Founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud
King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdur Rahman Al-Faysal Al-Saud was born in Riyadh in 1297 H. (1879 A.D.) He grew up under the protection of his father Abdur Rahman Al-Faysal, the last Imam (Leader) of the Second Saudi State. His father chose Shaikh Abdullah Al-Khuraiji, one of the learned men of Al-Khuraij, to be his tutor. He taught him reading, writing and memorizing the Holy Quran. Later, he received lessons from Shaikh Abdullah bin Abdul Latif Al Al Shaikh in Islamic Theology. He also learnt horse-riding while he stayed for about seven months in the desert with Bani-Murrah tribe, before he moved with his family to Kuwait, where he stayed for about ten years. King Abdul Aziz is deemed one of the greatest personalities of the twentieth century in view of the huge achievement he accomplished and the daunting challenges. He overcame in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and was the ideal person to unify the Kingdom, which had formerly been riven in continuous disputes. He replaced plundering, looting and highway robbery with safety, security and stability. He was the one who established the pillars of the state such as the council of trustees, the consultative council (Majlis Al-Shura), the council of ministers, etc. He managed to safeguard his country's unity and independence despite the alliances and blocks, which existed during World War II and I. He reached understanding with his previous foes, with the neighboring Arab countries (Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and Egypt) and with the leaders of the major powers.
King Abdul Aziz went on to stay in power for fifty-four years establishing peace, security and stability in the Arabian Peninsula, and molded a well-established and secured kingdom out of the feuding Bedouin tribes. When he died on 9 Nov. 1953, at the age of 73, he left behind a deeply rooted system and a flourishing State, with public institutions, ministries, national companies and numerous descendants (sons and grandsons) who are following his footsteps.
Valiant and daring in the battlefield, King Abdul Aziz showed great patience and generosity towards the enemies whom he conquered. Instead of knocking them out, he treated them amicably. In Hejaz, for instance, he gave its inhabitants the freedom to administer their own affairs.
As an ingenious political leader, he learnt from the mistakes of the First Saudi State. For this reason, he did not take the risk of expanding his Kingdom more than necessary. He also acquired lessons from the demise of the Second Saudi State, and consequently maintained good relations inside his own family, and sustained the alliance with the Al-Shaikh family.
He was very pre-occupied with the state's affairs. His son, King Salman, when he was Emir of Riyadh Region once said, "My father never lay down to rest or went to bed before he had read and listened to the reports submitted from all parts of the Kingdom, even at a late hour of the night".
King Abdul Aziz and the Oil Era:
At the beginning of 30's of the last century, the Saudi State was going through a very hard economic situation, which lasted many years. The individual income was low and the state's revenues were slim. The government was indebted and could not even pay regularly the salaries of its employees. King Abdul Aziz and his advisers were seriously looking for a solution to get rid of this crisis. They thought of minerals and oil prospecting, but this needed foreign experts and huge amounts of investment, which were not available in Saudi hands. Besides, King Abdul Aziz was afraid of the foreign influence on his country.
In the mean time, there was an American wealthy man called Charles R. Crane, who was looking to meet King Abdul Aziz and was ready to do everything to be received by his Majesty. As the Saudi sovereign agreed to receive him, Mr. Crane put at King Abdul Aziz disposal of a good oil exploration expert, called Karl Twitchell, who within six months found out that there are very good signs for oil in the Saudi Eastern Region. When this news spread out in the world, the international oil companies became eager to get the concession for oil production in Saudi Arabia. Three competitors were then fighting for the concession:
Â· The Eastern and General Syndicate,
Â· The Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) and
Â· California Standard Oil Company (CASCO).
After long negotiations with the concerned parties, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia signed in 1933 an agreement with California Standard Oil Company. (CASCO) giving this Company a concession on an area of about 495,500 square miles for oil prospecting and production. The prospecting began in Kingdom's east coast. The first commercial oil field was discovered in 1938 in the region of Dhahran in "well No. 7". The crude was exported first by barges to Bahrain and in 1939, the first tanker load of petroleum was exported from Ras Tannura Port in the presence of King Abdul Aziz. A series of discoveries followed on land and offshore, in addition to the discovery of natural gas. In 1944, CASCO changed its name to Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO).
King Abdul Aziz is well known for his generosity. In this respect, Dr. Saeed Al-Mullais wrote the following story:
"One day, King Abdul Aziz was on his way to Holy Makkah to perform Hajj. All of a sudden, one of the tyres of the King's car was punctured. Therefore, the King got out of his car and sat on sand while the punctured tyre was being replaced. A Bedouin passed nearby and asked the King whether King Abdul Aziz had passed this way. The King inquired: "why are you asking that?" The Beduin answered: "I have been told that Abdul Aziz was on his way to Makkah, so I thought, I might ask him to grant me some money to enable me to perform Hajj ". In reply, King Abdul Aziz opened the bag of gold coins, and gave the man a handful of these coins. The amazed beduin gazed at the coins and then into the King's face, and said, "Thank you Abdul Aziz! I couldn't recognize your face at first, but I know you now through your generosity".