The Grand Mufti strikes again


And this time, he is taking no prisoners

Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh has two strong suits: His convoluted logic and the pluck to stand by his pronouncements, however bizarre. KSA’s Grand Mufti is not one to mince words either – you would never find him hiding behind the veil of ambiguity.

Over the years, the Saudis have been criticised on two counts regarding Hajj: That they take unfair advantage of their unique position as the custodians of the two holy mosques; and that they don’t manage the event as well as it can be managed. While Iran and the KSA have never been accused of being too chummy, the recent past has seen their relations touch new lows.  Recall that there will be no Iranian pilgrims to the kingdom this year. Citing the Saudi rulers’ ‘oppressive behavior towards God’s guests’, Ayatollah Khamenei had recently upped the ante by suggesting that the Muslim world must fundamentally reconsider the management of the two holy places of worship and the issue of Hajj. Enter the redoubtable Grand Mufti in mid-season form, and he has immediately turned the tables on the Iranians, claiming that they are not even Muslims. The statement from the Ayatollah was perhaps meant to be provocative, but to declare a whole country out of the fold of Islam, especially when the Sheikh is on record about the dangers of takfeer, is taking it to a whole new level. Religion, politics and commerce definitely make for an explosive mix!

Sadly, this is not an aberration on the part of the kingdom’s top cleric. Such has been his track-record that an obviously fabricated fatwa attributed to him in 2015 (‘Men are allowed to eat their wives if hungry’) was initially believed to be true by an embarrassingly large number of people. Let’s see why.

It is well-known that women are not issued driving licenses in the Holy Kingdom. In April this year the Grand Mufti decided to justify this state of affairs. He argued that men with ‘weak spirits’ and who are ‘obsessed with women’ could cause female drivers harm. (To date, this chronicler has overwhelmingly seen female drivers causing harm to male drivers and their automobiles, but that is neither here nor there.) By way of clinching the argument, the Sheikh said that allowing women to drive would make it ‘difficult to ascertain their whereabouts’, apparently an unthinkable scenario. Of course he could have reached the same conclusion by invoking women’s driving skills (or lack thereof), but that would have been logical – even if a little sexist – which is obviously beneath the Grand Mufti (being logical, that is).

Still earlier this year, the Sheikh had famously forbidden chess after bracketing it with gambling, and declaring it a waste of time and a cause of enmity between players. Back in 2012, he had opined that the Shariah demanded all churches in the Arabian Peninsula to be demolished.

You may infer from the above that the Grand Mufti is all doom and gloom. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for depending upon the situation he can be the picture of compassion and understanding. As he proved to be immediately after the deadly Hajj stampede of 2015 when, before anybody knew what had actually happened, he reassured the inconsolable Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef with these words: ‘You are not responsible for what happened. You are not blamed for the things that humans cannot control. Fate and destiny are inevitable.’ Bin Nayef, in addition to chairing the Hajj committee, is also the kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior.

In 2009, the Sheikh opposed the proposal from the Ministry of Justice to set a woman’s minimum age of marriage as 15 years. His rationale: ‘Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.’ In 2014 he claimed that twitter was the ‘source of all evil and devastation’. He argued that many people mistook it for a source of news and credible information when in fact it was a bunch of lies and falsehood. To this day I have a suspicion he was talking about the PTV.

Coming back to the topic at hand, a lesser cleric would have just declared the Iranians ‘not Muslims’, and told his audience to accept the verdict if they treasured their faith. Not our Grand Mufti. He backs his assertion with solid arguments. ‘We must understand these are not Muslims; they are children of Magi, and their hostility towards Muslims is an old one; especially with the people of Sunna.’

Rethinking the management of Hajj and the two holy mosques, even if possible, is a massive project. But is it too much to hope that the microphone is finally taken from the elderly Grand Mufti and given to somebody younger and more in-sync with the realities of the world? For the sake of hundreds of millions of people professing to Islam and practicing it in varying degrees, I hope the answer is in the negative. What is the retirement age for a grand mufti, by the way?



  1. Most of what he said is quite true if we think out of our enslaved minds…..
    (Just because our minds are brainwashed by westerns….
    and the last one is exactly true about the Raafidhis because of their believes regarding Sahaba and wives of Prophet (PBUH)…………..

  2. """"more in-sync with the "realities" of the world?"""""""""
    (To be honest,he is more knowledgeable,experienced and familiar with the realities of the world than you)…………..
    Just because west consider something bad to be good doesn't make it good….or their calling of something to be strict doesn't come as final decision……………
    Truth remains truth…and it shall prevail for it came to dominate….

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