Is Saudi System of Government Islamic?

By Syed Zubair Ahmad,

“Al Mamlikat Al Saudia Al Arabia”. It’s clear from the name itself that this empire has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims at all. It is a pure dynastic monarchical and dictatorial regime of an Arab family, ‘Al Saud’. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which was named after the name of a person or family.

immigrant_workers--621x414 Indian workers leaving the Kingdom

George Washington liberated America, Kamal Ataturk is the father of the modern Turkey, Gandhi played a momentous role in attaining India’s freedom, and Nelson Mandela is the architect of new South Africa but none of them figures in the name of each of these countries. There is no Georgia, Kemalia, Gandhia or Mondelia but the citadel of Islam is called Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It is the greatest travesty that Islam which utterly rejects all kind of dynastic rules, dictatorship and autocracy has become the worst victim by its own followers and self-proclaimed custodians in its own citadel and that too in the name of Islam. Despite this obvious fact, the Saudi government propagates all over the world that their government is bound by Islamic teachings, the Quran and Sunnah are given precedence in every matter, Islamic laws are adhered to, the Quran is the source of power and authority. Islam is the guiding principle, Shari’ah has the final say, punishments are meted out according to Shari’ah, no deviation from Islamic Shari’ah is possible, etc.


This ‘reality’ has been spread so widely that even ‘renowned’ Ulema are hallucinating an Islamic system in Saudi Arabia. Obviously, the one who believes in the above mentioned propaganda is simply living in the fool’s Paradise. In truest sense of the term, the imposition of Islamic law and Shari’ah are far distant matters. In many instances basic human values are not cared for in this ‘kingdom’. Like other Muslims, before visiting and analyzing the Saudi society from close quarters, I too was as uncompromising and sentimental in terms of respect, honor and sanctity of Saudi rulers. I remember before going to Saudi Arabia, I was trying to convince somebody that in Saudi Arabia there is a purely Islamic system of ruling but that person rendered me speechless by saying, “Ask any trustworthy Islamic Scholar who is in Saudi Arabia if there is an Islamic rule.”

What type of Islamic government is this that gives titles of ‘khaarji’ (outsider) and ‘ajnab‘ (stranger) to non-Saudis even though they are Muslims? Is it Islamic to refer Muslims of other countries with such derogatory term and that too officially at the government level?

The English daily Arab News once published an agonizing story. One Pakistani lady started suffering from labor pain. As no private hospital was there nearby, she was taken to a governmental hospital by her relatives. Staff of the hospital refused to admit the ‘stranger’ lady saying that the hospital is exclusive for Saudis. When their pleadings proved futile the lady’s relatives took her to a private hospital. Before they could reach there the woman with her yet-to-be-born baby died midway.

Can such kind of discriminatory and inhuman treatment be meted out to anyone in western countries? Does the ‘un-Islamic’ U.S. or the European governments behave like this with their migrants or even illegal intruders? The Saudi government does this with the people who are legally allowed to live in that country, whereas European and American governments do not treat even the illegal intruders of Africa and Latin America in such a way. Sometimes, the coastal guards of those ‘un-Islamic’ countries risk their lives to save those intruders from drowning.

During my stay in Saudi Arabia I met a number of Bangladeshis whose sponsors, after making them work for two, three and four years, refused payments and warned them of dire consequences if they dared to file suits in labor court. Sometimes after working for years these Bangladeshis would return to their homes penniless. Wives of 99% of Bangladeshis live in Bangladesh. They generally take loans of one or two lakh taka on interest to obtain visas to come to Saudi Arabia only to get a job of 300-400 riyals per month. Somehow, once they manage to set their foot on their dream land then begins the endless story of exploitation and suffering by the sponsors. In such circumstances no Bangladeshi could even think of returning home before five or six years.

The Saudi government thinks only of getting their gutters cleaned and never bothers about the natural, psychological and emotional needs of Bangladeshis. Can such a system be referred to as an Islamic one? In the era of rightly guided caliphs and even afterwards there was a provision that people who are engaged in jihad in different places  must come home at least within six months so  that they may not suffer from mental and psychological stress and their natural needs be fulfilled.

Once a Keralite persuaded his sponsor and obtained a visa for his wife. The day his wife was to land on the Riyadh airport, the Saudi sponsor dispatched the Keralite to India and took Keralite’s wife under his possession. In Saudi Arabia, non-Saudi couldn’t trade, so a number of non-Saudis trade in the name of Saudis with their consent illegally and a pay fixed amount in lieu of using their names. In such a case the legal owner is Saudi. Sometimes it happens that the Saudi (legal owner) packs up his non-Saudi partner to home and takes control over his trade. Though such incidents are not very common but it happens. The pertinent question, however, remains unanswered: Why in an Islamic country a native of another country is compelled to starve to death but if he sells miswak or caps to earn a living he can be put behind the bars?

Despite being able to have the capacity or officially granted family status it is very difficult to live with family in Saudi Arabia. Only the person who has surpassed these phases could know the hardship involved in bringing his own wife and children to Saudi Arabia to stay with him. In Harvey Nichols a Pakistani electrician got married during a visit to his country. On return to Saudi Arabia, started the phase of long phone calls between the newly married couple. A large sum of salary was spent on these calls. Friends suggested that the sums incurring on phone calls are too much, and on lesser expenditure he could lead a family life with his wife in Saudi Arabia. The suggestion was rational. Manzoor, the electrician, got permission from the company and the hunt for getting a family visa followed.

