By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Shaikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, who would turn 90 in 2023, is an Islamic scholar associated with several high religious bodies in Saudi Arabia. He is an iconic figure in the Salafi movement in Saudi Arabia. His influence on Muslims, especially in the United States and India, is immense. Many Muslims consider him a towering Islamic scholar in the image of Ibn Taymiyah or Imam Ahmed Hanbal.
His followers uploaded one of his sermons on youtube, condemning protest rallies and demonstrations of any kind and describing them sinful and haram (not permitted in the faith of Islam). The ideas presented were in response to the Arab Spring and the Arab movements for democracy.
He described demonstrations haram in Islam as “from the deen (faith) of Kuffar and not from the faith of Islam.” He explained that enemies of Islam enter the ranks of Muslims to destroy their unity through demonstrations and hold them responsible for the chaos, bloodshed, violence, and destruction in the Muslim world. He said that non-Muslims and delusional Muslim youth are responsible for organizing these unIslamic demonstrations. He urged the Muslim youth to appeal to the rulers and the court to bring about changes in society. He also asked Muslims to shun the evil machine (internet) to save their families.
The Salafi movement in the US used his views to condemn Black Lives Matter rallies and India’s demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act. In the US, they argued that communists, lesbians, and gays were behind the movement, and in India, they argued that Saudi Arabia is supportive of Modi. In both countries, they condemned Muslims participating in demonstrations and protest rallies.
Al-Fawzan is a controversial figure because of his ideas. He is a defender of slavery. In 2003, he said, “slavery is a part of Islam … Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long as Islam.” He dismissed its exponents, saying, “They are ignorant, not scholars. … Whoever says such things is an infidel.”
In May 2016, he said, “Taking pictures is prohibited if not for a necessity – not with cats, not with dogs, not with wolves, not with anything.”
Saleh al-Fawzan is like a father figure by MbS. A month before the Assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, al-Fawzan put out a fatwa calling for the killing of critics of the Saudi state.
Al-Fawzan calls Shias “unbelievers” who “lie about God, his prophet, and the consensus of Muslims”.
None of what Al-Fawza says originates from either the Quran or the authentic lifestyle of the Prophet, the two fundamental sources of Islam. Neither God nor the Prophet ever condemned demonstration or protests. They did not defend slavery, and they did not declare taking pictures prohibited. They also did not denounce the supporters of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet.
His ideas are rooted in his tribalism and submission to the Saudi monarchs.
Islam calls for action against injustice. Prophet Muhammad advises Muslims to stand against it based on their ability to oppose. The Prophet often stood for justice along with his companions against its violators.
The Quran says: “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it is against yourselves, parents, and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be fair. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (4:135)
It is an obligation upon every believing man and woman to stand against injustice. Discrimination against people based on their race, religion, color, caste, and staus is injustice. Blacks are the victims of biases and discrimination in all cultures and religious communities. Anyone who prevents people from joining movements for justice support racism and bigotry. Al-Fawzan’s supporters are preventing people from participating in rallies for human dignity. They are defying God and his messenger, and they dare to claim that they are the faithful.