Stone Age History
The largest Arab state in western Asia covering over 2.1 million square kilometres of land and making the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shares borders with Iraq, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman and holds a population of over 27 million people.
Considered an absolute monarchy, Saudi Arabia is ruled by the Al Saud Royal Family with the current king as Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The country has the second largest oil reserves in the country as well as the world’s sixth largest natural gas reserves; this has caused the country to develop the 19th highest Gross Domestic Product in the world.
It’s believed that pre-Islamic Arabs may have had civilizations in Saudi Arabia going as far back as 18,000 BC. These groups most likely included the Ubaid whose history stretches as far back as the 6th
Millennium BC but only had activity from about 4500 BC onwards. The Ubaid disappeared around 3800 BC due to the land becoming too arid for nomadic activity. The Dilmun civilization also would have dwelled on the northern reaches of Saudi Arabia from the late 4th
Millennium BC onwards.
Bronze Age History
The Dilmun civilization continued to flourish as an important trading centre through the bronze age starting at around 2600 BC, it’s believed that some time mid-way through this era, Dilmun began trading with Babylon in Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq. The civilization entered a golden age in 2200 BC which lasted for eight hundred years. Around the same time, the Umm an-Nar culture also became prominent in the region nearby modern-day Abu Dhabi, and began trading with other groups in the region.
By around 2300 BC, the A’adids and Maganites had appeared in South Arabia and the border shared with Oman and Yemen respectively. It’s believed that Magan traded extensively with Ur, another Sumerian city-state in Mesopotamia, as a result numerous roads and routes were devised and constructed across Arabia, connecting the two regions. Meanwhile the Ad had their first leader, Ad ibn Kin’ad, installed sometime between the 23rd
century BC. The Midianites are also believed to have originated from the northern coasts of Saudi Arabia around this time before spreading out into southern Palestine and Jordan.
It’s believed that the Umm an-Nar culture split following 2000 BC into the Wadi Suq, which itself declined in 1600 BC. The last remnants of the Wadi Suq were able to set up an underground irrigation system around 1300 BC until they completely disappeared.
Iron Age History
The Thamud first appeared around the northern reaches in the 1st
Millennium BC, being referenced first in 715 BC when their nation was captured by the Assyrian king Sargon II. Around 690-681 BC, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked and captured Dilmun. However, by 567 BC, Babylon had taken the city. In 538, Babylon collapsed as a nation and Dilmun fell with it. Magan had also fallen prior to the collapse in 550 BC.
Around the 4th
Century BC, the Ad installed Aldahn Khuljan as their leader. Legend states that Shaddad, historical king of lost Arabian city Iram of the Pillars. Shaddad is said in multiple sources to be the son of the original ruler of Ad, Utz, Aram, Shem and Noah and he’s even mentioned in nights 277, 278 and 279 of the Tales of the Arabian Nights. He’s believed to have ruled in turn with his brother Shadid over 1,000 Adite tribes and using their force, was said to have taken all of Arabia and Iraq.
1st Century – 15th Century History
The Ad nation finally fell around the 3rd
Century AD and around the 7th
Century AD the Thamud civilization also fell.
Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Ahd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim was born in 570 AD to the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. He lived a harsh life, first in the desert with foster parents after losing his father, and then with his mother, his only parent, whom died when he was six and left him an orphan. His grandfather cared for him for a while but passed away as well when he was eight, leaving him under care of his uncle Abu Talib, the newly appointed leader of the Banu Hashim. He picked up experience trading through trading journeys to Syria and eventually became a sharp merchant in his own right, trading between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Due to his sharp mind and cultural tact, he was sought out as an impartial party by many people and is credited with settling numerous political matters between multiple clans and groups.
By adulthood, Muhammad had begun taking practice of praying alone for several weeks every year in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca, tradition holds that he was approached by the angel Gabriel in 610 BC during one of these visits and was instructed to begin writing the Quran. He began preaching in the city of Mecca shortly afterwards but migrated to Medina to preach there in 622 BC, gathering supporters and followers wherever he went. Through his tactful political approach, Muhammad was able to unite the Arab tribes under the banner of Islam and create a single Arab Muslim polity in the Arabian Peninsula. He passed away in 632 BC and was succeeded by his father-in-law, Abd Allah ibn Abi Quhafah (Abu Bakr), as the first Caliph of Islam.
Abu Bakr was able to silence a rebellion by several Arab tribes in the Ridda Wars and went on to attack the Byzantine Empire. He was succeeded by one of Muhammad’s close companions, Umar ibn Al-Khattab (Umar I) upon his passing in 634 BC. Umar rapidly gained support of the people and was a gifted speaker, through his rule the Arab nation was broken down into provinces and then further down into districts, to allow for some autonomous rule. The Empire expanded greatly and by the end of Umar’s rule included Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Cyprus, most of Turkey and parts of southern Russia. He also launched efforts into setting up Canals for transportation, drinking water and irrigation, reforming public policy, expanding city walls, renovating the largest mosques and even was able to set up the first welfare state, free trade and save the nation’s population from various famines and plagues through quick political campaigns.
