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Wahhabi Movement


Saiyid Ahmad of Rai Bareilly was founder of Wahabi Movement in India.He was influenced by the teaching of Abdul Wahab of Arabia (1703-87), but even more by the preaching of the Delhi saint Shah Waliullah (1702-62) and his son Abdul Aziz, who called for a revival to the true spirit of Islam.

The Wahabi movement was a revivalist movement that attempted to purify Islam by eradicating any un-Islamic behaviours that had crept into Muslim culture throughout the centuries.

This basically revivalist reaction to Western influences and the degeneration that had set in among Indian Muslims.Syed Ahmed advocated for a return to true Islam and the kind of civilization that existed in Arabia during the Prophet's time.


He was the first Indian Muslim leader of the 18th century to organise Muslims around the two-fold ideals of this movement:

  • the desire for harmony among the four schools of Muslim jurisprudence that had divided Indian Muslims (he sought to integrate the best elements of the four schools), and

  • the recognition of the role of individual conscience in religion in situations where conflicting interpretations of the Quran and the Hadis were derived. It attempted to make Islam more about individual’s own understanding rather than rigid explanations that were blindly and mindlessly followed by all.

Anti-Sikh to Anti-British

The campaign was initially directed against the Sikhs of the Punjab. Jihad was launched against the Sikh state of Punjab, which was governed by Ranjit Singh. He published the anti-Sikh booklet Targhiz-ul-Jihad. Following the overthrow of the Sikh ruler and inclusion of the Punjab into the East India Company's dominion in 1849, the English dominion in India became the sole target of the Wahabi's attack.

Political Undercurrent

Walliullah's teachings were popularised further by Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Ahmed Barelvi, who also gave them a political context.

Dar-ul-Harb (the country of the kafirs) Supposedly India, needed to be turned to Dar-ul-Islam (land of Islam).

During the 1857 Revolt, the Wahabi's played a significant part in instilling anti-British sentiment. In the face of British military force in the 1870s, the Wahabi Movement died away.

The Demise

In the 1860s, the government organised a series of military operations against the Wahabi base of operations in Sithana, while a number of court proceedings for sedition were made against Wahabis in India.

The Ambeyla War (1863), in which the English troops suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Wahhabis, marked the culmination of the Movement. As a result, the government used harsh steps to repress the Movement. Investigations were initiated, the leaders were arrested and convicted to long-term imprisonment, and their possessions were confiscated. The Movement's back was broken.

Titu Mir’s Movement - Barasat Rebellion

Titu Mir, whose real name was Syed Mir Nisar Ali, added militancy to the Wahabi movement. It became a source of inspiration for numerous groups throughout India's Struggle for Independence.

He began an armed struggle against the British Government and the military troops of the East India Company, who were backing the Zamindars and Mahajans. Zamindars and their men harassed Muslims and collected taxes for keeping beards. Titu Mir personally led multiple revolts against the Company authorities' excessive levies and the inhumane practises of local Zamindars. Titu Mir was angered by crimes and assaults on ordinary people perpetrated by Zamindars, Mahajans, and British forces. Titu Mir, the head of Bengal's Wahabi sect, led the Barasat Uprising (1831).

Titu Mir's goal was to organise impoverished Muslim peasants to resist tyrannical zamindars who levied punitive levies on wahabis. Narkelberia at Barasat was the epicentre of his movement.


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