King Fahd ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud, died in 2005
In case of Saudi Arabia, cradle of the Islam, spiritual center of the Arab and Moslem worlds, and the only State of the world that carries the name of the family that founded it and directs up to today, the political system has been especially rigid. Saud has been from his emergence in the XVIIIth century in the figure of the sheikh Muhammad ibn Saud, the first emir of the Nejd in 1735, the leaders of the wahhabism, a fundamentalist suni sect that takes his name after his founder, Muhammad ibn Abd to the-Wahhab, died in 1787.
The wahhabism rebelled against the decadent and secularized piety of the Ottoman Turks, custodians of that time of the Holy Mosques of Medina and Mecca, with what the religious reform movement acquired from the beginning an important political tint. His orthodoxy lies in the hanbali juridical school most faced towards the Arab thing and the most traditional of the four that bloomed in the abasi caliphate, and which was founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, deceased in 850.
The hanbali school prescribes that the sharia or Islamic law comes exclusively from the Koran and from the sunna or six compendia of hadices (named like hadith, there are texts compilations of the facts and words of the Prophet, which shape the tradition and complement the Koran) attributed to Mahoma and his first followers. Opposite to any rationalist innovation, the hanbalism pushes back most of the hadices and the whole jurisprudence (fiqh) of not Koranic or Muslim emanation, as the juridical reasonings endorsed by the consensus of the believers (ichma). Also, it prohibits any declaration of popular devotion based on the religious images, for considering it to be an idolater.
In Arabia, this creed, with his accented strictness and puritanism, impregnated with conservatism the State organized like an absolute monarchy, and to the society, fist-iron submitted to the prescriptions of the sharia, sometimes draconian, on such aspects like the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, the role of the woman and the punishment of the crimes. They adopted the penal code of the hadd, which comprises the amputation of a hand for theft, the flagellation up to the death for drinking alcohol, the stone beating for adultery or the beheading for the most serious affronts. In addition, the State created the Committee to Encourage the Virtue and to Prevent the Sin, and a religious police, the Mutawwain invested of full powers to watch and to punish at once and on the area any Koranic deviation in the conduct of the citizen on foot.
To the eyes of westerns, allien to the the cultural, moral and religious particularities of a proud community of his past of free and warlike men, this system presents the whole aspect of an intolerant medieval feudalism straight carried to the XXIst century, which exercises an arbitrary control on the citizens and which protects rude human rights violations. The case is that the Saudi regime has rested on three domestic props: approximately 4.000 princes who nourish the principal branch of Saud's house, the Faysal (for being progeny for line patrilineal of the grandfather of ibn Saud, Faysal ibn Turki, without forgetting that from Saud's trunk there arose other branches that today comprises between 30.000 and 40.000 people), the Bedouin tribes and the sheikhs, and the Armed forces, of all who he insured himself his allegiance.
After the fabulous enrichment that produced in a nomads' society of the desert the oil discovered and its development at the end of the thirties of the XXth century, Saud watched with special zeal that the massive money inflow was not bringing with it Occident cultural fashions and political ideas, like parlamentarism, the political parties and the laicism of the State, for not speaking about the lightest leftist or socializing whim.
The result has been the unusual symbiosis of the most advanced features of the western technology with the ancestral customs of the inhabitants of the Arabic peninsula. The income for the oil and the tourism related to the peregrination to Mecca or hadj (one of five Koranic obligations, that any Moslem must do at least once in his life) made possible an extremely generous system of social protection that for years lulled the democratic aspirations.
(CIDOB, translated (or so) from the spanish version)