Estimates of the number of adherents to Wahhabism vary, with one source (Mehrdad Izady) giving a figure of fewer than 5 million Wahhabis in the Persian Gulf region (compared to 28.5 million Sunnis and 89 million Shia).
According to Saudi writer Abdul Aziz Qassim and others, it was the Ottomans who "first labelled Abdul Wahhab's school of Islam in Saudi Arabia as Wahhabism".
According to most sources, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab declared jihad against neighboring tribes, whose practices of asking saints for their intercession, making pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, he believed to be the work of idolaters/unbelievers.
It was only after the death of Muhammad bin Saud in 1765 that, according to De Long-Bas, Muhammad bin Saud's son and successor, Abdul-Aziz bin Muhammad, used a "convert or die" approach to expand his domain, However, various scholars, including Simon Ross Valentine, have strongly rejected such a view of Wahhab, arguing that "the image of Abd’al-Wahhab presented by De Long-Bas is to be seen for what it is, namely a re-writing of history that flies in the face of historical fact".
Many, such as writer Quinton Wiktorowicz, urge use of the term Salafi, maintaining that "one would be hard pressed to find individuals who refer to themselves as Wahhabis or organizations that use 'Wahhabi' in their title, or refer to their ideology in this manner (unless they are speaking to a Western audience that is unfamiliar with Islamic terminology, and even then usage is limited and often appears as 'Salafi/Wahhabi')." Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for example has attacked the term as "a doctrine that doesn't exist here (Saudi Arabia)" and challenged users of the term to locate any "deviance of the form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia from the teachings of the Quran and Prophetic Hadiths".
Wahhabis do not like – or at least did not like – the term.There, according to a Wahhabi chronicler `Uthman b. Bishr: "The Muslims" – as the Wahhabis referred to themselves, not feeling the need to distinguish themselves from other Muslims, since they did not believe them to be Muslims – scaled the walls, entered the city ...and killed the majority of its people in the markets and in their homes.Today Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab's teachings are the official, state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam The US State Department has estimated that over the past four decades the capital Riyadh has invested more than bn (£6bn) into charitable foundations in an attempt to replace mainstream Sunni Islam with the harsher, intolerant Wahhabism.(as of 2017 changes to Saudi religious policy by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman have led some to suggest that "Islamists throughout the world will have to follow suit or risk winding up on the wrong side of orthodoxy".