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The Saudi “Grand Mufti,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz Aal-Al-Shaykh caused outrage a few weeks ago when he said all churches in Kuwait should be “destroyed.” It must be pointed out that the Grand Mufti is not popularly elected by a consultative body, nor did he gain the position through any merit, such as being the highest learned Islamic scholar in Saudi Arabia.
The position of Saudi Grand Mufti is actually a political one, harking back to the alliance between the House of Saud and the House of Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab in the 18th century.
The Saudi Grand Mufti received his position through inheritance, the suffix appended to his name, “Aal-Al-Shaykh” in fact means “family of the Shaikh,” i.e. indicating he is a descendant of the 18th century Muslim reformer and founder of the Saudi Salafi/Wahhabi trend, Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab.
It is for these reasons that he is considered a lightweight when it comes to Islamic scholarship and is in fact derided by many Saudis from all walks of life.
Now Turkey’s top Muslim cleric has publicly condemned the Saudi Grand Mufti, declaring his statement to be invalid and a contradiction to Islam and its relations with other faiths (H/T: Ibn Abu Talib):
Turkey’s top imam blasted the Saudi grand mufti’s call to “destroy all the churches” in the Gulf region, saying that the announcement is in total contradiction to the peaceful teachings of the Muslim religion.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Mehmet Görmez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, said he cannot accept the Islamic religious order –fatwa — issued by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh, adding that the mufti’s remarks run contrary to the centuries-old Islamic teachings of tolerance and the sanctity of institutions belonging to other religions.
He emphasized that Islam has always respected religious freedom. “The opinion of the grand mufti also obviously contradicts the agreements that the Prophet of Islam signed with the non-Muslim communities both in Medina and in the region. It also plainly overlooks the right of immunity given by Islam to the holy shrines and temples of other religions on the basis of the rule of law throughout its history,” Görmez explained.
Sheikh Abdulaziz reportedly made the controversial statement during a meeting with a delegation from the Kuwait-based Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage in response to a query about Shariah law concerning the construction of churches in Muslim countries.He issued the fatwa in March, saying that further church building should be banned and existing Christian houses of worship should be destroyed.
Görmez slammed Abdulaziz, stating, “We strongly believe that this declaration has left dark shadows upon the concept of rights and freedoms in Islam that have always been observed on the basis of its sources, and it will not be recorded as an opinion of Islam.”
He also added, “We, therefore, entirely reject the aforementioned opinion and hope that it will be amended as soon as possible.”
Turkey’s top Muslim cleric challenged the Saudi grand mufti’s assertions on the established principles in Islam. “We believe that the mentioned opinion is evidently against the aims of Islam, especially in a region that witnessed the descent of the Holy Quran and the first application of the Sunnah of the Prophet. It is against the Muslim tradition’s established practice of respecting non-Muslims’ rights as well,” he noted.