Sheikh-ul-Islam Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab - A renowned Reviver and a great Reformer
His Birth and Lineage
Shaykh-ul-Islaam, 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 Shaykh 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 was well versed in teaching, writing and giving verdict.
Shaykh-ul-Islaam 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'aan by heart at the tender age of ten. 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 Shaykh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyah and his noble disciple Allaamah Ibn Qayyim. He went through all those books and well grasped their 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 scholars, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ibrahim bin Sa'id Najdi and Sheikh Muhammad Hayat Sindhi for a long period. Curiosity for higher education took him to Iraq and Basrah. He greatly benefited from his studies in Iraq.
Condition of Najd
In those days, the people of Najd were deeply 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 and baseless stories and tales were ascribed to them to manifest their excellence. Many of the materialistic and worldly scholars had misguided them towards the fulfillment of their materialistic lust and the soothsayers and magicians were having their influence over the society.
None could dare challenge them. The same conditions were now being seen in both Makkah and Al-Madinah. 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 common religious features in these so called "Islamic" countries.
Mission of Da'wah
Having studied this pitiable condition of the Muslim nation, the Sheikh was highly perturbed. What made all of this worse was the fact that no one was ready to take the trouble and guide the people to the Right Path. It is obvious that to undertake this task meant to challenge those evildoers who had high contacts through their evil practices. Yes, it meant to make oneself prepared to face torture and atrocities from these selfish misguiders and their followers. But the Sheikh resolved to make every effort to fight against this evil, even if it meant death.
The Sheikh began his mission. He invited the people to Tawhid (Islamic Monotheism) and guided them, by the Will of Allah, to the Qur'an and Sunnah. He urged the scholars to strictly follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and derive rulings directly from them. He contradicted the blind following of any scholar of the Ummah in preference to the Qur'an and Hadith.
The Sheikh was a man of courage and enthusiasm. He started his preaching, made correspondence with religious scholars inviting them to help him in eradicating the evils from the Ummah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). A number of scholars from Makkah, Al-Madinah and Yemen accepted his invitation, and supported him. But apart from them, there were also some ignorant and selfish scholars who criticized him and kept themselves aloof from this difficult situation. These so-called learned ones rose against the Sheikh, as they feared a jeopardy to their cosy lifestyles. Even began journeying to different places in order to convey the correct and true message to those who had fallen into error. Traveling through Zabir, Ahsa, Huraimala, he then arrived at Uyainah.
Arrival at 'Uyainah
The ruler of Uyainah was Uthman bin Hamd bin Ma'mar. He welcomed the Sheikh gladly, and assured him that he will help him in his Da'wah mission.The Sheikh began devoting himself to the much-needed reformation of the Muslim Ummah. As time passed by, he started gaining popularity far and wide. People began coming to him in large groups and he readily took them on and began teaching them the pure creed and the way of the generations before.
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 whether or not she had chosen punishment under some pressure. When it was confirmed that she was doing this voluntarily and for repentance, the Sheikh ordered for the Rajm (to kill by throwing stones at the adulterer). It was because of these events, such as the dismantling of tombs, the self-surrendering of the woman for punishment and migration of many people to Uyainah seeking guidance from the Sheikh, the reputation of the Sheikh inevitably 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 his power. He threatened Amir Uthman, with whom Sheikh was living, and commanded him to kill the Sheikh. Amir Uthman was not in a position to withstand Sulaiman, hence he panicked. Apprehending that if he disobeyed his order, he would punish him and overpower him, he exposed the whole situation to the Sheick and asked him to migrate to another place. The Shaykh then Sheikh migrated from Uyainah to Dar'iyah.
