Global Jihad is a constructed category, perpetuated in the discourse of academics, think tank consultants, politicians, policy makers, terror experts, and journalists on the one hand, and Jihadi ideologues and sympathisers on the other hand. The first group identify a global menace that requires the mobilisation of governments, military strategists, civil society activists, and media campaigns across the world to justify the global War on Terror. The second group endeavours to mobilise Muslims across cultures, nations and geographies in the pursuit of deterritorialised battles that nevertheless take place in specific localities, ranging from world financial centres, train stations, discos, expatriate residential compounds, tourist resorts, shrines, mosques and markets. Focusing on the contradictions and tensions within the Saudi Jihadi project is the subject of this short exposition(i). I will argue that Saudi Jihadis represent post-national non-state actors who draw on the rhetoric of the global Jihad, yet they remain immersed in the locality of Saudi Arabia.(ii) Rather than selecting famous contemporary Jihadi ideologues, this paper draws on the messages of less known Saudi authors of jihadi texts to demonstrate the centrality of the local in the global project. The first author Faris al-Shuwayl wrote about the priority of local Jihad: the other Lewis Atiyat Allah glorified the global project. Both seem to exhibit the tension between the local and the global.
Contesting the local state
In al-Shuwayl and Lewis Atiyat Allah’s writings, the first Saudi state (1744-1818) is glorified as dawlat al-tawhid
, the state of monotheism, a political entity unbounded by defined territorial boundaries, unrecognised by the international community, and uncontaminated by international treaties and legal obligations. The first state is a local political configuration that defied regional and international contexts and promised to make true Islam hegemonic. They regard this state as a revival of the state of prophecy where the community was subjected to divine law. Membership was determined not by recognised frontiers but by submission to the rightful Imam
, whose authority over distant territory was recognised by paying zakat
, receiving his judges, and performing Jihad under his banner. In the first state, unity was expressed in belief in one God, applying his rule and swearing allegiance to his political authority on earth. oth al-Shuwayl and Lewis Atiyat Allah regard the main agent of this state to be Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab rather than Muhammad ibn Saud; the former was the interpreter of God’s words while the latter was the executive force that enforces these words. This state had no name apart from dawlat al-tawhid
, state of monotheism, a deterritorialised polity pursuing the ultimate message of Islam, subjecting the individual to the sovereignty of God. As such, this state cannot be confined to man made borders, cultural and historical factors, ethnic and linguistic considerations or any other attributes common in defining the modern nation state. As such it was the ideal Muslim state that rebelled against blasphemy, religious innovations, and man-made law. The collapse of this state in 1818 at the hands of Ottoman troops temporarily sealed the fate of dawlat al-tawhid
whose advocates impatiently waited for its revival in the twentieth century.
Posted by Main at 08:50 PM.
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A shorter version of this chapter will appear in Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim (eds.) The War for Palestine: rewriting the history of 1948 War . 2nd edition Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007
Non-Saudis initially wrote the modern history of Saudi Arabia. Although chronicles, private papers, and primary sources existed inside and outside the country, until very recently Western and Arab historians produced modern Saudi historiography. Saudi Arabia was one of the latest countries to establish modern history departments and research centres. It was only in the 1960s that the ‘modern’ Saudi historian emerged after the profession was dominated by ulama who played the double role of religious scholar and chronicler. Up to the 1960s, the past was theological rather than historical, a reflection of the predominance of historical narratives propagated by religious scholars.
It was only after the first oil boom of the 1970s that the Saudi government turned its attention to systematically producing the great historical narrative that most Arab regimes had already produced and propagated to consolidate the nascent nation states that emerged in the post World War II era. Unlike in other Arab countries, and with the exception of one or two Saudi historians, modern Saudi historical research centres relied on Arab scholars, who were either seconded from their own academic institutions or had settled in the country. Even then, and because of serious human resource shortage, Saudi school and university history text books, and even the religious curriculum, were often written by Arabs, mainly Levantine and Egyptians who were entrusted with the task of narrating Saudi Arabia.
The narration was meant to establish and enforce two important state legitimacy narratives, one reflected the need to legitimate the state internally, the other reflected the need to legitimate the state externally in the Arab and Islamic contexts.
The establishment of King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives in Riyadh (known as al-Dara) in1972 marked the beginning of institutionalised official historiography, after a long period of laisser-faire approach to narrating the past. The role of this research centre in shaping historical imagination became paramount. In the 1980s an ambitious government scheme materialised in sending at least thirty Saudi students to various American universities to write PhD dissertations on Al-Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, thus establishing modern Saudi historiography. The role of such students and that of al-Dara reached a climax with the 1999 centennial celebrations that coincided with the publication of hundreds of history books, foreign memoirs, translation of foreign testimonies, and official letters and sermons by King Abdulaziz ibn Saud (1876-1953) hereafter Ibn Saud, all marking ‘one hundred year of development, prosperity and political wisdom’.i The publication of selected documents and letters from various archival sources marked the beginning of documenting Saudi history from an official point of view.ii
Posted by Main at 08:58 PM.
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Chapter One: Gertrude Bell: a biographical Note
Chapter Two: Hail in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter Three: The Journey and the Photographs
Chapter Four: Hail between Two Empires
Chapter Five: the End of an Era
On a rainy day in January 1987, I found myself in a narrow dusty basement in the photographic library of the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, London. I was writing a thesis on the political and social history of the Rashidi emirate of Hail, a small state founded by one of my ancestors in the nineteenth century. Having spent months locating this history in various archives, diplomatic correspondence, and monographs of travellers, I was aware that images of Hail at the beginning of the twentieth century would be an invaluable record of a bygone era. My search for these images led to the Royal Geographical Society, where I came across the incredible collection of Gertrude Bell. Later I found out that the complete collection is held at the University of Newcastle.
Posted by Main at 09:38 AM.
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