Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab
A renowned Reviver and a great Reformer
His Birth and Lineage
Sheikh-ul-Islam, Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab, was born in 1115 H. in the city of Uyainah, seventy kilometers northwest of Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He belonged to a highly respectable and scholarly family; his father Sheikh Abdul-Wahhab bin Sulaiman, characterized by his profound scholarship and righteousness, inherited an exalted status from his ancestor Sheikh Sulaiman bin Ali, the chief of the scholars and well versed in teaching, writing and giving verdict.
Sheikh-ul-Islam acquired his primary education from his esteemed father at his native place and was nurtured under his guidance. He was intelligent enough to memorize the Qur'an by heart at the very tender age of ten only. He read the books on Tafseer (exegesis), Hadith and Fiqh. From the very outset, he was greatly interested in studying the works of early scholars, particularly those of Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taimiyah and his noble disciple Allamah Ibn Qaiyim. He went through all those books and well grasped the contents.
On attaining the age of maturity, he set out to perform Hajj at Makkah and derived benefits from the scholars there. He then proceeded to Al-Madinah, met the learned ones there, and adopted the studentship of two renowned erudite, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ibrahim bin Sa'id Najdi and Sheikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi for a long period. Out of the curiosity for higher education, he took also the journey to Iraq and Basrah and got himself benefited there.
Condition of Najd
In those days, the people of Najd were badly indulged in polytheistic deeds and un-Islamic practices. They were completely overwhelmed with polytheism. The graves, trees, stones, caves, evil spirits and insane persons were regarded as deities. The baseless stories and tales were ascribed to them to manifest their excellence. The worldly Ulama too had misguided them for the fulfillment of their materialistic lust. The soothsayers and magicians were having their influence over the society.
None could dare challenge their holds on the commoners. Same condition was prevailing in both Makkah and Al-Madinah also. Yemen was also in the same line. Polytheism, erection of structures on the graves, seeking refuge and assistance of the dead, saints and jinns were the common religious features.
Mission of Da'wah
Having studied this pitiable condition of the nation, Sheikh was highly moved. More pitiable was the situation that no one was ready to take trouble to guide the people to the Right Path. It is obvious that to take this task meant to challenge those evildoers who had) their provisions through these practices. It meant to make oneself prepared to face every torture and atrocities from these selfish misguiders and their followers. But Sheikh resolved to make every effort to fight against the circumstances up to the extent of Jihad.
Sheikh started his mission. He invited the people to the Tauhid (Islamic Monotheism) and guided them to the Qur'an and Sunnah. He urged upon Ulama to strictly follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and derive the issues directly from them. He forcibly contradicted the blind following of any scholar of the Ummah in preference to the Qur'an and Hadith.
Sheikh was a man of courage and enthusiasm. He started his preaching, made correspondence with religious scholars inviting them to lend helping hands in eradication of the prevailing absurdities and defilements in religious matters.
A number of scholars from Makkah, Al-Madinah and Yemen accepted his invitation, and supported him. But apart from them, there were also such ignorant and selfish scholars who criticized him and kept themselves aloof.
The so-called learned ones rose against Sheikh as they were being affected by his Da’wah in terms of their worldly gains. Even then he took journey to different places to convey his message to the people given to error. Traveling through Zabir, Ahsa, Huraimala, he reached Uyainah.
Arrival at Uyainah
That was the period when the ruler of Uyainah was Uthman bin Hamd bin Ma'mar. He welcomed Sheikh gladly, and assured him every help in his mission of Islamic Da'wah. Sheikh devoted himself to this great work of reformation for the sake of Allah. He gained the popularity far and wide. People started resorting to him in large numbers. He became engaged in their guidance and teachings.
Sheikh, however, continued his struggle to free the environment from all the defilements and pollutions. There were numerous tombs, graves, caves, trees..etc, which were worshipped by the Muslims. With the help of Amir Uthman bin Ma'mar, most of them were extirpated by Sheikh. He became engaged in purifying the people from polytheistic and heretic rituals in Uyainah and its surroundings.
