Saudi Arabian Students’ Knowledge of the Provisions Governing Interactions between Muslims and Non-Muslims

  •  Tareq S. Albhlal    


Introduction: This study investigates the level of university students' knowledge about Islamic provisions concerning relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. The context for this study is that of the Saudi Arabian government’s drive to combat the extremism of young male Saudis through inculcating the true message of Islam. To achieve this objective, specialist Intellectual Awareness Units (IAUs) have been set up in all Saudi Arabian universities. The rationale for the existence of these units is that such students, zealous in their faith, are more vulnerable to recruitment by extremists and terrorist organizations if they have only a superficial and distorted understanding of the humane and religiously-ordained provisions in the Quran regarding relations with non-Muslims. However, this study does not examine the workings of the Intellectual Awareness Units but rather the understanding of their clients.

Methodology: A random sample of 100 male students attending Majmaah University, Saudi Arabia, during the 2019-20 academic year, was asked to participate in a descriptive survey. A questionnaire was devised to collect information about student understanding of appropriate relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, as specified in the Holy Quran. Six key themes were addressed in the questionnaire: general principles concerning the relationship between Muslims and others; provisions concerning imitation (of non-Muslim religious practices), contact, alliances and enmity; provisions concerning temples and churches; provisions concerning marriage and food; provisions concerning feasts and religious occasions and general provisions concerning alliances and wars.

Results: The results of the study revealed that students’ knowledge about the provisions for dealing with non-Muslims ranged from weak to medium. That is to say, knowledge about the appropriate way for Muslims to engage with non-Muslims was far from universal. Knowledge on marriage and food provisions scored most highly with an average of 60.3%, of students answering questions on this topic correctly whilst knowledge on provisions pertaining to Temples and Churches ranked lowest with a rate of 36.5%. The overall average for all issues was 48.9%.

Conclusion: If it is considered that extremism is based upon a superficial and distorted understanding of the Quran and that the level of knowledge displayed by the study sample is typical of young men in Saudi Arabia then the IAUs still have much work to do. The results of this research will be invaluable to the IAUs because it will enable them to supply more nuanced information and activities to their target audience.

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