Beirut – If the absolute rulers of Saudi Arabia have long claimed to hold a certain monopoly over the divine attributes of Islam on account of geography – the kingdom being home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; the House of Saud could soon see its “custodianship” and self-proclaimed Islamic legitimacy over the Muslim world stripped away.
Mecca’s dual tragedy this September, which saw the fall of a crane onto unsuspecting pilgrims and a devastating fire in one of the city uber-luxury hotels, reignited a debate on Al Saud’s legitimate authority over not just Islam’s holy sites but the Islamic community in general, since its school of thoughts: Wahhabism, has served more as a divider of people than a catalyst for dialogue and collaboration.
Needless to say that Al Saud’s support of radicalism, its princes’ play for political control through financial patronage and its clergy’s insistence on institutionalizing sectarianism have only added oil to the fire of dissent, inspiring millions to reject the kingdom’s overbearing footprint on Islam. And though Al Saud continue to dream themselves all mighty and all powerful, the leaders of a religious community which only purpose seems to be absolute obedience to their diktat, Muslims have grown tired of such absolutism – especially since it has been tainted by sectarianism and ethnic profiling.
If the Quran confirmed all men and women to stand equal before God, regardless of the colour of their skin, social status or economic circumstances, Al Saud’s elitist policies vis a vis pilgrims and faith in general, have spoken a different truth, one which no longer reflects Islam’s tenets. The heirs and guardians of a religious fabrication: Wahhabism, the House of Saud has gone so far down the religious rabbit hole that most Muslims can no longer recognise their faith in the authority ruling over them – especially since its legitimacy was imposed and not bestowed upon.
It was king Fahd bin Abdul Aziz who in 1986 claimed the title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, which title had traditionally been held by the Ottomans since the 16th century as a mean to assert and consolidate their political legitimacy over an otherwise fragmented empire.
A man of ambitions, king Abdul Aziz understood that for his legacy to become a lasting dynasty, Al Saud’s monarchy would have to root itself deep within Islam, a faith which today claims over 1.6 billion followers, by sitting atop Islam’s most cherished and symbolic monuments.
For whoever will control Mecca and Medina can pretend to hold Islam’s destiny in the palm of its hands, if not spiritually, at least politically. Al Saud royals have done just that … Ever since its kings have declared themselves the sole guardians of Islam their power over the global Muslim community has reached dizzying heights – so much so, that even before the plundering of Islam’s historical heritage few have dared propose more than a whisper of criticism.