by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 4, Ramadan, 1440)
In the last ten days of Ramadan, most Muslims generally turn to greater devotion by sitting either in i‘tikaf (seclusion in a masjid for extra devotional prayers and contemplation) or participate in additional nightly prayers referred to as qiyam al-layl (literally, standing — in prayer — at night).
In the Bani Saud ruled Kingdom, far from turning to devotion, executioners have been ordered to sharpen their swords for another macabre ritual to be carried out publicly, soon after Ramadan. The widely read web portal, Middle East Eye, reported on May 21 that it had received credible reports of plans to execute three moderate Sunni scholars after Ramadan (EXCLUSIVE: Saudi Arabia to execute three prominent moderate scholars after Ramadan).
The three prominent scholars held on multiple charges of “terrorism” are Shaykh Salman al-‘Awdah, Awad Al-Qarni, and ‘Ali al-‘Umari. The charges carry the death penalty and Saudi prosecutors have called for the scholars to be executed.
Salman al-‘Awdah is an internationally renowned scholar known for his comparatively progressive views in the Islamic world on Shari‘ah. Awad Al-Qarni is a Sunni preacher, academic, and author, while ‘Ali al-‘Umari is a popular broadcaster. All three were arrested in September 2017.
It took a year after his arrest before Shaykh al-‘Awdah was brought to appear at a closed hearing of the Special Criminal Court. This is a tribunal set up by the interior ministry to try cases of terrorism but the regime has used it to sentence anyone who expresses an opinion even at slight variance with that of Bin Salman. He demands absolute subservience and with his changing ideas, it is difficult to keep track.
The special prosecutor leveled 37 charges of terrorism against al-‘Awdah. These included alleged affiliation to “terrorist organizations.” For the barbaric Saudis, these include the Muslim Brotherhood and the European Council for Fatwa and Research.
Shaykh al-‘Awdah was also accused of exposing “injustices toward prisoners” and of “expressing cynicism and sarcasm about the government’s achievements.” Since when have exposing injustices toward prisoners become a crime in Islam? After all, the regime’s so-called constitution says it is based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Bedouins have a strange understanding of the noble Book and the prophetic Sunnah.
Another charge included his alleged affiliation with the Qatari royal family. Shaykh Salman al-‘Awdah was arrested shortly after tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, three months after Riyadh launched a blockade of its Persian Gulf neighbor.
The Saudi regime currently headed by King Salman is actually governed by his erratic and brash son Muhammad bin Salman (MbS). He has tried to present an image of “moderate Islam” to the world but his policies are anything but moderate and do not include reconciliation even with fellow Muslims.
Bin Salman demands absolute obedience; no independent thought is allowed. He is even dismissive of Qur’anic commands (nastaghfir-allah). For instance, the Qur’an says, “Hence, if two groups of committed Muslims fall to fighting, make peace between them but if one of the two [groups] goes on acting wrongfully toward the other, fight against the one that acts wrongfully until it reverts to Allah’s commandment…” (49:09).
Shaykh al-‘Awdah was not in a position to stop the conflict, childishly initiated by Bin Salman with Qatar but he prayed for reconciliation between them. Why is that a crime? But in the medieval kingdom led by Bin Salman, his word must be considered supreme, no matter how idiotic.
The three prominent personalities have been infrequently hauled before the Special Criminal Court in Riyadh. It is a kangaroo court governed by no specific laws. Judges hand down sentences based on what the regime wants. Defence lawyers are seldom allowed in court and on the rare occasion when someone appears, the court often punishes him for going against state wishes.
The two scholars and TV personality have been held in solitary confinement since their detention. Family visits are not allowed and given the nature of Saudi prisons, torture cannot be ruled out. In fact, a hearing was set for May 1 before the Criminal Court postponed it without setting a new date. Was it because the victims were badly tortured and their appearance in court would have exposed the regime’s criminal conduct?
Their death sentences are a foregone conclusion. Two regime sources and one of the men’s relatives reportedly told Middle East Eye that the executions will be carried out shortly after Ramadan.
The scholars and TV preacher had a massive following online. For instance, al-‘Awdah’s Arabic Twitter account boasts 13.4 million followers alone, and the hashtag #freesalmanalodah emerged after his arrest. Al-‘Umari’s TV station “For Youth” also had a huge audience.
Why is the regime acting in this brutal manner when these men have not committed any crime, notwithstanding the scandalous allegations made against them? The fact the regime is able to get away with such crimes is because of US and Zionist support. Donald Trump wants to milk the Saudis of hundreds of billions of dollars and he is willing to turn a blind eye to the Bedouins’ egregious crimes. If some innocent Saudis are murdered in the process, so be it. After all, 37 innocent people were executed in April without much international criticism.
The same applies to the Zionists’ embrace of Bani Saud. They are protecting the Najdi Bedouins because the latter have promised to deliver them Palestine, including al-Masjid al-Aqsa. Pro-regime newspapers in Saudi Arabia have openly stated that their alliance with Israel is more important than the Holy Sanctuary or the Holy Land!
The Bedouin-ruled Kingdom is beset with much internal turmoil; even the vast majority of people live in absolute fear and dare not speak. Bin Salman has shattered old alliances between the ruling family, the religious establishment, and tribes. Before his father became king, matters were discussed among senior members of Bani Saud and they presented a united front to the outside world.
Since Bin Salman is very young and does not qualify to be among the senior princes, so he has disrupted that arrangement. Instead, he has taken on a number of senior princes and badly mistreated them. He is trying to create new alliances. His allies include Bandar bin Sultan, Turki bin Faysal and of course, his own younger brother, Khalid.
He has gone after such senior figures as Mi‘tab bin ‘Abdullah, Muhammad bin Nayif, al-Walid bin Talal and Muqrin bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. The first three are his cousins while the fourth is his uncle who was crown prince before King Salman dismissed him from that position. Instead, he appointed Muhammad bin Nayif as a stopgap measure only to knock him off quickly elevating his own son.
There is great resentment among other members of the family over these changes. They are simply bidding their time and waiting for Salman to die. He is already 82 years old and suffers from Alzheimers.
Most informed observers are of the opinion that once Salman is gone, there is likely to be much internal turmoil. Muhammad bin Salman’s brutal tactics in killing innocent people are not likely to subdue everyone into submission. He has created too many enemies and they must be sharpening their knives to strike him at the first opportunity.