The term Wahhabism is an outsiders' designation for the
religious movement within Islam founded by Muhammad ibn Abd
al - Wahhab (1703 - 92). Members describe themselves as muwahhidun
("unitarians"), those who uphold firmly the doctrine that God is
one, the only one (wahid). This self designation points to the
movement's major characteristic, its opposition to any custom and
belief threatening and jeopardizing the glorification of the one
God. It condemns as illegal and un - Islamic the practice of using
the name of any prophet, saint, or angel in a prayer, of calling
upon any such beings for intercession and making vows to them, and
of visitations to tombs of saints. Adherents insist on a literal
interpretation of the Koran and a strict doctrine of predestination.|
Willem A Bijlefeld
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The political character of the movement took the form of opposition to the ruling Ottoman empire. In 1744 Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab formed an alliance with a local chieftain, Muhammad Ibn Sa'ud (1765), who accepted his doctrine and undertook its defence and propagation. The demolition of shrines, tombstones and the capture of Mecca caused alarm in the Ottoman government which despatched an army to crush the movement. The decisive defeat of the bedouin troops in 1818 brought to an end the first Sa'udi-Wahhabi venture.
A remnant of the Wahhabi movement survived in a pocket of Central Arabia. In 1902 Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa'ud, who was from the Sa'udi family and a follower of the bedouin faith of the Wahhabiyyah, took Riyadh, an event which led to his gradual conquest of the interior of the Arabian peninsula. In 1927 Sa'ud signed a treaty with the British (who at that time were controlling parts of the Arabian peninsula) which gave him full independence in exchange for his recognition of British suzerainty over the Gulf sheikdoms. Finally in 1932 he named his state the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabiyyah then became the official doctrine of the state. Today the Saudi state remains firmly rooted in the Wahhabi creed.
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