In 644 AD, Umar was assassinated via stabbing by a Persian slave named Feroz. Through political election Uthman ibn Affan, another companion of Muhammad, was elected into power, although not without opposition. However, despite the opposition, Uthman was able to increase the fixed allowance of the people by 25%, allowed the people to draw loans from the public treasury and withdrew restrictions on the sale and purchase of agricultural lands in conquered territories. He pushed military campaigns further into North Africa, Europe and Asia, managing to take territory in Sudan, Spain, Georgia, Turkmenistan and many of the islands in the Mediterranean Sea. These changes and advancements allowed the Arab state to prosper massively. Sadly however, the opposition against Uthman grew, after his compiling of the Quran as well as his favouritism in politics, until it exploded into full revolt and culminated in his assassination in 656 AD by rioters who had snuck into his house.
Uthman was succeeded by Ali ibn Abi Talib, a son-in-law of Muhammad; he initially refused to become the new Caliph but eventually agreed after feeling pressure from rebel forces threatening Medina. Ali was a convicted Muslim, driven by religious duty to war against erring Muslims and to avoid worldly goods, living in austerity. He also believed hugely in equality between all Muslims and distributed the entire revenue of the treasury evenly between them, and avoided favouritism in politics even though he had apt capability to do so. However, Ali took the Caliphate at a tumultuous time and had to decide whether to execute the rioters whom had killed his predecessor Uthman, debates turned into arguments and arguments turned into bloodshed, culminating in the Battle of the Camel the same year Uthman was assassinated and succeeded. This in turn sparked a civil war that would last until 661 AD. He was assassinated by Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, a deserter from his own forces, whom wounded him fatally with a poison-coated sword while prostrate in prayer in the Great Mosque of Kufa, Iraq.
Upon Ali’s death, the Caliph was split between supporters of Ali’s son Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib and Syrian governor Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan (Muawiyah I) whom had had a long-running dispute and warring against Ali. Muawiyah rallied the commanders of his forces from Jordan, Syria and Palestine. He first attempted to negotiate with Hasan, trying to force him to give up the Caliphate, but after negotiations failed he began to negotiate with Hasan’s commanders, eventually convincing a few to leave Hasan’s army for large rewards. Hasan attempted to rally his troops but lead on the belief that he was preparing for battle, leading to some of his own troops rebelling and attacking him, some deferring to Muawiyah’s side. As skirmishes started, both Hasan and Muawiyah broke back into negotiations again and eventually Hasan ceded the Caliphate to Muawiyah, making him the first Caliph of the Umayyad Dynasty. Muawiyah proceeded to Kufa and demanded that all Muslims there pledge allegiance to him as a Caliph.
Muawiyah pushed military expeditions further, dominating North Africa entirely and continued the Welfare State, donating much of the treasury to the poor and needy. He died in 680 AD and passed leadership to his son Yazid ibn Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan (Yazid I), but Yazid in turn only ruled for three years before passing away in 683 AD. His son Mu’awiya ibn Yazid (Muawiya II) ruled for a further four months before abdicating in 684 AD. Marwan ibn al-Hakam ibn Abu al-‘As ibn Umayyah (Marwan I) took control the same year. He ruled for a further year, mainly dealing with the civil war in Syria and waging war against Abdullah ibn Zubayr whom had taken over Iraq, Egypt and parts of both Syria and western Saudi Arabia. In the short year he ruled, he was able to retake Egypt and Syria from Abdullah. His son Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan took over in 685.
Abd al-Malik was able to reassert control over Iraq and Libya, as well as taking over new territory in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Western Sahara and forcing the occupying Byzantines out of the region almost in their entirety. Meanwhile the inner workings of the Arab world saw renovations and Abd al-Malik instituted Arabic as a standard language across the entire empire, a uniform set of Islamic currency, reorganization and expansion of the postal service and the repairs of the Kaaba in Damascus. He passed away in 705 AD and was succeeded by his son Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (Al-Walid I). Al Walid immediately began pushing military campaigns, taking Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, parts of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and even more of Spain. Meanwhile he developed the welfare system further and built hospitals, educational institutions and art galleries and museums as well as the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine. He was succeeded by his brother Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik upon his passing in 715 AD.
Sulayman was able to expand the Caliphate’s territory a little further, taking Turkmenistan and pushing a siege onto Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), ultimately it proved to be unsuccessful and he died from a serious illness while traveling to attack the Byzantine border in 717 AD. He was succeeded by his cousin, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (Umar II) whom immediately pushed reforms to encourage education through offering of stipends to teachers. He also banned unpaid labour, drinking, public nudity and mixed bathrooms. Furthermore, he pushed public construction works for canals, roads, rest houses and medical offices throughout Persia, North Africa and Khorasan and distributed pasture lands and game reserves evenly among the poor for the purpose of cultivation. However, these moves angered the nobility and he died when a servant was bribed into poisoning his food. After his passing in 720, he was succeeded by his cousin Yazid bin Abd al-Malik (Yazid II).
