Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud said that extremism is unacceptable and "very dangerous." He made these remarks in an interview that aired on Channel 1 (Saudi Arabia) on April 27, 2021. Bin Salman explained that as the center of the Islamic religion, Saudi Arabia has been the target of extremist and terrorist groups for many years, and if Saudi Arabia wants to generate economic growth, then "you need to uproot this [extremist] ideology." He said that while the Quran is the constitution of Saudi Arabia, its laws are "internationally recognized," and this is the only way to increase foreign investments and tourism. Bin Salman explained that having a strong identity means that you can change the negative parts of it but keep the positive ones. See MEMRI TV clip no 8808 for another excerpt from the interview.
Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud: "I do not think that I'm in a position to define the meaning of 'moderation,' but I do abide by the constitution of Saudi Arabia, which is the Quran, the Sunna, and the Saudi Basic Law of Governance, and we [are devoted] to implementing it in the best way and in a comprehensive and all-inclusive sense.
"Our constitution is the Quran. It was, it is now, and it will continue to be for all of eternity. The Basic Law of Governance specifies this in a very clear way. We, the government, and the Shura Council, which is the legislator, or the King, as the source of authority for the three branches of government, are obligated to implement the Quran, one way or the other. But in social and personal matters, we are only compelled to implement the texts that are explicitly mentioned in the Quran. In other words, I cannot carry out a punishment prescribed by the shari'a unless it is backed by a clear reference in the Quran or the Sunna. Naturally, when I talk about a clear reference in the Sunna... Most hadith compilers would classify a hadith according to their own judgement. In the Bukhari, Muslim, or other hadith compilations, they would classify a hadith as 'authentic,' 'good' or 'weak,' but there is another classification that is more important: mutawatir hadiths, ahad hadiths, and khabar hadiths. This is the main source for inferring rules as described by the shari'a. Mutawatir is a hadith that has been conveyed by multiple people, in each link of the chain of narration, since it originated with the Prophet Muhammad. There are very few such hadiths, but their authenticity is much substantiated, and their interpretation is subject to ijtihad [interpretive reasoning] depending on time, place and how this hadith was understood.
"Ahad is a hadith that has been conveyed from individual to individual, since it originated with the Prophet Muhammad, or from multiple people to multiple people, but there is an individual in one of the links in the chain of narration. These are called ahad hadiths, and they are divided to many classifications. Some of them are 'authentic,' some are 'good,' and some are 'weak.' Ahad hadiths are not as obligatory as mutawatir hadiths, unless it is accompanied by clear texts in the shari'a, as well as a clear interest in our daily life, especially if we are talking about an 'authentic' ahad hadith. These also constitute a small part of the hadiths by the Prophet Muhammad.
"As for khabar hadiths, which were conveyed from individual to individual since it originated with the Prophet Muhammad, or from multiple people to an individual and from an individual to multiple people...In such hadiths, the chain of corroborated narration is broken. These khabar hadiths constitute the vast majority of hadiths, and they should not be relied upon, because their authenticity is not proven and they are not obligatory. In the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, we see that when the hadith was written down in his time, he ordered to burn it and refrain from writing it down. So if you take khabar hadiths and force people to abide by them, you might be defying Allah's power in sending down the Quran which is meant to be good for all times and all places.
"When it comes to the shari'a, the government is committed to implementing the texts of the Quran. It is also committed to implementing mutawatir hadiths, it reviews ahad hadiths in terms of their authenticity, and it completely ignores khabar hadiths, with the exception of cases where these hadiths support a position that serves the clear interest of the people. There can be no punishment over a religious matter unless there is a clear reference to it in the Quran. The punishment is implemented the way it was implemented by the Prophet Muhammad. Take fornication, for example. An unmarried fornicator is lashed, whereas a married fornicator is killed. This is a case where there is a clear [Quranic] reference. But when a woman fornicator came to the Prophet Muhammad, and said to him: 'I have fornicated.' This is more or less what she said, I don't remember it by heart. The Prophet turned away from her several times. But she insisted [that she should be punished], so he told her to go away until she knows whether she was pregnant or not. When she came back, this scenario repeated itself. He said to her: 'Go away until you give birth.' Next time she came back, he said to her: 'Go away until you wean the baby.' He knew that she may not return. He did not ask for her name.
