Ibn Saud

Ibn Saud

[ib-uhn sah-ood]
Ibn Saud (Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud), c.1880-1953, founder of Saudi Arabia and its first king. His family, with its regular seat at Riyadh in the Nejd, were the traditional leaders of the ultraorthodox Wahhabi movement in Islam. During Ibn Saud's youth the Saud family was in exile in Kuwait. In 1902 he and a small party of relatives and servants recaptured Riyadh. By 1912 he had completed the conquest of the Nejd and organized a well-trained army. During World War I the British made slight efforts to cultivate Ibn Saud's friendship but favored his rival, Husayn ibn Ali of the Hejaz. In 1924-25, Ibn Saud defeated Husayn and proclaimed himself king of Hejaz and Nejd. After consolidating his power over most of the Arabian peninsula, he changed (1932) 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 their private wars and vendettas. He is credited with suppressing the robbery and extortion that formerly harassed pilgrims to Mecca and Medina. In 1936 and 1939 he granted oil concessions to American companies. The oil deposits of Arabia proved to be among the richest in the world, and Ibn Saud 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 Saud remained neutral but favored the Allies. He took only a minor part in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. He was succeeded by Prince Saud, his eldest son.

See H. S. J. Philby, Arabian Jubilee (1953) and D. A. Howarth, The Desert King (1967).

Saud, Ibn: see Ibn Saud.

(More than Sixty offspring)

Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia (1876 – November 9, 1953) (عبدالعزيز آل سعود) was the first monarch of Saudi Arabia. His full name was Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdur Rahman Al-Faisal Al Saud. In the West, he was referred to as Ibn Saud, a much abbreviated form of his name.

He was born in Riyadh into the House of Su'ūd (commonly transliterated Saud), which had followed the Wahhabi movement of Islam since the 18th century and had historically maintained dominion over the interior highlands of Arabia known as the Nejd (see First Saudi State and Second Saudi State). Beginning with the reconquest of his family's ancestral home city of Riyadh in 1902, Ibn Saud consolidated his control over the Nejd in 1922, conquered the Hejaz in 1925, and founded the unified nation of Saudi Arabia in 1932. His later reign saw the discovery of petroleum in Saudi Arabia in 1938, and the beginning of large-scale exploitation of that resource after World War II.

Ibn Saud was the father of some 50 to 60 children, including all kings of Saudi Arabia that have ruled after him.

Loss and reclamation of power

Abdul Aziz ibn Saud was born in Riyadh in central Arabia in 1876. In 1890, at the age of fourteen, Ibn Saud followed his family into exile in Kuwait following the conquest of the family's lands by the rival dynasty of Al Rashid. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Kuwait. Abd al-Rahman had a stipend from the Turkish government of 60 Turkish pounds a month and Abdul Aziz went on several profitable raids in Nejd as he grew to adulthood. He attended the daily majlis of the emir of Kuwait, Mubarak al Sabah, from whom he learned much about the world. However, the family's home in Kuwait was one of the simplest and cramped by five sons and at least one daughter.

In the Spring of 1901, Ibn Saud and some relatives — including a half-brother, Mohammed, and several cousins — set out on a raiding expedition targeting for the most part tribes associated with the Rashidis. As booty was abundant, with many camels stolen, the raiding party grew to around 200 as tribesmen loyal to the Sauds joined the party. In the Fall, with Ramadan approaching, the group, reduced in number by defections, holed up in the Jabrin Oasis. It may have been only then that Ibn Saud decided to attack Riyadh and regain his family's heritage. On the night of January 15, 1902, together with a party of some sixty, including seven relatives and some slaves, he recaptured Riyadh with only twenty; the rest were guarding the camels in an isolated oasis. They had been told to escape if the venture failed. The Rashidi governor of the city, Ajlan, was killed as he fled the attack by Ibn Saud in front of the fort gate. Ibn Saud was considered a "magnetic" leader, and following the capture of Riyadh many former supporters of the House of Saud once again rallied to his support.

In the two years following his dramatic seizure of Riyadh, Ibn Saud recaptured almost half of Nejd from the Rashidis. In 1904, however, Ibn Rashid appealed to the Ottoman Empire for assistance in defeating the House of Saud. The Ottomans sent troops to Arabia, setting Ibn Saud on the defensive. The armies of the House of Saud suffered a major defeat on June 15, 1904, but his forces soon regrouped and returned to the offensive as the Turkish troops left the country due to supply problems.

