/ Wahhabism
   An Islamic sect named for Muhammad Abd al Wahhab, who was born at ‘ Uyaynah in central Arabia in 1703. His father was a local Islamic judge ( qadi ) and a follower of the Hanbali school of Islamic law. Wahhab became an Islamic judge. While studying at Medina he read the works of Taqiyyudin Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328). Wahhab was concerned about what he believed was a decline in Muslim strength. In Taymiyyah, he found inspiration for dealing with Islamic spiritual decay and methods of religious reform.
   According to Wahhab’s analysis of the times, the weakness of Islam was caused by a weakening of the monotheistic purity of the faith. The solution was to put great emphasis upon tawid, or the unity of Allah. With tawid as his chief guide, Wahhab initiated a global Islamic reform movement. Wahhab’s teachings might have come to naught had he not met the military champion of his movement, Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud. In 1744, Wahhab moved to Dar’iyyah, a small village in east central Arabia area of Najd. He encouraged enforcement of tawid, and jihad against those with a different Islamic theology.
   Muhammad Ibn Saud died in 1766. He was succeeded by his son Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud and the by his grandson Sa’ud Ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz, who carried on the Wahhabi movement. Wahhab died at Dar’iyyah in 1792, but in the early 1800s the Wahhabi army captured the Hejaz cities of Mecca and Medina. They “purified” them of the buildings, books, and other things that were offensive to tawid. The activities of the Wahhabi were viewed by the Sultan in Turkey as a challenge to his spiritual leadership. He sent Mehmet Ali to Arabia to fight the Wahhabi. In 1818, Ali defeated the Wahhabi and destroyed Dar’iyyah. He sent Abd al-Aziz to Istanbul where he was beheaded. In the following decades of the nineteenth century, the Al-Saud family continued to follow the teachings of Wahhab. In 1902, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, a direct descendant of both al-Wahhab and the first Ibn Saud, captured the city of Riyadh. In the decades that followed Ibn Saud organized a band of Wahhabi warriors, the Ikhwan, or brotherhood. With them he unified much of the Arabian Peninsula. During World War I, he made an alliance with the British to fight against the Turks.
   See also <>.
    Algar, Hamid. Wahabbism: A Critical Essay. Oneota: Islamic Publications, 2002;
    DeLong-Bas, Natana J. Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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