Saudi Arabia / Politics /
Arabic: ¢abd 'al-'azīzi bni ¢abd 'ar-rahmān bni daysāl bni turki ¢abd allahi bni muhammad 'as-sa¢ūd
(1879-1953) King of Hijaz and Najd 1927-32, king of Saudi Arabia 1932-53.
Ibn Sa'ud was both an effective warlord and a charismatic religious leader. Originally he was the leader of his family, the Sa'uds, as well as the leader of the dominant religious movement of Arabia, Wahhabism. His political strategies included using his religious authority to wage jihad, as well as intermarrying with families from which he sought support. The latter strategy resulted in 17 wives, 45 sons and 215 daughters. Eventually, his secular support grew strong enough for him to break with his Wahhabi troops.
Ibn Sa'ud founded the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after successfully waging war against his main opponent, the Rashids. For the first period of his reign as king, he did not establish any state structures. But beginning in 1950, petroleum revenues grew to a level through which the reality of Saudi politics changed dramatically, as well as did the Saudi society.
Little was done during his reign to develop Saudi Arabia. One of the few reforms of Ibn Sa'ud was to declare it a duty for nomads to settle at desert wells, which made it easier for the ensuing state to control its inhabitants. Throughout his reign, he had no regular civil service or administrators. This changed shortly before his death.
Being a devout Muslim and a conservative traditionalist, Ibn Sa'ud had not anticipated the dramatic changes brought by the increase of petroleum revenues. At the time of his death, he was deeply frustrated by all the changes in his lifetime.
1879: Born in Diraiya, Arabia, into the ruling family of Najd.
1891: Ibn Sa'ud's family is driven out of Najd, and takes exile in Kuwait, where he grows up.
1901: Ibn Sa'ud leaves Kuwait with 40 men on camels, in order to regain his family's territories.
1902: Ibn Sa'ud succeeds in killing the governor of Riyadh, and seizing the castle. His return is met with much support from the inhabitants of the town so he manages to establish himself quickly.
1904: Ibn Sa'ud is defeated by Ottoman troops, but soon recovers his military and political strength.
1912: Ottoman troops leave, after years of fighting without result. This strengthens Ibn Sa'ud's position tremendously.
1913: Gets control of the region of the al-Hasa oasis, which is the coastal zone between modern Kuwait and Qatar, along the Persian Gulf.
1915: Ibn Sa'ud signs a treaty with Britain, through which he becomes leader of a British protectorate. Central in this treaty is his support for the British against the Ottomans, for which he receives £5,000 every month. However, Ibn Sa'ud never uses arms against the Turks as long as World War 1 lasts.
1920: Starts fighting Muhammadi bni Rashid, the leader of the family who drove Ibn Sa'ud's family out of Najd in 1891, and now the regional ally of the Turks.
Conquers the Asir region, between Hijaz and Yemen.
1921: Takes control of Shammar, the region corresponding to northern Saudi Arabia.
1922: Takes the title of Sultan of Najd and its Dependencies.
1924: Ibn Sa'ud conquers Mecca and deposes the ruler of Hijaz, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali al-Hasham.
1925: Madina surrenders to Ibn Saud.
1926: Declares himself King of Hijaz, in addition to his Sultan-position of Najd.
1927: As a reaction to Ibn Sa'ud imposing a prohibition against raiding, his Wahhabi troops, called Ikhwan, rebel against him. They also attack Iraq, but are driven out.
1929: The battle at Sibilla, where Ibn Sa'ud defeats the Ikhwan.
1932: Saudi Arabia is formed, not by new conquests, but by annexing the different parts of Arabia which had up until then been seen as independent parts under the same ruler.
1933 May: Loss in tax income because of fewer pilgrims to Mecca forces Ibn Sa'ud to give the Standard Oil Company a concession to search for oil in Saudi Arabia, in return for a £50,000 advance on prospective oil revenues.
1936: Signs a number of treaties with neighbouring countries.
1945: Central in establishing the Arab League in Cairo.
Early 1950s: Private oil revenues for Ibn Sa'ud skyrocket, through which he receives $2,5 million per week.
1953 October: Ibn Sa'ud appoints a council of ministers as an advisory body.
November 9: Dies in At-Ta'if, Saudi Arabia. He is succeeded by his son, Sa'ud.