No non Muslims allowed at King Fahd's burial - Jet setting billionaire Saudi buried in 'paupers' grave
August 2, 2005
In the presence of leaders from across the Muslim world, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia was buried yesterday in an austere ceremony at odds with the ostentatious wealth of his oil kingdom.
In keeping with the country's ultra-conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, the proceedings were not billed as a state funeral - all men being viewed as equal, and flawed, under God.
The body of the king, draped in a brown robe, was carried into the Imam Turki Bin Abdullah mosque on a wooden stretcher on the shoulders of members of the ruling al-Saud family.
After brief prayers, it was carried in an ambulance from the mosque.
Mourners huddled under a sea of bright umbrellas shading them from the blazing summer heat at the burial in the al-Oud public cemetery.
There he was lowered into the ground without a coffin, clad in a white shroud in a simple grave, indistinguishable from that of any other. The wealth derived from the world's largest oil reserves was evident only in the fleets of bullet-proof limousines that sped away after the ceremony.
Thus ended the career of one of the world's last absolute monarchs, from one of the world's richest families.
He ruled for 23 years, but for the past 10 was enfeebled by a stroke, leaving the country to be run by his half-brother and successor Abdullah. As a reformer by Saudi standards, there will be hope of at least limited reforms.
Fahd, 84, who was admitted to the King Faisal specialist hospital in Riyadh in late May for "medical tests" and who was said to have suffered respiratory problems caused by pneumonia, steered a course through wars, oil crises and deadly Islamist domestic violence.
The latter demanded intense security yesterday with police, national guard and regular army troops deployed in large numbers around the mosque complex and surrounding streets.
Non-Muslims were not allowed to attend the funeral, as the country enforces a strict prohibition on non-Muslims entering mosques, a ruling unique to the kingdom.
Western leaders and other non-Muslims, including the Prince of Wales and Jacques Chirac of France, had an opportunity to offer their condolences later in the day.
President George W Bush sent a message of condolence.
Although a three-day period of official remembrance was declared across the kingdom, there will be no official period of mourning in Saudi Arabia. Mourning is forbidden under the Wahhabi creed, which holds that because death is the will of God, mourning suggests some displeasure or discontentment with God's wishes.
The funeral was attended by dozens of Arab leaders, among them Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, Jordan's King Hussein, Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
The funeral was held in the Dir'a district of old Riyadh, far from the sprawl of high-rise blocks and shopping malls.
The mosque's 6,000 capacity was filled with family members (the ruling family alone has more than 4,000 princes) and visiting Muslim dignitaries.
For the ordinary worshipper, prayers were conducted nearby in the open, although not in Dir'a Square, immediately outside the mosque, which was closed for security reasons.
It is the same square where public beheadings and amputations take place, in accordance with Sharia, or Islamic, law for crimes such as murder, drug dealing and theft.