The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with a political system rooted in Islam’s cherished traditions and rich culture. Its rules and regulations are governed by the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah (teachings and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) which call for peace, justice, equality, consultation and respect for the rights of the individual.
Since the beginning of the first Saudi state in the 18th century through the founding of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdelrahman Al-Saud on September 23, 1932, the Shari ah, which is the Islamic law, has been the pillar and source of Saudi Arabia’s basic system of government. It identifies the nature of the state and its goals and responsibilities, as well as the relationship between the government and its citizens.
Recognizing that the nation would need to adapt to the changing times in order to thrive and prosper, King Abdulaziz created the foundation for a constitutional form of government, and in turn established a modern government where once tribal rulers had once reigned. In 1953 a royal decree established Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers. Then, during the 1950s and 1960s, 20 government ministries were founded. The Council of Ministers with the King formed the executive and legislative branches of the government. This was the first step taken towards formalizing the long-established Islamic system of popular consultation, which has always been practiced by Saudi rulers. The key to Saudi Arabians accepting Saudi government policy is the majlis, an open weekly meeting where anyone can petition his leaders from local, provincial and national levels to discuss issues and raise grievances. In other words, the leaders are accessible to the people.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Saudi Arabia launched highly successful five-year development plans to set up a modern physical, social and human infrastructure. The rapid modernization of Saudi Arabia led to a re-evaluation of the country’s political and administrative system. Just as had his father before him, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz felt the need to revitalize the existing political system.
The primary goal was to streamline the system to deal with the requirements of the nation on the verge of the 21st century. Taking into consideration the Kingdom’s role in the Islamic world as well as its traditions and social background, the changes were made in total accordance to the Islamic religion. In 1992, King Fahd introduced a new Basic Law for the System of Government, Majlis Al-Shura, the Consultative Council, and the Provincial System. The following year, he announced bylaws for the Council of Ministers System.
Stability plays an important part in the government and is valued by both people and leaders. This stability is supported by strict, swift and just application of Shari’a law. This unique Islamic approach makes the Kingdom one of the safest countries in the world in which the atmosphere is conducive to progress and peace of mind.
A top government priority is the safeguarding of Saudi traditions and Islamic teachings so that any progress will not infringe or alter valued traditions and practices. The government unfailingly promotes goodwill, understanding, compassion and unity among its people.
The constitution of Saudi Arabia is the Holy Qur an and the Muslim law, Shari a, which is based on the Holy Qur an. The Basic System of Government consists of important articles concerning general principles and the monarchy itself which is to be limited to the sons and grandsons of the Kingdom’s founder, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud. This basic system of government states that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Arab Islamic state of total sovereignty, Islam is its religion, it s constitution is the Holy Book of God (the Qur an), and finally it s language is Arabic and it s capitol is Riyadh. It also states that the King is the head of state and the Prime Minister. There is a Council of Ministers who are appointed by the King and who help him in formulating and executing his policies. The King is also a Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. All government officials, agencies, and the ministers themselves are responsible to the King whose title is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Laws relating to Saudi society, economic principles, rights and duties, governmental authorities regarding the judicial, executive and regulatory branches, monetary affairs, control and general rule are also included in the constitution. All regulations, instructions and resolutions valid until the implementation of any new system are to continue until they are amended. Members of the Consultative Council must be of good reputation, well-qualified, educated and Saudi nationals by birth and origin. The rules are spelled out in detail in a fashion similar to other parliamentary bodies but in a Saudi spirit.
Without a form of constitution to help govern a monarchy, the Saudi Arabian system could fail. The people under the King s rule want more control over the government, and through meetings like the majlis, the people can have more control over the lesser systems of the government. Though it is a monarchy, the people have enough control to be given the decision of what is best for them by electing officers who will make that decision.