Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Al-Od cemetery in Riyadh, on January 23, 2015
Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Al-Od cemetery in Riyadh, on January 23, 2015 © Mohammed Mashhur - AFP
Mourners gather around the grave of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Al-Od cemetery in Riyadh, on January 23, 2015
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AFP
Last updated: January 25, 2015

Saudi's low-key mourning rooted in 18th century

Banner Icon Saudi Arabia's low-key way of mourning the death of King Abdullah, and his burial in an unmarked grave, are in keeping with the conservative teachings of an 18th century Muslim scholar.

Saudi Arabia's low-key way of mourning the death of King Abdullah, and his burial in an unmarked grave, are in keeping with the conservative teachings of an 18th century Muslim scholar.

The Islamic kingdom follows an austere brand of Islam preached by Mohammed bin Abdul Wahhab, a jurist of the Hanbali school, the most conservative of the four main Sunni Muslim schools of jurisprudence.

"According to the Hanbali school, graves must be very simple and unmarked, and mourning has to be simple too," Khalid al-Dakhil, an independent political analyst and expert on Wahhabism, said on Sunday.

Abdullah died Friday, aged about 90, after being hospitalised with pneumonia.

Relatives carried his shrouded body on a simple litter for funeral prayers and then buried him in a grave marked only by a book-sized plain grey stone.

His successor and half-brother, King Salman, declared a public holiday for his subjects to offer condolences and allegiance.

Crowds had already filled royal palaces in the capital Riyadh on Friday and Saturday to offer their wishes, quietly in keeping with Islamic sharia law that governs religious and secular duties in the kingdom.

"What is not encouraged in sharia is to be hysterical" in grief, but emotion is acceptable, said Dakhil.

Over what is usually a three-day mourning period, millions of Saudis will likely have visited the offices of their local governors to convey their condolences and allegiance to King Salman, the expert said.

But many others will make pledges "just in their heart."

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