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House of Saud

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House of Saud
Country Diriyah, Najd and Saudi Arabia

BlackStar.PNG King of Saudi Arabia

BlackStar.PNG The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Current head Abdullah
Founding 1744—Muhammad bin Saud

The House of Saud (Arabic: آل سعود‎), also called the Al Saud, is the ruling royal family of the Saudi Arabia. The head of the family is King Abdullah. The ruling faction of the family is primarily led by the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud and his brothers.[1] The family advocates Salafi Islam and unification of Arabia.[1]

The most influential member of the family is the King of Saudi Arabia. The line of succession to the Saudi throne is not father-son but brother-brother of the children of King Abdul-Aziz. The family is estimated to be composed of 7,000 members.[2][3] Most power resides amongst the 200 or so descendants of King Abdul-Aziz.[4]

The House of Saud has gone through three phases: the First Saudi State, the Second Saudi State, and the modern nation of Saudi Arabia. The First Saudi State marked the expansion of Salafi Islam. The Second Saudi State was marked with continuous infighting. The modern nation of Saudi Arabia is the largest and wields considerable influence in the Middle East. The family has had conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, the Sharif of Mecca, and the Al Rashid family of Ha'il.


[edit] Title

Genealogical table of the leaders of the Āl Saud.

The House of Saud take their name from Muhammad bin Saud, the ruler of Diriyah in central Arabia and founder of the First Saudi State. Because Muhammad bin Saud was commonly known as "Ibn Saud" (son of Saud), the name "Al Saud", came to signify his clan.

Today, the surname "Al Saud" is carried by any descendant of Muhammad bin Saud. Al Saud's other family branches are called cadet branches. Members of the cadet branches hold high and influential positions in government though they are not in line of succession to Saudi throne. Many cadet members intermarry within the Al Saud to reestablish their lineage and continue to wield influence in the government.

Sons and grandsons of King Abdul-Aziz are referred to in the style "His Royal Highness" (HRH), differing from the royals belonging to the cadet branches which are called "His Highness" (HH).

[edit] History

[edit] Origins and early history

The earliest recorded ancestor of the Al Saud was Mani bin Rabiah Al-Muraydi. He settled in Diriyah in 1446–7 with his clan, the Mrudah. Mani was invited by a relative named Ibn Dir. Ibn Dir was the ruler of a set of villages and estates that make up modern-day Riyadh. Mani's clan had been on a sojourn in east Arabia, near al-Qatif, from an unknown point in time. Ibn Dir handed Mani two estates called al-Mulaybeed and Ghusayba. Mani and his family settled and renamed the region "al-Diriyah", after their benefactor Ibn Dir.[5][6]

The Mrudah became rulers of al-Diriyah, which prospered along the banks of Wadi Hanifa and became an important Najdi settlement. As the clan grew larger, power struggles ensued, with one branch leaving to nearby Dhruma, while another branch (the "Al Watban") left for the town of az-Zubayr in southern Iraq. The Al Migrin became the ruling family among the Mrudah in Diriyah.

After some initial struggles in the early 18th century, Muhammad bin Saud, of the Al Migrin, became the undisputed Amir. In 1744, Muhammad took in fugitive religious cleric named Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab from nearby al-Uyayna. Muhammad bin Saud agreed to provide political support to Ibn Abdul-Wahhab's project to reform Islamic practice. This marked the beginning of the First Saudi State.

[edit] First Saudi State

Flag of the First Saudi State.

The First Saudi State was founded in 1744. This period was marked by conquest of neighboring areas and by religious zeal. At its height, the First Saudi State included most of the territory of modern-day Saudi Arabia, and raids by Al Saud's allies and followers reached into Yemen, Oman, Syria, and Iraq. Islamic Scholars, particularly Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab and his descendants, are believed to have played a significant role in Saudi rule during this period. The Saudis and their allies referred to themselves during this period as the Muwahhidun or Ahl al-Tawhid ("the monotheists"),so later they are referred as the Wahhabis.

