The Wahabi movement offered the most serious and well-planned challenge to British supremacy in India from 1830's to 1860's. Syed Ahmad of Rae Bareli, the leader of this movement in India was influenced by the teaching of Abdul Wahab of Arbia, but even more by the preaching of the Delhi saint Shah Waliullah. Syed Ahmed condemned all accretions to and innovations in Islam and advocated a return to the pure Islam and society of Arabia of the Prophet's times. The Wahabi movement was basically a revivalist movement.
For the achievement of the desired objectives, Syed Ahmad looked for (i) the right leader, (ii) a proper organisation and (iii) a safe territory wherefrom to launch his Jihad. Syed Ahmad was acclaimed as the desired leader, a countrywide organisation with an elaborate secret code for its working under four spiritual vice regents was set on foot and Sithana in the North-Westem tribal belt was at Patna though it had its missions in Hyderabad, Madras, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bombay.
Since Dar-ul-Harb was to be converted into Dar-ul-Islam & Jihad was declared against the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab. Peshawar was captured in 1830, but lost to the Sikhs the following year with Syed Ahmad losing his life in action.
After the overthrow of the Sikh ruler and incorporation of the Punjab into the East India Company's dominion in 1849 the sole target of the Wahabi's attack became the English dominion in India.
During the Revolt of 1857 the Wahabi's played a notable role in spreading anti- British sentiments, but their exact participation in anti-British military activities has not been identified so far.
The British rulers of India viewed the potential danger of the Wahabi's base of operations from Sithana in the background of a possible war between Great Britain getting involved in a war with Afghanistan or Russia. In the 1860's the Government launched a multi-pronged attack by organising a series of military operations on the Wahabi base of operations in Sithana while in India a number of court cases for sedition were registered against Wahabi's.
The movement lost its vitality though the Wahabi fanatics continued to help the frontier hill tribes in their encounters with the English in the 1880's and 1890's. The Wahabi movement was a movement of the Muslims, by the Muslims and for the Muslims and aimed at the establishment of Dar-ul-Islam in India. At no stage did it assume the character of a nationalist movement. Rather it left behind a legacy of isolationist and separatist tendencies among the Indian Muslims.