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WAHHABI ISLAM Hardcover – 30 Jun 2004

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  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc (30 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195169913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195169911
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.6 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,485,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Spectator: "we have to sit up and listen" "Natana J. Delong-Bas's Wahhabi Islam is based on her study of al-Wahhab's original texts in modern Riyadh - and very impressive it is" John L. Esposito - author of 'Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam': "A groundbreaking book that sets the standard...must reading for policymakers, scholars, the media, and the general public." The Middle East Magazine "groundbreaking" --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Natana J. DeLong-Bas is a senior research assistant at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. She has served as editor for and contributor to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, and contributor to The Encyclopedia of the Qur'an and The Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. She is a frequent public speaker on Islam, Wahhabism, and Saudi Arabia. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Wahhabism was founded in the eighteenth century in the province of Najd, a broad desert expanse located in central Arabia. Read the first page
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By reviewer on 11 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
Initially when I bought this book I thought it would be anti wahhabi. Having read the book, I found it well researched and well balanced.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jairus Sway on 1 July 2009
Format: Paperback
A thorough description of al-Wahhabi's views on just about everything, including who should be punished for not agreeing with him, and why and how.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr Gautam Sen on 6 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
The amusing thing about almost all Western scholarship on Islam and is the reluctance to recognise the role of Anglo-French and later American imperialism in promoting a form of Islamic fascism, to the exclusion of long-established and once-dominant alternative variants. The House of Saud and Wahhabi Islam may have complex antecedents though Muhammad Ibn Al Wahhab was basically an illiterate murderer. But the monster haunting the world today was created by British colonial sponsorship. It was a pathetic ploy to retain colonial privilege, secure oil supplies for the navy and supposedly keep communism at bay. The chickens will keep coming home to roost for a very long time. Amen!
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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
140 of 163 people found the following review helpful
Unveiling a Work of Pseudo-scholarship 5 Nov 2004
By Zubair Qamar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Natana J. Delong-Bas's book, "Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad," which purportedly explains Wahhabism "accurately" and dispels "myths" propagated by "polemics" of all colors, media pundits and all, is a rather welcome contribution - or so it seems, at first glance. The three-page Introduction portrayed several people - including Stephen Schwartz (footnote 1,7,9,11), Khaled Abou El Fadl (footnote 3), and myself (footnote 6) -- as examples of misinformed individuals, in the least, who portrayed Wahhabism inaccurately in their works. To the author, their anti-Wahhabi rhetoric, like many others, flew in the face of the facts that she allegedly gathered in her more than 300 pages of research, much of it translated into English for the first time. Delong-Bas's point: Wahhabism just isn't the scary monster it is said to be. Maybe it really was a "pathbreaking" (Oxford Press), "groundbreaking" (John L. Esposito), endeavor, I thought.

Could the portrayal of Wahhabism as intolerant and fanatical by hundreds, maybe thousands, of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, authors, activists, students, etc. in 200+ years past be flawed? Should their positions be construed merely as a load of sophisticated/polemical gobbledygook? Does the author really open "the way for historians to reconsider and revise the standard, perhaps mistaken, notions about it" (David Commins)? One need not go to far into the book to answer such questions. Because of the author's main sources, the book fails miserably as a work of diligent scholarship.

In the Preface,Delong-Bas says: "Thanks are due to Faisal bin Salman, Abd Allah S. al-Uthaymin, and Dr. Fahd al-Semmari, Director of the King Abd al-Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for making the full corpus of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab's works available to me [...]." This same research foundation was also one of three sources that provided "financial support" for her book. What follows is a brief description of who the author is thanking.

The Foundation is named after King Abd al-Aziz (1902-1953), the Wahhabi founder of Saudi Arabia who slaughtered non-Wahhabi Muslims (and even Wahhabi Muslims of the Ikhwan) in his path to "victory".

Abd Allah S. al-Uthaymin, a Wahhabi, is the author of "History of Saudi Arabia: From the Movement Reformer Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab to King Abd al-Aziz."

Faisal bin Salman, known as "H.R.H. (His Royal Highness)" in Saudi Arabia, is one of the princes of the Wahhabi Al-Sa'ud monarchy. Somehow, Delong-Bas (Oxford Press?) did not add the "H.R.H." acronym before the prince's name in the Preface -obviously a part of the book read by many. However, she remembered to add the acronym in a tiny-lettered footnote #8 (Introduction) hidden well in the back of the book that few readers would perhaps bother to read. Why did Delong-Bas/Oxford Press do this? Were they trying to hide something?

