By Anas Alyusuf
JEDDAH — It was a momentous speech that lit the first passion toward unity and the march of people, led by the King Abdul Aziz, toward a glorious future. King Abdul Aziz, according to intellectuals and historians, was one of the leaders who provided great services to their nations with their tremendous and tireless efforts, and they influenced the development and progress of human societies.
The backstory of this story provides inspiration to sustain this developmental march, which the Saudi leadership is carrying out systematically.
This research is an attempt to clarify the facts through examining the available documents under the lens of research and excavation so as to have a detailed documentation of the history of modern Saudi Arabia, which culminated in the “Declaration of the unification of the country and renaming it the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The epitome of this was contained in an interview of King Abdul Aziz, founder of modern Saudi Arabia, with the “Voice of Hejaz” newspaper. Muhammad Saleh Nassif, director of the newspaper, held a unique talk with the king and published it under the title: “Momentous talk of his majesty the beloved king” in the newspaper’s issue no. 23 dated Monday 11 Jamad Al-Awwal 1351 AH, corresponding to Sept. 12, 1932, during which the king spoke about a number of key topics and that was held a few days before the declaration of the unification of the country.
What King Abdul Aziz stated included the following:
“The most important thing that I am striving for is to ensure security in all parts of my country, including urban and rural regions, and even in the desolate desert areas…”
In another context, the King said: “My first duty is to ensure the march of my country and its people along the path of the righteous ancestors, in terms of delivering everyone the rights that he is entitled to, and facilitate people in different social strata to live in prosperity and security as well as to strive to develop the country’s infrastructure facilities and organize the systems necessary for its management.”
While reaffirming the resolve to go ahead along this path, the King concluded his talks by saying: “If you are called to a matter in which there is glory of the Arabs, and the welfare and unity of the Arabs are intended, hence such an invitation is purely for the sake of God. I will be, as is my custom, one among the members of the Arab Ummah, and I will offer every possible aid in this regard.”
Story of Kingdom’s unification declaration
Ten days later (after the interview), specifically at nine o’clock in the morning on Thursday, Sept. 23, 1932, Prince Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz, the viceroy of Hejaz, announced the official birth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by reciting Royal Decree No. 2716 issued on Jamad Al-Awwal 17, 1351 AH corresponding to Sept. 18, 1932.
The declaration was made from the government house in the Hamidiya Palace in the Ajyad district of Makkah. The announcement included King Abdul Aziz’s approval to change the name “Kingdom of Hejaz, Najd and its annexes” to “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Artillery fired 101 rounds to salute that glorious day.
Prince Faisal had arrived in Makkah on the evening of the previous day, Wednesday, from Taif. After dawn, Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al-Fadl, assistant to the viceroy of Hejaz, vice president of the Shoura Council and vice president of the Council of Deputies (Majlis Al-Wukala), and Fuad Hamza, advisor to the King and deputy minister of foreign affairs, also arrived.
Fuad Hamza narrated in his memoirs that was published by King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah): “On Wednesday, Jamad Al Awwal 20, 1351 AH, corresponding to Sept. 22, 1932 AD, the King’s approval came in response to our telegrams regarding the arrangements for the declaration of the unification of the Kingdom.
“In another telegram, the King informed about those who sent telegrams, thanking him for that and agreeing to the idea. I produced a copy of the order to be published. There were also instructions for the princes in the annexes of the statement regarding the work required to be undertaken by them.
“I wrote a note to Tawfiq Hamza, head of the Publications Registry, and sent it to the representatives (ambassadors of foreign countries). It was decided to go to Makkah to make the official declaration at the holy city.”
What’s behind the declaration?
These may be some of the titles of the story of declaring the unification of the country and renaming it the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose 92nd anniversary is being celebrated these days, but there are many details that deserve to be researched, documented, studied and analyzed in depth.
It is remarkable that this topic is usually dealt with in a general way without going into depth or detail or even questioning or researching the surrounding backgrounds and circumstances. Even in the context of major topics of research and other studies, I have so far not seen any study that dealt with this topic in a comprehensive and independent manner. Also, some of the heroes of this story and the makers of its events have so far not been documented. Moreover, the sources about some of them are scarce.
