History of Wahabis
or WAHABITES. A Moslem sect, named after its founder, Mohammed Abd at
Wahhab. He seems to have been born in 1704 (1116 A.H.), probably at Ayane in the
District of Arid, Nejd, Central Arabia, and died at Deriye in 1792 (1206 A.H.).
He was the son of Suleiman, a poor shepherd of the tribe of the Beni Tamim. He
studied at Basra, Bagdad, and Damascus, and came under the influence of
Hanbalite teaching through perusal of the works of Ibn Taymiyya (died 1327; 728
A.H.) and his disciple Ibn Kayyim al Jauziyya, which he copied with his own
hand, as is known from two Leyden manuscripts. Like these followers of Ahmed ibn
Hanbal, he became a staunch supporter of Koran and Sunna, and an opponent of the
Ijma', or consensus of opinion, and the Bida', or novelty. On his pilgrimage to
Mecca and Medina he must have been shocked at the formalism, laxity of morals,
cult of the saints, and pagan survivals at these shrines. His stern preaching
and ascetic life were not calculated to win for him a ready adherence in Nejd
where people cared little for religion, and he was forced to leave, both Ayane
and Horeimle. In Deriye, however, he made a convert of the ruler, Mohammed ibn
Sa'ud, in 1746. Before his death in 1765 this Emir of Deriye had extended his
power and the influence of Abd al Wahhab through the neighboring towns. But Riad
was not finally captured until 1772 by his successor Abd at Aziz (1765-1863).
Mohammed Abd al Wahhab himself never sought political power; he remained to the
end a warner and a spiritual guide, faithful to Koran and tradition as
interpreted by the Hanbalite school, and fighting all innovations, such as the
mention of Mohammed and other men in prayer, and the
veneration of local saints, as well as all luxury, the use of tobacco, music,
dancing, and gambling. He had in the course of his life 20 wives, by whom he had
18 children; but he followed in this respect the law which he recognized, and
his life was free from many of the blemishes attaching to that of the prophet
Mohammed. His followers did not call themselves Wahabis, a name given them by
their enemies, but Muslimin and Muwahhidin, because they insisted upon the unity
and transcendence of Allah. Like the Almohades (q.v.) they regarded all other
Mohammedans as Kuffar (unbelievers) and Mushrikin (polytheists).
al Aziz spread the power of the Wahabite state beyond the boundaries of Nejd. In
1801 he sent his son Sa'ud to Kerbelah, the greatest shrine of the Shiites, and
he destroyed the sanctuary, killed the priests, and brought back enormous booty.
Mecca was plundered in 1803; but in that year Abd al Aziz was murdered at Deriye
by a Shiite in revenge for the destruction of Husain's shrine. Sa'ud (1803-14)
captured Medina in 1804 and in 1810 opened Mohammed's grave and carried away its
treasures; at Mecca he cut the black stone of the Ka'bah to pieces. In 1811
Damascus was held for ransom, and the territory east of Jordan paid tribute.
Then Mahmud II directed Mehemet Ali (q.v.), Viceroy
of Egypt, to restore Turkish authority in Arabia. He first sent his son Tusun
who after an initial defeat captured Jidda, Mecca, and Medina in 1812; then
Mehemet Ali came himself and defeated the Wahabis at Bessel in 1815; finally Ibrahim
Pasha was sent who destroyed Deriye after a long siege in 1818. The brave
defender, Abdallah ibn Sa'ud, was put to death in Constantinople. About 1820 the
Egyptian governor was overthrown, and Turki made himself independent Emir at
Riad. He was succeeded by his son Faizal (1830-36), and he by his brother
Ahdallah (c.1866-92). The recent history of the Sa'udian dynasty is not known.
1830 Abdallah ibn Rashid, of the tribe of Abde, in Jebel Shammar, was made
governor of Hail as a reward for services to Faizal. Gradually he made himself
ruler of northern Nejd, though recognizing the Wahabite Emir at Riad. His son,
Talal (1845-68), was an excellent ruler who extended the power of this Wahabite
state, and was a capable administrator. His brother Met'ab was murdered by two
of Talal's sons; and one of these, Bender, by his uncle, Mohammed ibn Abdallah.
In 1892 he gained a victory at Aneiza which forced the southern oases to
recognize his suzerainty. European visitors speak highly of his ability,
justice, and power. The recent history of the Rashidian dynasty is unknown. The
first information concerning the Wahabites came to Europe through Niebuhr who
obtained it in Arabia in 1763-65. Derije was visited by Reinaud in 1799, and G.
F. Sadlier in 1819; Riad by G. W. Palgrave in 1862, and Lewis Pelly in 1865;
Eduard Nolde went to Bereida in 1893. Wallin lived at Hail for two months and at
Jof four months in 1845, and visited Hail again in 1848; this capital has since
been visited by Palgrave in 1862, Guarmani in 1864, Doughty and Huber in 1875,
Lady Anne Blunt and her husband in 1879, and Euting in 1883. From Arabia the
Wahabi movement spread into Africa, where it influenced the founder of the
Senussi brotherhood (see SENUSSI), into India where Sa'id Ahmed, a reputed
descendant of Mohammed, declared a religious war against the Sikhs, but was
defeated and slain in 1831, and elsewhere in the Moslem world. Among the works
that set forth the doctrines of the Wahabis may be mentioned the Sirat al
Mustakin and the Tawiyet al Iman, and among Wahabite theologians especially
Abdallah ibn Abd al Rahman al Sindi.
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. XXIII (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 271.