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The Saudi Caliphate and Europe’s Dark Ages: Uncanny Comparisons


[Dr. Saad Al Faqih]: Historically, what is the political system that resembles Saudi Arabia? The Umayyad state, the Abbasid state, the Ottomans, the Mamluks, the Almoravids, the Idrisids, the Fatimids, non-Muslim states? In fact, there’s no regime that resembles that of the Al-Sauds. If we take the Umayyad and Abbasid states in their early phases, they were strong states and superpowers that were independent. Quite the contrary. They were the ones engaging in conquests.

Secondly, despite the fact that they were tyrannical and unjust states, which ruled despotically, and engaged in bloodshed, they were states that did not impose laws on the people. The law of the land was Islamic jurisprudence. Imagine that Abu Ja’far Al-Mansur, despite his power, he was unable to do away with the Islamic judicial system. In fact, he would compel scholars who refused positions as judges, such as Abu Hanifa and others, he would try to force them to assume those positions as islamic jurists.

So, neither the Umayyad nor the Abbasid states in their early phases. The Abbasid state in its later stages, no, because it was more akin to a constitutional monarchy, because the Seljuks and the Buwaihids and the Ayyubids were the actual rulers behind the Caliph, whose role was very limited. So, it (Saudi Arabia) is not similar to it in that sense. So, what about the other states (in history)? The Mamluks, not at all. The same thing with the Mamluks. Every one of the Mamluks would seize power through force, and fight those before them, and it was not a hereditary regime. What about the non-Muslim states? Yes, there’s a very close similarity between Europe in the Middle Ages, or what is called the ‘Dark Ages’, and the Saudi state.

First of all, there’s the use of religion deceptively. The church and the Christian religion were the foundation on which the rulers of the Dark Ages claimed their rulership in Europe. Secondly, the clergy’s role was to subjugate the people to the rulers, and the clergy benefited from that, and were extremely corrupt. So, they would share this benefit with the rulers. Thirdly, the mentality of absolute royal ownership in the Dark Ages, yes. The ruler was sovereign owner, and he would enact laws and rules, and treat the entire country as his personal property.

Also, the king could replace the scholars, and in fact change the religion altogether. King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and instituted a new religion just because he wanted to divorce his wife. So, the closest model that we have for the Saudi state is the Christian states of the Middle Ages. Don’t compare it (Saudi Arabia) to the Umayyad or Abbasid states, or the other islamic states.

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