In the mean time, a woman came to him for her purification from the sin of committing adultery. Investigations- were made as to whether she was mentally sound or not and also that whether she had chose for the punishment under some pressure or voluntarily. When it was confirmed that she was doing that voluntarily out of repentance, Sheikh ordered for the Rajm (to kill by throwing stones-punishment for adultery). Owing to these events dismantling of tombs, self-surrendering of the woman for punishment and migration of the people to Uyainah to seek guidance from the Sheikh-the reputation of Sheikh spread far and wide.
Exit from Uyainah and Entrance to Dar'iyah
When the ruler of Al-Ahsa and its surroundings, Sulaiman bin Urai'ar came to know about the popularity of Sheikh among the people, he became afraid of the growing strength of the Sheikh and resolved to crush him at the very outset, lest he should overthrow him from his power. So he threatened Amir Uthman, with whom Sheikh was living, and asked him to kill the Sheikh. Amir Uthman was not in a position to withstand Sulaiman, hence he became panicky. Apprehending that if he disobeyed his order, he would punish him and overpower him, he made Sheikh acquainted with the whole situation and submitted him to migrate to any other place. And Sheikh migrated from Uyainah to Dar'iyah.
The people of Dar'iyah knew the Sheikh very well and they were also aware of his mission. When the ruler of Dar'iyah Amir Muhammad bin Saud came to know about the arrival of the Sheikh in his territory, he was much pleased and visited him at his place. Muhammad bin Saud belonged to a pious family and himself was a practical Muslim. He exchanged his views with Sheikh and was rejoiced to know that his mission aimed to revive Qur'an and Sunnah and the Islamic teachings in its original form; he desired to promote firm belief in the Oneness of Allah and true guidance of Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him)
Pledge to propagate the teaching of Islam
Sheikh described before him the accounts of the Prophet (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) and his Companions as to how did they strive for the cause of Allah, enduring all the difficulties and making their best efforts with all the sacrifices. Sheikh persuaded the Amir also to the same and assured him of Allah's pleasure in the Hereafter, and His favour and victory in this world. Ibn Saud, being convinced by the Sheikh, agreed with him and promised his full support to him and to his mission, provided when Allah would bless him with victory, he would not leave him. Sheikh also gave his words to this effect, and thus Ibn Saud gave Sheikh his pledge to propagate the teachings of Islam (esp. Tauhid, the Oneness of Allah), mobilize Muslims for Jihad (fighting for the cause of Allah), emphasize adherence to the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) , enjoin the good deeds and forbid the evils. Sheikh invoked Allah to be his Guide and bless him to be firm in his determination, and to give him every success in this life and the Hereafter.
Dar'iyah, the Centre of Da'wah
At this time Sheikh found himself in a peaceful environment, most suitable for his work of Da'wah. He seized the golden opportunity and started to educate the masses. People of Dar'iyah and its surroundings resorted to him for the lessons in Islam. Amir Muhammad bin Saud presented himself before the Sheikh as one of his students of Islam along with the members of his family. Dar'iyah was crowded with the people visiting for learning. Sheikh started teaching, preaching and inviting people to Allah. He undertook the task of delivering lectures on different branches of knowledge namely, Tauhid (Islamic Monotheism), exposition of Qur'an and Sunnah, knowledge of Fiqh and (May Allah be pleased with him) language etc.
Thus Dar'iyah turned into a centre of learning and Da'wah, and people started migrating to it in a large number.
The concourse of people and far-reaching effect of his mission made him far-famed which rendered his enemies into jealous. They started false propaganda against the Sheikh and even blamed him of blasphemy, and branded him a Zindiq and sorcerer. Sheikh was a man of courage. He did not care for these blames and continued his mission with full enthusiasm. He even debated his opponents in the best manner and in a polite way. This attitude proved very effective and rendered his opponents to be his supporters.
Sheikh, along with his work of Da'wah, planned for Jihad against overwhelming polytheism and heretic ideas and practices, and invited people of all ranks to join in this mission. Delegates from every comer of the ArabPeninsula visited Dar'iyah to pledge their support to Sheikh and to take lesson of true monotheism of Islam. Then they would return back to their areas to teach the same to their people and educate them.
