Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) aroused great controversy in his lifetime. More than two centuries after his death he still elicits strong views. For some he is the model of a pious religious activist who fought to establish a regime of Islamic godliness in the least promising of environments. For others, especially Muslims associated with mystic orders or who belong to the Shi‘i branch of Islam, he is a hate figure. Few would contest that he shaped the Muslim world.
For over two hundred and fifty years the Wahhabi religious movement has rested on the twin pillars of a clear, compelling credo and an indissoluble alliance with temporal power in Arabia. Absolutist, uncompromising theology and political and religious ambition combined to make it the dominant force there, turning its champions, the Al Sa‘ud clan, from petty rulers of a middle-sized settlement with a talent for balancing interests, into the guardians of Islam’s Holy Places, disposing of the earth’s greatest identified oil reserves. This thought-provoking and incisive biography, which charts the relationship between religious doctrine, political power and events on the ground, is ideal for readers interested in uncovering the life and convictions of the man who founded the Wahhabi movement and a dynastic alliance between his clerical descendants and Saudi princes that has lasted to the present day.
‘Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab used to be one of the most misunderstood Muslim clerics, and it is thanks to Michael Crawford’s thorough and convincing arguments that we ought to see him in a different light… For a short book like this, it contains a surprising variety of historical and theological angles on the man, his time, influence and legacy reflecting on his core doctrines as well as his reception in present time.’
– Dr Sebastian Maisel, Der Islam
‘A timely contribution…provides a careful examination of Ibn ?Abd al-Wahhab that has the merit of being both useful to students and intriguing to specialists. Let it be clear that Crawford did not write a mere synthesis of the existing literature. For all its readability, the book is grounded in primary sources and frequently sheds light on issues that previous studies either ignored or treated unsatisfactorily… Crawford does a great service to the field by providing a fine-grained yet concise and accessible analysis of Ibn ?Abd al-Wahhab and his impact on Arabian history. His book is bound to become the standard introductory text on the subject.’
– Henri Lauzière, Northwestern University, Journal of Near Eastern Studies
‘Timely and authoritative‘
– Journal of Arabian Studies
'Michael Crawford has described with clarity a complex theology and the intricate story of its alliance with a temporal power. The author and Oneworld Publications deserve our thanks.'