Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kitab al-Tawhid (Book of Absolute Monotheism), Classic Monograph by Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab

Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792), born in 'Uyaynah on the Arabian Peninsula (present day Saudi Arabia), was the founder of a religious movement that today is the state creed of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Emirate of Qatar, the Saudi Salafi movement, which is frequently called the "Wahhabis" after its founder. Educated in religious studies in the Muslim shrine city of Medina, he taught for several years in the Iraqi cities of al-Basra and Baghdad as well as Iran. It was while he was living in Iraq and Iran that Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab probably first interacted on a regular basis with Shi'i Muslims. Upon returning to Arabia, he began preaching against ecstatic Sufism (a general term for mystical Muslim practices) and actions its practitioners were known for, such as the visitation of shrines and praying to deceased holy figures. During this time, ecstatic Sufism was quite prevalent in Arabia.

Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhabi wrote many books, monographs, and essays on a variety of topics. His most famous work is Kitab al-Tawhid ["Book of Absolute Monotheism"], a collection of traditions of the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and actions (ahadith, singular: hadith) on the concept of tawhid, God's absolute unity, which is the bedrock of the Muslim faith. This book has been frequently commented on, particularly after the expansion of Saudi Salafi interpretations of Sunni Islam in the modern period, which has been greatly aided by the kingdom's immense oil wealth. Although essentially a collection of ahadith with brief commentary, the book has been expanded to include even more commentary and "explanation" by its many modern translators.

He called the theological movement he founded, which sought to "cleanse" Islam from the innovations and questionable (to Salafis) practices that had been added to it by the misguided, the Muwahiddun, or roughly "those who believe in absolute monotheism."

His views caused controversy in his home region and he was forced to seek refuge in al-Dir'iyah, the base of the ambitious Arabian shaykh Ibn al-Sa'ud. The two formed an alliance, with Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab backing the al-Sa'ud in exchange for the right to spread his mode of thought within Saudi domains. The relationship between the two houses continues to this day. Relatives of Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab have continuously held positions of religious authority within the Saudi kingdom. The current grand mufti (chief jurist), 'Abd al-'Aziz bin 'Abdullah al-Shaykh, is a descendant of Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab. Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab's legacy has lasted into the modern period with destruction of shrines in Arabia and spread of virulent takfiri (declaration of non-Salafi/Wahhabi Muslims as apostates).

A downloadable PDF of Kitab al-Tawhid is available HERE.

Kitab at Tawheed

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