When he first became imam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah, 38 years ago, Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais was the most loved by the people. His recitation of the Quran as he led the night prayers in the Haram would attract those listening. The tapes of his recitations were listened to across the Arab world and even the Muslim world. When he recited the Qunut supplications in his melodious voice during the qiyam prayers in Ramadan, the people's hearts cried before their eyes in reverence for God. In his Friday sermon, he would call for the unity of the nation and its strength for the sake of liberating Palestine and returning the occupied land to its people, its rightful owners.
In Ramadan 2014, the people stood in prayer at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the prayer after the attacks on Gaza was: "Oh Allah, the anguish of our Muslim brothers has grown, grant them victory in Palestine against the invading occupiers. We ask you oh Allah, in all of your glory and might, we ask you by your supreme names and traits, to save Al-Aqsa Mosque from the desecration of the invaders." In a Friday sermon made during the same year, he said: "There are those in our nation who are still deceived by the normalisation and surrender, denouncing jihad and the uprising and accusing it of being seditious and anarchism. The sanctities of the nation mean nothing to them and do not provoke anything in them. They see Al-Aqsa Mosque as any other building in the face of grim secularists. Will those promoting delusion and running after a mirage realise the truth of the conflict before it is too late?"
— جهاد الأنصاري (@N9NwLjfYvztouo7) September 4, 2020
Sheikh Al-Sudais denied all the above in his Friday sermon on 4 September. He completely reversed his positions and called for coexistence with as the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) did with his Jewish neighbour. He mentioned in his sermon, which was broadcast on Saudi television channels, how the Prophet performed ablution using water from a non-believing woman's waterskin. Al-Sudais forgot to mention that the Jews in Madinah at the time were not intruders or invaders occupying the city, but rather were among its people and from within its tribes. As for today's Jews in Palestine, they are invaders brought from around the world, with no connection to Palestine. They have arrived from the West, supplied with money and weapons, and have killed the indigenous people of Palestine, except for those rescued by God. They seized Palestine and its resources, while its people live in the diaspora. They destroyed, demolished, killed and uprooted even the olive trees in Palestine. Sheikh Sudais, are you still convinced that they should be treated well when they treat our people in Palestine with complete brutality and tyranny?
I was under the impression that Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais was familiar with Islamic history and that he wasnknowledgeable about the community in Madinah before the Prophet's migration to the city and the Prophet's life there, and that he knows about the difficulties he faced. However, the Sheikh disappointed me, and I found out, like others, that he is hollow and knows no more than what he needs to preserve his personal interests and aligns with the ruler's ideas, desires and intentions.
I thought that Sheikh Al-Sudais would use his closeness to the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, and pray for him from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and ask him to release the detained jurists and scholars who advocate moderation instead of calling for tolerance towards Zionist Jews in preparation for official normalisation with them in Israel.
It is not permissible for Islamic jurists to trade or use the religion of God to please the ruler, nor is it permissible for them, under any pretext, to interpret the religion to achieve their self-interests. We know that Mohammad Bin Salman is a supporter of normalisation with Israel, the main enemy of Arabs and Muslims, as Al-Sudais would describe it in past sermons at the Grand Mosque. Therefore, it is not permissible for him to be a hypocrite for the crown prince and encourage his bad deeds and decisions.
I will conclude by saying that in recent years, a group of people whom we considered to be the most pious and fearful of God have become the most hypocritical and disregarding of our religion. This is the case with Al-Sudais and with Abdul Aziz Al-Rayes before him, who said one must obey their ruler and should not disobey or advise them, even if the ruler sins and transgresses against his religion.
They are scholars of the end of time, and we say to Sheikh Al-Sudais, "Fear God in what you say".
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 10 September 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.