chapter  3
32 Pages

Towards socialization

As I suggested in previous chapters, historically ‘official Islam’ has been synonymous with ‘true Islam’. However, it would be too simplistic to reduce the officialization of the truth to a conflictual process, which only entails force and repression. Other factors such as narrative construction, leadership and socialization are also essential to maintain and perpetuate the ‘official truth’. However, effective socialization of official narratives requires a set of preconditions, as collective socialization cannot take place within an institutional vacuum. Indeed, the process of top-down socialization capable of exercising power

cannot emerge in the absence of a necessary infrastructure, which could effectively translate direct repression based on brute force to indirect control based on consent. By necessary infrastructure, I refer to a set of social agencies that have been developed and employed by the ruling order to promote and promulgate its own ideological perspectives to gain legitimacy. Through various socializing and associational agencies, the state attempts to synchronize its subjects with its own legitimizing narratives. As already stated, the House of Saud utilized violence as the first step

towards domination. However, once their internal rivals were physically removed, they were in need of a raison d’être for their monopolization of power. They needed a form of legitimacy could sustain their rule in the long term. Hence, their continuity and political sustainability required more complex mechanisms of social control. In other words, they had to create institutions, which would solidify the official ‘truth’ and standardize religious consciousness in accordance with the ideological narratives of the ruling order. This chapter aims to examine the process of institution building in Saudi

Arabia after 1932. Although constructing effective state institutions was essential for the continuity of the House of Saud, there were many impediments, which slowed the process. For example, tribalism, which was embedded in the political culture of the Arabian Peninsula, constituted an obstacle against the formation of effective central institutions for the House of

Saud. This was partly because of the fact that in practice the House of Saud still did not possess all the essential elements for constructing a new nationstate. How could the House of Saud establish a trans-tribal hegemony within a highly tribal society? How could central political authority be established when tribalism could create cultural, territorial and political divisions? Indeed the officialization of Wahhabism could not materialize in the

absence of a central authority. Therefore, the first step for political and ideological domination within the new territory was to create a nation-state.1

Thus, unlike the first and second Saudi emirates, the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia embarked on an ambitious project of constructing a modern nation-state. Within the previous chieftaincy framework, the House of Saud had to resort to military muscle to sustain its power; only a favourable balance of power could guarantee its dominance within the given territory, which was constantly in the process of change and transition. However, in the nation-state model, functioning states have no choice but

to bind their identity to their nations. In other words, functioning states institute the necessary mechanisms to serve nations, and in doing so they form and mould nations to suit their own needs.2 This process of alteration and adjustment, which includes conformity and uniformity, became an important aspect of the nation-state building to which Saudis were committing themselves. In this light, I will discuss the measures that were taken by the House of Saud to construct a ‘horizontally bonded’ society in which they could be perceived as the natural possessors of power within an ‘organic’ territory whereby the state and the nation were ‘naturally’ connected. Nation building is a social construction, which touches on every aspect of life including its most mundane elements.3 Indeed, the institutions of the state constantly enforce policies to intervene in the production of culture and identity.4 Nation building also includes the creation of a national consciousness, which corresponds to the political orientation of the state. Following the formation of the nation-state, this chapter aims to examine

the formation of some specific institutions and ministries, which have helped the House of Saud to recondition national religious consciousness in accordance with its official regime of ‘truth’. For example, Dar Al-Ifta, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Hajj will be examined, and their role in establishing Wahhabism as the unquestionable ‘truth’ will be analysed. Furthermore, there will be an attempt to analyse the role of religious practitioners within these state institutions.5