Ibn Saud finally consolidated control over the Nejd and the eastern coast of Arabia in 1912 with the help of an organized and well-trained army. In that year he founded the Ikhwan, a militant religious organization which was to assist in his later conquests. More broadly, he revived his dynasty's traditional alliance with the Wahhabi ulema ("scholars"). In the same year, he instituted an agrarian policy to settle the nomadic pastoralist bedouins into colonies, and to dismantle their tribal organizations in favor of allegiance to the Ikhwan. During World War I the British government attempted to cultivate favor with Ibn Saud via its political agent, Captain William Shakespear, but this was abandoned after Shakespear's death at the Battle of Jarrab. Instead, the British transferred support to Ibn Saud's rival Sharif Hussein bin Ali, leader of the Hejaz, with whom the Saudis were almost constantly at war. Despite this, the British entered into a treaty in December 1915 (the "Treaty of Darin") which made the lands of the House of Saud a British protectorate. In exchange, Ibn Saud pledged to again make war against Ibn Rashid, who was an ally of the Ottomans.

Ibn Saud did not, however, immediately make war against Ibn Rashid, despite a steady supply of weapons and cash (£5,000 Sterling per month) from the British. He argued that the payment he received was insufficient to adequately wage war against an enemy as powerful as Ibn Rashid. In 1920, however, Ibn Saud finally marched again against the Rashidis, extinguishing their dominion in 1922. The defeat of the Rashidis doubled the territory of the Ibn Saud, and he was able to negotiate a new treaty with the British at Uqair in 1922, in which Britain recognized many of his territorial gains while in exchange Ibn Saud agreed not to attempt to expand his state's borders into British protectorates on the Gulf coast and in Iraq. British subsidies continued until 1924.

In 1925 the Sauds captured the holy city of Mecca from Sharif Hussein bin Ali, ending 700 years of Hashemite tutelage of the Islamic holy places. On 10 January 1926, Ibn Saud was proclaimed King of the Hejaz in the Great Mosque at Mecca. On May 20, 1927, following the defeat of Hussein, the British government signed the Treaty of Jeddah, which abolished the Darin protection agreement and recognized the independence of the Hejaz and Najd, covering much of what is today Saudi Arabia, with the Al Saud as its rulers. At this point, Ibn Saud changed his title from Sultan of Nejd to King of Nejd. Initially the two parts of his dominion (Nejd in the east and Hejaz in the west) were administered separately.

From 1927 to 1932 Ibn Saud continued to consolidate power throughout the Arabian Peninsula. In March 1929 he defeated elements of the Ikhwan, which had disobeyed his orders to cease raiding and had invaded Iraq against his wishes, at the Battle of Sbilla. In 1932, having conquered most of the Peninsula, Ibn Saud renamed his dominions "Saudi Arabia" and proclaimed himself "King of Saudi Arabia".

Oil and the rule of Ibn Saud

Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938, and Ibn Saud through his adviser St. John Philby granted substantial authority over Saudi oil fields to American oil companies.

Saud forced many nomadic tribes to settle down and abandon "petty wars" and vendettas. He also began to fight crime in Saudi Arabia, particularly crime against pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Foreign wars

Ibn Saud positioned Saudi Arabia as neutral in World War II, but was generally considered to favour the Allies.

In 1948 Saud participated in the Arab-Israeli war. The contribution of Saudi Arabia was generally considered token.

Family and succession

Succession to Saudi Arabia's throne has been a process that has, to a large extent, excluded all but the senior members of the Al Saud. Male progeny, with tenure in senior government positions, whose mothers were King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud's wives and from prominent peninsula based families and tribes, and who have shown both the willingness and ability to build the necessary consensus from other wings in the family are, in theory, the most eligible candidates.

The number of children that Ibn Saud fathered are unknown, and estimates range from about 80 to over 100. One source indicates that he had 37 sons by 16 wives. His number of wives is put at 22 though never more than three or four simultaneously.They include: (names of Kings in bold)