The purpose of this introduction is to highlight the important aspects of this story and its background by tracing the historical sources. Referring to the official Umm Al-Qura gazette, we find that it was published in Issue No. 406 dated Friday 22 Jamad Al-Awwal 1351 AH, corresponding to Sept. 23, 1932, a detailed news prominently on the front page, under the title “Transforming the name of the Kingdom of Hejaz, Najd and its annexes to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Its content was that a group of prominent figures held several meetings at Abdullah Al-Fadl’s house in Taif, and they agreed in unison to submit a petition to King Abdul Aziz asking for his approval on:
1- Convert the name of the country to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
2- Enacting a Law of Governance and Law of Succession.
They circulated this idea in all the cities of the Kingdom of Hejaz to mobilize popular support for it, and subsequently hundreds of telegrams streamed in, in support of the proposal, and King Abdul Aziz issued approval for the same.
In my assessment, it is necessary to look first at the historical backgrounds, surrounding circumstances, incidents and events that preceded and coincided with this declaration locally, regionally and internationally.
Moreover, there is also a need to carefully consider King Abdul Aziz’s dealing with the legal and constitutional aspects since his entry into Hejaz, and the integrated organizational developments that led to the stability of the ruling system in the Kingdoms of Hejaz and Najd that paved the way for declaring the unification of the country, in accordance with the following sequence:
1- The election of the National Shoura Council 1 headed by Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Shaibi, and that was in the middle of the year 1343 AH — 1924.
2- The election of the National Shoura Council 2 headed by Muhammad Al-Marzouqi, and that was in the beginning of the year 1344 AH — 1925.
3- The establishment of the Judicial Presidency in the beginning of the year 1344 AH — 1925.
4- The appointment of Prince Faisal as Viceroy of Hejaz and the formation of an Advisory Council to assist him, and that was in the middle of the year 1344 AH — 1926.
5- The election of the Consultative Constituent Authority headed by Sheikh Abdul Qader Al-Shaibi, in the middle of the year 1344 AH — 1926, and it served as the “Constitution Drafting Committee.”
6- The formation of the Consultative Shoura Council, headed by Sharaf Adnan, and that was at the end of the year 1344 AH — 1926.
7- The issuance of the Basic Instructions for the Kingdom of Hejaz in the beginning of the year 1345 AH — 1926, which was regarded as the constitutional basis and the beginning of the administrative, political, and organizational integration of the state.
8- Formation of the General Consultative Council headed by the Viceroy of Hejaz, and that was in the beginning of the year 1345 AH — 1926.
9- Formation of the Inspection and Reform Committee in the beginning of the year 1346 AH — 1927, and its outputs are considered as the first program of administrative reform.
10- Issuance of the Shoura Council Law and its reconstitution headed by the Attorney General, and that was in the beginning of the year 1346 AH — 1927.
11- Continuing the process of reorganizing government agencies and structures through the establishment of committees and bodies with specific tasks; the establishment of a number of directorates and ministries; the issuance of dozens of regulations and legislation that established the regular and legal construction of government work, and the completion of the establishment of the three authorities — judicial, organizational and executive.
12- Establishment of the Council of Deputies in the middle of 1350 AH — 1931.
All this led to the declaration of the unification of the country and renaming it the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1351 AH — 1932. It can be said that it was a pivotal matter in the meticulously planned building of the state. The signatories of the document or the idea that Fuad Hamza described as “the system” chose it with utmost carefulness and diligence.
Key figures behind the declaration
I find it important to accurately identify those who signed the “proposed system” especially when taking into account the fact that the Umm Al-Qura gazette published the names of some of them only and a few of these names were similar to the names of other personalities, such as Abdullah Al-Fadl for example. All of them were among the leading political, ministerial, consultative, administrative and economic figures during that period.
But what is remarkable was the level of their education and the diversity of their backgrounds and specializations in the vast realms of the Islamic Shariah, administration, law, commerce, regulations and constitutions, finance, economics, education, security, politics and international relations, journalism, media and so on.
I was keen to follow their profile, and document aspects of their brilliant career and the noble positions they held. This explains the reasons for their selection to take on this task and the quality of experiences that each of them acquired.
