During the past decades, there were figures who regarded the unity of Muslims as their ideal and aspiration, but they did not realize this precious aspiration, or if they ever took steps for its realization, they were very insignificant and rudimentary. In the recent period, the late ªyatull¡h Bur£jerd¢ (r) gave an affirmative reply to this aspiration by approving the J¡mi‘ah at-Taqr¢b bayn al-Madh¡hib al-Isl¡miyyah [University or Forum for the proximity of the Islamic schools of thought]. There have been other ‘ulam¡’ and fuqah¡ who upheld the approach of the late Bur£jerd¢. In this context, the viewpoint and outlook of the late °adrat Im¡m Khomein¢ (r) and his efforts are well known to all. At the present time also, in a bid to extend the scope of this unity further, ªyatull¡h Kh¡mene’¢ (may his sublime presence endure) has issued a decree for reviving the foundation of unity and the forum for proximity, which is itself worthy of gratitude and a source of hope.
It is appropriate for us to note at this juncture that the Sh¢`ah ‘ulam¡’ and fuqah¡ of the past, such as Shaykh al-Muf¢d (d. 413 AH), Sayyid Murtad¡ ‘Alam al-Hud¡ (d. 436 AH), and Shaykh a§-±£s¢ (d. 460 AH), among others, have also emphasized unity between Sunn¢s and Sh¢`ah, and have written valuable books on this subject such as al-Khil¡f which enumerates the common points of belief between the two groups. ‘All¡mah °ill¢ has also written a book on the basis of the jurisprudence [fiqh] of the Sh¢`ah and the four Sunn¢ schools.
All these are proofs for the proximity of jurisprudential views of the two schools and of the interest of leading figures in jurisprudence in establishing mutual understanding. Of course, at the present time there are treatises on jurisprudence written by Sunn¢s in which the views of the Sunn¢s and the Sh¢`ah on the branches of religion and jurisprudence have been compared. For example, the books Maws£‘ah Jam¡l ‘Abd al-N¡¥ir and Al-Fiqh ‘al¡’l-Madh¡hib al-Khamsah can be cited. ?
The Life Account of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b and Ibn Sa‘£d
A cursory glance at the life account of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b
In this section, we deemed it fitting to take a survey of the life of Mu¦ammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b, known as the Shaykh, and Mu¦ammad Sa‘£d.
The sons and grandsons of the Shaykh are still living in the Arabia, some of whom are known by the family name, “ªl ash-Shaykh”. The children of Mu¦ammad ªl as-Sa‘£d some of whom are holding the reins of government in Arabia are known as “¡l Sa‘£d”. The country had been known before as “°ij¡z”, but it was changed into the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” [al-Mamlakah al-‘Arabiyyah Sa‘£diyyah] during the reign of King ‘Abd al-‘Az¢z.
Shaykh Mu¦ammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b came from the region of Najd who was born in 1114 AH in one of the cities of Najd named as “‘Ayniyyah”. His father, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b, was a scholar [‘¡lim] and the judge [q¡¤¢] of that region. As such, the creed of Shaykh Mu¦ammad had been ascribed to his father. After learning the basics of religion from his father, Shaykh Mu¦ammad went to Medina and learned from the ‘ulam¡’ of that region.
Due to his personal interpretations of some issues regarding belief and his opposition to the ‘ulam¡’ of Medina, he was expelled from the city. He then went to Iraq where he stayed in Ba¥rah. In that city he got acquainted with a person named Shaykh Mu¦ammad Majm£‘¢ and adopted his ideas. Finally, the two believed in a certain creed.
The other ‘ulam¡’ of Ba¥rah and the believers of the region that were mainly of Iranian origin, had opposed him and ousted him from Ba¥rah.
When Shaykh Mu¦ammad was driven out of Ba¥rah, he proceeded to Damascus, which had a pleasant climate, but because of his unusual belief and difficulties in life he was unable to remain there. Since he could not return to Medina or Mecca, he went back to the Najd of his father, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b, who was then still the ‘¡lim of the region.
