( 10 ) : A general introduction on the post-Abdul-Aziz Saudi Wahabi opposition movement:
PART II: The Wahabi Opposition during the Reign of King Saud, King Feisal, and King Khaled

PART II: The Wahabi Opposition during the Reign of King Saud, King Feisal, and King Khaled


A general introduction on the post-Abdul-Aziz Saudi Wahabi opposition movement:


(A) A general overview:


  Abdul-Aziz put an end to the opposition movement of the Najd Brothers and established his Saudi state via the art of politics of the impossible in the time of possible or rather the possible in the time of the impossible. Since the time in which he declared the name of this Saudi state as the KSA in 1932 until his death in 1953, he dedicated his time to firmly establish administrational and organizational systems to make his KSA a viable well-governed state, thus doing the possible in the time of the possible, after finishing successfully the policy of defiance of international powers when he dared to do the impossible. His internal organization of government was successful due to many internal and external factors; chief among them was huge oil revenues and riches that came suddenly as a result, causing many social changes, such as the quick pace of modernization and openness to the world. Such conditions allowed room for the existence of a class of open-minded secular elite and the marginalization of the role of religious (Wahabi) scholars and sheikhs and their control of politics and society. Social changes took place within all members of the Saudi society, elite and non-elite, as all of them moved suddenly from ascetic and simple lifestyle/culture into the affluent lifestyle/culture, without a gradual medial stage to make the society cope with such hurried changes. Such sudden internal developments occurred simultaneously along with World War II, which changed the political and strategic map of the globe, a change reflected on the Middle East and Arabia. Two competing powers emerged at the time: the USA and the USSR, with Cold War between them as well as the polarization of the countries all over the globe between these two poles. Both poles vied for more influence in the Arab world, as its countries were divided into two camps supporting one pole against the other. Naturally, Abdul-Aziz took the side of the USA. At the time, many revolutions, revolts, and coups occurred in the Arab world, and Abdul-Aziz had to protect and preserve his nascent burgeoning kingdom amidst revolutionary storms so as not to let the KSA collapse. His endeavors in that respect were done while he was in his old age, having spent his youth in several battles. Naturally, he would aim for the stability of his kingdom by modernizing and developing it alongside with gaining oil revenues that allowed room for affluent lifestyle, after getting rid of the Najd Brothers and their opposition movement and controlling Wahabi scholars and sheikhs to avoid their criticism by making them subservient to him out of fear or out of greed for money. Their tendency to be obsequious showed itself earlier in their flattery to Abdul-Aziz on several occasions, especially when they approved, and dare not to oppose, his renaming the kingdom as the ''Kingdom of Saudi Arabia'', the KSA. Moreover, all scholars ignored what the king demanded regarding changes in the legal system, writing a constitution, and forming modern governmental system. Abdul-Aziz did not insist, either. Thus, the earliest chance to initiate democracy and to hold rulers to question and impeachment was lost; the Najd Brothers used to oppose Abdul-Aziz and protest against his decisions by holding conferences, initiating debates, voicing criticism, and issuing statements, and all this was no longer possible after they were killed off. A new era began by Abdul-Aziz between 1932 and 1953. His heir and son, Saud, was enthroned as Gamal Abdel-Nasser came to power as President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. The conflicts and disputes between Abdel-Nasser and King Saud caused the emergence of an opposition movement on the margin of such disputes: this opposition movement was manifested mainly by Nasser Al-Saeed, who was born in the region of Hael, and who adopted a Nasserist (or Nasserite) wave that imitated the iconic leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser. The opposition movement of Al-Saeed represented a Leftist (gauche), nationalist tendency coupled with a mature Islamic thought. On the margin of the opposition movement of Al-Saeed, other various opposition movements emerged (Leftist, communists, and nationalist) that reflected the dominant climate and culture of Abdel-Nasser's Egypt: Nasserism was an ideology that influenced the Arab, Islamic, and African spheres in the 1950s and 1960s. The opposition movements that followed the Nasserist ideology in the KSA ended when Nasserism was crushed in the 1967 war. Nasserism collapsed totally when the right-wing leader, Sadat, became president of Egypt, and he allied himself to the Salafist-Wahabi trend inside Egypt and the KSA. This caused a flourish of the Wahabi ideology all over the Islamic and Arab world. The revival of Wahabism, with a vengeance, in the KSA and the Arab world led later on to the terrorist step of Juhayman Al-Otaybi when he invaded the Kaaba Mosque in Mecca in the dawn of Tuesday, on 20th of Nov., 1979, on the first day of the Hijri year 1400. When such aggression ended by military forces, a wave of Wahabi opposition movement scholars and religious figures emerged and was influenced – somehow – by the culture of human rights, and this wave was represented by "the committee of the defense of sharia rights''.  


