Religious Police in Saudi Arabia english islamic book pdf

Religious Police in Saudi Arabia english islamic book pdf

Religious Police
in Saudi Arabia
First Edition, 2008
Copyright Strictly Reserved for Publisher
To Contact Publisher
E-mail: [email protected]
In the Name of Allah
Most Gracious, Most Merciful
“Ye are the best of Peoples, evolved
for mankind. Enjoining what is right,
forbidding what is wrong, and believing in
Allah. If only the People of the Book had
faith, it were best for them. …” (3:110)

The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
(Head of Research Team) …………………………………. 9
Contributors ………………………………………………..
… 13
World Call to Do Good …………………………………..
(Mohammed Al-Bishr)
Introduction …………………………………………………….
Why are we addressing this book to the People
of the Book? ……………………………………………………
Institutions of social reform and the societal
Introduction ……………………………………………………
Calls for reform in the West ………………………………
(Mazin Motabagani)
The legislative and application aspects of the
value of the promotion of virtue and prevention of
vice … …………………………………………………………….
(Ibrahim Al-Humaidan)
Religious police: A social reform Institution in
Saudi Arabia ……………………………………………………
(Ibrahim Aljuwair)
Impact of the Promotion of Virtue and
Prevention of Vice on Saudi Society………………….
Introduction …………………………………………………….
First: The security impact ………………………………….
(Saad Al-Araify- Abdul Lateef Al-Ghamdi)
The Religious
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Saudi Arabia
Secondly: The intellectual impact ………………………
(Abdul Rahman Al-Luwaihig- Othman Alamer)
Thirdly: The social impact ………………………………..
(Noora Al-Saad- Fati’hiya Al-Guraishi)
Religious Police, Wahhabism and allegations of
fundamentalist Islam ……………………………………..
Introduction: Back to religion in the Western societies..
( Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood)
The ‘distorted’ Wahabbism in the Western sources
and its link with Religious Police in Saudi Arabia ..
( Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood)
The Situation of Christians in Saudi Arabia ……
The attitude to non-Islamic shrines in
Saudi Arabia …………………………………………………..
( Mohammed Al-Bishr)
The attitude towards non-Muslim behavior in
Saudi Arabia ……………………………………………………
(Omayma Al-Jalahema)
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Violence in the Practices of the Religious Police
as Portrayed by Western Sources ……………………
Introduction …………………………………………………..

Leniency and kindness in the behavior and
dealings of Muslims …………………………………………
( Hamad Al-Ammar)
Violence in the practices of the religious police as
portrayed by Western sources …………………………….
(Samar Fatany)
An Invitation for Seeing the Reality …………………..
(Ibrahim Al-Humaidan)
Women and the Religious Police
Introduction …………………………………………………..

The importance of the veil to the Muslim woman

( Lubna Al-Tahlawi)
Woman in Saudi Arabia ……………………………………
(Hidaya Darweesh)
Obliging non-Muslim women in Saudi Arabia to
abide by rules of modesty and decency ………………
(Mariam Al-Tamimi)
Conclusion …………………………………………………….. 144

The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Prof. Mohammed Al-Bishr
Editor and Head of the Research Team
Recent reports in the Western media and political and
humanitarian organizations can be classified into four
major categories:
1- Religious police, Wahhabism and allegations of
religious extremism.
2- The situation of Christians in Saudi Arabia and how the
religious police is dealing with them.
3- Alleged violent and cruel behavior of the religious
4- The status of Saudi women and how the religious police
deal with them.
These are the four issues often referred to by the
Western media, particularly American, the reports of the
US State Department, Human Rights Watch, the press
reports released by the United Nations and American
research institutes concerned with Middle East studies
and others.
It is not our concern in this book to dwell on everything
that has been written on the Saudi religious police or try
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Police in
Saudi Arabia
to cite, answer or refute allegations simply because of
the magnitude of the subject. What we can do, however,
is to pick out the general viewpoints and major trends
which represent the main ingredients of this mental
picture about the Saudi religious police; a picture which
has been distorted by those press releases and reports.
Before discussing these three categories, we would like to
emphasize the following points:
1- Much of what has been written about the religious
police represents only a unilateral point of view. Such
representation is often devoid of truth, either because
credible information on any reported adverse incident
is lacking or because the person reporting the incident
is ignorant of the nature of Saudi society, its values,
culture and the systems prevalent in it.
2- Some of what has been written on the religious police
concerned only individual cases in which Saudis or
non-Saudis (Muslims or non-Muslims) may have been
involved, but were made to appear representative of the
entire Saudi society. We would like to cite here those
cases in particular in which non-Muslim residents in
Saudi Arabia were involved in breaking the law and
were caught red-handed by the religious police. Those
individuals later instigated the sources mentioned
earlier to malign the religious police and, in the process,
protect their own selves.
3- We notice that when these Western sources talk about
the religious police in Saudi Arabia, they concentrate
on only one aspect of the case discussed (such as,
for example, apprehending an individual for a moral
violation). The discussion, however, fails to mention
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Police in
Saudi Arabia
the religious, cultural and legal considerations that
had led to the apprehension. Consequently, several
important aspects of the case were misconstrued and
a major party to the case – the religious police – had
been ignored.
We can therefore claim that, in such cases, these sources
are guilty of a deliberate misrepresentation of facts to
meet the malicious ends of vested interests.
4- We have not come across a single piece of news, or a
single political or humanitarian report in all the Western
sources that mentions the positive impact of the religious
police on Saudi society. This is a clear indication of the
injustice and prejudice against a religious organization
that is genuinely concerned with reform and with
preserving and safeguarding moral values in Saudi
5- What is being written on the religious police in Saudi
Arabia derives from a purely Western cultural approach
to the concept of religion, life, behavior and morals.
Such an approach, inevitably, clashes with the culture
of other societies. The political, religious and cultural
standards by which these Western sources judge the
actions of the religious police in Saudi Arabia are, thus,
wrong and unacceptable.
These five points are conclusions based on observing
and following all that has been published on the religious
police by Western sources, particularly the print media in
the United States. These conclusions are the result of an
in-depth reading of the topics discussed or the cases argued
concerning the functions and duties of the religious police
in Saudi Arabia.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Accordingly, we will discuss the four major
aforementioned categories objectively with a view to
projecting the truth to Westerners, regardless of their social
class or position. We believe that this point of view has to
be heeded to fairly so that the truth can be discerned.
This book comprises a comprehensive view of the
pivotal issues relating to the religious police in Saudi
Arabia. It has been prepared by a group of Saudi academics,
comprised of both men and women, that represents several
Saudi universities and varied geographical areas. They
all participated in giving expression to this view, each
according to his/her field of specialization and interest.
They are addressing this book to Western public opinion
and its political, intellectual, and media sources to bare the
truth, which has been lost to it because of particular political
circumstances, or because of a manifest sense of religious
superiority, or a suspicious media predilection. All these
reasons are undeniable facts that have failed to dawn on
the Western mind apparently due to the current political
situation and the drastic changes that have occurred on the
international arena following the September 11 events.
By addressing this publication to the Western mind
we aim at removing the misunderstanding, and taking an
initial step towards creating room for dialogue based on
the undeniable truth.
The Religious
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Saudi Arabia
Dr. Ibrahim bin Saleh Al-Humaidan: Faculty
member in the College of Da’awa [Call to Islam] and
Mass Communications, Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic
University. The title of his doctoral dissertation was, Style
of Debate in the Call to Islam: An Analytical Study of the
Debates That Took Place in North America During Ten Years.
Was head of The Translation and Research Center at the
Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Washington, U.S.A.
and later was Vice President of the institute. He is member
of the board of trustees of the Islamic College in Thailand
and member of the board of directors of the International
Organization for Introducing Islam. He participated in
many academic conferences in Europe and the U.S.A. His
publications include, Islamic Concepts in Cultural Dialogues;
Dialogues, Debates and Polemics in the Call to Islam.
Professor Ibrahim bin Mubarak Al-Juwair: He is a faculty
member in the College of Social Sciences, Imam Mohammed
bin Saud Islamic University, Sociology Department. He
obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Florida in the
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U.S.A. He is an active member of a number of scientific and
sociological committees and cultural and literary societies. He
is also member of the Saudi Human Rights Committee. He
has represented the Kingdom in several local and international
conferences, among which were conferences organized by the
Middle East Studies (MESA) in the U.S.A. and was a member
of the Saudi delegation charged with producing a strategic
document on the dialogue between civilizations for the United
Among his publications: Islamic Education and Its
Impact in Treating Juvenile Delinquency; Human Rights
Between Theory and Application; Globalization and the
Dialogue between Civilizations.
Dr. Omyma bint Ahmed Al-Jalahema: Assistant
professor at the College of Education, Department of Islamic
Studies, King Faisal University, Dammam branch. She holds
a Ph.D. degree in Islamic studies specializing in creed and
comparative religions. Assistant professor in the department of
Islamic Studies at the College of Arts, King Faisal University,
Dammam branch. She participated as a member in the third
Saudi National Dialogue which was held in Madinah in June

  1. She also participated in several cultural forums inside
    and outside the Kingdom.
    Professor Hamad bin Nasser Al-Ammar: Faculty
    member at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University.
    He was Dean of the College of Da’awa (Call to Islam) and
    Mass Communications, vice rector of the university for social
    services and continuing education, and chairman of the Saudi
    Society for Da’awa Studies. He supervised and refereed a
    The Religious
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    number of academic M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations and
    participated in many scientific conferences and symposia inside
    and outside the Kingdom. He has authored more than twenty
    books and research papers in the field of Islamic Da’awa.
    Major General Dr. Sa’ad bin Abdallah Al-Arifi: Exfaculty member at King Fahd Security College and is now a
    professor under contract in the Department of Islamic Culture
    at King Saud University. He has occupied a number of leading
    positions at the security sectors. Holds a Ph.D. degree from
    the Department of Da’awa and Ihtisab at Imam Mohammed
    bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh. He has participated
    in numerous conferences and international academic and
    security seminars. He has taught in several colleges and
    security institutes in Saudi Arabia and has been awarded a
    number of military medals and decorations. He has extensive
    interests in the fields of security and sociology. Among his
    publications is: Alhisba [Promotion of virtue and prevention
    of vice] and Public Prosecution: A Comparative Study.
    Samar Hussein Fatany: Chief broadcaster in the English
    section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station which is affiliated to
    the Ministry of Culture and Information. She has introduced
    many news, cultural, and religious programs. During a period
    of 28 years she has conducted several interviews with official
    delegations and prominent political personalities visiting
    the Kingdom. She has participated in the media coverage
    of many local and international conferences. She has made
    significant contributions in the fields of public relations and
    social awareness. She has also been involved in activities
    aiming at enhancing women’s role in serving society.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Muala Al-Luwaihiq: Faculty
    member in the Department of Islamic Culture, College of
    Sharia at Imam Mohammed Bin Saud Islamic University in
    Riyadh. He has participated in many social and intellectual
    activities and was interviewed by the Saudi as well as the
    Arab media. He has participated in the second and third
    sessions of the Conference on National Dialogue. His
    most important publication is: Religious Extremism in
    the Lives of Contemporary Muslims.
    Abdul Aziz bin Zaid Al-Dawood: Media man and writer.
    He writes for the radio and the press and practiced journalism
    for more than two decades. Concerned with Islamic thought
    and cultural promotion issues. Currently he is the managing
    director of Al-Haras Al-Watani (The National Guard) Arabic
    magazine. Authored three books all in Arabic language:
    Fi Al-Manhaj, a self-criticism of Islamic Awakening and
    Government, Sirat Al-Sheikh Mohammed bin Ibrahim
    Al- AlSheikh (an Autobiography) and Qanat Al-Hurra wa
    Amrakat Al-Aql Al-Arabic (Al-Hurra Channel and the
    Americanization of Arab minds).
    Dr. Abdul Lateef bin Said Al-Ghamdi: Faculty member
    and chairman of the Department of Sharia Sciences at
    King Fahd Security College in Riyadh. He obtained his
    Master’s degree in Islamic media and his Ph.D. degree in
    Islamic Sciences from Zeitoona University in Tunisia. He
    is a member of the Saudi ad hoc committee concerned with
    drawing up Islamic documents related to human rights.
    His intellectual output includes: The Particular Nature of
    the Saudi Application of the Concept of Human Rights;
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    Human International Law and Human Rights Law from
    an Islamic Perspective.
    Prof. Othman bin Saleh Abdul Mohsen Al-Amer:
    Director general of education and supervisor of Girls’
    Education in Hail region. He is former dean of Teachers’
    College in Hail and associate professor of Islamic culture
    in the same college. He is an active member of a number
    of cultural, academic, educational and social service
    societies and committees and has also participated in
    several conferences and forums inside and outside the
    Kingdom. He has authored many research papers in the
    field of Islamic culture.
    Dr. Fat’hiya bint Hussein Al-Qurashy: Assistant
    professor at the College of Arts and the Humanities,
    Sociology Department, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah.
    A supervisor of post-graduate studies for girls, she has an
    M.A. in literature and a Ph.D. in social sciences. She has
    participated in several social and cultural activities that deal
    with the position of Saudi women in light of social changes
    . She has submitted many research and work papers in her
    field of specialization.
    Lubna Wajdi Sanousy Al-Tahlawi: She works as a
    journalist for the Riyadh-based Al-Jazirah newspaper.
    She is a member of the Saudi Society for Information and
    Communication and the Saudi Journalists Association. She
    has contributed outstanding articles to a number of Saudi
    and Gulf newspapers and magazines. She has represented
    the Kingdom in several conferences, forums and symposia.
    The Religious
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    Saudi Arabia
    She has studied English and French at LEMAN College in
    Switzerland. She is now preparing for an M.A. thesis in mass
    communications. Among her published works is: Scientific
    and Practical Methods to Improve the Image of Saudi Arabia
    Dr. Mazen bin Salah Matbakani: Associate professor
    at King Saud University. He has a Ph.D. degree and has
    written his dissertation on Islamic studies by Orientalists.
    He is member of the Arab-American Association of
    Professors of Mass Communications. He has participated
    in many international conferences on the relationships
    between the East and the West. He has been frequently
    interviewed by the media. His academic output includes:
    Research on Contemporary American Orientalism; An
    Inside View of the West; The West in Its Confrontation
    with Islam.
    Prof. Mohammed Al-Bishr: Obtained his Masters and
    PhD degrees in political communication from Southern
    Illinois University at Carbondale, USA. His area of
    specialization relates to intellectual, cultural and intercivilization studies. He often appears in the Saudi and
    Arab media. His publications include: Introduction to
    Political Communication, Intercultural Communication,
    The Philosophy of Skepticism and Phenomenology in
    Human Communication.
    Dr. Mariam bint Rashid Al-Tamimi: Assistant professor
    of origins of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) at the Girls’
    College of Arts in Dammam. She actively participates
    The Religious
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    in women’s social and intellectual activities and attends
    activities related to issues pertaining to Muslim women.
    Dr. Noora bint Khalid Al-Saad: Faculty member,
    Sociology Department, College of Arts, King Abdul Aziz
    University, Jeddah. She has obtained her M.A. from the
    University of Minnesota in the U.S.A. and her Ph.D.
    in sociology from Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic
    University in Riyadh. She is chairperson and a member
    of a number of scientific committees and has participated
    in many social and women’s activities. She has taken
    part in several international conferences and intellectual
    discussions including: “Human rights between war and
    peace,” “Islam Stand on Terrorism,” and has also taken
    part in the second Conference on National Dialogue. Her
    intellectual output includes: Cultural and Social Effects of
    Globalization and The Image of the Muslim Woman in the
    Western Media.
    Hidaya bint Darweesh Salman: A Saudi writer and
    journalist. She is the chairperson and editor-in-chief of
    the first electronic newspaper for Saudi women. She has
    supervised the women’s sections of several Saudi dailies
    in Riyadh. She was the first correspondent for the Saudi
    Press Agency (SPA). She is member of the women’s
    committee of the Saudi Association for Information
    and Communication and of the advisory board of
    “Saudi Women,” a biographical dictionary. Among her
    publications: Assassination: Dialogues about Politics,
    Culture and Literature.

