Islam in Saudi Arabia
In his book Islam in Saudi Arabia David Commins takes us through the journey of Islam as a religion in Saudi from the eighteenth century up to the twentieth century. Chapter three is titled Wahhabism and the modern state. Wahhabism rose when Wahhab and Ibn Saud signed a pact giving rise to the state of Saudi Arabia. Having been promised power and religious legitimacy by Wahhab, Ibn Saud then pledged to ensure that the teachings of Wahhabism were carried out in the entire Kingdom. In this chapter, we see how subsequent rulers handled crisis through initiating changes like the Ten-year policy by King Faysal. The changes included changes in the education system and governance.
In chapter four we are shown how religion and daily life interact with each other. David Commins clearly illustrates the religious duties of importance. He shows us that every Muslim’s day is always to be marked by a call for prayers which are supposed to be five of them in a day. He also shows us that another important duty observed by a Muslim is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. This chapter also shows us the connection between Islam and family life. It shows us how families live and how to arrive at decisions in the family. Here we also learn how different sexes are supposed to dress in public. The male have their mode of dressing while the female has theirs.
Chapter five has a title of Islam in contemporary Saudi society. In this chapter, the David Dean Commins depicts the different angles of perceiving Islam. According to other Islamic theologians, there exists a difference in how Ibn Wahhab taught and taught on the principles of Islam. The chapter shows us that Ibn Wahhab had different ideologies from other theologians, for instance the Sunni and the Shaykh theologians. There also existed confusion on the Wahhabi doctrines as opposed to prior Islamic beliefs.
In chapter six, David Commins discusses on religious politics. Here we are taken back from when the state of Saudi Arabia was formed and how religion has played a vital role in ensuring continuity of the regime. It discusses the hurdles that the state and the religion have undergone to ensure the stable running of the country. It shows us where the country derives its constitution and that is the Quran, the official religion being Islam, and where the criminal law is derived from, and that is the Sharia law.
Chapter seven gives us a clear picture of how well established the Wahhabism is in the Arabian Peninsula. Wahhabism has not only spread across Saudi Arabia, but also to the neighboring Arab countries. Wahhabism has also been connected with extremists due to its radical teachings. Though many countries practice Wahhabism, some have less stringent measures on its teachings while others uphold the teachings of Ibn Wahhab.
CHAPTER 3: WAHHABISM AND THE MODERN SAUDI STATE.
Wahhabism has its origins from one of the early scholar and preacher called Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhad who lived in the eighteenth century. Wahhab had started a revivalist movement against some of the practices done in Islam at that time such as the visitation of shrines and tombs among others which were common among Muslims. Wahhabism being a branch of the Sunni Islam has its principles centered on the Tawhid, which is naturally revolves around the exclusivity and the union of God. Muhammad Wahhab made a treaty with a local tribal leader called Muhammad ibn Saud. This pact made it possible for informal arrangements with the tribal leaders and chiefly lineages to protecting and backing the Wahhabi preachers and qadis. On the other hand, the Wahhabi teachers had to pledge loyalty and allegiance to the Saudi Amirates. The local tribal leaders were responsible for collecting revenue for the treasury of Riyadh. The leaders also supplied military force and enforced political loyalty.
The modern society has a different approach to its administration and governance. The modern society administers authority by carrying out consistent and regular procedures and institutions. Ibn Saud, during the late Ottoman period, however, only managed to have a handful of accomplishments and changes in the educational, administrative and legal modus operandi. The only notable change being the local tribal leaders ceased ruling the provinces and members of the royal family were appointed to administer the regions.
The modern Saudi state has had its fair share of differences with Wahhabism. There began to arise an aperture between the people who had received the European-Style education and those who received the traditional Islamic Education system. The Saud’s successors tried to initiate some changes through creating and staffing the national institutions through the revenue obtained from Saudis petroleum. These transformations were done during the nineteenth century. However, there was still a need for a better conversion because the religious culture had also taken a swift change due to actions by the revivalists and modernists who saw the decline in the traditional Islamic education.