These renowned figures include the following:
1- Fuad Hamza: He is Professor Fuad (Bey) Bin Amin Bin Ali Hamza. He was educated in Lebanon and obtained a certificate from the Dar Al-Muallimeen and then joined the American University of Beirut. He worked as a teacher and then obtained a degree in law.
Fuad was fluent in both English and French. He joined the service of King Abdul Aziz after the annexation of Hejaz, and assumed a number of positions, including Assistant Director of Foreign Affairs, member of the Inspection and Reform Committee, the Committee for the Enactment of Rules and Regulations, and the Executive Committee to Assist the Public Prosecutor. He also worked as an advisor in the Political Division of the Royal Court.
Fuad served as the first deputy minister of foreign affairs after its establishment, and a member of the Council of Deputies. He was appointed Minister Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (Ambassador) to France and then to Turkey. He was then appointed Minister of State for Construction and Urban Works and Investment Companies at the Ministry of Finance. He held the role of head and member of a number of delegations and committees and was assigned with a number of tasks.
2- Saleh Shata: Saleh Bin Abu Bakr Bin Muhammad Shata. He received his education from prominent scholars from his family and among the scholars of Hejaz, and he obtained a license to teach at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. He was the first person to take over the Directorate of Education after its formation during the Saudi era. He was assigned the position of assistant to the Viceroy of Hejaz, and was elected as a member of the Consultative Constituent Assembly.
He was also appointed as a member of the Inspection and Reform Committee; member of the Shoura Council; then member of the Council of Deputies, and became Vice President of the Shoura Council.
3- Abdullah Al-Shaibi: Sheikh Abdullah Bin Abdul-Qadir Bin Ali Al-Shaibi, the second senior keeper of the Holy Kaaba in the Saudi era. He received his education at the Grand Mosque at the hands of the scholars of his time. He took over the presidency of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and was appointed member of the General Shoura Council. He took over the presidency of the Association for the Claim of Endowments of the Two Holy Mosques, and the presidency of the Medical Ambulance Authority. He was appointed member of the Shoura Council and became the second vice president of the Shoura.
4- Muhammad Sharaf Rida: Muhammad Sharaf Bin Rida Bin Mansour Al Yahya. He received his education from private professors as well as from a number of scholars at the Grand Mosque. He served in a number of jobs and businesses during the Hashemite era.
Rida was the first to take over the management of public finance, which later became the Ministry of Finance after the entry of King Abdul Aziz in Hejaz. He was appointed member of the General Consultative Council, then a member of the Shoura Council, and became the second deputy head of the Shoura Council, an advisor to the King, and then appointed as member of the Council of Deputies.
5- Abdul Wahab: Abdul Wahab Bin Ahmad Bin Abdul Wahab. He was educated by the scholars of his time and started teaching at the Grand Mosque. He moved to Turkey and studied law and was fluent in the Turkish language. He returned to Hejaz after it was annexed to Saudi rule, and was commissioned by King Abdul Aziz to organize financial matters in Asir.
Abdul Wahab was elected president of the first municipal council in Makkah during the Saudi era, and he headed the municipal department in Makkah. An order was issued appointing him as a member of the Shoura Council, and then he assumed the management of endowments in Makkah.
6- Ibrahim Al-Fadl: Sheikh Ibrahim Bin Abdul Rahman Bin Abdullah Al-Fadl. He received his education from the Unaizah schools as well as from a number of scholars of his time and then continued his education in India. He was fluent in English and Urdu and worked for Al-Fadl Agency (Agents of King Abdul Aziz) in India.
He returned to Hejaz and worked in the Finance Agency, and then held a number of positions, including the second assistant to the Viceroy of Hejaz, head of the Viceroy’s office and the presidency of the Council of Deputies, member of the Council of Deputies and the Shoura Council, in addition to being member of a number of committees. He had also been assigned with a number of inspection tasks.
7- Muhammad Abdul Qadir Mughairabi: Sheikh Muhammad Bin Abdul Qadir Mughairabi Fatih. He received bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the American University of Istanbul and a fellowship in international law and politics from the University of Lausanne. He was fluent in English, Turkish, Italian, German and French. He worked as advisor to the emir of Hail, Saud Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rasheed, and moved to a number of countries due to the unstable political situation in Hejaz.