Yazid was able to best the Kharijites for the first time in decades but his rule was cut short when he died of tuberculosis in 724 AD, ironically only months after a wizard prophesized Yazid reigning for forty years. He was succeeded by his brother Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. Hisham rapidly pushed more raids into Turkey, capturing much of the majority left, in addition he was successfully able to subdue the Hindu resistance forces in India and reassert Muslim rule there. Outside of battle, Hisham was also extremely successful, building more schools and overseeing the translation of many scientific and literary masterpieces from other cultures into Arabic. He quelled many revolts within the Arab world and pushed boundaries outwards into France and making it as far as Bordeaux, only being halted by Charles Martel, King of the Franks and Charlemagne’s great grandfather.
Hisham died in 743 AD from diphtheria and was succeeded by his nephew al-Walid ibn Yazid al-Malik (Walid II). Walid was known to take special care of the crippled and blind but was widely regarded as a corrupt and reckless ruler, allowing himself into being bribed for political positions and putting his political opponents into jail or dismissing them from their positions. He was eventually besieged in an assassination attempt in a castle outside of Damascus before being killed by Sulayman ibn Hisham’s forces in 744 AD. He was succeeded by Yazid ibn al-Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik (Yazid III) but his rule in turn was cut short and died of a brain tumour after only six months, he was succeeded by his brother Ibrahim ibn al-Walid, whom in turn abdicated after only a few weeks and was eventually captured and executed by the Abbasids in 750 AD. Marwan ibn Muhammad ibn Marwan (Marwan II) took over and spent the majority of his reign attempting to stop the fracture and dissolution of the Umayyad Caliphate, although he was able to push the Abbasid leaders out to Bahrain and India, he was ultimately defeated by Abu al-‘Abbas al-Saffah in the Battle of the Zab before being persued to Egypt and killed.
In 750 AD upon Marwan II’s death, Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdu’llah ibn Muhammad as-Saffah (Abul ‘Abbas al-Saffah) started the beginning of the Abbasid dynasty. He quickly set about diversifying government and armed forces, having Jewish, Christian and Persian representatives in Abbasid administrations and military positions. In addition, he pushed educational development even more so than his predecessors and built paper mills in Uzbekistan. However, his reign was relatively short, lasting only four years and dying of smallpox in 754 AD. He was succeeded by his brother Abu Ja’far Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Mansur.
Al-Mansur tolerated other ethnic and religious groups more so than his predecessors and as a result, culture, literature and scholarship in the Islamic world flourished wildly. He encouraged Persian literature and artwork fully and this began to see the first large-scale dialogue between Arab and Persian cultures, as well as seeing massive conversions to Islam, roughly doubling the percentage of Muslims in the Caliphate. He even opened up dialogue with China, sending over four thousand Arab mercenaries to help the Chinese in their successful rebellion against An Lushan, securing himself a place in Chinese history. He died whilst travelling to Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 775 AD, when attempting to make the Hajj, a Muslim-centric pilgrimage, and was succeeded by his son Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Mahdi.
Al-Mahdi was extremely fond of music and poetry, rewarding poets and musicians extravagantly for their services and supporting the arts throughout his territories. He was also a keen politician, able to unite much of the Arab world and garnering the support of many powerful and wealthy families. Although as-Saffah and al-Mansur’s nephew, ‘Isa ibn Musa ibn Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abdallah ibn al-Abbas was designated before Al-Mahdi’s rule as the next in line following himself, Al-Mahdi deposed him from his position as heir-apparent and instead installed his own son, Abu Muhammad Musa ibn Mahdi al-Hadi. He was poisoned by one of his concubines in 785 AD and succeeded by his designated son, al-Hadi. However, despite garnering widespread support of the people, he died mysteriously in 786 AD, either from a stomach ulcer or through poison prompted by al-Hadi’s stepmother. He was succeeded by his younger brother Harun al-Rashid.
Harun developed Baghdad as the central city of the Islamic empire, developing its art and architecture massively. He strengthened relations with China further and was able to manage considerable military success. He became so beloved as a ruler than he was even incorporated into the tales of Thousand-and-One Nights, becoming legend. However, maladministration allowed for rebellion in Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen and Afghanistan and the Abbasid empire began to slowly fraction. He made matters worse by dividing the empire unevenly between his sons and stocking them with enough supplies to fight each other independently upon his passing, albeit unintentionally. He died of illness in 809 AD.
His sons quickly began to war against one another, with Muhammad ibn Harun al-Rashid (al-Amin) trying to turn Abu Ja’far Abdullah al-Ma’mun ibn Harun’s, his brother’s financial agents against him and demanding that al-Ma’mun acknowledge al-Amin’s son as heir. Al-Ma’mun was able to manoeuvre out of the situation. However, al-Amin ruled until he was deposed and killed in 813, upon which al-Ma’mun took power. Al-Ma’mun attempted to centralize religious power in the Caliphate through introducing a religious oath, called the Mihna, which required individuals to swear allegiance to the Caliphate and state that they believed the Quran to have been created, not written. This was mainly targeted at scholars and those of high intellectual, societal and religious standing but was considered controversial, especially after al-Ma’mun made public his sympathy for the Mu’tazili theology which frequently opposed traditional Muslim values. He died after consuming dates and falling ill, being succeeded by his half-brother Abu Ishaq Muhammad ibn Harun al-Rashid (al-Mu’tasim bi’llah).