Leadership of the Al Saud during the time of their first state passed from father to son without incident. The first imam, Muhammad bin Saud, was succeeded by his eldest son Abdul-Aziz in 1765. Abdul-Aziz was killed in 1803 by an assassin, believed by some to have been a Shi'ite seeking revenge over the sacking of the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala by Saudi loyalists in 1802. Abdul-Aziz was in turn succeeded by his son, Saud, under whose rule the Saudi state reached its greatest extent. By the time Saud died in 1814, his son and successor Abdullah had to contend with an Ottoman-Egyptian invasion seeking to retake lost Ottoman territory and destroy the call to return to pure Islam. The mainly Egyptian force succeeded in defeating Abdullah's forces, taking over the Saudi capital of Diriyyah in 1818. Abdullah was taken prisoner and was soon beheaded by the Ottomans in Constantinople, putting an end to the First Saudi State. The Egyptians sent many members of the Al Saud clan and other members of the local nobility as prisoners to Egypt and Constantinople, and proceeded to raze the Saudi capital of Diriyyah.

[edit] Second Saudi State

A few years after the fall of Diriyyah in 1818, the Saudis were able to re-establish their authority in Najd, establishing what is now commonly known as the Second Saudi State, with its capital in Riyadh.

Compared to the First Saudi State, the second Saudi period was marked by less territorial expansion (it never reconquered the Hijaz or 'Asir, for example) and less religious zeal, although the Saudi leaders continued to go by the title of imam and still employed Salafi religious scholars. The second state was also marked by severe internal conflicts within the Saudi family, eventually leading to the dynasty's downfall. In all but one instance succession occurred by assassination or civil war, the exception being the passage of authority from Faisal bin Turki to his son Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki.

The first Saudi to attempt to regain power after the fall of Dir'iyyah in 1818 was Mishari bin Saud, a brother of the last ruler in Dir'iyyah. Mishari was soon captured by the Egyptians and killed. In 1824, Turki bin Abdullah, another Saudi who had managed to evade capture by the Egyptians, was able to expel Egyptian forces and their local allies from Riyadh and its environs. Turki, a grandson of the first Saudi imam Muhammad bin Saud, is generally regarded as the founder of the second Saudi dynasty and is also the ancestor of the kings of modern-day Saudi Arabia. He made his capital in Riyadh and was able to enlist the services of many relatives who had escaped captivity in Egypt, including his son Faisal.

Turki was assassinated in 1834 by Mishari bin Abdul-Rahman, a distant cousin. Mishari was soon besieged in Riyadh and later executed by Turki's son, Faisal, who went on to become the most prominent ruler of the Saudis' second reign. Faisal, however, faced a re-invasion of Najd by the Egyptians four years later. The local population was unwilling to resist, and Faisal was defeated and taken to Egypt as a prisoner for the second time in 1838.

The Egyptians installed Khalid bin Saud as ruler in Riyadh and supported him with Egyptian troops. Khalid was the last surviving brother of the last imam of the First Saudi State, and had spent many years in the Egyptian court. In 1840, however, external conflicts forced the Egyptians to withdraw all their presence in the Arabian Peninsula, leaving Khalid with little support. Seen by most locals as nothing more than an Egyptian governor, Khalid was toppled soon afterwards by Abdullah bin Thuniyyan, of the collateral Al Thuniyyan branch. Faisal, however, had been released that year, and, aided by the Al Rashid rulers of Ha'il, was able to retake Riyadh and resume his rule. Faisal later appointed his son Abdullah as crown prince, and divided his dominions between his three sons Abdullah, Saud, and Muhammad.

Upon Faisal's death in 1865, Abdullah assumed rule in Riyadh but was soon challenged by his brother, Saud bin Faisal. The two brothers fought a long civil war, in which they traded rule in Riyadh several times. Previously a vassal of the Saudis, Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Rashid of Hail took the opportunity to intervene in the conflict and increase his own power. Gradually, Ibn Rashid extended his authority over most of Najd, including the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Ibn Rashid finally expelled the last Saudi leader, Abdul-Rahman bin Faisal, from Najd after the Battle of Mulayda in 1891.