World Call to Do Good
(Mohammed Al-Bishr)
• Introduction
• Why are we addressing this book to the People of the Book?
The Religious
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Saudi Arabia
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) came with
the call to all people urging them to do good. This call
complemented the message that Jesus (peace be upon him)
and the other messengers before him came to convey. In
the Holy Qur’an, God described those who responded to
the call of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as
people that love all that is good because they enjoin what
is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in God.
In the Qur’an, which is the Muslims’ holy book that
was sent to guide them and all others, we find a verse
which has a sublime meaning. In this verse God almighty
says: “Ye are the best of Peoples, evolved for mankind.
Enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and
believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had
faith, it were best for them.”
This verse contains four significant meanings for the
lives of Muslims and an invitation to non-Muslims to
share in these meanings:
1- The people that love all that is good enjoin what is
right. This part of the definition of the good people has
preceded that part that says they “forbid what is wrong”,
because man has, originally, a pure, clean and sound
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innate nature and therefore needs more benevolence to
be able to do good when he is enjoined to do so.
2- To forbid what is wrong. Because no matter how good
a man is, he is not infallible and can commit errors which
are contradictory to his innate human nature and good
morals. If men were perfect they would be angels and
would not need anybody to guide them to what is right.
Therefore, if the individuals that form a particular people
undertake the duty of forbidding what is wrong, then they
must be the ones who love good.
3- Believing in God. Enjoining what is right and forbidding
what is wrong are two prerequisites for believing in God,
for God has enjoined what is right but some people have
forgotten it and need to be reminded of it and be made to
like it. He has also forbidden what is wrong, but this wrong
has surfaced in the words and behavior of individuals
and therefore they need somebody to tell them about it
and make them aware it is wrong or reprehensible and to
forbid them from doing it so that good can prevail and be
enjoyed by everybody.
4- Inviting the People of the Book ( Jews and the
Christians) to believe in God and enjoin what is right and
forbid what is wrong so that they can become part of the
people described as the People that do good mentioned
by the Holy Qu’ran. God has mentioned the Jews and
the Christians in particular in this verse because they
are the closest people to Muslims. Hence this call was
addressed to them so that they would follow this great
moral principle and believe in God, thus also becoming a
people that does good.
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Why are we addressing this book to the People
of the Book?
In this book we are dealing with an important issue
tackled by political, intellectual, and media sources in the
West. This issue concerns Muslims all the more because
it has been enjoined by their religion and they themselves
have been applying it in their behavior and conduct. This
issue is: enjoining all that is good and forbidding all that
is wrong. We consider this issue a very important one in
our lives because all good resides in it, having a bearing
on the individual, society and state levels.
Nevertheless, what a Westerner knows about this issue
is only a collection of incorrect facts, some misleading
information about its details, and a distorted picture on
how it is applied inside Saudi society in particular.
We would not be writing this publication if the
addressees were nationals of countries or peoples who are
unacquainted with religion or who do not believe in God;
for in this case they would attach no weight to religion and
would not know about the moral values of doing good and
virtue. But we are addressing it to the closest peoples to
The Religious
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Institutions of social reform and the
societal police
• Introduction
• Calls for reform in the West
• The legislative and application aspects of the value of
the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice
• Religious police – a social reform institution in Saudi
The Religious
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Moral degeneration has become prevalent in many
societies in the world and has taken many manifestations
in practices that violate the innate nature of and morals
of man. They include homosexuality, gay marriages,
and feminism which has declared war on men, religion,
history and even God describing Him as masculine!
Other degenerate practices include moral deterioration
like women refusing to raise their children because it is
an unpaid job! In reaction to such moral disintegration,
several appeals were made through various specialized
humanitarian institutions in the world. It was absolutely
necessary that society, in many countries, should support
these appeals for morality. This support led to the formation
of reformatory institutions and anti-vice squads that derive
their values from religion, morality and social customs.
These calls or institutions of civil society assumed several
names, but they all aim at ensuring decency within their
Has the “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue
and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV)” become one of the
mainstays of civil society in Saudi Arabia in view of its
role of preserving morals, this of course, not a modern
Saudi innovation, but is a principle ordained by heavenly
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laws which enjoin what God has ordered and forbid what
He has banned. These heavenly laws have spelt out all
that is to be followed and all that is to be shunned. This
principle is the basis of all the Prophets’ calls, beginning
with Adam and ending with Mohammed – the last of
God’s prophets and messengers.
The heavenly messages that preceded Islam concentrated
on only one point on which the message was based; namely,
monotheism, worshiping God only, responding to the calls
of God’s messengers, and acting in accordance with God’s
Abraham, the father of prophets (peace be upon him),
based his message on calling to do what is right (that
is, worshiping only God) and forbidding what is wrong
(such as worshiping idols, which is neither harmful nor
beneficial). In his dialogue with his people, Abraham
questioned and denounced their practice of worshiping
idols and showed them that only God had control over
everything and deserved to be worshiped. His call then
developed from mere preaching to threatening and, finally,
to smashing the idols, so that monotheism prevails and
only Allah would be worshiped.
God’s prophet, Hud (peace be upon him), based his
message to his people on enjoining what is right and
worshiping only God and forbidding the polytheism
practiced by their ancestors and showing its futility and
God’s prophet, Lut, called on his people to adhere to
uprightness with which God has endowed every human
being so that men will not satisfy their lusts on men in
preference to women. Lot denounced such vile acts in a
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questioning style that condemned and stigmatized them,
as God Almighty said: “Do ye commit lewdness such as
no people in creation (ever) committed before you?”
God’s prophet, Shu’aib (peace be upon him), called on
his people and ordered them to worship God alone. He
forbade them to do mischief on earth and asked them not to
squat on every road and hinder people from following the
path of Allah. He told them to stop enticing true believers
away from their religion which God has sent them and,
in their dealings, to refer to God’s just laws and adhere to
moral values in their conduct and behavior as prescribed
by God’s Sharia.
In the message conveyed by Prophet Mohammed (peace
be upon him) enjoining what is right and forbidding what
is wrong is the basic moral value from which all other
Islamic values derive. It is the moral value prescribed in the
Holy Qur’an, which is the constitution of Islam where God
says: “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting
to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding
what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity.” This
verse contains an explicit command from God to do what
is right and forbidding what is wrong, linking this sublime
value to a belief in God. Islamic scholars have concluded
that according to what they have learnt from the Holy
Qur’an, any nation that has abandoned this duty deserves
the same punishment which nations that came before
Islam were meted out when God’s anger and curses fell
upon them.
Muslims adopted the principle of Hisbah [Enjoining
what is good and forbidding what is evil] and continued
to apply it. Thus, they have come to know the position
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of Al-Muhtasib [one who is in charge of enjoining what
is good and forbidding what is evil] for a period of over
fourteen centuries. During the caliphate of Ali bin Abi
Talib (the fourth caliph of the Islamic nation after the
death of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him), the
title “shurtah” [police] was assigned to this religious
position in view of the fact that it was a legal position, the
responsibility for which should ultimately be assumed
by the caliph, or Muslim ruler among whose duties was
to apply the Shariah law in order to ensure safety and
The Religious
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Calls for Reform in the West
Dr. Mazin Motabagani
Arab and international media are busy reporting
that the Western world is going through a stage of acute
moral decline; that the fine moral values and ideals have
degenerated and disintegrated before a big tide of corruption.
What has encouraged such reports to continue is the spate of
movies produced in Hollywood which presents this picture
of moral decline and even backs it up by portraying acts
of corruption and immoral acts. Among the manifestations
of such moral deterioration are the spread of lewdness,
illicit sex, drugs, crimes from thefts to rapes, same-sex
relationships, as well as alcoholism and drug addiction.
Nevertheless, any researcher in Western societies will
find that not a single day passes without there being calls
for adhering to moral values and principles and fighting
vice. This is especially so when immorality reaches
alarming proportions such as the rise in acts of crime
among juvenile delinquents, the increase in the number
of rapes of minors, crimes committed by policemen, the
disruption of social ties among individuals, the growing
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pattern of selfishness, the lack of cooperative spirit and
dislike for voluntary social work.
As for the general concern about the decline in moral
values, James Baker, former US Secretary of State, once
wrote an article in which he referred to the declining
morals and values in American society. This is a clear
indication that some Western intellectuals have begun to
express open concern for such declining morals. Baker
stated that 73% of the American people feel that America
is suffering from such a moral decline and from an
increase in illegitimate sexual relationships and violence.
They also feel that the judicial and educational systems
are incapable of stopping this decline. This may be one
of the reasons that have inspired Baker into opening an
institute, which has a department dealing with research
and special studies related to religion and morals.
This department is especially interested in the problem
of drugs, how to deal with it and put an end to it. A
conference on drugs, held by Baker’s institute in 2002,
brought together academicians, healthcare experts, leaders
of the drug reform movement, representatives of drug
policy organizations, and law-enforcement and judicial
officials from the U.S. and around the world to share their
views on the drug problem.
The institute published the findings of the conference
on its website ( The conference
lamented that the “war-on-drugs” has been largely
unsuccessful. This scourge was still strong and was getting
even stronger and worse. The institute noted that it will
continue to pursue research and open debate on local and
national drug policies in the hope of developing policies
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that are “pragmatic, commonsense-based, human-rightsdriven, and focused on reducing the death, disease, crime
and suffering associated with drug use.”
At the annual meeting of the American Political
Science Association in 1995, the association’s president,
Professor Robert D. Putnam, declared that American
society suffered from a rupture in its structure and that
the Americans, especially the post-television generations,
no longer participated in social activities and were more
selfish and less willing to help others. He attributed
the development of these negative traits to television.
(Washington Post, September 3, 1995).
Baker and Putnam were followed by others such as
the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and
Community. Its chairman announced that values and
morals in American society were deteriorating. Then we
have Judith Rodin who pointed out the increase of, what
she called, “signs of uncontrollable anger” which are
displayed on television accompanied by acts of sadism and
vituperation of others. Another national committee was
set up and given the name of “National Commission on
Civic Renewal”. It was chaired by Sam Nunn, the retired
Senator. Among the functions of this commission was to
conduct research and submit its findings on the fields of
entertainment, politics, sports and the judiciary system.
In order to emphasize the importance of upholding these
moral values, many societies, associations and churches
have done outstanding work to combat moral deviation
and crime. The American National Public Radio (NPR)
announced an instance of a businessman opening a sex
store at the border between two states in order to evade the
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laws against opening such shops in both the states. But the
inhabitants of the neighboring villages got in touch with
their local authorities in order to close down the store. The
radio also said that the villages also complained to the
companies of truck drivers, who frequented the store. This
instance clearly indicates there are people in American
society, who strive to close down such stores even though
the law may permit it. It also proves that the need to adhere
to morals is only human and that man’s innate nature calls
for upholding virtue and morality.
Using women in pornographic movies and perpetuating
this immoral activity led many women in Canada to
demonstrate against the stores that marketing these video
tapes. They believed that such films degraded women and were
manifestations of the persecution from which they suffered.
The court recommended that such videos be confiscated.
As for the fight against alcohol, the weekly newspaper,
The Guardian (June 9, 1996) published a long article titled
“The Battle of the Bottle Breaks”, in which it reported the
anti-drug war. The campaign was so fierce that the alcoholproducing companies had, in spite of the huge amounts of
money spent on advertisements, reported losses. A proof
of this can be found in the declaration made by George
Hacker, head of the anti-alcohol campaign that “America
has become a dry land as 40% of the American people
have announced that they are abstaining from drinking
alcohol.” The article also cited the example of a woman,
pregnant in her ninth month, who ordered an alcoholic
drink in a restaurant in Seattle, US. But the waiter refused
to serve her the drink. The woman complained to the
owner of the restaurant who fired the waiter, but public
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opinion stood by him and he was reinstated.
If we move to the other side of the Atlantic, we find
that sex abuse of children has sparked much interest in the
European countries. A conference was held in Stockholm
on August 28, 1996, to discuss sex crimes against children
and their sexual exploitation. France was among the
European countries which declared its intention to confront
this problem. French authorities waged a large-scale war
against networks that sexually exploited children. The
French government issued strict laws to punish perpetrators
of crimes against children. Some of these perpetrators were
forced to undergo therapy for a number of years.
The Danish government has also announced a number
of measures against its citizens traveling to the countries
of south-east Asia for “sex tourism”, or what was called
by the secretary general of the Danish Children Protection
Association “the tourist rape of minors.”
As Europe has been suffering from other problems such
as “white slavery traffic”, the judiciary committee affiliated
to the Council of the European Union has promulgated a
special anti-white-slavery law following the rise in the crime
of trading in women and forcing them into prostitution.
Moreover, as the problem of rape in Britain worsened,
the London police have issued instructions to women on
how to avoid rape.
Some of these instructions were:

  1. To dress decently.
  2. To avoid sitting on the upper floor of buses if the
    vehicle is empty and to sit as close toward the driver
    as possible.
  3. To keep their hands free and not put them in their
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    pockets, so as to be be ready to defend themselves.
    In spite of these instructions, the London Times reported
    that the British police placed the blame on girls because
    they overexposed their physical attributes and thus exposed
    themselves to the danger of rape. This opinion was voiced
    by an old American woman lawyer thirty years ago, at a time
    when instances of rape multiplied in US society. She advised
    women not to go out alone, but to be always escorted by a blood
    relative – with whom she could not wed by law or religion.
    The British police has benefited from the experience
    of the Muslim community in Britain. This is what Ian
    Murray, a London Times’ editor, called the power of the
    people which succeeded in ridding society of the red-light
    zone, which is a metonymy for drugs and prostitution.
    In Birmingham, a number of Muslims met after evening
    prayer and set up a vigilance body to drive away prostitutes
    and drug pushers. They succeeded in eliminating these
    scourges within three weeks. The inhabitants of the area
    state that they could now sleep peacefully at night as they
    had got rid of the menace of motorists driving down to
    pick up prostitutes or buy drugs.
    Among the methods used for fighting moral depravity
    is the setting up of societies which call for the preservation
    of virginity. One of these was a movement called “True
    Love Can Wait.” The idea of this movement was to ask
    people to abstain from pre-marital sex and to retain
    one’s virginity till marriage. This movement has become
    stronger and has spread in Britain and America.
    In Germany, some groups were formed that called for
    a halt to violence and sex on television. These groups
    were supported by the cultural and social circles and the
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    print media in order to stunt the rapid increase in violence,
    crime and sex on German television. These circles called
    for putting a limit to the scenes of violence and sex on
    German television stations so as to protect the new
    generations. They held several symposia in Europe – in
    France in particular – in order to protect children from the
    explicit scenes shown in movies and TV programs. These
    symposia emphasized the need for more safeguards to
    prevent children from being exposed to such programs.
    The Canadian government has also set up a special
    police force and named it Anti -Drug and Vice Moral
    Squad (Toronto Star, April 7, 1990).
    In America certain parties were so concerned about and
    horrified by the growing immorality in the West in general
    and in the U.S.A. in particular, that they started to look for
    means to propagate moral values and virtue. Accordingly,
    a group of Harvard professors wrote a book titled: Is It
    Possible to Teach Morals? The book advocates the inclusion
    of morals subjects as part of university curricula.
    Another group, known as “The Angry Fathers”,
    was also formed in the US in May 1989. It comprised
    fathers who were becoming increasingly worried about
    the growing incidence of gang violence and drug-related
    cases in their society.
    In Britain, too, societies were formed to fight vice. One
    of these societies was The British National Party which
    was deeply concerned over the spread of the incidence of
    rape. to the society firmly believed in the scientific studies
    which found a link between vulgar images in the media
    and the depraved mindset of rapists. The party was also a
    strong advocate of restoring the death penalty for rapists.
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    The legislative and application aspects of
    the value of the promotion of virtue and
    prevention of vice
    Dr. Ibrahim Al-Humaidan
    The call to good and reform is a sublime human
    value and a common denominator among all religions
    and cultures. Every culture strives to achieve this noble
    intention through its religious competent authorities or
    cultural backgrounds. However, the level of appreciation
    for this value differs from one society to another and from
    one culture to another. Because they are conservative
    and because culture shapes many of the values of life
    and behavior prevalent in them, Eastern societies seem
    to surpass Western societies in assigning this priority,
    placing it always at the forefront of their concerns.
    In the Islamic world, and in Saudi Arabia in particular,
    the call to good and reform is one of the fundamental
    religious tenets without which Muslims’ lives cannot
    proceed or have any meaning. Thus, people’s safety,
    happiness, development, growth, and contribution to life,
    cannot be encompassed without realizing this principle
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    because it produces a balance between the body and the
    soul that leads to man’s happiness.
    Therefore we can see that the political system in
    Saudi Arabia has charged particular governmental
    organizations with applying this principle. This represents
    a perfect integration between the government, which was
    established according to the tenets of the Islamic religion,
    and the people who all embrace Islam as a religion.
    We do not assume that our Saudi society is a society of
    angels where no behavioral transgressions or moral violations
    occur. We are human beings and what applies to others
    also applies to us especially after the world has witnessed
    a cultural openness and information revolution that have
    impacted people’s lives and conduct. Our society harbors
    almost seven million expatriates who belong to more than 130
    nationalities. This, no doubt, leads to violations of the values
    that are prevalent in society. For all what was stated, the Saudi
    government has established the religious police whose job is
    to control social movement and interaction in such a way
    as to safeguard the values of the society and guarantees the
    balanced adoption of the means of modernization.
    We would like to affirm that the principle of enjoining
    what is right and forbidding all that is wrong is a fundamental
    Islamic principle that is found and given prominence in a
    great number of Islamic texts. Muslims, however, do not
    stop at the literal meaning of the principle itself but go
    beyond that to its true meanings and implications.
    The Islamic vision concerning the principle of enjoining
    what is right and forbidding all that is wrong does not
    constitute a complete interference in the affairs, freedoms
    and particularities of others, but only as much as is necessary
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    to preserve rights whether general or personal, just as any
    other control system in the world strives to do. The practical
    application of this is no more than preventive and reformative
    and is based on exhorting, guiding, and forbidding, and aims
    at only one thing; namely, preserving the five rights guaranteed
    by Islam. These are religion, life, honor, wealth and lineage.
    These rights are shared equally by everyone under the
    umbrella of Islamic rule. Accordingly, no one has the right to
    force anybody else to follow a particular religion, and no one
    has the right to violate the rights of others even if they were
    non-Muslims. Therefore, the positive elements of this system
    are not confined to Muslims, but apply to everybody within
    the boundaries of the Muslim state.
    Among the obvious facts known to every Muslim is
    that enjoining doing what is right and forbidding all that
    is wrong is a responsibility that has to be shouldered by
    individuals as well as social institutions. This is to be
    through restrictions and controls discussed at great length
    by specialized Islamic sources which define the limits,
    controls, and responsibilities of individuals and also those
    that are to be shouldered by social institutions.
    When the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and
    Prevention of Vice was established in Saudi Arabia, the
    responsibility for realizing that objective was entrusted
    to it. This responsibility was to become a general system
    that had its controls and that could not be subject to the
    interpretations of individuals and their different opinions and
    estimations. The responsibility, placed on the shoulders of
    this institution, was limited to one kind or a limited number
    of responsibilities that would realize this objective. Such
    responsibilities related usually to the spheres of worship
    and general morality. This restriction, however, does not
    mean that the propagation of virtue and the prevention of
    vice should be confined to these two spheres.
    Since the concept of enjoining doing what is right and
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    forbidding doing all that is wrong is a wide one within the
    framework of Islamic thought, other institutions in Saudi
    Arabia were also given different kinds of responsibilities,
    such as: General Control Department, Anti-Drugs
    Administration, Investigation and General Prosecution
    Commission, Saudi Arabian Standards Organization
    (SASO), General Food and Drug Administration and
    others. Also, more specific responsibilities were assigned
    to institutions immediately connected with them, such as
    commercial fraud, consumer protection and others.
    All these authorities cooperate with each other.
    Therefore, it should come as no surprise if we find that
    the religious police is sharing in the anti-drugs efforts to
    such an extent that it becomes the most effective authority
    cooperating with the specialized authority.
    Any fair person realizes that such concepts as are behind
    the reformative and control practices, whether found grouped
    in one body or scattered in several ones, do indeed offer a
    bright picture of how solid and reliable the Islamic system is
    in its endeavor to achieve the good of all, and this is what all
    civilized countries and nations of the world seek to realize.
    Therefore the erroneous practices no matter by whom
    they are committed, or a lack of awareness of how refined
    this concept is and how important it is to any civil society
    should not be a reason for distorting its bright image and
    its important impact in protecting society and elevating it.
    We affirm that if non-Islamic countries and nations looked
    at this issue objectively and fairly they will find something
    that can be useful to their societies which suffer from many
    types of family brake up and moral disintegration as proven
    by statistics issued in those countries. The architects of
    the American constitution and the authors of the series of
    judicial systems in the U.S.A. and modern Europe exploited
    the many benefits found in Islamic Fikh (Jurisprudence)
    and its schools and built many of their systems on this.
    The Religious
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Religious police: A social reform
Institution in Saudi Arabia
Prof. Ibrahim Al-Juwair
Saudi Arabia has it own distinct culture that makes it
different from any other country in the Islamic world. It
has a Saudi population of over 20 million, all of whom
are Muslim. Besides citizens, there are about seven million
expatriates of 135 nationalities living and working in Saudi
Arabia, enjoying complete equality in duties, rights and
jobs. The Kingdom has acquired its unique position among
Muslims all over the world by virtue of its being the cradle
of Islam and the place from where Prophet Mohammed,
peace be upon him, spread his message. Saudi Arabia is
also home to the holy city of Makkah, where the Kaaba, the
sacred house of God, is located. The Kaaba is the direction
(Kiblah) toward which Muslims everywhere in the world
face while performing their prayers five times every day.
Muslims go to Makkah to perform their Haj on a set date
every year and perform Umra throughout the year. The
Mosque of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, is
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also located in the Kingdom’s western city of Madinah.
Saudi society bases its religion, ideology and daily
practices on Islam and belief in Allah. Accordingly, all
the affairs of its life are interconnected with the rules of
Islam. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the
world that applies the Shariah [law] of Allah and whose
constitution is the Holy Qur’an.
Islamic law [Sharia] is the dominant factor in the policies
of Saudi Arabia and its political, social and intellectual
systems. The Kingdom has, since its establishment,
preserved this state of affairs. Therefore, Islam has been
the regulator and guide in all the systems associated with
growth and development of Saudi Arabia ever since its
unification till its present state of affluence and its eminent
position in the international community.
In keeping with this approach, the Kingdom has sought
since its inception to set up the system of’ “enjoining what
is right and forbidding what is wrong” as being a duty,
depending on people’s capability: if some can do it then
the others do not have to do it. In the past the reforming
scholars did their duty in the “Ihtisab” [The promotion of
virtue and prevention of vice] at the individual level. When
the Kingdom stabilized under the rule of King Abdulaziz, he
appointed some scholars to take charge of the “Hisba” and
carry out the activities required by “enjoining what is right
and forbidding what is wrong” on a larger scale throughout
the Kingdom. This reformatory religious institution then
grew and opened many branches in the big cities outside
the Saudi capital, Riyadh. During the reign of King Faisal,
the work of this institution developed qualitatively as it
came to focus on all those functions that were related to it
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historically – that is, the functions of “Ihtisab” in religious
matters particularly those connected with preserving the
purity of the Islamic creed, worshiping, dealings, behaviors
and morals.
During the reign of King Khalid, a decision was issued
establishing the General Presidency of the Committee
for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
A chairman was appointed for it for the first time and
the King granted him the rank of minister. There was a
further development during the reign of Custodian of the
Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz when the
institution became an independent organization, directly
affiliated to the prime minister – that is, the King. The
chairman was appointed by a royal decree.
In view of the great importance the state gives to
“Hisbah”, the Basic System of Government in Saudi
Arabia (which was announced by Royal decree No. 90-A
dated March 2, 1992 mentions explicitly that the state will
take over the duty of propagating virtue and preventing
vice [or “Hisbah”]. To this effect, article 23 of the System
reads: “The state protects the Islamic creed, applies Sharia,
and enjoins what is right and forbids what is wrong, and
undertakes the call to the worship of Allah.”
If the modern-day police force in every country is
charged with preserving public security, the religious police
in Saudi Arabia have become an important element in the
country. They help preserve the identity of Saudi society
and are instrumental in field application of the principles
of propagation of virtue and prevention of vice. The
functions of the CPVPV have been clearly defined. They
are to guide people and advice them on performing their
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religious duties as prescribed by Islamic law or Sharia and
ensure that they are indeed performed; to forbid all that is
reprehensible, ensure that no unlawful acts are committed
and no deviant habits or traditions are followed.
The CPVPV can achieve these functions through the
following methods:
1- Urge people to adhere to the pillars of the true religion,
which are: praying, zakat [charity], fasting, and Haj
for those who can afford it and are physically fit; to
embrace good manners as prescribed by Islam; to invite
them to do virtuous deeds enjoined by Sharia such as
truthfulness and sincerity, keeping faith, paying their
debts, obeying and doing their duties toward their
parents; keeping good terms with their blood relations,
considering their neighbors’ rights, giving charity to
the poor and the needy, helping the handicapped and
the weak.
2- Since prayer is the mainstay of the religion and one of
its major Pillars which every true Muslim must abide
by, it is imperative that the Committee makes sure that
Muslims perform their prayers in the mosques at the
times specified by Sharia and urge people to respond
quickly to the call to prayer and ascertain that stores
are closed.
3- Keep a watch on public places, like markets, roads
and parks, to prevent the unlawful acts, such as:
a- Uncontrolled social interaction between men and
women and excessive use of makeup, both of which
are forbidden by Islamic law.
b- Mimicking the opposite gender.
c- Making women targets of foul language and vulgar
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gestures by men.
d- Shouting obscene or indecent words or expressions
which hurt other people’s feelings.
e- Disturbing and distracting people praying in mosques
by, for instance, playing loud music
f- Public display by non-Muslims of their beliefs and
religious rituals, which clashes with the system that
is followed by the majority in the society; or showing
disrespect by non-Muslims for the rituals of Islam and
its rules.
g- Exhibiting or selling pictures, books, videos or audio
tapes that are inconsistent with acceptable manners or
that are incompatible with the Islamic creed.
h- Displaying lewd pictures, or symbols of non-Islamic
religions such as the cross, the star of David or pictures
of Buddha and the like in public places.
Such practices conflict with the religion of the society
and its system.
i- Manufacturing, selling, or drinking alcoholic
beverages. The duty of unearthing such illicit acts
is carried out with the cooperation of the competent
security authorities.
j- Preventing the reasons for committing sinful acts such
as adultery, sodomy and gambling or for running vice
k- Acts of magic, witchcraft and quackery to cheat
l. Tampering with weights and measures in a bid to cheat
m. Keeping a watch on display windows and ladies
tailoring shops to make sure that they abide by moral
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rules and are not immodest or violate any sanctity.
Performing the above-mentioned duties by the CPVPV
makes society secure and the people in the Kingdom safe.
This is because the religious police are vigilant and are
always alert in their efforts to ensure Islamic conduct in a
way that guarantees safety and happiness to all.
In order to ensure that the religious police in Saudi
Arabia can perform their duties in the best possible
manner, the Committee’s organizational system which was
proclaimed by the secretariat general of the Saudi Council
of Ministers (article 7) states that the chairman and the
members of this institution, as well as the inspectors,
investigators, heads of religious sections, supervisors
and assistants, should hold the appropriate academic
qualifications, enjoy a sound reputation and be of good
conduct. They should also be of proven efficiency in this
field – all this, to ensure that they mete out fair treatment
to Saudi nationals and other residents or visitors, whether
Muslim or non-Muslim.
The present chairman of the religious police, Sheikh
Ibrahim Al-Ghaith, has emphasized that only university
graduates will be employed by the committee so as to
eliminate any drawbacks or negative aspects the system
may have.
Motivated by a keen desire to constantly update the
ideas and viewpoints of its employees and the way they
deal with people of various nationalities and religions,
the CPVPV organizes short-term training courses for its
Between 80 to 90% of CPVPC employees have benefited
from these courses. Also within the framework of updating
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and modernizing its operations, a Royal Decree has been
issued ordering the setting up of a high institute to deal
with affairs pertaining to the propagation of virtue and the
prevention of vice. Affiliated to Um Al-Qura University
in holy Makkah, the institute seeks to consolidate the
efforts of the religious police by providing them with
specialized and highly qualified graduates in this field of
Islamic work to increase work efficiency.. Directives are
constantly issued to the religious police reminding them
of their mission to guide people, advise them to adhere to
the religious duties prescribed by Sharia, and ensure that
they perform these duties. These directives also remind
the religious police that they are not an authority set up to
repress people, that they are a part of society and their aim
is to reform it and ensure its rules are firmly established
based on applying the laws of Allah which enjoin doing
right and shunning wrong.
The pioneering role of Saudi Arabia vis-à-vis the
Islamic world, and its philosophy of government, which
is based on protecting Islam as a creed – a divine law,
with a collection of morals – would be reason enough
to accept the system of the religious police. The system
aims at protecting society, safeguarding it, and ensuring
that it remains pure and free of vices. Such noble aims are
sought after by all societies which strive to ensure their
safety and to spread moral values within them.
This is what makes the religious police force which
carries an important social responsibility, an important
authority. In our Saudi society, the religious police are
entrusted with this responsibility as they are part of
the official administration that performs a social role,
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complementary to the functions of other state organs.
It requires a great deal of effort and specialization to
perform the duty of preserving virtue and preventing vice.
Hence, the individual Mohtasib (the person responsible
for propagating virtue and forbidding vice) cannot cope
with the tasks alone. Therefore, many organs specializing
in different fields have been developed. The complexities
of life in the modern age have made this a necessity. Our
society was particularly careful to develop the means to
apply these divine orders, one of which was to set up the
religious police or The Committee for the Propagation of
Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV)” which is
considered a religious institution, besides being an official
administration to enforce what is right and prevent what
is wrong.
We can say that this institution is considered a means
of official social control exercised by the state in Saudi
Arabia. Among the functions of social control is to define
the scope of acceptable behavior inside society, for each
society or group has its own set standards, which the
individual has to observe as he fulfils his social role.
On the other hand, there are certain types of behavior
forbidden by society. The highest aim of social control,
which guarantees the continuation of the social order in a
stable and sound manner, is to ensure the ever-increasing
development of organizations and institutions and their
ability to meet the needs of the members of the community
and guarantee their safety.
By analyzing the official functions and tasks of
the religious police in Saudi society, we find that this
institution’s applications are modern, more vital to urban
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societies than rural, traditional ones. This is due to the fact
that in a traditional society the unofficial organs of social
control, such as the family, or the official authority, such as
the police, are adequate. In such instances the role of the
CPVPV becomes limited to preaching and guiding. But
when the CPVPV operates in big cities it has to perform a
bigger role than just preaching and guiding and acquires
the dimensions of a modern security force.

If we look at the mechanism for the allocation of
tasks in the CPVPV and the role of each of its sections
we will find that they are determined on the basis of a
scientific, volitional, organizational, and executive force
being available. Thus, with the help of the scientific force,
the CPVPV can know its way, with the volitional force,
it will follow and continue to follow its way, with the
organizational force, it can obtain the power to go on and
reach its destination, and with the executive force, it will
reap the fruits of its efforts and achieve the results aimed
at. This mechanism covers the functions, qualifications
and measures and even the administrative organization
upon which model the CPVPV should be formed so that
it can perform its functions, achieve the goals for which
it was set up and because of which it is considered one
of the institutions that exercise control over society. As
for the vices which should be prevented by this CPVPV
mechanism and its employees, they are according to the
definition of Islamic law (all that has been considered
obscene and hateful by Islam and was forbidden in both
the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah). Accordingly, the
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propagation of virtue comes to mean warning people and
guiding them to adhere to religious principles and rules.
Hence if the religious police was essential in the reign of
Omar Ibn el-Khattab, second Caliph of Islam (may God be
pleased with him), it is more essential and indispensable in
this age in which people have deviated from or abandoned
the divine laws of Sharia.
The establishment of this institution is not motivated
by a mistrust of the behavior of members of society,
but is for ensuring social security and protecting people
from those who have deviated from the beliefs and
values and standards of society regardless of the extent
of such a deviation.
In some contemporary societies, such a security
institution is often referred to as a “vice squad”, which
is an organization aimed at ensuring the safety of the
individual and is found even in non-Muslim societies.
In Japan, we even find the police in the streets in small
structures which look like kiosks or stalls. Their function is
to ensure that the common people are safe. There are also
several security cameras placed at commercial centers,
companies, banks, airports, railway stations and hospitals
to monitor the movements of anyone who comes or leaves
or wanders about. These apparatuses were distributed to
these organizations in order to control delinquent group
behavior and thereby assist in enforcing the law in these
commercial, industrial, political and social entities where
the human security apparatus may be inadequate.
The Saudi citizens, expatriate workers and visitors have
often expressed their complete satisfaction over the safety
and security they enjoy in the Kingdom, thanks to the efforts
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of the religious police who act without any discrimination
on the basis of race, color or nationality. They have also
found that the rights of the citizen and the resident were
equally guaranteed under religious texts. These religious
texts even specify the punishment to be meted out when
a particular right has been violated. This punishment is
applied according to precise legal and detailed conditions
that cover the rights of both the society and the individual.
It makes no difference whether the individual punished is
a Saudi or a non-Saudi, a Muslim or non-Muslim because
preserving man’s dignity regardless of his race, color or
religion is one of the fundamental duties of man. Man is the
noblest of creatures and his right to freedom and equality
is a fundamental, one but when a person has uncontrolled
freedom it could tempt him to do evil and to harm others.
Therefore, the religious police restrain the individual and
society and prevent them from going morally astray. The
religious police also preserve virtue by preventing lustful
attempts to degrade man’s spirit or his body in the name
of freedom.

By propagating virtue and preventing vice, the
religious police have achieved three objectives which
are of paramount importance to Saudi society and which
every advanced society would aim at achieving. They
are: continuity, stability and cohesiveness. Moreover, the
religious police work within the framework of a unique
type of authority. Its authority is derived from the common
people, thereby ensuring effective support from the people
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
for the state for social control. Hence, the attitude of
Saudis and non-Saudi residents and visitors towards this
religious institution is a positive one. This is especially so
because the public finds that the institution is concerned
with religious and social reform. As a specialized authority
it performs its duties according to Islamic and disciplinary
rules prevalent in society, which many societies often lack,
especially in the West.
The functions of the religious police go beyond
preaching and guiding to the realization of security and
stability, through religious, security and social controls.
Hence, the religious police helps ease the load placed on
the shoulders of the general police. The religious police
are an important means to restrain the negative aspects
of development and progress, which industrial and
progressive societies often have to pay. . The religious
police also help bridge the gap which can result from the
financial and moral differences in any dominant culture
and which, in turn, can lead to various problems unless
they are quickly remedied or handled.
The religious police is, thus, an institution for religious
and social reform This institution reflects a collective
awareness, on the part of the government as well as
the citizens, through which moral values in society are
Impact of the promotion of Virtue
and the prevention of vice on Saudi
• Introduction
• Firstly: The security impact
• Secondly: The intellectual impact
• Thirdly: The social impact
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies a prominent
position among Muslims all over the world. The Kingdom
is unique among all the other countries of the world in
occupying this position in view of the fact that it is the
land of the two holy mosques and the Kiblah(direction
where Muslims face during prayers). This unique position
has distinguished it throughout the history of Islam due to
many considerations including:
1- God Almighty’s responding to Abraham, the father of the
Prophets (peace be upon him), when he prayed to Allah,
“My Lord, make this a City Of Peace, and feed its people
with fruits,– such of them as believe in Allah and the
Last Day” so that its people, the pilgrims coming to it for
Haj, and those visiting it can pray in safety, security and
2- God “so fill[ed] the hearts of some among men with
love towards them,” that is, made them yearn to visit
the holy places, so that the people of Saudi Arabia
adopt a friendly and affectionate attitude towards their
visitors from among the Muslims of the world who
come to visit the Ka’bah and the mosque of Prophet
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Mohammed, peace be upon him.
3- The stable and unchanging policy followed by the
Kingdom, at home and abroad, by adopting Islam as
the constitution.
4- Making available the means to ensure safety and
security and formulate rules and regulations for
preventing and tackling crime. The Kingdom calls for
proper behavior based on the relationship between man
and God and between members of society and appeals
to the conscience and their religious sentiments. If the
Saudis live in this environment of safety and security, the
expatriates of 135 nationalities, living in the Kingdom
have also enjoyed this security. They live beside Saudis
without suffering any discrimination. In fact, everybody
who is on the Kingdom’s soil knows well that there are
those who watch over them to ensure their safety and
take care of their interests.
The duty of the religious police to promote virtue and
prevent vice is a kind of physical and moral responsibility
towards the Saudi society, benefiting Saudi nationals and
expatriates. Being an organization that controls social
behavior for the sake of security of the Kingdom, the
religious police are in no way mistrusted. On the contrary,
they are here to protect the population from those who
violate Islamic law or succumb to baser human instincts.
We cannot list all the benefits to society resulting
from the work of the religious police. We shall, therefore,
confine ourselves to only three of them. These are: the
security impact, the intellectual impact and the social
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Firstly: The security impact
Major General Dr. Saad Al-Araifi
Dr. Abdul Lateef Al-Ghamdi
If Saudi Arabia is unique in instituting such a social
force as the religious police to ensure decent behavior in
public, then surely its stereotype image painted by the
West cannot be true. The common picture of the Kingdom
drawn in the West is that of a country of cruelty and
violence. This is surely a distorted image of Saudi Arabia
and is in sharp contrast to the nature of the duties of this
social institution.
The work ethics of the religious police in Saudi Arabia
does not believe in reprimanding and detaining innocents as
is rumored or alleged by hostile propaganda. On the contrary,
its work ethics are based on three stages of operation:
The first stage: It consists of protective measures
to prevent crime and moral deviation and dissolution
through several programs and activities, such as lectures
and symposia and preaching and providing guidance
through the various information media and organizations
and urging people to embrace good manners and virtue.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Virtue should be promoted and made attractive while evil
should be condemned and depicted as ugly and repulsive.
People should be warned against vice because it shows
disobedience to Allah and causes hatred among people.
The second stage: It consists of taking measures
against crime and moral perversion by obstructing deviant
behavior which leads to crime. These measures include
keeping a watch on places where people gather such as
markets, stores and streets and public places to make sure
that no acts that violate Sharia or the moral values and
standards of society are being committed.
The third stage: It consists of following all
procedures and measures taken to put down crime and
moral deviation by arresting transgressors, counseling
them, or sentencing him after consulting with the relevant
authorities and according to the measures adopted by the
religious police.
What many people in Saudi Arabia itself do not realize,
whether they be citizens or expatriates, is that more
than 95% of the cases handled by the religious police
are solved by counseling and subsequent release of the
detainee after taking a written declaration from him or her
that he would not commit the offence again. This means
that the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the
Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) is not just a rigid and arbitrary
organization of detection on the prowl for violators in
order to charge and punish them. This Committee operates
according to the basic reason for its existence. Its main job
is to make sure that people do not fall into crime. This is
done by blocking the way to corruption and propagating
moral values in the Saudi street based on the principles
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
of promoting what is good and preventing what is wrong.
The religious police exerts strong efforts and carries out
many activities in order to constantly promote awareness
through many channels like public newspapers, participating
in exhibitions throughout the Kingdom, setting up guidance
centers whose programs include legal, educational and
medical lectures, arranging evenings devoted to poetry,
holding cultural contests and recreational programs,
encouraging visits by responsible officials of the CPVPV
to guide the citizens, and printing and distributing books
and theses that call for doing what is right and shunning
wrong. Hence, the importance of the religious police lies
in the fact that it is a force derived from the public itself,
entrusted with the task of protecting society by promoting
what is good and preventing wrongdoing.
This will lead to a normal vice-free life and the
predominance of moral values in society. Indeed, the
religious police have therefore gained a palpable presence
in the Saudi street as a controller who prevents incidence
violations of the law or the lowering of moral values.
Nevertheless, in spite of the efforts exerted by the
religious police to guide the population, some religious and
social violations that posed a threat to society have occurred
and the religious police played a remarkable part in detecting
and dealing with them. 384,344 violations throughout the
Kingdom were detected in 2004 through the efforts of the
CPVPV) and were handled in the following manner:

