Mohammed Abdel-wahab

Mohammed Abd-el-Wahab the founder of the Mohammedan sect named after him Wahabites, was born in Nejed or Nejd, Central Arabia, about the close of the 17th century, in the tribe of Temim, and claimed descent from Mohammed the prophet. Like his prototype, the great Mohammed, he spent the early part of his life in trading expeditions to Bassora, Bagdad, and Damascus. Tradition even claims for extensive journeys, reaching to India on the east, and Constantinople on the west. He was a prudent and sagacious young man, and greatly devoted to his studies in the law and the Koran, and, like a faithful Moslem, he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. There he became tired with such an ascetic fanaticism that on his return he was compelled to quit his native village for Deraijeh, in the central highlands of Arabia, soon to become the capital of the new theocracy. Like the prophet of the crescent, when he looked abroad over the degenerate state of his countrymen, Abd-el-Wahab saw that his co-religionists had fallen away from the purity of life and belief which made Islam master of all the civilized world save a corner of Europe, and he resolved to bring them back to the truth. He scouted the traditions which had buried the pure Koran under their mass, he condemned the idolatry which regarded Mohammed as more than a mere man inspired by the one God, and he enforced with a fanatical earnestness fasting, alms-giving, prayer, and the pilgrimage to Mecca, while he forbade the gratification of all vice and luxury, whether drinking, gambling, smoking, debauchery, usury, false witnesses, fine dresses, or grand tombs. Being a man of talent and eloquence, he soon gained followers. At first his progress was slow, but gradually his doctrines became popular, and he ultimately succeeded in spreading them widely, and in establishing his power likewise. He died near the close of the 18th century; but the Wahabites have continued to grow in strength and numbers all over Asia, particularly Inda, until there is now scarcely a city of any size in Northern India in which followers of his are not to be found. For the last ten years the Wahabites have been subject to rigorous searching on the part of the British government, and it would now appear that they have joined to their religious a political creed which is dangerous to the welfare of Western society in the East. SEE MOHAMMEDAN SECTS; SEE WAHABEES. (J.H.W.)

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