King Abdul Aziz summoned him after the annexation of Hejaz. He participated in the organization of the Islamic Conference and was chosen as a member of the delegation representing King Abdul Aziz in the conference. He was appointed member of the Shoura Council.
He was also assigned a number of tasks and participated in the membership of many councils and committees, such as the Education Council, the Committee for the Claim of Endowments of the Two Holy Mosques, and the Monetary Authority.
8- Rasheed Al-Nasser: Sheikh Rashid (Basha) Bin Nasser Bin Rashid Bin Laila. He was educated from the Hail schools and then at the hands of a number of scholars of his time. He was fluent in the Turkish language. He held a number of positions and was assigned missions during the reign of the Al-Rashid emirate in Hail and was appointed as their agent in Istanbul.
King Abdul Aziz delegated him and assigned him a number of tasks. He participated in the National Conference, and was appointed as a member of the Shoura Council. Then an order was issued to appoint him as Consul General and Chargé d’ Affairs to Iraq, then appointed Consul General and authorized agent of King Abdul Aziz in Syria.
9- Ahmed Banaja: Sheikh Ahmed (Afandi) Bin Abdul Rahman Bin Yusuf Banaja. He received his education from Al-Rashdiya School in Jeddah and continued his education from the scholars of his time. He spoke both Turkish and English fluently. He worked as the secretary of the Municipal Fund in Makkah and took over the Ministry of Finance during the Hashemite era.
Banaja had a major role in establishing the mint in Makkah and supervised its work. He enjoyed the patronage of King Abdul Aziz and remained close to official circles. However, the sources did not indicate whether he held any government position during the Saudi era, except for his membership in some committees related to commercial and economic matters.
10- Abdullah Al-Fadl: Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Salih Al-Fadl. He studied at Unaizah schools and then moved to India and continued his education there and worked in the Al-Fadl Agency. His political insights came to limelight while he was in Bombay, where British influence prevailed at the time. He became proficient in English and Urdu languages.
Al-Fadl joined early in the service of King Abdul Aziz and became his agent in Aden. He was assigned a number of tasks, and headed a number of delegations and committees, besides being appointed as a member of the Permanent Committee at the Royal Court. He is considered as one of the most prominent assistants to Prince Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz, as he held the position of Assistant to the Viceroy of Hejaz, First Vice President of the Shoura Council, and Deputy Chairman of the Council of Deputies.
11- Khaled Al-Qarqani: Sheikh Khalid (Abul Waleed) Bin Ahmed Bin Ayyad Al-Houd Al-Qarqani, who belongs to the Tunisian island of Kerkennah. King Abdul Aziz called him Abu Al-Wali.
He was educated in Tripoli and graduated from the Rasheediya School. He was fluent in French, Italian and Turkish languages. He participated in anti-colonial struggle and then came to Hejaz and engaged in trade.
Al-Qarqani joined the service of King Abdul Aziz, and was appointed first assistant to the Viceroy of Hejaz. He was also appointed as an advisor to the Royal Court, headed several delegations and was assigned a number of inspection tasks. He was a special envoy of King Abdul Aziz to Germany and met the German leader Hitler.
12- Muhammad Sharaf Adnan: Muhammad Sharaf (Basha) Bin Ahmed Adnan Bin Abdul Muttalib Al Ghalib. He received elementary education from a number of private teachers, and then continued to gain knowledge at the hands of the scholars of his time. He left Hejaz and continued his education in Egypt and Turkey. According to sources, he mastered several languages.
Adnan returned as soon as King Abdul Aziz entered Makkah, and was assigned a number of positions such as Advisor to the Viceroy of Hejaz, member of the National Shoura Council and the General Consultative Council, which was formed under the chairmanship of the Viceroy of Hejaz. He was also appointed member of the Inspection and Reform Committee. He chaired the sessions of the Shoura Council on behalf of the Viceroy of Hejaz.
13- Hamed Ruwaihi: Sheikh Hamed Bin Ahmed Amin Ruwaihi. He was educated in Jeddah, and engaged in a number of jobs until he became a notary in Jeddah. Then an order was issued appointing him as head of the Court of the Viceroy of Hejaz. He assumed a number of responsibilities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior and was assigned to carry out a number of tasks.