(B) An overview of the policies of Abdul-Aziz from 1932 to 1953:


  We give here more details and analysis of the policies of Abdul-Aziz from 1932 when he gave his kingdom the name of the KSA to his death in 1953. We have mentioned earlier the Austrian journalist who converted to Islam, Muhammad Al-Assad, the close friend of Abdul-Aziz, and how he was surprised because of the change that occurred to his friend, the king, after the Islamic world was waiting for Abdul-Aziz to realize the dream of forming an 'Islamic union' in the style of caliphate. It was transpired later on that Abdul-Aziz desired no more than to establish a kingdom within the territories ruled by his forefathers in Arabia at one point. We have mentioned earlier that Al-Assad noticed how Abdul-Aziz began to lead and affluent lifestyle of pomp and extravagance, along with his retinue and cortege, despite his earlier religiousness and simple life. Al-Assad felt the contradiction between the tyrannical rule of one despot who confiscated power and authority despite the veneer of democracy in the way Abdul-Aziz talked with Bedouins in his palace, allowing them to call him by his first name without titles. Such contradictions were noticed without commentary or explanation by Al-Assad; yet, he attributed them to the fact that Abdul-Aziz harbored inside his mind two mentalities or cultures, unlike the one culture and unilateral mentality of the Najd Brothers and the rulers around the KSA at the time, which was the Middle-Ages mindset to which they adhered steadfastly. Abdul-Aziz had one more culture: allowing free zone or room inside his mind for novelties and modernity and how to deal with the modern age and what it entailed. As per his policies as a founder of a state within the politics of the impossible in the time of the possible, he had to deal with many contradictions: Wahabism and modernization, the Najd Brothers and the British forces, and tyranny and democracy. He had to strike a balance between such contradictions to serve his own purposes and interests; thus, he realized what seemed beforehand as impossible: to found the KSA, to give it the name of his royal family, and to leave the rest to the passage of time as he exported the Wahabi ideology to Egypt and consequently Egypt was to carry it to the Islamic world. This raised the ambitions of some others to undertake the mission which Abdul-Aziz failed to perform: to establish one Salafist/Wahabi union that unites all Islamic and Arab countries with one spiritual reference in the KSA and its Wahabism. Abdul-Aziz felt at that point in time that after he struggled against the impossible for years, he must get some rest and enjoy his life after achieving all his ambitions as he was over 50 years old. The only thing left for him to do, and he did it, was to ally the KSA to a greater international power (i.e., the USA) and to consolidate the relations between the KSA and the greatest regional pole of power in the Middle East (i.e., Egypt) to protect the KSA from outside. His endeavors inside the KSA included modernization of systems and introducing new inventions. This means that his policies changed from ''the art of the possible in the time of the impossible'' into ''the art of the possible in the time of the possible'' within the period (1932-1953). The latter policies were later on adopted by Saud, his heir and successor, and the other successors to the Saudi throne. Thus, within the period 1932-1953, Abdul-Aziz applied the dominant culture in Arabia: politically, this means a despot who confiscated power, authority, and wealth and tyrannically ruled and owned the land and its people without anyone daring to question his decisions. This attitude was applied by Abdul-Aziz even before the conquest of Hejaz; he would say that God is the Eternal King and Abdul-Aziz himself the temporary king and sovereign over Arabia, as he derived legitimacy using his own sword. He was a king and people were the subjects he owned and controlled, just like a shepherd and his cattle: he can manipulate, invest, or slaughter them, as such were the traditions of all Middle-Ages sultans, caliphs, kings, and despots, in the East and in the West. Harmony existed between Abdul-Aziz and the dominant culture and mentality in Arabia after getting rid of the Najd Brothers and subjugating the Wahabi scholars and clergymen and keeping them under his control. Abdul-Aziz forgot, intentionally or not, all his promises about the Islamic Shura (consultation) and writing a constitution. Abdul-Aziz became a full-fledged despot in the full sense of the word, just like rulers around him at the time. His only addition was the man-made Wahabi ideology raising falsely the motto of Islamic sharia; Abdul-Aziz felt and said that he embodied this sharia. He was supported morally by the ruling system of caliphs in ancient times. He felt he had the right to imitate the caliphs in their confiscation of power, authority, and wealth, and to have religious scholars under his command to justify his steps and decisions. The art of politics of the possible in the time of the possible does not mean to dispute or collide with greater international powers; on the contrary, it means to cope and to ally oneself to them. This was applied by Abdul-Aziz within the period 1932-1953; as he replaced GB – without losing its friendship, of course – with the USA, when he saw that it is a rising power and that GB declined in power and in the international political scene. Perhaps John Philby was the engineer of that shift, despite his being British; as he was a model of practical, pragmatic politician whose loyalty was for his personal interests. He realized that his interests and that of the king were secure and safe when the KSA would ally itself to the USA, while keeping friendship with old GB. Thus, Abdul-Aziz made sure his KSA would be safe for a century to come, as luckily, oil will be the real life-blood of the artery of the Saudi-American relations. Oil is the keyword to understand and analyze the policies of Abdul-Aziz and his successors, the opposition movements inside the KSA along with their stances, attitudes, and future, and the circumstances and conditions of the Middle East. As the USA laid its hands on the oil of Arabia to control it before, during, and after World War II and within the Cold War and the New World Order, passing with the first and second Gulf wars, in order to understand the influence of oil on the KSA and the opposition movements inside it.      