[edit] Saudi Arabia

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After his defeat at Mulayda, Abdul-Rahman bin Faisal went with his family into exile in the deserts of eastern Arabia among the Al Murra bedouin. Soon afterward, however, Abdul-Rahman found refuge in Kuwait as a guest of the Kuwaiti emir, Mubarak Al Sabah. In 1902, Abdul-Rahman's son, Abdul-Aziz, took on the task of restoring Saudi rule in Riyadh. Supported by a few dozen followers and accompanied by some of his brothers and relatives, Abdul-Aziz was able to capture Riyadh's Masmak fort and kill the governor appointed there by Ibn Rashid. Abdul Aziz, reported to have been barely 20 at the time, was immediately proclaimed ruler in Riyadh. As the new leader of the House of Saud, Abdul-Aziz became commonly known from that time simply as "Ibn Saud".

Ibn Saud spent the next three decades trying to re-establish his family's rule over as much of the Arabian Peninsula as possible, starting with his native Najd. His chief rivals were the Al Rashid clan in Ha'il, the Sharifs of Mecca in the Hijaz, and the Ottoman Turks in al-Hasa. Ibn Saud also had to contend, however, with the descendants of his late uncle Saud ibn Faisal (later known as the "Saud al-Kabir" branch of the family), who posed as the rightful heirs to the throne. Though for a time acknowledging the sovereignty of the Ottoman Sultans and even taking the title of pasha, Ibn Saud allied himself to the British, in opposition to the Ottoman-backed Al Rashid. For the period between 1915 and 1927, Ibn Saud's dominions were a protectorate of the British Empire, pursuant to the 1915 Treaty of Darin.

By 1932, Ibn Saud had disposed of all his main rivals and consolidated his rule over much of the Arabian Peninsula. He declared himself king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that year. Previously, he had gone through several titles, starting with "Sultan of Najd" and ending with "King of Hijaz and Najd and their dependencies." Ibn Saud's father, Abdul Rahman retained the honorary title of "imam." A few years later, in 1937, American surveyors discovered near Dammam what later proved to be Saudi Arabia's vast oil reserves.

Ibn Saud fathered dozens of sons and daughters by his many wives. He had at most only four wives at one time. He divorced and married many times. He made sure to marry into many of the noble clans and tribes within his territory, including the chiefs of the Bani Khalid, Ajman, and Shammar tribes, as well as the Al al-Shaikh (descendants of Muhammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab). He also arranged for his sons and relatives to enter into similar marriages. He appointed his eldest surviving son, Saud as heir apparent, to be succeeded by the next eldest son, Faisal. The Saudi family became known as the "royal family," and each member, male and female, was accorded the title of amir or amira ("prince" or "princess"), respectively.

Ibn Saud died in 1953, after having cemented an alliance with the United States in 1945. He is still celebrated officially as the "Founder," and only his direct descendents may take on the title of "his or her Royal Highness." The date of his recapture of Riyadh in 1902 was chosen to mark Saudi Arabia's centennial in 1999 (according to the Islamic lunar calendar).

Upon Ibn Saud's death, his son Saud assumed the throne without incident, but his lavish spending led to a power struggle between him and the new crown prince, Faisal. In 1964, the royal family forced Saud to abdicate in favor of Faisal, aided by an edict from the country's grand mufti. During this period, some of Ibn Saud's younger sons, led by Talal ibn Abdul Aziz defected to Egypt, calling themselves the "Free Princes" and calling for liberalization and reform, but were later induced to return by Faisal. They were fully-pardoned but were also barred from any future positions in government.

Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by a nephew, Faisal bin Musaid, who was then promptly executed. Another brother, Khalid assumed the throne. The next prince in line had actually been Muhammad, but Muhammad had relinquished his claim to the throne in favor of Khalid, who was his only full brother.

