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King Abdul Aziz Al Saud (1876-1953) Research Paper

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Introduction

Wisdom, bravery, loyalty, patience, generosity and determination, are all qualities that should exist in any king who desires to rule a unified country, spread peace and to help to in the political, economic, and educational developments, such as King Abdul Al Aziz Al Saud. The king is famous for founding modern day Saudi Arabia, which he established as a kingdom in 1932; declaring himself as its first king. His actions changed the previous history of the Arabian Peninsula, unifying the region under a common religious faith. He is also famous for his inspiring and courageous personality, as well as inclusive and skillful politics. By re-establishing his family as rulers in the Arabian Peninsula, Abdul Al Aziz laid the cornerstone for the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He also used the zeal of Wahhabi Islam to restore his family from near political extinction and by conquering the regions of Najd, Hail and Hijaz in 1905, 1921 and 1924 respectively; he was able to establish a Saudi Kingdom (Global Security).

Early years of King Abdul Al Aziz Al Saud

Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, simply referred to as Ibn Saud was born in 1876 into the Saud house which had historically dominated the Nejd area of Saudi Arabia. He is renowned as the first monarch of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During the early years of his life, he learned several chapters of the Quran under the guidance of a well learned Islamic teacher from Riyadh; Sheikh Abdullah Al Kharji. As he grew up, he was put under the training of yet another renowned Islamic teacher, Abdullah bin Abdullatif Al Al-Sheikh under whom he learned Islamic Theology as well as the whole Quran. As a youth, Ibn Saud is said to have derived great pleasure from horse riding and had very good manners. He is also said to have been very brave, exceptionally courageous and also very daring. At the time of Ibn Saud’s birth, central Arabia was politically fragmented and the Al Saud family in Riyadh was involved in a serious power struggle. In 1890, when he was only 10 years old, his family’s lands were conquered by the Rashidi house. It is for this reason that in 1891, Abdul Aziz’ father, Abd al-Rahman evacuated his family from Riyadh and finally settled in exile in Kuwait in 1893 where Ibn Saud spent the rest of his childhood as a penniless exile. By this time, his young son Abdul Aziz was already displaying the strong characteristics of an Islamic warrior and natural leader and the nomadic lifestyle he experienced as his family moved on to exile greatly influenced him (Knowledgerush; Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

King Abdul Aziz began to show remarkable leadership qualities and talent very from as early the age of 12 years while living in exile in Kuwait. Life in exile not only helped to develop good statesmanship and leadership qualities in the future king, but also helped to polish these qualities. From this early age, he is said to have been shrewd, farsighted, courageous and a great horseman. In Kuwait, Ibn Saud established a strong friendship with Shaykh Mubarak, a half-brother of Kuwait’s ruler Shaykh Muhamman Al-Sabah. After Shaykh Mubarak forcefully removed his brother from power and established himself on the throne, Ibn Saud was on several occasions invited to attend the royal audience where grievances were heard and petitions presented. He learnt the Quran more deeply and also learned politics and how to be in command of soldiers in war. During his stay in exile, he developed a strong desire to restore the kind of rulership that his forefathers had followed to rule the Saudi nation irrespective of the obstacles he would encounter when restoring it back. Ibn Saud was not pleased about the poverty, ignorance, disease and state of anarchy that had become characteristic of the Arabian Peninsula and the disintegration resulting thereof urged him to re-unite the Saudi nation under the banner of Islam with one god, Allah and one messenger of Allah, Mohammed (Nova Stars Information; Knowledgerush).

At the age of 26 years, Ibn Saud left Kuwait and led a small group of relatives and aids back to Riyadh with the intention of conquering back the city and the whole of the Arab Peninsula. He left Kuwait and returned to Riyadh with a small army of about sixty men and on 15th January, 1902, they captured the city of Riyadh; an event that marked the beginning of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud’s “Jihad”. The people of Riyadh warmly welcomed the returning leader who immediately engaged in repairing the city’s broken walls as the first step towards establishing a stronghold in Riyadh. To gain the support of the local people, Ibn Saud tried to establish alliance with local tribes and set up himself as both the Al Saud leader as well as Wahhabi Imam at Riyadh. The religious establishment in the Riyadh region gave him a lot of support and this type of recognition helped Abdul Al Aziz to establish the Wahhabi authority. His actions at such a young age highly reflected good leadership qualities that the local tribes valued in their leader. After firmly establishing the Saudi rule, Ibn Saud engaged in a 30 year old effort of reuniting the scattered tribes as well as the city dwellers into the modern Saudi Arabia Kingdom (Global Security).

