School of Divinity


Master of Arts (MA)


Edward l Smither


Bid'ah, Jinn, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, Shirk, Wahhabism


History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Islamic Studies | Other Religion | Religion


The objective of this thesis is to apply commonly held statistics in the world of missiology regarding folk Islamic practices to the least likely country for such practices to be found, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is believed by most to be the birth-site of an austere, strict, orthodox form of Islam, responsible for the nature and nurture (education, promotion, and financing) of Islamic extremism. Conversely, I posit that through tracing the development of Wahhabism and its current global influence on Islam, its literalist interpretation becomes a profitable tool for the student of anthropology, missiology, and cross-cultural studies to gain a deeper knowledge of what is folk Islam, and more importantly why it is practiced. I argue that the presence of folk Islam, from an orthodox Islamic assessment, such as found in Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, is perceived as a gauge to measure the presence of spiritual warfare. Wahhabism is discussed in voluminous proportion, however, is comprehended minimally. A profitable examination into the methodology of Wahhabism/Salafism requires mapping its development using adherence to the identifying principles of Ahl Sunnah wa’l Jama’ah as a map key to trace it back to the path upon which Muhammad and his Companions were on. From its preoccupation with broad attempts to categorize every action as permissible or prohibited, I hold it apparent to recognize that Saudi Arabia functions religiously under the assumption that through enforcement it is protecting its constituents from a believed greater evil. Accordingly, the nucleus of this research is an embarkment upon which to show that in Wahhabism, man is either serving/worshiping Allah (tawhid) or His creation (shirk), or, saved or unsaved.