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Nora Derbal (Alumna BGSMCS)


Charity for the Poor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1961-2015.


Charity for the Poor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1961-2015.

Charitable initiatives have long been one of the few associational formats legally tolerated by the modern Saudi state. The Saudi government actively encouraged Saudis to engage in charity. Historically, the royal family Al Saʿud has drawn legitimacy from its self-projection as the guarantor of a society adhering to God’s laws, thereby positioning itself as a protector of the Muslim community. Giving alms and showing beneficence to the poor and needy are life-long obligations for Muslims, commanded by the Qurʾan and referenced in traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. This thesis describes how ideas and ideals of charity, rooted in religious tradition and politically sanctioned, have been translated into everyday associational practices in support of the poor in Jeddah. Due to little publicly available information and scarce literature on the subject, the thesis is highly explorative, aiming to contribute to the study of associational life in Saudi Arabia by providing new empirical evidence. The focus of the investigation is on the period beginning in 1961, when associations became subject to the newly established Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Through a close reading of charitable discourses and practices assisting the poor, I aim to understand the politics of benevolence in contemporary Saudi Arabia. A study of the politics of benevolence gains particular relevance given the Saudi state’s repressive stance towards associational practices. It was only in November 2015 that the Saudi cabinet passed an NGO law which paves the way for non-charity organizations to operate legally in the country. The legislation went into effect in March 2016. It signifies a turning point for associational life in the country, and marks the end of the period under investigation in this thesis.


First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gudrun Krämer