Saudi Arabia – A hereditary monarchy

David D. Creekmore

Saudi Arabia is almost the last hereditary monarchy where the king is not selected, but inherits the title from his father. There are others, but Saudi is almost the only one where the king rules absolutely. How did it get that way, in a part of the world where governments change with the seasons? To understand how it got this way, and to some degree, where their philosophy comes from, we have to go back to 1744. In that year, a fundamentalist cleric named Abdul Wahhab allied with a minor Arabian prince named Muhammad ibn Saud. 

During the preceding centuries, Islam had strayed from worship of Allah, and had become almost a polytheistic religion. This was a practice that Muhammad had banned over 1,000 years before. Wahhab demanded that the people return to the strict worship of Allah, and his prophet, Muhammad. Around 1745, he ordered an adulterous woman stoned to death. Because of his strict views, he was banished from his hometown of Uyana. Seeking protection, he petitioned Saud to live in Diriyah where Saud ruled.

Over time, Wahab’s sermons of strict adherence to the Koran, and the teachings of Muhammad attracted a large following. They, pledging allegiance to Saud, formed an army, fighting under the green flag with the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith in the center. Saud was the military leader, and Wahhab the religious leader. The Wahhaabis under Saud conquered the central Arabic peninsula.

By 1810, they controlled most of Arabia. The Ottoman Turks invaded at this point, and using their modern weapons, rolled back the Wahaabis. In 1818, the Turks captured Riyadh, and took Abdallah, Saud’s great grandson prisoner. He was taken to Istanbul where he was executed. Things were quiet for the rest of the 1800’s. In 1902, however, Abdul-Aziz, Saud’s great-great grandson took Riyadh in a surprise attack.

Over the next few decades, he followed the lead of his ancestor, using religious zeal to conquer Arabia. His army had a solid core- the Ikhwan, or brothers. Other than the German SS, there has never been a more deadly group of soldiers. They were so religious that they disliked even to look at non-Muslims. They were almost impossible to control, and many cities surrendered on condition that they would not be allowed in the town.

In 1924, the army took Mecca. The next year, he took Jeddah, and reached the Red Sea. For the second time, the House of Saud ruled Arabia. The Ikhwan, however, were not satisfied. They continued to fight this time against the House of Saud, which they thought was not religious enough. Abdul-Aziz formed another army from loyal tribes, and in 1932, using machine guns and cars he got from the British. He put down the rebellion.

In September 1932, he proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abdul-Aziz died in 1953 and his sons have ruled since, in succession. Thus, the Kingdom was created, as so many have been on blood, with a religious banner in front. The only change has been to add the Palm tree to the flag to symbolize the settled tribesmen rather than the simple statement of faith. Thus, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came to be.

By David D. Creekmore |

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