Without mincing words, the Saudi Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh has condemned suicide bombings as haraam. He has said that anyone who blows himself up with explosives is hastening his departure to hell. This is a very strong statement coming from the highest religious authority in the kingdom that specializes in producing suicide bombers, of course against people they consider to be their enemy.
December 12, 2013, 11:53 EDT
Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh has condemned suicide bombings as grave crimes. As the highest religious authority in the kingdom, his words carry great weight among those that follow the Wahhabi interpretation not only in the kingdom but also abroad.
“Killing oneself is a grave crime and a grave sin,” Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper today. “Those who kill themselves with explosives are criminals who are hastening their way to hell.”
While this may be seen by some as trying to prevent Saudis from resorting to suicide bombings against the Saudi regime, its implications are much broader.
The Saudi regime has backed a vicious campaign against the government of President Bashar al-Asad of Syria for nearly three years, without any great success. Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh’s statement that has the authority of a fatwa, reflects growing disagreement in the kingdom over its Syria policy.
A few weeks ago, the mufti urged Saudis not to join the internal conflict in Syria. There is rising concern that once the fighting in Syria ends, these groups will return to the kingdom and create problems for the regime that is already unpopular because of its restrictive policies.
The mufti’s statement reflects sharp divisions in the kingdom over Syria. King Abdullah has made intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan in charge of the Syria file. Bandar is greatly resented by other princes in the kingdom because of his outlandish claims and his aggressive style of operations.
He has also been consorting with the Zionists on Syria as well as on a number of other issues. This is not something every member of the House of Saud agrees with.
The fact that Al Hayat newspaper, one of the most widely read Arabic papers in the world carried the story also points to internal divisions. Al Hayat is owned by Turki al-Faisal, himself a former intelligence chief (during the Afghan war) as well as having served as ambassador to the US and Britain.
There is no love lost between the Faisal and Sultan clans. Further, Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef has also expressed concern about Saudi fighters going to Syria. His father Prince Nayef was interior minister from 1975 until his sudden death in June 2012. Nayef had to deal with al-Qaeda operatives returning from Afghanistan that ended up creating many problems for the regime.
The latest Saudi foray, this time into Syria will, create its own problems for the ruling family.
Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh may genuinely, and rightly believe that suicide bombings are haraam. Taking innocent life—one’s own or that of others—is forbidden in Islam. It will be interesting to see whether his fatwa will have any effect on the suicide bombers in places like Pakistan and Iraq.
His latest statement has exposed, yet again, deep fissures in the Saudi ruling family. Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh is clearly not on the side of Bandar. This is bad omen for the upstart illegitimate son of Sultan.