Al-Mu’tasim is credited with radical changes to the caste system of the Islamic empire, with Arabs receding from government and his Turkish troops and families rising to prominence in central power. After denying several unsuccessful assassination attempts and revolts, he moved to found a new capital in Samarra, this included several sections for the market, the military and massive mosques built all across the city. A skilled commander, he frequently raided and engaged the Byzantine empire in battle various times. He fell seriously ill in 841 AD and died the following year, succeeded by his son Abu Jaffar Harun Al-Wathiq ibn Mutasim. Although Al-Wathiq was a devoted scholar and a patron of the arts, he also ruled the empire with an iron fist; imprisoning, torturing and executing anyone whom opposed him. He died in 847 AD and was succeeded by his brother, al-Mutawakkil ‘Ala Allah Ja’far ibn al-Mu’tasim.
Al-Mutawakkil was much like his brother but also driven by want of revenge for those who had mistreated him while his brother reigned. However, that said he still was able to keep a firm grip on the empire and marked the end of the peak of the Abbasid Empire. His popularity declined rapidly following his terrible treatment of the Jews, Christians, Sabians and Zoroastrians, eventually his own Turkish guard turned on him and murdered him, possibly in an assassination arrangement set up by his own son, in 861 AD. He was succeeded by his son al-Muntasir, but in turn he mysteriously died only a year later. He was succeeded by al-Mu’tasim’s grandson Al-Musta’in.
However, Al-Musta’in, being voted in by the Turkish military leaders, was not so warmly received. Riots broke out throughout Baghdad after Al-Musta’in’s repeated attempts to subdue the people, especially after several corps were killed after warring with Christians in Armenia and parts of Asia. The Turks found more and more resentment as time passed and this in turn was directed onto Al-Musta’in. He was eventually forced to abdicate in favour of Al-Mu’tazz, and although being promised a simple life, he was instead assassinated on order of Al-Mu’tazz. Al-Mu’tazz was even more cruel and reckless than his predecessor, assassinating two of his own brothers and squandering the treasury’s revenues. He refused to pay the city guards for their duties and in turn, they stormed the palace, took their rightful pay. Shortly afterwards, the rebels Salih and Musa tricked the Caliph into leaving his palace and beat him, left him in the sun and shut him away for three days. He died and was replaced by his cousin, Al-Muhtadi.
Compared to the last few Caliphs, Al-Muhtadi was incredibly righteous and just, however, he was also firm and his actions of throwing the singers, musicians, performers, games and alcohol out of the court drew much aggression towards him. He modelled his reign on Umar’s, seeing the Umayyad Caliph as the ideal ruler, but this also proved to be to his downfall as he was murdered by the Turks in 870 AD, less than a year after becoming Caliph. Many scholars believe he could have been one of the best Abbasid Caliphs given his demeanour, if only he hadn’t been killed so soon after his reign started. He was succeeded by Al-Mu’tamid, Al-Mutawakkil’s eldest surviving son, although his brother, Al-Muwaffaq, pulled all of the strings and held all the real power. When Al-Muwaffaq fell ill, he transferred his authority and essential control of the Caliphate to his son Al-Mu’tadid, and due to his popularity was able to replace Al-Mu’tamid’s own son as heir to the Caliphate. Al-Mu’tamid drank himself to death in 892 AD and Al-Mu’tadid took over.
From the moment he ascended to the throne, Al-Mu’tadid set about reunifying the now-fractured Caliphate, crushing those in battle that he could and diplomatically finding his way into power in other places; He took back much of Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain. Domestically, he was also able to stabilize and strengthen the position of the civil bureaucracy; he moved the capital from Samarra back to Baghdad and rebuilt much of it including the Great Mosque of al-Mansur, which he also greatly expanded. He became so successful and popular with his endeavours that the people began calling him al-Saffah the Second, however, this is also in allusion to his cruel and creative methods of torture whenever his wrath was aroused. He died in 902 AD from weakened health, or possibly poisoning, and was replaced by his son Al-Muktafi, but lacking the energy of his father he was unable to keep up and died in 908 AD.
Although replaced by Al-Muqtadir, the new Caliph had simply been installed on the throne by several senior bureaucrats whom knew him to be a weak man. This allowed them to effectively rule the empire and increase spending by the courts and military. However, this wasteful spending caused the courts to go effectively bankrupt and caused widespread rioting as a result. The rioting forced Al-Muqtadir to step down and his brother, Al-Qahir, ascended the throne in 932 AD. However, Al-Qahir was a terrible tyrant and extortionist, taking the wealth from and torturing Al-Muqtadir’s mother, sons and favourite subjects, he even went so far as to wall up his nephew alive. His tyranny grew until it was unbearable and eventually the vizier Ibn Muqla attempted to force a drunken Al-Qahir to abdicate. When the Caliph refused, his eyes were blinded and he was thrown into prison for eleven years, being released a beggar.
