Myth of Hanbali origins to Wahhabism

[ Excerpt from the book “The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia” by David Commins]

“According to Sheikh Muhammad’s grandson, it was during his study with Basra’s scholars that God revealed to him hidden aspects of God’s unity and His attributes. This special divine inspiration set him apart from other scholars of his time and moved him to compose the seminal treatise for Wahhabism, The Book of God’s Unity, on the basis of Hadith collections he found in Basra.16 The chronicler Ibn Ghannam placed the writing of that treatise in Huraymila, but Wahhabi sources concur that gifted inspiration is the wellspring for his monotheist manifesto.17

This brief essay is of tremendous significance for the Wahhabi mission and the subject of enduring controversy between supporters and detractors. It represents the core of Sheikh Muhammad’s teaching and the foundation of the Wahhabi canon. The essay deals with matters of theology, ritual and the impact of actions and speech on one’s standing as a true monotheist. It has nothing to say on Islamic law, which guides Muslims’ everyday lives. This is a crucial point. One of the myths about Wahhabism is that its distinctive character stems from its affiliation with the supposedly ‘conservative’ or ‘strict’ Hanbali legal school. If that were the case, how could we explain the fact that the earliest opposition to Ibn Abd al-Wahhab came from other Hanbali scholars? Or that a tradition of anti-Wahhabi Hanbalism persisted into the nineteenth century? As an expert on law in Saudi Arabia notes, ‘Ibn Abd al-Wahhab produced no unprecedented opinions and Saudi authorities today regard him not as a mujtahid in fiqh [independent thinker in jurisprudence], but rather in da’wa or religious reawakening… The Wahhabis’ bitter differences with other Muslims were not over fiqh [jurisprudence] rules at all, but over aqida, or theological positions.’18″

Read full book here: The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia

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