From Yemen to Palestine, and now Khashoggi, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shown that ruling within Islamic ethical mores is not his style.

The killing and alleged dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi violates Islamic law and norms, an Islamic scholar tells TRT World, adding it could turn global Muslim sentiment against the kingdom.

As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the royal family and the king of Saudi Arabia are, in principle, expected to comply with Islamic law. The alleged desecration of Khashoggi's body is forbidden in Islamic jurisprudence. 

"The Shariah aims to protect and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of human beings, even after their death. Therefore, the desecration of any corpse by mutilation, dismembering, or any other wrongful interference is categorically forbidden in the Shariah," says Tariq al Tamimi, an Islamic scholar and doctoral student at SOAS, University of London. 

The post-mortem mutilation of Khashoggi's body is Islamically and unequivocally prohibited, Tamimi goes on to say. 

The body of Khashoggi has yet to be found, which further compounds the potential violations of Islamic norms.

Typically, the deceased, in the Islamic tradition, would receive their funeral rights on the same day allowing family, friends and other Muslim worshipers to pray over the body. 

Khashoggi has not received that right, and the Saudis are refusing to tell Turkish authorities where the body is – though they have admitted to the killing – only adds to the flagrant disregard of the Islamic rights owed to Khashoggi and his family. 

"The abominable nature of this despicable act deserves the utmost condemnation of all culpable parties, and due justice must be served to the family of the victim," Tamimi argues.

Does Saudi care what the Muslim world thinks? 

Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), next in line to the Saudi throne, hopes to one day become the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques – Mecca and Medina – the holiest Islamic sites.

The title, bestowed on the ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, gives a veil of religious authority that few Muslim countries possess. It also means that Saudi Arabia – right or wrong – is perceived to have religious authority over a large portion of the global Muslim community. 

As Saudi Arabia solidifies closer relationships with Israel and the "anti-Muslim" US President Donald Trump – two issues Muslims hold close to their hearts – the kingdom risks moving global Muslim sentiment against itself. 

Muslim sentiment towards Saudi Arabia was already fraught and variable.

Will the killing of Khashoggi be the last straw, affecting how Muslims view the kingdom? The gruesome details of how Khashoggi may have been killed shocked the world, particularly Muslims. 

Dr Yakoob Ahmed, a lecturer of Islamic history at Istanbul University, argues that "Saudis may have to consider that for the first time since the formation of the kingdom, possible momentum could fester within the global Muslim community that questions the legitimacy of the Saudi family as apt custodians of the two holy cities in Islam." 

Muslim public opinion has been shifting for some time, could it now experience a tectonic shift? 

Saudi Arabia under the stewardship of MBS has moved closer to Israel, a state in the midst of colonising Islam's third holiest site – Al Aqsa. It has embarked on a war against Yemen, leaving thousands of civilians dead and millions on the brink of starvation. 

It has now added to its rap sheet the killing – or, depending on who you believe, the murder – and alleged dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Muslim man. 

The environment facilitated by MBS, and the heinous crimes he is accused of, is a situation most Muslims find abhorrent. 

Even Saudi Arabia's most ardent supporters will increasingly wonder how to square the circle of a ruler with his track record seeking Islamic legitimacy.

Muslims as custodians

A senior Islamic scholar and jurist who's now the retired head of the Supreme Judicial Council of Saudia Arabia and a former student of Saudi's top cleric in the 1990s, Abd al Aziz ibn Baz, argues that it's not just a question of whether MBS becomes the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques or not. 

“We have a serious issue. Can we allow the Kaaba, which is the most sacred place for 1.5 billion Muslims, to be controlled by a single individual?” 

Related to questions of who controls the mosque is the criteria by which an individual is qualified to look after the interests of the two holy mosques. 

“Who decides that criteria? It should be judged by Muslim scholars all over the world,” he added.

Along with this idea, the senior Islamic scholar, not wishing to identify himself, raises other poignant questions. 

“The Kaaba belongs to 1.5 billion Muslims, and it should represent all schools of thought and the diversity of the Muslim ummah (community). So why is it the case that all the imams (religious leader) are only from one country only? Do all of the imams (religious leaders) follow one particular school of thought?”

The fact that these discussions are happening could be a watershed moment given that even within Saudi Arabia the increasingly authoritarian rule of MBS is being felt among Islamic scholars, causing them to voice their opposition to MBS's policies. 

The culmination of issues regarding Palestine, Yemen, arrested scholars and now Khashoggi's killing is bringing to the fore other more profound questions about Saudi Arabia's custodianship of Islam's holiest sites. 

Source: TRT World