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The Role of the Ulama in the Politics of an Islamic State: the Case of Saudi Arabia

  • Joseph A. Kechichian (a1)

Extract

Islam's influence on political values and, as a result on the political behavior of the Muslim state, has traditionally been analyzed in terms of two general categories. These categories were the purely religious and the purely temporal, which in turn identified the interests of theological beliefs and transcendentally fixed ethical duties on the one hand and the interests of ruling dynasties, military and financial affairs on the other. The influence pattern, however, is more complex than the one suggested by the traditional approach.

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References

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Notes

Author's Note: The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper from Professor Abdulaziz A. Sachedina and Sami Aloul.

1 Ahmed, Akbar S., “Mullah, Mahdi, and Mosque: Emergent Trends in Muslim Society,” Arab Studies Quarterly, 4:1&2 (Spring 1982), p. 127. Among the classic studies in the religious category, see Rahman, Fazlur, Islam, 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1979);Smith, Wilfred Cantwell, Islam in Modern History (Princeton, 1957);Schacht, Joseph, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford, 1964);Fyzee, Asaf A. A., Outlines of Muhammadan Law (Oxford, 1955);Goldziher, Ignaz, Muslim Studies (New York, 1971). In the temporal category, see Lerner, Daniel, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (New York, 1958);Hudson, Michael C., Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy (New Haven, 1977);Mallakh, Ragaie El, Saudi Arabia: Rush to Development (Baltimore, 1982).

2 See for example, Kelley, J. B., Arabia, The Gulf and the West (New York, 1980); in this same genre see also Ledden, Michael and Lewis, William, Debacle: The American Failure in Iran (New York, 1981)— for a severe criticism of the Ledden-Lewis work, see Bakhash, Shaul, “Who Lost Iran?,” New York Review of Books, 05 14, 1981; finally, see Grenier, Richard, The Marrakesh One-Two: A Novel (Boston, 1983) for a popular interpretation imbued with chronic bigotry, misconceptions, and misinterpretations.

3 Ahmed, “Mullah,” p. 128; “fundamental ideology” is defined as an expression against materialism as philosophy and code of life. In more general terms, fundamental ideology is a return to traditional religious and political values, including theological beliefs and cultural ethics.

4 Lambton, Ann K. S., “Law and the State: Islamic Political Thought,” in Schacht, Joseph and Bosworth, C. E. (eds), The Legacy of Islam, 2nd ed., (Oxford, 1974), p. 422.

5 Ibid., p. 414.

6 Ibid., p. 415.

7 Ibid., p. 415.

8 Tyan, Émile, Histoire de l'organizationjudiciaire en pays d'Islam (Leiden, 1960), p. 107.

9 The fuqaha, or legal scholars, study Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) which includes ritual practices as well as legal treatises. The ulama represent, on the other hand, the unanimous doctrine and opinion of religious authorities through consensus (ijma⊂), and are the guardians of the Shari⊂a, particularly its “five pillars” (profession of faith, prayer, fasting, zakat, and pilgrimage to Mecca) and its hudud (punishments specified in the Qur⊂an for crimes like murder, adultery, and theft, among others).

10 Rentz, George, “Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia,” in Hopwood, Derek, ed., The Arabian Peninsula: Society and Politics (London, 1972), p. 57.

11 Lambton, , Law and the State, p. 404.

12 Rentz, , Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia, p. 5657.

13 Ibid., p. 60.

14 For details see Rentz, Ibid., p. 61; see also Vatikiotis, P. J., The History of Egypt: From Muhammad Ali to Sadat (Baltimore, 1980), pp. 5164.

15 Rentz, Ibid., p. 62; see also Habib, John S., Ibn Sa⊂ud Warriors: The Ikhwan of Najd and their role in the creation of the Sac udi kingdom. (Leiden, 1978).

16 Lewis, Bernard, “Politics and War,” in Schacht and Bosworth, The Legacy of Islam, p. 63.

17 Buchan, James, “The Return of the Ikhwan—1979,” in Holden, David and Johns, Richard (eds.), The House of Saud: The Rise and Rule of the Most Powerful Dynasty in the Arab World (New York, 1981), pp. 511526.

18 Ibid., p. 512.

19 “Imam Tells How Attackers Entered the Holy Haram,” Arab News (Jeddah), 25 November 1979, p. 2.

