Why Is Saudi Arabia Burying King Abdullah in an Unmarked Grave? And why is Iran different?

King Abdullah died early this morning aged 90 after a short bout of pneumonia. However, in accordance with the Saudi royal family’s ultra conservative Muslim faith, often referred to as Wahhabism, there has been no official period of mourning and a public funeral will not be held, despite the fact Abdullah was head of state for almost 10 years.

Instead he was buried in a modest ceremony – his body was bathed in the manner in keeping with Islamic ritual and wrapped in white cloth before he was buried in Riyadh’s Al Oud cemetery where he joined previous Saudi monarchs, also interred in unmarked graves. Prayers were led by his brother and successor, King Salman, in a ceremony which was attended by members of the al-Saud family and prominent Muslim heads of state, Reuters reports.

Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam, is the dominant faith of the Saudi state, adhered to by its ruling family, the House of Saud.

Dr Tony Street, an expert in Islam from Cambridge University, says that when it comes to burial, Wahhabists are “hostile to leaving anything that might become a site for veneration”, and that they characterise their belief as “simply a commitment to utter and absolute Tawhid, the affirmation of God’s supremacy”.

Interestingly, its followers often reject the term Wahhabi, as the word refers to the work of 18th century Muslim scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, after whom the movement is named. “I think they just prefer to be called Muslims,” says Dr Street. He explains that calling something or someone Wahhabi “is awarding exactly the kind of eminence to a Muslim that they try to avoid. You don’t want to start setting up people in pseudo-hagiographical positions.”

King Salman has publicly rejected the term saying that it is unrepresentative of modern Saudi society. Speaking to daily Saudi Arabian newspaper Okaz, he said: “Enemies of the Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab labelled his teaching as Wahhabism, a doctrine that doesn’t exist here.”

Imam-Reza-mirror-workThe mirror work in the Imam Reza Shrine in Iran

I really do not why the Shia are different on the subject. But they are. Iran is “Twelver Shiite.” From Wikipedia:

The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Twelver or Athnā‘ashariyyah branch of Shia Islam and in Alevi Islam. According to the theology of Twelvers, the Twelve Imams are exemplary human individuals who not only rule over the community with justice, but also are able to keep and interpret sharia and the esoteric meaning of the Quran. Muhammad and Imams’ words and deeds are a guide and model for the community to follow; as a result, they must be free from error and sin, known as Ismah or infallibility and must be chosen by divine decree, or nass, through the Prophet.

Imam Reza, the eighth, has an enormous shrine in Mashhad, Iran. Although it does not contain pictorial images, it is very elaborate and a popular site for pilgrimages.

Shah Abdul Azim Shrine : is located in Rey, Iran, contains the tomb of: ‘Abdul ‘Adhim ibn Abdillah al-Hasani (aka. Shah Abdul Azim). Shah Abdul Azim was a fifth generation descendant of Hasan ibn Ali and a companion of Muhammad al-Taqī. He was entombed here after his death in the 9th century . The whole construction consists of a portal with a lofty Iwan decorated with mirrors, several courtyards, a golden cupola, two tile minarets, a portico, a sepulcher, and a mosque.

The most historical and portable relic of this holy place, is its costly box which is made of betel-nut wood. On four sides of this precious box, a relief inscription in Nastaliq and Tulth characters, is carved. The mirror-work, paintings and gildings of the structure belong to the 19th century. Repairs are still being carried out in this complex of holy structures. For those who want to visit a major religious historical mosque and shrine close to Tehran, this is the place to see.

Sufi shrines can also be quite elaborate: here is an example from India.

Looking at the Saudi and Iranian photos reminds me that until the arrival of oil wealth, the Saudis were desert nomads. By contrast, Iran is an ancient civilization.

  • luna

    And why is Obama cutting short his trip to India in order to visit the kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

    • Frau Katze

      Money. They buy lots of weapons, for example. Their wealth is simply staggering.

      • Norman_In_New_York

        Who do you think bankrolls the presidential libraries?

    • Brett_McS

      Saudi is under serious threat from ISIS. It is quite possible that a significant part of the Saudi military will go over to ISIS when things get interesting. By that time there will be enough Muslims in the US Army to provide support without getting icky infidel feet on holy Saudi sand. Obozo to the rescue!

      • Canadian

        Muzzies in the US army will also join ISIS.

        • Brett_McS

          Yeh, I was joking about that bit.

          • Canadian


    • To pay his respects to the late King Abdullah.

  • winniec

    Hopefully, reform will start.

    • Frau Katze

      That is a joke, I assume.

      • Just a thought

        The options.
        Reform Sunni and eliminate Shia
        Reform Shia and eliminate Sunni
        Reform Shia and Sunni simultaneously, and make them compatible.
        Eliminate all Islam

        I’d love to help them, but I’m busy that weekend.

  • Billy Bob Thornton

    Iran is already abiding by the rules set out in the agreement with the P5+1. I don’t really even see evidence of a nuclear program. Iran has every right to have their own nuclear power because well it is done within their borders. The comments people talk about regarding Israel were poorly translated on purpose. People have spoken about Iran having a nuclear program since the 80’s. Those that want war with Iran are doing so since they obviously feel war is the only way to resolve a disagreement you know instead of negotiating, mediation, diplomacy. You know that my way or the highway bit which got up Iraq, Afghanistan and many of the other wars. The fact is neocons on Fox and in both the Democrat and Republican parties are the ones that I feel in the end will let Israel attack the reactors and thereafter will cause WW3. I mean even though there is no proof. When will people realize that the mainstream parties are not the holier than thou and we should not be listening to them. We have our own minds.

    • Iran doesn’t need nuclear reactors for domestic energy purposes.

      It does want some big weapons to threaten Israel with.

    • Frau Katze

      Ahmadinejad’s comments were not inaccurately translated. Admittedly, the new President Rouhani is far more diplomatic. But ultimately power lies with the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei. And he’s firmly in the grip of crazy conspiracy theories.

    • Minicapt
  • Norman_In_New_York

    The House of Saud’s adherence to Wahhabism is superficial and amounts to a marriage of convenience aimed at keeping the internal peace. In private, the ruling family tends to indulge in all the vices the Wahhabi imams prohibit, including orgies featuring a small army of hookers and bathtub gin by the gallon.

    • Frau Katze

      They sure do!

  • Canadian

    All of them are nuts!

  • Just a thought

    Saudi is Sunni. Iran is Shia.
    And, no, the Sunni and the Shia CAN’T be friends.

    • Canadian


    • Frau Katze

      I’ll check it out. Not sure how objective is.

    • Frau Katze

      Very sectarian, pro-Sunni

      All this evidence leads us to believe that the evil founders of Shiism, mostly Jews who pretended to convert to Islam outwardly while remaining Jews in their hearts, have purposefully portrayed, in their books, Imam Mahdi as someone similar in many ways to the last False Mashiach (Messiah) of the Children of Israel, son of David, in order to:

  • I understood that public funerals for nobility were not customary.

    The splendor of mosques indicates that there is a kind of idolatry Muslims refuse to admit.

    Off-tangent: Obama will be paying his respects to the late King Abdullah but not attending the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

    • Norman_In_New_York

      Who do you think will be financing Obama’s presidential library and endowing his do-gooder foundation?

  • My God but that Iranian shrine is gorgeous. Certainly the Persians are inheritors of a great pre-Islamic civilization.

    Did you know that the Ayatollahs came very close to dynamiting the ruins of Persepolis? Finishing the work Alexander started. https://www.google.ca/search?q=persepolis&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=lNbFVKXZOomiyQTDioKoBw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=643#tbm=isch&q=persepolis+ruins