In his efforts to re-unite the scattered Arabian tribes, he conquered Al Qassaem in 1904, Al Ahsa in 1913, Asir in 1916 as well as Hayl in 1921. In 1924, he conquered Taif and Makkah and in 1925, Jeddah also fell at his conquest by which time the whole Hijaz region was now under his rule. For the next 31 years, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud continued with Jihads until 1932 when he was finally able to establish the Saudi Arabian Kingdom. He immediately engaged in establishing security in the new kingdom by re-uniting the feuding tribes and scattered regions and then began to organize the new state. Through the necessary organizational and administrative systems, he set up a government in Hijaz and delegated the various responsibilities of the state. In 1926 for example, Ibn Saud appoint his son Prince Faisal to head the newly created posts of General Prosecutor Saudi Shooura Council. A Council of Deputies was established five years later in 1931 and was also assigned to Prince Faisal. To make his leadership more effective, Ibn Saud also made use of the early years of his governance to establish several ministries that marked a departure from the traditional Saudi administrative system used in previous Saudi states. Through the modern state, he also established diplomatic relations and appointed ambassadors to man political representations (Nova Stars Information).

The King’s wives and Children

King Abdul Aziz Al Saud was exceptionally fertile and took wives from those tribes he wanted to establish co-operation with or to mend relations after some form of strive. The King was a Unitarian Wahhabi and subsequently, a very devout Muslim who strictly adhered to the law that a Muslim should not marry more than four legal wives simultaneously. But his passions and whims created a desire for new women in his life and he therefore maintained his observance of the marriage laws by divorcing and rotating them whenever he wanted a new wife in his courts. The king also had a great number of concubines and slave-girls as his mates since the under Sharia law, the Islamic rulers were allowed to have extra relationships with women apart from the four legal wives; a tradition that the King strictly adhered to. His most favorite wife was however a lady by name Munayer, who had been presented to him on one of his conquest missions in the great Nafud Desert. He formally wed her in the 1940s after divorcing his fourth wife and she is the mother of Talal, who was the favorite son of the old King. The King bore dozens of other children from various wives that he married from different but the main Arabian tribes. King Abdul Aziz’s exact number of children remains unknown considering the large number of women in his life but it has been estimated that he sired between 80 and over 100 children. He is said to have fathered 37 sons born to 16 wives and the number of wives that officially married has been put at 22 although he never married more than four wives simultaneously. All the Saudi Kings who have ruled the nation after Ibn Saud are his biological sons because the Saudi law made provision that every ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must be a real son to Ibn Saud. This leaves many people wondering what will transpire after all the sons born to Ibn Saud have passed away and succession strive could be looming in the background unless the current ruling house creates laws that will establish a new order of succession in Saudi Arabia (Asian Times Online; Knowledgerush).

Leadership Skills

In 1901, Ibn Saud succeeded his father as the Sultan of Nejd and immediately engaged in efforts to re-conquer lost family lands now in modern day Saudi Arabia. Capturing back Nejd was not a simple task because the Rashid had support from the Ottoman Empire but after the Turkish troops left due to supply problems, Ibn Saud was able to resume an offensive and by 1912, had control of the whole of Nejd. In 1922, with the help of the British, Ibn Saud finally extinguished the dominion of the Rashidis and in 1925; the Husayn also fell under his power. After managing to conquer most of the Arabian Peninsula, Ibn Saud finally renamed the Nejd and Hejaz regions to Saudi Arabia and subsequently proclaimed himself as king (Knowledgerush.com). The Saudi state proclaimed by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud in 1932 became the third al-Saud Kingdom; the first one having been established in 1744 by Muhammad bin Saud and ended in 1818 under Egyptian forces. A second state had been established in central Arabia in 1822 until it was overthrown by the rival al-Rashid house (Asian Times Online).

Abdul Aziz often took wives from those tribes that he defeated as part of his overall strategy of inclusion. Through intermarriages, he established tribal bonds that would continue fro generations to come. To keep an eye on his potential enemies, he welcomed those who survived his conquests especially from the al-Rashid dynasty into his court where they lived and they were nobly treated. During WWI for example, the Sharif of Mecca and the Rashidi of Hail were the major rivals opposing Ibn Saud in his efforts to establish himself as ruler in the Arabian Peninsula. After he conquered Hail, he married three widows left by Rashidi into his family and gave members of the Hijaz ruling family large pieces of land where they stayed and prospered; therefore reducing a future threat from this family. He also granted favors to those who had been allied with him inorder to maintain their loyalty although the exercise was strenuous because during the first twenty years, the Saudi Kingdom was going through serious financial difficulties until oil was discovered in the Kingdom (Global Security).

Right from the beginning, the first King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia organized the new Kingdom in a very modern style. He formed a government, delegated authority and created the offices of General Prosecutor and Chairman of the Shoura Council to which he had appointed his son Prince Faisal as head. In 1931, a council of deputies was established to run the government. Ibn Saud also created various posts in his government including various councils and the posts of ministers and commissioners to man various offices in his government. He was also keen about interacting with the outside world and established diplomatic relations with a considerable number of countries. His foreign policy included a keen support for the Palestinian issue and when in 1945 a decision was arrived at in Cairo that Arab Nations should establish the Arab League, Saudi Arabia became one its founding members. He established friendly relations with countries that adhered to the principles of Islamic teachings; and especially with brotherly Arab countries. Apart from helping such countries in uniting their stand on internal issues, he also saw to it that dialogue was applied in solving their internal differences. He was the first Muslim leader to call for Islamic solidarity (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

