true Islam prevailed and the Word of Allah became uppermost. The Shaykh persevered in his Da`wah in
and went on teaching and guiding the people to Islam. He struggled to remove any traces of Shirk. However, when he saw that his Da`wah was not sufficiently effective, he decided to physically remove Shirk as much as he could. He told Prince
`Uthman ibn Ma`mar
that the dome on the grave of
had to be destroyed.
Zayd ibn Al-Khattab
(may Allah be pleased with him) was the brother of
`Umar ibn Al-Khattab,
Amir Al-Mu’minin (Commander of the Believers) - may Allah be pleased with all of them.
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He fell as a martyr in the fighting against
in 12 A.H. He was buried there and people built a dome over his grave. It may be the grave of another person, but it is said that it is his grave.
agreed and the dome was destroyed. Praise is due to Allah that the dome was destroyed and none of its traces has remained up till now. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) ensured that it was never rebuilt because it was destroyed out of sincere intention with the objective of supporting Al-Haqq. There were other graves, one of which was said to be the grave of
Dirar ibn Al-Azwar,
over which there was a dome that was also destroyed. Similarly, other symbols of Shirk in addition to caves and trees, which people worshiped other than Allah, were all destroyed and people were warned against this evil practice.
The Shaykh (may Allah be merciful to him) continued in his Da`wah through words and actions. One day, a woman came to him and confessed that she had committed Zina (adultery) several times. After realizing that she was sane, married, and had confessed without any external compulsion, he gave the order that she should be stoned as a punishment, as he was Judge of
at the time. He became famous for destroying the dome of Zayd, stoning the adulterous woman, calling to Allah, and attracting people to
Meanwhile, the Prince of
and its surrounding areas - who belonged to the tribe of
Sulayman ibn `Uray`ir Al-Khalidy -
heard about the Shaykh and his Da`wah and about the news of destroying domes and carrying out Hudud (ordained punishments for violating Allah’s Law). He became concerned, because robbery, murder, and violating sanctities were common among Bedouins, except those whom Allah had guided. He, thus, feared that the Shaykh would attain an even higher position and remove his power. He wrote to Prince
threatening him and ordering him to kill the Shaykh in
He wrote in the letter, "We have heard that this person, who is living under your rule, does such and such. Either you kill him, or we will stop paying the Khiraj (tribute) which we are bound by promise to give you." He was to give Prince
a Khiraj of gold.
felt worried and feared that the Prince of Al-Ahsa' might not give him the Khiraj or fight him if he disobeyed his orders. He, thus, said to the Shaykh, "This prince sent me a letter to do such and such.
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We would never wish to kill you, but we are afraid of the prince and cannot stand against him; so please leave." The Shaykh said, "I am simply calling the people to Islam and to the fulfillment of the Testimony of Faith that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Whoever holds fast to Islam and upholds it truthfully, Allah will help him and make him the ruler of his enemies' lands. Hence, if you endure, keep righteous, and accept this good, then rejoice, for Allah will help and protect you from this prince and others. Allah will also give you power over his land and his tribe." The Prince said, "O Shaykh! We cannot fight him, nor can we oppose him." Consequently, the Shaykh had to leave
on foot until he arrived at the end of the day. He left
early in the morning on foot because
did not provide him with any means of transportation. On reaching the city, he went to the house of a person who was one of the best personalities there. His name was
Muhammad ibn Swaylim Al-`Ariny.
It was said that this person felt afraid when the Shaykh came to his house and the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for him. He feared the Prince of
Muhammad ibn Su`ud
but the Shaykh reassured him, saying, "Rejoice, for I am calling to Islam and Allah will definitely make it victorious."
Muhammad ibn Su`ud
heard about the arrival of Shaykh
It was said that it was his wife who informed him about the Shaykh. Some pious people went to her and requested her to tell her husband about the Shaykh and persuade him to accept his Da`wah and support him. She was a righteous and kind woman, and when her husband
Muhammad ibn Su`ud
the Prince of
and its surrounding villages, saw her, she said, "Here is a great fortune sent to you by Allah; a man calling people to Islam, Qur'an, and Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). What good fortune! Rush to him and support him. Never resist him or stop him from carrying out his mission." The Prince accepted her advice, but was hesitant whether to go to him in person or send for him. He asked for advice, and it was said that it was his wife and a group of righteous people who advised him to go to the Shaykh and honor knowledge as well as the caller to good.
