Who Was the Founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
King Abdulaziz ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Faisal ibn Turki ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al Saud of Saudi Arabia (15 January 1875-09 November 1953), known in the West as Ibn Saud, was the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia, the “third Saudi state”. Ibn Saud, the son of the Sultan of Najd, was forced into exile by a rival, but recovered his lands in 1902.
He reconquered his family’s ancestral home city of Riyadh in 1902, starting three decades of conquests that made him the ruler of nearly all of central and north Arabia. He consolidated his control over the Najd in 1922, then conquered the Hejaz in 1925. He gradually brought the whole of Arabia under his control.
He extended his dominions into what later became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. As King, he presided over the discovery of petroleum in Saudi Arabia in 1938 and the beginning of large-scale oil production after World War II. He fathered many children, including 45 sons, and all of the subsequent kings of Saudi Arabia.
In 1932 he formally unified his domains and became king of a united country, which was renamed Saudi Arabia. During his reign exploitation of the region’s enormous oil resources began. An absolute monarch, he had no regular civil service or professional administrators. All decisions were made by him or by those he personally delegated for a particular task. There was little money, and he himself was not interested in finance.
In May 1933 Ibn Saud signed his first agreement with an American oil company. Not until March 1938 did the company strike oil, and work virtually ceased during World War II, so that Ibn Saud was again nearly penniless. Saudi Arabia took no part in the war, but toward its end the exploitation of oil was resumed. By 1950 Ibn Saud had received a total of about $200,000. Three years later, he was getting some $2,500,000 a week. The effect was disastrous on the country and on Ibn Saud. He had no idea of what to do with all the money, and he watched helplessly the triumph of everything he hated.
His austere religious views were offended. The secluded, penurious, hard, but idealistic life of Arabia was vanishing. Such vast sums of money drew half the swindlers in the Middle East to this puritan religious sanctum. Ibn Saud was unable to cope with financial adventurers. His last years were marked by severe physical and emotional deterioration. He died at Al-Ṭāʾif in 1953.