Is Saudi Arabia fit to lead the Ummah?

Saudi Arabia and the US are close allies

Mohammed Kahiye questions whether Saudi Arabia is fit and trustworthy to lead the Muslim Ummah.

For years the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented itself to both the international community and the Muslim world as a regional power committed to the safeguarding and protection of the global Muslim community.

Previously KSA had made serious questionable political decisions that were perceived with suspicion by the Muslim Ummah (for example allowing the Americans to set up base during the first Gulf War). However, its recent moves concerning issues unfolding in the Muslim world have once again let the cat out of the bag.

For the first time in seventy years, Saudi’s relationship with the United States seems at its weakest after they refused a seat at the UN Security Council and voiced their discontent over improving US-Iranian relations.


Saudi is the guardian of the most important Islamic symbol for Muslims, the holy Kabah in Makkah. So when KSA is seen gallivanting with the West, assisting those who are responsible for the invasion, occupation and oppression of Muslims, they’re not really setting a good example as the “custodian of the two holy mosques”.

KSA has never played an active role in attempting to unify the Muslim Ummah, instead Saudi has continuously fuelled sectarian tension and violence, be it against Sufis, Shia, Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, sincere mujahideen fighting foreign invaders, jihadis and even some of those who consider themselves “Salafi”. The irony is, with so many knowledgeable scholars and access to Islamic history, it acts as anything but a unifying force.

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It is very unfortunate how the Saudi authorities’ misuse the teachings of Islam to protect and safeguard their petrol-rich Kingdom, whilst on the other hand will use religious edicts to delegitimise and destabilise other Muslim  countries based on the values of freedom, human rights and democracy that they themselves never practice!

I’m a Sunni Muslim and I don’t have any hatred or bitterness towards my brethren of Saudi descent. However, I totally disagree with the way their government deals with other Muslim groups be it religious or political.

It is  hypocritical to blame the UN for failing to stop the bloodshed in Syria, while Saudi itself has cowardly sat back, selectively supplying arms to rebel factions which it feels may fulfill their (and the West’s) geopolitical interests.

The best way for a country like Saudi to actively intercede in such a scenario should have been a non-partisan/non-sectarian stance, and one based solely on Islam. It should have either fully intervened alone and removed Bashar al-Assad like it did when protecting Al Khalifa of Bahrain, or it should have refrained from assisting the likes of the US and UK. Playing the role of a mediator was a third option but highly unlikely based on the nature of the Saudi monarchy’s historical political alleigance.

Can Saudi be trusted?  

Saudi perceives itself as a gateway to the Muslim world politically, socially and economically. But since the US invasions of Iraq in 1990 and then 2003, the trust among the Muslim population towards the country’s leadership has largely diminished.

First and foremost, it’s no secret that Saudi is the staunchest and most trusted US ally in the Muslim world. However, it has failed to capitalise on that alliance in favour of the Ummah because both nation’s interests do not coincide with the benefit of Islam and Muslims. Nothing has come of this alliance be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine or Syria.

Secondly, Saudi was home to the largest US military base in the region, which was used to attack Iraq during the first Gulf War, and although the US military has since moved to Qatar we know that secret US bases remain in Saudi which are used to launch drone attacks in Yemen, killing innocent women and children under the guise of fighting Al Qaeda.

Thirdly, in the so-called “War on Terror”, Saudi collaborated with the US by sending several Muslims to Guantanamo Bay without trial or due process, many of whom are still imprisoned on false charges.

Lastly, Saudi openly pushes for another disastrous western military intervention in Syria despite its previous blunders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When it comes to which Muslim country is best suited for addressing the issues of the Muslim Ummah – Saudi should not be considered as a sacred cow.

The oppressed of Palestine or the persecuted Rohingya in Burma will not be relieved by how many western allies you have nor by how many UN Security Council seats you refuse. What is required is stiff action in the face of calamity, to sincerely and holistically rule and lead by the Qur’an and the example of Prophet Muhammad (saw), and not the lap dog “yes man” of the West.

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