Victory News Magazine

Victory News Magazine


Allah (s)

O/L Books
Islamic Arts
Holy Sites
Site Map

© All rights reserved 2008
No responsibility is taken for external sites. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of

Click to subscribe to victorynewsmagazine

FastCounter by bCentral

Published in November, 2002

The Dissension of Najd -Wahhabism

By Ayatollah Dr Sayyed Fadhel H Milani
Presented on Saturday 14th September 2002
At UniSeminar 2002.London.

Ayatollah Dr Sayyed Fadhel H Milani



Muhammad ibn Abdel Wahab who was born in Najd in 1703 CE., is accredited as having instituted the branch of the Sunni Hanbali school, now known as Wahabism.  After 1792 CE his son, in partnership with Muhammad bin Saud, a member of the Arabian clan of that name, employed force of arms to establish it in several parts of the Hijaz.

In 1801, intent on destroying the Karbala shrine of Imam Hussayn ('a), a Wahabi force invaded Iraq.  In 1803 a Wahabi force attacked Makkah, then under the control of Sharif Ghalib.  This attack only ended when he fled to Jeddah.  In that same year, Abdel Aziz bin Saud was assassinated and succeeded by his son Saud.  Saud’s support of Wahabism enabled him to extend his authority over Makkah and Madinah and even to enter Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The only person to succeed in stemming the flow of Saud’s Wahabism was the governor of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha.  In 1818, with the support of the Ottoman Caliph, his forces overcame the Wahabi central command and halted their opportunistic drives.  However, in 1840 the then British government forced Muhammad Ali Pasha to completely withdraw his forces from the Arabian peninsula.

In 1902 CE, Abdel Aziz bin Abdel Rahman bin Saud, recaptured Riyadh.  In 1910, a group referring to themselves as ‘The Brothers’ – Al-Ikhwan, breathed new life into the Wahabi movement.  As a consequence, in 1913 Ibn Saud, who by then controlled South Eastern Hijaz - Ahsa’, was recognised by the Turkish Empire as de-facto governor of Najd.  In 1915 Ibn Saud signed an agreement with Britain by which, in return for a monthly salary, he agreed not to contract agreements with any government other than the British.

In October 1916, Sharif Husayn might have imagined that he would reign over all Arab lands however, by May 1919 the troops of Abdel Aziz bin Saud were at war with Sharif Husayn’s armies.  Thereafter, Abdel Aziz continued his spread of Wahabism over the Hijaz through force of arms.  On 18th September 1932 he had control of a sufficiently large area to declare his territory would, from that day onwards, be known as The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

For a clear understanding of Wahabism, it is necessary to understand the roots of its ideology and the outstanding personalities which have influenced it.  In the main these are Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiah and Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab.

  1. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal

  2. Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiah

  3. Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab

1.Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal



Imam Hanbal was born in Marw in 164 AH. The famous scholar Al-Bayhaqi records that Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s teacher Shafi’i, exerted great influence over his thought.  This appears to be accurate as most of the narrations he included in his famous book, Musnad Ahmad, have clearly been derived from Imam Shafi’i.

When the Abbasid Caliphs Al-Ma’mun and Mu’tasim formally accepted the Mutazalite belief that the Qur’an was created and not eternal, Ahmad ibn Hanbal publicly challenged them.  He claimed that, being Allah’s speech, the Holy Qur’an cannot be separated from Him and thus the Qur’an, like Allah, is eternal.

Some biographers have admired Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s resolute defiance of those Caliphs claiming, as Abdur Rahman I Doi does in Shari’ah - The Islamic Law. page 110 that, ‘As a man of conscience, he never surrendered to wrong-headed views of the authorities. There exists a lot of material on his inquisition. The suffering of Imam Ahmad really started when he came into conflict with the Mutazalites and their philosophical ideologies’.


As it was Imam Ahmad’s views resulted in his being imprisoned in Baghdad for almost thirty months.  In spite of taunts, ill-treatment and torture, Imam Ahmad steadfastly maintained that the Qur’an was uncreated and that all who proclaim Allah’s words to be created, are guilty of the sin of Kufr.

However, rational thought attests to there being two distinctive groupings of Divine attribute. Those which describe Divine Attributes of Essence, and those which describe Divine Attributes of Action.  Allah’s attributes of essence, such as knowledge, power and life are eternal.  It is impossible for them not to be eternal, not even for the merest instant.  On the other hand, His attributes of action may or may not be applied at any one time.  For example, His attributes of creation (Khalq) and of providing sustenance (Rizq) are such that it can be true to say that Allah created such and such a thing but did not create such and such a thing.  Or, that Allah provided so and so with a son but did not provide them with wealth.  Accordingly, it is clear that speech is an Attribute of Action, for it is perfectly accurate to say that Allah spoke to Prophet Musa ('a) but did not speak to Pharaoh.  It is also accurate to say that Allah spoke to Prophet Musa ('a) on Mount Sinai but did not speak to Prophet Musa ('a)  Musa in the Nile valley.


