Their closest political competitors that the Saud dynasty defeated in the 1924-25 war did claim the title of "Sharifian Caliphate" for themselves. Although Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy (e.g. there are no elections) and it is sometimes described as a "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques", which was seemingly the basis of the Sharifian claim to a Caliphate, the Saudis apparently avoided claiming that kind of (Caliphate) title. Is there a known ideological/theological reasons why the Saudis shied away from making such a claim?

  • Possible duplicate: history.stackexchange.com/questions/12048/…
    – Carduus
    Apr 29, 2021 at 20:23
  • @Carduus: the accepted answer is from the perspective of Shia Muslims (for some reason). I'm pretty sure the Al Sauds didn't care about the Shia viewpoint... If in the other answer(s) you saw something that pertains to the Saudis, please use/specify that as an answer here. (Frankly the next answer is most blah-blah drivel that doesn't even seem to answer the question. Something about zeitgeist. Maybe the Al Sauds did care about that... but without any evidence it's just speculation.) Apr 29, 2021 at 20:25
  • @Carduus: maybe Matt's answer there (like the 4th one) is on to something. I know the British disliked bin Hussein after he proclaimed himself "king of all Arabs". And even more so after he refused to ratify the Versailles treaty due to the Mandates issue. So it does seem plausible to me that that Ibn Saud (who wanted/asked for a British protectorate while he was in exile in Kuwait) avoided any claim that could have antagonized the British. But I'm speculating. Unfortunately History SE is often devoid of history, so none of this is mentioned. Apr 29, 2021 at 20:40
  • @Fizz I believe the point about possible duplicates is more whether the questions are duplicates of one another, not whether you like their answers. May 19, 2021 at 10:20

4 Answers 4


The Caliph is the rightful religious and secular leader of the ummah, the community of muslims. As such, declaring yourself Caliph is at a minimum demanding token submission from all other muslim leaders; if not declaring them illegitimate and proclaiming rightful direct rule over their countries.

Saudi Arabia enjoys cordial diplomatic interactions with many other muslim nations, which is not really compatible with claiming to be a Caliphate.


Saudi Arabia in its infancy was a sheikdom client of the UK, the founder neither had the legacy nor legitimacy for such claims, in memoirs of those who worked with him, he was a very simple Bedouin with main goal to stay in power.

Also at that time, Saudi was very poor (oil has not been discovered yet), with uncertain future it will pass the rivalries among Arabs at that time, nationalism was on the rise and competition was tough among the new independent Arab states on who will be the lead country/ruler.

The corner stone of Saudi policy was being a client to the UK, and later on the USA.

With the increase of wealth came the Cold War, the rise of nationalism in Iraq/Syria/Egypt/Libya who allied with the USSR , while Saudi was with the western world. Saudi again was not in a position to be able to claim such a title.

The prestige of the title is not worth the cost, as it will make you responsible and in charge of Muslims worldwide, which will give you a lot of enemies right away. Plus a lot of discontent from Arab and Muslim countries, whom will resist having a higher authority than theirs.


The Saudis (especially MBS) generally don't like Islamists, such as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who might do something similar if they were in charge of Saudi Arabia. "Caliphate" might also be considered a backward and uncivilized word by some investors in Saudi Arabia, as it was used by many early Islamic states.

  • 2
    Your answer is not correct. The Saudi royal family are the originators and still are the main supporters of the Wahhabi doctrine which is the base of modern islamic extremism. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahhabism
    – FluidCode
    May 18, 2021 at 21:38
  • I'm not talking about extremism, I'm talking about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and other Arab Spring reformers.
    – Zuter_242
    May 18, 2021 at 22:35
  • 1
    First: in your answer you wrote "generally don't like Islamists" and you mentioned the conflict with Erdogan which is motivated by politics, not religion. Second: also the second comment is not correct, the Muslim Brotherhood are not reformers, they participated to the protests only as a mean to grab power, they never cared for the Arab Spring.
    – FluidCode
    May 18, 2021 at 23:03
  • That is the official line of the Egyptian government.
    – Zuter_242
    May 18, 2021 at 23:10
  • 1
    "That is the official line of the Egyptian government" which exploited the Muslim Brotherhood behaviour to frustrate the "revolution". Your source is biased
    – FluidCode
    May 18, 2021 at 23:17

The history and law is complicated, but there is a strong argument that one of the duties of a Caliph is to lead a military jihad against unbelievers and apostates.

The duty of Jihad was a collective one (fard al-kifaya). It was to be directed only by the caliph who might delay it when convenient, negotiating truces for up to ten years at a time.

So declaring yourself Caliph would be seen as a statement of intent to declare war on someone within the next 10 years.

  • I had thought a bit about what declaring a caliphate would mean for relations with non-muslims, and whether to include that in my answer. But given the breadth of what "Jihad" can mean, it seems very plausible to me that the obligation to conduct external jihad could be taken care of eg by a charitable outreach programme.
    – Arno
    May 19, 2021 at 9:16

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