Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud
(Arabic: عبد العزيز بن عبد الرحمن آل سعود
ʿAbd al ʿAzīz bin ʿAbd ar Raḥman Āl Suʿūd
; 15 January 1875
– 9 November 1953), known in the West
as Ibn Saud (Arabic: ابن سعود
was the founder of Saudi Arabia
, the third Saudi state.
He was King of Saudi Arabia
from 23 September 1932 to his death. He had ruled parts of the kingdom as early as 1902, having previously been Emir
, and King of Nejd
and King of Hejaz
Abdulaziz was the son of Emir Abdul Rahman bin Faisal
of Nejd. The family were exiled from their residence in the city of Riyadh
in 1890. Abdulaziz reconquered Riyadh in 1902, starting three decades of conquests that made him the ruler of nearly all of central and north Arabia. He consolidated his control over the Nejd
in 1922, then conquered the Hejaz
in 1925. He extended his dominions into what later became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
in 1932. As King, he presided over the discovery of petroleum in Saudi Arabia
in 1938 and the beginning of large-scale oil production after World War II
. He fathered many children, including 45 sons,
and all of the subsequent kings of Saudi Arabia.
Early life and family origins
Abdulaziz's family had been a power in central Arabia for the previous 130 years. Under the influence and inspiration of Wahhabism
, the Saudis had previously attempted to control much of the Arabian peninsula
in the form of the Emirate of Diriyah
, the "First Saudi State", until its destruction by an Ottoman
army in the Ottoman–Wahhabi War
in the early nineteenth century.
Abdulaziz was born on 15 January 1875 in Riyadh.
He was the son of Abdul Rahman bin Faisal, one of the last rulers of the Emirate of Nejd, the Second Saudi State, a tribal sheikhdom
centered on Riyadh. Abdulaziz's mother was a member of the Sudairi family, Sara bint Ahmed
She died in 1910.
His full-siblings were Faisal, Noura
, Bazza, Haya and Saad
He was taught Quran
by Abdullah Al Kharji in Riyadh.
In 1890, the House of Saud's long-term regional rivals, the Rashidis
, conquered Riyadh. Abdulaziz was 15 at the time.
He and his family initially took refuge with the Al Murrah
, a Bedouin
tribe in the southern desert of Arabia. Later, the Al Sauds moved to Qatar
and stayed there for two months.
Their next stop was Bahrain
where they stayed briefly. The Ottoman State allowed them to settle in Kuwait
and they settled there where they lived for nearly a decade.
In the spring of 1901, Abdulaziz and some relatives, including a half-brother, Mohammad, and several cousins, set out on a raiding expedition into the Nejd, targeting mainly tribes associated with the Rashidis. As the raid proved profitable, it attracted more participants. The raiders' numbers peaked at over 200, but numbers dwindled over the ensuing months.
In the autumn, the group made camp in the Yabrin
oasis. While observing Ramadan
, he decided to attack Riyadh
and retake it from the Al Rashid. On the night of 15 January 1902, he led 40 men over the walls of the city on tilted palm trees and took the city.
The Rashidi governor of the city, Ajlan, was killed in front of his own fortress. The Saudi recapture of the city marked the beginning of the third Saudi State.
Rise to power
King Abdulaziz's signature in a document to Eqab bin Muhaya
Following the capture of Riyadh, many former supporters of the House of Saud rallied to Abdulaziz's call to arms. He was a charismatic leader and kept his men supplied with arms. Over the next two years, he and his forces recaptured almost half of the Nejd from the Rashidis.
In 1904, Abdulaziz
of the Al Rashids appealed to the Ottoman Empire for military protection and assistance. The Ottomans responded by sending troops into Arabia. On 15 June 1904, Abdulaziz's forces suffered a major defeat at the hands of the combined Ottoman and Rashidi forces. His forces regrouped and began to wage guerrilla warfare
against the Ottomans. Over the next two years, he was able to disrupt their supply routes, forcing them to retreat. However, in February 1905 Abdulaziz was named qaimmaqam
of southern Nejd by the Ottomans.
The victory of Abdulaziz in Rawdat Muhanna
, in which Abdulaziz Al Rashid died, ended the Ottoman presence in Nejd and Qassim
by the end of October 1906.
He completed his conquest of the Nejd and the eastern coast of Arabia in 1912. He then founded the Ikhwan
, a military-religious brotherhood, which was to assist in his later conquests, with the approval of local Salafi ulema
. In the same year, he instituted an agrarian policy
to settle the nomadic pastoralist
bedouins into colonies and to replace their tribal organizations with allegiance to the Ikhwan.