The clear differentiation between His Attributes of Essence - which are not created and thus beyond time, space and limit - and His Attributes of Action, such as creation, giving sustenance and speech - which He may or may not choose to exercise, removes the need for fuss to be made regarding these matters.

Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s methodology is based on his acceptance of hadith, without any of the interpretation which encourages discussion and rational comprehension. For example:

  • When Allah writes, those in heaven hear the scratching of his pen.

  • Allah wrote the Torah for Musa in his own hand as He leaned on a big rock.

  • On the Day of Judgement Allah will use his foot to compress the contents of hell and make more room.  

The Book of Sunnah p. 76  


2.Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiah



Ibn Taymiah, highly regarded by Wahabis, is accorded by them the title Shaykh al-Islam.  Born as Ahmed bin Abdel Haleem in Harran in 661 AH, he was given the Kunyah Taqi-al-Din.  He died in Damascus in 728 AH.  His whole family are recorded as having been adherents of the Hanbali school of law.

After Allamah Hilli (Hasan Bin Yusuf, died 726 AH) wrote his famous book on the Imamah, Minhaj al-Karamah, Ibn Taymiah refuted it with contempt in his book Minhaj al-Sunnah.  This rebuttal, which unbiased researchers acknowledge, completely lacks logical argument or credibility, is a simple refutation of everything which Allamah Hilli presents in Minhaj al-Karamah.




  •  Brotherhood between the Prophet ('s) and Imam Ali ('a).

Tirmidhi in his Sunan, Volume 5 page 636 tradition 3720;

Baghawi in his Masabih al-Sunnah Volume 4 page 173, Tradition 4769; and

Hakim Nishaburi in Al Mustradak Volume 3 page 14,

All report that when the Prophet ('s) established brotherhood between the Muhajarin and the Ansar, he told Ali ('a), ‘You are my brother in this life and in the hereafter’.

Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad, volume 1 page 230, reports that the Prophet ('s) said, ‘You are my brother and I am yours’. 

There are, in addition, many other scholars who also report this, including: Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham, Ibn Sa’ad, Ibn Abdel Barr, Ibn Al-Athir, Ibn Abi al-Hadid, Ibn Kathir and Suyuti.

However, when Ibn Taymiah refers to the above hadith in Minhaj al-Sunnah  Vol. 2 page 119, he asserts that the hadith of brotherhood is a fabrication.  On another occasion he also declared that the Prophet ('s) never established any brotherhood with Ali ('a)

So, do we accept the consensus of a group of highly respected scholars, or the lone, unsupported and antagonistic statements of Ibn Taymiah?  Is it not appropriate to question why Ibn Taymiah repeatedly denied the many reports of brotherhood between the Prophet ('s) and Ali ('a) ?

  • The incident in Surat Hal-Ata, also referred to as al-Dahr and Insan

Ibn Taymiah writes in Minhaj al-Sunnah, Volume 2 page 117, that, ‘The rafidite’, (referring to Allamah al-Hilli) collected an abundance of lies in his book which serve to illustrate his ignorance.  For example, he claims that Surat Hal Ata or Al-Dahr was revealed to honour Ahl al-Bayt ('a).  In reality, the consensus of scholars is that this Surah was revealed in Makkah.  Ali ('a) married Fatimah ('a) in Madinah, Hasan ('a) was born in year 3 AH and Hussayn ('a)  in year 4 AH.  Anyone who claims that the above Surah refers to those highly honoured people has no knowledge of the Qur’an.’

The reference in this Surah, to three groups to be fed (Qur’an 76:8), provides clear evidence that it was indeed revealed in Madinah.  For, in addition to the poor and the orphan, captives are also mentioned as needing to be fed.  In the Qur’an, the Arabic word for captive ‘Aseer’ specifically denotes those taken by force on the battlefield as prisoners of war.  Now, the first battle the Muslims ever fought occurred at Badr after the migration from Makkah to Madinah.  Prior to that, Muslims were never in a position to capture anyone.  This should surely have been known by the acclaimed scholar Ibn Taymiah.  It is thus apparent that it was Ibn Taymiah who lied, was intent on misleading his readers, or ignorant of the Qur’an, and not Allamah Hilli.