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He accepted the advice because Allah predestined happiness and good for him (may Allah be merciful to him). The Prince went to the Shaykh at the house of
Muhammad ibn Swaylim;
he greeted him and said, "O Shaykh
Bear the glad tidings of support, security, and help." The Shaykh replied, "Bear the glad tidings of support, strength, and a good end. This is the Din (religion) of Allah; whosoever supports it, Allah will support them and you will soon realize the results of this." The Prince said, "O Shaykh! I will pledge allegiance to you to support the Din of Allah and His Messenger and Jihad. But I fear that if we support you and Allah makes you victorious over the enemies of Islam, you may leave us to other places." The Shaykh responded, "I will pledge allegiance that I will not do this. Blood for blood and destruction for destruction. I will never leave your country." The Shaykh, thus, pledged allegiance to support the Prince, remain in his country, receive his help, and engage in Jihad with him until Islam would prevail and become victorious. People flocked to
from everywhere, from
and other neighboring places.
remained a place where people immigrated from everywhere. The people heard about the Shaykh, his lectures which he delivered in
and his Da`wah. They came to him in large numbers. The Shaykh settled in
where he was respected, loved, and supported. He gave lectures in
on `Aqidah (creed), Qur'an, Tafsir (exegesis of the meanings of the Qur'an), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Hadith and its Mustalah (terminology), Arabic language, history, and other edifying sciences.
People came to him from everywhere and many young men in
were educated by him. He gave arranged many classes for the common folk and the elite and spread knowledge in
He forged ahead with his Da`wah and began engaging in Jihad. He wrote to the people, inviting them to participate in this field and to remove any signs of Shirk in their countries. He started with
the people of
and sent letters to its rulers and scholars. He used the same method he used with the scholars of
and its Prince
Diham ibn Dawwas,
the scholars and rulers of
and the scholars of the southern cities,
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and other places. He continued his correspondence with the scholars and rulers, including the scholars of
as well as the scholars of
etc. He sent letters to the people, established his arguments, and reminded them of acts of Shirk and Bid`ah which many people used to commit. This does not mean that there were no supporters of Islam. There were helpers. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) undoubtedly guarantees supporters for Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that a group of this Ummah (nation based on one creed) would remain upholding Al-Haqq and thus they would be victorious. However, we are now talking about
where evil, corruption, Shirk, and superstitions prevailed; and although there were good scholars there, they were not active in Da`wah and did not convey it in the proper manner.
there were callers to Al-Haqq and supporters of it who recognized those acts of Shirk and superstitions, but Allah did not grant their Da`wah the degree of success He granted to the Da`wah of Shaykh
for many reasons. Some of these reasons were the absence of supporters who would help them and their inability to endure hardships and harm in the Cause of Allah.
One of many other reasons was the lack of knowledge of some Du`ah, which could enable them to guide the people using appropriate means, proper discourse, wisdom, and good preaching. Because of his active correspondence and Jihad, the Shaykh became famous and his Da`wah spread. He corresponded with scholars inside and outside
the Arabian Peninsula
and a great number of people from
were affected by his Da`wah. There were many Du`ah who had knowledge of Al-Haqq and how to call to it. When the Da`wah of the Shaykh reached them, they became more active and stronger and were known for engaging in Da`wah. The Da`wah of the Shaykh acquired fame and prevailed across the Islamic world and other places as well. During this age, the Shaykh's books and treatises were published as well as the books of his sons, grandsons, followers, and supporters who were
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scholars inside and outside the
Moreover, the books compiled on his Da`wah, biography, and the conditions of his followers were printed. These writings received wide popularity among people almost everywhere. It is a known fact that every favor has its envier and, likewise, every Da`y has enemies. Allah (Exalted be He) says:
And so We have appointed for every Prophet enemies - Shayâtîn (devils) among mankind and jinn, inspiring one another with adorned speech as a delusion (or by way of deception). If your Lord had so willed, they would not have done it; so leave them alone with their fabrications. (Tafsîr Qurtubi)
When the Shaykh became famous for his Da`wah and his many valuable writings received wide popularity among the people, many envious groups emerged as opponents. He also had other enemies.
His enemies and opponents were divided into two groups: one group opposed him in the name of Din and knowledge, and the other group opposed him in the name of politics and hid under the cover of knowledge and Din. They even exploited the enmity of those scholars who opposed him publicly and accused him of not following Al-Haqq. The Shaykh (may Allah be merciful to him) forged ahead with his Da`wah to remove doubts, clarify evidence, and guide the people to the facts proven by the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Sometimes, his opponents would claim that he belonged to
(separatist group that believes committing a major sin amounts to disbelief). Other times they would accuse him of not following Ijma` (consensus of scholars) and of being Mujtahid Mutlaq (expert jurist not bound by a School of Jurisprudence), who did not take the opinions of earlier scholars and Fuqaha' (Muslim jurists) into consideration. He received other accusations out of their lack of proper knowledge. Some groups imitated each other in their false beliefs, and another group feared the removal of their positions and, thus, opposed him in the name of politics while hiding under the cover of Islam and depending on the views of fabrication and falsehood seekers.