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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Saudi Arabia in Transition: Insights on Social, Political, Economic and Religious Change


Naming the doctrine preached by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab has never been a simple matter. Early foes classified it as a Kharijite sectarian heresy. The name that stuck, Wahhabi, stigmatized the doctrine as the ravings of a misguided preacher. Naturally, Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and his disciples preferred other names for themselves and their movement: at first, the folk who profess God’s unity (ahl al-tawhid and al-muwahhidun), later, the Najdi call (al-da ‘wa al-najdiyya). Naming, then, is part of arguments over Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine. If the doctrine is known as Wahhabi, it cannot claim to represent correct belief. The tendency to refer to it as Salafi is a recent development that first emerged among Wahhabism’s defenders outside Arabia well before Wahhabis themselves adopted the term.


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