``Wahhabi'' is the name most Western scholars apply to a Muslim puritan movement founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab in 18th century Arabia. Wahhab formed an alliance with the al-Saud family, one which eventually led to Saudi dominance in the area, and the establishment of Saudi Arabia.

The Wahhabi prefer to call themselves ``Salafi,'' meaning ``forefathers'' or ``pioneers,'' a reference to their belief that they are promulgating the Islam of Muhammad.

They point out that the tensions between fundamentalists and modernizers in Islam long predate Wahhab, dating back to the decades after Muhammad's death in 632.

Some Wahhabi tenets:

  • No object of worship other than God.
  • Rejection of the use of holy intermediaries to win the favor of God.
  • No name but God's to be cited in prayer.
  • These three principles are the basis of the zealous Wahhabi rejection of saints or icons, Muslim or otherwise. The Taliban's decision this year to destroy ancient statues of Buddha was influenced by Wahhabi backers.

  • A literal belief in the Quran.
  • A belief in the establishment of a Muslim state based only on Shariah, Muslim law.
  • A fervent rejection of all innovations not directly advancing Islam. In the 20th century, Wahhabi religious leaders accepted radio as a means of spreading Islam, but at least initially rejected television as a corrupting medium.
  • No smoking, shaving or abusive language.
  • The rejection of leadership roles for women.
  • Mosque architecture is minimalist, lacking ornamentation or minarets.
  • Men must attend public prayer.
  • Sources:
    Encyclopaedia Britannica
    Encyclopaedia of the Orient

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