Top Saudi Cleric: Ban Christian Churches in Arabia, Let Girls Marry at 10

Gatestone Institute 24 May 2012
By Irfan Al-Alawi

In late April of this year, the Wahhabi grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Aal Ash-Sheikh, who controls all Sunni Muslim clerics in the desert kingdom, announced that girls could be forced into marriage at age 10 or 12, without their consent, by contractual arrangement between families.

Aal Ash-Sheikh delivered this opinion in an address to faculty at the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh – known to ordinary Saudis as "the terrorist factory." Aal Ash-Sheikh said, "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."

The Saudi chief cleric then proceeded to conflict with repeated promises of the Saudi King, Abdullah, to foster interfaith respect and dialogue, by calling, in mid-March, for the destruction of all Christian churches in the Arabian Peninsula. Responding to a query in Kuwait by Muslim clerics affiliated with the "Revival of Islamic Heritage Society," favorable to Wahhabism, Aal Ash-Sheikh based his argument on a weakly-transmitted hadith, or oral commentary on the life of Muhammad, in which the Prophet allegedly mandated that there should not be "two religions" in Arabia.

"How could the grand mufti issue a fatwa of such importance behind the back of his king? We see a contradiction between the dialogue being practiced, the efforts of the king and those of his top mufti," said leaders of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Vienna, where, with the cooperation of Austria and Spain, Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal had inaugurated the "King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue" in 2011.

Aal Ash-Sheikh owes his position to his lineal descent from the 18th century religious ideologue, Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, after whom the ultra-fundamentalist, ultra-exclusivist Wahhabi sect – the official and sole recognized Islamic interpretation in Saudi Arabia – is named. The family of Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab has, for generations, intermarried with the royal Al-Saud clan. Along with their claims to a "pure Islam" imitative of the Prophet Muhammad, Wahhabis are known for their violent hatred of spiritual Sufism, of Shia Muslims, and for their hostility to non-Muslims. It must be emphasized that Wahhabi shariah is new, representing a break with traditional Muslim jurisprudence and a radical innovation in Islamic law. (...)