When the royal order was issued to form the Research and Audit Committee, headed by the Viceroy of Hejaz, to look into the affairs of government departments and to scrutinize performances, Ruwaihi was appointed a member. He was also appointed member of the Promotion and Disciplinary Committee.
14- Hussein Basalama: Sheikh Hussein Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad Basalama. He received his elementary education from Makkah and then joined the Rashidiya School in Taif and continued his education at the hands of the scholars of his time in Makkah and Taif. He pursued higher studies in Syria and Egypt.
Basalama worked first as a teacher and then as secretary to the Senate during the Hashemite era. He is one of the most eminent scholars, writers and historians. He assumed administrative responsibilities and official duties after the entry of King Abdul Aziz to Hejaz.
He was elected member of the Consultative Constituent Assembly, and then member of the General Shoura Council. He was also chosen for the membership in the Hajj Council, the Education Council, the Committee for Endowment Claims of the Two Holy Mosques, and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue. He was also appointed a member of the Shoura Council.
15- Muhammad Saleh Naseef: Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Bin Hassan Naseef. He received his education from the Jeddah schools and continued his self-education with a number of scholars of his time. He is considered as one of the notables of Jeddah and a prominent figure of the Naseef family, one of the oldest families in Jeddah that was concerned with spreading forensic science.
Naseef is one of the pioneers of journalism and printing, and he founded the newspaper Hejaz Post (Bareed Al-Hejaz), and then Voice of Hejaz (Sawt Al-Hejaz), in addition to the Salafi Library and Printing Press in Makkah. He assumed the presidency of the Jeddah municipality and participated in the establishment of the Hashemite Central Bank.
During the Saudi era, he held the presidency of the Jeddah endowments and was appointed director of Al-Ahsa Finance and director of Finance and Customs of Jazan. He also served as a member of the Shoura Council.
16- Abdul Wahab Attar: Sheikh Abdul Wahab Bin Ahmad Bin Abdul Wahab Attar. He was a student at Makkah elementary schools and continued receiving his education from a number of scholars of the Grand Mosque. He held a number of posts during the Hashemite era such as president of the Real Estate Council, member of the Senate and the Beneficial Council. He is considered as one of the notables and merchants of Makkah. He left Hejaz due to political circumstances and returned after the entry of King Abdul Aziz.
Attar became a member of the General Shoura Council and then the Shoura Council, in addition to his membership in a number of associations and committees such as the Medical Ambulance Society, the Association for Endowment Claims of the Two Holy Mosques, and the Rental Committee.
17- Mahdi Al-Qal’ali: Professor Mahdi (Bey) Bin Qadri Bin Saleh Al-Qal’ali. He hailed from the historic fortress of Aleppo. King Abdul Aziz called him the reformer, so he was known as ‘Mahdi Bey, the reformer.’ He received education from Iraq and then joined the Ottoman army. He was sent to Madinah and was involved in police work during the Hashemite era.
Al-Qal’ali was assigned to supervise the police department in Madinah after he joined the Saudi government and then he was transferred to Makkah. An order was issued to establish the General Police Directorate and appoint Mahdi Bey as its director, which turned into the Public Security Directorate.
During his reign, the Police School in Makkah titled ‘King Fahd Security College’ was established, in addition to the establishment of schools for orphans and the poor, and homes for the elderly.
From the aforementioned descriptions, it is clear that these people are sagacious “statesmen” of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Their meetings took place officially in the house of Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al-Fadl, the chief aide to the Viceroy of Hejaz and deputy head of the Council of Deputies.
The location of his home was in the Salama neighborhood in Taif, specifically in the area between Al-Salama Roundabout and Al-Kateb Palace, to the right of the road leading to the Qarwa district.
These notables had signed an official document on the ‘proposed system’ that was submitted to King Abdul Aziz, and mobilized popular support for him, due to the King’s interest in popular participation, and the evidence for that is numerous.
As for the telegrams circulating from the people of certain cities, individuals or even other officials, they are in fact telegrams in support of that ‘proposed system’ and that was evident from their texts.