Although pious in nature, Abu ‘I-Abbas Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Muqtadir (Ar-Radi) was made a tool at the hands of his chief minister, even upon his ascension to the throne in 934 AD. His reign was limited in view of his sphere of influence and found repeated betrayals by his ministers, eventually culminating in his fleeing from the capital and Al-Muttaqi succeeding him in 940 AD. Al-Muttaqi by this point had inherited a weakened Caliphate and after just four years was deposed and blinded by the Turkish General Tuzun, Tuzun replaced him with the Caliph’s cousin, Abdallah ibn Al-Muktafi (Al-Mustakfi). The Caliphate’s central capital Baghdad had seen better days to say the least, the nation was starving, troops were weakened and the courts were broke. Before long the masses fled from the city and it came under attack from the Buwayhid Sultan Mu’izz Al-Dawla. Al-Dawla blinded and deposed the Caliph much like his predecessor, his reign had only lasted a couple of years.
Abu ‘I-Qasim al-Fadl ibn al-Muqtadir (Al-Muti) stepped forth from the shadows after having hidden from the previous Caliph due to a bitter enmity between them, and in light of the Buwayid’s invasion of the city, began to have a voice in the court, albeit limited. He passed away in 974 AD and the rapidly declining power of the Abbasid Empire meant that Saudi Arabia effectively found itself in the hands of the Hashemite Sharifs of Mecca, believed to be descended from the Banu Hashim, the clan of Muhammad himself. However, they often saw themselves become controlled strongly by other ruling groups including the Fatimid Dynasty, the Ayyubid Empire, the Mamluk Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The Fatimids began this trend by installing descendants of Jaafar al-Musawi following their victory in conquering Egypt, eventually seeing the one Sharif they had installed, Abdul-Futuh, attempt to declare himself Caliph and forcing him to surrender the title less than a year later. However, many of their Sharifs did have much success, such as the conquering of Yemen by a Sulayhid Sharif in 1062.
Rapidly, the Sharifs realized the power limitations they had and began to hold a position politically avoiding the crossfire between the Fatimids and the Turkish Seljuk Empire, the predecessors to the later Ottoman Empire. However, in 1171, Saladin was able to overthrow the ruling Fatimids and before long, the Ayyubids were aiming to take Mecca in absence of the Fatimids, which they did so in 1200 when Sharif Qitada ibn Idris took power. This lasted for well over a hundred years, only coming to an end in 1350 when the Mamluks took the entirety of the Hejaz, it’s capitals and, by extension, the rest of Saudi Arabia. This in turn saw Jeddah strengthened when the Mamluks moved their main base of operations in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea there.
16th Century – 19th Century History
The Mamluk Empire persisted until it was replaced in 1517 by the Ottoman Turks. And before long, the Sharifs under Ottoman rule began pushing out into the Red Sea, starting in 1578, they repeated thwarted Portuguese attempts at invasion, whilst pushing also into the desert to stop raids from Nadji tribes.
These continued for hundreds of years under Ottoman rule, until, in 1744, the first Saudi state, also known as the Emirate of Diriyah, was established under Imam Muhammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab and Prince Muhammad bin Saud. It would be the predecessor to the Saudi family today. The pair conquered Nejd in central Saudi Arabia before moving on to expand out all the way to Kuwait and Oman’s borders, even conquering the rebellious highlands of ‘Asir. While Saud held the military front, Muhammad bin Abd Al Wahhab pushed diplomatically, writing letters to notable scholars, governors and leaders to remove polytheism from the surrounding countries of Iraq, India, Syria, Egypt and Yemen. However, Saud died in 1765 and passed leadership to his son, Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad Al Saud.
Eventually, Muhammad bin Abd Al Wahhab and Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad Al Saud passed away and the power ended up in the hands of Saud bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in 1765.
In 1801, Saud forces were able to take control of Karbala, the Shi’a holy city and they destroyed graves and monuments to many Islamic saints in an attempt to wipe out polytheism. Saud forces took more control, taking even more of the country including Hejaz, Mecca and Medina in 1805. On top of this, the Wahhabis had begun to attack Ottoman caravans and in turn had put a strain on Ottoman resources. These captures and attacks finally got under the skin of the ruling Ottoman Empire and sparked the Ottoman-Saudi war in 1807 when the viceroy of Egypt under the Ottoman Empire, Muhammad Ali Pasha, was ordered to retake Mecca, and more notably, destroy the first Saudi state.
He responded in 1811 by sending his son, Tusun Pasha, to Yanbu on the western coast of Arabia with 10,000 men. The Saud battalion of 70 surrendered without question. The Pasha forces began using Yanbu as a base of operations after the bloodless surrender and quickly attacked Medina within a year. They met with Saud forces in a valley just outside of the region. However, the Saud military was an even match for the Pasha forces and with the help of a force equal in size to the Pasha one, as well as cavalry, they successfully defended Mecca and after 3 days of brutal combat, the Pasha forces drew back to Yanbu.