During World War I, the British government
established diplomatic relations with Abdulaziz. The British agent, Captain William Shakespear
, was well received by the Bedouin.
Similar diplomatic missions were established with any Arabian power who might have been able to unify and stabilize the region. The British entered into the Treaty of Darin
in December 1915, which made the lands of the House of Saud a British protectorate
and attempted to define the boundaries of the developing Saudi state.
In exchange, Abdulaziz pledged to again make war against Ibn Rashid, who was an ally of the Ottomans.
The British Foreign Office had previously begun to support Sharif Hussein bin Ali
, Emir of the Hejaz by sending T. E. Lawrence
(a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia) to him in 1915. The Saudi Ikhwan began to conflict with Hussein, Sharif of Mecca also in 1917, just as his sons Abdullah
. The Treaty of Darin remained in effect until superseded by the Jeddah
conference of 1927 and the Dammam
conference of 1952, during both of which Abdulaziz extended his boundaries past the Anglo-Ottoman Blue Line. After Darin, he stockpiled the weapons and supplies which the British provided him, including a 'tribute' of £5,000 per month.
After World War I
he received further support from the British, including a glut of surplus munitions. He launched his campaign against the Al Rashidi in 1920; by 1922 they had been all but destroyed.
The defeat of the Al Rashidi doubled the size of Saudi territory because, after the war of Ha'il, Abdulaziz sent his army to occupy Al Jouf and the army led by Eqab bin Mohaya
, the head of Talhah tribe. This allowed Abdulaziz the leverage to negotiate a new and more favorable treaty with the British. Their treaty, signed at Uqair in 1922, where he met Percy Cox
, British High Commissioner in Iraq, to draw boundaries
saw Britain recognize many of his territorial gains. In exchange, Abdulaziz agreed to recognize British territories in the area, particularly along the Persian Gulf coast and in Iraq. The former of these were vital to the British, as merchant traffic between British India
and the United Kingdom depended upon coaling stations on the approach to the Suez Canal
In 1925, Abdulaziz's forces captured the holy city of Mecca from Sharif Hussein, ending 700 years of Hashemite
rule. On 8 January 1926, the leading figures in Mecca, Madina and Jeddah proclaimed Abdulaziz the King of Hejaz.
He raised Nejd to a kingdom as well on 29 January 1927.
On 20 May 1927, the British government signed the Treaty of Jeddah
, which abolished the Darin protection agreement and recognized the independence of the Hejaz and Nejd, with Abdulaziz as their ruler. For the next five years, Abdulaziz administered the two parts of his dual kingdom as separate units.
With international recognition and support, Abdulaziz continued to consolidate his power. By 1927, his forces had overrun most of the central Arabian Peninsula
, but the alliance between the Ikhwan and the Al Saud collapsed when Abdulaziz forbade further raiding. The few portions of central Arabia that had not been overrun by the Saudi-Ikhwan forces had treaties with London, and Abdulaziz was sober enough to see the folly of provoking the British by pushing into these areas. This did not sit well with the Ikhwan, who had been taught that all non-Wahhabis were infidels. Tensions finally boiled over when the Ikhwan rebelled
. After two years of fighting, they were suppressed by Abdulaziz in the Battle of Sabilla
in March 1929.
On 23 September 1932, Abdulaziz formally united his realm into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with himself as its king.
He transferred his court to Murabba Palace
from the Masmak fort
and the palace remained his residence and the seat of government until his death in 1953.
King Abdulaziz 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 brother, Muhammad
, who had fought with him during the battles and conquests that gave birth to the state.
Oil discovery and his rule
King Abdulaziz with a foreigner in the 1930s
was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938 by SoCal
, after Abdulaziz granted a concession in 1933.
Through his advisers St John Philby
and Ameen Rihani
, Abdulaziz granted substantial authority over Saudi oil fields to American oil companies in 1944. Beginning in 1915, he signed a "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.
His newly found oil wealth brought a great deal of power and influence that Abdulaziz would use to advantage in the Hijaz. He forced many nomadic tribes to settle down and abandon "petty wars" and vendettas. He 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 Muhammad ibn 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 suppression thereafter of the Ikhwan in 1929, the 1930s marked a turning point. With his rivals eliminated, Abdulaziz's ideology was in full force, ending nearly 1,400 years of accepted religious practices surrounding the Hajj
, the majority of which were sanctioned by a millennium of scholarship.
King Abdulaziz 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, Prince Faisal.
