Wahabi Movement – Wahabi Revolt, Objectives, Wahhabism in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Wahabi Movement was a socio-religious movement started by Sayyid Ahmad of 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.  In India, the Wahabi movement had a significant impact on the social and political landscape, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The aim of the Wahabi movement was to cleanse Islam and restore it to its fundamental and simple form. This article will explore the origins, objectives, and impact of the Wahabi movement in India, and shed light on its relevance in contemporary times.

What is Wahabi Movement?

The 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. The aim Wahabi movement was to bring back the real kind of Islamic civilization that existed during the Prophet’s time in Arabia.

Wahabi Movement Notes

Saiyid Ahmad of Rai Bareilly was the leader of the Wahabi Movement. 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).

Wahabi Movement Overview

Highlights Details
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 is one of the significant topics in Indian History and comes under the UPSC History Syllabus. Many questions are asked about the Wahabi Movement topic both Prelims and Mains exams. So, aspirants preparing for the upcoming UPSC exam need to ensure they cover this topic comprehensively so that they can tackle any questions related to Wahabi Movement. For efficient and effective preparation going through notes, and following the best History UPSC Books would be more than enough.

Wahabi Movement MCQs

Question – Consider the following statements: a) Shah Abdul Aziz and Syed Ahmed Khan popularized the ideas of the Wahabi movement in India. b) Wahabi Movement was a revivalist movement that tried to purify Islam by eliminating all unIslamic practices. c) Wahabi played an important role in the revolt of 1857 in spreading anti-British feelings. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? A) a and c only B) b and c only C) b only D) a and b only

Answer – B) b and c only

Question – In which year Wahabi Movement was started? A) 1820 B) 1830 C) 1840 D)1850

Answer – A) 1820

Question: In which century did the Wahabi Movement originate? A) 10th century B) 11th century C) 18th century D) 19th century

Answer: C) 18th century

Question: Which of the following was one of the major objectives of the Wahabi Movement? A) To promote Sufism B) To oppose colonialism C) To spread Shia Islam D) To purge Islam of practices considered un-Islamic

Answer: D) To purge Islam of practices considered un-Islamic

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