RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to monitor interpretations of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) teachings to prevent them being used to justify violence or terrorism, the Culture and Information Ministry has said.
In a decree, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud ordered the establishment of an authority to scrutinise uses of the hadith - accounts of the sayings, actions or habits of the Prophet (PBUH) that are used by preachers and jurists to support teachings and edicts on all aspects of life.
The ministry said late on Tuesday that the body’s aim would be to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts”.
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The body will be based in Madina and overseen by a council of senior Islamic scholars from around the world, according to the decree. The ministry offered no specific details of how it would work in practice.
Terrorist groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda have used their own interpretations of hadiths - numbered in the thousands and pored over by scholars for centuries - to justify violence and to urge supporters to carry out attacks.
Senior clergy have denounced militant doctrines such as those of al Qaeda or Da'ish, while the government, which vets clerics in Saudi Arabia’s 70,000 mosques, has sacked many for encouraging violence or sedition.
Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said last month that thousands of extremist clerics had been dismissed, although he gave no timeframe.
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The ministry said the body would serve Islam by creating “a solid scientific reference to vet and verify the authenticity of hadiths”, which are second in importance only to the Holy Quran. It did not say what form the reference would take.
The decree issued by the king, whose official title is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, said the body would be chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan al Sheikh, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which serves as the kingdom’s highest religious body.