Religion in Saudi Arabia


According to thesciencetutor, Saudi Arabia had an average population density of 15 residents per km 2 in 2019, but due to the country’s desert nature, the population is geographically very unevenly distributed. Nearly 90 percent of the residents are in the middle parts of the country, while the southern and northern parts of the country are sparsely populated. The extensive immigration of guest workers makes the country has a strong population growth.

Of the country’s population, 83 percent live in cities. The largest cities are Riyadh (4.9 million residents in 2010), Jeddah (3.2 million) and Mecca (1.5 million).

According to Countryaah data, Saudi Arabia’s indigenous population consists of three distinct categories. In the deserted Najd, where Wahhabism and the Saudi state originated, live the politically dominant Najdites. The area’s Bedouins were previously organized into tribes. These have lost their political significance, but still play an important role in social identity.

People in Saudi Arabia

The western coastal province of Hijaz has a more complex population in the port cities of the Red Sea, including by making pilgrims resident. Here too, tribal najdites have moved. Hijaz has traditionally had the highest education and the best developed contacts with the outside world. This headline has shrunk in recent years, and the dominance of the Najdites is about to extend to the cultural realm as well.

While just over 95 percent of Saudis are Sunnis, mainly Wahhabites, there are Shiites in the Eastern Province (formerly al-Hasa). They provide for agriculture in the Qatif and Al Ahsa oases and make up almost half of the domestic labor force in the oil fields. Today, they are a disadvantaged minority. There is also a substantial proportion of 5.5 million foreigners living in the country, many of whom are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines.


The official language is Arabic. The spoken language is consistently of badawy type. The status dialogues are found among the Anaza and to some extent the Shammar tribes in the central and eastern parts. In the very vivid oral poetry, a stylized badawi dialect is used.


The creation of the Saudi state through the Wahhabit-Islamic reform movement has meant that strict Sunni Islam constitutes the basis of the state. The Qur’an is regarded as its constitution and the Hanbali Islamic Shari’a law functions as the state’s legal system. Since 1992, there has been a basic constitutional system of rules for the state government. However, this is subordinate to Islamic law. In 2007, a royal decree was issued which stipulated that a review of the judicial system should take place, and changes are to be expected. Almost the entire population is Sunnis; a minority is Shiites. The pilgrimage targets Mecca and Medina are within the state’s territory, which is why Saudi Arabia has a key role in the Muslim world’s religious politics.

Saudi Arabia is also an important contributor to projects and organizations aimed at promoting Islamic interests around the world. The country is the largest contributor to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah. Despite this profile, the monarchy has been hit by Islamist opposition and criticized for not living up to its role as the defender of Islam enough. Criticism has come from rival neighboring states (including Iran) as well as from Saudi citizens who have wanted to see a stricter application of Islam in the country, while others want to accelerate liberalization and modernization of the country.

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The opposition grew in connection with the Kuwait crisis in 1991 and the years thereafter, when several popular ministers and religious scholars were arrested after criticizing the royal house for its dependence on the United States and its simultaneous lack of willingness to reform. The regime took measures to counter the influence of representatives of the most extreme political and religious views, such as Usama bin Laden, and the United States and Western Europe were also warned of these people and the groups they represented. However, it was only after September 11, 2001, that the outside world realized the extent of the problem.

Saudi Arabia Religion