Saturday, December 1, 2012

'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman Al Sa'ud

‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman Al Sa‘ud (b. c. 1880, Riyadh, Arabia - November 9, 1953, Al Ta'if, Saudi Arabia), also known as 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Sa'ud, or more simply as Ibn Sa'ud, was the founder king of Saudi Arabia (r.1902–1953). His family, with their regular seat at Riyadh, were the traditional leaders of the ultra-orthodox Wahhabi movement in Islam. During Ibn Sa'ud's youth the Sa'ud family was in exile in Kuwait. In 1902, Ibn Sa'ud and a small party of relatives and servants took Riyadh from the Rashid dynasty, and by 1912 he had restored Sa‘udi rule in Najd and had organized a well trained army. He then started settling Bedouins in Wahhabiyya-centered agricultural colonies whose members were known as “The Brothers” (in Arabic, al-Ikhwan).

In 1914, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (Ibn Sa'ud) expelled the Ottomans from eastern Arabia and, in the following years, he subdued the Jabal Shammar area in northern Najd and annexed Asir. During World War I, the British made slight efforts to cultivate Ibn Sa'ud's friendship but favored his rival, Husayn ibn Ali of the Hejaz. In 1924, Ibn Sa'ud entered Mecca; in 1925, he entered Medina and Jidda; and, in 1926, he was proclaimed king of the Hejaz.

After consolidating his power over most of the Arabian peninsula, Ibn Sa'ud, in 1932, changed the name of his kingdom to Saudi Arabia. He forced many of the nomad tribes to adopt a settled way of life and to abandon the private wars and vendettas. He is credited with suppressing the robbery and extortion that formerly harassed pilgrims to Mecca and Medina.

In 1934, the dispute with Yemen was settled by a military victory followed by a treaty, and the government unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After World War II, Ibn Sa'ud joined the United Nations and the Arab League.

In 1936 and 1939, Ibn Sa'ud granted oil concessions to American companies. The first commercial find of oil in Saudi Arabia was made during the reign of Ibn Sa'ud in 1937. The oil deposits of Arabia proved to be among the richest in the world, and Ibn Sa'ud used some of the income derived from them on national improvements. The greater part of his oil revenues, however, was spent on the royal family.

During World War II, Ibn Sa'ud remained neutral but favored the Allies. He took only a minor part in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.

Ibn Sa'ud had as many as twenty-two wives (although only three or four simultaneously) and he fathered more than eighty (80) children. He was succeeded in 1953 by Prince Sa'ud, his eldest son.

Ibn Sa'ud was a tribal and Muslim religious leader who formed the modern state of Saudi Arabia and initiated the exploitation of its oil.

The Sa'uds ruled much of Arabia from 1780 to 1880.  However, while Ibn Saʿud was still an infant, his family, driven out by their rivals, the Rashids, became penniless exiles in Kuwait. In 1901, Ibn Saʿud, then 21, set out from Kuwait with 40 camelmen in a bold attempt to regain his family’s lands.

Reaching their old family capital, Riyadh, the little group slipped into the town by night (January 1902). The Rashidi governor slept in the castle but came out every morning after dawn. Ibn Saʿud lay hidden until the governor emerged. Then, rushing forward with his men, he killed the governor and seized the castle. This exploit roused the former supporters of his dynasty. They rallied to so magnetic a leader, and in two years of raids and skirmishes Ibn Saʿud reconquered half of central Arabia.

Ibn Rashid, however, appealed for help to the Turks, who sent troops. Ibn Saʿud suffered a defeat at their hands on June 15, 1904.  However, Ibn Sa'ud was not driven from central Arabia and soon reconstituted his forces. The years 1907 to 1912 passed with sporadic fighting. The Turks eventually left, unable to supply their troops.

Ibn Saʿud decided, in the years before World War I, to revive his dynasty’s support for Wahhabism, a Muslim puritan revival movement. Ibn Saʿud was in fact a devoted puritan Muslim— a devoted Wahhabi.  For Ibn Sa'ud, the Qurʾan was literally the word of God, and his life was regulated by it.  But Ibn Sa'ud was also aware that religious fanaticism could serve his ambition, and he deliberately fostered it, founding a militantly religious tribal organization known as the Ikhwan  (the Brethren). This fanatical brotherhood encouraged his followers to fight and to massacre their Arab rivals, and it helped him to bring many nomadic tribesmen under more immediate control.

