Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

As the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah Aal al Sheikh has the highest position of religious authority in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is an Islamic scholar based in Mecca - the seat of Sunni Islam - and has influence as a leading cleric of the expansive global movement of Salafi Muslims.

Head of Sunni Jurisprudential Committees
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal al Sheikh is chairman of the Council of Senior Scholars, a scientific consultative commission composed of leading Sunni specialist scholars of shari‘a (Islamic law). He has been behind fatwas that call for more rights for women and children. Al Sheikh is also chairman of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and fatwas (religious rulings), a special committee designated for the researching and issuing of religious rulings on jurisprudence, Hadith, and Aqida (creed) for the Sunni world.

As head of the Presidency for Scientific Research and Religious Edicts (Dar al Ifta), al Sheikh is often the spokesperson for controversial rulings issued from the Kingdom. He is recognized for his influence in enforcing a distinct view of Islamic tradition. In 2008, he publicly criticized Muslim televangelists who encouraged Muslims to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries- stressing, instead, that only the two occasions of 'Eid and the weekly Friday observations are valid occasions to celebrate. In this, and also in his condemnation of Turkish soap operas sweeping the Arab World, al Sheikh has stressed the importance of eliminating distracting practices. He is also ardently opposed to the practice of marrying off very young girls to older men, emphasizing its incongruence with human decency and Islamic tradition.

Central Figure of Global Salafi Movement
As Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, al Sheikh is the leading religious figure of the Saudi-based network of Salafi Muslims. He stresses the importance of adhering to a literal interpretation of the scripture and following Islam as it was practiced by the early generations of Muslims. The rulings derived by al Sheikh are based heavily on a literal reading of the Qur’an and emphasize the need to strip away innovative cultural practices that have become a part of Muslims’ lives across cultures. The movement he leads is characterized by an authoritative stance on Islamic religious practice.

Eminent Scholarship
Grand Mufti al Sheikh is recognized as a leading contemporary scholar of Islam. He has lever aged this influence by openly speaking out against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda as forces that push a dangerous ideological terrorism. He spoke for the need for a war - to be fought by academics, the media, religious leaders and even parents - against deviant thought that leads overzealous Muslims toward extremism and violence.

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