The ruler of Uyainah and the elites took journey to pay visit and requested him to turn back to Uyainah. But Sheikh rejected the proposal. They also pledged to fight for the cause of Islam till their last. Sheikh also sent his disciples to the different regions and countries to preach the teachings of Islam based only on Qur'an and authentic Ahadith of the Prophet (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him)
Correspondence with Rulers
Sheikh drew the attention of the rulers and the scholars of each region towards the polytheism and heresy in which the people were indulged, and invited them for their eradication. For the purpose, he stepped into correspondence. He wrote letters to the rulers, elites and scholars of Najd, Riyadh, Kharj, towns of the southern region, Qaseem, Hayel, Washm, Sudair etc. He also wrote to the outstanding Ulama of Ahsa, Makkah and Al-Madinah. Outside the Arab Peninsula, he made correspondence to the learned figures of Syria, Iraq, India, and Yemen as well. He maintained his communication with them, explained them the aims and objects of his mission, substantiated the points with Qur'an and Sunnah and invited their attention towards the eradication of absurd and heretical beliefs and practices in the masses.
Sheikh's mission spread far and wide. A large number of scholars and other people throughout India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc. got influenced and attracted towards his Da'wah. They also stood up in their own regions, with a great zeal and enthusiasm, to invite the people towards Allah and to the pure and basic teachings of Qur'an and Sunnah, free from all heresies and misinterpretations.
Sheikh dedicated his whole life for this Da'wah and Jihad with his utmost sincerity and with the help of Muhammad bin Saud and his son Abdul-Aziz, the rulers of Dar'iyah. He breathed his last on the last day of the month of Dhul-Q'adah in 1206 H (1792 A.C).
Impact of Da'wah
As a result of the continued Da'wah, vigorous struggle and Jihad in the way of Allah for a long period of about fifty years from 1158 H to 1206 H. A complete victory over the entire Najd was gained. People abandoned worshipping graves, tombs, shrines, trees etc. and all the more they deserted all of them and practiced the pure faith of Islam. Blind following of the forefathers, ancestors and traditions in vogue was abandoned; and Shari 'ah was revived and established. Obligatory duties were being observed in the light of Qur'an and Sunnah.
A framework for enjoining good deeds and forbidding bad ones was instituted. Mosques began to be visited by people in abundance for performing Salat.
Peace and tranquility prevailed everywhere, in towns as well as in villages. People became safe even in deserts and on lonely ways. The ignorant and notorious bedouins moulded their conduct. The preachers and preceptors were sent to every comer to teach and educate the common people.
Thus a thorough revival of the complete religion came into existence.
After the expiry of Sheikh, his sons, grandsons, disciples and supporters continued the work of Da'wah and Jihad in the way of Allah. Among his sons, the most ardent in these activities were: Sheikh Imam Abdullah bin Muhammad, Sheikh Husain bin Muhammad, Sheikh Ali bin Muhammad and Sheikh Ibrahim bin Muhammad; and among his grandsons were: Sheikh AbdurRahman bin Hasan, Sheikh Ali bin Husain, Sheikh Sulaiman bin Abdullah. Apart from them, a large group of his disciples including Sheikh Hamd bin Nasir, scholars from Dar'iyah and others remained continuously engaged in inviting people towards Allah's true religion by writing and publishing books, fighting for the cause of Allah and making correspondence in this regard.
Some of his works
Despite the fact that Sheikh-ul-lslam Muhammad bin AbdulWahhab was a reformer and a man of Da 'wah, he still engaged in writing also. His some famous works are as follows:
- Kitab At-Tawhid
- Kitab AI-Kabaair
- Kashf Ash-Shubhat
- Mukhtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool
- Masail Al-Jahiliyah
- Usool Al-Iman
- Fadail Al-Qur'an
- Fadail Al-Islam
- Majmu' Al-Ahadith
- Mukhtasar Al-Insaf wa Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer
- Al-Usool Ath- Thalatha
- Aadab Al-Mashi ila As-Salat