Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Yılmaz, Hale


This study examines the religious discourse produced by ulama and preachers toward social modernization in Saudi Arabia and how it has affected the relationship between the state and citizens. The Saudi ulama have historically supported the state’s political legitimacy while simultaneously resisting state modernization projects that would diminish their own authority. The ulama relied on two religious precepts to resist such projects: “loyalty and enmity” and the “propagation of virtue and prevention of vice.” These principles were challenged by the discovery of oil, which led to urbanization, changes in lifestyle, and a desire to adopt modern technology and ideas to be able to interact with the international community. To examine religious discourse regarding modernity and how it influenced state-society relations, this study focuses on three state modernization projects: forging diplomatic relations with non-Muslim countries, reforming public education, and adopting modern mass media. Drawing data from available archival and local sources, this study covers the period from the 1920s to the 1970s.




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