(SAUDI ARABIA - III) Leaders of the Ummah, for the UmmahDr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (March 30, 2018)

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Uploaded on March 30, 2018

Leaders of the Ummah, for the Ummah

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam

When King Salman bin Abdul Aziz ascended to the Saudi throne on the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz the kingdom was at the cusp of great wave of far-reaching changes. A constant fall in oil revenues, expanding population, slow-down in the expansion and renovation of infrastructure and need for a fast pace of job creation had to be quickly looked into. The new administration took due note of it. The monarchy already had a blueprint for addressing some of these issues. The new order had just to improve it and quicken its implementation, besides creating newer plans and projects for an all-round security and growth and for the country to keep on playing its role on the international stage as the undisputed leader of the Muslim world.

It is in its last-mentioned role as the leader of the Muslim world that it has often been unsuccessfully challenged by ambitious Muslim leaders over the decades. In the 60s and 70s, it was the Arab socialist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, who constantly tried to undermine the then Saudi King, Faisal bin Abdul Aziz.

Arab socialism and Arab nationalism were popular slogans in those days, and Nasser was seen by many Arabs as a great emancipator after the Egyptian “victory” at Suez in a combined attack by Britain, France and Israel in 1955. However, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had become the US president, firmly ordered the three aggressors to retreat immediately, and they complied with the US orders. This made the Arab world feel that Nasser had “defeated” the combined forces of the British, French and Israelis. He was declared the hero of the Arab world. That it was not the case became evident in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

However, that short-lived glory spread Nasserism in the Middle East and North Africa like a wildfire. Nasser’s attempts to replace the Saudi royalty by diplomacy or force failed miserably and the Saudis remained the top favourites and leaders of the entire Ummah. After all, Islam arose from that holy land (holy even for Egyptians), not from Egypt. Makka al-Mukarramah and Madina al-Munnawarah were in Saudi Arabia, not Libya or Jordan.

The Saudi monarchy has always stood by Islam and the Muslim Ummah. When the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was trying to convince Arabs about settling European Jews in Palestine and eventually create a Jewish state there, he met the most influential Arab leader of the time, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. Palestine was under British mandate then and Britain was virtually free to do what it wanted there. Already, Britain had declared the intent to create a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine way back in 1917 under the Balfour Declaration.

King Abdul Aziz, who was treated with respect by Churchill and US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, told Churchill in plain words that planting Europeans in the midst of Arabs in the name of creating a Jewish state would destabilise the cultural, political and ethnic ecology of the Middle East and create great strife. This is what he told Roosevelt also. Similar fears were expressed by the French Prime Minister. The Arabs and Muslim Ummah must feel grateful to the king for the courageous gesture.

After the creation of Israel with European (including communist Russian), American and UN support, without Arab consent, a long period of Arab-Israel strife began. Amid all the violence and counter-violence the Saudi monarchy stood with Palestinians, but exercised restraint, as any responsible state would do. However, after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war the Saudis protested most strongly against the Western-backed Israeli aggression.

For the first-time an effective boycott of all Western companies backing Israeli action was launched by the Saudis. It ultimately led to the unprecedented and most courageous response ever by Arabs, the Saudi oil embargo on Western backers of Israel, including the United States.

The US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Riyadh to meet King Faisal and requested him to lift the embargo. The king told him in plain language, “Henry, we will lift the embargo the day restriction on entry to Haram (in Jerusalem) is lifted and I can freely offer my prayers at al-Aqsa”.

Saudi Arabia has always stood up for the cause of the Ummah. The Saudis have so far accommodated hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims on a semi-permanent basis and provided them with jobs that give them enough money to live in Saudi cities, yet send a good amount of money back home.

The Saudi monarchy sends thousands of tones of frozen meat to countries like Bangladesh, Sudan and Somalia, whose people are in great need of good protein food. The monarchy also sends tonnes of high-quality dates to such countries, all for free. Saudi Arabia has been on forefront, along with some other Muslim countries, to provide relief and rehabilitation to Muslims in distress worldwide.

(To be continued)

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