Islam in Saudi Arabia

Islam in Saudi Arabia is the sole official religion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose territory was the birthplace of the Muslim religion. Muhammad, the messenger of the Islamic faith was born in the city of Mecca and raised in the Hejaz region, to become later on the prophet of Islam. He unified the diverse tribes of the Arabian peninsula. Although the Arabian peninsula was later fragmented, the cities of Mecca and Medina remained the center of the religion, attracting millions of pilgrims, clerics and students from across the Muslim world. Political control of the two cities gave considerable power and legitimacy to any kingdom or empire in the global Muslim community.

While what is now Saudi Arabia was the birthplace of Islam, it was also home to various sects and strands of the religion until the rise of Salafism, also known as Wahabbism, a fiercely puritanical strain of Islam that gained patronage of the primary rulers of the Arabian peninsula. When the modern kingdom was established, Salafism became the only brand of Islam espoused by the government. The Saudi government hosts multiple international Islamic organisations and uses its government arms to propagate the Salafi brand of Islam worldwide. The King of Saudi Arabia is considered the guardian of the two mosques, considered the holiest in Islam, of Mecca and Medina. The majority of the fifteen to twenty million Saudis are Salafi Muslims, an orthodox movement within Sunni Islam. The eastern regions are mostly populated by Twelver Shias, while the Southern regions of Saudi Arabia are largely populated by Zaydi Shias. Saudi Arabia also receives several millions of pilgrims who perform the prescribed Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, as well as resident communities of clerics and religious students from most if not all countries that have significant Muslim populations.

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