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How Abdul Aziz proclaimed himself king of Najd and the Hijaz and renamed it 'Saudi Arabia'

Zafar Bangash

The Anglo-Saudi friendship treaty (December 1915) opened up vast new opportunities for Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. He became the recipient of British largesse - 80,000 annually (60,000 annually plus a lump sum payment of 20,000). His task was to harass Turkish allies in eastern Arabia and to disrupt their supply lines.

Luck seemed to be on his side. With the Bolshevik victory in Moscow in November 1917, the Anglo-French conspiracy to divide the Middle East into their respective spheres of influence was exposed in 1918. The Russian czar had been party to this conspiracy and the Bolsheviks, in an effort to expose his role in the Anglo-French intrigue, leaked the story. The Sykes-Picot agreement (signed by Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France in May 1916) was a complete betrayal of the promises made to the Arabs. Sheriff Husain flew in a rage when he heard of this but it was already too late.

In fact, his rage worked against him. The British had another, equally pliant client in Abdul Aziz who would be more than willing to do their bidding. At the end of the war, Turkish power was broken. The Arabian Peninsula had slipped out of its hands, as had many of its other territories.

Within Turkey itself, the secular nationalist Mustafa Kemal had emerged. He proceeded to abolish the Khilafah altogether in March 1924. This was a monumental blow to the Muslims. The organic link with the Prophet’s Islamic State in Medina was lost.

In the Hijaz, meanwhile, Husain worked himself into a lather as Britain lost interest in him. He had served his purpose; they no longer needed him. Puppets have always suffered this ignominious fate.

As a sop to his injured pride, if one could say that Husain had any pride all, the British installed one of his sons, Feisal, on the throne in Iraq and carved out Transjordan for the other, Abdullah. The latter moved to incorporate the West Bank of Palestine also into his little kingdom. His grandson, Husain bin Talal, surrendered it to the Zionists in the June 1967 war.

It was the rapid rise of Abdul Aziz, moving with his tribal hordes from the east, that soon caught the imagination of the wily British. Abdul Aziz grabbed Asir and a number of other provinces before moving on the Hijaz. His opportunity came when Sheriff Husain declared himself the Caliph upon its abolition by Mustafa Kemal. The Muslim world would have none of it from a man who had betrayed Islam and was a known agent of the British.

With the tide turning against him, Husain fled Jeddah for Cyprus. Abdul Aziz’s hordes, meanwhile, made their debut in the Hijaz by sacking Taif in September 1924, in the manner of his forebears a century ago. He massacred most of its male inhabitants, even those who had taken refuge in mosques, many of which were destroyed with the occupants inside. When news of the Taif massacre reached Makkah, there was total chaos. The residents of Makkah fled to Jeddah as Abdul Aziz’s shock troops advanced on the holy city.

Hundreds of pilgrims were slaughtered in the frenzy before Makkah was taken. The sacrilege at Makkah sent a shock-wave throughout the world of Islam. It is forbidden to carry firearms in Makkah. Nor is warfare allowed, much less the slaughter of innocent people.

Abdul Aziz had to act quickly to restore his credibility. He eschewed any plans of occupying the Hijaz, only to ‘rid the Hedjaz and my people of the cruelty of the Sheriff’. The people of Hijaz were neither ‘his people’, nor suffering any great ‘cruelty’ at the hands of the Sheriff. True, they may have had no liking for him but Abdul Aziz hardly meant relief.

He chose a fine way to ‘end the cruelty of the Sheriff’: by massacring hundreds of pilgrims - the guests of Allah, as well as desecrating the sanctity of the Haram. Between 400 to 900 pilgrims, mostly from Aceh-Sumatra, Mindanao, India, Iran and Central Asia, were murdered in complete violation of the commandments in the Qur’an.

Medina was occupied a year later on December 5, 1925. Within a month, he proclaimed himself ‘king of the Hijaz’ as well, in the presence of the imam of Masjid al-Haram. He said that he took this step at the ‘request of the merchants and notables of Jeddah’!

Whether the merchants of Jeddah really made any such request or they even had authority to do so is a moot point. Abdul Aziz had stormed the Hijaz with guns and swords. He desecrated the sanctity of the Haram by shedding blood and killing pilgrims. Even so, he had the gall to announce that he would take into account the wishes of the Muslims regarding the Haramain and the Hijaz.

With Najd and Hijaz both under his control, he turned his attention to the Ikhwan who had by now discovered his treachery. Once they realised that he was a British agent, they wanted to have no truck with him. Backed by British guns and money, Abdul Aziz’s hordes stormed the Ikhwan stronghold of Ghot Ghot. Many Ikhwan leaders were massacred and Ghot Ghot was completely razed. He had betrayed the last of his friends.

In 1932, presumably tired of ‘waiting’ for the Muslims, he declared himself the king of both Najd and Hijaz and named it the ‘kingdom of Saudi Arabia’. This confirmed, yet again, that he was a liar and a brigand. Such men are naturally devoid of any Islamic values and principles. In Islam, there is no concept of kingship.

Equally serious is the naming the Arabian Peninsula as ‘Saudi Arabia’. The noble messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, had called this sacred territory the Arabian Peninsula. The head of the Saudi household introduced a bid’ah (innovation) by changing its name.

The Saudi mafia and its paid preachers are quick to denounce as bida’ anything that does not conform to their tribal traditions, have indulged in a major innovations in Islam by accepting the name change. It amounts to shirk [polytheism] because the Ibn Sauds’ claim challenges the authority of God Who is the sole Master of all things on earth and in heaven.

The writer is Editor, Crescent International, Toronto.

Muslimedia: March 16-31, 1997

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 2

Dhu al-Qa'dah 07, 14171997-03-16

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