  1. By Wadha bint Muhammad al-Hazzam
    1. Turki (I) (1900-1919)
    2. Saud (January 12, 1902 - February 23, 1969); reigned 1953-1964
    3. Nura
    4. Munira
  2. By Tarfah bint Abdullah al-Shaikh Abdul-Wahab
    1. Khaled (I) (born 1903, died in infancy)
    2. Faisal (April 1904 - March 25, 1975); reigned 1964-1975
    3. Saad (I) (1914 - 1919)
    4. Anud (born 1917)
  3. By Jauhara bint Musa'd Al Saud
    1. Muhammad (1910-1988)
    2. Khaled (II) (1913 - June 13, 1982); reigned 1975-1982
  4. #
  5. By Lajah bint Khalid bin Hithlayn
    1. Sara (1916 - June 2000)
  6. By Bazza (the first wife named Bazza)
    1. Nasser (1919 - 1984)
  7. By Jawhara bint Sa'ad bin Abd al-Muhsin al-Sudairi
    1. Saad (II) (1920 - 1993)
    2. Musa'id (born 1923)
    3. Abdul Mohsin (1925-1985)
    4. Al-Bandari bint Abdulaziz (1928 - March 8, 2008)
  8. By Hassa bint Ahmad al-Sudairi
    These are known as the "Sudairi Seven")
    1. Fahd (II) (1921 - August 1, 2005); reigned 1982-2005
    2. Sultan (born 1926); current crown prince
    3. Luluwah bint Abdulaziz (ca 1928 - September 17, 2008)
    4. Abd al-Rahman (born 1931)
    5. Naif (born 1933)
    6. Turki (II) (born 1934)
    7. Salman (born 1936)
    8. Ahmed (born 1940)
    9. Jawaher
    10. Lateefa
    11. Zameera
    12. Al-Takhi
    13. Mahtab-ul Rashid
    14. Sameena
    15. Fahid
    16. Usman bin Abdullah
    17. Farhad Naifi
    18. Kamran Latifi
    19. Al-Jawhara
    20. Moudhi (died young)
    21. Felwa (died young)
  9. By Shahida
    1. Mansur (1922 - May 2, 1951)
    2. Mishaal (born 1926)
    3. Qumasha (born 1927)
    4. Mutaib (born 1931)
  10. By Fahda bint Asi al-Shuraim
    1. Abdullah (born August 1924); current king, since 2005
    2. Nuf
    3. Sita
  11. By Bazza (the second wife named Bazza)
    1. Bandar (born 1923)
    2. Fawwaz (1934-2008)
  12. By Haya bint Sa'ad al-Sudairy (1913 - April 18, 2003)
    1. Badr (I) (1931-1932)
    2. Badr (II) (born 1933)
    3. Huzza (1951-July 2000)
    4. Abdalillah (born 1935)
    5. Abdul Majeed (1943-2007)
    6. Nura (born 1930)
    7. Mishail
  13. By Munaiyir
    1. Talal (II) (born 1931)
    2. Mishari (1932 - May 23, 2000)
    3. Nawwaf (born 1933)
  14. By Mudhi
    1. Sultana bint Abdulaziz (ca. 1928 - July 7, 2008)
    2. Majed (II) (October 19, 1938 - April 12, 2003)
    3. Sattam (born January 21, 1941)
    4. Haya
  15. By Nouf bint al-Shalan
    1. Thamir (1937 - June 27, 1959)
    2. Mamduh (born 1940)
    3. Mashhur (born 1942)
  16. By Saida al-Yamaniyah
    1. Hidhlul (born 1941)
  17. By Khadra
    1. Abdul Salem (1941-1942)
  18. By Baraka al-Yamaniyah
    1. Muqran (born September 15, 1945)
  19. By Futayma
    1. Hamad (1947-1994)
  20. By ??
    1. Fahd (I) (1905-1919)
    2. Shaikha (born 1922)
    3. Majeed (I) (1934-1940)
    4. Talal (I) (1930-1931)
    5. Jiluwi (I)(1942-1944)
    6. Jiluwi (II) (1952-1952) Was the youngest son of Ibn Saud but died as an infant.

All of these carry the surname "bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud" for men and "bint Abdul Aziz Al Saud" for women. Ibn Saud is the father of all the Kings of Saudi Arabia that have succeeded him. King Saud succeeded his father as regent of Saudi Arabia in 1953, three months after being appointed Prime Minister by his father. In 1964 King Saud was deposed by the Saudi Council of Ministers and succeeded by King Faisal, another of Ibn Saud's sons. Faisal was followed by three further sons, King Khalid, King Fahd and King Abdullah. According to the Saudi Basic Law of 1992, the King of Saudi Arabia must be a son or grandson of Ibn Saud.


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  • Benjamin Shwadran, The Middle East, Oil and the Great Powers, 3rd ed. (1973)
  • Troeller, Gary. The Birth of Saudi Arabia:Britain and the Rise of the House of Sa'ud. London: Frank Cass, 1976.
  • Twitchell, Karl S. Saudi Arabia Princeton University Press, 1958.
  • Van der D. Meulen; The Wells of Ibn Saud. London: John Murray, 1957.



6.The birthdate of Abdul Aziz has been a source of debate. It is generally accepted as 1876, although a few sources give it as 1880. A primary reason stated in Robert Lacey's book "The Kingdom", which gives a clear statement on the reasons why 1876 is more reasonable, is that a leading Saudi historian found records that show Abdul Aziz in 1891 greeting an important tribal delegation. The historian reasoned that a nine or ten-year-old child (as given by the 1880 bithdate) would have been too young to be allowed to greet such a delegation, while an adolescent of 14 or 15 (as given by the 1876 date) would likely have been allowed. The major reason, though, is that when Lacey interviewed one of ibn Saud's sons prior to writing the book, the son recalled that his father often laughed at records showing his birthdate to be 1880. ibn Saud's response to such records was that "I swallowed four years of my life."

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