Tirades of abuse and polemical works against the character of the acclaimed scholar Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb is not specific to our era. Rather, the unwarranted and unjustified streams of invective are coeval with the moment the Imam confuted the aberrant beliefs and practices of those among his contemporaries who harboured heterodoxical beliefs.
Since he first publicised a call to Tawhid, by initiating a fervid motion set upon returning people to orthodoxy; a pure understanding of the religion free from aberrations and strange beliefs, a revival movement that completely dismissed and rejected the perverse heteordoxical practices of shrines and venerating graves. His lauded motion was met with fierce opposition from those who felt threatened and were at risk of losing their influence, wealth, status.
His opposition would go beyond sensible dialogue and reasoning, resorting to slander, seeking a remissive approach to quieten the responses the treatises on orthodoxy and returning back to the understanding of the Sahabah, authored by Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb, were receiving.
They promptly, at the expense of their credibility, would resort to authoring polemical letters, intent on casting doubt on the character and person of Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb as a way to indirectly discredit his work through calumny and defamation of his character.
Since then a great many expositional works were authored in response to these unfounded claims made by those individuals who rest their entire objection to the works of Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb on decontextualised scenes of inter-familial discord from his life. Their sheepish followers refuse to admit it was nothing short of a smear campaign that birthed the pejorative “Wahhābi” – an ad-hominem that sits on the tip of their tongue, one they bleat when faced with definitive proof from the authoritative sources to which they have no response; an attack on character.
The Historian and Chronicler, Ibn Ghannām [d. 1810] , recorded the letter sent by his teacher, Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb, to the Scholars of Makkah explaining the situation:
“May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allaah be upon you, to proceed: We were beset by an issue, which you and others have already been informed about. The cause of it being the decision to extirpate [a shrine] that was built, on our lands, over the graves of the righteous, and with that, we forbade them from calling [doing du’a] to the righteous [they would direct their du’a to the inhabitants of the graves], and we ordered them to call to Allaah alone [without associating partners].
When these matters were imparted [onto the public] and what I briefly mentioned regarding the extirpation of the shrines on the graves, it was burdensome [disconcerting] on the majority, and they were then abetted by those who claimed to have knowledge; [their abetting is] for reasons you are aware of… [namely] following their desires, and other reasons, and they disseminated about us that we denigrate the righteous [by destroying their shrines], and that we are not upon the earnestness of scholars, and they raised the matter to the east and west, and have disparaged and insulted us in ways it is unbecoming of one who is sane to recall.‘”
→ Rawḍat al-Afkār wa al-Afhām Li-Murtād Ḥāl al-Imām wa-Ta’dād Ghazawāt Dhawī al-Islām [“Tarikh ibn Ghannām”] – 1/70 | Shaykh Ḥusyan b. Ghannam al-Iḥsa’i [d. 1810 CE] | Translated by: Abu Dawūd [Mustafa b. Saalih] al-Ḥushayshi