The political and military association between the Saudis the kuffar is not so much a relationship of collaboration as of subjection. The Saudi family subject the lands, seas, and all the resources to Western, specifically American, political interests in the region. That has been the case since the founding of the kingdom under British imperial ‘protection’. It has come to be widely accepted since the Gulf crisis of 1990. At the ‘invitation’ of the Gulf Arab rulers, notably the Saudis, the Western military forces occupied the Arabian Peninsula in order to prosecute their war against Iraq; thereafter, having destroyed that country’s civil as well as military structures, they continue to have a very large and powerful military presence in the Gulf countries. This is done with much less publicity than during the Gulf war but with not much effort at concealment. The policy of non-concealment also has its purposes apart from its effect of proving the Gulf regimes helpless, it makes them vulnerable to the discontent of their own people which in turn makes them more dependent upon the Western presence. The situation is not very different from the protection rackets run by the mafia: the Gulf Arab regimes are required, in exchange for ‘protection’, to spend huge sums of money on the purchase of arms and other equipment (which, if the Arabs could use them effectively would not be sold to them) and other back-up services, which returns the petrodollars to the West and keeps the Western military industry well-enough supplied with funds to go on producing new kinds and grades of weapons which their victims cannot match. It is a vicious circle in every sense.
The ambition to dominate the Arabian Peninsula is not a new one. The goal has its roots in the missionary activities which were initiated in the Gulf towards the end of the 19th century. Samuel Zwemer, the American Christian who established the first mission in l889, founded many schools and churches in the coastal townships. Zwemer is explicit in his understanding of the situation at that time. The missionaries are to consider themselves as the allies of the Jews in their hopes and plans for the creation of a Jewish homeland in the region. Zwemer justifies this on the grounds that the region had ‘belonged’ to Christ: before Islam came to dominate, there had been Christian communities in the Peninsula (in Najran) and, similarly, Jewish communities (in Yathrib [Madinah], Khaybar, etc.). Western powers had the right, in his view, to bring the region ‘back’ to its former religious affiliations.
An American Orientalist, John Kelly, who served as adviser to the President of the United Arab Emirates, advocates the reoccupation of the Gulf area by Western powers to reverse or replace the withdrawal of the British Empire east of Suez. The primary motivation may be to control the oil reserves of the region, but missionary ambitions (religious and cultural), and, most important of all, control of the peoples and of the Islamic revival in the area, are a part of the strategic commitment. The heartlands of Islam, could, if managed for the sake of the Muslims, unify and organise the efforts and resources of all the disparate Islamic revival movements world-wide. The political potential of this region is therefore immense and the Western powers are only too well aware of this.
It is a matter of open knowledge that the Americans and the British have permanent military bases in each of the countries of the Gulf except Yemen. Kuwait, Bahrain, the Emirates, Oman, Qatar, each have at least one significant American military installation. Saudi Arabia is host to several military bases which are huge complexes cut off from the rest of the country and run quite independently of it.
Who is responsible for the presence of the kuffar in the holy lands of Islam? Evidently, those who invited them, the rulers of these countries, and the so-called Islamic scholars who authorised their invitation. The authorisation was given publicly in a formal document (called the Makkah Document) on the 10th October, 1990. Among the signatories were Syed Abul Hasan Nadwi, Yusuf al- Qaradawi, Shaikh Bin Baz, and Manna’ al-Qattan. Their argument was based mainly on an appeal to necessity whereby that which is nominally forbidden may be temporarily permitted, or whereby one may be temporarily excused from doing what is normally obligatory. The argument of necessity is plainly meaningless or unprincipled if the temporary allowance becomes permanent.
Let us look closely at the argument of necessity. The necessity in question was, of course, the threat of invasion and war from Iraq under Saddam Hussain.
