Wahabi Movement in India | History Notes for UPSC Exam

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

Wahabi Movement was a socio-religious movement started by Sayyid Ahmad in Rae Bareli, India, in early 1820. The Wahabi movement became one of the famous Sunni Islamic revivalist movements intending to restore the original spirit of Islam by protecting it from the influence of Sikhs in Punjab and the British in Bengal. Wahabi Movement holds significant importance in Indian History, and many questions have been asked about this in the IAS Exam.

In this article, we have covered all the facts and important information about the Wahabi Movement. Candidates preparing for the UPSC exam must go through this article to learn the objectives, political views, and suppression of the Wahabi Movement.

Table of content

  • 1. What is Wahabi Movement? (more)
  • 2. Objectives of the Wahabi Movement (more)
  • 3. Wahabi Revolt – Anti-Sikh and Anti-British Movement (more)
  • 4. Political view of the Wahabi Movement (more)
  • 5. Suppression of Wahabi Movement (more)
  • 6. Wahabi Movement UPSC (more)
  • 7. Wahabi Movement UPSC Question (more)

What is Wahabi Movement?

Wahabi movement was a revivalist movement initiated against Westernization’s increasing influence on Islam’s true spirit by eliminating the un-Islamic customs hampering their Muslim culture. He aims to bring back the real kind of Islamic civilization that existed during the Prophet’s time in Arabia.

Saiyid Ahmad of Rai Bareilly started the Movement in India. He was highly influenced by the preachings of Shah Waliullah (1702-62), who was a Delhi saint, and his son Abdul Aziz. Sayyid was also influenced by the teachings of Abdul Wahab of Arabia (1703-87).

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Wahabi Movement Overview

Here are key highlights of the Wahabi Movement-



Wahabi Movement started in

Early 1820

Wahabi Movement was started by

Saiyid Ahmad

Wahabi Revolt ended in

In 1870

Objectives of the Wahabi Movement

Wahabi Movement was a rebellious movement against the influence of modernization over Islam by bringing back the simplicity of the Islamic religion. The Movement revolves around the Islamic legacy of the Quran and Hadis.

Syed Ahmed started the Movement with these two ideals-

  • He aimed to bring back the past harmony among the 4 schools of Muslim jurisprudence responsible for dividing the Indian Muslims.
  • Every individual must know their role in the religion. This means that individuals should make Islam their understanding rather than imposing the religion over them mindlessly and blindly.

Wahabi Revolt – Anti-Sikh and Anti-British Movement

The Wahabi Movement started to direct a socio-religious movement against the Sikhs in Punjab. To support the Movement, Sayyid Ahmad launched the practice of Jihad against the Punjabi Sikhs. He boosted the fire of the Wahabi Revolt by publishing an anti-Sikh booklet named Targhiz-ul-Jihad. Because of the hate resulting from the Movement, Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab, was overthrown.

After removing the Sikh ruler in Punjab, the Movement headed toward the East India Company’s dominion. However, the British suppressed the Movement after the Revolt of 1857.

Political view of the Wahabi Movement

Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Ahmed Barelvi turned the Wahabi Movement and gave it a political perspective.

These were the major highlights supporting the Wahabi Movement’s political view in India-

  • Before the Movement, India was considered a land of Kafirs (known as Dar-ul-Harb). According to the major objective of the Movement, there was a need to convert India into an Islamic land (dar-ul-Islam).
  • Syed Ahmed Barelvi aimed to bring back the purity of Islamic culture that existed during the Prophet’s time in Arabia.
  • It worked to eliminate the un-Islamic or westernized practices that hinder the originality of Islam.

Suppression of Wahabi Movement

The Wahabi Movement became one of the major reasons that ignited the revolt of 1857 among Muslims. The Movement was responsible for spreading anti-British sentiments that became a symbol of potential danger for the British Rulers of India. As a result of this danger, the British Government launched a multi-pronged attack on the Movement in the 1860s. They started Military Operations. Along with these, certain court cases were filed against the supporters of the Wahabi Revolt (known as Wahabis) in India.

From 1863 to 1865, there were several episodes where Wahabis were arrested for supporting the Movement, important being the Ambala trial in 1864 and the Patna trial in 1864. However, because of many close encounters and strict actions, the Movement completely lost its vitality after the 1870s.

Wahabi Movement UPSC

Wahabi Movement UPSC has been a critical topic in Indian History and holds significance in the IAS Exam. Many questions are asked about the Wahabi Movement topic in the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains exams. To completely understand the topic, you can download the History Books for UPSC and Indian History Notes for UPSC. You can also check your knowledge by solving the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers.

Wahabi Movement UPSC Question

Many Wahabi Movement UPSC Questions have been asked in the UPSC Exam. Below are a few sample questions with answers.

Question – Consider the following statements:

  1. Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Ahmed Khan popularized the ideas of the Wahabi movement in India.
  2. Wahabi Movement was a revivalist movement that tried purifying Islam by eliminating all the unIslamic practices.
  3. Wahabi played an important role in the revolt of 1857 in spreading anti-British feelings.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 2 only
  4. 1 and 2 only

Answer – B

Question – In which year Wahabi Movement was started?

  1. 1820
  2. 1830
  3. 1840
  4. 1850

Answer – A

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