Ibn Sa'ud was able to persuade the religious leaders to declare it a religious duty of all Wahhabis to abandon nomadism and to build houses at the desert wells. Thus settled, they could more easily be levied into his army. But the scheme was unrealistic.  Nomads who sold their flocks were often unable to cultivate and were reduced to penury. The destitution of the more fanatical tribes, however, made them more eager to raid, and Ibn Saʿud was not slow to suggest that they plunder the subjects of Ibn Rashid.

During World War I, Ibn Saʿud entered into a treaty with the British (December 1915), accepting protectorate status and agreeing to make war against Ibn Rashid, who was being supported by the Turks. However, despite British arms and a subsidy of £5,000 a month from the British government (which continued until 1924), Ibn Sa'ud remained inactive until 1920, arguing that his subsidy was insufficient. During 1920–22, however, he marched against Ibn Rashid and extinguished Rashidi rule, doubling his own territory but without significantly increasing his meager revenue.
By the end of 1922, Ibn Saʿud ruled central Arabia except for the Hejaz region along the Red Sea. This was the territory of Sharif Husayn of Mecca, who had become king of the Hejaz during the war and who declared himself caliph (head of the Muslim community) in 1924.  Sharif Ḥusayn’s son 'Abd Allah had become ruler of Transjordan in 1921, and another son, Faysal, king of Iraq. Ibn Saʿud, fearing encirclement by this rival dynasty, decided to invade the Hejaz. He was then at the height of his powers. Ibn Sa'ud's strong personality and extraordinary charm had won the devotion of all his subjects. A skillful politician, he worked closely with the religious leaders, who always supported him. Relying on the Ikhwan to eliminate his Arab rivals, Ibn Sa'ud sent them to raid his neighbors, then cabled the British, whose imperial interests were involved, that the raid was against his orders. In 1924, the Ikhwan took Mecca, and the Hejaz was added to his dominions.

At this point, there were no more rivals for Ibn Saʿud to conquer, for those remaining had treaties with Britain. However, the Ikhwan had been taught that all non-Wahhabi Muslims were infidels. When Ibn Saʿud forbade further raiding, they charged him with treachery, quoting his own words against him. In 1927, the Ikhwan invaded Iraq against his wishes. They were repulsed by British aircraft, but Ibn Saʿud’s authority over them had vanished. On March 29, 1929, the Ikhwan, the fanatics whom Ibn Sa'ud had trained, were crushed by Ibn Saʿud himself at the Battle of Sibilla.
This Battle of Sibilla opened a new era.  Thereafter, Ibn Saʿud’s task was government, not conquest.

Ibn Sa'ud had to first eliminate the right of his own father in order to rule, and then distance and contain the ambitions of his five brothers – particularly his oldest brother Muhammad who fought with him during the battles and conquests that had given birth to the state.

Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938 by American geologists working for Standard Oil of California in partnership with Saudi officials. Through his advisers St. John Philby and Ameen Rihani, Ibn Sa'ud granted substantial authority over Saudi oil fields to American oil companies in 1944, much to the dismay of the British who had invested heavily in the House of Sa'ud's rise to power in hopes of open access to any oil reserves that were to be surveyed. Beginning in 1915, Ibn Sa'ud signed the "friendship and cooperation" pact with Britain to keep his militia in line and cease any further attacks against their protectorates for whom they were responsible. Not only did the British pay a generous monthly allowance for his cooperation, but in 1935 he was knighted into the Order of the Bath.
His new found oil wealth brought with it a great deal of power and influence that, naturally, Ibn Sa'ud would use to advantage in the Hijaz. He forced many nomadic tribes to settle down and abandon "petty wars" and vendettas. He also began widespread enforcement of the new kingdom's ideology, based on the teachings of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. This included an end to traditionally sanctioned rites of pilgrimage, recognized by the orthodox schools of jurisprudence, but at odds with those sanctioned by Abd al Wahhab. In 1926, after a caravan of Egyptians on the way to Mecca were beaten by his forces for playing bugles, he was impelled to issue a conciliatory statement to the Egyptian government. In fact, several such statements were issued to Muslim governments around the world as a result of beatings suffered by the pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. With the uprising and subsequent decimation thereafter of the Ikhwan in 1929 via British air power, the 1930s marked a turning point. With his rivals eliminated, Ibn Sa'ud's ideology was in full force, ending nearly 1400 years of accepted religious practices surrounding the Hajj, the majority of which were sanctioned by a millennia of scholarship.
Ibn Sa'ud established a Shura Council of the Hijaz as early as 1927. This Council was later expanded to 20 members, and was chaired by the king's son, Faisal.

