Founder of a strict sect of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism

Who call themselves, Muwahiddun

(Circa 1702 - 1791)

Not a Prequel to Dune

Those in the reformist offshoot of Islam following this Sheik's name, Wahhabism, would think this designation would be an insult by calling a branch of Islam after a man's name. That's why they prefer to be called, Unitarians, or Muwahiddun, or their movement, Salafi Da'wa. Now, these Unitarians are as far away from Unitarian Universalists in that other liberal theological denomination, as night is to day. It is his close followers who have kept his legacy, rather than outside observers, and probably not by his enemies, which became many. He was in the footsteps of Ibn Taymiyyah, one main difference was only of his predecessor was in the 13th Century, and did not have as many followers being founded in Syria.

He was born in the southern highlands (Najd), Yamama area northwest of today's capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh. The Al-Saud family were from central Najd, also, who were later to join forces with this important teacher. Fortunately for his later-to-be career, it was to the wife of his father, Sheikh Abdul Wahhab Ibn Sulaiman, in the oasis Oyayna (or Ayina or al-Uyaynah), where also his grandfather presided as judge. This family tutored him well whereby his Hanbali homeschooling from childhood made it inevitable that he would have to elsewhere to continue his prowess with the Qur'an (memorized by the time he was 10). He made his obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca early in his teens. He began to reject the common teachings of the ulama. Needing further study, he left for Basrah (in today's Iraq), and studied with Muhammad al-Mujmui amongst his children. He eventually found his mission to pronounce Tawheed (monotheism) and the Sunnah (law and practice) of the Prophet, and for all to follow a strict adherence to it. It might be thought of as starting a new madhab, or school of thought, which some sources state there are four.

Unfortunately for him, his arguments began to attract enemies, and several times he moved, living for a while in Huraymila with his father, until settling back in the village of his birth. Now, at this time (about 1730) there was a slippage of the ideal monotheism ("there is but One God") in Najd, and he preached against the Tariqs (orders of the way or Sufism), and Tawassuf (mysticism and praying to intermediates, like Muslim saints, for example, even Mohammed). Evidently, Shi'ism was also a problem with him where they venerated -- and still do -- holy sites (Note Iran). The Shirks invoking the name of Ali for healing etc. was anathema to them. In Huraymila he wrote the most famous of his approximately fifteen treatise, Kitab al-Tawhid , or The Book of Monotheism. The idea of following Hadiths, teachings and rulings that set precedence is important to these adherents. In other words, there is a strong insistence to not just sit down and glean straight out of the Qur'an a religion without looking at the qualified writing with accepted tradition.

He aroused some serious confrontation over his strict edicts on sexuality, and for his safety he fled back to al-Uyaynah. Because his old home, was close to some Shi'ites, who were not happy with his criticism of them he made his way to Ad Diriyah. This is significant because here he made a pact with Muhammad ibn Saud in 1744. By 1765 Wahhabism and Saudi rule was established, even in the Hijaz.

After the two great leaders had died, Abd al Wahhab's daughter married the son of the Al Saud Royal family founder, Muhammad ibn Saud. Though they had to submit to other authorities in the next centuries, they were firmly established as the main monarchy when the British in World War I (remember Lawrence of Arabia) helped throw out the Turks overruling them in the Ottoman Empire, thus establishing the strong link with this ruling family and Wahhabism that is existent today. Sunnis comprise 90 percent of Muslims.