We can begin by asking: who convinced the Saudis that this threat existed? Of course, the Americans. They claim to have shown the Saudi authorities secret pictures of Iraqi troop movements, taken by secretly operated satellites, pictures whose interpretation requires very specialised training which is also secret. In short, the Saudis took the Americans’ word for it: they did what they were told. (Iraq invaded Iran also, we may recall; there was no similar response, not from the West nor from the Gulf Arab states, nor from these Court scholars). In fact, there is no evidence of any immediate threat to Saudi Arabia. The moment for the Iraqis to invade, had they had any intention of doing so, would have been immediately after the occupation of Kuwait, or, at the least, well before the ‘allies’ had time to establish themselves in Saudi Arabia. In the end - surely a unique event in military history - the Americans enjoyed six full months of a totally unopposed landing. Even assuming criminal intention on the part of Saddam Hussain (not a difficult assumption to make), one would have supposed that he must quickly attack and occupy the oil-fields in the northeast of Saudi Arabia, a perfectly realistic option in the first month of the crisis, and hold them in order to bargain for Kuwait. But the Iraqis made no such move.
The ‘necessity’ was not correctly judged: they had only the word of the kuffar that any such necessity existed. But let us allow that this was an error of judgement on their part, not a wilful attempt to legitimise the demolition of Iraq. Let us allow that they had no wish to help the enemies of Islam kill huge numbers of Muslims by long-range air and missile bombardment, to so thoroughly destroy the roads, bridges and utilities of Iraq as to cause many hundreds of thousands of deaths for years to come. Let us allow that they did not foresee or wish any of this to happen. They saw it as a necessity that Saudi Arabia should be defended. Very well. But events have unfolded. We know what did happen, what was done to Iraq and to its people. The whole world knows.
Have the ‘Ulama’ as-Sultan expressed some sorrow or regret for the loss of so many human lives? Have they no cause to unwish what they did? Evidently not, for these learned men have remained quite silent on the sufferings of the Iraqi people; nor, now that the necessity exists no more, have they had anything to say on the continuing military presence of the Americans and the British and the French in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
Yet, even if we accord to these scholars the best of motives for what they did, it cannot make what they did right. They are obliged, insofar as they are Muslim scholars, to give advice and judgement according to the Qur’an and Sunnah [ie. Prophetic examples which were divinely inspired]. They did not do so. Their judgement was, by the Qur’an and Sunnah, false judgement, a grave surrender of their responsibility in favour of a slavish submission to what the Saudi government needed; certainly, their silence about it ever since is an unqualified evil.
Before the battle of Badr, a man came to the Prophet, and said that he wanted to join him in the fighting. The Prophet asked him if he believed in Allah. The man said he did not. The Prophet then said to him: ‘Go back [or go away]. I will not call on the help of a mushrik.’ And who does not know what the odds were that the Muslims face at that time?
At the time of Uhud, as is recorded by Ibn Hisham, the Prophet did not wish, again despite the circumstances, to seek the help of the Jews in Madinah. He said: ‘We do not call for the help of a mushrik [disbeliever or polytheist] against a mushrik, nor of a kafir [disbeliever] against a kafir. ‘
There are two precedents in particular which these scholars offered as pretexts for the judgement that they gave. First they cite the case of Safwan bin Umayyah at the time of the battle of Hunayn. The Prophet borrowed from this Safwan certain weapons even though he was, at that time, a mushrik. But borrowing or buying weapons or any other equipment or technology from unbelievers is not the same thing as calling on them to fight with you. Also, the Muslims certainly had the upper hand and were in full control of the affair - the incident referred to occurred after the conquest of Makkah. Finally, it is important to remember that Safwan was known to be sympathetic to Islam and, indeed, soon afterwards became a Muslim.
The contrast with the Gulf War is all too obvious: the war was conducted by and for the Americans under the leadership of General Schwarzkopf...
Secondly, the Court scholars cite the precedent of the Hijrah [migration] to Abyssinia where the Muslims put themselves under the protection of the Negus, the Christian ruler. But this was not a situation involving fighting and war and, again, the Negus was not only sympathetic to the beliefs and cause of the Muslims but himself accepted Islam. The Prophet himself, did the funeral prayer for the Negus when news of that noble man’s death reached him. The help that the emigrant Muslims received from the non-Muslim Christians of Abyssinia was not of a military nature, not a part or phase of a military campaign.
In sum, there is no permissible alliance in fighting between Muslims and non-Muslims. It follows that there can never be a purpose common to believing Muslims and unbelievers which might lead Muslims to fight alongside and/or under the direction of non-Muslim.
[Summarised extracts of a chapter in Dr Ghorab’s Subverting Islam: The Role Of Orientalist Centres, Minerva Press, London, 1995. The author is a former teacher at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia who had his teaching contract terminated].
Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996