Ibn Baaz and Ibn Uthaymeen: ‘Palace Scholars’ or Not?
Were Ibn Baaz and Ibn Uthaymeen ‘palace scholars’? Ibn Baaz and Ibn Uthaymeen and many of the previous scholars who have passed away were aligned with the (Saudi) regime, of course. There’s no doubt about this. They were giving fatwas (religious decrees) in line with what the regime wanted. All the statements issued by the ‘Council of Senior Scholars’ were in favor of the regime. They always gave fatwas against those that criticized the regime. That’s for sure. However, they did not stoop as low and did not sell themselves out cheaply as many of those who are alive today. These ones are ready to resort to using profanities and cursing the opponents of the regime using vile language. Or, they’re ready to blur the lines between their political bias in favor of the Al-Sauds and many of the issues having to do with society or their normal fatwas. The current crop of religious scholars engage in manipulation so that everything lines up with the whims of the Al-Sauds, even in social and economic matters and the ordinary lives of individuals. As for Ibn Baaz and Ibn Uthaymeen, when it came to issues slightly removed from the Al-Sauds (i.e. politics), they could maintain a high level of integrity. Of course, you could agree or disagree with their methodology in giving fatwas, but they would not allow themselves to be pressured by the (Al-Saud) rulers on every single issue. Unfortunately though, they and all the members of the ‘Council of Senior Scholars’ have issued fatwas against the ‘Letter of Demands’ (1991) and the ‘Memorandum of Advice’ (1992) and the ‘Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights’ (1993). They also issued fatwas criminalizing Salman Al-Ouda and Safar Al-Hawali. They also issued fatwas banning thousands of sermon-givers and preachers. They have also showered praise on the (Saudi) government in a repeated and excessive manner. If that’s what you mean by ‘palace scholars,’ then, yes, they were so. But, if what you mean is that they’re on par with Aa’idh Al-Qarni and the current crop, I don’t think that this description fits them.