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Islam and Loyalty in the Saudi Hijaz, 1926-1939

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This article examines the complex process by which the Hijaz and its holy cities were partially integrated with the central province of Najd to create the beginning of unity for Saudi Arabia even before the advent of large oil revenues drastically affected the Kingdom. Religion was one of the most important elements in this process as seen in the successful Saudi management of the pilgrimage and the rigorous application of numerous regulations designed to forbid evil and promote good while also securing the rule of the Saudi dynasty. The Najdi ulamā's extreme zeal offended many Hijazis, but it was ameliorated by the ruling family's more lenient implementation of policies intended to lessen the severity of the now-dominant interpretation of Islam. Saudi rule also depended upon such secular factors as military capacity, the lack of viable alternatives, and attempts to unify social customs and identity. By 1939 Hijazis and Najdis still regarded themselves as separate, with Najdi control often resented, but most of the people living in the urban centers had accepted Saudi political rule while still remaining somewhat unconvinced about many of the religious and social changes associated with it.

Affiliations: 1: Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A.


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