AAM: Welcome again to this special interview with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Your Royal Highness, you spoke previously about moderation. What is the concept of moderation in your opinion?
CP: Of course, this is a broad term. All Muslim jurists and scholars have been talking about the concept of moderation for over a thousand years. So, I do not think I am in a position to clarify this concept, as much as I can ... abide by the Saudi constitution, which is the Quran, the Sunnah, and our basic governance system and to implement it fully in a broad sense that is inclusive of everybody.
AAM: This leads me to another question, namely the space Sharia occupies in the State. Meaning, on the level of the constitution, the judiciary, the public space, and on the level of freedoms of individuals.
CP: As I said earlier, our constitution is the Quran, has been, still is, and will continue to be so forever. And our basic system of governance stipulates this very clearly. We, as a government, or the Shura Council as a legislator, or the King as a reference for the three authorities, we are bound to implement the Quran in some form or another. But in social and personal affairs, we are only obliged to implement stipulations that are clearly stated in the Quran. So, I cannot enforce a Sharia punishment without a clear Quranic stipulation or an explicit stipulation from the Sunnah. When I talk about an explicit stipulation from the Sunnah, most hadith writers classify hadith based on their own typology, like Bukhari, Muslim and others, into correct hadith or weak hadith. But there is another classification which is more important, namely whether a tradition or hadith has been narrated by many people or a single narrator, and this is a main reference for jurisprudence for deducing regulations, Sharia-wise.
CP: So, when we talk about a Mutawater hadith, i.e., narrated and handed down from one group to another group to another starting with the Prophet, PBUH, these hadiths are very few in number, but they are strong in terms of veracity, and their interpretations vary based on the time and place they were revealed and how the hadith was understood at the time. But when we talk about Ahad hadiths, which is handed down from a single person to another starting with the Prophet PBUH, or from a group to a group to a single individual then another group etc. starting with the Prophet PBUH, so that there’s and individual in the chain. This is called ahad hadith. And this is broken down into many classifications, such as correct, weak, or good hadith. And this type of hadith, the ahad, is not as compelling as the mutawater hadiths; the ones narrated by a chain of groups, unless paired with clear Quranic stipulations and a clear mundane or worldly good to be had, especially if it’s a correct ahad hadith.
CP: And this is also a small portion of the body of hadith. While a “khabar” is a hadith handed down from a single person to another single person etc. to an unknown source, starting with the Prophet PBUH, or from a group to a group, then a person to another person, and so on, starting with the Prophet PBUH, so that there’s a missing link. This represents the majority of hadith and this type of hadith is unreliable whatsoever, in the sense that its veracity is not established and that it isn’t binding. And in the biography of the Prophet PBUH, when the hadith was first recorded the Prophet PBUH ordered those records to be burnt and forbade the writing of hadith, and that should apply even more so to “khabar” hadiths so that people are not obliged to implement them from a Sharia perspective, since they also might be used as ammunition to dispute God Almighty’s power to produce teachings that are fit for every time and place.
CP: Hence, the government, where Sharia is concerned, has to implement Quran regulations and teachings in mutawater hadiths, and to look into the veracity and reliability of ahad hadiths, and to disregard “khabar” hadiths entirely, unless if a clear benefit is derived from it for humanity. So, there should be no punishment related to a religious matter except when there is clear Quranic stipulation, and this penalty will be implemented based on the way that the Prophet PBUH applied it. So, let me give you an example: Adultery. The unmarried adulterer is flogged, the married adulterer is killed. And this is a clear stipulation, but when the woman adulterer came to the Prophet PBUH and she told the Prophet PBUF that she had committed adultery, he delayed judgment several times. She eventually insisted and then he told her to go and check if she was pregnant, and then she came back to him and the same scenario was repeated. She came back to him and he told her to come back after she’d weaned the baby. She could have not returned, but he did not ask about her name or who she was.
CP: So, to take a Quranic stipulation and implement it in manner other than the manner followed by the Prophet PBUH and look for the person to prove a certain charge against them, whereas the Prophet PBUH was approached by the perpetrator confessing her crime and yet he treated her in that manner, then that is not what God has ordained.
CP: And to implement a penalty on the pretext that it is a Sharia penalty while there is no stipulation for such a penalty in the Quran or in the mutawater hadith, then this is also a falsification of the Sharia. When God Almighty wanted us to punish a certain religious crime, He stipulated this clearly, and when He prohibited a deed and promised punishment in the hereafter for doing it. He did not ask us as humans to penalize that deed, and He left the individual the choice knowing that there would be a day of reckoning, and in the end God is Merciful, All forgiving except in the case of polytheism. So, this is the correct approach for the implementation of the Quran and the Sunnah based on our constitution and system of governance.