The people of Dar'iyah knew the Sheikh very well and were also aware of his mission. When the ruler of Dar'iyah, Amir Muhammad bin Saud, came to know of the arrival of the Sheikh into his territory, he was very pleased and even visited him at his place. Muhammad bin Saud belonged to a pious family and himself was a practicing Muslim. He exchanged his views with the Sheikh and was rejoiced to know that his mission really was aimed to revive Qur'an and Sunnah and the Islamic teachings in its original form and that 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
The Sheikh described to him the Da'wah incidences of the Prophet (,ay the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) and his Companions and how they had strive for the cause of and in the way of Allah. He explained that the Prophet and his companions had did so while enduring many difficulties and sacrifices. Sheikh persuaded the Ameer to do the same and assured him of Allah's pleasure, favour and victory in this world and the next. Ibn Saud, being convinced by the Sheikh, agreed with him and promised his full support to him and to his mission, provided that when Allah would bless him with victory that he would not leave him. The Sheikh gave his words to this effect, and thus Ibn Saud gave the Sheikh his pledge to propagate the teachings of Islam (esp. Tawhid, the Oneness of Allah), mobilize the Muslims for Jihaad (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 and forbid all evil. The Sheikh then invoked Allah to be the Amir's Guide, to make 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 point the Sheikh found himself in am environment suitable for his work of Da'wah. He seized this golden opportunity and started to educate the masses. People of Dar'iyah and its surroundings came to him to study Islaam. Amir Muhammad bin Sa'ud presented himself before the Sheikh as one of his students of Islaam along with the members of his family. Dar'iyah became crowded by the people visiting for learning. The Sheikh began teaching, preaching and inviting people to Allah. He undertook the task of delivering lectures on different branches of knowledge namely, Tawhid (Islamic Monotheism), Tafseer of the Qur'an and Sunnah, knowledge of Fiqh, language etc.
Thus Dar'iyah turned into a centre of learning, and people began migrating to it in a large number. On the other hand, his enemies were only increasing in jealousy towards him. They started spreading false propaganda against the Sheikh and even blamed him of blasphemy; they branded him a Zindiq and a sorcerer. Yet, the Sheikh was a man of courage. He did not care and just continued working towards him mission with full enthusiasm. He would debate his opponents in the best manner and in a very polite and dignified way. This attitude proved very effective and would actually render his opponents to be his supporters.
Then, along with his efforts in Da'wah, the Sheick decided to wage Jihaad against polytheism, heretical beliefs and ideas and practices. He began to openly invite people of all ranks to join this mission.
Delegates from every comer of the Arab Peninsula visited Dar'iyah to pledge their support to Sheikh and also to learn from him the true monotheism of Islam. They then would return to their areas to teach what they had learnt to their people and educate them.
The ruler of Uyainah and the elites would travel just to visit him and would request that he come back to Uyainah. But the Sheikh rejected this proposal. Even though the Sheick did not go back to Uyainah, they still pledged to fight with him for the cause of Islam till their last. The Sheikh began sending his students to different regions and countries to preach the teachings of Islam, which were strictly based on the Qur'an and the authentic aHaadeeth of the Noble Prophet (may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him)
Correspondence with Rulers
The Sheikh 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 scholars of Ahsa, Makkah and Al-Madinah. Outside the Arab Peninsula, he made correspondence to the learned scholars of Syria, Iraq, India, and Yemen. He maintained his communication with them, explained to them the aims and objects of his mission and proving his stance by the Qur'an and Sunnah.
In this way the 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. were influenced by his ideas and attracted towards his Da'wah. They supported his mission with great zeal and enthusiasm and began to invite the people of their countries towards Allah and to the pure teachings of Qur'an and Sunnah, free from all heresies and misinterpretations.
After dedicating his whole life to Da'wah and Jihaad, the Sheick breathed his last on the last day of the month of Dhul-Q'adah in 1206 H (1792 A.C).
The Impact of His Da'wah
As a result of his continued Da'wah, vigorous struggle and Jihad in the way of Allah for the 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 began practicing the pure faith of Islam. Blind following of forefathers, ancestors and traditions was abandone and Shari 'ah was once again revived and established as the people began fulfilling their bligatory duties in light of the 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 so that they could perform their Salaah.
Peace and tranquility prevailed everywhere, in towns as well as in villages. People became safe even in deserts and in lonely and deserted paths. The ignorant and notorious bedouins moulded their conduct; the preachers and preceptors were sent to every corner to teach and educate the common people.
Thus a thorough revival 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 students, including Sheikh Hamd bin Nasir, scholars from Dar'iyah and others remained continuously engaged in inviting people towards Allah's true religion and 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. Some of famous works are as follows:
1. Kitab At-Tawhid
2. Kitab AI-Kabaair
3. Kashf Ash-Shubuhat
4. Mukhtasar Seerat Ar-Rasool
5. Masail Al-Jahiliyah
6. Usool Al-Iman
7. Fadail Al-Qur'an
8. Fadail Al-Islam
9. Majmu' Al-Ahadith
10. Mukhtasar Al-Insaf wa Ash-Sharh Al-Kabeer
11. Al-Usool Ath-Thalathah
12. Aadab Al-Mashi ila As-Salat
Aswell as others. May Allah raise his ranks, forgive any of his mistakes and bless him with good for the great good he done for this Ummah. Aameen.