Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud

Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud
Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud

Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud was the first monarch of Saudi Arabia. He was born in Riyadh to Abd al-Rahman bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud and Sara bint Ahmad al-Kabir al-Sudairi. In 1890 he and his family were exiled to Kuwait after the Rashidi tribe conquered their lands.

Upon the death of his father in 1901, the 22-yearold Ibn Saud succeeded as the leader of the Saud dynasty and took the title of the sultan of the Nejd. Ibn Saud set out to recapture his ancestral lands from the Rashidis. In 1902 Ibn Saud assassinated Ibn Rashid and recaptured Riyadh.

By 1912 he had consolidated his control over the Nejd and then founded the Ikhwan, a militant religious group that he used to aid him in future conquests. At this time he also revived the traditional al-Saud alliance with Wahhabism, a puritanical Islamic movement dating from the 18th century.

In 1915 during World War I, the British signed a treaty with Ibn Saud whereby the lands of the Saud dynasty became a British protectorate. Britain asked for Ibn Saud's support in fighting against Ibn Rashid, who supported the Ottoman Empire, which had allied with the Central powers in the war.

As a consequence of this alliance, Ibn Saud received financial support from the British. By 1922 Ibn Saud had defeated the Rashidis and had doubled his territorial holdings. In 1926 he defeated another rival, Sherif Husayn of the Hashemite dynasty, and captured the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Sherif Husayn was forced into exile, and Ibn Saud effectively became the ruler of Arabia. The British formally recognized the power of the Saud dynasty in the Treaty of Jeddah, which was signed in 1927. Under this treaty Ibn Saud's title was changed from sultan to king.

Ibn Saud consolidated the Saud family's control over the Arabian Peninsula between 1927 and 1932, when he renamed the conquered territories Saudi Arabia and proclaimed himself king of the new nation. The discovery of petroleum in 1938 gradually brought vast revenues into the previously impoverished country. Ibn Saud used the moneys to enrich both his family and the country, encouraging his nomadic subjects to settle in permanent cities and villages.

Saudi Arabia's contributions to World War II were mostly token, but, although officially neutral, the Saudis did provide the Allies with significant oil supplies. Saudi Arabia remained on good terms with the Allies largely because of King Abd al-Aziz's personal friendship with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Ibn Saud fathered between 50 and 200 children, and into the 21st century all Saudi kings were his sons. The Saudi Basic Law of 1992 stipulated that the king of Saudi Arabia must be a son or grandson of Ibn Saud. He died in Taif in 1953 and is commemorated as the founder of modern Saudi Arabia.