Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Hicham Bou Nassif

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In the 18th century, a pariah of a preacher formed a political pact with the sheikh of a small desert oasis town in the undeveloped Nejd region of the Arabian Peninsula. This preacher, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, taught an aggressive, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam calling for the purification of society through forceful means. His ally, Muhammad ibn Saud, launched a continuous jihad in the pursuit of the promulgation of ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, Wahhabism. With tremendous success, he founded the Saudi dynasty, which would come to dominate Arabia’s political landscape through their commitment to the execution of ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s teachings. Over the centuries, particularly within the last hundred years, the political, economic, and social conditions of Saudi Arabia have shifted drastically, motivating the Saudi dynasty to consider political reform to unburden the state of the political commitments that accompany Wahhabism. This paper serves to explore the extent to which state and doctrine are tied in Saudi Arabia, and how the Saudi regime seeks to gain greater political mobility by reducing its reliance on religious legitimacy.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.