King Abdul Al Aziz succeeded in laying a strong foundation upon which Saudi Arabia would be established as a strong government based on the Quran and the sayings of Prophet Mohammad. For a long time, this religious foundation would make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia one of the most prosperous and peaceful countries in the world. Ibn Saud foresaw the establishment of various courts based on the Sharia. King Abdul Al Aziz was very strict about application of the law and punishment of wrongdoers and this helped him to achieve a lot in establishing law and order, as well as security. Through the Sharia Law, security improved tremendously in Saudi Arabia leading to the disappearance of highway gangs that had previously terrorized pilgrims in this nation. He succeeded in his goal to establish a kingdom based on Islamic Law and by the time of his death, he had achieved the establishment of a modern Saudi Kingdom without violating the principles and rules that govern the Sharia and Muslims worldwide (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

Oil Production in Saudi Arabia during the reign of Ibn Saud

In 1938, an American oil company, Standard Oil of California, which had for some time been working on a 50 year concession granted by Ibn Saud, finally discovered oil in the nation. Soon after the discovery, there was enough evidence that Saudi Arabia had very large oil reserves and as a result of such evidence, other American oil companies such as Mobil, Exxon and Texaco, formed an association that created the great Aramco conglomerate. Saudi Arabia was on the verge of very great and momentous change and Dhahran, Aramco’s new oil town became the first model of an American city – displaying US-style high schools, baseball diamonds and tidy streets in one of the remotest and harshest theocratic states on earth. Yet, in the capital Riyadh where King Ibn Saud lived, life reflected the Middle Ages, and the city was still the old mud-built trading center it had been at the time of its conquest from Rashid. Only two telegraph lines enabled communication with the outer world; streets were still unpaved and only a few old Ford cars could be seen plying the dusty streets (Asian Times Online).

After oil was discovered, Saudi Arabia experienced an oil boom but most of the revenues acquired from oil were immediately directed to the royal family capital reserves; greatly enriching the Saud family. However, as oil income increased, Ibn Saud began to invest some of the capital in improving the general lives of his subjects. During Saudi Arabia’s oil boom, Ibn Saud forced many of the Saudi nomadic tribes to abandon violent disputes and petty wars between families and persuaded them into living a settled and organized lifestyle. The nomads who previously roamed the vast deserts were settled in villages as well as agricultural lands and volunteers were appointed from the settled nomads who would be trained to assist their kinsmen in new ways of improving the social and economic conditions of their nation. He also engaged in an effort to reduce crime in Saudi Arabia, especially towards the religious pilgrims visiting Makkah and Medina. Through strict adherence to the Sharia Law and with capital to provide the necessary security resources, security improved in Saudi Arabia leading to the disappearance of highway gangs that had previously terrorized pilgrims in this nation (Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Knowledgerush).

Oil production increased the Kingdom’s wealth enabling its development and welfare. King Abdul Al Aziz ordered the purchase of agricultural equipment that would be distributed to the farmers; the construction of a railway line and asphalt roads that would link the capital Riyadh and Dhahran. Telecommunications was also improved and in 1945, the Saudi Arabian Airways was established. Other developments initiated by the king included the establishment of a broadcasting station in 1949 and hospitals in various parts of the country. He also ordered the establishment of immigration that would be put in place to control both regular residence and immigration in Saudi Arabia. King Ibn Saud was determined to fight ignorance in Saudi Arabia; a move that he achieved by not only supporting preachers and teachers, but private schools as well. An education department was established whose role was to foresee the spreading of Islamic education and knowledge throughout Saudi Arabia. He also foresaw the importation of new innovations and new technology to aid in the development of the new kingdom (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

The King’s Last Days

As the Saudi Kingdom entered into the 1950s, King Abdul Aziz’ spectacular and long reign started showing signs of coming to an end. The now aged King was infirm and blind and rarely left his bedroom in Riyadh’s Murabbca Palace; the King’s death was slowly closing in. In November 1953, the aged monarch was removed from Riyadh to Taif to escape excessive heat but never returned; he died during the afternoon. After his death, his body was immediately transferred to Riyadh where he was raid to rest in an unmarked grave together with his predecessors.

Conclusion

King Abdul Al Aziz’s leadership skills can be described as inborn; making him a good judge and one who was not ignorant about the wealth of natural resources available in his kingdom and which he gradually exploited for the benefit of his subjects. He made great success in bringing unity among the previously warring tribes of the Arabian Peninsula and though each of the tribes prided about their own traditions or lineage, Ibn Saud managed to unify them; laying a foundation for what is today known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was highly determined to build and maintain the Islamic traditions and his faith and respect for these traditions together with a readiness to adopt modern day technology helped to establish the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His wise leadership helped to establish foreign relations with other countries without diluting the principles that governed this strong Islamic nation (SAMIRAD).

Works Cited

  1. Asian Times Online. “The Return of Saudi Arabia’s Red Prince.” 2002.
  2. GlobalSecurity.org. “” 2009. Web.
  3. Knowledgerush. “Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Ibn Faisal Al Saud.” 2009.
  4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: History of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 2006.
  5. Nova Stars Information. “.” 2009. Web.
  6. Samirad. “King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud).” 2009.
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