Essay: The Wahhabi movement

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would have never existed if it was not for the Wahhabi movement. The policies of Wahhab still influence the modern political and social structure of Saudi Arabia. In the 1500’s, ancestors of the family Al Saud occupied an indefinite amount of grove lands. The area evolved into a town and the family led its people over time. Then during the 1700’s a scholar named Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab created the teachings of Wahhabism. He studied islamic law in Mesopotamia and Hijaz before going to Najd to preach his theology. Wahhab’s teachings objected against polytheism, the belief that multiple figures and people held powers equivalent to the one central God. Wahhabism detested the idea of saints, pilgrimages to tombs and mosques, the worshiping of trees, caves, and stones, votive offerings, and any sort of indirect prayer to God that involves a third party. Ibn Abd al Wahhab considered this behavior as jahiliyya that violated islamic law. In the eyes of Wahhab, suffis, shiites and other religions in the middle east branched away from his code. The ways of the prophet and his people in Medina were only found acceptable. Wahhab demanded that all Muslims follow his ways. Instead of polytheism, Wahhabism centered on the oneness of god. Wahhabism also believed that in order for a country to run smoothly it had to stay under the path of God. Muslims must pledge allegiance to their leaders. The rulers in turn will guide their people in the ways of God and that will ensure that all people will have life after death. At first the public opposed Wahhabism. Later on, chief Ibn Saud of the Al Saud family protected this theology.
With support of the tribal ruler, Wahhab sent armies into Najdi to spread the ways of Wahhabism and abolish all other theologies. By 1765, Wahhabism had spread over most of Najd. In 1788, the united people under Wahhab created the first Saudi State in Najd. The city of Ad Diriyah became the center of study and missionaries were sent out through the peninsula, gulf, Syria, and Mesopotamia to spread Wahhabism. By the early 19th century the Saudi State expanded to most of the Arabian Peninsula. The state controlled Makkah and Madinah, the two holy Muslim cities. Scientific and economic knowledge flourished during the time of the first Saudi State. The first Saudi State also had a stable political system because it followed the principles of Islam. They captured city of Karbala in Iraq and the Wahhabis destroyed the tomb of Imam Husayn, a prominent figure among the Shiite people, in 1802. In 1804 the Wahhabis captured the city of Mecca and destroyed the cemetery of the holy men in Medina. These actions grabbed the attention of the Ottoman Empire, the strongest power in the Middle East and North Africa. Then in 1818, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt went off to overthrow the First Saudi State. The Ottoman army used advanced weapons to conquer Ad Diriyah. They ruined the lands resources by uprooting fields and destroying wells. This point marked the end of the first Saudi State. But even with the downfall of the Saudi State, people still followed the teachings of Wahhab. Descendent Turki bin Abdullah Al-Saud established the Second Saudi State in 1824. He later spent his eleven year rule retaking stolen land from the Ottomans. He used the same governing foundation as the first state and still relied greatly on the teachings of Islam. Under the rule of Turki and his son Faisal, a period of peace, agricultural and trade prosperity took place. That is, until 1865, when the Ottomans extended their empire into the Arabian Peninsula and took parts of the state that was ruled by Faisal’s son Abdulrahman bin Faisal Al-Saud. Originally the Saudi State fought back against the Ottomans but in 1891, Abdulrahman abandoned the fight. He escaped to Kuwait with his family and son Abdulaziz. The young Saud was a strong ruler, and would later become a warrior in the name of Islam.
Ibn Saud, also known as Abdulaziz, was determined to take his power back from the Ottomans occupying Riyadh. In 1902, he and only forty of his followers marched into Riyadh to take the city garrison. The victory lead by Ibn Saud in Riyadh marked the beginning of the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The rule of Abdulaziz grew throughout the peninsula. Meanwhile, his followers became violent. They smashed the tombs of Muslim saints, imams or Islamic leaders, and even the tomb of the prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. These extreme acts were labeled as the Wahhabi Raid of 1924. With Riyadh as the center capital, the Wahhabis, under the leadership of Ibn Saud, captured all of the Hijaz, the western region of present day Saudi Arabia in 1925. The Wahhabis also controlled Makkah and Madinah. The region of warring tribes changed into one entity. On September 23, 1932 the nation officially became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s official language is arabic and the holy qur’an is its constitution.

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