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The Saudi Religious Elite (ULAMA) as Participant in The political System of The kingdom

  • Alexander Bligh (a1)
Extract

The Ulema are the power that holds the Sultan and his people together—the medium of control. But they seldom meddle in politics. This premise was expressed by Ameen Rihani, an Arab traveller, in 1928, before either Sultan 'Abd al-'Aziz became king or Najd and its dependencies became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Was Rihani correct in his conclusion? Is he right today? This article will endeavor to explore the term ulama in the Saudi context in the twentieth century. Later, an attempt will be made to discuss the participation of Saudi ulama in a number of key cases in the history of Saudi Arabia.

The house of Saud along with the house of Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Unitarian movement, were parties to a unique coalition in the eighteenth century. The coalition embraced the Unitarian movement, or Wahhabiyah, founded in the mid-eighteenth century, and members of the Arab noble house of Saud of Najd.

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Author's note: This article was presented as a paper at the Middle East Studies Association meeting, Washington, D.C., November 6–9, 1980.

1 Rihani, Ameen, Maker of Modern Arabia (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1928), p. 200.

2 al-Bilād, Saudi Arabia, November 10, 1970;al-Anwār, Lebanon, May 16, 1975;'Ukāz, Saudi Arabia, December 18, 1978;Saudi News Agency, July 9, 1979.

3 Sādiq, Muhammad Tawfīq, Tatawwur al-hukm wa-āl-idārah fī al-Mamlakah al-'Arabīyah al-Su'ūdīyah (Riyadh: Ma'had al-idārah al-'āmmah, 1965), p. 213. Sādiq says that 'Abd al-Rahman Āl al-Shaykh served as Minister of Agriculture from March 15, 1962 to October 31, 1962. See also al-Nahār, Lebanon, January 1, 1963;al-Bilād, Saudi Arabia, June 16, 1967.

4 U.S. National Archives, RG 226, Records of the Office of Strategic Services, no. 44994; British Foreign Office—Personalities in Saudi Arabia, July 1, 1939; revised 1943, p. 9.

5 Ibid, p. 7.

6 Arabian American Oil Company, Directory of the Royal Family, Officials of the Government, Diplomats and Other Prominent Persons (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia). Second Edition 1957, pp. 4853; Fourth Edition 1962, Chapter 6.

7 a1-Bilād, April 1, 1964.

8 al-Shaykh, 'Abd al-Rahmān ibn 'Abd al-Latīf Āl, Mashāhir 'ulamā' Najd wa-ghayruhum (Riyadh: Dār al-Yamāmah, 1934:1974/75), p. 179.

9 Ibid, p. 184.

10 Public Record Office, London, Foreign Office (PRO/FO) 905, Vol. 21: Secret-Minute sheet 150/82 of August 26, 1935.

12 PRO/FO 371, Vol. 24588, E482/482/25. Jedda Report, December 1939, para. 377.

13 PO/FO 371, Vol. 35167, E160/69/25. Jedda Report, December 1939, para. 377.

14 PRO/FO 905, Vol. 21. Unnumbered minute sheet, September 17, 1936.

15 Boyd, Douglas A., “Saudi Arabian Television,” Journal of Broadcasting, XV, 1 (Winter 19701971), p. 73.

16 Ibid, p. 74.

17 al-Difā', Jordan, Septemper 23, 1965;al-Hayār, Lebanon, October 1, 1965.

18 The Arizona Republic, Phoenix, March 26, 1975.

19 Boyd, op. cit., pp. 74–5.

20 Eilts, Hermann F., “Social Revolution in Saudi Arabia,” Pt.1, Parameters Vol. 1, no. 1 (1971), p.9;Umm al-Qura, Saudi Arabia, most of the issues, 19531964.

21 His official title: al-Mufri al-akbar li-Mamlakah al-'Arabiyah al-Su'udīyah wa-al-marfī' al-'amm li-'ulama⊃ al-Muslimīn, Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Head of the ulama. ARAMCO, Directory, 1957, p. 48.

22 ARAMCO, Directory, 1962, PP. 48–62.Cf. De Gaury, Gerald, Faisal: King of Saudi Arabia (London: Barker, 1966). Appendix III. His charts pretend to describe the hierarchy as of 1966 but seem less accurate than those of ARAMCO.

23 Eilts, “Social Revolution.”

24 U.S. National Archives/Department of State, Office of Intelligence Research and Analysis. Intelligence Report, No. 7692: Background and Implications of the Conflict Within the Saudi Ruling Family (Washington, D.C., Division of Research and Analysis for Near East, South Asia, and Africa, April 4, 1958).

25 Harrington, Charles W., “The Saudi Arabian Council of Ministers,” Middle East Journal, XII, 1 (Winter 1958), p. 1.

26 Daliy Star, Lebanon, September 25, 1970.

27 Mideast Mirror, Lebanon, November 10, 1962.

28 Hindustan Times, India, January 18, 1965;Gazette de Lausanne, Switzerland, February 22, 1965.

29 al-Ifrīqī, Muhammad Tāriq, al-Dawlah al-Su'ūdīyah fī al-Jazīrah al-'Arabīyah (Damascus: Matābi' al-Ahmar, 1944), p. 10;Āl al-Shaykh, Mashāhir, P. 134.

30 Āl al-Shaykh, Mashāhir, pp. 130, 131.

31 PRO/FO 905, Vol. 21. Minute sheet 150/83, “Extract from K.B.I.'s minute at 285/23 at August 25. 1935.”

32 PRO/FO 905, Vol. 21. Secret minute sheet 150/82, August 26, 1935.

33 Intelligence Report, No. 7692.

34 al-Hayāt, Lebanon, March 22, 1964.

35 Ibid, March 27, 28, 1964.

36 Ibid, March 27, 1964.

37 Ibid, March 29, 1964.

38 a1-Bil¯d, Saudi Arabia, April 1, 1964.

39 a1-Hayāt, April 1, 1964.

41 Cf. al-Jarīdah, Lebanon, September 9, 1964;al-Hayāt, October 31, 1964;Daily Telegraph, United Kingdom, November 17, 1964.

42 Scotsman, United Kingdom, November 12, 1964;Economist Foreign Report, United Kingdom, October 16, 1969.

43 Cf. Economist, United Kingdom, September 17, 1977.

44 Economist Foreign Report, November 28, 1979.

46 Saudi Gazette, Saudi Arabia, December 27, 1979.

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
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