The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (المملكة العربية السعودية al-Mamlakah al-ʿArabīyah as-Saʿūdīyah) is the largest sovereign state in the Middle East, and has the largest economy out of the Arab states.
Saudi Arabia was the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad (مُحمّد) (570 ad – 632 ad) who united the nation under Islam and the teachings of the Qur’an (Qurʼān القرآن) He was born in Mecca (Makkah مَـكَّـة) in the Hejaz (ٱلْحِجَاز al-Ḥijāz) region in western Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd (مملكة الحجاز ونجد, Mamlakat al-Ḥijāz wa-Najd), initially the Kingdom of Hejaz and Sultanate of Nejd (مملكة الحجاز وسلطنة نجد, Mamlakat al-Ḥijāz wa-Salṭanat Najd), was united in 1932 under rule of Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Faisal ibn Turki ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Saud (عبد العزيز بن عبد الرحمن آل سعود Abd al-‘Azīz ibn ‘Abd ar-Raḥman Āl Sa’ūd). He was known as King Ibn Saud in the west.
He created what is now known as The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and was the first King of Saudi Arabia. He, like his family before him followed the Muslim movement Wahhābī, which they called themselves al-Muwaḥḥidūn which means Unitarians, who strictly follow the teachings of the Qur’an and the Ḥadīth which closely follows Muhammad’s religious law.
Saudi Arabia has adopted the same traditional lifestyle for thousands of years, but the vast oil wealth has made the rich, far wealthier than they could ever have imagined. The country is renowned for three key elements.
The country as a whole has benefited from the wealth generated by oil, and the infrastructure has greatly benefited from it, but many claim that the ruling family squander and abuse the wealth they’ve inherited.
The road systems and airports have been majorly updated, and most citizens enjoy the luxury of television and the internet, and the capital city Riyadh (الرياض Ar-Riyāḍ) has turned into a vast metropolis.
Every year the Hajj ( حَجّ Ḥaǧǧ), the Islamic pilgrimage, brings up to two million visitors to Saudi Arabia to visit Kaaba (house of God) in Mecca. It’s mandatory that every Muslim takes the trip at least once in their lifetime, and the journey is said by some to pre-date Muhammad as far back as Abraham (إِبْـرَاهِـيْـم ʾIbrāhīm) who’s prominent in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
They believe that Abraham was the righteous leader of his time, and he allegedly cleared Paganism from Arabia and Canaan, and asked God to put his descendants under his protection.
Abraham is said to represent
‘primordial man in universal surrender to the Divine Reality before its fragmentation into religions separated from each other by differences in form’
What is Islam?
Islam is the world’s second largest religion behind Christianity and it’s estimated that in the next ten years it will reach 2,000,000,000 practising Muslims. The word Islam (إسلام) means ‘voluntary submission to God’ , whereas Muslim (مُسْلِم) means ‘submitter to God’.
Iman (إِيمَان) is the six articles of faith (arkān al-īmān).
A more detailed explanation can be found at Tell me about Islam
The majority of the population of Saudi Arabia is Muslim, and the biggest population are Sunni, and Shīʿite are a small section that can be found at Al-Aḥsā (اَلْأَحْسَاء al-Ahasā) and Al-Qaṭīf (القطيف Al-Qaṭīf) in the East.
Sharīʿah (شريعة) is the dominant control of law used there derived from scripture from the Qur’an and the Hadith, which imposes God’s (Allāh‘s الله) command. This teaches Muslims the religious convictions expected in this life, and the promise of divine reward in the next.
The shariah five rulings (الأحكام الخمسة)
• Mustahabb (مستحبّ) is a Islamic term for a favourable or virtuous action.
• Makruh (مكروه) is a term for a disliked or abominable action.
• Farīḍah (فريضة) is a term for a compulsory action.
• Mubah (مباح) is a term for merely permitted, or neutral.
• Harām (حَرَام) is a term meaning forbidden.
The Islamic revival (تجديد) is literally what it suggests, and at the latter part of the 20th century various sects of Islam had regained popularity, due to the disappointment of western culture and civilisation, and the aim is to restore Islam to a world that’s turned away from God. Unfortunately the rise of the peaceful has also been accompanied by a rise of fundamentalists and radicalised Muslim groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda.
Included in the revival is Hudud (حدود) which refers to laws that are fixed by God. These offences are called Zināʾ (زِنَاء) and can include:
• Fornication (unmarried)
• Drinking alcohol
The punishments for such offences range from amputation, public lashing, crucifixion and public stoning.
In Islamic criminal law (فقه العقوبات) crimes are split into three major categories.
• Hudud (crimes against God)
• Qiṣāṣ (eye for an eye)
• Ta’zir (crime at the discretion of the Qadi – judge)
In Saudi Arabia Capital Punishment is a legal practise and over the last few years approximately 150 executions have taken place annually. These fall under the category of ta’zir, and the following are theoretically eligible for the death penalty:
• Drug Smuggling
• Armed Robbery
• Sorcery and Witchcraft
• Waging war on God
Murder can result in execution, but can also be bought out with blood money, and if the family accepts it, then the perpetrator will be free from execution.
At the start of 2016, Saudi Arabia executed 47 prisoners in one day convicted on terrorism charges. The majority of them were beheaded, and a few were murdered by firing squad, amongst the executed was Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was a top Shi’acleric.
Amnesty International said that Saudi authorities demonstrated their utter disregard for human rights and life.
‘The killing of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in particular suggests they are also using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents‘ – Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
The killing of Nimr al-Nimr proves that Saudi Arabia believe that they are beyond criticism, when they execute someone campaigning for political reform.
Politics of Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia runs a Totalitarianism government, which like Communism prohibits opposition political parties, and is the strictest form of Authoritarianism where the King is not only head of state, but he’s also head of the government. Decisions are made from House of Saud (آل سعود) who are the ruling family of Saudi Arabia.
Despite Saudi Arabia being an absolute monarchy, the King must abide by Sharia Law and the Qur’an. Under Sharia Law there is no political constitution, and the Ulama (علماء) are the guardians and projectors of religious knowledge and doctrine of Islamic Law. They are trained in Madrasa (مدرسة) which is an educational place of higher learning, where not only do they study in great detail the religious doctrines of Islam, but study science, politics and education.
Since 2015 Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (سلمان بن عبد العزیز آل سعود) has been King of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, and Servant of the Two Noble Sanctuaries, which means he’s the guardian of the two most scared temples in Mecca, and Madīnah.
Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and is second in power only to the King, and has been described as the puppet master to his father’s throne. He’s heir presumptive to the throne, and despite promoting reform in the country, human rights groups have condemned him for alleged torture of human rights activists.
He’s said to be responsible for the bombing of Yemen where over 10,000,000 people are facing starvation, in one of the worst humanitarian crisis the region has faced. He’s been described by critics as being extremely intolerant and is expected to take Saudi Arabia into a dark regime when he takes complete power after his father descends from the throne, which at 83 years old may not be too far away.