3
The Desert Plant of Wahhabism

' ABD AL WAHHAB, the man from whom the Wahhabi movement derives, was born in 1700. But before studying his influence on the Sa'udi family and dynasty, and so the political developments of the Arabian Peninsula, let us see what happened in the eleven hundred years between the death of the Prophet Muhammad and the birth of ' Abd al Wahhab.

The heavenly message the Prophet preached was in the Arab tongue and intended for the Arab nation. Although by the end of his life he succeeded in extending his belief through persuasion and militarism over the greater part of the Peninsula and began to look beyond the borders of Arabia, he kept his creed insolubly linked with its land of origin by obliging all believers to go to the Holy Land of Islam once in their lives. This pilgrimage, the so-called hajj, made the holy places in and around Mecca a spiritual centre for all Muslims. In Mecca was the Ka'ba, Bait Ullah -- the House of God -- built by Abraham in accordance with divinely dictated instructions. Ten miles to the south-east lay the plain of 'Arafat where on the great day of the hajj all pilgrims had to gather round its central rocky hill, the Jabal ar-Rahma -- the Mountain of Mercy. Yathrib, the pre-Islamic town two hundred and fifty miles to the north, which had been the first to receive the Prophet after his hijra -- severing of relations -- with Mecca, became Medinat an-Nabi -- the town of the Prophet -- afterwards to be known to the world as Medina, the town. The Muslim calendar dates from the year of the hijra.

The other tie by which the Prophet kept his followers in close relation with Arabia was that of language. The revelations God

-29-

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The Wells of Ibn Sa'ud
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Author's Acknowledgements viii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - I Meet Wahhabi Arabia 7
  • 2 - The Town of the Consuls 13
  • 3 - The Desert Plant of Wahhabism 29
  • 4 - The Emergence of Ibn Sa'Ud 37
  • 5 - Consolidation 54
  • 6 - First Contacts with Great Britain 69
  • 7 - The Dual Monarchy 86
  • 8 - First Wahhabi Impacts 102
  • 9 - The Pilgrimage 114
  • 10 - The Arrival of the Americans 127
  • 11 - The Palestine Problem 149
  • 12 - The Arab League 167
  • 13 - Interlude and Return to Arabia 174
  • 14 - The Americans in Arabia 185
  • 15 - Agriculture and Water 203
  • 16 - The Last Audience 220
  • 17 - A Visit to Amir Sa'Ud 231
  • 18 - The Last Visit 240
  • 19 - Ibn Sa'Ud's Inheritance 247
  • Glossary 259
  • Index 265
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