  • 345,675 violations (which represent 90% of the total
    number of violations caught) were settled inside the
    premises of the CPVPV by offering advice to their
    perpetrators or asking them to sign a written statement
    The Religious
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    promising not to commit similar violations in the future.
  • 38,669 cases (which represent 10% of the total number
    of violations committed) and the individuals involved
    were referred to the competent government authorities
    to take official and judicial action.
    The violations mentioned above varied from violations
    relating to worship itself, when an individual fails to go
    to prayers and is found lingering in the street or standing
    idle before mosques; or when a storeowner is late in
    closing his store after the call to prayers and does not stop
    selling during prayers; or when an individual eats, drinks
    or smokes in public during the month of Ramadan. In the
    latter case the Ministry of the Interior issues statements
    before the advent of the holy month of Ramadan urging
    non Muslims to respect the feelings of Muslims. Violators
    are warned of severe deterrent measures that may include
    termination of contract and deportation. This is also
    in keeping with the work contracts that stipulate that
    expatriates have to abide by the systems and regulations
    in force in the Kingdom. Likewise, any Saudi committing
    the same type of violation and showing openly he is
    not fasting during the daytime in Ramadan will also be
    subjected to punitive measures.
    There are other types of violations that relate to morals
    and which are more harmful either to the individual
    or to society. Such violations include prostitution,
    homosexuality, attempts to rape children, adultery,
    harassment of women, and stalking women in other cars.
    These types of violations also include violations related
    to public manners, commercial stores, gambling, loitering
    suspiciously, cases connected with alcoholic beverages
    The Religious
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    (their manufacture, possession, sale and use), displaying
    or selling pornographic pictures, or committing blasphemy
    and making derogatory references to His Prophet (peace
    be upon him) or religion and its symbols.
    Social studies conducted in the Kingdom have proved
    that 70% of moral violations were apprehended by the
    religious police and not by the regular state police. This
    shows the importance of this type of societal police for
    enforcing social control to protect society, especially in
    a vast country like Saudi Arabia where expatriates from
    more than 135 nationalities work. These expatriates have
    their own customs, mores, traditions, values, and beliefs
    which should not overstep the general moral fabric that
    preserves Muslim Saudi society.
    The application of the principle of hisbah [the
    propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice] in Saudi
    Arabia aims primarily at protecting human beings and
    exalting their human status regardless of their color,
    nationality or race; it also aims at forming a society that is
    safe and which can enjoy safety and security by enforcing
    legal restraints and achieving absolute justice by giving
    equal treatment to everybody in the Kingdom.. Therefore,
    we Saudis, find the fruits of this application clearly in the
  • A durable security and the prevalence of peace and
    tranquility all over the Kingdom, which is a blessing
    felt and cherished by Saudis.
  • Stability of society so that its members can devote
    themselves to work and be more productive undistracted
    by other issues. So hisbah in Saudi Arabia is applied
    equally on Muslims and non- Muslims.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    Secondly: The intellectual impact
    Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Luwaihiq
    Prof. Othman Al-Amer
    People, by nature, may commit sins. Hence, they have
    to co-operate with each other to realize what is beneficial
    and keep away from what is harmful. This can be achieved
    through a system that protects the interests of the nation
    from whatever threatens to corrupt it or disrupt its stability.
    This system is the Islamic principle of promoting what is
    right and preventing what is wrong.
    This principle has expanded its fields of application in
    Islam so as to become all-inclusive. Chief among these
    fields is the issue of the nation’s sovereignty and its main
    interests: religion, life, the mind, wealth and honor. These
    are fundamentals that they be protected and preserved
    under divine laws. . Although religions and laws are
    agreed on this, they also clearly agree to give priority to
    religion since the safety of its religious and intellectual
    practices are pivotal for achieving the general safety of a
    nation. There is no nation that does not seek to confront
    The Religious
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    any aggression against its identity and its supreme values
    because identity is the link that connects the individuals in
    a nation to each other and determines their behavior and
    relations with others. The world is teeming with religions,
    religious doctrines and conflicting ideas which, if left to
    themselves, could become the standard for determining
    what is right and wrong. They themselves could spur
    deviations due to rivalry in religious thought.
    The Islamic nation, which believes that its religion is
    the truth and that it is the last of all religions, is the nation
    most deserving the right to safeguard religion against any
    vicissitudes that may threaten its course and existence.
    Such a perfect religion has protected the morals, properties
    and honor of nations.
    The danger of straying from religion and belief has existed
    since a very long time and the factors that can corrupt belief
    are still strong in the life of mankind. Whoever follows the
    history of God’s messengers, peace be upon them, will find
    that they were accused of being liars in many ways and were
    harmed and ill-treated. This is still noticeable nowadays.
    Accordingly, enjoining what is right protects the truth
    by drawing people towards all aspects of the true religion
    and forbidding what is wrong. This protects the truth by
    removing whatever is evil and corrupt. This protection
    involves many factors:
    1- Aggression against the truth is a crime in itself. To make
    mocking remarks about God, the Almighty, or to slander
    or impugn the prophets, peace be upon them, are acts of
    aggression against what mankind has unanimously agreed
    to revere and safeguard. Attacking religious values and
    rites by deriding them is also a crime against
    The Religious
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    2- Aggression against the truth is aggression against the
    entire nation which abides by religion because this
    religion is its identity and is a unifying factor. It is even
    an aggression against humanity because it alienates it
    from the truth and an aggression against and oppression
    of the soul of the aggressor himself. Islam, therefore,
    looks at intellectual and religious deviations as the cause
    of comprehensive harm. This is because the harm done
    is not confined to those who have committed the acts
    of deviations and therefore remedying these deviations
    will benefit not only them but the entire nation.
    3- Aggression against the truth will lead to discord as acts
    of hostility towards religion, cause unrest and local
    conflict. If derogatory remarks about God or slandering
    His prophets cause unrest and if the state does not take
    action to prevent it, individuals may take matters into
    their own hands in order to protect their religion. This
    could even cause civil disturbances.
    4- The unjust accusations addressed against the political
    system and the government are due to the following
    reasons: No ihtisab [Propagation of virtue and
    prevention of vice] of those who made slandering
    or derogatory remarks about religion has been made
    with the result that some people emerge who want to
    punish the violators directly without recourse to legal
    or judicial rules. This gives rise to expressions of
    grievance inside the society.
    Despite the appeals for intellectual dialogue, cultural
    integrity, peaceful co-existence and interaction between
    nations and peoples, the success of peoples and countries
    The Religious
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    in realizing these targets depends, to a great extent, on the
    ability of society to boost its intellectual achievements,
    its heritage of beliefs, its social form and its careful
    interpretations of the important aspects of history. Ignoring
    these basic conditions and necessary premises separates
    us from the force of their impact which reconciles ideas,
    joins hearts, purifies souls, removes hatred and grudge
    among individuals and peoples, subdues the demon of
    revenge, vindicates the spirit of objective and scientific
    criticism, and puts down the eruption of ignorance and
    corruption. These may be the most important reasons and
    motives that have justified the right of every nation to
    select and enshrine the particular intellectual viewpoint
    that expresses it and does it justice and to adopt the
    measures and machinery that ensure the applications of
    and the adoption of texts deriving from such a viewpoint:
    “…Say, ‘Bring forth your argument, if ye are telling the
    truth’”; “If one among the Pagans asks thee for asylum,
    grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and
    then escort him to where he can be secure, that is because
    they are men without knowledge”; “Say: ‘Who gives you
    sustenance, from the heavens and the earth?’ Say: ‘It is
    Allah; and certain it is that either we or ye are on right
    guidance or in manifest error!’”; “Yet there is among men
    such a one as disputes about Allah, without knowledge,
    without guidance, and without a Book of Enlightenment.”
    Although this intellectual right has been recognized
    and no nation has been denied the right to exercise it, it
    has, nevertheless, sparked conflicts that have sometimes
    brought civilization to the very door of madness. As a
    result, entire pages of history were written with blood and
    The Religious
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    etched with the sword and lined with the bodies of victims
    both in the past and the present.
    After technology has bridged distances, resulting in a
    rapid increase in the exchange of cultures, the intellectual
    mission of nations has become more difficult. It has
    become a challenge to strike a balance between their
    intellectual and cultural individualities, stemming from
    their deep-rooted religious beliefs on one side, and
    from intermingling, peaceful co-existence, dialogue and
    interaction with other cultures, on the other.
    All nations have developed ways to maintain this
    balance in line with the requirements of their respective
    societies. These methods, though may go under different
    names, strive to build the intellectual capabilities of
    individuals. This, in turn, results in a positive effect on their
    spiritual and cultural make-up. One of the most prominent
    factors and effective indicators that Islam has established
    in order to promote the level of social adjustment is the
    principle of promoting what is right and preventing what
    is wrong with its all-embracing connotations. It is within
    this context and through this approach that this important
    principle in Saudi Arabia has received special attention,
    politically, socially and culturally, through three different
    kinds of control:

First: A moral control that appeals to the inner
conscience and directs the individual through
various situations he might encounter. This helps
him achieve personal contentment.
Second: A social control that protects rights and
safeguards the sacred places and rites through an
The Religious
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institutionalized system that aims at promoting
what is right, mainly by counseling, and guiding
people towards social and Islamic principles.
This control is undertaken by the Committees for
the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,
represented by the religious police.
Third: This is a political control and is exercised when
politicians adopt Islamic law when introducing
religious teachings, drawing up new systems or
applying the principles of reward and punishment.
This type of control is handled by the legislative
and judicial authority. Applying the principle of
hisbah [enjoining what is right and forbidding
what is wrong] through these three types of control
especially the second one mentioned earlier that is
represented by the religious police has produced
many positive results in Saudi society.
Among the most significant positive results is the
achievement of intellectual security whose dimensions
and results are embodied in the following:
1- In contrast to the erroneous concept of the societal
security apparatus being a self-centered, closed-door
body, that obstructs latest cultural developments, it
is actually one that enables people to lead fulfilling
modern lives. To enable this, it has relied on two main
a- Taking pride in one’s own cultural civilization that
assimilates world cultures in a broad sense.
b- Opening the door to dialogue with contemporary
cultures on a ground that accommodates cultural self
respect and rests on a cultural heritage that is based on
The Religious
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a sound doctrinal viewpoint.
With this enlightened approach Saudi society has
merited the right to preserve its cultural individuality, and
has, at the same time, performed, by opening its doors to
the “other,” the historical and civilizational role entrusted
to it.
2-The thought emanating from the Islamic creed is not
improvised or borrowed and its application to life
does not originate from nothing. It is connected to a
nation that has a history and has the means to live
on. This particular thought, moreover, expresses a
nation’s attainments and feelings and represents a final
stage in its social interaction. Therefore, directing and
developing man’s awareness of his special or exclusive
position in human existence – which represents one
of the objectives of Sharia – builds up a condition and
a feeling of security. This enriches man’s life in his
relationship with God and his dealings with himself
and other human beings and even with living creatures
and with other elements of nature around him. This
feeling of personal security and God-inspired dignity
leads to a civilized development in the behavior of the
Saudi individual which comes to represent a general
characteristic that condemns and rejects deviant,
extremist behavior. It is possible that the security and
safety that is enjoyed and is still being enjoyed by Saudi
Arabia was, thanks to God’s grace, one of the results of
applying the principle of enjoining doing what is good
and forbidding doing what is wrong: “They are those
who, if We establish them in the land, establish regular
prayer and give Zakat, enjoin the right and forbid
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wrong.” Security is one of the pillars and features of
establishment in the land.
3- Taking part in providing social framing to Islamic
thought and culture and establishing the theoretical
origins of the concepts related to the protection of the
family and young people, preserving Islamic values
and making sure they are being observed.
4- Participating in fighting extremist, dissolute or
suspicious ideas and deviant culture.
5- Participating in raising the level of cultural awareness
and making serious efforts to preserve a clear Islamic
identity especially as manifested in prayer, wearing the
veil, and the general character of the Muslim souk.
6- Sharing in supervising intellectual and cultural lectures
and symposia that eventually contribute to the
intellectual life of society and its safeguard against
extremism that may lead to terrorism and violence.
7- Promoting the awareness of foreign communities
working in the Kingdom.
8- Solving intellectual problems of a dubious nature
that fool some people and treating some individual
intellectual deviations.
9- Freeing certain concepts from wrong interpretations
that limit women’s activities and their participation in
everyday life.
10- Contributing to and participating in ameliorating and
developing the methods of cultural and intellectual
behavior in the Saudi society.
Preserving the thought of a nation and protecting its
intellectual identity is essential to ensure the sovereignty
of countries and societies. In this age which has witnessed
The Religious
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a proliferation of information and a tremendous advance
in technology which has influenced thoughts and cultures,
such a preservation of thought is a requirement of crucial
importance for countries wishing to maintain their
identity and cultural entity. Hence we find countries that
have ancient cultures such as France, Germany, Japan
and China, among others, imposing social restrictions on
foreign cultural influences and striving to preserve their
own cultures. On the other hand, we find the United States,
for example, trying to impose its cultural identity on the
rest of the world. For instance, it is propagating, what is
referred to as, globalization by means of the American
media or initiating political theories that seek to dissolve
the various cultures of the world into the melting pot of
American culture.
Saudi Arabia is not different from these countries
which have ancient cultures. It also strives to protect its
thought and culture through its various social institutions.
The religious police force is one such institution of civil
society whose function is to protect the thought of the
Saudi nation from alien ideas. Saudis do not look on this
function as a mere requirement of modern civilization and
development but as a religious necessity which they have
no choice but to try fulfilling.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Thirdly: The social impact
Dr. Noura Al-Saad
Dr. Fat’hiya Al –Qurashi
Saudi Arabia is a country that geographically stretches
over a large area of continental size. It occupies about
80% of the Arabian Peninsula and comprises all the
geographical features from arid deserts, tall mountains,
and deep valleys to agricultural areas and fertile plains.
Nevertheless, it enjoys social security and stability noticed
by both residents and visitors.
This distinctiveness proves that unifying this country
was not only a result of military action, but was a social
achievement which showed that the Saudis have high
personal efficiency. One of the most important factors
that contributed to the social unity of the country was the
application of Islamic Sharia to all aspects of Saudi life.
Although the Saudi state is committed to ensuring
security for all its citizens and resident expatriates as
stated in its political system, the participation of society
itself in realizing social safety and security through its
civil institutions like the religious police have resulted in
The Religious
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the society watching itself through its standards and social
values based on Islam. Such values are widely accepted
because they realize the good of the nation.
The assumption by Saudi society through its competent
institutions, such as the religious police, of the task of
enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong is
a unique feature exclusive to this society. It preserves
its identity, protects its social fabric and strengthens its
immunity against behavioral deviations which mainly
result from opening up to alien cultures. In order to realize
this noble purpose, the religious police in Saudi Arabia
carry out its social function – as stated before – over three
stages which are:
First Stage: This consists of preventive measures
against crime and moral deviation. Such
measures take the form of lectures,
symposia and the use the different media
organs for preaching, guiding and urging
the public to abide by good manners.
Second Stage: This includes measures for fighting crime
and moral deviation by placing obstacles
before the emergence of such types of stray
behavior. Such measures include keeping
a watch on the public markets and stores
to make sure that no violation of Sharia or
social standards occurs in them.
Third Stage: This stage includes measures to suppress
crime and deviation by apprehending every
perpetrator and counseling him or meting
out punishment, depending on the mode of
action prescribed in the CPVPV’s statute.