20 Ibid., pp. 1–2.

21 Events surrounding the defeat of the rebels inside the Mosque remain unclear. From November 20, 1979, when most of the rebels barricaded themselves in the vast cellars of the Mosque, to December 4, 1979, when the authorities regained total control over the Haram, numerous statements were issued. On December 4, 1979, however, the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayif ibn ⊂Abd al-⊂Aziz announced that the fighting had ended that morning at 1:30 a.m. and that al-Qahtani had been killed. He further stated that ⊂Utaibi was among the 170 prisoners taken by the armed forces. Casualty figures published on January 9, 1980, indicated that 153 persons were killed including 26 pilgrims and 127 members of the security forces (including 12 officers) in addition to the 177 dead rebels (27 of whom were taken prisoner but died of their wounds). The wounded included 109 pilgrims and 451 soldiers (of whom 49 were officers). Juhaman al-⊂Utabi and 62 of his followers were beheaded in the public squares of 8 cities (Mecca, Madina, Riyadh, ad-Damman, al-Barida, Hail, Abha, and Tabouk), while 19 rebels received suspended sentences, 38 were acquitted and released, and 23 women and children were sentenced to 2 years in prison or assigned to “re-education centers.” The 63 put to death comprised 41 Saudis, 10 Egyptians, 6 South Yemenis, 3 Kuwaitis, I Iraqi, I Sudanese, and I North Yemeni. See “Saudi Arabia: Internal Problems, part 2: the Occupation of the Grand Mosque in Mecca (1979),” Fiches de Monde Arabe, ISa, Number 1497, February 6, 1980. On January 28, 1980, the French weekly Le Point reported that French assault forces and members of the Groupe d' Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN) assisted Saudi security forces in clearing the Haram. This was categorically denied by both Saudi and French officials. See Le Point, Number 384, January 28, 1980, p. 64–65; in its next issue, Le Point alleged that French forces did train their Saudi counterparts who ultimately engaged the battle, and went on to confirm its information including the startling fact that there were close to 1,500 rebels, equipped with a mobile hospital inside the Mosque. The generally well-informed magazine further alleged that royal helicopters were shot at and that the King probably saved his throne by not calling on all his military forces, whose presence in different parts of the country discouraged other “rebels” from occupying different mosques around the Kingdom in a mass revolt scheme; see Jean-Michel Gourevitch, “La Mecque: Le Point confirme,” Le Point, Number 385, February 4, 1980, p. 53. It must be added that most, if not all, of this information remains unverified and categorically denied by Saudi security forces.

22 Buchan, , Ikhwan, p. 513.

23 Ibid., p. 514.

24 Ibid., p. 515.

25 I have not been able to verify Juhaiman al'Utaibi's pamphlets. According to Buchan, op. cit., there are at least two pamphlets numbered I and 3 titled: (1) Rules of Allegiance and Obedience: The Misconduct of Rulers, and (3) The Call of the Brethren. There could possibly be a pamphlet number 2, which was not quoted by Buchan, p. 551.

26 Buchan, ibid., p. 515.

27 Pamphlet 3, The Call of the Brethren, as cited in Buchan, ibid., p. 515.

28 Buchan, ibid., p. 518.

29 Ibid., p. 518.

30 Fiches du Monde Arabe, No. 1503, February 13, 1980.

31 Ibid., p. 2.

32 The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: An Explanatory Translation by Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall (New York, n.d.), p. 50. It is interesting to note that the Saudi daily Arab News published a slightly different version of the Surah which includes the word Mosque, and which reads: Do not fight them near the Holy Mosque until they fight you in there, and if they fight you, you must kill them for that is the punishiment of the non-believers. See Arab News, 7 Moharram 1400 A.H. (November 26, 1979), p. 1.

33 “Ulama Issued Fatwa,” Foreign Broadcast Information Service—Middle East and Africa, November 26, 1979, p. C4. (See Appendix 1 for the text and the names of the signatories.) The Arab News version reads as follows: He who comes to you to disunite you and to sow dissension amongst you, you must behead him. See Arab News, 7 Moharram 1400 A.H. (November 26, 1979), p. 1.

34 Fiches du Monde Arabe, ISa 60, “Saudi Arabia: Internal Problems, part 3: Other Events during 1979”, p. 2.

35 Dorsey, James, “Saudi Minority Sect is Restive”, The Christian Science Monitor, February 20, 1980, p. 12.

36 Hanafi, Hassan, “Une Nouvelle approche de l'Islam sunnite,” Le Monde Diplomatique, August 1977, pp. 1314.

37 Humphreys, R. Stephen, “Islam and Political Values in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria,” The Middle East Journal, 33, 1 (Winter 1979), 2.

38 Ibid., p. 2.

39 Abdel Rahmane Al-Yami, “La Révolution dans la presqu'ile arabe: Étude de Ia lutte populaire avant Ic soulévement de Ia presqu'ile en 1400 H.,” Peuples Méditerranéens, No. 21 Oct.–Dec. 1982, 60–71. This banned organization is known in English as the “Revolutionary Muslims' Movement in the Arab Peninsula”.

40 Coulson, N. J., A History of Islamic Law (Edinburgh, 1964), p. 202.

41 Ibid., p. 202.

42 Ibid., p. 202–3.

43 Ibid., p. 203.

44 Humphreys, , “Islam and Political Values,” p. 5.

45 Ibid., p. 5.

46 Ibid., p. 8.

47 Ottaway, David B., “Saudi King Seeks Islamic Law Review,” Washington Post, June 16, 1983, p. A1; see also Al-Jazeerah (al-Riyadh), June 8, 1983. p. 1, 11 for the King's address to the ICO meeting.

48 Ottaway, ibid., p. A1.

49 Coulson, , A History of Islamic Law, p. 203.

50 Ottaway, David B., “New Saudi Monarch Wields Slack Reins,” Washington Post, 05 31, 1983, p. A1.

51 Ottaway, , “Saudi King,” p. A1.

The Role of the Ulama in the Politics of an Islamic State: the Case of Saudi Arabia

  • Joseph A. Kechichian (a1)

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