Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Sufism

Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University
Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University, Saudi Arabia

­­Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda

(Translator’s foreword: Following on from the publishing of the introduction, below is the first chapter of the incomplete yet ongoing translation of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz’s Mawqif A’immat al-Harakat al-Salafiyyah min al-Tasawwuf wa al-Sufiyyah. In this chapter, the author, a student and khalifah of Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalawi, produces several excerpts from the writings of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab that show the positive manner by which the shaykh regarded Sufism.)

Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University (pictured above) in Riyadh held a “Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab Week” in which all of the shaykh’s writings were distributed in twelve volumes. Through the grace of Allah, I studied each volume page by page and never came across any place in which Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab criticises, refutes or rejects Tasawwuf or any one of the Sufi shaykhs on account of his Tasawwuf. These books are easily available and sold in markets and bookstores; it is possible for anyone to acquire and study them, and verify that which I shall mention here.

Rather, I came across several passages in these writings of his that clearly and plainly elucidate his clear position regarding Tasawwuf and the Sufi shaykhs (may Allah mercy them). I shall mention these in the following with the accordance and favour of Allah, and it is upon Him Most High that all trust is placed.

1: Mu’allafat al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, chapter regarding Fatawa wa Masa‘il (vol. 3, page 31, question no. 5). Compiled, revised and compared with the original by Shaykh Salih ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Atram and Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Duways. The shaykh upon being asked an important question replied:

Let it be known — may Allah guide you — that Allah Most High sent Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) with guidance, which is known as the beneficial knowledge, and true religion, which are virtuous actions.

When [it is the case that] among those who affiliate themselves to religion, there are those who focus on knowledge and fiqh and speak regarding it, such as the jurists, and those who focus on worship and the quest for the hereafter, such as the Sufis, then Allah has sent His Prophet with this all-inclusive religion for two reasons.[1]

From amongst the greatest things with which Allah has strengthened him and his Ummah is that He gave him the Qur’an (Jawami‘ al-Kalim). Allah mentions in His Book one word that becomes an all-inclusive principle under which innumerable masa’il come.

Likewise, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him) spoke comprehensively. Whoever understands this issue well will understand that which He Most High mentions: “Today I have completed for you, your religion.” (5:3) This verse is also from among those that are comprehensive and concise…

2. Mu’allafat al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, chapter regarding fiqh (vol. 2, page 4). The shaykh writes in a treatise entitled Arb‘at Qawa‘id Tadur al-Ahkam ‘alayha:

Know — may Allah have mercy on you — religion revolves around these four sentences, in spite of their brevity; this is regardless of whether the speaker is speaking regarding the science of tafsir, the science of usul (principles of fiqh), the science of the deeds of the heart, which is known as the science of Suluk,[2] the science of hadith, the science of that which is permissible and impermissible and ahkam which is known as the science of fiqh, or regarding the knowledge of the rewards and punishments that aspire from good and bad deeds (wa‘d and wa‘id), or regarding any other religious science apart from these…

3: Mu’allafat al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, chapter regarding tafsir and Mukhtasar Za‘d al-Ma‘ad (vol. 4, page 84). In the section regarding the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) guidance during i‘tikaf, the shaykh writes:

When the piety of the heart and its steadfastness in its journey to Allah Most High is dependent on its connection to Allah; and [when] the disorder of the heart can only be rectified by its complete attachment to Him, for the disarrangement of the heart can only be corrected by turning to Him; and [when] excessive drink and food, socialising with people, sleep and talk are from among those elements that increase its disorientation, disperse it in every valley, and separate, weaken, hamper and stop it in its journey to Allah Most High, then the wisdom of He Who is Powerful and Merciful has made it necessary on His slaves that a number of fasts be prescribed that would end the excessive consumption of food and drink, and vacate the heart from a mixture of carnal desires that have hampered it in its path to Allah. A suitable amount [of fasts] have been prescribed through which the slave may derive benefit in the affairs of his world and the hereafter, and not harm him.

