Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Middle Eastern Studies

Advisor

Christa Salamandra

Subject Categories

Islamic Studies | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban Studies and Planning

Keywords

Mecca, Space, Religious Ritual, Fatwa, Neoliberalism, Mosque

Abstract

In 2013, the current Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Shaykh, issued a fatwa noting that people can join ṣalāt al-jamaʿa (congregational prayer) in the Grand Mosque in Mecca from their hotel room or apartment as long as they can see the imam or a portion of the congregation behind him. Since then, a number of religious scholars issued similar fatwas stipulating various conditions of validity. The previous Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz ibn Baz, had deemed such a practice impermissible. He argued that the proper place of the jamaʿa was the mosque and joining the prayer from outside was only possible if the mosque was full and the congregation flowed uninterrupted. For ibn Baz, a mosque is a distinct space irreconcilable with its outside unless there is a necessity (ḍarura). I argue that the shift in opinion from that of ibn Baz to al-Shaykh coincides with the acceleration of the urban transformation in Mecca, especially the area immediately surrounding the Grand Mosque. Drawing on David Harvey, I will illustrate that new material conditions inaugurated new conceptions of space, which, in turn, invited a reimagination of where and how ṣalāt al-jamaʿa in the Mosque could be performed. Through examining fatwas issued by Saudi scholars, I will analyze the varied notions of space they construct and the place of ṣalāt al-jamaʿa in these (re)articulations. Finally, I argue that these fatwas sanctioning joining ṣalāt al-jamaʿa from ones room serve both to mask an urban neoliberal regime invested in presenting itself as Islamic and to produce the entire Ḥaram as a coherent spatial unit despite its radical material transformation.

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