Contemporary Islam

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 341-353

First online:

Wahhabi ideology of social control versus a new publicness in Saudi Arabia

  • Jonas OtterbeckAffiliated withCentre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund UniversityCenter for Middle East Studies, Lund University Email author 

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To understand Saudi Arabian Wahhabi theology, it needs to be contextualized. This article explores the discussion about music in Saudi Arabia in order to illuminate the political theory of the social of Wahhabi theology and the ongoing transformation of Saudi publicness. Since Wahhabism has singled out music as one of the abominations of society to be avoided by the believer, the changing soundscapes of the kingdom as music becomes a more common public presence has becomes a hot topic of discussion. By looking at the common Wahhabi stand on music and comparing it with both new practices and a new discourse represented by the scholar al-Kalbani, it becomes clear how a plurality of opinions challenge established Wahhabi agendas in a new publicness. This, in its turn, makes it relevant to investigate the logic of the political vision of the social that the official Wahhabi scholars have. I argue that this Wahhabi theology needs to be understood in the framework of its view on the human psyche and in relation to its concept of sin. I further argue that a renegotiation of positions is taking place, since negative judgments about music are not internalized in the population to the extent scholars might wish for or envisage.


Music Saudi Arabia Publicness Wahhabism