Islamic law and the judiciary : development in Saudi Arabia in the 20th century.
It is a well known saying in Saudi Arabia that differences amongst citizens
should be regulated by the shari'a, Islamic law. Respect for the shari'a as
a God-given law is a central element for the stability of the country and
the legitimacy of the rulers. How the shari'a has developed in the recent
history of Saudi Arabia and how the judicial institutions which apply it
have accommodated change whilst maintaining people's respect for the
rule of law is the subject of this thesis.
The pace of social change in Saudi Arabia in the twentieth century has had
to accommodate, since the unification of the Kingdom by 'Abd al-'Aziz in
the 1920s, the old alliance which had been struck in the 18th century by
the house of Saud and the Islamic reformist Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-
Wahhab. The judicial resolution of some of the problems faced by the
contemporary Saudi state forms the bulk of the work.
The first two chapters deal with the constitutional evolution of Saudi
Arabia, from the time of the unification of the Hijaz in 1924, at local
(Chapter 1) and national (Chapter 2) levels. This is followed by an
analysis of the specific changes in the Kingdom's judicial organization in
general (chapter 3), and of two other main judicial institutions in the
Kingdom, known as the Grievance Board (diwan al-,nazali,n, chapter 4)
and the Council of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice
(hay 'at al-amr bil-ma 'ruf wal-nahi 'an al-,munkar, chapters 5 and 6). In
both cases, the chapters will offer an overview of the historical legacy of
the corresponding institutions in classical Islam and their adaptation in the modern Saudi state. Some decisions rendered by these institutions will
also be used to illustrate the judicial operation in the Kingdom in the light
of the shari'a.