A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Inspiration for Saudi Mutawa‘in Dies at 130 (????)

Take this one as you will, The senior (and I do mean senior) Islamic scholar in Saudi Arabia, described by Gulf News only as Sheikh Muhammad bin Muslim Al-Othaimeen, has died at a reputed age of 130. His primary claim to fame (other than his alleged age) seems to be that he created the ideology behind the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Forbidding of Vice, the overseer sof those ever popular mutawa‘in or religious police.

But really? 130 years old? I'm not sure I buy that. Wikipedia (not canonical I know) lists the oldest verified person as 122, and depending on how you read it, verified claims may go to around 115 or 120.

Here's a Daily Mail report of a guy who lived to 138, but hey, it's the Daily Mail. At least as of 2002 Guinness didn't credit anybody over 122. Now, I recognize that the Saudi report may be dealing with Hijri calendar years, and there are 103 of those for 100 Gregorian. But hey: that still
puts him being born up there in somewhere around 1882, I think, which would make him 127 or so in our terms. Still seems extreme.

Okay, this guy was supposedly instrumental in the founding of the Mutawa‘in in the 1920s, so he'd be pretty old in any event.

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