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Wahhābīya. An ultra-conservative, puritanical Muslim movement adhering to the Ḥanbalite law, although it regards itself as ghair muqallidīn, non-adherent to parties, but defending truth. It arose in Najd in the Arabian peninsula during the 18th cent. Its founder, Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (1703–87 (AH 1115–1201)) found a champion in the tribal leader Muḥammad ibn Saʿūd of the Darʿiya region, and from then on the Saudis became the main supporters of the movement. They believe that the Muslims have abandoned their faith in One God (tawhid) and have distorted Islam through innovations (bidʿa) which run counter to pure Islam. The Wahhābīs accept only the Qurʾān and the authentic Sunna, and all Muslims who do not accept their creed are regarded as heretics, especially the Shīʿa, who are considered as archenemies of Islam.

During the 19th cent., the Wahhābīs in alliance with the Saʿūd family began to expand territorially. Within the new kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Wahhābīs became dominant in conservative control, introducing mutawwiʿūn, ‘enforcers of obedience’, a kind of private religious police, monitoring not only public but also private conformity to Islam (since before Allāh there is no distinction between private and public).

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