The fact is that the opinions of the earliest commentators were divided as to whether this surah was from the Makkah or Madinah period.  Many of the authorities of the second generation – among them Mujahid, Qatadah, al-Hasan al-Basri and Ikrimah (all of them quoted by Baghawi) – hold the view that it was revealed at Madinah.  

For full evidence of their views regarding this surah, you may refer to the tafaseers of Tabari, Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Razi, Abul Saud, Baydhawi, Nasafi, Khazin, A’lusi and Shawkani.  All acknowledge that the ayat which honours the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) was revealed after they had resolved to fast for three days.  It is recorded that for three consecutive evenings during that time, just as the Ahl al-Bayt ('a) were preparing to break their fast, people arrived to beg food from them.  On the first day it was a poor man, on the second an orphan and on the third a captive (Aseer).  Although each member of the family only ever had a small loaf of bread, all of them willingly gave theirs.  The above ayah was then revealed to honour their unstinting generosity.

  • His attitude towards the charitable gift of a ring during ruku:

When we ask ibn Taymiah which tafseer is closest to the book of Allah and the Sunnah, he responds that it is the tafseer of Muhammad bin Jareer al-Tabari.  This on the grounds that Tabari reflects the opinion of the salaf with authentic chains of narration; does not include Bida’ah; and does not include doubtful narrators such as Muqatil and Kalbi.  See his Introduction to Principles of Tafseer page 51. 

In referring to the incident in which Ali ('a) gave his ring whilst in the ruku of salaat, Ibn Taymiah declares it a fabricated hadith.  However when Tabari discusses ayah 55 of surah 5 in his Tafseer, Volume 6 page 186, he includes this incident and lists no less than 5 authentic narrators. Twelve other exegetes share Tabari's view.


How is Ibn Taymiah able to promote Tabari’s tafseer as best, whilst he disagrees  with his opinions?  He tries to support his own view with the claim that it is the belief of some non-existent consensus of scholars.

  •  Ibn Taymiah's reaction to Imam Husayn’s ('a) stance:

Imam Husayn’s ('a) stand was to counter Yazid’s atrocities and his illegitimate claim to be the successor of the Prophet ('s). At the time of his departure for Makkah, he told his brother Muhammad bin Hanafiyya, ‘This action of mine is not on account of stubbornness, rebellion, worldly passion or the instigation by Shaytan.  It is not either my objective to create trouble or oppress anybody.  What encourages me to undertake this activity are; the need to correct the affairs of my grandfather’s followers, to eradicate corruption, to enjoin people to do good and restrain from evil, and the desire to follow the traditions of my grandfather, Allah’s Prophet ('s) and my father Ali ('a)".


His course of action lead to the martyrdom of Imam Hussayn ('a) on the 10th day of Muharram in the year 61 AH.  Today, centuries later, his pre-eminent sacrifice is still remembered and his example remains the inspiration of those who yearn for liberty.


Ibn Taymiah’s reaction to those events is simply that Imam Husayn  made the wrong decision.  He claims that, ‘the disadvantages of his actions were greater than their advantages’.  ‘It is clear’, he said, ‘that it is extremely rare for anyone who rebels against a powerful ruler to attain their objectives.  The evil consequences of their actions are invariably far greater than their anticipated benefit’.  He concludes that there was no benefit in Imam Husayn’s rising - neither for the Din of Islam nor for dunya, and that he could have avoided all calamity had he calmly remained at home.’ Minhaj al-Sunnah Volume 2 page 241-242. 


This is the language of a man who would rather submit to the tyranny of unjust rulers and not warn people of evident danger - even when that points to the destruction of the very foundations of Islam.


Imam Hussayn ('a) who was amongst those who had been purified and who revived the religion of his grandfather is, in the opinion of Ibn Taymiah, a man of flawed judgement who should have kept quiet.

  •  How Allah descends to the lower sky

The famous explorer and traveller Ibn Battutah left a full account of the peoples and places in the many lands he visited.  In page 95 of his book Rihlat ibn Battuta (The voyage of Ibn Battuta) he states, ‘I was in Damascus and attended the Friday prayer where Ibn Taymiah was preaching.  While coming down the steps of the minbar he said, “Allah descends to the lower sky as I am now descending.”.  A Maliki jurist named Ibn al-Zahra immediately stood up and repudiated his bizarre anthropomorphism.  On hearing him, the jamaat attacked the Maliki and beat him with fist and slipper until his turban became dislodged.  When they unfortunately discovered a piece of silk in his possession, they dragged him to the Hanbali Qadi who immediately ordered him imprisoned for being in possession of that material.’ The same story is related in Ibn Hajar al- Askalani’s al-Durar al-Kamina  Volume 1 page 154.