The Shaykh had a brother named Shaykh Sulaym¡n ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b who was at loggerheads with him in terms of belief. His brother was the first person to write a book refuting his doctrines. His father also opposed him and sided with Shaykh Sulaym¡n. In addition to the opposition of his father and brother, he also faced the opposition of ‘ulam¡’, and this dispute continued until the death of his father.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b after the death of his father
After the death of his father, Shaykh Mu¦ammad enjoyed great freedom in propagating his doctrines and views. As such, he went to other places and become acquainted with ‘Uthm¡n ibn A¦mad ibn Mu¦ammad, who was then the emir of ‘Ayniyyah, and married his daughter Jawharah. Although it is said that the people there accepted some of his beliefs, because he went to extremes in opposing their customs, they expelled him from the region. For instance, he had ordered the destruction of a dome belonging to Zayd ibn al-Kha§§¡b, brother of ‘Umar. He had also issued a decree for an old tree, which was venerated by the people of the region, to be uprooted.
In sum, on account of his peculiar doctrines, among which was his disregard for the leaders of the Ahl as-Sunnah, the Shaykh lost his esteem in the people’s sight and earned their wrath. From there he went to the region of Dar‘iyyah.
Nowadays, pilgrims—Iranian and non-Iranian—can still see the relics related to the rule of ‘Uthm¡n in Arabia such as the holy shrine of the Holy Prophet (¥) and the graves surrounding it, the lanterns of Masjid an-Nab¢, and the inscriptions on that sacred mosque.
The children and students of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b
Shaykh Mu¦ammad had a number of sons and daughters and married one of his daughters to Mu¦ammad ibn Sa‘£d, the tribal chief. His sons, °usayn, ‘Abd All¡h and Ibr¡h¢m, became judges after their father. Even now, his sons, one after another, hold religious positions in Saudi Arabia.
During his lifetime, apart from training students, the Shaykh wrote some books which nowadays have caught the attention of ‘ulam¡’ and students of the region. These books are as follows:
1. Kit¡b at-Taw¦¢d; a collection of his doctrines;
2. Kit¡b Kashf ash-Shubah¡t, which is written in defense of his doctrines vis-à-vis Sunn¢ ‘ulam¡’;
3. The merits and issues of some stories in the Qur’¡n;
4. Kit¡b al-Kab¡’ir, which has been written about the major sins;
5. Mas¡’il al-J¡hiliyyah, in which he compares the pre-Islamic period of ignorance of Arabia with his own time;
6. Faw¡’id as-S¢rah an-Nabawiyyah, which is well-known as S¢rat ar-Ras£l. This book examines the entire course of the lives of some Companions of the Prophet (¥), his battles and the prevalent beliefs during that time;
7. Ikhti¥¡r ash-Shar¦ al-Kab¢r; and
8. ªd¡b al-Mashyi il¡’¥-¯al¡h (These two books have been written about issues related to jurisprudence and the branches of religion).
These books are still available at the present.
The Death of Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b
After engaging in religious and political debates, successive travels to a number of cities in the Muslim world, and enduring the wrath and anger of the ‘ulam¡’, Shaykh Mu¦ammad was able to find his own supporters and votaries, who are nowadays known as the Wahh¡b¢s.
According to historical sources which have been written in his praise and appreciation and negating the deviant nature of his doctrines, the Shaykh passed away in 1206 AH at the age of 92 in Dar‘iyyah after traveling to Ba¥rah, Najaf, Karbal¡’, and probably, Isfah¡n and Sh¢r¡z.
In short, after the death of the Shaykh, his beliefs and views were promoted and propagated with the support and blessing of external and domestic political brokers in such a manner that at the present, most of the current rulers of Arabia and a number of religious scholars and judges there follow him and other Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and boarder communities in Iran have come under the influence of these doctrines. The Wahh¡b¢s are spreading this creed in the various countries in Europe, America and Asia by building mosques and libraries, printing copies of the Holy Qur’¡n, dispatching religious missionaries, and the like.
This creed is called Wahh¡bism derived from the name of the Shaykh’s father. Although the Shaykh seemed to be a follower of the °anbal¢ school of thought, the truth of the matter is that he was not so, and he was distinctively different from the other ‘ulam¡’. In fact, he regarded himself as free to think, choose and formulate his own beliefs pertaining to religion. Since he considered himself an initiator of a new set of beliefs, he expressed his beliefs in the following points:
1. He treated all Muslims as infidels or polytheists while thinking of himself as the true Muslim;
2. He declared visiting the graves and constructing domes and courtyards around the cemetery of the Companions of the Prophet (¥) and his descendants as unlawful [¦ar¡m];
3. He regarded making vows, requests and offering sacrificial animals beside the shrine of saints [awliy¡’] as unlawful;
4. He used to reckon as ¦ar¡m entreating [istigh¡thah] and resorting to the intermediation [tawassul] of the saints of God;
5. He considered it obligatory to wage jih¡d against those who opposed his creed, saying: “Wage war against the infidels and polytheists until there is no more sedition [fitnah] and the religion is solely for God:
﴿وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ.﴾
Fight them until faithlessness is no more.
