About 50 years ago, in 1926, when my mother, grandmother, and father had gone for a pilgrimage to the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina, they tredded on camelback in July Sun, reaching Madina, about 475 kilometers from Makkah in more than a fortnight. Today, this distance is covered in 3% to 5 hours by a first-class car, running at a speed of 120 K. M. per hour on a first-class metalled road.
Saudi Arabia is totally a changed country today. Its rise has been meteoric and its transformation so wonderful as if accomplished through the legendary Aladin’s Lamp of the famous Arabian Nights.
The factors responsible for this dramatic change have been the discovery of an enormous quantity of fluid gold beneath its arid surface which has made Saudi Arabia the greatest oil exporter in the world and the wise statesmanship of its dynamic and beloved ruler, Faisal bin Abd al-Aziz who united the oil-producing Middle East countries as never before and used this as a weapon against the Western Oil Exploiters.
Malik Faisal, born in 1906, was the third and the most talented, dynamic, and virtuous son of King Abd al-Aziz, Founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Aziz, better known as Ibn Saud, had gradually regained the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in rolling battles that involved shifting tribal loyalties and finally British intrigue. He had roared out of Kuwait in 1902 accompanied by a handful of compatriots to capture Riyadh.
His favorite son, Malik Faisal, though not his Crown Prince, later served as the Commander-in-Chief of Saudi Forces and was greatly responsible for the capture of Makkah in 1925 and defeat of Yeman in 1934. Later, he was appointed the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom and his wise Foreign Policy was greatly instrumental in winning the friendship and recognition of progressive nations of the world.
On the death of his father, King Abd al-Aziz in 1953, the Crown Prince Saud ascended the throne of Saudi Arabia and Faisal became his Prime Minister. As against Faisal, Saud led an extremely luxurious and extravagant life. He had dozens of wives and more than 100 children. His extravagance had made Saudi Arabia, virtually a bankrupt state. Fortunately, he abdicated in favour of Faisal in 1964 due to ill health. Thus Faisal started with deficit finance.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies, under the able leadership of King Faisal, realised the importance of oil in the modern world, whose major profit was gulped by the Western Oil Companies. The OPEC, therefore, raised the price of oil from $1 per barrel in 1944 to $10 by the end of 1974. “This”, according to Time Magazine, “resulted in the greatest and swiftest transfer of wealth in all history; the 13 OPEC countries earned $112 Billion from the rest of the world last year (1974). This sudden shift of money shook the whole fragile structure of the international financial system, severely weakened the already troubled economies of the oil-importing nations and gave new political strength to the exporters. ….The new financial giant of the world, Saudi Arabia, in 1974 stood to accumulate a surplus of about $23 billion a potentially unsettling force in the Global finance”.
On the termination of the Arab-Israel War in 1973, when the Arab oil exporters, under the inspiring leadership of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia decided to enforce oil embargo against the advanced oil-importing countries, which had economic, financial and political relations with Israel, it looked doubtful if such an embargo would be effective and last long. The oil-importing countries of the West and Japan led by the U.S.A., tried to forge a united stand against the Arab oil exporters and attempted to divide the Arabs, but they miserably failed in this respect. The wise statesmanship of King Faisal, the greatest and most sagacious Muslim ruler of the present century, united the OPEC countries as never before, which resulted in the division in the ranks of the oil-importing countries, culminating in the formation of a very liberal policy towards the Arabs and hardening of their attitude towards Israel by three major industrial powers, namely Japan, France and West Germany. As opposed to the U.S.A., they lined up behind the Arabs in condemnation of Israel, asking for her total withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories. In this way, the Western countries led by the U.S.A. which had tried to divide the Arabs ultimately faced a division in their own ranks. This unexpected development which alarmed the U.S.A. resulted in paralysing the economy of the advanced countries and shifting the monetary balance in favour of the Arab oil exporters, especially Saudi Arabia. The emergence of Saudi Arabia under King Faisal, as the political as well as the spiritual leader of the Arab world, nay of the entire Muslim world, was a blessing to the Third World in general and Muslims in particular. Sincere and austere, unassuming and farsighted, courageous and virtuous, Faisal who was much respected by friends and foes alike throughout the world played a dominant role in international politics. His courageous and unbending stand against Israel emboldened the Arab world to stake their all for the liberation of the Holy City of Jerusalem from the hands of Israel and lined up the Third World behind the Arab demand for the evacuation of occupied Arab territories by Israel. The show of hands in favour of the Arab demand in the United Nations General Assembly during 1974 had alarmed the U.S.A., the principal supporter of Israel in the world today. The General Assembly Session had voted with an overwhelming majority for recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as a party to the Palestine Dispute.