I‘tikaf has been prescribed to them, the purpose and spirit of which is to devote the heart to Allah, separate it from the creation and preoccupy it with He alone. As a result, the individual becomes intimate and friendly (unsiyyah) with Allah instead of the creation. Hence, due to this intimacy with Allah, he will consider the time spent in solitude to be the time of loneliness in the grave.

When it is the case that this objective can only be accomplished through fasting, i‘tikaf has been prescribed in the best days of fasts, which are the last ten days of Ramadan. Allah Most High has also only mentioned i‘tikaf with fasting and the Prophet of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) only remained in i‘tikaf while fasting.

As far as talk is concerned, He has decreed that the Ummah restrain their tongues from all speech that is not beneficial in the hereafter.

As to excessive sleep, He has prescribed for them the prayer of the night, which is the best of all vigils and most praiseworthy in outcome, and that is the prayer of the middle of the night which benefits the heart and the body and does not hamper the interests of the slave. The focus of the religious exercises of the people of spiritual exercises and Suluk ((The reference is to the Sufis as is clear.)) is on these four principles. Fortunate from among them in this is he who treads the Muhammadan way, and does not diverge like those who are extreme and does not lax like those who are slack. We have mentioned his guidance in fasting, praying and speech, now we shall mention his guidance in i‘tikaf.

4: Mu’allafat al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, (appendix, page 182), the shaykh writes in Hadhihi Masa’il:

It is known that the Ummah has been ordered to propagate the Qur’an, its words and its meaning; its propagation to the non-Arabs is done by translation. When a learned believer studies all philosophical writings and other such works written by other nations, he will find the Qur’an and the Sunnah revealing their condition, explaining their reality, and distinguishing between truth and falsehood. The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) were the most knowledgeable of the creation regarding this; they were most firm in fighting the disbelievers and hypocrites. As Sayyiduna ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Whosoever wishes to follow a way then let him follow the way of those who have died, for indeed the living are not immune from fitnah. Those Companions of Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) were the most devout of heart, in-depth in knowledge and the least affectatious. They were a nation chosen by Allah for the companionship of His Prophet and the establishment of His religion. For their sake, understand their right and hold fast to their way for they were on an upright course.”

He has informed regarding them that they possessed complete righteous hearts and complete in-depth knowledge. This is something seldom found amongst the people of the latter times; it is as it is said: “From among the wonders is to find a Sufi who is a faqih and a scholar who is an ascetic (zahid).”

For indeed those who are concerned with the piety of the heart are often associated with a lack of ma‘rifah, which would necessitate abstinence from wrong and make jihad necessary. And those who are in-depth in knowledge at times mention such wickedness and doubts that place them in err and deviation.

The majority of those who are in-depth in knowledge from among the theologians and devout worshippers of the latter times are associated with blameworthy affectatious behaviour, and that is to speak and act without knowledge and to seek that which cannot be realised, contrary to that upon which the Companions were.

This is Allah’s favour on this Ummah, as is found in the saying of Sayyiduna ‘Isa: “I present them from my knowledge and forbearance.” This (the Qur’an) is one of the special things that continues after the Prophet. Hence, whosoever is the most adherent to it, he shall be the most perfect in relation to it.

5: Mu’allafat al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (appendix, page 24). The shaykh writes in Hadhihi Masa’il following a delicate discussion on those who have rejected the love of Allah and those who have affirmed it:

So, His love itself is the basis of His worship, and assigning equals (shirk) in love is the basis of polytheism in His worship. These are those who resemble the Christians; in them is a form of polytheism of the type that the Christians possess.

This is why the ‘arif Sufi shaykhs would advise many to pursue knowledge. Some of them would say: “A person only leaves a single Sunnah due to the pride in him.”

It is like the saying: Indeed, when he does not follow that which the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) brought, then he is pursuing his carnal desires without any guidance from Allah. This is the mode of living of the carnal desires (nafs) and a form of pride, for indeed it is a branch from the sayings of those who said: “We shall only bring faith if we are given the likes of that which was given to the Messengers of Allah.”

