Islam in Saudi Arabia and the History of Islam in Arabia

Question: Discuss the religion Islam in Saudi Arabia, describe the history of Islam in Arabia.

Religion Islam in Arabia:
Islam is the country’s official religion. An estimated 89 percent of Saudis are Sunni Muslums, and about 5 percent are Shia Muslims (see Shia Islam). The government employs the Sharia (Islamic law) as a guiding principle of rule. Consequently, Islamic tenets not only govern spirituality and religious practice, but also guide practices of law, business, taxation, and government.
The form of Islam supported by the government is socially and theologically conservative. While Saudis and foreigners may behave as they wish behind closed doors, they must observe many strict religious requirements while in public. These include conservative dress for men and women, segregation of the sexes, mandatory daily prayers for Muslim men, and the closing of offices and business during the five daily prayer times. A government agency called the Committee to prevent Vice and Promote Virtue sends out official enforcers called mutawwa’ in to ensure observance of these rules. Punishments for transgressions can be summary and harsh, including public flogging.
Saudi Arabia’s conservative form of Islam is strongly influenced by a puritanical Islamic movement formed in the 18th century. This movement is often referred to by Westerners and other non-Saudis as Wahhabism, after its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (see Wahhabis). However, the movement’s adherents have never referred to themselves as Wahhabis, and within Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi is often used by non-Saudis or reform-minded Saudis in reproach to refer to conservative Muslims. In modern-day Saudi Arabia, strong adherents of the movement may call themselves muwahhidun (Unitarians, from al-muwahhid, Arabic for “those who proclaim the unity of God”) or ahl al-tawhid ) people of unity.) Less strident followers – a significant portion of the population, including some members of the royal family – may simply say they are part of the harakat al-salafiyya, roughly translated as “the movement following the ways of the Prophet.”
The country’s Shia Muslims are concentrated around the oases of Al Hasa and Al Qatỉf in eastern Saudi Arabia. Strict muwahhidun do not recognize the Shias as true Muslims. Therefore, historically, Saudi authorities have subjected them to discrimination and oppression, arousing resentment and opposition to the regime among the Shias. Other religions are represented among the expatriate population. However, the government does not allow public practice of non-Islamic religions and prohibits missionary activity.

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