In a decree, King Salman ordered the establishment of an authority to scrutinize uses of the “hadith” — accounts of the sayings, actions or habits of the Prophet that are used by preachers and jurists to support teachings and edicts on all aspects of life.
The ministry said late on Tuesday that the body’s aim would be to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts.”
The body will be based in Madinah and overseen by a Council of Senior Scholars from around the world, according to the decree. The ministry offered no specific details of how it would work in practice.
Militant groups such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda have used interpretations of hadiths — numbered in the thousands and pored over by scholars for centuries — to justify violence and to urge supporters to carry out attacks.
Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said last month that thousands of extremist clerics had been dismissed, although he gave no timeframe.
The ministry said the body would serve Islam by creating “a solid scientific reference to vet and verify the authenticity of hadiths,” which are second in importance only to the Qur’an in Islam. It did not say what form the reference would take.
The decree issued by the king, whose official title is Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques — Islam’s most revered places in Makkah and Madinah — said the body would be chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan Al-Sheikh, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which serves as Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body.