(C) Oil: the fearful test by God:


  In the 1st century A.H., the 7th century A.D., the Bedouins and desert-Arabs of Najd went through a fearful test or ordeal, along with most Arabs in Arabia, especially the Qorayish tribe and the so-called companions of Prophet Muhammad, and this fearful test was that countless treasures of ancient empires fell into their hands after Arab conquests. Disputes over how such treasures of conquered lands ought to be distributed among Arabs led to the Arab civil wars and divisions among Muslims, divisions that still stand until now between Sunnites and Shiites and sub-creeds within these two generic terms. Among the last manifestations of such divisions is the ongoing dispute and conflict between Sunnite Wahabism and Shiites on one hand and Sunnite Wahabism and Sufis on the other hand. Wahabis founded the KSA on most of Arabia, and soon afterwards, the whole world was amazed that Al-Ahsa is situated over a huge treasure of oil that exceeds the treasures of Caesars, Tsars, and Persian emperors. Instead of disputes to occur between dwellers of Al-Ahsa and the Saudi royal family that thought of itself as the owner of Al-Ahsa by conquest, the descendants of Caesars, the Americans, got the oil in exchange for money and protection of the KSA by the White House. Hence, the fearful test of oil turned into the main question posed by the opposition movements: do the USA and the Saudi authorities under it and subservient to it have the right to gain these treasures of Muslim lands? Other queries raised by the post-Abdul-Aziz opposition movements were centered on other issues as well, as we will show in a coming chapter. The USA promised John Philby the salary of 1000 pounds per month in return for his intercession to the king, Abdul-Aziz, and a large reward if he would convince the king to allow the USA to confiscate purchase of Saudi oil. The USA resorted as well to Abdullah Suleiman, the financial consultant of Abdul-Aziz. GB tried to vie with the USA for Saudi oil, but they failed, and Sir Longer, the representative of the Anglo-Persian Company left at once, leaving the scene for the American company ''Standard Oil of California'', which got the concession of oil purchase within easy conditions, as per the royal decree no. 1135, published in the Umm Al-Qura Magazine, on 10th of July, 1932. The easy conditions included that the company would pay 50.000 pounds for the Saudi government once it starts to work and 100.000 pounds within two years, and the Saudi government would receive 4 shillings per ton of oil, on the condition that no taxes or fees would be imposed on the company by Saudi authorities. 14 months later, after the company made sure of this treasure that will produce oil for many years to come, the lands of the concession extended to cover over half of the KSA lands in May 1939. ''Standard Oil of California'' was joined by the Texas Company, and the Arab company, Aramco, managed every process. The area of lands as well as the period of the concession, 44 years renewable until 2003 A.D., and other easy conditions were criticized by analysts and researchers, as they were unjust to the Saudi side, especially that some considered that the Saudi government thus lost its political independence by being not able to impose any sort of taxes or fees (1). Yet, those analysts and researchers never understood the aim of Abdul-Aziz; he wanted the USA to undertake the protection of his kingdom to protect its interests even until 2003, amidst a changing world and possibly changing borders as World War II drew near. Thus, Abdul-Aziz succeeded whereas Al-Sharif Hussein failed miserably when he wagered on GB as his ally and he lost everything and made all Arabs suffer the consequences of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Abdul-Aziz succeeded as he discerned that he must rely on the rising power of the USA that must link its interests to his and would defend the KSA accordingly. Moreover, Abdul-Aziz in this way made sure his successors would be secure and enjoy the treasures and wealth and affluence because of oil without having to worry, unlike Arab kings and rulers who feared the consequences of World War II. This was the political climate of the Saudi oil concession given to an American company. Oil revenues led to complicated governmental hierarchies to be formed. Abdul-Aziz lived to see the kingdom's