Dr. Fahd al-Semmari, a Wahhabi, was deputy secretary of the kingdom's 100th Anniversary Committee, in addition to his current role as general director of the King Abd al-Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives. The foundation's mandate is to glorify the heritage of Saudi Arabia, including Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab who is a part of the heritage.

On page 14, Delong-Bas states the four main sources of biographical information of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab:

(1) contemporary chronicles written by his supporters, the most important of whom were Husayn Ibn Ghannam and Uthman Ibn Bishr; (2) polemical works written by his opponents, the most important of whom was Ahmad bin Zayni Dahlan; (3) accounts written by Western travelers to Arabia; and (4) Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's own written works.

She then says, "Of all of these accounts, the chronicles contain the most biographical information and are considered to be the most accurate in terms of biographical information because of the proximity of the writers to their subjects."

Does close proximity to Ibn Abd al-Wahhab/"subjects" necessarily mean the sources will be the "most accurate in terms of biographical information"? Common sense says no because Ibn Ghannam and Ibn Bishr are clearly stated to be Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's "supporters". It's like contacting a pro-Nazi foundation for a biography of Adolph Hitler, and portraying sources by Hitler's admirers as the "most accurate" because they were among the closest in "proximity" to him. Is there not a high possibility that Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's "supporters" mainly focused on his peaceful biographical aspects, and concealed his more extremist/jihadist aspects? Is it not possible that they, like any other supporter, would care to cast the biography of a man they like in a positive manner than in a negative manner? Common sense, again, says: In all likelihood.

There is, in fact, a high probability of inaccuracy from those sources, though this somehow escapes Delong-Bas's mind. Moreover, according to my count, the author has footnoted Ibn Ghannam only 4 times, but Ibn Bishr no less than 45 times, meaning that the bulk of "most accurate" biographical information of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab comes almost entirely from one source - again, from a pro-Wahhabi. How, then, can Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's biography, as presented in Delong Bas's book, be taken seriously by any objective scholar? It cannot.

While pro-Wahhabis are used as "most accurate" sources, information from Wahhabi opponents "has not been used extensively" because they (1) are "extremely polemical in style rather than factual or straightforward"; (2) they address "later developments" of the Wahhabi movement; and (3) "because of their polemical nature, these accounts tend to be more useful in reconstructing impressions of the movement than in recounting events or teachings." And that's why "polemical works have been largely discarded" in giving the biography of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the "early teachings of the movement."

But what makes the sources of two Wahhabi supporters more accurate than the works of Wahhabi opponents? While the former are closer in time to Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, they are his biased supporters. The latter, however, though further away in time from the Wahhabi founder's period of existence, may - and indeed, do - have accurate information, especially on how Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's teachings contradicted the teachings that orthodox Sunni Muslims had been following for over 1,000 years.

For example, Delong-Bas provides Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's interpretations of intercession (tawassul) in his "Kitab al-Tawhid" without stating that he contradicted many verses of the Qur'an, hadeeth, and interpretations provided by Sunni orthodox scholars (ulema) throughout the history of Islam (except Ibn Taymiyah and his followers who were the first to deviate from mainstream Sunni Islam on the issue). With an unorthodox interpretation of a genuinely valid Islamic practice, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab accuses the vast lot of Muslims who do 'tawassul' of committing polytheism (shirk) -- the only unforgivable sin in Islam. He then allows his followers to massacre them, believing that they are doing a very noble deed and following the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad when, in fact, they are doing exactly the opposite.

From a source perspective, how, to any basic researcher, can this book be called a "pathbreaking" and "groundbreaking" work when sources for a book on Wahhabism are provided by Wahhabis, when the sources themselves are written by Wahhabis, and when the research endeavor is partially financed by Wahhabis? I'm sure you see how "objective" and "balanced" Delong-Bas's research is.