The Religious
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What proves that the religious police is considered one
of the strongest means of social control in Saudi society
is that, in as far as the first stage is concerned, they have,
according to an annual report about their activities in
2004, achieved the following:

  • Increased by 9 % the number of lectures and symposia it
    has organized compared to the previous year.
  • There was an increase of 100% in the number of
    books and pamphlets it has printed. The audio tapes
    it produced also showed an increase of 163% over the
    previous years.
  • In keeping with their role of enlightening the people,
    they set up 55 guidance centers in various parts of the
    As for the accomplishments of the second stage, they
    will become clear by reviewing the following figures:
    1- The number of incidents and violations caught by the
    religious police in Saudi society depends on a number
    of social and economic variables, such as the size of
    the population, number of expatriates arriving in the
    Kingdom, various nationalities of the expatriates, the
    number of souks, parks and educational organizations.
    Therefore, CPVPV Riyadh branch is considered to
    have reported the greatest number of incidents for
    it represents 38% of the total number of violations
    reported by all the other branches of the religious
    2- The more the society becomes open to other cultures
    the more is the need for the activities of the religious
    police. Thus, for example, the number of violations in
    the Riyadh region in 1991 was 29,094; whereas in 2004
    The Religious
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    it reached 146,627. In Makkah region, the number of
    incidents in 1999 was 13,745, whereas in 2004 it went
    up to 103,125. And in the Eastern Province the number
    of violations in 1991 was 2,610, whereas in 2004 it
    increased to 29,497 violations.
    3- Seventy seven percent of the incidents caught by the
    religious police in Saudi Arabia during the 13 years
    was related to worship violations such as abandoning
    or neglecting prayer.
    4- Many of the violations caught by the religious police are
    settled in their offices through counseling, exhorting,
    or providing the violator with moral guidance; and
    by taking an acknowledgment from him that he will
    not commit such a violation again. Only few of these
    violations are referred to other governmental authorities.
    Thus, in the Riyadh area, for example, the number of
    incidents during 2004 reached 146,627, only 25,743
    of which (or 17.5%) were referred to the competent
    authority whereas 120,884 (or 82.5%) cases were
    settled inside the offices of the religious police. Another
    example is from the Eastern Province. The number of
    incidents in 2004 was almost 29,497 violations, of
    which only 1,276 incidents (or 4.3%) were referred
    to the competent authorities. As for the violations that
    were settled at the religious police stations, they reached
    28,221, which represented 95.7% of the total number
    of violations that took place in the Eastern Province.
    Through a critical look at these figures it appears that
    this result applies to various regions in Saudi Arabia,
    especially the areas of Madinah, Qassim, the Eastern
    Province, Asir, Tabuk and Hail. These regions are the
    The Religious
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    most populated in Saudi Arabia.
    5- Such offenses committed by Saudis and non-Saudis,
    would have been more if the religious police in Saudi
    Arabia had a sufficient number of field employees
    proportionate to the size of the geographical area of the
    Kingdom and the density of its population (25 million
    Saudis and non-Saudis). The CPVPV suffers from a
    shortage of field staff. In 2003, for example, it had only
    3,43l field employees. This number is inadequate to
    meet the needs of the religious police and its numerous
    centers in the Kingdom which amount to 461. This
    shortage will be found especially acute if we realize
    that field work continues for the whole day, that is, it
    goes on for 24 hours. Consequently, with the expansion
    of cities and the rapid proliferation of markets, parks
    and public places where people gather, the religious
    police received complaints from Saudis and non-Saudis
    because of its perceived failure to perform the duties,
    the limited number of its employees and its inability to
    adequately cover all the areas of its activities.
    These are statistics which have been officially published
    and distributed among some governmental authorities.
    But what has not been published or stated in the annual
    reports issued by the religious police is much more. As
    for the details of these figures and the scenario of social
    violations detected by the religious police, they may
    contain such oddities that render its presence in the society
    indispensable to control social interactions and stamp out
    aberrant behavior. If governments strive to curb aberrant
    behavior, as it constitutes a threat to the individual, the
    community and society, then the Saudi government
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    should also have its own approach to control this kind of
    behavior, an approach which is derived from Islam which
    is the religion of the country and the creed of its society.
    In Islam, a particular behavior is considered aberrant
    if it transgresses against what is permitted by religion
    and customs and falls under the types of behavior that are
    considered reprehensible and therefore forbidden.
    Following this concept and its religious essence, the
    religious police institution was set up to be one of the
    means of social control. Accordingly, among the functions
    of this organization is to contribute towards preventing
    the aberrant or liberated personality through religious
    education, guiding the individual to acquire commendable
    qualities and manners, and placing obstacles that will hinder
    criminal tendencies which are manifested in the behavior
    of some members of the society or some expatriates.

Religious Police, Wahhabism and
Allegations of Fundamentalist Islam
• Introduction: Back to religion in Western societies
• The ‘distorted’ Wahhabbism in the West and its links to
the religious police in Saudi Arabia
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Introduction: Back to religion in Western
Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood
First of all, we have to recognize that Western societies,
particularly the American, had witnessed during the
second half of the twentieth century, a religious revival or
awakening. This phenomenon, which passed a series of
developments, reached its peak in the new millennium.
The reason for this religious awakening is the major
technological boom in the West. This has left many
individuals resorting to the materialistic side of life and their
view of the globe around them. This, in turn, has produced
a spiritual vacuum and chaos in values. The materialistic
inclination has caused a kind of disturbance to human
instinct. This instinct often searches for an answer to the
reason for its existence and turns to religion as a prime
cause for rescue of psychological anxiety and instinct
disturbance. Because of all this, religious groups emerged
and organizations that call for going back to the values of
Christianity prevailed in American society during the first
half of the twentieth century, started to work hard.
The Religious
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A political cause enhanced this spiritual one. It was during
the Cold War, when American politicians raised the slogan:
“God fights the Satan.” This slogan means that the Cold War
is a Christian war represented by the West against infidelity
represented by the Communist camp.Former US President
Ronald Reagan was one of the heroes of this religious
battle, which enhanced the emergence of the fundamentalist
Christian group, Born-again Christians. This group has
infiltrated in the Republican Party and affected its outlook
and dealings with the US domestic and foreign policies.
Whoever reads about the development of the religious
awakening in the American society and examines the
influential personalities behind this awakening, will realize
that the angelical fundamentalist current is working hard
to have the American society adhere to the philosophy
of this group on the one hand and fight other religions
opposing this philosophy on the other hand. Whoever
examines the activities of, for example, Jerry Falwell, Pat
Robertson, Franklin Graham and Jerry Vines, who are
Anglican Baptists and see their relation with the White
House and their influence on the US domestic and foreign
policy, will realize the tremendous influence of this group
in American society. This influence can be clearly seen in
the return of this society to Anglican fundamentalism and
in many cases the alliance with Zionism and in fueling
enmity of Western organizations and public opinion
against other religions particularly Islam.
We are not concerned in this discourse to highlight all
the influential forces in American society who were born out
of a religious awakening that cannot be ignored. We are not
concerned either to name the religious media force supported
by the church and people’s donations and the large number of
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
religious institutes and universities in the US. We are not in a
position also to highlight the Zionist influence on the American
media and the religious dimension in its discourse particularly in
the aftermath of 911/ or go through the efforts of the US presidents
who supported the far right wing, particularly the Republican
Party presidents like the incumbent George W. Bush.
We are not concerned of all what we have mentioned as
the Americans know of this more than we do.
What we would like to state here is that religion has become,
in the life of the Americans, an important factor that cannot
be ignored. If the American people, politicians, scholars and
media men see that going back to religion is one of their rights,
what is not their right, for sure, is the attempt to export this
“awakening” to other societies. What is not their right too is
to fight other religions, impose their religious vision on other
people of the world and have the American fundamentalist
Anglican fuel the enmity of the Western governments and
public opinion against countries opposing this vision.
This movement has portrayed Islam as akin to Communism
and exploits the attack of September 11 and the “war on
terror” to slander the image of Islam and Muslims with a
religious motivation that is not unknown to many in the West
itself. Islam and Saudi Arabia have been at the center of this
suspicious religious onslaught. The speeches of priests and
politicians and media reports have shown clear signs of
hostilities where what they call Wahhabism was described
as a fundamentalist version of Islam in Saudi Arabia.
This “Wahhabism” has shared the biggest part of false
information about the reality of Islam and its application in
Saudi Arabia. It is this information that we would like to
clarify in this discourse and explain its link with the work of
the religious police.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
The ‘distorted’ Wahabbism in the West
and its links to religious police in Saudi
Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood
It is worse to describe something in opposite to its nature
and evaluate it in a way contradicting its reality. This is
what has been the case for the reformatory call of Sheikh
Mohammed bin Abdul Wahab. This call has spread in the
Arabian Peninsula, benefited the Muslim world and has
had positive impacts on peace and security in the region
and other places.
Wahhabism was established on the principles of
religious and moral reform. The fruit of this was that,
with the support of the Saudi political authority, peace
was established in the Arabian Peninsula where fighting
was otherwise common. The Wahhabi call has been a
major development in Saudi Arabia as it has succeeded
in bringing together warring tribes to form a civilized
community abiding by the rule of law.
But it seems that the Western cultural heritage and media
are not reflecting the reality of this reform mission. To the
The Religious
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Saudi Arabia
contrary it is one of the issues that have been defamed on
the basis of wrong information about the reality of this call.
The information is derived from the orientalists’ defamed
legacy of Islam’s modern history in the Arabian Peninsula
or from the media that exerts no effort in searching the truth.
Today, Wahabbism, in the view of the West, particularly
the US, is unfairly linked to extremism.
This can be seen clearly in the media campaign
launched by the political and media establishments in the
aftermath of 911/. This campaign has been trying to link
the teachings of Wahhabism with terrorism. Wahhabism
is one of the issues that have recently received increased
attention and become associated with terrorism. It is
also an issue about which there have been contradictory
visions and positions. As Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Zuniadi
states in Saudis and Terror: Cross-Cultural Views, interest
in Wahhabism did not start with the September 11 events
and its repercussions. Wahhabism has been the center of
interest to the entire world since its rise in the eighteenth
century. People, whether Muslims or Orientalists, were
divided over Wahhabism, and each group had its own
particular attitude towards it. The problem does not lie in
such a divergence of opinions and attitudes; for such a
divergence is a universal practice of human life vis-à-vis
all kinds of human phenomena. The problem, however,
lies in the basis on which attitudes are built. A defect in
the approach may result in inaccurate judgment and may
affect the attitude towards it.
It is strange that Wahhabism is subjected to contradicting
attributes, including its connections to violence and
terrorism. In the past decades, during the revolutionary
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
expansion of communism, Wahhabism was discredited
as an ideology which prescribed submission on the part
of the people to their rulers; and surrender on the part of
the rulers to imperialistic forces. This situation was taken
primarily from the extremist ancestors. It represents an
anti-revolutionary situation and calls for tolerance of
oppression and injustice.
Then the case changed completely to the opposite.
Presently, Wahhabism has become synonymous with
terrorism. Its religious teachings are alleged to be inciting
severance of relations with others. The implementation
of this ideology requires that its adherents should seek
to translate it into reality. The dream of a Wahhabi state
moves forward, as “Daniel Pipes” says, “to replace our
constitution with the Quran.” To change America into a
Muslim country by force!
Where is the truth? Is Wahhabism inalienably
characterized by terrorism to the extent that “to be a
Wahhabi means you are automatically a terrorist?” Or
have some developments that occurred during the past
few years, during which terrorist violence has shifted
from the exhausted radical communism to Wahhabism?
Or, is there some confusion resulting from the situation
Wahhabism found itself in after September 11. A group
accused of hijacking US airplanes are said to be Wahhabis.
Also Al-Qa’eda is being linked to Wahhabism. As a
result, Wahhabism has been accused of terrorism. Such
an accusation has offered a favorable opportunity to those
who benefit from destroying Wahhabism, and who lost no
time in hurling accusations against it.
Some agitating writings about Wahhabism are mere
The Religious
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Saudi Arabia
judgments that are not based on any logical or documented
materials. They are mere slogans, like:
“Wahhabi Islam was the major pillar for waves of
armed extremism resulting in brutal acts in the Middle
East.” – Dor Gold.
“Wahhabis continue to encourage institutionalized
oppression of women and to reject modernity, secularism
and democracy as antithetical to Islam.” – John Kyle.
“Wahhabism is responsible for the emergence of bin
Laden and Al-Qaeda.” – Arnaud de Borchgrave.
Some people while trying to label Wahhabism and link
it to terrorism, cite some activities to say that Wahhabism
is supporting terrorism. Of these activities they mention
the printing of Islamic books, hiring Islamic propagators in
the West, building mosques and Islamic schools, printing
and distributing copies of the Qur’an, launching Islamic
internet sites, establishing chairs in some U.S. and Western
universities with Saudi support and establishing Islamic
charity organizations and societies. Examples from inside
Saudi Arabia are stated to indicate the “extremism and
terrorism” practiced by Wahhabism. Of these examples
are prohibiting women from driving; stipulating separate
family sections in restaurants placing a ban on travel for
woman unless accompanied by a lawful escort; banning
the mention of Israel in school textbooks and forcing
people to pray five times a day. Last, but not the least,
Al-Qa’eda – Osama bin Laden and the Saudis accused of
hijacking US airplanes, and bombers in Saudi Arabia, all
belong to Wahhabism.
No doubt describing such activities as terrorism is
surprising. The Wahhabi activities mentioned above as
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
indications of terrorism make us pose a question about
terrorism itself, the comprehensive definition of terrorism;
many forces that benefit from keeping its definition fluid,
avoid defining terrorism.. Rather, the query involves the
concept of terrorism that is condemned by the world today.
What perhaps gives those images a unified meaning, as
asserted by Dr. Al-Zunaidi, is that terrorism is a “nonrightful assault against people and property through
terrorizing, murdering or destruction.” Is there any kind
of terrorism in such activities? If the obvious answer is
‘no’, does the problem lie in those who view religion
only as a motive for hatred, bloody conflicts and disputes
with others and attribute their vision to Islam? Though
Westerners have changed their dark vision towards religion
and the printing and distribution of the Bible are no longer
considered acts of terrorism, the printing and distribution
of the Qura’n is still considered a terrorist activity.
Or, is there a wider objective underpinned by a deeprooted conviction that the Wahhabi activities for the sake
of spreading Islam are a source of threat to the interests of
certain groups or forces who managed to exaggerate the
activities of Wahhabism?
If we move to the literature that links Wahhabism with
the religious police in Saudi Arabia, we will notice that
these writings are biased. We are not going to analyze the
contents of the Western sources in this respect. What we
would like to confirm is that the role of Wahhabism as a
social institution is to have Muslims return back to the
pure teachings of Islam, that is the holy Quran and the
Sunnah (sayings and deeds) of Prophet Mohammed and
have Muslims apply true Islam in their faith, moral, values
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
and dealings with others.
From the instructions of this call emanate the tasks of the
religious police in Saudi Arabia. Thus the religious police
implement these instructions which have significant social
and psychological impact on citizens and expatriates, be
they Muslims or non-Muslims.
After all what has been said, is it logical that the relations
between Wahhabism and the religious police have to be the
subject of slander? The only party that benefits from this
is the extremist religious groups in the West. These groups
want to conceal the truth from the public opinion in order
to promote their political theories and religious views
and impose themselves on societies and people. This is
to lead to the assimilation of other cultures whose values
and beliefs run contrary to the values and beliefs of the
Western civilization that claims plurality and tolerance.
It seems that the intention to defame Islam in Saudi
Arabia and link it to “strict Wahhabism” and its links
to religious establishments, has taken a dangerous turn
with the advent of the new millennium .The political and
media organizations in the West have focused intensely
on this issue. For example, the US Department of State
International Religious Freedom Report 2003, has harshly
ridiculed “the strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam
enforced by the Saudi government. The report states,
“Muslims who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned
Salafi (commonly called ‘Wahhabi’) tradition can face
severe repercussions at the hands of the Mutawwa’in
(religious police).” On December 9, 2003, The Middle East
Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published an article
on its website about Wahhabism. It says, “Wahhabism
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
is an austere and closed school of thought promulgated
by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab … It compels its
followers strictly to observe Islamic rituals, such as the five
prayers, under pain of flogging, and for the enforcement
of public morals to a degree unprecedented in the history
of Islam… Where[as] Wahhabism sows hatred and rancor
even among Muslims. The most conspicuous foot soldiers
of Wahhabism are the moral police known as Mutawi’un,
who roam in the streets like riot police and force people to
perform rituals or adhere to Wahhabism’s code of decency
in dressing and other mannerisms.”
What the American print media published about
Wahhabism and the religious police, is not less critical than
what is released by political organizations and strategic
study centers. The Time weekly magazine, for example,
published on September 15, 2003 a special report on the
legacy of 911/. The magazine’s cover story is under the
heading: “The Saudis: Whose Side Are They On In The
War On Terror?” One of the articles was under the title:
“Wahhabism: Toxic Faith?” In this article, the magazine
reported that Wahhabism is a “new religion” spread in
the Arabian Peninsula and that the new creed is harsh, its
penalties were barbaric and had no place for free will or
human rights. It added that the Saudi state who applied
the instructions of this creed had “in 1926 introduced the
muttawa, religious police who enforce prayers five times a
day, monitor citizens’ cell-phone text messages and arrest
women for failing to cover themselves completely with
the black abaya robe.”
These are only three examples of a big dossier we
have about what was published about Wahhabism and
The Religious
Police in
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the religious police in Saudi Arabia. We are citing these
reports to give a sampling to the Western reader of what
is released by his media, political organizations supported
by Western governments and research and study centers
in the West.
We conclude with two questions, answers to which we
will leave to the Western reader himself:

  • Do these misleading media reports give credence
    to the oft repeated slogans of democracy and calls for
    tolerance and peace in the West? It is the West that has
    often been calling on other governments to follow their
    example or be forced to adopt it.
  • Who is the victim of these false reports about other
    people and their cultures? Is it not the Western citizen
    himself who has been unable to fathom the truth unless he
    seeks to visit other societies and find the truth?
    We are sure that what we read in the Western media
    is only intended to defame our religion and religious
    establishments, including the religious police. It is smoke
    emanating from a fire that was ignited by those who do
    not want any good for Islam and the West alike.
    The Situation of Christians in Saudi
    • The attitude to non-Islamic shrines in Saudi Arabia
    • The attitude towards non-Muslim behavior in Saudi
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    The attitude to non-Islamic shrines in Saudi
    Prof. Mohammed Al-Bishr
    The West, whether individuals, political or media
    organizations, knows that Saudi Arabia is a country whose
    religion is Islam and whose citizens are all Muslims and that its
    land is home to the Muslim holy places including the Kaa’ba
    which is the kiblah (the direction towards which Muslim turn
    to pray) of all Muslims five times a day when they perform
    their prayers. It is also the land where Muslims come from all
    over the world to perform Haj and visit the Sacred Mosque in
    Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. Accordingly,
    it is a Muslim country through the identity of its people. It is
    therefore only logical that the teachings of Sharia (Islamic
    law) should prevail and be applied to society.
    This religious particularity did not impede the presence of
    more than seven million foreigners living in the country, some of
    whom are non-Muslims. Many of them are Christians, which is
    the closest religion to Islam. When these Christians come to Saudi
    Arabia for work or a visit they maintain their religious beliefs
    and nobody, government or individuals, asks them to change
    The Religious
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    Saudi Arabia
    their beliefs as a condition for staying in Saudi Arabia. The
    condition, however, is that they should refrain from practicing
    their religious rituals openly in a society which is unanimously
    Muslim and in a land that has to remain exclusively Muslim
    and belonging to Muslims alone. This distinctiveness is not
    subject to reinterpretation or reconsideration because it is
    obligatory and based on Islamic texts.
    Accordingly, it is only reasonable or logical that the
    non-Muslim resident in Saudi Arabia should not object to
    this rule or allow himself to hurt the feelings of more than
    a billion Muslims who believe in the sanctity of their holy
    places for the sake of a handful of individuals who are
    neither citizens nor Muslims.
    Moreover, these few non-Muslim individuals who work
    in Saudi Arabia do not stay in the country permanently.
    They came with contracts that run for a limited period of
    time after which they have to go back to their respective
    countries. By signing these contracts these expatriates
    have agreed to abide by the conditions of residence in
    Saudi Arabia among which are preserving the peace and
    security of the society and not attempting to violate the
    laws or systems that belong to it. This, of course, entails
    that they should absolutely refrain from displaying or
    declaring their religious beliefs in a way that clashes with
    the religion of Saudi Arabia; they should not do so, even
    with the pretext of exercising their religious freedom.
    This religious freedom is a topic much discussed by the
    Western media or the reports of political institutions or
    International Human Rights Organizations; however,
    freedom, anywhere, is no longer freedom when it threatens
    other peoples’ freedoms.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    The religious police in Saudi Arabia is a social
    reformatory institution concerned with determining the
    limits of acceptable and non-acceptable religious behavior
    in the light of the teachings of Islam, and through the
    authority given to it by the state. Therefore, one of its most
    important functions is to protect the worshipping patterns
    of Muslims in their country which is the cradle of Islam,
    the point from which its message spreads to other places
    and the kiblah of its followers.
    The unjust media and political campaigns have fabricated
    or exaggerated certain incidents committed by some
    individuals who violated the agreement made between the
    Saudi society and whoever comes to the Kingdom to work,
    visit or for tourism. These campaigns should have taken into
    consideration the feelings of more than a billion Muslims
    living in many countries among whom are several millions
    in the U.S.A. itself who look at Saudi Arabia with reverence
    and esteem as being a country that has its own religious
    particularity that is cherished in their hearts and feelings.
    This particularity has to be preserved even by non-Muslims
    as long as it does not cause them any harm or deprive them
    of any of their rights. The Muslims never objected when the
    Vatican, the Papal Capital, refused to have a mosque built
    in it, and this out of respect for the particularity of this city
    sacred to Christians whose religion is the closest to Islam.
    Furthermore, Muslims in Saudi Arabia or other countries of
    the world, did not object either to positive non-Islamic laws
    when they were applied on them in non Islamic countries,
    when they were tried by non-Islamic courts and when they
    could not perform their prayers except during the rest hours
    assigned to them by their employers.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    The third paragraph of article eighteen in the International
    Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights of Man states that
    man’s freedom to demonstrate his religion and beliefs can be
    subjected only to the restrictions prescribed by the law. These
    restrictions are necessary to safeguard general security and
    the system, as well the rights of others and their fundamental
    freedoms. There is no doubt that the rights of Muslims in
    any part of the world and their fundamental freedom within
    the sanctuary of their geographical boundaries are among
    the major restrictions that non-Muslims should submit to
    when demonstrating their religion.
    Finally, protecting the legitimate sanctity of the Arab
    Peninsula which was set forth in the texts of Islam and
    preventing any public demonstration of a religion other
    than Islam are an obligatory duty and responsibility
    incumbent upon the Saudi government. Any request
    to permit such a public demonstration of a non-Islamic
    religion either on the part of Western media or Western
    political institutions or by international human rights
    organizations means a request to violate the general
    principles of national constitutions. As for Saudi Arabia,
    which is the country that occupies the largest part of the
    Arabian Peninsula, such a request, no matter from what
    source it originates, represents a violation of an important
    principle of the Islamic creed which is a divine law and
    not a man-made one that can be modified or suspended.
    No authority has therefore the power to alter or change it.
    This issue involves, at the same time, the general system
    in force in Saudi Arabia as well as its national security,
    both of which are based on Islamic law.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    The attitude towards non-Muslim
    behavior in Saudi Arabia
    Dr. Omayma Al-Jalahema
    If the system of Saudi Arabia and its laws are based on
    divine Islamic law or Shariah, this does not mean at all
    that every comer in the Kingdom has to embrace Islam
    because Islam itself has instructed Muslims not to force
    anyone to become Muslim. This instruction, however,
    does not mean that non-Muslims can openly declare and
    practice their religion in a society all the members of
    which are Muslim. Non-Muslims can keep their religion
    but have to show respect for the teachings of Islam which
    control every aspect of the life in the society in which they
    Accordingly, the arguments put forward by Western
    sources about the issue of religious freedom in Saudi
    Arabia conflict with the laws and systems in force in
    Saudi Arabia and are considered a flagrant interference
    in its national sovereignty. If a non-Muslim practices a
    behavior that clashes with Islamic behavior in a society
    where everybody is Muslim, then he has committed an
    act of aggression against the religion of the state and its
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    people and has insulted it and expressed his opposition to
    it. Such a behavior constitutes a threat to the nation and
    can undermine its system and dismantle its structure. As is
    laid down in its basic system, the Saudi state cannot accept
    a declaration of abandoning or straying from the Islamic
    creed in the name of freedom of religion and belief even
    if this comes from one individual but looks upon it as an
    act of rebellion against the system of the state and a call to
    break away from it.
    This does not imply that the religious freedom of nonMuslims in Saudi Arabia should be suppressed. It only
    means that the religion of the nation and its people should
    be respected and that, at the same time, the religious rights
    of expatriates during their temporary stay in the Kingdom
    for work are maintained. Such rights have been sanctioned
    by Islam and have therefore also been sanctioned by Saudi
    systems and laws. Among these rights are:
    1- Their right to freedom of belief: Islam does not force
    non-Muslims to be converted to it; on the contrary, it
    allows them complete freedom to keep their religion.
    Even if non-Muslims are called to Islam, the choice
    remains theirs whether to do so or not after they are given
    a covenant which provides them with assurances as to
    their religion, possessions and honor. They thus enjoy
    the covenant of God and His Prophet and are therefore
    called by Islam “The Covenanted People” [that is, free
    non-Muslims who enjoy Muslim protection.]
    2- Their social right: Islam has permitted non-Muslims
    to carry on their social life in accordance with their
    religion, in matters of marriage, divorce and so on.
    3- Not punishing them for practicing what is sanctioned
    by their religion like drinking alcohol and eating pork
    The Religious
    Police in
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    which are prohibited by divine Islamic law or Shariah.
    4- Their right to justice: An example of the perfect care
    with which non-Muslims are treated can be found
    in the equal justice they receive with Muslims when
    they have recourse to Shariah or divine Muslim law.
    Thus, if a Muslim steals money from a covenanted
    non-Muslim (that is, a non-Muslim enjoying Muslim
    protection), he is punished for theft, and so on. This
    moral value of justice was mentioned by many Western
    thinkers and historians, such as the British historian
    H.G. Wells who talked about the importance of justice
    in the teachings of Islam: “Islam has established in the
    world great traditions for dealing justly and has blown
    into people the spirit of charity and tolerance. It is also
    humane and practicable. It has thus created a human
    community among which there is less of the cruelty
    and social injustice that floods the world than among
    any other community that preceded it.”
    5- Their right to preserve their lives, possessions and
    honor: Islam preserves for man during his lifetime his
    fundamental rights which are indispensable to him.
    Such rights are the rights to live, to be safe, to own,
    and to preserve his honor and sanity. As such, he is on
    equal footing with the Muslim in having these rights
    preserved for him. Such rights are inalienable and
    cannot be abrogated except for a lawful reason.
    6- Their right to kind treatment. This is an Islamic precept
    found in the Qur’an and stated by Prophet Mohammed,
    peace be upon him. This precept consists in showing
    righteousness towards non-Muslims, which means to
    be kind and gentle with them and to treat them in a
    proper manner.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    These are only some of the rights of non-Muslims in
    Islamic society, which prompts us to invite Westerners
    to draw a quick comparison between these rights and
    the hardships that a Muslim faces in Western countries,
    especially after the events of 911/ and America declaring
    war on Islam in the name of fighting terrorism and activating
    what is known as “the Law of Religious Persecution”. We
    invite Westerners, especially Americans, to take a look at
    the texts of the constitutions approved by the Congress,
    relating to the freedom of religious worship and not to
    use religion, color or race as a determining factor when
    accusing others or when dealing with them. They can
    compare what these constitutions state with what is really
    going on in the U.S., such as the odious racial and religious
    discrimination by police officers and security organizations
    against Muslims, and the cases of religious persecution of
    Muslims with the excuse of protecting American security
    and stamping out the sources of terrorism, cases which
    were recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigations

Violence in the practices of the
religious police as portrayed by
Western sources
• Introduction
• Leniency and kindness in the behavior and dealings of
• Violence in the practices of the religious police as portrayed
by Western sources.
• An Invitation for Seeing the Reality

The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
The political institutions, the media and the human
rights organizations in the West have talked a great deal
about the “violent” practices of the religious police in
Saudi Arabia”. They have focused on individual cases, a
few incidents, and isolated cases of violence making them
a pivotal issue in their dealing with this religious institution
and its work. Many Western reports highlighted these cases
to such an extent that people in the West imagined that
this religious institution seeks only to reform people by
violent means, to lead them to virtue by cruel methods and
to bring them back to moral values by forceful and harsh
measures. This would be the extent of the charges if we
chose to think well of these sources and to understand that
they agree with us that the aim of this religious institution
is to reform society and restore it to the values of virtue
and good deeds.
However, establishing this distorted stereotypical
picture of the religious police, and describing it as being
violent and cruel, while keeping silent about its benevolent
objectives and self-evident achievements, is nothing
but glaring injustice on the part of the media. This is a
deliberate obscuring of facts and falsification of reality.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Therefore, we are not surprised when a Westerner comes
to our country carrying with him a distorted picture of the
religious police. However, he soon discovers the truth
about this religious institution and ends up revering it and
appreciating the work it does to safeguard both the citizen
and the expatriate against acts of evil and protect them
from vice.
In this section, we will discuss this issue, but before
we do so we will show those who do not know the truth
about Islam, how important are leniency and kindness in
our religion. These two values represent the method by
which the religious police operates in Saudi Arabia and
are the bases of its activities.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Leniency and kindness in the behavior and
dealings of Muslims
Prof. Hamad Al-Ammar
It is important that the non-Muslim should know some
Islamic points while trying to understand the work of the
religious police in Saudi Arabia. This religious institution
works according to an official system that is directed by
the religion of the society which it seeks to reform. Some
of the salient features of its working methods are leniency
and kindness. These features characterize the method
adopted by those who call for virtue and doing good in
every society. In Islam, the Holy Qur’an, which is the
most important source for Muslims, has prescribed them.
God Almighty commanded Moses and Aaron to be gentle
in their call to the Pharaoh, who was telling his people, “I
am your supreme god” and was causing corruption in the
land by killing the men and keeping the women alive. God
Who, nevertheless, commanded Moses and Aaron to “Go,
both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all
bounds; but speak to him mildly; Perchance he may take
warning or fear (Allah).”
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
If Moses and Aaron – peace be upon them – who were
most beloved by God were commanded to be mild when
dealing with the Pharaoh who was most hateful to God,
then it is only reasonable to expect that others should
follow the same wise and friendly policy and call people
to do good, using kindness and leniency because people
break away from whoever is harsh and cruel. Therefore,
God Almighty, also says about His prophet Mohammed,
peace be upon him, “It is part of the Mercy of Allah, that
thou dost deal Gently with them. Wert thou severe or
harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from thee.”
Muslim scholars say that as per this Qur’anic injunction
those who enjoin doing good and following the path of
virtue and forbid doing wrong and following the path of
vice should cling to high standards of morality and adopt
a wise, lenient and kind way when dealing with people.
The Sunnah (traditions) of Prophet Mohammed,
peace be upon him, which is the second main source in
Islam, contains many episodes that illustrate leniency
and kindness. These episodes have had a great impact
on the behavior of Muslims and the way they deal with
each other and with others. They are lessons from which
those who take up the job of enjoining what is right and
forbidding what is wrong learn, but they are not known
to many non-Muslims. One of these episodes is about a
young man who came to Prophet Mohammed, peace be
upon him, and said:
“O Allah’s Prophet, give me permission to commit
Thereon people came to him and upbraided him. The
Prophet said:
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
“Come nearer.”
Whereupon the youth drew nearer to the Prophet and
sat. The Prophet said:
“Would you like your mother to commit
The youth answered:
“No. I swear by God. May God make me your
The Prophet then said:
“And people don’t like it for their mothers to commit
Would you like your daughter to do so?”
The young man answered:
“No, Allah’s Prophet. I swear by God. May God make
me your ransom.”
The Prophet then said:
“And people don’t like it for their daughters.
“Would you like your sister to do so?”
The young man answered:
“No, Allah’s Prophet. I swear by God. May God make
me your ransom.”
The Prophet then said:
“And people don’t like their sisters to do so
Would you like your paternal aunt to do so?”
The young man answered:
“No, Allah’s Prophet. I swear by God. May God make
me your ransom.”
The Prophet then said:
“And people don’t like it for their paternal aunts.
Would you like it for your maternal aunt?”
The young man answered:
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
“No, Allah’s Prophet. I swear by God. May God make
me your ransom.”
The Prophet then said:
“And people don’t like it for their maternal aunts.”
The Prophet then placed his hand on the young man’s
chest and said, “O God, may You forgive his sin, purify
his heart, and strengthen his modesty.” From that day
onwards the young man never thought of committing
Such a lesson in leniency and kindness bore fruit in
this case, because adultery became the most hateful thing
to this young man who just before was very desirous of
committing it. There are other lessons and situations
similar to this one from which we Muslims benefit in
calling people to do good and leading them away from
sources of evil and corruption. Such calls and efforts to
lead them to the path of virtue are noble ones enjoined by
Islam and groups all over the world that call for reform
and doing good. There is no doubt that the members of
the religious police who are officially responsible for
the movement of reforming society in Saudi Arabia and
keeping it morally cleansed are the people who apply this
leniency and kindness in their approach the most.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
Violence in the practices of the religious
police as portrayed by Western sources.
Samar Fatany
Because Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim and Arab
country that possesses an independent official organization
which is concerned with monitoring general social
behavior and which has a religious character derived from
the religious principle upon which it is based and which
it calls for, its religious institutions have been targeted by
reports released by the Western media even before 9/11
and what is termed the “war on terrorism.”
However, these attacks by the media have now reached
dangerous heights against these religious institutions
especially the religious police. These attacks have
attributed to this organization facts that are alien to its
character and have consolidated the negative stereotypical
image about it that has become settled in the minds of
Westerners before the notorious events of September 11.
Among the most common allegations were that this
organization carries out its functions in society in a harsh
way, that it uses violence, cruelty and extremism in
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
enforcing its instructions and methods. Some research
institutes in the West even object to the laws issued by the
Saudi government in cooperation with the religious police
to impose disciplinary punishments on those who violate
the social system and who molest women in public souks
(markets) and girls outside schools. Thus the Middle East
Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has published a report
about the punishment meted out to such young people who
cause social and moral disturbances by having them whipped.
This institute published a detailed report on January 19,
2004, discussing this disciplinary flogging inflicted on these
violators. The report was worded in a way that demonstrated
blatant interference even in the way Saudi Arabia chooses
its machinery to safeguard the security and morals of its
citizens and the expatriates residing on its land.
Some of the reports published by international organizations
went even far beyond this in their misinterpretation of the
nature of the work performed by the religious police in Saudi
Arabia. An example of this was what was stated in a United
Nations press release which was dated May 8, 2002, under
the title “Conclusions and recommendations of the committee
against Torture: Saudi” which contained a clear misreading of
the facts. The members of the committee responsible for the
report queried, “How many cases of whipping, torturing, and
cutting of limbs, occurred last year, and did such punishments
result in any death?.” Such a query betrays much ignorance
of the nature of the work carried out by the religious police.
In the first place, the religious police is an institution that
monitors those who violate the religious and social system
of the society and complements the work of other security
institutions such as the general police in having these violators
apprehended. Secondly, it is an authority that never imposes

Religious Police in Saudi Arabia english islamic book pdf

The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
any punishment on the violators of the system. Thirdly, using
such terms as “torturing” cannot be applied to an organization
that depends on kindness and leniency in its modus operandi.
Therefore, such reports mislead both government and public
opinion in the West about the religious police in Saudi Arabia
and produce adverse effects not only among cultures but also
on the official diplomatic level especially if they emanate
from important and influential international organizations
such as the United Nations.
Max Singer’s writings about the Religious Police
constitute a blatant interference in countries sovereignty.
The He wrote an article in The New York Sun newspaper
on April 26, 2003 under the heading: “Liberate the Eastern
Province from Saudi Arabia. The writer calims “Propagators
of Wahhabism have established a religious police force that
walks the streets in the Eastern Province armed with whips
to flog women wearing short dresses.” Such statements
would lead Western public opinion to assume that the only
responsibility of the men of the religious police is to flog
young people and beat every woman who wears a short
dress. This, however, is very far from the truth.
Such fallacious declarations, and there are many others
like them, which were circulated by the media and human
right organizations in the West, were multiplying at the
very same time that these channels were obscuring the truth
about what was going on in Saudi Arabia. Consequently,
Westerners were wrongly informed by the misleading
reports which gave them a slanted look at our causes,
disregarding several other positive aspects.
The kind of violence attributed by the media, political and
humanitarian organizations to the religious police in Saudi Arabia
contradicts the purpose for which this institution was originally
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
set up and the method it follows in performing its tasks. We can
cite here a number of facts that can bear out this reality:
1- We mentioned earlier that the call to Islam is based
primarily on leniency and kindness which are prescribed
by religion and dictated by reason. As for religion, this
refers to the words of God Almighty: “Invite (all) to the
Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching
and argue with them in ways that are best and most
gracious.” And as far as reason is concerned, we find
that man will not respond to the invitation of the caller –
no matter what the nature of his call is – unless his call
is made with kindness, leniency and grace. Thus we will
realize the nature of the work performed by the religious
police if we remember that it is based on a religious
prescription and a logical necessity. The first article of
the first paragraph of the religious police statute states
that the role of this body is “to urge people to adhere to
the pillars of their true religion by performing prayers,
giving Zakat or charity, fasting and performing Haj;
and to embrace good manners. Also, to ask them to
follow the path of morality and virtue, to fulfill their
engagements and render back their trusts to those to
whom they are due, to show righteousness towards their
parents and maintain relationships with their kith and
kin, to be regardful of the rights of their neighbors, to
give charity to the poor and needy, and to help the weak
and the aged.” The purpose of all this is obviously to
reform society and not to punish it. How can it then
be conceived that the religious police would resort to
violent means when their objective is to reform.
2- The work of the religious police is carried out
according to particular standards and controls. It does
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
not go beyond detecting the violation to imposing the
punishment on the violator, because the religious police
is an institution that is entrusted with controlling and
keeping a watch the general environment in accordance
with the moral values that prevail in society and within
the scope of the authority granted to it by the state.
Therefore, there are other punitive institutions that
work in co-ordination with the religious police.
Thus if the religious police fail to settle a case inside their
premises by using leniency, kindness, and moral advice,
they will refer it to the competent government authorities
so that they will apply the appropriate punishment to the
violator. The statistics contained in the annual report on the
activities of the religious police for the year 2004 indicate
that they had apprehended 384,344 religious and moral
violations and that 345,675 of these violations (that is,
90%) were settled inside the religious police stations by
means of exhortation and guidance and were not referred
to the competent authorities. Such statistics underscore
the fact the religious police organization seeks hard
to preserve morals and decent conduct and that it uses
guidance and advice as a means to achieve its purpose
which is to reform society and not to punish it.
3- The objectives of the religious police in Saudi Arabia are
not limited to trying to prevent corruption and vice by
catching violators or to trying to detect as many violations
as possible, but to take preventive measures against crime
before they are committed. These measures include
giving guidance and advice, showing the danger inherent
in certain types of improper behavior in the society, and
stamping out whatever can have a detrimental impact
on the values of the nation and the good conduct of its
The Religious
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Saudi Arabia
citizens. In applying these measures the religious police
use wisdom and gentle preaching. Such measures are
implemented through various activities such as:

  • Setting up of guidance centers to explain the principle
    and importance of enjoining what is right and forbidding
    what is wrong. These centers are numerous and help
    members of the society to occupy their free time in a
    useful manner.
  • Advising through lectures or delivering short exhorting
    speeches on social occasions; or holding, participating in,
    or coordinating symposia: these lectures, speeches, and
    symposia are to take place either in public locations such
    as souks, parks, or in other places where people gather, or
    in governmental premises such as prisons or hospitals
  • Arranging inspection and guidance visits by the
    religious police to its subsidiary centers to deliver
    lectures and speeches that help them to perform their
    tasks in the best possible manner.
  • Printing and distributing books and guidance books
    written by Muslim scholars discussing matters related
    to the work of the religious police.
  • Publishing articles in the local press about the programs
    and activities of the religious police.
    4- It is fair to admit that there are individual mistakes
    committed by the religious police while performing
    their duties, but these mistakes are limited and do not go
    beyond being isolated cases. Such mistakes, however, are
    expected to occur in any civil institution that deals with
    the public; they even occur in the strictest of intelligence
    and military organizations which have wider experience
    and higher skill than civil organizations and are also
    better trained and more careful about making mistakes.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    An Invitation for Seeing the Reality
    Dr. Ibrahim Al-Humaidan
    Here we offer an invitation for seeing the reality and
    looking at its dimensions in full without any kind of
    incompleteness, curtailment or selectiveness.
    We firmly believe that the religious police are actuated
    by the desire to do good and strengthen the moral values
    which call for doing good. Yes, it is possible that some men
    of the religious police may have been unduly harsh and their
    acts may have amounted to cruelty. Such excessive zeal
    may make themselves violators of the law in as far as the
    procedures and rules governing correction and apprehension
    are concerned. These excesses, however, are exceptions to the
    general rule and not the rule itself. But can we say the same
    about the police officers in any system and in any country?
    In a country like the U.S.A., for example, which has police
    systems that are extremely complicated, overlapping and
    highly specialized, violations by police officers do occur.
    Such violations are, at times, so cruel and harmful that they
    come to represent a stark aggression against the rights of the
    individual. The same thing happens in some countries that
    claim to be champions of human rights.
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    Perhaps many Westerners may recall the details of
    a number of these violations which were committed by
    their police and which kept public opinion busy for long
    periods of time. Those violations were severely criticized
    and denounced by the media which tried to attribute them
    to individuals that do not belong to the police force. These
    violations also encouraged the American movie industry
    to portray them and turn them into rich material to be
    made the subject of many very successful movies. It also
    exposed many wrongs, and even corruption, in the way
    many police sectors perform their duties.
    We are not going here to cite more examples, for
    people in the West know more about this matter than we
    do. But we would like to say that the religious police are
    not much different from the military and the civil police in
    that their members are prone to commit similar mistakes
    and violations. it would be illogical if we assumed that all
    people employed in the police sectors are unlikely to commit
    mistakes and that they all apply the system or the law in the
    same manner. Therefore, it is possible, even natural, that
    mistakes and violations on the part of some members of the
    religious police should occur while performing their tasks,
    but they are few and isolated cases. If such mistakes and
    violations can only be expected to occur even in the oldest
    military and intelligence organizations, then why should
    the religious police be picked up for criticism? No doubt,
    the probability of committing violations and mistakes
    remains real. We cannot ignore or deny this fact, just as no
    military organization anywhere in the world can claim that
    no mistakes or violations have ever been committed by any
    of its members. On the contrary, the mistakes made by the
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    members of the religious police are much fewer because
    the pivot of their work is to guide, direct and advise prior
    to resorting to punishment. Add to this, the important fact
    that divine laws are more merciful towards and regardful
    of humanity and more mindful of man’s dignity and selfrespect and more careful, in general, in maintaining the
    rights of society.
    Although we have to admit that there are individual
    mistakes committed by some members of the religious
    police, just as is the case with any other police or military
    organizations, we still have to view these mistakes fairly
    and honestly so as to see them in their true perspective.
    This, however, is not what some major Western media
    and some human rights organizations do. They persist in
    fabricating such mistakes or exaggerating them and make
    them look as if they are the general feature of everyone
    engaged in the work of the religious police. They also
    describe it as a force of violence, cruelty and extremism, a
    description which is both erroneous and exaggerated. This
    is attested to by every impartial human being who has had
    the opportunity to closely observe the functioning of the
    religious police.
    Painting this erroneous picture is indeed an act of
    injustice and a falsification of facts. This issue deserves to
    be investigated so that the causes that led to these isolated
    incidents are ascertained and can be made public.
    In order to form a true picture of the religious police we
    have to know a number of things, among which are:
    1- The basis of the method of operation adopted by the
    religious police is to prevent the occurrence of the
    violation, its recurrence or the straying away from the
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    system, through giving advice, guidance, orientation
    and warning. Hence the word is the means used by the
    religious police to perform their tasks and not the stick
    or any other means of scaring or intimidation.
    2- Working for the religious police is an official government
    job and aims at ensuring the security of society
    according to religious commands which represent the
    law that should therefore be observed. It goes without
    saying that there is no place for violence or extremism
    in such a humane and service-oriented work.
    3-The religious police are, in their origin, religious
    individuals who have studied Sharia sciences and
    are neither military nor militarily trained. They were
    selected for the job after they obtained the prescribed
    qualifications and passed the required interview.
    Therefore, the probability of their resorting to violence
    and cruelty is very remote and they, on their part, are
    not qualified for it.
    4- The social and humanitarian role play a dominant part
    in the work of the religious police and has precedence
    over the policy of deterrence or punishment, because
    the objective of the religious police is to protect man
    from wrongdoings and to protect others from being
    harmed by his actions.
    5- The individual who has strayed from the system or
    violated the law is a violator in the eyes of the police
    officers, too. It may so happen that the violator and
    the police officer will clash owing to personal reasons
    that lie outside the scope of the law and the issue of
    the violation itself. Often, personal enmities between
    some police officers and the circles of organized crime
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    in Europe and America are brought to light.
    6- Awareness of the law and its interpretation and
    application may differ from one person to another. This
    is exactly what happens among the religious police
    owing to the differences in their degree of awareness,
    level of their education, their upbringing and other
    individual differences. It is possible that violence or
    severity and excessive zeal for protecting the system
    may have their roots in their subconscious or they may
    be due to some flaws in their education especially when
    the issue becomes one of abuse of authority.
    7- Many Western media organs that generalize the
    individual errors of the religious police to the whole
    organization are not acquainted with the traditions and
    customs of religious societies or with domestic laws,
    which create large areas of misunderstanding and
    consequently for transmitting a disfigured, incomplete
    or distorted picture of the situation.
    8- There is no doubt that many Westerners are not familiar
    with the teachings of Islam and are not aware that these
    teachings preserve man’s dignity, like Christianity. This
    lack of knowledge makes many of those who are hostile
    to Islam or differ with it for political reasons to present
    an erroneous picture of Islam, a picture intended to
    repel people and antagonize the West towards Muslims
    by describing them as violent and harsh, targeting their
    religious police organization in particular.
    These are only segments of an overall picture about
    the religious police in our society that the Western media
    chooses not to reveal to public opinion in their societies.
    These are also the facts which were not available to
    The Religious
    Police in
    Saudi Arabia
    Westerners and which were deliberately made so to them
    until they came to take only a partial look at things – a
    view that sees only errors committed by some individuals
    working for the religious police. Such errors are rare but it
    is natural that they should be committed by some members
    of an institution that belongs to civil society, considering
    the fact that such an institution deals with a multi-level
    public that entertains a great variety of opinions. However,
    what makes appalls us is the attributing of these individual
    errors to the whole apparatus of the religious police and
    describing it as an institution of violence, harshness and
    extremism. Such individual errors are eagerly seized
    upon by the media and human rights organizations and
    greatly exaggerated so that Westerners come to view the
    men of the religious police as nasty people carrying on
    their tasks under the threat of weapons and sticks. This
    is the unfairness that we have been talking about and the
    falsification of facts we have been discussing. What we
    are trying to reveal is the true story, as against the distorted

Women and the Religious Police
• Introduction
• The importance of the veil to the Muslim woman
• Woman in Saudi Arabia
• Obliging non-Muslim women in Saudi Arabia to abide
by rules of modesty and decency
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
All societies of the world have three major common
objectives – namely, continuity, stability and unity. In
order to realize these three objectives, laws were enacted
and rules were decreed. All these laws and rules derive
their tenets from the culture of society through which they
decide what are acceptable and are more likely to achieve
these objectives. Hence, the wide discrepancies we
notice between the various laws and the different means,
discrepancies which are due to the cultural particularity of
each society.
In Saudi culture, we notice that these three objectives
are connected with the particularity of Saudi society which
derives from the application of Islamic law (Sharia) to all
aspects of life, including the social aspect. The foundation
of the Saudi state was associated with a commitment to
the teachings of Islam. This state, relied for the legitimacy
of its establishment, on applying these teachings which
gained acceptance from every part of the country. Such
teachings are characterized by consistency and flexibility,
which helped achieve stability and social fabric.
Max Weber in his “Social Action” theory refers to
religion’s capability to guide various and numerous aspects
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
of human conduct because it shapes the way individuals
become aware of the world and the meanings and objectives
that direct their behaviors. So, Islam represents to the Saudi
people the core of the “Value Agreement” which is the
basis of their outlook on life and the factor that controls
their behavior.
However, this reality is either still unknown to the West
or there are some Westerners who do not want to recognize
it or even try to understand it.
To them, the Saudi woman cannot be a woman unless
she conforms to their criteria and is not fully feminine
unless she fits their standards. She is not equal to man
unless judged to be so by the norms of their culture. This
attitude demonstrates a deficient way of thinking and a
limited capacity of understanding. It is also derogatory
towards other cultures which do not agree with the values
of their culture, especially in the social field.
As a result of this lack of understanding, the Saudi
woman and the veil have been severely criticized by
political institutions and human rights organizations
in the West. This criticism, which was frequently
offensive, intensified after the events of September 11
and the repercussions of war on terrorism which, in many
instances, included war on other cultures particularly the
culture of the Islamic world.
Whether one knows the truth or not about women in
Saudi society, we will try to explain to the Western mind
the reality about women, who have become the focus
of attention whenever Saudi society is discussed. It is a
reality we are satisfied with. We believe others should also
accept it as a cultural reality that, as in the case of other
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
cultures, imposes its own conduct. Such acceptance hinges
upon there being a sincere wish to establish peaceful
coexistence among cultures and to respect human values
and their complementary role in realizing happiness for
man in every society. But if the aim is to impose one type
of culture on others it would result in a cultural conflict,
which could reach dangerous proportions.
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
The importance of the veil to the Muslim
Lubna Al-Tahlawi