Abdulaziz was able to gain loyalty from tribes near Saudi Arabia, such as those in Jordan
. For example, he built very strong ties with Prince Rashed Al-Khuzai
from the Al Fraihat tribe, one of the most influential and royally established families during the Ottoman Empire. The Prince and his tribe had dominated eastern Jordan before the arrival of Sharif Hussein
. Abdulaziz supported Prince Rashed and his followers in rebellion against Hussein.
In 1935 Prince Rashed supported Izz ad-Din al-Qassam
's defiance, which led him and his followers into rebellion against Abdullah I of Jordan. 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 Rashedi lived for several years under Abdulaziz's hospitality.
One of the main reasons why Abdulaziz was well known within his people was because of his generosity. Whenever the King saw the poor, he would order some money to be given to him/her. This is why the poor would await the opportunity to see him in villages, towns, and even in the desert.
On one occasion, an old lady approached Abdulaziz's procession saying, "O Abdul-Aziz, may Allah give you in the Hereafter as He has given you in the world!" This prayer filled Abdulaziz's heart with so much joy that he ordered 10 bags of money located in his car to be provided to her. Abdulaziz saw the old lady having difficulty transporting the money back to her home, so he ordered his aid service to transport the money and escort her back to her home.
On a separate event, Abdulaziz was on a picnic outside of Riyadh and saw an old man in rags. The old man proceeded to stand up in front of the King's horse and said, "O Abdul-Aziz, it is terribly cold, and I have no clothes to protect me". Saddened by the man's state, he took off his cloak and gave it to him. In addition, Abdulaziz also gave the old man an allowance to pay for his daily living expenses.
As a result of the abundance of the poor, Abdulaziz established a guest house for the poor, known as the "Thulaim" or the "The Host". There, the poor were given rice, meat, and varieties of porridge to eat. As economic conditions became worse, Abdulaziz started increasing his aid to the poor. He provided them with "royal kits" of bread and "waayid", which were annual allocated monetary gifts.
Abdulaziz would often say, "I haven't obtained all this wealth by myself. It is a blessing from Allah, and all of you have a share in it. So, I want you to guide me to whatever takes me nearer to my Lord and qualifies me for His forgiveness."
Abdulaziz 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, Fritz Grobba
, Abdulaziz provided Grobba with refuge.
It was reported that he had been disfavoring the British as of 1937.
The other meeting was with British Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
in the Grand Hotel du Lac on the shores of the Fayyoun Oasis, fifty miles south of Cairo
, in February 1945.
Saudis report that the meeting heavily focused on the Palestine problem and was unproductive in terms of its outcomes, in contrast to that with Roosevelt.
In 1948, King Abdulaziz participated in the Arab-Israeli War
, but Saudi Arabia's contribution was generally considered token.
Following the naming of Prince Saud as his heir
King Abdulaziz left most of his duties to him, and he spent most of his time in Ta'if.
While most of the royal family desired luxuries such as gardens, splendid cars, and palaces, King Abdulaziz wanted a royal railway from the Persian Gulf
to Riyadh and then an extension to Jeddah. His advisors regarded this 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 accordance with the customs of his people, King Abdulaziz headed a polygamous household comprising several wives and concubines. According to some sources, he had twenty-two consorts. Many of his marriages were contracted in order to cement alliances with other clans, during the period when the Saudi state was founded and stabilized. He was the father of almost one hundred children, including forty-five sons
. Mohammed Leopold Weiss reported in 1929 that one of his spouses poisoned Abdulaziz in 1924 which caused poor sight of one eye.
He later forgave her, but at the same time divorced her.
Abdulaziz was known to have a strong, charming, and charismatic personality that earned him respect among his people and foreign diplomats. His family and others described Abdulaziz as an affectionate and caring man.
King Abdulaziz was a tall man
standing between 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
and 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in).
Relations with family members
Abdulaziz was said to be very close to his paternal aunt, Jawhara bint Faisal. From a young age, she ingrained in him a strong sense of family destiny and motivated him to regain the lost glory of the House of Saud. During the years when the Saud family were living almost as refugees in Kuwait, Jawhara bint Faisal frequently recounted the deeds of his ancestors to Abdulaziz and exhorted him not to be content with the existing situation. She was instrumental in making him decide to return to Nejd from Kuwait and regain the territories of his family. She was well educated in Islam, in Arab custom and in tribal and clan relationships. She remained among the king's most trusted and influential advisors all her life. Abdulaziz asked her about the experiences of past rulers and the historical allegiance and the roles of tribes and individuals. Jawhara was also deeply respected by the king's children. Abdulaziz visited her daily until she died around 1930.