Saudi Arabia, a sparsely populated country is the greatest seller of oil in the world today. Ruled by Faisal, a “dour, ascetic and shrewd man”, according to Time Magazine, he had been mainly responsible for raising the oil prices in the world, much to the benefit of the oil-producing countries. He nationalized ARAMCO, the US oil-producing company in Saudi Arabia, thus bringing to an end an era in which the Western oil companies dominated and exploited the oil resources of Persian Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, leaving only a nominal benefit to the oil-producing countries of the Middle East.
King Faisal was not only the richest of the OPEC leaders, he was one of the most respected persons in the world, and being the Custodian of the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina, he was the spiritual leader of the world’s 600 million Muslims. He had warned the U.S.A. that peace could not be established in the Middle East without the liberation of Jerusalem from Israel and unless he could pray freely in the Aqsa Mosque, without setting his foot on the Jewish territory. According to the ex-US-Secretary of the State, Mr. Henry Kissinger, “The King is a sort of moral conscience for many Arab leaders. By having great religious stature, he can act as a King of the pure representative of Arab nationalism. He has been able to maneuver Saudi Arabia from being a conservative state into a political bellwether”.
The West had under-estimated the power and sagacity of King Faisal, who united the oil-producing countries to teach a lesson to the friends of Israel. This enormously added to the prosperity and prestige of the Arab countries and paralyzed the Western economy. This new success gave new pride and political power to the Arabs and brought King Faisal widespread respect in the Arab World. His emphasis on the unity of the Islamic world instead of the narrow Arab nationalism earlier preached by late President Nasser of Egypt endeared him to the Muslims throughout the world. He was reorganized as the greatest Champion of the Muslim’s cause in the world. His heart bled on the miseries and misfortunes of Muslims and his eyes glittered with joy on their success in any part of the world. He was rightly acclaimed by the Muslims all over the world as their greatest spiritual and political leader.
Malik Faisal was a true Muslim. Like the Pious Caliphs of early Islam, he believed in simplicity, piety and service to mankind. He never compromised on principles and his life was free from all sorts of human weaknesses. He was a quiet sort of person. Once questioned that he seldom spoke even in the meetings of Arab Heads of States, Faisal replied: “God has given us two ears and one tongue, meaning that we should listen twice as much as we talk”. Although the richest ruler of his time, he disliked gorgeous dress, pomp and show, ate coarse food, neither drank nor smoked. He disliked obeisance which, according to him, was meant for Almighty God. His personal life was more simple than that of most of his subjects. He usually shared the seat with his driver while going out in his old car, when many of the Princes in Riyadh drive in gold plated Cadillacs. He disliked opulence. Succeeding King Saud, he declared that his brother’s Alhamra Palace in Jeddah was “100 ornate for me”, and decreed it to be used for visiting foreign dignitaries. He disliked kissing of hand and preferred to be addressed as Malik Faisal or Brother Faisal, instead of Your Mąjesty or Jalalat-ul-Malik, which he said were attributes meant for God only.
Faisal, according to the celebrated Maulana Maududi, had been the most versatile, virtuous, and universally respected Muslim Ruler since the time of Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi. He was greatly responsible for modernizing and industrializing his Kingdom in a short period of 11 years of his regime. He established a network of good roads, magnificent buildings, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, hospitals, and modern factories; enlarged and renovated the Holy Shrines at Makkah and Madina; popularised female education and abolished slavery in his State which unfortunately have enormously increased in many of our advanced and developing countries today.
This benevolent, virtuous and sagacious Muslim Ruler was, alas assassinated on March 26, 1975, by one of his nephews. The entire Muslim world was stunned with grief on the assassination of the greatest Muslin leader of his time and the world mourned the loss of such a noble and farsighted ruler.