Take for example, the Imaam (rahima-hullaah) would [take to account and] punish those who smoked [tobacco] – [this was at the time] when [smoking] first appeared [in the Arabian Peninsula] – about 250 years ago; So he would reprimand and censure whoever smoked, so that [this evil habit] does not spread amongst the masses.
On one [particular] occasion [at the time], he gathered a number of the tribes – between whom there had occurred [some] trials and tribulations, quite possibly resulting in killings. So the leaders of these Bedouin tribes were invited to ad-Dar’iyyah and al-Imaam Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhaab spoke to them [all], and implored them to stop the bloodshed, and seek to rectify [the affairs] between them – [something] which they [subsequently] adhered to.
[At the time of prayer] whilst one of the tribal leaders was praying, a smoker’s pipe fell [from his pocket], and [some of] the people saw it, and [rushed to] inform the Imaam, saying: “He just picked up his pipe and put it [back] in his pocket, [surely] he should be censured…this [pipe] is indicative [of him being a smoker], how can you withhold from censuring and reprimanding him?” Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhaab said [to them]: “We did not see anything.” They replied: “We saw it O Shaykh!” He persisted: “We did not see anything.” [And] so he left the tribal leader [alone] and did not say a thing to him, instead anticipating [Allaah’s] guidance [for him].
[Notice] the [critical, yet delicate] circumstances surrounding this tribal leader; Had he been in any other situation he would certainly have been censured and reprimanded. However, as he was in this [critical, yet delicate] situation, the [wise and] reformist Imaam commented: “Because of the bloodshed [that is occurring], it is not appropriate [to censure him] now, until such time this killing stops.” [As a result] he was of the opinion not to censure and reprimand the tribal leader for smoking, because this is not from the [defining and befitting] actions of the Imaams, nor from the [defining and befitting] actions of those who [thoroughly] understand the purport and intent behind the Sharee’ah legislation in [all] affairs.
So the da’wah [of tawheed] has not varied in its application from the early scholars of the first Saudi State (1744-1818), and nor from the second Saudi State (1824-1891), and nor from the third Saudi State (1924-present day); So it [remains] one institute of knowledge and learning. However, the general attainment of benefit [as opposed to harm] is [always] sought. [The reason being] because the [wise and] reformist Imaam adapted his approach [to the circumstances he faced] – and we [here in Saudi Arabia] have not adopted this approach out of blindly following him, rather because the general attainment of legislated benefit dictates this. And so, as we have said [before], the Imaams of the da’wah [of tawheed] after him have remained clear and apparent [in their approach], in accordance with that which the legislated commands and applicable evidences dictate.