The Islamic University of Medina was established by the Saudi state in 1961 to provide religious instruction primarily to foreign students. Students would come to Medina for religious education and were then expected to act as missionaries, promoting an understanding of Islam in line with the core tenets of Wahhabism. By the early 2000s, more than 11,000 young men from across the globe had graduated from the Islamic University.
Circuits of Faith offers the first examination of the Islamic University and considers the efforts undertaken by Saudi actors and institutions to exert religious influence far beyond the kingdom's borders. Michael Farquhar draws on Arabic sources, including biographical materials, memoirs, syllabi, and back issues of the Islamic University journal, as well as interviews with former staff and students, to explore the institution's history and faculty, the content and style of instruction, and the trajectories and experiences of its students. Countering typical assumptions, Farquhar argues that the project undertaken through the Islamic University amounts to something more complex than just the one-way "export" of Wahhabism. Through transnational networks of students and faculty, this Saudi state-funded religious mission also relies upon, and has in turn been influenced by, far-reaching circulations of persons and ideas.
About the author
Michael Farquhar is Lecturer in Middle East Politics at King's College London.
"Nowhere have I read a more lucid, accessible, and well-researched book on education, migration, and the Wahhabi mission. Circuits of Faith complicates our conventional wisdom with new interpretations and perspectives. Both critics and sympathizers with Wahhabiyya will find their stereotypes challenged."
—Madawi Al-Rasheed, Middle East Centre, The London School of Economics and Political Science
"Circuits of Faith is the definitive work on the Saudi-backed expansion of Salafi-Wahhabism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With great subtlety and intelligence, Michael Farquhar explores how Saudi state interests, material capital, and institutional logics inform and harness a growing trans-local religious economy. A rich and impressive book."
—John Chalcraft, The London School of Economics and Political Science
"Michael Farquhar presents a must-read study of a critical Saudi institution and the role it plays in exporting the Wahhabi message. Thoroughly researched and analytically acute, this book incisively unpacks larger issues of religious dissemination and its links to wealth and authority, as well as the understudied but defining influence of religious intellectuals and changing social technologies."
—James Piscatori, Australian National University