Later on in the same year of 1812, Ali Pasha sent Ahmet Aga with 10,000 more men to help support Tusun’s forces and captured Medina. In 1813, the Pasha forces moved further into Jeddah and took it without difficulty, before meeting with another supply of soldiers from Ali Pasha. With an army 25,000 strong, the Pasha forces took Mecca upon surrender from the Saud forces numbering only 1,000. Meanwhile, Saud passed leadership of the first state to his son, Abdullah bin Saud, in 1814.
The Pasha forces quickly captured ‘Asir, before attacking Nejd several years later in 1817. By now, Ibrahim Pasha had taken control of the Pasha forces and they numbered over 30,000. He quickly rendered the villages throughout the region under his grip and took Nejd in 1818. By the end of the same year, Ibrahim had subdued Diriyah, the origins of the First Saudi State. He returned to Egypt a year later to focus on the revolt by the Greeks, leaving the country back in the hands of the Ottomans. Abdullah, meanwhile, was taken prisoner after his surrender in 1818. He was transported with two of his followers to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and was publicly beheaded by Ottoman officials as both a deterrent to revolt and to show support to the Shi’a Muslims whose sacred graves and monuments had been destroyed by the First Saudi State.
However, the remnants of the First Saudi State quickly started the Second Saudi State, also known as the Emirate of Nejd, starting with Imam Turki ibn Abdallah ibn Muhammad taking Riyadh. He quickly had to go into hiding to avoid capture after the fall of Diriyah, and only emerged to lead a revolt against the Ottoman Egyptian forces still in the country in 1821. He was assassinated by his cousin, Musharim bin Abdul-Rahman in 1834 and was succeeded by his son, Imam Faisal bin Turki. Faisal and his military forces rapidly returned to Riyadh from their expedition in al-Hasa and stormed the castle, killing Mushari, whom had usurped the throne, and those directly involved with the murder. The town pledged allegiance to Faisal without question, but he was forced to flee after the Ottoman-Turk and Egyptian forces attempted to capture him. He was eventually captured but escaped and turned to Riyadh in 1843.
His four sons, Abdallah, Saud, Abdul Rahman and Muhammad bin Faisal, repeatedly fought over the Saudi State after his death. The control passed between the former three with Abdallah first taking control in 1865 upon his father’s passing, then control quickly being shifted to Saud in 1871, before shifting back to Abdallah in the same year, back again to Saud in 1873, on to Abdul Rahman in 1875, back to Abdallah in 1876 and then back once more to Abdul Rahman in 1889. By this point in time, Abdul Rahman was the undisputed leader of Al Saud but the central city of Riyadh and the Second Saudi State had fallen into pieces. He was defeated subsequently in the Battle of Mulayda by the Rashidi leader whom had managed to ally many of the Arab clans and then forced him to flee into the desert with the rest of the Al Saud family. With his defeat, he gave up all hope of continuing the Saudi State and the Second Saudi State was ended.
20th Century History
In 1901, Abdul Rahman’s son, Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, more commonly known as Ibn Saud, had begun launching raids with some relatives in the Najd region on their long-time enemy, the Rashidis and their associated tribes. As they made a large amount of profit from the raids, their forces grew in number until they numbered over 200. One day in Autumn 1902 during Ramadan, while camping in the Yabrin Oasis, Ibn Saud decided to attack Riyadh. Under cover of nightfall, he and forty others entered the city over the city walls on tilted palm trees, they broke into the fortress and killed the governing Rashidi official in front of it. This marked the start of the Third Saudi State. Ibn Saud rapidly called their allies to arms, keeping his forces well stocked and prepared for battle at all times, he quickly grew in popularity due to his charisma. By 1904, he had retaken around half of the Najd region from the Rashidis. Ibn Rashid, head of the Al Rashid, appealed to the Ottomans for military aid and they responded by sending troops to help him strengthen his forces. In the same year, he attacked and crushed Ibn Saud’s forces, forcing them to commit to guerrilla warfare. Through this newfound warfare, he was able to cut off the Rashidi supply routes and force them to retreat in turn.
By 1912, Ibn Saud had completely dominated the Najd region as well as the eastern coast of Arabia. After establishing himself among the communities, Ibn Saud founded a military-religious brotherhood called the Ikhwan and instituted an agrarian policy in order to dismantle the tribal Bedouin and settle them into colonies, in a successful attempt to ally them with the newly-founded Ikhwan. As World War I began, diplomatic relations were opened between the British and Saudi governing forces and they entered into a treaty in 1915 which made Al Saud lands a British protectorate. Ibn Saud agreed to the terms of the treaty, especially as one of them instigated war between himself and Ibn Rashid, his long-time enemy and an ally of the Ottomans, whom were warring against Britain at the time.
