While the idea that Saudi Arabia has functioned as a beacon of ultraconservative religious influence since the 1970s oil boom is commonplace, the modalities of this influence have rarely been seriously interrogated. As a window onto this issue, this article considers the history of the Islamic University of Medina, an influential Wahhabi missionary project with global ambitions. It pays particular attention to the role played by non-Saudi staff, who for long periods made up a majority of the university's faculty. Previous accounts of migrants working in Saudi religious educational institutions have tended to focus on the contested question of their contribution to the rise of politically activist modes of Islamism within the kingdom. In contrast, the account offered here draws on the concept of spiritual capital to argue that they also played an important part in legitimizing the expansion of the Wahhabi mission to diverse Muslim communities around the world.
- Saudi Arabia