Contact me by e-mail for a more detailed unveiling of Delong-Bas's pseudo-scholarship and insult to the moderate/orthodox Muslims. (...)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Academic blasphemy 16 Sep 2011
By J. McCracken - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Pure, paid apologetics from the Saudi government (read Delong-Bas's list of financial sponsors). There are MANY problems with her so-called "research" that have already been outlined by
reviewer Zubair Qamar. He so generously left the door open for you to email him further criticisms of her book.

How ever nice and benign she tries to make Abd Al-Wahhab, he is a rigid, tolerant cold-blooded killer. One of my personal favourites of hers , is Abd Al-Wahhab never called for "jihad" against the unbelievers only "qital" (fighting). And not to kill them but to "help" them give up their bad practices and adopt his way of thinking. His intentions were "good" and only wanted to "help" people see the proper Islam. Gimme a break!!!

Also she very nonchalantly says since Shi'a have raised their Imams to a semi-divine statues they are causing "shirk" (association with God). We all know how shirk should be dealt with = DEATH!! Unfortunately Abd Wahhabi didn't have any other choice but to kill all those deviant Shi'a because they associate their Imams with God. She made as well have written, you know Nazi's weren't all that bad, I mean, what choice did they have? After all it was the Jews who killed Jesus.

The verdict:
Her scholarship? Beyond the pale of poor
Her purse? paid off by the Saudi government to rehabilitate Wahhabi image
Her apologies? sickening and blood curdling

Best review I read:
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Unscholarly Wahhabi Apologetic 27 April 2012
By Jean Luc - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is not a scholarly or holistic study on Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab. I got this book hoping to learn more about his own story but the views expressed in this book are Wahhabi Apologetics at best. There is SOME good information, but it is the lies of omission that are most startling to me. Reading this alongside the actual works of Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab illustrates tremendous omissions to make Delong Bas's points (a tactic she borrowed from ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab?). The author leaves out relevant primary sources in favor of pro-Wahhabi documents. She describes the importance placed upon tawhid but neglects to mention the strict application of this doctrine and the resulting bloodshed across the Arabian Peninsula. The information that she reports upon is largely based in legitimate sources - HOWEVER - the selection of sources she uses is horrendously biased and far from a holistic view of the man and his doctrines. I was shocked until I discovered that her funding and sources came from Saudi princes (not that they might have an agenda). Frankly, this book is a half-decent introduction to Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab but is disgustingly slanted and should not be understood as a scholarly study. This book is insulting to the studies of both history and Islam.

Full disclaimer: I have not bothered finishing the book. I got halfway through and simply gave up; my interest is in legitimate academic works which this is not.

To be clear: I am not anti-Islam and I have not been brainwashed by polemics. I have spent considerable time studying ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab and reading his own writings. Take this book with a large grain of salt and be sure to take a look at the man's own writings and life.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
On the source of Wahhabism and not its modern manifestations 21 Dec 2008
By David Wilmsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An important and well-executed work about the thought of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and not specifically about what is now called "wahhabism". Contrary to the way he is presented in current public and scholarly discourse, the author's Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab emerges as a moderate, enormously well read, progressive expounder and interpreter of Islamic doctrine. The founder of the Wahhabis was anything but the wild-eyed, puritanical naïf hailing from some remote sand-locked province of Muslimdom he is painted to be. Author Delong-Bas has accomplished what no western critics of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab--and eastern ones too for that matter--have ever attempted: she has actually read his work, all fourteen of his books along with his legal opinions. The weight of the evidence, then, is on her side. She has simply read her subject's own works and the historical record of his passing and reported what she found there. In so doing, she has rendered an invaluable service by distilling the works of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, which are difficult to obtain outside of Saudi Arabia, for readers who may in any case not be able to read the Arabic.

To convince doubters, of whom there will be many, the author embarks upon a detailed and methodical examination of the views of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab as recorded in his own voice and not as imputed to him by others. Her emphasis throughout is on the hot-button issues so dear to critics of all stripes, notably the principles of interpretation of the sacred texts, the rights of women, and the place of violence and jihad.

According to his own words and deeds, Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab preached and practiced flexibility in interpretation of Islamic doctrine, tolerance of different creeds alternative to it, and forbearance toward those who disagreed with his views or who apostatised. Accused of rigid literalism, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab to the contrary openly broke with exegetes, doctors of law, and compliers of Prophetic traditions whenever and wherever he found their pronouncements to be lacking in principled reasoning, based upon faulty interpretation, or displaying outright ignorance or dishonesty. He urged his followers and indeed all believers to practice these same principles to the furthest extent to which they were able.

