Authority-Holders (wulat al-umur) in Contemporary Islamic Politics and Governance: The Case of Saudi Arabia

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2 Scopus citations


This article examines the meanings, developments and implementations of the Islamic traditional perspective of governance—the authority-holders (wulat al-umur) in contemporary Saudi Arabia. In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, perhaps more than in any other Islamic country, the perspectives of wulat al-umur still dominate socio-political rhetoric and practices and determine the ruler/ruled relationship to a large extent. Who are these authority-holders? What is their scope of authority? Relevant studies often attribute the connotation authority-holders to the politicians (umara) sitting at the center of power and also to the religious scholars (ulama), who may wield a certain amount of influence on the politicians. Yet, while this study agrees, in principle, with the scholarly observations of an asymmetric ulama/umara power structure, it argues that the ulama do enjoy significant power in Saudi Arabia, that is, they play an important role in shaping the socio-cultural landscape of the kingdom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-136
Number of pages14
JournalMiddle East Critique
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2017


  • Authority
  • Authority-Holders
  • Government
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Ulama
  • Umara

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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