Some people cite the following statement of Sh.Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab (rahimahullah) as evidence to say that the sheikh declared the muslims of his time, including his own teachers, as kuffar.
Shaykh Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab (may Allah have mercy upon him) states:
وأنا أخبركم عن نفسي والله الذي لا إله إلا هو لقد طلبت العلم واعتقد من عرفني أن لي معرفة وأنا ذلك الوقت لا أعرف معنى لا إله إلا الله، ولا أعرف دين الإسلام قبل هذا الخير الذي من الله به. وكذلك مشايخي ما منهم رجل عرف ذلك، فمن زعم من علماء العارض أنه عرف معنى لا إله إلا الله أو عرف معنى الإسلام قبل هذا الوقت أو زعم عن مشايخه أن أحداً عرف ذلك فقد كذب وافترى ولبس على الناس ومدح نفسه بما ليس فيه
“And I inform you about myself –I swear by Allah whom there is none worthy of worship except Him– I have sought knowledge and those who knew me believed that I had knowledge while I did not know the meaning of La Ilaha illallah at that time and did not know the religion of Islam before this grace that Allah favored. As well as my teachers (Mashayikh) no one among them knew that. And if someone from the scholars of al-‘Aridh (the lands of Najd and surrounding areas) claims that he knew the meaning of La Ilaha illallah or knew the meaning of Islam before this time, or claims on behalf of his teachers that someone from them knew that, then he has lied and said falsehood and deceived the people and praise himself with something he does not possess.”
-[Durar as-saniya 10/51]
A few points to bare in mind:
● Context is key in any piece of information one reads. You have to read what comes before a paragraph or what comes after it. Even after that, look at the historical context and situation in which this information is being relayed. Why did the author say this? Upon what grounds did he write this? Who was he refering to? What else did he say in other places in regards to this issue? All of this must be examined. If you have done so then you'll have your answer. Speaking from an academic point of view, such a citation of a statement like that along with drawing ones own conclusion is a fail, with all due respect.
● Now, this statement. The Sheikh is refering to his personal experience when it comes to seeking knowledge, he highlights how he didnt know the reality of the meaning of the shahaadah, or the reality of Islam. This is what is understood from his speech if you are familiar with his writing methods and explanations. It doesnt mean he makes takfir of himself or others. Rather he's saying that he didnt know the reality of the meaning of tawheed. And this is somewhat of his display of humility! How many people are brought up in secular, liberal or non-religious cultural dominanted societies that dont emphasise religion thus resulting in many people not knowing the true reality of their religion? This is widespread amongst many muslims. They dont know the reality/rulings or intricates of Islam nor its sciences. This is what Sh.Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab is trying to argue and say, especially in regards to the affairs of Tawheed. For anyone who knows the reality of Najd in his time and locality will definitley understand what he said and meant.
An example that can be given is the statement of Allah to His messenger (peace be upon him): "And thus We have revealed to you an inspiration of Our command. You did not know what is the Book or [what is] faith, but We have made it a light by which We guide whom We will of Our servants." -42:52. This doesnt mean the prophet (peace be upon him) wasnt a muslim. But rather the details of the book and imaan were not revealed to him previously. Sh.Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab grew up in a society where they lacked in their belief of Tawheed, and Shirk was prevalent. One must read the history.
● Sh.Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahab (rahimahullah) has refuted and rebutted erroneous claims levelled against him that he makes mass-takfir of the Muslims. And that the people were kuffar for 600 years until he came. He replies to these allegations as being false and untrue, while reciting the verse "Glory be to You (O Allah) this is a great slander!" As a great example, read his letter titled "A letter to the people of Qaseem" in which he clarifies his beliefs and dispells more than several doubts surrounding his dawah.
● The comment itself is self explanatory about who he is refering to. The people of al-'Aridh who were engulfed in major Shirk and innovation at the time. They didnt know the reality of Tawheed, this also requires historical reading in order for you to understand the background to the sheiks speech.
● The Sheikh isnt refering to all his teachers. This is logically incorrect since he learned Tawheed from them and took much advice and counsel when writing his work (Kitab at-Tawheed), from these Sheikhs is the likes of Muhammad Hayaat as-Sindi and Muhammad al-Majmu'i. It would also contradict his other statements that say the exact opposite! One must not look at a statement in isolation, but rather in a fuller context and indepth reading. Who he is refering to are those who, at the start of his seeking knowledge, were engrossed in Shirk and innovation, and they themselves didnt realise it.
Much more can be said, but I hope this suffices. I will post other statements from the Sheikh in clarification and refutation of many doubts spread about him. Along with his innocence from the crime of wrongful takfir he has been charged with. May Allah grant us all beneficial knowledge, ameen.
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