Saudi Arabia is the focus of much international attention today. However, little has been published in English on the background to its culture and its roots in the First Saudi State that arose in 18th-century Najd. The Islamic reform movement that infused it with its sense of mission, and the life and thought of Shaikh Muhammad b.`Abd al-Wahhab (1703/4-1792) the teacher who inspired and led it, have similarly been neglected.
Often referred to outside Arabia as Wahhabism, the Shaikh’s teachings still exert a profound influence on the lives of Saudi Arabians and their government. His ideas continue to inspire his many followers, both inside the Kingdom and abroad, and a knowledge of his life and thought is vital to a proper understanding of both Saudi Arabia and the Arab world of today.
Students of Saudi Arabian history have long recognized George S. Rentz Ph.D. thesis on the Shaikh’s life and the origins of the First Saudi State as a work of pioneering scholarship. Despite this, since its acceptance in 1947 by the University of California, it has never before now been published.
Closely basing his account on the local Najdi chroniclers who were contemporary with many of the events they describe, Rentz pieces together the life and thought of the thinker who, using as his guide orthodox Hanbalite doctrine, set out to purify Islam as he saw it practised around him, and to direct Muslims back to the fundamentals of their faith. In the process Rentz tells the colorful story of the creation of the First Saudi State from 1745 with its capital at al-Dir’iyah, near present-day Riyadh.