6: The great ‘allamah Shaykh Muhammad Manzur Nu‘mani — former head of the faculty of hadith at Dar al-‘Ulum Nadwat al-‘Ulama, Lucknow, and member of the board at Dar al-‘Ulum Deoband — writes in his book, Di‘ayat Mukaththafah Didd al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab[3] (page 76), that Shaykh ‘Abd Allah, the son of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, has written a booklet that throws much light on his father’s da‘wah and movement. In it he writes:

We informed them that indeed that which we believe in and the way by which we worship Allah, in the principles of religion, is the way of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama‘ah and the predecessors (salaf) of this Ummah. As to matters of jurisprudence, we follow the madhhab of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal; we do not refute those who follow the four imams, or consider ourselves to be worthy of ijtihad, nor does anyone among us claim such. However, in certain issues, when there is an evident text from the Book of Allah or the Sunnah — which has not been abrogated, nor is in any way specific (makhsus), or contradicted by a text stronger than it and one of the four imams has mentioned it — then we would take it and leave the madhhab. Indeed, the opinions of some of the imams within the four madhhabs, in some matters of fiqh, have been different to the way of those who firmly follow (taqlid) the madhhab’s founder…

Shaykh ‘Abd Allah ibn Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab ends his treatise saying:

We do not negate the way of the Sufis and the purification of the inner self from the vices of those sins connected to the heart and the limbs as long as the individual firmly adheres to the rules of Shari‘ah and the correct and observed way. However, we will not take it on ourselves to allegorically interpret (ta’wil) his speech and his actions. We only place our reliance on, seek help from, beseech aid from and place our confidence in all our dealings in Allah Most High. He is enough for us, the best trustee, the best mawla and the best helper. May Allah send peace on our master Muhammad, his family and companions.[4]


Contents:

Chapter 1: Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Sufism

Chapter 2: Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part One, Part Two

Chapter 3: Imam al-Dhahabi and Sufism

Chapter 4: Hafiz Ibn Kathir and Sufism

Chapter 5: Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Sufism – Part One, Part Two

Chapter 6: Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and Sufism – Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Chapter 7: Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Sufism

_____________________________

  1. This is clearly fiqh and Tasawwuf. []
  2. This is obviously Tasawwuf. []
  3. Published by Maktabat al-Furqan, Lucknow. []
  4. Al-Hadiyyah al-Suniyyah (page 50). Shaykh ‘Abd Allah ibn Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Najdi’s letter, a portion of which we have presented here, is included in a collection of epistles that illustrate the da‘wah of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, entitled Al-Hadiyyah al-Sunniyyah. I have before me its second edition published with the commentary of the late ‘Allamah Rashid Rida, proprietor of Al-Manar magazine, from Al-Manar Publishers in Egypt (1344 AH). []

21 Comments

  • Assalamualaikum wmwbt,
    I want this book..in arabic or Urdu.
    I live in Karachi,Pakistan.

  • I live in saudi arabia.People here do not like sufis.Normally they think that the one who has faiths like brailvis is sufi.Of course there are many stories about sufis which lead to shirk,for example ,the story of boat related to sheikh AbdulQadir jailani and some stories of sayed Ali hajveri which i think have no basis.Many Prophets(peace be upon them)are burried here but no graves and no worships other than ALLAH.

  • The Shaikh has written, (English translation) “We do not negate the way of the Sufis …………. as long as the individual firmly adheres to the rules of Shari‘ah and the correct and observed way…….”

    But the Sufism in India is what was practiced by Ibn al a’rabi and the like which does not agree with the rules of Shari‘ah.

    Both the terms Sufi and Sufism and Sufi beliefs have no basis from the traditional Islamic sources of the Qur’an and Sunnah, a fact even admitted by themselves. Rather, Sufism is in essence a conglomerate consisting of extracts from a multitude of other religions with which Sufi’s interacted.

