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|House of Saud|
|Founded||1744—Muhammad bin Saud|
|House of Saud|
|Founded||1744—Muhammad bin Saud|
The House of Saud (Arabic: آل سعود Āl Saʻūd) is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia. The family has thousands of members. It is composed of the descendants of Muhammad bin Saud and his brothers, though the ruling faction of the family is primarily led by the descendants of Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud.
The most influential member of the Royal family is the King of Saudi Arabia. The throne was designed to pass from one son of King Abdulaziz to another. His deputies, Salman and Muqrin, are also from the ruling House of Saud, and the king-appointed cabinet includes more members of the royal family. While the monarchy is hereditary now, future Saudi kings will be chosen by a committee of Saudi princes, in line with a 2006 Royal Decree.
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 Islam. The Second Saudi State was marked with continuous infighting. Modern Saudi Arabia wields considerable influence in the Middle East. The family has had conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, the Sharif of Mecca, the Al Rashid family of Ha'il, and numerous Islamist groups both inside and outside Saudi Arabia.
House of Saud is a translation of Al Saud. The latter is an Arabic dynastic name formed by adding the word Al, meaning "family of" or "House of", to the personal name of an ancestor. In the case of the Al Saud, this is the father of the dynasty's 18th century founder, Muhammad bin Saud (Muhammad, son of Saud).
Today, the surname "Al Saud" is carried by any descendant of Muhammad bin Saud or his three brothers Farhan, Thunayyan, and Mishari. 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.
The earliest recorded ancestor of the Al Saud was Mani' ibn Rabiah Al-Muraydi. He settled in Diriyah in 1446–1447 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.
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 for 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.
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 ibn 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 ibn Saud, was succeeded by his eldest son Abdulaziz in 1765. In 1802, Abdulaziz led ten thousand Muslim soldiers into an attack on the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala, in what is now southern Iraq and where Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad is buried. Led by Abdulaziz, the Muslim soldiers killed more than two thousand people, including women and children. The soldiers plundered the city, demolishing the massive golden dome above Hussein's tomb and loaded hundreds of camels with weapons, jewelry, coins and other valuable goods.
The attack on Karbala convinced the Ottomans and the Egyptians that the Saudis were a threat to regional peace. Abdulaziz 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 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. 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 Istanbul, 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 Istanbul, and razed the Saudi capital Diriyyah.
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 ibn Turki to his son Abdullah ibn Faisal ibn Turki.
The first Saudi to attempt to regain power after the fall of Dir'iyyah in 1818 was Mishari ibn Saud, a brother of the last ruler in Dir'iyyah. Mishari was soon captured by the Egyptians and killed. In 1824, Turki ibn 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 ibn 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 ibn 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 ibn 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 ibn 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 ibn 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 ibn Abdullah ibn 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.
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After his defeat at Mulayda, Abdul-Rahman ibn 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. From 1915 to 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." In 1937 near Dammam, American surveyors discovered what later proved to be Saudi Arabia's vast oil reserves. Before the discovery of oil, many family members were destitute.
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 ash-Sheikh (descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-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 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 with 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 ibn Musaid, who was promptly executed. Another brother, King Khalid, assumed the throne. The next prince in line had actually been Prince Muhammad, but he had relinquished his claim to the throne in favor of Khalid, 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 in 1986.
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 Abdulaziz, the minister of defense and Fahd's "Second Deputy Prime Minister," as the new heir apparent. Sultan passed away in October 2011. On 27 March 2009, Abdullah appointed Prince Nayef Interior Minister as his "second deputy prime minister" and Crown Prince on 27 October. Nayef died in Geneva, Switzerland on 15 June 2012.
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 Defence, 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 was Commander of the National Guard from 1963 to 2010, former Crown Prince Sultan, who was Minister of Defence and Aviation from 1962 until his death in 2011, Prince Mutaib Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs from 1975 to 2009, former Crown Prince Nayef who was the Minister of Interior from 1975 to 2012, and the current Crown Prince Salman, who was governor of the Riyadh Region from 1963 to 2011, 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 until 2010; Prince Khalid bin Sultan as assistant minister of defence until 2013; Prince Mansour bin Mutaib as assistant minister for Municipal and 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 was vice minister of defence and aviation under Prince Sultan; Prince Badr, deputy to King Abdullah in the National Guard; Prince Sattam, who was Deputy Riyadh Governor during Prince Salman's term; and Prince Ahmed, who held the deputy minister's portfolio under 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.
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. During the reign of Fahd, the financial impact may have exceeded 40% of the Kingdom's annual budget, through 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, preferences for award of major contracts, cash handouts, and astronomical monthly allowances, all billed to the national exchequer. Over decades of oil revenue-generated expansion, estimates of royal net worth is at well over $1.4 trillion. This wealth distribution has allowed many senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth and, in turn, pay out, in cash or kind, to lesser royals and commoners, and so gain political influence.
During periods of high oil prices, such as the late 1970s, the early 1980s, and immediately after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, national income 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 intends to reduce the Al Saud share of the budget. This may sow discontent within the royal family, but would be popular with the Kingdom's citizenry.
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 20 November 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 Otaibah 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-Otaybi and Abdullah al-Qahtani who cited the corruption and ostentatiousness of the ruling house of Saud. al-Otaybi and his group spoke against the socio–technological changes taking place in Saudi Arabia. al-Otaybi demanded that oil should not be sold to the United States.
Al-Otaybi received little mass support outside of small circles of workers and students of tribal origin, 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.
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