Ibn Sa'ud was able to gain loyalty from tribes even nearby Saudi Arabia, tribes such as those in Jordan. For example, he built very strong ties with Prince Sheikh Rashed Al-Khuzai from the Al Fraihat tribe, one of the most influential and royally established families during the Ottoman Empire. Prince Rashed Al-Khuzai and his tribe had dominated eastern Jordan before the arrival of Sharif Hussein. Ibn Sa'ud supported Prince Rashed Al-Khuzai and his followers in rebellion against the Hussein.
Prince Rashed supported Izz ad-Din al-Qassam's Palestinian revolution in 1935 which led him and his followers in rebellion against King Abdullah of Jordan. And later in 1937, when they were forced to leave Jordan, Prince Rashed Al Khuzai, his family, and a group of his followers chose to move to Saudi Arabia, where Prince Al Khuzai was living for several years in the hospitality of Ibn Sa'ud.
Ibn Sa'ud positioned Saudi Arabia as neutral in World War II, but was generally considered to favor the Allies.  However, in 1938, when an attack on a main British pipeline in the Kingdom of Iraq was found to be connected to the German Ambassador, Dr. Fritz Grobba, Ibn Sa'ud provided Grobba with refuge. It was reported that he had been disfavoring the British as early as 1937.
In 1948, Ibn Sa'ud participated in the Arab-Israeli War. Saudi Arabia's contribution was generally considered token.
While the members of the royal family wanted heavenly gardens, splendid cars, and concrete palaces, Ibn Sa'ud wanted a royal railway from the Persian Gulf to Riyadh and then an extension to Jeddah. The shrine was regarded by all of the advisers living in the country as an old man's folly. Eventually, ARAMCO built the railway, at a cost of $70 million, drawn from the King's oil royalties. It was completed in 1951 and was used commercially after the king's death. It enabled Riyadh to grow into a relatively modern city. But when a paved road was built in 1962, the railway lost its traffic.
In 1932, Ibn Sa'ud formally unified his domains into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An absolute monarch, he had no regular civil service or professional administrators. All decisions were made by him or by those he personally delegated for a particular task. There was little money, and he himself was not interested in finance. In May 1933, Ibn Saʿud signed his first agreement with an American oil company but it was not until March 1938 that the company struck oil, and work virtually ceased during World War II, so that Ibn Saʿud was again nearly penniless.

Saudi Arabia took no part in the war, but toward its end the exploitation of oil was resumed. By 1950, Ibn Saʿūd had received a total of about $200,000. Three years later, he was getting some $2,500,000 a week. The effect was disastrous on the country and on Ibn Saʿūd. He had no idea of what to do with all the money, and he watched helplessly the triumph of everything he hated. His austere religious views were offended. The secluded, penurious, hard, but idealistic, life of Arabia was vanishing. Such vast sums of money drew half the swindlers in the Middle East to his puritan religious sanctum.  Ultimately, Ibn Saʿud was unable to cope with financial adventurers. His last years were marked by severe physical and emotional deterioration. He died at Al-Ṭaʾif in 1953.

Alternative names include:  

'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman Al Sa'ud
'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Faysal ibn Turki 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad Al Sa'ud
'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Sa'ud
Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Abdul Aziz ibn Saud
Al Sa'ud
Al Sa'ud, 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Faysal ibn Turki 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad
Al Sa'ud, 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman
Al Saud, Abdul Aziz
Ibn Sa'ud
Ibn Sa'ud, 'Abd al-'Aziz
Ibn Saud, Abdul Aziz
Sa'ud, 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman Al
Sa'ud, 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Faysal ibn Turki 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad Al
Sa'ud, Abdul Aziz Al
Sa'ud, Al

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