    During the primary stages of Sufism, Sufis were characterised by their particular attachment to zikr (remembrance of Allah) and asceticism (seclusion), as well as the beginning of innovated practices to ‘aid’ in the religious practices.

    Although it began as a move towards excessive Ibaadah, such practices were doomed to lead to corruption, since their basis did not come from authentic religious doctrines, but rather from exaggerated human emotions.

    Sufism as an organised movement arose among pious Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (AD 661-750)4. The Sufis exploited the chaotic state of affairs that existed during the fifth and sixth centuries A.H. and invited people to follow their way, alleging that the remedy to this chaos was conformity to the guidance of their order’s Sheikhs.

    Dar al-Hikmah was established during the reign of Khalifah Ma’moon, where he invited the scholars of the Romans and Greeks to meet with the Muslims and ‘discuss’ their respective positions. This provided the perfect breeding ground for the synthesis between Islam and Pagan theology, to produce the Sufism of the like of Ibn Arabi.

    • “Both the terms Sufi and Sufism and Sufi beliefs have no basis from the traditional Islamic sources of the Qur’an and Sunnah, a fact even admitted by themselves. Rather, Sufism is in essence a conglomerate consisting of extracts from a multitude of other religions with which Sufi’s interacted.”

      It’s quite clear you haven’t bothered reading the above. If you did, you wouldn’t make such assumptions. There’s also another post on this series. http://www.deoband.org/2011/02/tasawwuf/shariah-and-tariqah-tasawwuf/hafiz-ibn-al-qayyim-and-sufism-part-one/

      The thing you need to remind yourself is that, like many other Islamic sciences, there are extremes. One can’t cite the fabricators of hadith to tarnish the righteous Muhaddithin as astray. Likewise, one can’t tarnish all Sufis as astray because of the heretical views of some who claim Sufism. Please read this article again and also the introduction which is linked above. This assumption on your part has been answered adequately there.
      Peace.

  • as-salamu ‘alaykum,

    Isn’t it a shame, that someone like Muhammad ibn ‘Abdulwahhab is even considered as a Shaykh? That his words have any weight?

    Read: The Divine Lightning, translated by al-Hajj Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali, to fully understand this najdi shaykh.

    • Why don’t you read Shaykh Muhammad Al-Alawi Al-Maliki Al-Makki’s book, Al-Ghulu fi al-Din. He uses a very laudatory language for Ibn Abdul Wahhab.

    • Bismihi Ta’ala,
      Asalaamu’alaikum,

      I was as confused as you are at first regarding that comment of Dr. Sufi Aliyyah-Shah but I believe she means “Orthodox Sufism” and not “Oxford Sufism”.

      Wassalaam

  • Okay. Well that makes a little sense now as long as Dr Aliyyah agrees to the presented meaning of her words.

  • Asallamu-Allaykum:
    Sufism means purify your soul,not the one which barelvies are propagating.It is due to barelvies that many people have misconceptions about sufism.May Allah guide the whole ummah (AMEEN)

  • i study much of the books of muhammad ibn abdul wahhab and follow the salafi methodology and for a long time i disliked deobandi links to sufism. As time has gone on and ive realised they have much in common with salafis and that by sufism they dont mean barelwism but they simply mean purifying the nafs, tazkiyyah, and other things too, i have grown a great love and respect for the deobandis, i learn fiqh from them, i plan to go out on tabligh inshallah, and i hope soon inshallah that salafis and deobandis will unite. Very happy to see the official site showing appreciate to shaikh ul islam muhammad ibn abdul wahhabs works, jazak allahu khair. The shaikhs works are widely available in all languages, i recommend to start with thalathatul usool, then qawaid al arba’a, then kitab at tawheed. Please read this before u make ur mind up on the shaikh. Baral allahu feekum.

    Also the article is excellent and shows that the shaikh has no issues with madhabs ororthodox tassawuf, his issue was with barelwi types who did things like praying to the dead

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