05/08/2021, 11.06SAUDI ARABIA – ISLAM
by Kamel Abderrahmani
In an interview with “Al-Arabiya”, the Saudi Crown Prince suggests concentrating the constitution and laws on the Koran, eliminating many hadiths (sayings of the Prophet). He speaks of the need for a current “interpretation” of the Koran. A real change in ideological direction that goes beyond the Wahhabism propagated by Riyadh to date. No more stoning, scourging, killing apostates and homosexuals. Many Muslim intellectuals were persecuted and killed because they proposed the same vision as Mbs.
Paris (AsiaNews) – On April 27 Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (Mbs), gave a long television interview to the Saudi channel “Al-Arabiya“[i], dedicated to his economic and social program for a new country in the framework of the 2030 vision, first unveiled in 2015.
In the interview he spoke of moderation in the application of Islamic laws, challenging Wahhabism, an ideology developed by Mohammed ben Abdelwahhab, an 18th century Saudi preacher, who reigned for a long time in the country and elsewhere, after promoting it for many decades in the Muslim world.
It would seem that MBS has come out in favor of the reform of Islam, when he stated: “All Muslim jurists and scholars have been talking about the concept of moderation for over a thousand years. So, I do not think I am in a position to clarify this concept, as much as I can … abide by the Saudi constitution, which is the Quran, the Sunnah, and our basic governance system and to implement it fully in a broad sense that is inclusive of everybody.”
Until a few years ago, such a speech would have been unimaginable and [even that evening] it was hard to believe it, if broadcast live on the television channel.
MBS also declared that “the Constitution of Saudi Arabia is the Koran” and that his country is “obliged to implement the Koran in one form or another”; that is: all citizens will be respected as such and in their differences. To be more explicit, he stressed that only what is only said “unequivocally” in the Koran should be applied: “In social and personal affairs, we are obliged to implement only the stipulations clearly enunciated in the Quran. Thus, I cannot apply a sharia punishment without a clear or explicit Koranic stipulation of the Sunna.”
If this is to take place, says MBS, then Islam needs reform and sources of religious legislation need review. In saying as much, MBS has placed himself alongside Muslim intellectuals such as Mohamed Arkoun, Mohamed Shahrour, Faraj Fouda and others. It must be said that many of these intellectuals have been persecuted, imprisoned, interdicted, or killed because they had defended a contemporary view of Islam, or tried to cure Islam of its illness: Wahhabism, or political Islam.
MBS says the reform is clear: “The government, where Sharia is concerned, has to implement Quran regulations and teachings in mutawater (well-known) hadiths[ii], and to look into the veracity and reliability of ahad hadiths[iii], and to disregard “khabar” hadiths[iv] entirely, unless if a clear benefit is derived from it for humanity. So, there should be no punishment related to a religious matter except when there is a clear Quranic stipulation, and this penalty will be implemented based on the way that the Prophet applied it.”
In this case, according to this criterion, only 10% of the valid hadiths remain, which are those converging with the Koran. In addition, some Islamic laws would disappear, such as stoning, scourging, amputating the hands of thieves, as well as Islamic criminal law laws, such as the death of the apostate and homosexuals.
The announcement of the crown prince establishes a distance, a fundamental break with Wahhabism and constitutes a real change of ideological direction, in the sense that it favors recourse to the direct interpretation of the Koran and the hadith, without worrying about the different schools of thought and the ulama who forged Wahhabi Islamic thought.
The crown prince also added that “to implement a penalty on the pretext that it is a Sharia penalty while there is no stipulation for such a penalty in the Quran or in the mutawater hadith, then this is also a falsification of the Sharia […] When we commit ourselves to follow a certain school or scholar, this means we are deifying human beings. God Almighty did not put a barrier between Himself and people. He revealed the Quran and the Prophet PBUH implemented it and the space for interpretation is open permanently.”
Mbs continues: “If Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdulwahhab were with us today and he found us committed blindly to his texts and closing our minds to interpretation and jurisprudence while deifying and sanctifying him he would be the first to object to this. There are no fixed schools of thought and there is no infallible person. We should engage in continuous interpretation of Quranic texts and the same goes for the sunnah of the Prophet PBUH, and all fatwas should be based on the time, place, and mindset in which they are issued. For example, 100 years ago, when a scholar would issue a certain fatwah not knowing that the Earth was round and not knowing about continents or technology, etc. that fatwah would have been based on the then-available inputs and information and their understanding of the Quran and Sunnah, but these things change over time and are different right now.”
This is like saying that Saudi Arabia is opting for Koranism, a current of thought that rejects the authority of the hadiths and that supports the re-actualization of interpretations as a function of time, knowledge and cultures. Koranism supports that each country can have its own Islam, which is encultuated by the culture that welcomes it.
But for the moment, despite these revelations, Bin Salman appears to be proceeding with caution. His considerations denote his having read the books of Mohamed Shahrour, Ahmed Abdo Maher and other thinkers who perhaps influenced and incited him to break away from the excessive religion of his ancestors and ancient generations. MBS understood that Islam, as it is understood and known today, constitutes a brake on development and modernity.
In any case, it is curious to note that on the part of the leaders of Wahhabism there has been no reaction, if not some expression of support published in recent days[v].
Yet, in the near past, such claims would have been considered blasphemous. Will they have been afraid to hear the prince say: “Anyone who adopts an extremist way, even without being a terrorist, is a criminal and will be severely punished by the law”?
Without political will and political strength, the reform of Islam cannot take place: I had already written this in one of my articles on AsiaNews, in 2017. In any case, the question today is: what are other countries waiting for to reach the same decision? Do they want to keep the dull ideas that barley help them stay afloat? If other Muslim countries do not have the courage to follow the Saudi model currently in vogue, they will find themselves with a modern day inquisition, such as Algeria which condemns free thinkers to prison. It is enough to recall here that some human rights activists, such as Saïd Djabelkhir (Islamologist) and Dr. Amira Bouraouinb who were even sentenced.