Essay Sample: Differences Between Wahhabism and Other Salafi Currents

Published: 2022-03-25
Essay Sample: Differences Between Wahhabism and Other Salafi Currents
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Islam
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1826 words
16 min read

Many Muslims across the world are apparently practicing demanding religiosity and using radical Islamic vocabulary and discourse. In several Muslim societies, a person cannot help but realize that more Muslim women are being veiled and that Muslims are attending mosque frequently. Currently, Muslim societies appear more attentive to become religious and practice their faith. Although this may be caused by many reasons, reports indicate that the same religiosity patterns that are visible in a popular physical appearance regularly together with a common form of radical monotheistic vocabulary might be as a result of similar fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Numerous social religious movements and reforms have already surfaced among Muslims. A good number of them are entirely political such as those concerned with changing the forms of government irrespective of whether a preference for a certain form of government exists or not. However, others have been social political and religious such as the Islamic revolutions in Iran. Principally, these forms of movements cannot be treated as an ordinary reformist movement because they have influenced all facets of life including personal, social, religious and others. Therefore, the present paper examines various ways in which Wahhabism differ from other forms of Salafi movements.

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Definition and Historical Background of Salafi

Salafism refers to a modern Islamic global movement aimed at searching for pure Islam teachings as prescribed by Quran and traditions of Prophet Muhammad by declining any external factors and human participation in the interpretation of the religious books. The supporters of Salafism claim that they are the successors of the pre-modern Ahl-al Hadits. They believe that Salafism was the only group that strictly adhered to the pure teachings of Islam as stated in the Sunnah and Quran, and that it was considered the saved group. They support their argument on a hadith that Prophet Muhammad is alleged to have asserted that there would always be a category of his people who will strictly follow the teachings and remain committed to the truth, whom the Salafi refer to the Ahl al-Hadith . By alleging to be the successors of the Ahl al-Hadith and its strict followers, the supporters of the modern Salafi movement try to argue they have the opportunity and pride of being the guardians of the real Islam in the contemporary period.

A report by indicated that Salafism is a current movement that arose in the late 19th century under the leadership of Muhammad Abdu, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Rashid Rida. These individuals wanted to return to the Sunna and Quran as the real sources to allow them innovate and integrate western principles. Their reasoning was rooted on the fact that Sunna and Quran are open to several interpretations, while the rulings by jurists were some of the major constraints. These individuals rejected blind imitations and demanded for the new interpretations.

Currently, Salafism refers to an ideological religious movement working together under a common belief system that offers methods and principles for dealing with contemporary concerns and issues affecting the modern Islamic world. Its belief framework finds its foundation in a stringent following of the tawhid. In particular, Salafism believe that by following the guidelines and rules to the later in the Sunna and Quran they remove the prejudices of human subjectivity, as well as, self-interest thus enabling them to establish the singular reality regarding God's commandments. From this belief, they concluded that there is only a single understanding of God's message and that their own together with that of Islamic pluralism is incorrect. This sect shares a common religious belief and technique to jurisprudence. However, it divides into several sub categories according to the manner in which such a belief and jurisprudence needs to be applied to contemporary concerns and issues.

Currently, different sub groups of Salafi have emerged according to the diverse views on applying their conviction to the contemporary concerns and issues. Purists are the first sub- group and they focus on the peaceful means of propagation, education and purification and perceive politics as a departure that encourages deviancy. Another sub group is politicos who call for the integration of Salafi beliefs with politics. Jihadis is the final group that assume the combative position of using chaos to achieve goals set by the belief system of Salafi.

Reportedly, all Salafis are unified under one belief system that acts as the center of their religious interpretations and understanding of Islam. This system of the belief is centrally based on the concept of tawhid that encompass three components that every member of salafi believes must be attained for one to be considered a staunch Muslim. First, Muslims have to be convinced in their heart that there is only a single God who is the creator and control of the universe. They must also accept that God is unique and supreme and does not share any trait or characteristics with his creatures. This implies that everyone must follow sharia that rejects secularism and human laws because it challenges God's authority. On the same note, every Muslim must accept that God is the only person worth worshiping and that worshiping others including prophet would be viewed shirk. It is important to note that almost every Muslim shares these ideologies and thus there are insignificant contributions by groups in promoting these conditions.

Besides tawhid, Salafis believe that every aspect of human belief and behavior should be controlled by Sunna and Quran, and to safeguard tawhid, every Muslim must strictly follow these doctrines. According to them, any belief or action that breaches these ideologies is a form of innovation that would jeopardize tawhid. For instance, using or consulting any other ideology leads to a divergence from the well-established path and this result in sectarianism and deviancy. More importantly, they have a strong belief that they are the only group who is saved and by strictly following these ideologies, they are assured of salvation during the day of judgement. On the same note, they reject the imitation of taqlid following notions of jurisprudence, as well as, other commonly accepted tools for rendering legal opinions of religions.