Even after running from pillar to post for months, he was unable to obtain it. When he went to the passport office he was told to deposit two thousand riyals in bank and submit the receipt. When he reached the passport office with the required cash receipt, he was told that it was impossible to issue a family visa for him as his profession was wrong. Now he needed to change his profession. When, after changing his profession, he went to the passport office, he was informed that his and his spouse’s names were wrongly fed in the computer, so further progress could be made only after the corrections are done. After a few days orders were issued to him to bring original certificates. However, when he went there with those certificates, he was told to bring attested certificates from ministry of labor. When he brought attested electrical certificate, he was ordered to bring High School Certificate. In short, abiding by the Saudi bureaucratic orders, he had spent thousands of riyals .Till I left Saudi Arabia his struggle to get the family visa was on.

Another example is here to show what adversities one has to undergo in the Saudi system. In Harvey Nichols there was a guy Masood Sheikh, a resident of Mumbai, but he was born and brought up in Qatar. He was able to speak Arabic like native Arabs. Once he locked horns with a shrewd Pakistani manager and responded to him in equal terms. Getting the earliest opportunity, the manager ensured him a seat in a flight to India. Before going to India, he introduced me to one of his Saudi friends and asked me to collect a visa from him and post it at his Mumbai address. After three months that Saudi demanded SR 2000. However, Masood told us that he had paid the required sum for visa, and no further payment had to be done. I was just to receive and post the visa. Still on the insistence of the Saudi we collected 2000 riyals and gave him so that Masood could come to Riyadh. After a few days Masood said that his Saudi friend who was then sponsor of Masood called him up and ordered him to bring perfume of aloes wood and that too as a gift two days before his flight. His desire could be fulfilled only by taking a loan of twenty-eight thousand rupees on interest. After Masood’s reaching to Riyadh his sponsor ordered him to pay three thousand riyals, but Masood’s condition was that he was not even able to buy a meal for him. Masood told me sobbingly, “My ‘sponsor friend’ is saying that he will make my aqamah (resident permit) only after I pay him three thousand riyals. Another problem is that as my visa is labor-visa so to work as salesman I have to change the profession which requires SR2500. After I get the job, I will have to pay him SR 2000 for the transfer. If not, he would demand some money every month and it could be half of my salary too. So I decided to return to India and perhaps I could not repay your loan.”

I said, “Don’t bother about money; think about your future. Discuss this issue with your friends. Don’t go to India in haste.” He said, “If I do not return now, he will keep extracting money from me.”

After a few days his friends told me that he fled to Jeddah to earn some money to repay his loan and to send some money for his ailing father. When he was in Harvey Nichols, one day he told me sobbingly that his mother was a TB patient and died a month before. And that too he came to know about it from a letter written by his younger sister.

When non-Saudis get married and the sponsor of husband and wife are different. Any sponsor can put husband in Saudi Arabia and wife in India or wife in Saudi Arabia and husband in Pakistan. On what basis the government takes 600-700 riyals yearly from non-Saudis and never gives any facility to them. They earn and spend on their own. When they fell ill, expenses are borne by themselves (or by company if there is provision for medical facilities). When they travel from one city to another they have to pay. Why Saudi government receives money from them when it does not provide them with any facility?

When non-Saudis go to their native countries for holidays, they have to pay 200 riyals to the government. This amount could be an hour’s salary for an American, but for a common Bangladeshi in Saudi Arabia, it is hard to save this amount in a month. People arriving on independent visas are mercilessly exploited by many Saudi sponsors. Normally, frustrated workers would flee and work at some unknown places. If caught they are put behind bars and their heads are shaved. It has been also heard that due to oppression of sponsors, many expatriates have committed suicide.

In a Muslim country’s ‘Islamic’ society, inhuman treatment is meted out to the ‘imported’ maids. The most tantalizing is the government’s immoral, criminal and un-Islamic reticence over it. The government has been proved a failure in 99% cases to ensure justice and give these oppressed women their rights and put an end to oppression and exploitation and to bring perpetrators to book. According to Arab News (14 April 2004), 19,000 maids ran away due to physical and sexual abuses from their sponsors. Majority of these maids are sexually abused and harassed. Sometimes even physical violence confronts them. Many are those who after years of work could not get any payment from their sponsors. Mentioning Masahna, a Filipino maid, the newspaper said, “Masahna is another maid who was sent from Manila through an agent in one of the Medinite family when she was thirteen, has worked for eighteen years since then but not received even a single penny.”

One Indonesian maid was so distressed and was being physically assaulted that she preferred to commit suicide. In that report only this Indonesian maid was mentioned below, “Last year in August a Sharia court punished a Saudi woman with one year imprisonment and 100 lashes because she tortured her Indonesian maid severely. Forensic report disclosed that the maid was errantly beaten in head, breast, neck, face, back, arm, stomach etc. Her body was discovered in Tabuk in his master’s house (1300 km in North West from Riyadh). The body had a wire tied round her neck tightly, which was tied with the door on the other end. (Arab News, 14 April 2002)

The author can be contacted at Email:

The article is excerpted from the author’s book Zionist conspiracies in the Citadel of Islam


Categories: Arab World, Asia, Saudi Arabia

Leave a Reply