Abdulaziz was also very close to his sister Noura
, who was one year older than him. On several occasions, he identified himself in public with the words: "I am the brother of Noura."
Noura died a few years before Abdulaziz.
Abdulaziz was terribly saddened by Noura's death.
On 15 March 1935, three armed men from Oman
attacked and tried to assassinate King Abdulaziz during his performance of Hajj.
He survived the attack unhurt, and three assassins were arrested.
Another assassination attempt targeting King Abdulaziz occurred in 1951 when Captain
Abdullah Al Mandili, who was a member of Royal Saudi Air Force
, tried to bomb his camp from an airplane.
His attempt was unsuccessful and Al Mandili escaped to Iraq with the help of tribes.
King Abdulaziz had 45 sons, of whom 36 survived to adulthood. Ten of his sons were capable enough to be candidates for the succession. They were Saud
. Of these ten, six became king. Muhammad, Sultan, Nayef and Muqrin were crown princes but never succeeded the throne. Muhammad resigned from the post, Sultan and Nayef predeceased King Abdullah, and Muqrin was removed from the post by his brother King Salman in April 2015.
He appointed his second son Prince Saud heir to the Saudi throne in 1933. He had many quarrels with his brother Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman as to who should be appointed heir. Muhammad wanted his son Khalid to be designated the heir.
King Abdulaziz's eldest son Turki
, who was the crown prince of the Kingdoms of Nejd and Hejaz, died at age 18, predeceasing his father, and his younger full-brother was appointed Crown Prince. Had Turki not died, he would have been the Crown Prince.
When King Abdulaziz discussed succession before his death, he favored Prince Faisal as a possible successor over Crown Prince Saud due to Faisal's extensive knowledge, as well as his years of experience. Since Faisal was a child, Abdulaziz recognized him as the most brilliant of his sons and often tasked him with responsibilities in war and diplomacy. In addition, Faisal was known to embrace a simple Bedouin lifestyle. "I only wish I had three Faisals", King Abdulaziz once said when discussing who would succeed him.
However, King Abdulaziz made the decision to keep Prince Saud as crown prince in the fear that otherwise would lead to decreased stability.
In regard to essential values for the state and people, he said, "Two things are essential to our state and our people ... religion and the rights inherited from our fathers."
Amani Hamdan argues that the attitude of Abdulaziz towards women's education was encouraging since he expressed his support in a conversation with St John Philby in which he stated, "It is permissible for women to read."
King Abdulaziz repeated the following views about the British authorities many times: "The English are my friends, but I will walk with them only so far as my religion and honor will allow."
His last words to his two sons, the future King Saud and the next in line Prince Faisal, who were already battling each other, were "You are brothers, unite!"
Shortly before his death, King Abdulaziz stated, "Verily, my children and my possessions are my enemies."
Death and funeral
King Abdulaziz was experiencing heart disease in his final years, and he was half blind and racked by arthritis
In October 1953, his illness became serious.
Before Abdulaziz slept on the night of 8 November, he recited the shahada
several times, which were his last words.
He died in his sleep of a heart attack in Shubra Palace
on 9 November 1953 at the age of 78, and Prince Faisal was at his side.
Funeral prayer was performed at Al Hawiya in Ta'if.
His body was brought to Riyadh where he was buried in Al Oud cemetery
next to his sister, Noura.
The US President Dwight D. Eisenhower
issued a message on his death on 11 November 1953.
The US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles
stated after King Abdulaziz's death that he would be remembered for his achievements as a statesman.
- ^ His birthday has been a source of debate. It is generally accepted as 1875, although a few sources give it as 1880. According to British author Robert Lacey's book The Kingdom, a leading Saudi historian found records that show Abdulaziz in 1891 greeting an important tribal delegation. The historian reasoned that a nine or ten-year-old child (as given by the 1880 birth date) would have been too young to be allowed to greet such a delegation, while an adolescent of 15 or 16 (as given by the 1875 date) would likely have been allowed. When Lacey interviewed one of Abdulaziz's sons prior to writing the book, the son recalled that his father often laughed at records showing his birth date to be 1880. Abdulaziz's response to such records was reportedly that "I swallowed four years of my life." p. 561"
- ^ Ibn Saud, meaning son of Saud (see Arabic name), was a sort of title borne by previous heads of the House of Saud, similar to a Scottish clan chief's title of "the MacGregor" or "the MacDougal". When used without comment it refers solely to Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman, although prior to the capture of Riyadh in 1902 it referred to his father, Abdul Rahman bin Faisal (Lacey 1982, pp. 15, 65).
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