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Saudi Arabia: A 300-Year Journey From Founding To Modernization

Saudi Arabia: A 300-Year Journey From Founding To Modernization

Friday, 28 January, 2022 - 12:15
The Palace of the ruler in Riyadh with the beginnings of the third Saudi state.

On the anniversary of the first founding of the Kingdom, the opinions of historians varied, exploring its depths and the secret of its steadfastness for three centuries until this day.

A small city that arose in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Diriyah was not immune to the winds, hurricanes and developments that swept over the cities and towns, which scattered in the same valley of Hanifa (Wadi Hanifah).

Each of those cities formed what could be called an independent political entity that govern its own lands and exercise full sovereignty, and even expand at the expense of others.

However, it was not only through force that states were established and political, social and economic stability was achieved. Many other factors contributed to the consolidation of the state and its longevity.

Those included the charisma of governance, the strong attachment to the homeland, complete independence from the other, and finally, the presence of the constitution, which consolidated the idea of the state away from the tribal or sectarian cover.

The State of Al-Diriyah was founded by the twelfth grandfather of King Abdulaziz, Prince Mani’ Al-Muraydi in the year 850 AH - 1446 AD, nearly 600 years ago.

Prince Mani’ returned from the east of the Arabian Peninsula to the center of Najd, where the ancestors of the famous Bani Hanifa tribe lived. He carried with him the idea of establishing a central state.

The city-state had a long history in the peninsula region, and the founding of Al-Diriyah constituted a political shift.

In addition to its ideal location on Wadi Hanifa, where water flows, making it a suitable environment for agriculture and stability, the city sat on the crossroads of trade routes between the north and south of the Arabian Peninsula, which contributed to the promotion of trade movement in and out of the neighboring regions.

Prominent historian Rashid bin Ali bin Jerais, who lived in the 19th century AD and died in 1880 AD, recounted the establishment of Al-Diriyah with these words: “The idea of establishing an Arab state in the Arabian Peninsula is clear to Emir Mani’ Al-Muraydi, his son Rabi’ah, his grandson Musa bin Rabi’ah, and the grandson’s son Ibrahim bin Musa bin Rabi’ah, who was called the Emir of Najd... It is mentioned that they are independent princes, that is, they do not follow anyone…”

Those who followed the developments in the city-state of Al-Diriyah noted that its expansion depended on political stability. Imam Muhammad bin Saud bin Muhammad bin Muqrin, who was born in Al-Diriyah in 1090 AH - 1679 AD, and died there in 1179 AH - 1765 AD, witnessed the development of the city and understood the factors of its growth.

Imam Muhammad bin Saud never abandoned the struggle of leading the city. Thanks to his genius, he developed Al-Diriyah into the “first Saudi state”, the establishment of which constituted a major turning point in the Najd region.

The city extended its influence over most areas of the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, loyalty to the state reached areas in both Iraq and the Levant, where some tribes paid zakat to the new authority.

While the rulers succeeded in founding the pillars of the state and maintaining its stability, the city was threatened and opposed by foreign and local forces, up to the assassination of one of its spiritual leaders, Imam Abdulaziz bin Muhammad bin Saud.

He is considered one of the greatest rulers of the Arabian Peninsula in terms of military and administrative skill. His state’s influence extended to the regions of Najd, Al-Ahsa, Asir, parts of the Hijaz, and the coast of the Arabian Gulf, and his armies were able to repel the campaigns of the Ottoman Empire.

His son, Imam Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammad, who was known as Saud the Great, continued his father’s efforts to expand the influence of the state and consolidate reforms.

Imam Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammad died in 1229 AH - 1814 AD. He was succeeded by his son Abdullah, who fought against the Ottomans for seven consecutive years, during which the Saudis showed steadfastness and great courage.

After the arrival of Ottoman Leader Ibrahim Pasha to the capital of Al-Diriyah, he imposed a siege on the city that lasted more than six months, during which violent battles took place between the two sides, and ended with the surrender of Imam Abdullah bin Saud in 1233 AH - 1818 AD. The heroic imam was taken to Egypt, and then sent to the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Astana, where he was executed in the ugliest means that reflected hatred and inhumanity.

Following a period of chaos, Imam Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Saud succeeded in retaking control over Riyadh after expelling the Ottoman forces in 1240 AH - 1824 AD. He established the second Saudi state, which ended with the departure of Imam Abdul Rahman bin Faisal, from Riyadh in 1309 AH - 1891 AD.

In the year 1319 AH - 1902 AD, King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman was able to restore Riyadh and announce the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The third founder has set the pillars of a modern state, which witnessed gradual development in various fields.

After King Salman bin Abdulaziz took over the reins of power as the seventh king of the state, and Prince Mohammad bin Salman becoming the Kingdom’s Crown Prince, the country witnessed rapid and remarkable changes that affected all political, economic and social fields. The progress was applauded at home and abroad.

Organizations flourished and major development projects were launched. Saudi Vision 2030 marked the beginning of the state of the future and made the Kingdom a key member in the international equation.

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