With the newly-found supplies, munitions, weapons and funds from the British, Ibn Saud launched a full-on-out campaign against the Al Rashidi in 1920. Less than two years later he had completely decimated their forces. This defeat allowed Ibn Saud to barter a better treaty with the British forces, resigning them to accept his new territory as that of Saud ownership, however, in exchange he also had to acknowledge newly-acquired British territories in the Persian Gulf coast and in Iraq. Although previously the British had supported Sharif Hussein bin Ali as ruler of Mecca and, by extension, Emir of the Hejaz region, Ibn Saud pushed into Mecca and took it fully in 1925. By 1926, the leaders of Mecca, Medina and Jeddah acknowledged Ibn Saud as King of the Hejaz. A year later, the Treaty of 1915 was abolished and the treaty of 1927 was signed, with the British government acknowledging the independence of the Hejaz and Najd under King Ibn Saud. Another year later, Ibn Saud’s forces had completely overrun the central Arabian peninsula, but he lost the support of the Ikhwan when he prohibited raiding. They rebelled the same year but were suppressed completely by 1929. Uniting the country finally in 1932, Ibn Saud was proclaimed King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he passed away in 1953 and passed his rule to his son, Saud bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
Saud made many of his own family members ministers, including setting his sons Fahd as Minister of Defence, Musaid as Leader of the Royal Guard, Khalid as Commander of the National Guard, Saad as Head of the Special Guard, Mohammaed as the second Minister of Defence, Badr as Governor of the Riyadh Province and Abdallah as Governor of the Makkah Province. These moves worried and antagonized the king’s half-brothers whom believed the king’s sons to be too inexperienced for their positions, and that he would select one to succeed him instead of passing rule to one of his own siblings. To make matters worse, his decisions did not favour any particular group and many times seemed made entirely on a personal whim, his inadequacy with government affairs, especially with new issues such as the importation of foreign labour, caused numerous strikes across the country across the years of his rule. To boot, he welcomed members of the Islamic Extremist group the Muslim Brotherhood, which was fleeing from Egypt at the time, due to their ability to challenge Egypt.
On the international scene, he also caused a ruckus with deep involvement of the politics of other countries. First heading the coalition between Egypt and Syria for neutrality yet siding with Egypt in their takeover of Suez Canal, then severing his ties with France and Britain and withholding oil shipments to them due to the Saudi-British dispute over Buraimi Oasis. At this time, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union had started and the US gave him a loan of $250 Million towards defence costs, yet Egypt and Syria, with a neutral stance in the war, opposed the loan. Due to his decision of siding with Egypt over Suez, his oil exports declined, and due to siding with the US over the loan, he became opposed by the Arab Nationalists and Nasserists which were growing in number under Egypt’s leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasserism most strongly called for the destruction of the Arab world’s monarchies, in which Saudi Arabia was a prime target. After Syria began a plot to overthrow Jordan’s monarchy, the King of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, appealed to him for help, he responded by sending troops to strengthen Jordan’s forces and to play a role in helping unite Jordan and Iraq against Nasserism. Saud even went so far as to try to break up the United Arab Republic and was accused of plotting to assassinate Nasser himself. For the next decade, Saudi Arabia became involved in conflict with the-now Soviet-backed Egypt over the political disputes.
Inside of the family, King Saud and his brother, Prince Faisal, began a bitter power struggle, this was only resolved when Saud left the country for medical treatment in 1962. Faisal rapidly allied with his brothers, Princes Fahd and Sultan, promising to exclude Saud’s sons from the new government, to abolish slavery and to establish a judicial council. Saud attempted to fight back through threats of mobilizing the Royal Guard against Faisal, but Faisal in turn mobilized the National Guard against Saud and forced him to abdicate in 1963, forcibly taking the throne and exiling Saud to Geneva, Switzerland. Finding support widely after he came into power in 1964, he made good on his promises, balancing the country’s budget, establishing schooling inside the country as a standard and developed the country’s administrative regions, which in turn laid the foundations for modern welfare systems. He also began television broadcasting in 1965 and in 1967 he appointed Prince Fahd as the second Prime Minister. In 1969, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi successfully overthrew Libya’s monarchy in a coup d’état and in response, Faisal began pushing stronger measures against dissent and instated a complex security apparatus, he even went so far as to arrest hundreds of military officers and even a few generals that were involved in an alleged coup d’état.