wealth rise to 10 million $ before World War II, 60 million $ in 1948, 160 million $ in 1952, and 250 million $ in 1953, the year in which he died. Oil revenues during his reign led to widened governmental services and the emergence of new social classes. Abdul-Aziz inculcated into his family members that the wealth of the KSA was their own money, as per Salafist viewpoint of things during caliphates that the caliph owned the lands and its people. Thus, the KSA was owned by Abdul-Aziz and his Al-Saud royal family, who were helped by others like the family of Al-Sheikh, tribal leaders, and technocrats. For instance, Abdullah Al-Suleiman was the Treasurer of Abdul-Aziz and became the Minister of Finance in 1932, and his sole mission was to satisfy all personal needs and requests of Abdul-Aziz; there was no barrier between the kingdom's finance and the pocket money of Abdul-Aziz until his death or the personal money of King Saud until 1959. Thus, Abdul-Aziz and his sons enjoyed the life of extravagance and affluence, discarding gradually all Wahabi extremism and asceticism. Luxurious living and debauchery became ordinary in the palaces of princes. In his old age, the wives and concubines of Abdul-Aziz were more than 300 women, and he begot 21 known princes within the period of 1900-1932. Chief among his sons were Turki, Saud, Feisal, Muhammad, Khaled, Nasser, Massoud, Fahd, Abdullah, Bandar, Sultan, Mashaael, Musaaed, Abdul-Mohsen, Mashary, Met'eb, Talal, Abdul-Rahman, and Turki the second. When Abdul-Aziz enjoyed oil revenues, as he was 52 years old, he begot Nuwaf and Nayef in 1933, Fawwaz, Majid, and Suleiman in 1936, Abdul-Elah in 1938, Ahmad in 1939, Sutam and Ahmad in 1940, Mamdouh, Mashhood, and Maslool in 1941, and finally Hammoud, Abdul-Majid, and Miqrin in 1942 (2), not to mention unknown princes and princesses. Hence myths and legends began to be yarned about the Saudi royal palaces where princesses and concubines resided within intrigues similar to the stories of One Thousand and One Nights. Within an era that shook the whole world with regional and international wars, revolts, coups, revolutions, and massacres, the Saudi royal family enjoyed luxurious life of affluence by giving the oil to the USA, provided it will ensure the security, stability, and continuity of the KSA. Yet, the Saudi kingdom kept its entity and identity, and Abdul-Aziz retained his charismatic character that relied on his personal history of struggle. His son and heir, Saud, tried to go on living in the lap of luxury as he used to during the reign of his father, but the political climate, conditions, and circumstances changed; an opposition movement emerged against him that caused his dethronement. Thus, the worst catastrophe of ''the art of politics of the possible in the time of the possible'' was being influenced by what others do and to imitate them: when Egypt's revolutionary leader President Abdel-Nasser emerged, the reverberations of his revolution must reach Arabia. Thus, we begin below writing about the opposition movement during the reign of King Saud Ibn Abdul-Aziz.                      




1- Ahmed (Rifaat Sayed), "The Desert Saint", pages 19:23.

2- Al-Yaseeni, "Religion and State in the KSA", pages 93:93, 101, 126, and 130:135.

The Wahabi Opposition Movements in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Twentieth Century
The Wahabi Opposition Movements in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Twentieth Century

Authored by: Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour
26th of June, 2001
Cairo, Egypt
Translated by: Ahmed Fathy


We publish here the complete book titled "The Wahabi Opposition Movements in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Twentieth Century", after writing it previously in a series of successive articles before on our website. We authored this book in 2001, and it is published here online after omitting an introductory chapter about Wahabism and its origins and roots; we have omitted this chapter because it repeats what we have written in hundreds of articles about Wahabism, Salafism, and the Sunnite Ibn Hanbal doctrine. We have decided to confine this book to the rest of this research, whose details are summarized in the new introduction, and we consider this research or book as adopting a neutral historical viewpoint of events. Parts of this book have been published before separate