To a woman in Saudi Arabia, the veil represents an
Islamic value that is related to her social life. It is neither a
heritage, tradition, nor a social custom that can be altered
or developed. It is the duty of Muslim woman imposed
by God when meeting with foreign men. The West has
to know that abandoning the veil means that a woman
is displaying her charms and acting contrary to virtuous
behavior. We Muslims consider this act as a kind of
conduct that is forbidden by our Sharia law, on one side,
and as an unacceptable social behavior, on the other. It is
unacceptable because, with this kind of behavior, a woman
has overstepped the limits of her personal freedom and
invaded the freedom of others by exciting and disturbing
them. The main reason for obliging a woman to wear a
veil is to enable her to maintain her dignity and protect her
from man’s baser instincts. It is well known that woman’s
physical features are attractive to man; therefore men are
more attracted towards women’s looks than women on
seeing men.
In keeping with such a natural difference between the two
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
sexes, Islam ordered women to wear a veil when exposed
to public life and to conceal her feminine attractions. A
woman’s face is certainly her most attractive feature and
the one that attracts men the most. In any society, if a man
was told he could see any part of the body of the woman
he intends to marry except her face, he would refuse her
hand in marriage. But he would certainly agree to marriage
even he would be able to see only her face rather than the
rest of her body. This shows how central a woman’s face
is to man.
What is really astonishing is to see this preventive
method to safeguard woman and maintain her dignity, the
subject of discussion and argument in Western societies.
This happens despite the fact that they know well that the
veil has Islamic value and has been accepted and respected
in Saudi society. What interest will it serve now to unveil
the Saudi woman, some of whom have obtained the
highest academic degrees and worked in civil society in
Saudi Arabia without the need to show her face? She did
not have to show her face in order to obtain her rights.
In the past, the allegations made by the West and others
focused on there being a close connection between the veil
and the spread of illiteracy among Saudi women. They
claimed that women wearing a veil cannot study or learn.
Then came the social facts to disprove these allegations.
We now see Saudi women wearing veils and studying at
every level and in every stage of education. They thus
draw a unique Saudi experience that completely discredits
the idea of tying the veil to illiteracy.
It would be wise for reasonable people in the West
to agree with us on the importance of preserving this
The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
tradition, in which the Saudi woman has proved her ability
to combine her commitment to the Islamic veil as well as
her readiness to perform her duties and responsibilities
towards society. We, in Saudi Arabia, are fortunate
enough to have government institutions keeping a watch
on general social behavior with a view to maintaining this
experience and protecting it.
Among the most important of these reform institutions
is the religious police which represents, in our viewpoint,
an integrated mechanism, a practice of public awareness
and an application of society’s common values. This
institution can, as such, reinforce the elements that help
achieve social cohesion and unity and do not weaken our
interaction with contemporary developments and ideas. In
fact, it directs this interaction in a positive way so as to
avoid social crises which are usually connected with the
process of modernization and civilization.
Through our experience with women in our society,
we can say that if Western societies suffered from many
social and moral problems out of so-called women’s
liberation movements, and had even to revert to segregated
classrooms for boys and girls, with oft-repeated media
warnings against degradation of moral values, we in Saudi
Arabia are still benefiting from the virtues contained in
this call to wear the veil that came with Islam. If women’s
veil had any value in Western culture, sensible people
would not hesitate to call women to wear it to safeguard
their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers and to spare
them the moral tragedies that the West knows about more
than we do.
The Religious
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Woman in Saudi Arabia
Hidaya Darweesh
Many reports released by human rights organizations
and carried by the media, discuss the relationship between
the religious police and women in Saudi Arabia. This
issue is another proof of ignorance about the culture of
Saudi Arabia or of the deliberate distortion of facts by a
biased media.
Through our reading of both what was written in
these reports and what was said by the Western media,
particularly in the US, about the position of the Saudi
woman, we have become convinced that the West has some
preconceived judgments about it. These judgments are the
outcome of false, greatly exaggerated propaganda. This is
especially the case when the issues related to the education,
position and upbringing of Saudi women are placed under
the scanner of Western principles and thoughts. Our
question is: Where are neutrality and credibility? We ask
this question because we have certain convictions about
their media, which have been implanted into our minds
over many decades. These convictions are to the effect
that their judgments and viewpoints do not stem from a
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void, but are the result of serious and objective studies
and an academic quest undertaken in a neutral spirit.
But where is this neutrality when such accusations and
falsehoods are hurled against the Saudi woman? Where is
neutrality when they classify the realities about the Saudi
woman – who is an academician, physician, administrator
and businesswoman, whose presence is most effective at
the local, Arab and international levels; in the media and
in the nursing fields; and as an economy expert whose
presence is strongly felt in the fields of banking, finance
and business; as a woman of letters, as a novelist and as
a poet?
These parties belittle the life of the Saudi woman, her
achievements and successes under their pet title of “The
Suffering of the Saudi Woman.” Whoever coined this title
and used it as a theme for his writings, did not see the reality
– that of the Saudi woman clinging on to her religious
values, and, at the same time, playing a meaningful role
in society.
Those who tried to intrude in the individuality of the
Saudi woman by constantly talking about her “suffering”
did not bother to take the trouble to read the reports prepared
by some organizations affiliated to the United Nations
(such as the United Nations Development Program) which
cited figures and data showing the achievements of Saudi
women in the field of development. A researcher, who is
interested and is motivated by a true intention to discover
the truth, can find much more information elsewhere than
what is included in so-called international reports or in
what the Western media has written.
The Saudi government has ratified the United
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Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, which had been approved
by the United Nations General Assembly by resolution
No. 18034 dated December 18, 1989 in New York. The
ratification of this convention by Saudi Arabia was made
in accordance with Islamic teachings and the values
prevalent in Saudi society.
If we tackle the legal position of women in the Kingdom,
we can say that there are sets of rules that ensure women’s
rights. First and most important are the legal texts in
the Holy Qur’an and in the pure Sunnah of the Prophet
which exhort equality and non-discrimination. On the
organizational level, the basic system of government
promulgated by Royal Decree No. 90-A dated March 2,
1992 comprised a number of articles that guarantee human
rights in general, the most important of which is the right
to equality which, on the whole, is applicable to women.
This right to equality is contained in article (8) of this
system which states, “The government in the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia is based on justice, consultation, and
equality according to Islamic Sharia.” Also article (26)
of the same system states that “the state protects human
rights according to Islamic Sharia.”
Thus, these two articles stress the necessity of
safeguarding human rights in the Kingdom and endorsing
the principle of equality among all citizens, without
discriminating between man and woman. Women can thus
receive salaries and wages that are equal to men’s as well
as equal retirement rights.
Other articles in the system also guaranteed many
more rights to citizens – such as the right to education,
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work, obtaining social security in cases of emergency,
sickness, disability and old age; and the rights to medical
treatment, security, privacy, and personal ownership. Thus
article 30 of the country’s constitution states that “the state
is committed to ensure general education to all and to
fight illiteracy, without discrimination between men and
women.” Also article 31 of the constitution states that the
right to general good health is ensured to every citizen:
“The state cares for general health and ensuring medical
care for every citizen.”
In the international arena, Saudi Arabia remains
committed to safeguarding human rights in the light of
Islamic Sharia. Thus, it signed the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights which was issued by the General
Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948,
and which established the principle of equality and nondiscrimination among people on the basis of color or race.
The Kingdom then signed the United Nations convention
on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against
women. This convention was ratified by the General
Assembly of the United Nations by its Resolution
No. 18034 dated December 19, 1989, in New York as
mentioned earlier.
We can then say that the signing of this agreement by
the Kingdom can be considered a qualitative move in as
far as the rights of women are concerned. This is because,
although Islam guaranteed such rights 14 centuries ago,
much more than what has been granted to women by
various systems and charters, joining this agreement
helps to emphasize the Kingdom’s total commitment to
international rules and principles that were accepted and
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ratified by the international organization. It was especially
appropriate that Saudi Arabia should do that in view of the
fact that the Kingdom is a founding member of the United
Nations as its representative took part among others from
50 other countries in writing its charter at a conference held
in San Francisco from June 25-26, 1945. The Kingdom
signed the charter on that date and has ever since been an
active participant in helping this international organization
realize its objectives. The participation of Saudi women in
economic and social life is expected to increase in future,
while at the same time maintaining her commitment to
Islamic Sharia on which the Saudi society is based.
Saudi women hold many important positions in many
corporations, organizations and various government
sectors. Many jobs have also become a female domain.
Because of the constant support and encouragement that
women receive and the opportunities provided to them,
they have met with great success, even outside their
country. The Saudi government has, on its part, buttressed
this balanced progress made by women. Thus in June
2004, the cabinet issued several decisions pertaining
to women following studies aimed at seeking ways to
increase their work opportunities. Some of these decisions
are as follows:
1- The governmental authorities that issue permits for
economic activities should, each in their own sphere of
specialization, receive women’s applications to obtain
such permits and issue them the permits required
according to the legal rules and regulations.
2- All governmental authorities that render services to
women should set up units and sections for women
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according to the needs and nature of the work they
perform within a period not to exceed one year from
the date this decision was issued.
3- The council of the Saudi chambers of commerce and
industry has to form a committee of experienced and
efficient women to coordinate with the concerned
authorities to encourage establishments in the
private sector to find work for Saudi women, without
opening the door to foreign women workforce, and to
facilitate their training and education. The government
authorities, each in their own spheres of specialization,
should contribute their share toward realizing this
4-The Human Resources Development Fund should give
special attention to training and getting jobs for Saudi
women and should make this a part of its plans and
5- The Ministry of Labor has to coordinate with the
Ministry of Civil Service and the Ministry of Social
Affairs to take the necessary measures to put into
effect the approach of “work from a distance” as a
new field through which women can work and to carry
out the “productive family programs” and ensure the
availability of funds to make them succeed.
6- The Ministry of Labor has, in collaboration with the
Ministry of Civil Service and the Ministry of Social
Affairs, to lay down an integrated national plan for Saudi
women workforce that would specify the real needs for
women working in the different specializations. Such
a plan has to be completed within a year from issuing
this decision.
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7- Work in the stores that sell female requirements should
be confined to Saudi women and the Ministry of Labor
should set a time schedule to carry this out and follow
up on it.
8- The Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Commerce
and Industry, and the Council of the Saudi Chambers
of Commerce and Industry should study the issue of
maternity leaves for working women and look into the
possibility of extending their duration so as to grant
women an added incentive and privilege, but in a way
that will not be prejudicial to their opportunities of
getting hired.
With the help of such facilities, Saudi women were
able to find a foothold in the job market and a high
percentage of women have now found employment. A
working Saudi woman gets the same salary as that of her
male counterpart, while in the US and Europe a working
woman gets half the salary of her colleague of the same
post. Abdul Rahman Al-Jeraisy, the secretary general of the
Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry underlined
in a statement to the Riyadh-based Al-Jezirah Arabic
newspaper on February 15, 2005 that women’s savings in
the Saudi banks constitute 70% of the total savings. The
reason for this was that a Saudi woman has the freedom to
deal with her salary and her investments. A man, whether
he is a husband or father is the one responsible for the
woman’s expenses. However, there are certain constants
and principles that the Saudi woman is careful to adhere to
and accentuate while holding her job. These are:
1- Should not mix with men at work. Communication with
superiors or subordinates should be done by phone or
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computer or other means that would enable women to
establish contact quickly and effectively
2- The working Saudi woman enjoys equal rights with men
in pay and rights. She thus receives the same monthly
salary as men do. At the same time, even if she gets
the same salary, she is, nevertheless, not responsible
for supporting her family, because family expenditure
in the Saudi social culture – which emanates from its
Islamic creed – is man’s duty, for man is responsible for
spending on the family and for shouldering all financial
obligations. Such a division of roles makes the woman
usually spend her salary on luxuries, which makes her
feel completely satisfied with the pay she receives in
exchange for her work. A study conducted to measure
job satisfaction, particularly regarding salaries, among
Saudi males and females who head academic sections
at the Saudi higher education institutes, revealed a high
level of job satisfaction among females compared to
their male counterparts.
Saudi society believes in natural differences between the
two sexes, for not everything that man can do, woman can
do, and vice versa. Therefore, the Saudi woman was given
the chance to work in those fields that suit her nature and
instincts. Taking these differences into consideration does
not imply a lessening of women’s value but, on the contrary,
it indicates a deep respect for women. Women in Saudi
society do not take hard jobs that require physical effort.
They usually take jobs that require accuracy and patience
such as teaching, clerical, administrative, health and social
service jobs. This agrees with the studies made on women
working in the American army where women were unable to
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perform hard, physical chores for which they were trained,
such as changing airplane tires and working in the sphere of
storing ammunition.
Moreover, working in departments and administrations
that pertain to women exclusively enabled women to
attain the highest job positions without any competition
from men. Such positions include chairperson of girls’
departments, manager of a women’s bank branch, principal
of girls’ schools and dean of girls’ colleges.
These facts show that Saudi women do not suffer the
ordeals cited by information sources in the West and
repeated by them in all their reports on the position of
Saudi women and their rights.
The Religious
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Obliging non-Muslim women in Saudi Arabia
to abide by rules of modesty and decency
Dr. Mariam Al-Tamimi
It is well known that women are the focus of men’s
desires because God Almighty has provided the two sexes
with sexual instincts which have become innate to all
human beings. Islamic Sharia, however, has addressed this
side of man’s and woman’s nature and issued restrictions
and controls by which their desires can be fulfilled and
through which they can avert corruption and enjoy a
happy life.
Undoubtedly, one of the major factors that can spoil
the happiness of the two sexes is the straying of man or
woman from the right path and trying to satisfy those
instincts through all kinds of frivolous behavior which
puts modesty to shame, such as some women exposing
their personal charms or not wearing a veil and other
manifestations of indecency which drive human societies
to a life of bestiality or even to an abnormal way of life.
Violence, kidnapping and rape which occur in societies
of the world are nothing but a reflection of this kind of
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moral deviation. Since Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country
which has been established according to Islamic rules and
principles and has been implementing them to all aspects
of its political, social and educational life, applying the
teachings of Islam and pursuing the principle of enjoining
what is right and forbidding what is wrong becomes one
of its most salient features.
Overexposing parts of the body and unveiling affect the
morals of the two sexes; for the man who is unrestrained by
religion or reason, is at the mercy of his lust which drives
him towards women and no indecent woman who exposes
a great part of her charms will be safe from his assaults.
Therefore, it was necessary to institute the system of the
religious police which derives from the texts of Sharia and
which forbids Muslim and non-Muslim women to expose
their charms. This was made for many considerations, the
most important among which are:
First: Safeguarding Islamic society from moral
deviation, exposing female charms is one of
its causes.
Secondly: Preventing man from moral deviation and
protecting Muslim and non-Muslim women
from the lewdness of dissolute men.
Thirdly: Keeping sexual instincts under control and
preventing them from going astray.
In the third item of the first article in the first chapter
of the executive regulations of the Committee for the
Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice which were
promulgated by Royal Decree No. M-37 dated September
6, 1980, we find the following statement: “Monitoring
Public Souks (markets), roads, parks and other public
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places to prevent the occurrence of the following illegal
1- Women mixing with men and indecent exposure, both
of which are forbidden by Islamic law.
2- Imitating the acts and appearance of one sex by the
3- Subjecting women to verbal or physical abuse by
These three items offer the best protection for women
in particular and society in general. Intermingling of men
and women often leads to forbidden relationships between
them. One of the main reasons for the failure of marital
life is the mingling of men and women which leads to an
illicit relationship.
When one of the two sexes tries to be like the other, it
will have a negative effect on woman’s dignity and self
respect. Thus, if a man tries to be like a woman, he will
be invading her distinctiveness and annulling her gender;
and if a woman tries to be like a man, this will lead her to
abandon her true nature and lose her femininity. That is why
such an act is forbidden. When men assault women verbally
or physically, this is because the women themselves may
have exposed their charms or abandoned the veil and by
doing so have become prey to perverted men. Therefore,
forbidding indecent dressing and unveiling is to protect
women and safeguard their chastity.
Foreign residents and visitors to the Kingdom are also
required by the rules and conventions to abide by this
principle and not to violate it. Thus, Royal Decree No.
18588- was issued on October 23, 1979 and stated that
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to notify all foreign
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embassies that this country had its own customs and
traditions, derived from the true religion of Islam and
that every new-comer to the Kingdom had to conform to
It is a norm that every country in the world respects the
systems and laws of the host country and it is not violating
the general inclination of its people. Moreover, obliging
non-Muslim women to cover up and wear modest clothing
is for their own protection against rape or molestation.
The reality on the ground and official statistics prove
that the number of assaults on women goes up the more
they display their charms and abandon the veil, while this
number decreases or even disappears the more they dress
decently and use the veil.
All people have in common a sense of dignity, identity
and self-esteem and everyone should be respectable and
dignified at all times and in all places.
We all ask, why, when God Almighty created the birds,
the cattle, the domestic and wild animals, He gave them
what covered their bodies. So He covered the bodies of
birds with feathers, of sheep with wool, of goats and camels
with hair, of cats rabbits and such like with fur. He could
very well have made them adapt without giving them what
covers their bodies. In this there is much wisdom; for God
the Great and Almighty, is beautiful and loves beauty, and
no doubt ‘clothing’ these animals and birds makes them
look beautiful. If we asked a sane person which is more
beautiful: a bird that has its feathers plucked or a bird with
its feathers on?, he would answer immediately and without
the slightest hesitation that the bird covered with feathers
is the more beautiful. The same thing applies to animals:
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if a cat or a rabbit were shorn of its fur, there is no doubt
it would look pitiable and embarrassing. Glory to Allah
Who has created everything in the best possible shape!
When God the Great and Almighty created man, He
created him to be the reasonable, sagacious, inventive and
creative being that builds and strives to do good; therefore,
He did not cover his body with fur and feathers, but left
him free to cover himself with whatever he liked. Whoever
is endowed with a sound innate nature and has a rational
sensible mind will wear modest clothes that cover his
body properly. But whoever has a corrupted innate nature
and a mind that has strayed will be lax about his clothes.
He may even deteriorate further and begin to argue with
and reprimand those he sees wearing decent clothes and
inviting others to decency and morality.
Accordingly, based on what we have said, we can
conclude that modesty is something innate that has been
implanted into man and that all religions have called for
because it is one of the virtues.
In our country, Saudi Arabia, this human exchange
also takes place and foreign women come to us to work
and contribute to growth and development and they dress
Somebody may ask: Why is the non-Muslim woman
obliged in our country to dress modestly? We answer him
as follows:
1- When a non-Muslim woman comes to our country and
sees the general character of society, she respects it and
tries to get close to it and become attuned to it because
what she sees is a system that society has got used to
and followed. She therefore tends to respect that system
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and the law of the land. What is worth mentioning is
that those who come to us to work, whether they are
coming from the East or the West, are known to respect
the system and the law, just as they also respect the
value of time, working hours and systems. They even
surpassed us Muslims. That is why they occupy an
eminent position: because they are people who master
what they do and respect discipline and order.
It is known about Non-Muslim tourists who come
to visit Islamic countries that when they wish to see
the inside of a mosque and its architecture, they do
what Muslims do. They do not enter the mosque with
their shoes on, but take them off because they see the
Muslims doing that so they respect their ways and apply
them when going into the mosque without there being
a policeman at the door or anybody else to ask them
to do that. This proves that non-Muslims have a fine
taste, know how to conduct themselves, and possess a
great deal of tact. That is why non-Muslims are known
to respect and appreciate the system of the country to
which they go. This is also the case with us in Saudi
Arabia: non-Muslim women respect the system and
the laws in force in society; so they dress modestly in
keeping with the social conventions and out of respect
for them.
2- When a non-Muslim woman comes to Saudi Arabia
and sees the general trend of society, she finds herself
wearing modest clothes. This is a natural thing because
man is sociable by nature and hates to be an outsider in
society. If man is at variance with his environment, he
will make himself the target of people’s looks and their
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remarks. He will then feel estranged and worried. But
when he is in tune with the society to which he came,
he will feel safe and psychologically comfortable
especially if such attunement is called for by virtue,
and modest clothing is indeed a virtue and recognized
as such by any perceptive individual.
3- There is a difference between dressing modestly and
wearing the veil. The non-Muslim woman is not
obliged to wear a veil or cover her face, but she chooses
to dress modestly because she sees how women in the
society dress and because modesty is found in every
sensible human being. All societies have already
known those women that wear long clothes and put
a hat or a handkerchief on their heads. Humanity has
indeed experienced modesty in dressing, but some
contemporary societies have been slack in enforcing it
and therefore have suffered from a few moral and sexrelated problems.
4- A country that ensures that all women, Muslim and
non-Muslim, adhere to modesty in their dressing must
be a virtuous and a healthy land that wishes good to all
If we ask sensible and wise people which they prefer:
decent clothes that cover a great part of the body or
indecent clothes that expose a great part of it; prompted
by their innate natures, they will surely answer that they
prefer the decent clothes.
If we ask them again which they respect more: the
woman wearing decent clothes or the semi-naked woman,
they will definitely say that they prefer the woman wearing
modest clothes.
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A country that propagates one of the virtues of humanity
should be given full support as it seeks to implement the
principle of spreading virtue through dressing decently. The
world should not succumb to the whims of the investigator
and fault-finder, which is what we have noticed in the
reports released by political organizations and the media
in the West. For example, in its issue dated May 11, 2002,
USA Today published many falsehoods about the Saudi
woman. This paper interfered in the particularity of the
Saudi woman which she chose for herself and alleged that
the religious police meddle with her life at school, in the
souks (public markets) and when she travels. The paper
was judging the relationship between women and the
religious police by the standards of Western culture which
it sought to impose on the Saudi society.
Susan Sachs, correspondent for The New York Times,
wrote on December 5, 2000 stories about the adventures
of some Saudi youth who rebelled against the moral
standards of society. She said that those youth defied the
men of the religious police and molested women in the
largest public markets in Riyadh. In her stories, Sachs
glorified these young people and said they were practicing
some sort of liberalism which the religious police always
try to suppress in the markets. This newspaper, which
enjoys a wide circulation in the U.S, also condemned in its
issue of January 22, 2004, the position of the grand Mufti
and chairman of the Senior Ulema (Muslim Scholars)
Commission in Saudi Arabia towards what happened at the
Jeddah Economic Forum where women were unveiled and
mingled with men. The newspaper described the Mufti’s
position as a “disaster” and as a confrontation between a
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religious institution and women liberation movement in
Saudi Arabia.
Whoever reads these media reports in the West would,
at first sight, imagine that Saudi society is composed of
many different religions, various cultures and several
races – all of which are facing something called “Islam”.
This undoubtedly contradicts the truth and opposes
reality. Western public opinion should know that what
is communicated by its political organizations and media
about the religious police in Saudi Arabia is the brainchild
of a single employee who serves particular policies.
Whoever comes to Saudi Arabia and sees the position of
women and how they live will remember that what he has
learnt about them through those sources was a distortion
of facts and a falsification of the truth. This opinion has not
been put forth by us Saudis, but we have heard it expressed
by all sensible and fair people who have visited our
country recently, especially Western women who came to
Saudi Arabia as media correspondents and became closely
familiar with the position of the Saudi woman. We are not
going to repeat their commendations, but would like to
lay stress on an important fact: The way Western media
portrays Saudi society and the Saudi woman contradicts
in a radical manner the truth and reality about them as
experienced in our country.

Religious Police in Saudi Arabia english islamic book pdf

The Religious
Police in
Saudi Arabia
At the end of this book, we would like to say to the
peoples in the West and to those having other cultures,
that we in Saudi Arabia may not attain the perfection of
the Islamic vision and that in the process of applying
it there are many errors committed by individuals and
institutions. We also admit that such errors contributed
to the formation of the mental image that the West has
about the religious police. However, there is no way we
can abolish a basic fundamental of our religion as a result
of individual or even collective errors because the defect
is not in the vision itself or in the principle itself but in the
way it is applied, just as we cannot judge Islam through the
practices of a few Muslims, or the American, British, or
French constitutions through the violations committed by
some individuals either deliberately or through ignorance
of the ways they should be applied.
What we would like to say is that the religious police in
Saudi Arabia is an application of the principle of enjoining
doing what is right and forbidding what is wrong which
is considered one of the basic fundamentals in the life of
the Saudis. They have accepted this basic fundamental
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and been satisfied with it. They now consider it one of the
most important characteristics of their society and culture.
This principle represents for the Saudis a social and moral
system that ensures for the society, in accordance with
the Islamic vision of life, what many of the punitive and
punishment systems that are prevalent in other societies
cannot ensure.