Natana DeLong-Bas

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:

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Wahhabism properly refers to the 18th-century revival and reform movement begun in the region of Najd, in what is today Saudi Arabia, by Islamic religious and legal scholar Muhammad Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab. The hallmarks of Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s teachings are his emphasis on tawhid (absolute monotheism), opposition to shirk (association of anyone or anything with God), and direct, individual return to the Qurʾan and Sunna (example of the Prophet) for interpretation (ijtihad). In contemporary use, Wahhabism is used broadly to refer to a variety of phenomena, including Salafism, jihadism, religious belief and practice within Saudi Arabia, literal interpretations of the Qurʾan and Sunna, interpretations of Islam that focus on ritual correctness rather than meaning, and generally any resistance movement globally that uses Islam or Islamic terminology as its reference. It tends to be associated with the practice of takfir ideology, in which anyone in disagreement with one’s interpretation of religion is declared to be a kafir (unbeliever) who must be fought in jihad (as holy war), thus representing a particularly intolerant interpretation of Islam. This article focuses on Wahhabism as religious interpretation and practice specific to Saudi Arabia, and on the polarized debates surrounding Wahhabism post-9/11. It should be noted that the terms Wahhabism and Wahhabi are considered pejorative by Saudis, who refer to themselves simply as Muslims.

Article.  4730 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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