Destroy all churches in the Arabian Peninsula, says Saudi grand mufti

Saudi Arabia

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti and top authority on Sunni religious law, has called for all churches in the Arabian Peninsula to be destroyed, in accordance with Muhammad’s command to rid the region of all Jews and Christians.

Crowd gathers outside the Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām mosque in Saudi Arabia
Crowd gathers outside the Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām mosque in Saudi Arabia
**** j a z z z i *** / CC BY-NC 2.0

The statement was made on 17 March in response to an enquiry from a delegation from Kuwait after Kuwaiti MP Osama al-Munawar made a statement on Twitter in February that he was planning to submit a bill to remove all churches in the country. The same MP later clarified that what he really meant to say was that he would submit a bill to prevent the construction of any new churches in the country, not the destruction of existing church buildings.

Nevertheless, the grand mufti - who is also the head of the Supreme Court of Ulema (Islamic Scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas – said that as part of the Arabian Peninsula, it is necessary that Kuwait destroy all of its churches.

Not the first time the Sheikh has said so, his statement is based on a hadith (a collection of traditions that record what Muhammad said and did) that says: “It has been narrated by ‘Umar b. al-Khattib that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim” (Sahih Muslim Book 019, Number 4366). This order was executed by the second Caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, fulfilling Muhammad’s wish for the sole practise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. As such, there are no church buildings permitted in Saudi Arabia, although expatriate Christians are permitted a certain degree of freedom to practise their religion in private.

In Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism (Salafism) is the state religion. This form of Islam rejects interpretations by the traditional Sunni legal schools of thought, insisting that only the Quran and Sunna can be used as authorities. It also opposes Shia and Sufi interpretations and practice. It declares there must only be one religion on the Arabian Peninsula. Wahhabism is one strand in the theology of the Islamic State, which wages a bloodthirsty jihad across the Middle East for the purpose of creating a caliphate that unites all Muslims under the authority of self-proclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim”, as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is known amongst his followers.