Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 08:56 GMT

Saudi Shaykh a'Id al-Qarni Urges Arabs to Manufacture Nuclear Weapons

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Publication Date 1 December 2011
Citation / Document Symbol Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 44
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Saudi Shaykh a'Id al-Qarni Urges Arabs to Manufacture Nuclear Weapons, 1 December 2011, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 44, available at: [accessed 18 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Dr. A'id al-Qarni, a popular Saudi religious scholar known for his provocative observations on Islamic society and a series of best-selling books that present Islamic solutions to life's problems in the "self-help" format common in the West, has now turned his attention in an article published by a pan-Arab daily to the global balance of power, which he sees as dominated by Western nations that recognize "power is the source of all stature and grandeur… The world respects no one but the strong" (al-Sharq al-Awsat, November 15).

For anyone who doubts these realities, al-Qarni points to the five major nuclear states and how they (and the United States in particular) have wielded their nuclear arsenals to achieve political power while calling on others to refrain from joining the nuclear club: "They possess the right to veto decisions and the world bows to them, fearing their reach and power. They preach to other states and advise all nations to be peaceful, transparent and hospitable, urging them not to manufacture nuclear weapons because this constitutes a global threat. In fact, the five major nuclear states do not want other nations to manufacture nuclear weapons so that they can maintain their hegemony, authority and tyranny."

Al-Qarni mocks the Arab world for appealing to Iran to abandon its military nuclear program "to have mercy on the Arabs and gain heavenly merit for doing so," saying Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons will ultimately prevent attack from the West once a bomb has been developed. These are the hard lessons of political reality in a world where Shari'a does not govern international relations: "In this life, there is no room for integrity, for integrity and sacredness belong to the heavens, whilst the world's laws and politics are established on deceit and cunning. As long as people accept to be ruled by current laws without divine legislation, then it is a matter of interests, manoeuvers, usurpation, arrogance, oppression and proving oneself."

According to al-Qarni, the Arab world has misdirected its energies in cultural pursuits at the expense of its sovereignty and military preparedness: "Preoccupying the Middle East with arts, folklore, and cultural ceremonies at the expense of military factories is an open joke. To produce one tank would be better than a thousand poems, a rocket more useful than a hundred cultural shows, and a bomb more effective than a hundred epic tales to remind us of the glory of our forefathers, and what it used to be like in the old days."

Unlike traditional Islamist statements that are built on a foundation of hadiths and quoted from the Quran, al-Qarni ventures to quote an observation from the modern Syrian poet and advocate of reform in gender relations in the Arab world, Nizar Qabbani (1923 – 1998). Noting that the West has turned to inter-continental ballistic missiles and atomic bombs to "rule the world and monopolize its wealth," al-Qarni observes: "We in the Middle East are supposed to be content with reading history and reveling in the glories of the past, but this is only good for students in literacy classes. The poet Nizar Qabbani once said about the Arabs: ‘They have long written history books and they became convinced [of their past glories]. But since when did guns live inside books?'"

Al-Qarni urges the Arabs "to manufacture the nuclear bomb and nuclear weapons in a passage that resembles a Dadaist "anti-art" manifesto: "I urge the Arabs to manufacture the nuclear bomb and nuclear weapons. There are buildings currently being occupied by minor daily newspapers that no one reads, and ‘cultural heritage' museums housing scrap metal, worn-out rope, blunt axes, and other artifacts. These should all be turned into factories to manufacture tanks, rocket-launchers, missiles, satellites and submarines, so that the world comes to respect us, hear our voice, and appreciate our status."  The Saudi scholar concludes his commentary with an ominous warning to the Arab world: "Do not let us be fooled by Iran's honeyed words suggesting that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons only to burn Israel, for this is purely an illusion."

Shaykh A'id has a doctorate in hadith studies and is a highly active preacher, appearing on TV regularly as well as issuing a series of audio lectures on Islamic topics. His "self-help" approach to written works has proved highly successful, resulting in bestsellers such as Don't Be Sad and You Can Be the Happiest Woman in the World. Al-Qarni is not new to publishing provocative views on life in the Islamic world. In 2008 he issued a controversial open letter in which he strongly criticized male dominance in Saudi Arabia and the abuse and subjugation of the Kingdom's women (al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 26, 2008)

Unsurprisingly, al-Qarni's views on the social role of Islam and his methodology have attracted the critical eye of Saudi Arabia's more conservative religious scholars. Earlier this year, Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Rayis al-Rayis issued a lengthy review of his work entitled "The Statements of A'id al-Qarni: A Presentation and Critique" [1]

A'id al-Qarni experienced some damage to his reputation last year when he was repeatedly mixed-up with his cousin Awad al-Qarni in Egyptian court documents relating to a Muslim Brotherhood money laundering case. The mix-up led to the cancellation of a major lecture at Cairo's al-Azhar University in what al-Qarni feared was a conspiracy to interfere with his preaching activities in Egypt (al-Hayat, April 26).

Shaykh Awad is a very different character than Shaykh A'id, and is known for his fiery denunciations of the United States and a reputed close association with the Muslim Brotherhood, an association he nevertheless downplays in a somewhat condescending manner that reveals something of the attitude of Saudi religious scholars to Islam as it practiced outside of the Kingdom:  "I [previously] declared that I challenge the Egyptian regime to prove that I have any organizational relation with the Brothers. This is not disregard or contempt toward the Brothers or any of the virtuous sons of the nation. But we in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have a specific feature based on the implementation of the Islamic Shari`a in all aspects of life; therefore, we do not need the organizational work needed by the other Arab peoples to reestablish Islam in their lives" (al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 26). Awad recently made headlines by offering a bounty of $100,000 to any Palestinian who kidnaps an Israeli soldier. After Awad reported receiving death threats, Saudi Prince Khalid bin Talal raised the bounty to an even $1 million in solidarity (Reuters, October 29).

Copyright notice: © 2010 The Jamestown Foundation

Search Refworld