Reports also indicate that Salafis believe that pure Islam is faced with two dangerous problems in the modern times. First is the human desire that impedes the purity of Islam's messages by integrating local tradition with Islamic customs in a bid to assist with conversions when Islam moves to new areas. Intuitively, Salafis mark belief that culture is a great enemy of true Islam and thus they have made it an important component of their mission to eradicate desires or innovations established by culture. Another critical challenge is using human logic and intellect in interpreting Sunna and Quran. Principally, in the eyes of Salafis, these challenges result in a rejection of religious pluralism. The above rejection emerges from believing that interpreting the text takes away God attributes and literal understand. For these reasons, Salafis believe that understanding is to be attained without necessarily understanding ways in which God's attributes surpass human comprehension.

Definition and Historical Background of Wahhabism

Wahhabism encompasses religious revivalist movement established in central Arabia by Mohammad Ibn AlWahhab in the 18th century. Following condemnation of Islam's distortion for years due to transformation of Muslim societies into state of ignorance, Mohammad formed Wahhabism to proclaim exclusive worship of God, as well as, cultural beliefs and practices of ancestors. He contested that the remedy was to ignore Islam's old theological and legal interpretative legacy and instead rely on the Quran, the Sunna, and the consensus of the pious ancestors. Intuitively, this implied doing away with all forms of common Islam such as saint worship, Sufism, as well as, Shiism and implementing ritual austerity on the believers.

Wahhabism emerged in the early 18th century in Saudi Arabia as a religious revivalist sect led by Muhammad who believed that for several years, since the start of Islam, societies had turned back to era or ignorance by preventing Islamism. The movement aimed at restoring the actual meaning of tawhid, and disregarding traditional practices and disciplines that have developed over the years such as jurisprudence and theology. It also aimed at eradicating worshiping of adored individuals apart from God. Wahhabism accepted tawhid as a fundamental concept of Islam. Nonetheless, it claimed that right belief is inadequate without incorporating pure Islamic behavior. This assertion is interpreted to imply that according to Wahhabism, believing in God is not sufficient without eliminating customs and acts that promote idolatry and disbelief (kufr). For this reason, Wahhabism prohibited the practices of listening to some types of music, drawing, living things, praying at shrines and tombs, as well as, following teachings from schools of Islamic jurisprudence that deviate from the initial sources. They believed that all mentioned issues constitute orthodoxy and are commonly practiced by almost all Sunni Muslims living outside Saudi Arabia.

Since it emerged, Wahhabism's iconoclastic and puritanical philosophies have caused fiercely conflicted with other Muslim sects. In particular, it opposes the common Islamic religious practices including saint veneration, celebrating Prophet's birthday, majority of Shiite customs, as well as, certain practices linked to spiritual teachings of Sufism. Similarly, the sec declared that all non-Wahhabi (Shi'a and Sunni Muslim) who go against teachings of pious ancestors are likely to be excommunicated, essentially arguing that almost all Muslims who went against Wahhabism were guilty of polytheism. Principally, this accusation had important implications since it set the jihad against its own members, and this provided Wahhabis with the reason to murder other Muslims and to form their independent Islamic country leading to numerous fatal campaigns that resulted in the formation of contemporary Saudi State. With the establishment of the contemporary state by Abd al- Aziz, Wahhabism was later vehemently transformed from a movement of a radical jihad and theological purification to a group of conformist political, social, religious, and theological call, as well, as justifying the organization that upholds allegiance to the royal Saudi family and the absolute power of the king. With the religious scholars being an effective state institution, they led to the emergence of ideas of non-state Wahhabis that opposed ulama on almost every issue and re-affirming the perspective of neo-Wahhabi.

Recent studies have dated the emergence of neo-Wahhabism to the outcome of the Gulf War where significant level of dissatisfaction existed within the ulama and Saudi monarchy for their intention to seek the help of the US to push out Iraq from Kuwait and for enabling these non- Muslim militaries into Saudi Arabia. Although it was not the intention of Neo-Wahhabism to overthrow the Wahhabi ulama and Saudi monarchy, it however shared the critical objectives and doctrines of Wahhabism. A need for reform of the system emerged from the religious pundits of Najd who advocated for the establishment of a shura council, that entails a critical review of the compatibility of the laws Islamic shari'a, equal distribution of resources, as well as, restructuring of foreign policy and media. Reports indicate that ne-Wahhabi movement applied both non-violent and violent means and participated in sub movement...

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