The Saudi state started making bold moves to change and create a modern Saudi state. The steps included sending students to Europe for technical proficiency. The students were to acquire western education which would be helpful Back in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also started to import western aspects of statecraft. Saudi Arabia, therefore, initiated institutions for its modern state which had European models. However, Wahhabism was fully backed by the kingdom rulers as they remained devoted to it
There had been an increasing uproar of the proponents of the liberal religious image towards modernity being on one side, and those who defended Wahhabism being on the other. The uproar had been made possible by the emergence of an echelon of people with the secular and sometimes the liberal stance on Wahhabism. In 1962, King Faysal came up with a ten-point program which was meant to change the state that Saudi was in as a nation. The King promised to amend the constitution; he also promised that the integrity or uprightness of religious institutions will be upheld. The economic development would also be invigorated, and slavery abolished.
Wahhabism Scholars like Yassini found out has slowly been outdated. Yassini observed that there had been a proliferation of agencies responsible for the affairs of petroleum, public works, and ministries. In such cases, none of the above sectors has been grounded with the norms of Wahhabism. There also emerged government agencies for religious research, foundations and girls’ education. Yassini did not fail to observe that unlike in Ibn Saud’s reign, where only members of the royal family held high positions, in the modern state those positions were held by modern state academicians.
CHAPTER 4: RELIGION AND DAILY LIFE.
The Wahhabi Islamic movement is the main religion which predominates in Saudi Arabia. It revolves around the principle of enjoying the good and forbidding the wrong. Wahhabism exhibits many regulations and limitations on the mode of dressing and behavior. The behavior and dressing are strictly enforced legally and socially.
The daily life of a Saudi citizen is rhythmically set by the call of prayers five times a day. Any working day typically starts with the morning or dawn prayers; after that, the day breaks at noon and afternoon prayers and then ends just before or after sunset prayers. The Saudis do not follow the Gregorian calendar, but instead follow the Lunar Islamic calendar. One is not allowed to step outside the line drawn by the Wahhabi Clerics. All Muslims must perform certain ritual ablution before carrying out the prayers, either done alone or in a group. In case one is traveling in a car, one should pull out during prayer time and pray while facing Mecca. It is also to be observed that all business should stop and be closed during prayer times. Fasting is another important obligation to be observed by all Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting is held as the second religious duty of a Muslim. During fasting, one should not take any food or drinks; one should also avoid smoking tobacco or engaging in sexual intercourse during the daytime.
Religion and Family life.
Almost half of the Saudis’ population lives the three major urban settlement regions. These areas include Khobar-Dharren-Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh. Mostly families define the social and the physical peripheries of their lives. Extended families live close to each other. And therefore, the key core of the Saudi society is the family who enjoys the robust support of the widespread family network. Decisions on marriage and education and also work are made through the consultation of with parents and other family elders. This method of decision making may be seen as an advantage as these elders might know what is best for whom and what is not. On the other hand, that kind of decision-making may seem to downgrade one’s ability to choose what is best for him/her. Just until recently, Wahhabi clerics maintained that men are responsible for the welfare of the women. But today women do leave their houses attend education up to university level and do get employed in places that they wish. Also, young couples have been liberal enough to move from the vicinity of their parents and settle anywhere they like. Some women have also been liberal enough to call for expansion of the rights of women but the ones who are conservative form counter-movements to affirm the authority of men. In cases extreme male domination and power, there arise scenarios that a father refuses her daughter to get married to the love of her life. Here, the daughter can seek the only legal remedy, and that is having his father stripped of guardianship by the court of law
Religion and dressing
Uniformity and conservative dressing for both men and women are dictated by the customs and religion in Saudi Arabia. All Saudi men and boys are required to dress in traditional dress called thobe regardless of their age or social status. This traditional dress is normally known as a Wahhabi National dress. At special times, men don long brown, black or white cloaks which are usually spruced in gold. Men’s headdress consists of three important things; a small cap which is white in color also called bisht, then there is a large square cloth also known as gutra which is held in place by a double black cord called the igah. It is considered a sign of piety, not to wear the igah. It is compulsory for all women to wear a black cloak that covers all the body apart from their hands and their faces in public, the cloak is known as the abaya. It is a must that everyone dresses modestly. Foreign women should also wear the abaya, but it is not must to cover their hair.
CHAPTER FIVE: ISLAM IN CONTEMPORARY SAUDI SOCIETY.