"If you take a Quranic text and implement it in a way that is different than the way it was implemented by the Prophet Muhammad, and if you are making an effort to prove a person's guilt, although this was the way the Prophet treated a woman who voluntarily admitted her guilt – this is not the law of Allah. If you implement a punishment, claiming it is prescribed by the shari'a, even though there is no reference to it in the Quran or a mutawatir hadith, this also constitutes a falsification of the shari'a. When Allah wanted us to punish for a crime as it appears in the shari'a, He mentioned it in the [Quranic] text. When He prohibited something and threatened a punishment in the Hereafter, He did not instruct us humans to apply the punishment. He left the individuals to make their choices and be reckoned with on Judgement Day."
Interviewer: "Your Highness, are you committed to one single school of thought? Is it [only] the school of Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab that should interpret the Quran and the hadiths?"
Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud: "Being committed to a single school of thought or a single scholar is tantamount to the deification of human beings. Allah and the Prophet Muhammad...Allah has not placed a barrier between Himself and the people. He sent His Quran, and the Prophet Muhammad implemented it on the ground, and the ijtihad is open for all eternity. If Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab rose from his grave, and saw that we are committed to his texts, while locking our minds to ijtihad, thus deifying him and blowing him out of proportion, he would be the first to oppose this. There is no one constant school of thought or one constant individual. The ijtihad of the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet continues, and fatwas are subject to judgement of time and place.
"For example, if an honorable sheikh issued a fatwa 100 years ago, without knowing whether the Earth is round or not, and having no knowledge about the continents, about technology, and so on – his fatwa was based on the data and information that were at his disposal and on his understanding of the Quran and the Sunna. But these things have changed in our current situation. Ultimately, the Quran and the Sunna constitute our source of authority, as I've said."
Interviewer: "With regard to the personal status system – Your Royal Highness said that our Judicial Code is inappropriate."
Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud: "We don't need to reinvent the wheel. The whole world follows clear rules and codes, which regulate people's lives. Our role is to make sure that all the laws legislated in Saudi Arabia do not violate the Quran and the Sunna, the Quran is our constitution. Also we need to make sure these laws reinforce our interests, protect the security and interests of the citizens, and help in the development and prosperity of the country. With this in mind, we legislate laws that are in line with the international norms. You want tourists to come. Your goal is to have 100 million tourists, in order to create 3 million jobs. But if you announce that you invented a new [legal system] that do not follow the internationally-recognized laws, those tourists will not come. If you want to increase foreign investments from 5 to 17 billion riyal, like we did, and you tell people to come and invest here 'but I have a new [legal] invention' – their lawyers will have no idea what measures you are taking, they will not know how these laws are implemented, and they will have to invest large sums of money...Eventually, they will say: 'I don't need to invest in that country.' If you want to attract bright minds and skilled people to work in Saudi Arabia, but you tell them that you invented a new way of legislating laws – nobody will come here.
"If your identity is incapable of enduring the great diversity of the world, it means that your identity is weak and we need to do away with it. But if your identity is strong and deeply-rooted, and you can develop and strengthen it, change the negative parts in it, and keep the positive things – this would mean that you protect and strengthen your identity.
"In anything, extremism is unacceptable. The Prophet Muhammad said, according to one of his hadiths: 'One of these days, extremists will emerge. Kill them.' [The Quran says:] 'Do not go beyond the bounds in your religion.' [The Prophet said:] 'Previous nations were destroyed because of their extremism.' Extremism in anything – our religion, our culture, our Arab identity – is very dangerous. We know this from the references to the Prophet Muhammad, from our worldly experience, and from the history we read.
"Saudi Arabia has been a main target of the extremist and terrorist groups across the world. If I were Osama bin Laden and wanted to spread my extremist ideology all over the world and especially among the Muslims – where would I start? I would start in the country of the qibla and the holy places of the Muslims, the country to which Muslim pilgrims come, and in the direction of which Muslims turn five times a day. If I succeeded in spreading my ideology there, it would automatically spread across the world. So every extremist ideology starts by targeting Saudi Arabia. We experienced a very difficult period between the 1950s and the 1970s. Pan-Arab ideology, socialism, communism, and all the other ideologies in the region...These ideologies served as an opportunity for many extremist ideologies to enter Saudi Arabia, one way or another.
"These extremists have taken various positions in the government or the economy. This bore ominous consequences. We have seen the ramifications in recent years. Today, we cannot grow, we cannot attract capital, we cannot have tourism, we cannot move forward, if there is an extremist ideology in Saudi Arabia. If you want to create millions of jobs, if you want unemployment to go down, if you want the economy to grow, and if you want your income to improve, you need to uproot this ideology for the sake of all those worldly interests."