International Journal of Middle East Studies

Articles

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

Alexander Bligha1

a1 The Hebrew University Jerusaem

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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