Researching on Abd al- Wahhab and the rise and expansion of Saudi Arabia abide with the imprint of political and military conflicts. With the core teaching of Wahhabi doctrine based on tawhid is that you should proclaim one God only and that there exists none other to be worshiped. If anyone deviates from this he is deemed as unbeliever (kufr). So even if one fulfills all the other pillars of Islam, having given alms to the poor, praying five times a day, the pilgrimage to Mecca and fasting, one should proclaim worship of Allah, he is an unbeliever.
There also exists a stern definition of God’s oneness. It, therefore, implies that one must act and live in Ibn Wahhab’s understanding on tawhid so that you are regarded as a believer. While in the earlier times of Islamic theologians believed that there were three different ways that one could affirm his belief. One is being conscience, the other by word or even by deed. Sunni theologians believed that the mere affirmation through heart or conscience was enough for one to be a believer. The Shaykh believe that a believer must not only behave, but also proclaim by belief.
CHAPTER 6: RELIGIOUS POLITICS
The coalition between Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad ibn-Saud in 1744 led to the formation of the now Saudi Arabia state. Therefore, have emerged that the relation that exists between Wahhabism as a dogma of religious reforms, and its political aspect as an ideological vehicle of the state, has been inseparable. Wahhabism has progressively evolved with time as a result of interacting with economic, social, and political circumstances. These interactions have been both in the Kingdom and also in the wider political and ideological inclinations in the larger Middle East.
Wahhabism has played a critical role in holding of the Saudi Arabia Kingdom together. Wahhabism has acted as the foremost vehicle for the legitimating of the Al-Saud’s descendants for the regime. Religion plays an important role in influencing domestic policy realm in Saudi Arabia. The blending of religion and politics has also been effective with the majority of Saudi citizens as they derive their identity from this combination. Religion and politics in Saudi Arabia have been inseparable since Ibn Saud had promised Wahhab that the teachings of the prophet Mohammed of tawhid (monotheism) would be taught all over the Arabian peninsula. On the other hand, Wahhab promised Ibn-Muhammad power and religious legitimacy. And therefore, from 1744 onwards Wahhab’s religious assurances became inextricably connected to Ibn-Saud’s territorial subjugations.
Religion’s place as held publicly in Saudi Arabia is enshrined in the Basic Law of 1992 as referring to religion. The Law declares that the country’s constitution is the Quran. The Law further states that the official religion of the state is Islam. The executive criminal law is the Sharia Law. The law also stipulates that the government derives its powers from the Quran and the traditions of the prophets. The banning of the political parties made the monarch the central political institution and the Basic Law, stipulating that the right sons of Ibn-Saud rule explicitly. Although the development of infrastructure, economic growth and social welfare escalation was witnessed from the 1970s due to the oil boom, Saudis theocratic nature hasn’t changed.
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE INTERNATIONAL REACH OF WAHHABISM
Wahhabism during the 1950s and the1960s in Saudi Arabia had held its helm steadfast on the religious law courts. Wahhabi was mandated to preside over the creation of Islamic Universities and all public school systems. Students in these institutions received heavy doses of Islamic instructions merely radicalizing them. Wahhabi was less combative outside Saudi Arabia. This approach saw the rest of the Muslim countries readily embrace Wahhabism, and the Wahhabi doctrine served well for many Muslims beyond the Arabian Peninsula. Many of these Islamic countries had many converts of the Wahhabism.
Internationally some countries have notably relaxed measures or less strict version of Wahhabism. Some countries allow the women to drive themselves in their cars. Non- Muslims can also take pork and alcohol in some of these countries. Entertainment has also developed with opening up of theaters and other fun places. Unlike some strict countries in Arabia peninsula, some games like football have been allowed, and citizens engage in them actively.
Though the objective of Wahhabism is to revive the ritual and also the purity of Islamic religion, its radical measures in obtaining, these measures have made it be connected with extremism. For instance, Prophet Mohammed established an Islamic state in Medina but allowed people of other faiths to practice. In Saudi Arabia, Christians and Hindus are strictly prohibited from practicing. Despite all that, Wahhabi continues to fund the construction of mosques in the West and also in India.
Commins, David. Islam in Saudi Arabi. 1 edition. Cornell University Press, 2015.