(RAHNUMA) In his recent interview with top Al Arabiya journalist Abdullah Al-Mudaifer (AAM), in addition to his tremendous progress on his Vision 2030 reforms, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was asked about his views on religious interpretation in Saudi Arabia in light of the reforms.
The Crown Prince was also asked if he was personally religiously bound to, or identified with any specific school of interpretation of Islam over others, including in specific the Wahhabi school.
His Royal Highness’ answer sent shockwaves throughout the world, and was welcomed with open arms especially in Hindustan.
The future Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques farsightedness peaked the interest of India’s Muslim intellectuals.
Despite the grim picture the Wuhan Virus has wreaked on India of recent, the Muslims we spoke with interpret MBS’ comments as ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, and as ‘the most significant paradigm shift in Islam’s recent history’ which will ‘intellectually liberate Indian Muslim attitudes and subsequent results in life as well’.
For these Indian Muslim intellectuals who spoke to us with anonymity, Saudi Arabia’s recent re-embracing of its women, imagination, creativity, moderation, pluralism, culture, fashion, and all forms of arts is ‘the catalyst which will allow Muslim societies, and Indian Muslims especially, to finally re-embrace the same after 80 years, without tenable interference from the now soon to be forgotten, intellectually impractical Saudi influenced clergy of India.
The House of Saud’s Custodianship of the two holiest sites in Islam is generally seen as the greatest token of its being the natural leader of the Muslim world, especially by Indian Muslims who never accepted the Ottoman caliphs throughout history.
Furthermore, the recent resurfacing of the revelation by the Australian Government owned news agency Australian Broadcasting Corporation stating the Saudi Royals are in fact Sayyids, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – and subsequently also relatives of virtually every European royal, including Elizabeth II of England, since Alfonso VI only added to a new found fascination and appreciation of them among Indian Muslims.
According to a study in 2015, Islam has 1.8 billion adherents, making up about 24.1% of the world’s population. By 2050 the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world. In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population. India will retain a Hindu majority, but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
Despite the fact India is home to 200 million-plus Muslims, it has not been invited to be a part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since its founding over 50 years ago. While initially this was perceived as a snub, it is now seen as a significant opportunity.
By 2050, Indian Muslims will be able to take an independent seat as powerbrokers of Ijma – a position making them akin to America’s Electoral College – for religious opinions and attitudes pertaining to interpretation for the majority of Muslims.
What follows are excerpts from the transcript of the historical interview.
AAM: Do you, Your Highness, follow a certain school of thought, like the school of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab? Would it be the one interpreting those texts?
CP: When we commit ourselves to following 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.
CP: 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.
CP: So, ultimately our reference is the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH, as I said.
AAM: Clear. With regard to personal status law…Your Highness decided that that judicial code was not suitable for us. Why did you reject that judicial code and adopted the four systems including the personal status law?
CP: One can’t go and reinvent the wheel. The world follows clear laws that regulate the lives of people. Our role is to make sure all the laws passed in Saudi Arabia reflect the following: One, that they do not violate the Quran and the Sunnah; the Quran being our constitution, that they do not contradict our interests, that they preserve the security and interests of citizens, and that they help in the development and prosperity of the country. So, laws are passed based on this procedure according to international conventions. If you want tourists to come here… If you aim to attract 100 million tourists to create three million jobs, and you say that you are following something new other than common laws and international norms, then those tourists will not come to you. If you want to double foreign investments, as if we have done, from five million to 17 million, and you tell investors to invest in your country that is running on an unknown system that their lawyers do not know how to navigate nor know how those regulations are applied and enforced, then those investors will just cut their losses and not invest all together. When you want to attract certain talents and human resources to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and say that you have a new invention for enacting laws, no one will come to you. So, you will have to adopt the laws that are internationally recognized based on your constitution, the Quran, and your interests and objectives and based on the preservation of the security and interests of the citizen and with the development and prosperity of the country in mind.
AAM: The vision embodies the meaning of opening up to the world. Your Highness, how do you view the concerns, apprehensions, resistance, and fears over identity in some segments of society regarding such globalization seen in tourism, entertainment, etc.
CP: If your identity cannot withstand the diversity of the world, it means your identity is weak and you need to do without it. And if your identity is robust and authentic and you can grow and develop it, and promote its positive sides, then you will have preserved and strengthened your identity. The proof is the way we dress and our traditions and our culture and heritage, and most importantly, our Islamic heritage, all of these constitute a big part of our identity that we develop over time and continue to foster to turn it into a world-shaping force. I believe that our identity is very strong, and we are proud of it. It is mainly driven by you, me, and every citizen in Saudi Arabia and the movement taking place in Saudi Arabic and based on our Saudi identity, which is derived from our Islamic, Arabic, and historical culture and heritage.
AAM: Could you please tell us more about the campaign to neutralize extremist discourse?
CP: It’s going to be hard to choose where to start from, but… extremism in all things is wrong, and our Prophet PBUH talked in one of his hadiths about a day when extremists will surface and he ordered them killed when they do so. “Do not exercise extremism in your religion. Many nations have perished before you” “because they were extremists in their religions.” Being an extremist in anything, whether in religion or our culture or our Arabhood, is a serious matter based on our Prophet’s PBUH teachings, life experience and from the history we read.