What is meant by the Shaykh in this verse is jih¡d against Muslims and for him the pure religion is referred to his creed.
This is the summary of the life account and beliefs of Shaykh Mu¦ammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b as taken from Kit¡b At-Taw¦¢d bi’l-Lughati al-F¡risiyyah. Of course, other points shall also be mentioned in other discussions.
To whom was Shaykh Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahh¡b indebted
During the period of his stay in Mecca and Medina, Shaykh Mu¦ammad came across books that had a role in the formation of his thought. Among them are the books of A¦mad ibn °anbal, his Musnad in particular; the books of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah; and the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah. Contrary to other ‘ulam¡’ of the Ahl as-Sunnah, they expressed new beliefs and opinions which can be extracted from their books on jurisprudence and history. Of course, the Shaykh was largely influenced by the views of Ibn Taymiyyah.
Ibn Taymiyyah lived during the 8th century AH. In terms of belief, he was follower of A¦mad ibn °anbal who lived in the 3rd century AH. Ibn Taymiyyah believed in a sort of anthropomorphism concerning God maintaining that God has a hand, foot, eye, tongue and mouth, and occupies a space! In order to prove his case, he resorted to the literal text of Qur’¡nic verses, maintaining that God is sitting on a throne in heaven.
Ibn Taymiyyah is the epithet and title of Ab£’l-‘Abb¡s Taq¢ ad-D¢n A¦mad ibn ‘Abd al-°al¢m. He was born in the territory of °arr¡n in present-day Turkey. He then migrated with his father to Damascus, Syria, and there he acquired learning in religion and jurisprudence. In many ideological and intellectual issues, he held extreme and radical views. In addition to his anthropomorphic beliefs concerning God, he prohibited visitation of the graves and seeking the intermediation [tawassul] of the Prophet (¥) while deeming it permissible to abuse Im¡m ‘Al¢ ibn Ab¢ ±¡lib (‘a). On issues in jurisprudence, he opposed the predecessors of the four Sunn¢ schools. From the above points, it can be understood that the Shaykh was not the first person to have expressed such beliefs, for individuals such as Ibn Taymiyyah had advanced similar ideas prior to him. Like Shaykh Mu¦ammad, Ibn Taymiyyah earned the wrath and stern criticism of the ‘ulam¡’ of his time and for a time he was exiled to Egypt. But through the help of the government of the time, he returned to Damascus. During the last period of his life, he was imprisoned for his opposition to the ‘ulam¡’ of Damascus and finally expired in the castle of Damascus and was buried there.
In the territory of Dar‘iyyah in the region of °ij¡z, which is a mountainous territory with a pleasant climate, a person named Mu¦ammad ibn Sa‘£d assumed the chieftainship of his tribe. The Shaykh became acquainted with Ibn Sa‘£d and relayed to him his new doctrines, and Ibn Sa‘£d in turn accepted them. They agreed together to set up a government encompassing the entire region where religious and judicial affairs, issues concerning propagation, and the leadership of the Friday prayers would be assumed by the Shaykh while the political, social, military, and security affairs would be under Ibn Sa‘£d.
The government in °ij¡z at that time was tribal and ethnic, and like many Muslim countries, was under Ottoman rule whose capital was present-day Turkey. With ªl Sa‘£d’s ascension to power, °ij¡z seceded from Ottoman rule and in the course of time, it fell under the control of Britain. On course, the British role in this change of the government should not be overlooked. ?
 The abbreviation, “r” stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, ra¦matull¡h ‘alayhi, ra¦matull¡h ‘alayh¡, or ra¦matull¡h ‘alayhim [may peace be upon him/her/them], which is used after the names of pious people. [Trans.]
 °a¤rat: The Arabic word °a¤rat is used as a respectful form of address. [Trans.]
 S£rat al-Baqarah 2:193.
 Kit¡b at-Taw¦¢d bi’l-Lughah al-F¡risiyyah, no. 27, pp. 16-34.
 ‘Al¢ Daw¡n¢, Firqeh-ye Wahh¡b¢, chap. 1.