In 1970, Nasser passed away and Faisal grew close to Egypt’s new president, Anwar Sadat, whom planned to break away from the Soviet Union and to make ties with the United States. In response to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war launched by Sadat, Faisal withheld Saudi oil from the world markets in protest over western support for Israel. His actions dramatically increased the value of oil and accidentally started the 1973 Energy Crisis. In 1975, his half-brothers son, Prince Faisal bin Musaid, whom had just returned from the United States, shot King Faisal at point-blank range. He died shortly afterwards in hospital of blood loss. Prince Faisal in turn was tried and sentenced to death, being publicly executed via beheading later on in the same year. Faisal was succeeded by his brother, Khalid bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. King Khalid’s reign focused around the country’s inner issues and saw great developments in agriculture, health care, infrastructure and education (around 2000 new schools were established during his reign as well as the world-reputed King Faisal University), as a direct result, financially, the country thrived. Internationally, Khalid was more reclusive than Faisal had been, avoiding international politics diplomatically, but negotiating peace in 1975 over Al Buraymi Oasis in 1975 between Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi (now the United Arab Emirates) and Oman, as well as supporting Syrian and Lebanese Muslims in their civil war in the same year and supporting Iran in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
He also supported Iran unofficially in the 1980 Iran-Iraq war and restablished diplomatic relations with Britain in 1981 and secured 60 F-15 Fighter Jets from the US as well as a Boeing 747 in 1982. Over the course of his life, Khalid suffered from a terrible heart ailment and had repeated heart attacks; he finally died of one in 1982. He was succeeded by his brother, Prince Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, in the same year. King Fahd was a great supporter of the United Nations, supporting foreign aid through donation of 5.5% of all of Saudi Arabia’s national income and giving $1 Million a month to the Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav Wars and the Nicaraguan Contras during the second half of 1984. He also opposed Israel, supported Palestine and was a close ally of the United States. In 1986, he replaced the title ‘His Majesty’ to ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ and spent millions of dollars on religious education, presiding over a strict Islamic policy within the country. Most notably, he led the Arab world against the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1989 and made close ties with Syria and Egypt.
By 1990, Iraq had invaded Kuwait and in response to this, Fahd agreed to host US troops in Saudi Arabia, even allowing several US military bases to be set up there as a deterrent against the Iraqi forces. This triggered a large amount of criticism from the Saudi nationals who were not comfortable with the multitude of foreign troops in the region and is thought to have spurred on Al Qaeda’s opposition to the Saudi royal family. In 1992, he also showed his limited aptitude to reform when he persecuted, imprisoned and fired several groups of Saudi intellectuals petitioning him for reforms to the country’s international diplomatic relations and the royal family’s spending, among other things. He also spurred on controversy with a $90 Billion purchase of weaponry, aircraft and military supplies from the United Kingdom, of which the funds were meant to have been originally planned to be spent on building educational institutions, medical facilities and a greater infrastructure. He suffered a stroke in 1995 due to his heavy smoking and obesity, and subsequently made the decision to allow Crown Prince Abdullah to run the Kingdom in 1996. However, within a matter of months, Fahd resumed his duties once again.
21st Century History
After deadly bombings in Saudi Arabia commenced in 2003, King Fahd condemned the terrorists involved with the attacks and is quoted saying he would “Strike with an iron fist” and rapidly pushed Muslim clerics and religious leaders to emphasize peace, justice and tolerance. Due to his rapidly deteriorating health, his son, Crown Prince Abdullah, began to make meetings and trips for him.
In 2005, Fahd was admitted to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh and passed away only months later. He was succeeded by his brother, Prince Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud. King Abdullah pushed rapidly for educative programs allowing over 70 thousand Saudi students to obtain scholarships to study abroad in over 25 countries, including in the US and the UK. He also pushed for public health reforms in regards to breast cancer awareness and CDC cooperation. Additionally, he pushed for strong education to attack the roots of extremism that started Al Qaida.
In 2007, in a move that put the world in awe, King Abdullah visited Pope Benedict XVI in the Apostolic Palace.
A year later in 2008, he called for a “Brotherly and sincere dialogue between believers from all religions” and held a conference in Mecca, urging Muslim leaders to speak with one voice with Jewish and Christian leaders, gaining approval from some of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent Islamic Scholars to hold the interfaith dialogue later on the same month in Spain. These moves also spurred on the “Peace of Culture” which took place at the UN’s General Assembly, bringing together both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike to eradicate preconceptions of Islam and Terrorism. The historic movement brought together some of the world’s most prominent leaders including King of Jordan Abdullah II, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, US President George W. Bush and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
In 2009, Abdullah installed his pro-reform son-in-law, Faisal bin Abdullah, as the Minister for Education and appointed US-educated former teacher, Nora Al Fayez, as deputy education minister.
By 2010, Abdullah had successfully restructured the country’s priorities, introducing training for Sharia judges, overhauling business startup protocol in Saudi Arabia and building the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology. His measures also included diversifying the kingdom’s economy out to include tourism, mining, solar energy and many other sectors, and dedicated 25% of the country’s budget towards education alone. After the Arab Spring, Abdullah pushed $37 Billion into jobless benefits and improving the welfare state, as well as extended education.
In 2011, Abdullah granted women the right to vote in the upcoming municipal council elections of 2015, as well as stating that with time they would be given the right to take part in the unelected Shura, a body responsible for moderating the powers of the monarchy and council. Signing an agreement between Austria, Spain and Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna was established and opened a year later.
In 2012, he dismissed the head of Saudi Arabia’s religious police and replaced him with a milder cleric. Later on in the same year, it announced its allowance for women athletes to participate in the Olympics for the first time ever.
In 2013, Abdullah appointed thirty women to the Shura and modified existing laws limiting the amount of women allowed into power. In the same year, the cabinet criminalized psychological, physical and sexual abuse as well as domestic violence in general following a Twitter campaign.
America has attempted to strengthen its ties with Saudi Arabia in 2014 when President Barack Obama visited Abdullah and assured him that America intended to strengthen Saudi Arabia during the Syrian war.