Where it came to matters concerning relations between the sexes, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's inclination was always to assert the rights of women, according them more rights and less stricture in the conduct of their own affairs than he accorded to men. So too was he insistent upon women's right to participation in public life and access to public space. Underlying any of his judgments was his keen preoccupation with protecting and preserving human life and dignity. His written record demonstrates a consistent concern for such things. This hardly conforms to the image of Wahhabism that is bandied about nowadays, in which Wahhabis are portrayed as vicious misogynists. While there may be such types amongst Muslims, they cannot be called adherents of the thought of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

Neither can those who call for the indiscriminate killing of innocents and non-combatants, justifying this in the name of jihad. Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was very careful in his use of this term and set out clear guidelines for the proper conduct of armed struggle, largely employing the Arabic term qitaal `fighting' rather than jihad. The reason for that was that while there may be many good reasons for fighting, there are only a few situations in which fighting can be declared jihad. In those, and indeed in any other form of combat, strict parameters were to be observed as to how the fighting is to be conducted. One was that killing itself was to be kept to the absolute minimum. Indeed, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab specified only three situations in which jihad can legitimately be carried out, those being 1) when two groups of combatants (clearly, one Muslim and one not) meet face to face, 2) when an enemy leaves its own territory (intending aggression), and then 3) only if the spiritual leader of the community actually declares jihad (the imam, as distinguished from the amir, who is the political leader--an important distinction, as many latter-day jihadis swear their allegiance to an amir). When declared, jihad is only to be prosecuted until the enemy retreats. Women, children, the aged, and others who are incapable of fighting by means of infirmity or social status are not to be killed.

A flatter contradiction of conventional opinion could scarcely be imagined. In the face of all this, the inapt question, What went wrong? aimed scattershot at the entire Muslim world might profitably be redirected to the much narrower range of central Arabia. Neither the House of Saud nor the angry-eyed global Islamic radicals come out well in the author's portrayal of them. Both groups have perverted the nature of true Wahhabi doctrine (i.e., that propounded by Ibn Abd al-Wahhab himself) into narrow, literalistic interpretations of Islamic texts recruited to advance their own political agendas; for the Saudis, this was the conquest and consolidation of political rule in the Arabian peninsula and for the global jihadis it is purported to be the conquest of the world (although no-one knows for sure).

After the work of DeLong-Bas, it will simply be incorrect to tar Muslim conservatives with the brush of Wahhabism or indeed to condemn militants by branding them jihadis, as what they are endorsing is not jihad. The hidebound conservatism of some Muslim literalists or the ravings and horrendous deeds of maniacal psychopaths who happen to call themselves Muslims must now be awarded some other pejorative, as they are entirely inconsistent with the thought of the broad-minded reformer who was Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

This book will certainly be a boon to scholars, but it is to be hoped that it would also attract the attention of critics of Islam (whose arguments in any case can now be debunked for their not having read it) or indeed of the wider public.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Interesting book, strange argument 6 April 2010
By Cynthia N. Lindsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author provides interesting new source work by translating writings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's that had not previously appeared in English. The translations deal with women and jihad. However, her argument that Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups today aren't Wahhabist based strictly on their failure to adhere to the writings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab is just strange. Though she acknowledges that the Wahhabi ulama co-opted Ibn Taymiyya's more aggressive view of jihad to justify the Saudi invasion of the Hijaz, she argues that Bin Laden is not a Wahhabist because his views are more on point with those of Ibn Taymiyya and Sayyed Qutb. She does the same thing with women, stating that the current state of women in Saudi Arabia is not attributable to Wahhabism because Ibn Abd al-Wahhab's writing indicate a more generous view of women, ignoring the fact that the Wahhabi ulama has co-opted these views on women into their ideology over time. Apparently the Wahhabi movement died with Ibn Abd al-Wahhab or the Wahhabists who currently legitimate the Saudi royal family aren't really Wahhabists, as, like Bin Laden, they don't adhere to the writings of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

If you'd like to read what Ibn Abd al-Wahhab had to say about women or jihad, buy the book. If you want a coherent argument about al-Qaeda's religious ideology, look elsewhere.
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