Khalid died of a heart attack in 1982, and was succeeded by Fahd, the eldest of the powerful "Sudairi Seven", so-called because they were all sons of Ibn Saud's wife, Hassa al-Sudairi. Fahd did away with the previous royal title of "his Majesty" and replaced it with the honorific "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," in reference to the two Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

A stroke in 1995 left Fahd largely incapacitated, and the crown prince, Abdullah gradually took over most of the king's responsibilities until Fahd's death in August 2005. Abdullah was proclaimed king on the day of Fahd's death and promptly appointed his younger brother Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, the minister of defense and Fahd's "Second Deputy Prime Minister," as the new heir apparent. On March 27, 2009 Abdullah appointed Prince Naif Interior Minister as his "second deputy prime minister"

[edit] Political power

The Head of the House of Saud is the King of Saudi Arabia who serves as Head of State and monarch of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The King holds almost absolute political power. The King appoints ministers to his cabinet who supervise their respective ministries in his name. The key ministries of Defense, the Interior, and Foreign Affairs are reserved for the Al Saud, as are most of the thirteen regional governorships. Most portfolios, however, such as Finance, Labor, Information, Planning, Petroleum Affairs and Industry, have traditionally been given to commoners, often with junior Al Saud members serving as their deputies. House of Saud family members also hold many of the Kingdom's critical military and governmental departmental posts. Ultimate power in the Kingdom has always rested upon the Al Saud, though support from the Ulema, the merchant community, and the population-at-large has been key to the maintenance of the royal family's political status quo.

Long term political and government appointments, such as those of King Abdullah, who has been Commander of the National Guard since 1963, Crown Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence & Aviation since 1962, Prince Mutaib Minister of Municipal & Rural Affairs from 1975 until his resignation in 2009, Prince Nayef who has been the Minister of Interior since 1975, and Prince Salman, who has been Governor of the Riyadh Region since 1962, have perpetuated the creation of fiefdoms where senior princes have, often, though not exclusively, co-mingled their personal wealth with that of their respective domains. They have often appointed their own sons to senior positions within their own fiefdom. Examples of these include Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah as Assistant Commander in the National Guard; Prince Khalid bin Sultan as Assistant Minister of Defence; Prince Mansour bin Mutaib as Assistant Minister for Municipal & Rural Affairs until he replaced his father in 2009; and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Assistant Minister in the Interior Ministry. In cases, where portfolios have notably substantial budgets, appointments of younger, often full, brothers have been necessary, as deputies or vice ministers, ostensibly to share the wealth and the burdens of responsibility, of each fiefdom. Examples of these include Prince Abdul Rahman who is Vice Minister of Defence & Aviation under Prince Sultan; Prince Badr, Deputy to King Abdullah in the National Guard; Prince Sattam, who is Deputy to Riyadh Governor, Prince Salman; and Prince Ahmed, who holds the Deputy Minister's portfolio in Prince Nayef's Interior Ministry.

Unlike Western royal families, the Saudi Monarchy has not had a clearly defined order of succession. Historically, upon becoming King, the monarch has designated an heir apparent to the throne who serves as Crown Prince of the Kingdom. Upon the King's death the Crown Prince becomes King, and during the King's incapacitation the Crown Prince, likewise, assumes power as regent. Though other members of the Al Saud hold political positions in the Saudi government, technically it is only the King and Crown Prince who legally constitute the political institutions.

[edit] Succession

[edit] Wealth

The sharing of family wealth has been a critical component in maintaining the semblance of a united front within the royal family. An essential part of family wealth is the Kingdom in its physical entirety, which the Al Saud view as a totally owned family asset. Whether through the co-mingling of personal and state funds from lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, segmental controls in the economy, special preferences for the award of major contracts, outright cash handouts, and astronomical monthly allowances—all billed to the national exchequer—all told, the financial impact may have exceeded 40% of the Kingdom's annual budget during the reign of King Fahd. Over decades of oil revenue-generated expansion, estimates of royal receipts have varied, ranging as low as $50 billion and as high as well over $1 trillion.[7] This method of wealth distribution has allowed many of the senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth and, in turn, pay out, in cash or kind, to lesser royals and commoners, and thereby gaining political influence through their own largesse.

During periods of high oil prices as were the late 70s, early 80s, and again, immediately after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, national income has outpaced the developmental needs and social obligations of the Saudi government and the effects of royal skimming were diminished. According to well-publicized but unsubstantiated reports, King Abdullah has intentions to reduce the Al Saud share of the budget, an act which may sow discontent within the royal family, but would be popular with the Kingdom's citizenry.

