The relationship between the ulama and the government in the contemporary Saudi Arabian Kingdom : an interdependent relationship?
This thesis examines the relationship between the ulama and the government in contemporary Saudi Arabia (end of 1970s until 1999). The study contends that the relationship between the ulama and the government is based on interdependence. The majority of previous analysis on Saudi Arabia underplays the importance of the role of the ulama, who indeed no longer have direct access to the government's decision making. However this study shows how the role of the ulama is paramount for the legitimacy of the regime, an aspect that defines the nature of the interdependence between the ulama and the government. Two sets of hypothesis are used to explain how this relationship oscillates between conflict and cooperation in relation to the creation and maintenance of the legitimacy of the regime. An analysis of the historical role of the ulama and examples of their role in current times has been brought in, to provide an understanding of the development of the role of both the ulama and the government in Saudi Arabia. The creation and maintenance of the legitimacy of the political system in Saudi Arabia underscores how and in which domains the relationship between the parties produces both conflict and cooperation, as well as how Saudi society participates in the maintenance of the legitimacy. The ulama's role, moderating among the different actors of the society, has been emphasized through an examination of the contestation of the regime by different groups and individuals since 1979, and the record of cooperation with the government. The conclusions of the research show how the ulama are important for the definition of the rules and values around which Saudi society revolves. However the role of the ulama is being threatened by the challenges emanating from the access to modern technology and the implications of the incorporation of Saudi society into the world economy.