How can we possibly accept a man whose teachings lead to belief in Allah being domiciled in a particular place and that He walks about like a human being?  Is this pure Tawhid?  


Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab



Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab revived the methodology of the Hanbali scholars and accepted Ibn Taymiah’s methodology in its entirety.  However, unlike Ibn Taymiah, Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab had the support of the ruling establishment – in his case the Saud family, whose military might was utilised to impose his views.  The Saud family believed that Abdel Wahab’s view represented ‘purity of tawhid’.


Summary of Wahab’s belief:




Wahabis refer to these being the Tawhid of the Unification of the Divine Essence, and the Tawhid of the Unification of Lordship.  According to Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab, whilst Muslims and non-muslims share Tawhid of the Unification of Lordship, what divides Islam for disbelief is the Tawhid of the Unification of the Divine Essence.  He somehow concludes that, ‘The mushrikin (Lit. “those who associate”) of our time (i.e. today’s Muslims), are worse than the mushrikin of earlier times because, despite (those of earlier times) having associated things with Allah during times of ease and comfort, it was to Allah alone that they turned when faced with problems.  Contemporary mushrikin on the other hand, associate things with Allah all the time.’  See Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab’s Treatise of Four Principles p.4.  He refers to Qur’an 29:65, ‘When they embark on ships they call upon Allah sincerely and with pure faith.  When He brings them safely ashore, they associate others with him.’



Wahabis believe that any who visit the shrines of Ahl-al-Bayt ('a) or the Prophet ('s) to ask for their intercession are Mushrik and Kafir.  Muslims of Najd and Hijaz whom they accused of this, were killed, had their properties looted and their children enslaved.


Sulayman bin Abdel Wahab, distressed by the consequences of his brother Muhammad bin Abdel Wahab’s extreme opinions regarding who is, or is not a disbeliever, wrote a book Divine Thunderbolts that Reject Wahabism, expressly to criticise those views.  He wrote that, ‘Intercession occurred during the time of the companions when one dreamed that he had complained to the Prophet ('s) about drought.  The Prophet ('s) ordered him to seek the help of Umar.  In this case, neither Umar nor that companions denied intercession, yet you Wahabis claim those who ask for intercession are unbelievers.’  He continued, ‘Similar actions occurred at the time of Imam Ahmad Ibn-Hanbal.  Although some scholars might have had reservations, none ever accused anyone of being a kafir, labelled them apostate or permitted them being killed as mushriks’ p.117.

The asking for intercession is not prohibited anywhere, indeed it has Shari’ah approval.  In one hadith a blind man came to the Prophet ('s) to asked him to pray for the return of his eyesight.  The Prophet ('s) replied, ‘If you wish, I will pray for that, but you must be patient.’ ‘Please,’ the man asked, ‘Do pray for me’.  The Prophet ('s) ordered he perform Wudu, pray two Rakaats and then ask, ‘O Allah, I ask and beseech you in the name of Muhammad Messenger of Mercy, O Muhammad, I beg you to intercede for my request to be fulfilled, O Allah, please accept his intercession’.  Uthman bin Hanif, the narrator of this report said, ‘We did not separate from our meeting until the blind man returned to us with his sight fully restored.’ 

  • Sunan ibn Majah Vol. 1 p. 441.

  • Mustradak al-Hakim Vol.1 p. 313.

  • Musnad Ahmad Vol.4 p.138.

This hadith provides clear evidence that the Prophet ('s) not only accepted the concept of intercession, but that he himself complied with a request to intercede, gave instruction on how Allah should be asked to accept his intercession, and that his intercession was indeed accepted.  Despite this, Wahabis claim intercession to be a Bida’ah and oppose it vehemently.


All Muslims, Wahabi or not, eagerly seek the assistance of the medical, legal and countless other professional services, when they need their help.  This however does not in any way imply that they have turned away from Allah.

| 99 Names of Allah | Ahadith | Articles | Awards | Calendar | Contact Us | Disclaimer | Dua'as | DVD | Gallery | Grammar Guidelines | Haj | Holy Places | Home | Islamic Arts | Member Writers
Muharram | Online Books Poetry | Publishing Specifications | Punctuation Guidelines | Ramadhan | Referencing Specifications | Site Map |

Back to Home©All rights reserved 2008
Hit Counter


Last Updated Thursday, 11 December 2008