[edit] Opposition to the House of Saud

[edit] Internal opposition

Due to its authoritarian and theocratic rule, the House of Saud has attracted much criticism during its rule of Saudi Arabia. Its opponents generally refer to the Saudi monarchy as totalitarians or dictators.

There have been numerous incidents of demonstrations and other forms of resistance against the House of Saud. These range from the Ikhwan uprising during the reign of Ibn Saud, to numerous coup attempts by the different branches of the Kingdom's military. On November 20, 1979 the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca was violently seized by a group of dissidents. The Seizure was carried out by 500 heavily armed and provisioned Saudi Dissidents, consisting mostly of members of the former Ikhwan tribe of Utayba[8] but also of other peninsular Arabs and a few Egyptians enrolled in Islamic studies at the Islamic University of Medina.

The seizure was led by Juhayman al-Otaibi and Muhammad bin 'Abdallah al-Qahtani who cited the corruption and ostentatiousness of the ruling house of Saud. Utaybi and his group spoke against the socio–technological changes taking place in Saudi Arabia. Utaybi demanded that oil should not be sold to the United States.[9]

Utaybi received little mass support outside of small circles of manual workers and students of tribal origin, of the lower classes and foreign labourers (from Egypt, Yemen and Pakistan.) The Saudi Royal family turned to the Ulema who duly issued a fatwa permitting the storming of the holy sanctuary. Saudi forces, aided by French and Pakistani special ops units, took two weeks to flush the rebels out of the holy sanctuary; the use of French commandos was surprising since, officially, non-Muslims may not enter the city of Mecca.[10]

Saudi forces with the aid of Pakistani Special Services units ejected Utaybi’s Group. All surviving males (including Juhaiman ibn Muhammad ibn Saif al Utaybi) were beheaded publicly in four cities of Saudi Arabia.[11]

[edit] Heads of the House of Sa'ud

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. (2002 photo)

[edit] First Saudi state

[edit] Second Saudi state

[edit] Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

[edit] Most notable current members

[edit] Sons of King Abdul-Aziz

[edit] Grandsons of Abdul-Aziz bin Saud

[edit] Further reading

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia's Fall on Our Radar?" AhlulBayt News Agency - ABNA - Shia News. AhlulBayt News Agency, 28 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. [1].
  2. ^ "english.aljazeera.net". http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/FB4F0EBF-6EED-41C2-8BEE-B45147E25A69.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-19. 
  3. ^ See for example: [2] [3] [4] [5]
  4. ^ Tom Pettifor (6/10/2010). "Gay Saudi Prince killed man servant in sexual fury". Mirror. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/10/06/gay-saudi-prince-killed-man-servant-in-sexual-fury-115875-22612349/. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Rentz, G. "al- Diriyya (or al-Dariyya)." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online. 8 September 2007 [6]
  6. ^ H. St. John Philby, Saudi Arabia, Ernest Benn. Place of Publication: London, 1955. p. 8 (retrieved through questia)
  7. ^ House of Saud Bu.Academic.Ru making them the richest family in the world but their wealth is often hidden.
  8. ^ The Middle East Review of International Affairs State, Islam and 0pposition in Saudi Arabia: The Post Desert-Storm Phase. Retrieved on 2006-12-29
  9. ^ J.A. Kechichican, "Islamic Revivalism and Change in Saudi Arabia: Juhayman al-'Utaybi's 'Letters to the Saudi People'", The Muslim World, Vol.50 (1990) pp. 1-16.
  10. ^ NPR: Did 'Siege of Mecca' Give Birth to Al-Qaida?
  11. ^ Global Security Org; Mecca globalsecurity.org Retrieved on 2006-12-29
  12. ^ http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=3038
  13. ^ Article in the Arab News from 12 February 2008.
  14. ^ Detail taken from The House of Saud, a reprint. First published by Sidgwick and Jackson in 1981 with an ISBN 0 283 98436 8

[edit] External links

[edit] See also

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