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Ibn Saud

Ibn Saud (Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud)ĭˈbən säōdˈ, c.1880–1953, founder of Saudi Arabia and its first king. His family, with its regular seat at Riyadh in the Nejd, were the traditional leaders of the ultraorthodox Wahhabi movement in Islam. During Ibn Saud's youth the Saud family was in exile in Kuwait. In 1902 he and a small party of relatives and servants recaptured Riyadh. By 1912 he had completed the conquest of the Nejd and organized a well-trained army. During World War I the British made slight efforts to cultivate Ibn Saud's friendship but favored his rival, Husayn ibn Ali of the Hejaz. In 1924–25, Ibn Saud defeated Husayn and proclaimed himself king of Hejaz and Nejd. After consolidating his power over most of the Arabian peninsula, he changed (1932) the name of his kingdom to Saudi Arabia. He forced many of the nomad tribes to adopt a settled way of life and to abandon their private wars and vendettas. He is credited with suppressing the robbery and extortion that formerly harassed pilgrims to Mecca and Medina. In 1936 and 1939 he granted oil concessions to American companies. The oil deposits of Arabia proved to be among the richest in the world, and Ibn Saud used some of the income derived from them on national improvements. The greater part of his oil revenues, however, was spent on the royal family. During World War II, Ibn Saud remained neutral but favored the Allies. He took only a minor part in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. He was succeeded by Prince Saud, his eldest son.

See H. S. J. Philby, Arabian Jubilee (1953) and D. A. Howarth, The Desert King (1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Middle Eastern History: Biographies


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