Arts & Culture

Intellectuals around the founder who contributed to Saudi’s identity

The epic unification of Saudi Arabia at the hands of King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud began with Riyadh’s restoration in 1902. This led to one of the most significant national unions in modern history.


The elite in the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, Egypt, and the Maghreb paid attention to the king’s national, unitary project. Many Arab intellectuals yearned for its success as a symbol for all Arabs and Muslims. Those were challenging times, though, during which most Arab and Islamic countries suffered under colonialism. Arab intellectuals contacted King Abdulaziz and joined his plans. This made him the only Arab ruler surrounded by educated advisors from most Arab countries. Leaders MENA magazine invites its readers to learn more about major figures.


Prince Abdullah bin Abdulrahman Al-Faisal Al Saud (1893 – 1977)


He is King Abdulaziz’s brother. Born in Kuwait, Prince Abdullah was a brilliant child. His father, Imam Abdulrahman Al-Faisal, hired Qur’an, Jurisprudence, and Hadith tutors to teach the boy. The boy had a scientific upbringing and became the most influential advisor to the king at the age of 25.


He is considered a reference in Saudi history, genealogy, and tribal news. He is the owner of the largest and most significant private library of his time, containing anecdotes from manuscripts and publications. His council was a cultural salon for scholars, writers, poets, and thinkers from Saudi Arabia and outside.


Prince Abdullah is also one of the most critical Saudi figures because of his essential role in building the nation in the military, political, and cultural fields. He was the scholar of the Saud House and their jurist. He was one of the closest advisors to King Abdulaziz, who consulted and inform him of state matters. He was a prominent member of the Political Division of the Royal Court and Chief of Advisors. Until the king died, he remained close to his brother.



Prince Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Thunayan Al Saud (1889 – 1923)


He was born, raised, and educated in Istanbul and came to Riyadh in 1911, joining King Abdulaziz. As a result of his education, culture, and knowledge, he gained the founder’s trust. He became one of his first advisors in foreign political affairs and correspondence, distinguishing himself with his fluency in Arabic, Turkish, French, German, and English.


He participated in military campaigns led by King Abdulaziz to unify the country. He also undertook foreign political tasks, including a political delegation to Iraq in early 1912. After the annexation of Al-Ahsa, he led Saudi forces to remove the Ottoman garrison (numbering 1200 soldiers).


One of the most prestigious achievements of Prince Ahmed Al-Thunayan was his success in negotiations with Britain to sign the Dareen Treaty (1915), and when King Abdulaziz sent his son Prince Faisal, 13 years old, to Europe on his behalf in 1919. The King of Britain, George V, received the Saudi delegation at Buckingham Palace, and Prince Ahmed Al-Thunayan was a prominent member.


Hashem bin Ahmed Al-Rifai (1885 – 1950)


A Kuwaiti writer of Iraqi origins, his family’s lineage traces back to Messrs Hussainiya (Al-Ashraf). Hashem bin Ahmed Al-Rifai studied with King Abdulaziz in Kuwait when they were young, then continued his studies in Baghdad and returned to his birth country.


About two decades after his return, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Nafisi, King Abdulaziz’s deputy in Kuwait, lured him to work as a writer in King Abdulaziz’s Court at the end of 1921. Hashem Al-Rifai was one of the few educated people who joined King Abdulaziz’s service during that period. King Abdulaziz assigned him to missions in Najd and the Gulf that required a special understanding of financial, political, and legal matters. Al-Rifai served His Majesty until mid-1925.


Hafiz Wahba (1889 – 1967)


The Egyptian Wahba studied for a period at the Al-Azhar School of Islamic Law without completing his studies. Then he worked in the National Party press in Cairo and traveled to India, where he was persecuted by the British. He met merchants on the Arabian Peninsula and traveled to Kuwait in 1915.


There, his relationship with the sheikhs strengthened, and Wahba met King Abdulaziz during his visit to the country. After, he met Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Qosaibi (King Abdulaziz’s agent in Bahrain) and suggested writing a letter to the king in 1924, politely presenting his desire to work for him. King Abdulaziz was impressed with his handwriting, style, and formulation, so he invited him to Riyadh.


The Egyptian man gained the monarch’s trust, who appointed him as his Foreign Affairs Advisor. He quickly rose to several positions, including Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom in 1930. In London, he was the director of the Islamic Cultural Center and the Centre of the Islamic Mosque. Wahba died in Rome in 1967.


Youssef Yassin (1896 – 1962)


Youssef Yassin was born in Latakia, Syria. He studied at the School of Call and Guidance in Cairo, the School of Salah in Jerusalem, and the School of Law in Damascus. The idea of ​​contacting King Abdulaziz was in his mind since he heard the news about him and Najd.


When he moved to Damascus, his arrival coincided with the contact between the Levantine people and King Abdul-Aziz through Sheikh Fawzan in Damascus. When he first met King Abdulaziz, he wanted to publish a newspaper called Al-Riyadh. Yussef Yassin arrived in Riyadh in 1924 and was a writer.


After the Hijaz annexation, he assumed several roles and tasks, including Editor-in-Chief of the Umm Al-Qura newspaper. Later, he gained King Abdulaziz’s trust, becoming his private writer and political advisor. Afterward, Yassin held several major media, diplomatic, political, and ministerial positions, including as the king’s secretary. After spending 21 years in King Abdulaziz’s service, he was appointed minister.


Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Manea (1903 – 1987)


He was born in Al-Zubayr, Iraq, to ​​a Najdi family. His father worked in the Arabian horse trade. Al-Manea was interested in Arabian Peninsula affairs after seeing King Abdulaziz’s heroism. He abandoned his studies even though his father tried to persuade him, but he refused. During that period, he started writing articles for the English newspaper Basra Times, whose British editor later became a friend.


One day, relatives visited him with two of King Abdulaziz’s men (Abdullah Al-Damluji and Hafez Wahba). He asked about the possibility of a job in King Abdulaziz’s office.


After some time, he was invited to work as a translator at the royal court. He stayed for nine years, accompanying the founder on his travels.


Ibrahim bin Abdullah bin Muammar (1878 – 1958)


He was born in Kuwait and traveled to India to study English, Urdu, and Farsi and practice the trade. After settling in Egypt, he covered the news regarding Saudi rule in the Hijaz.


After the Hijaz annexation, he wrote a letter to King Abdulaziz congratulating him on the country’s unification. He also presented him with Arabic books and other publications. He joined the king’s political advisors’ team and was in charge of Foreign Political Intelligence, performing political tasks in Europe and some Arab countries.


The most defining part of his career began when he was appointed Head of the Royal Court. He accompanied Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz on his second European trip.


Fouad Hamza (1899 – 1951)


A Lebanese writer and researcher, Fouad Hamza was born in Ubayya, Alia district in Mount Lebanon, where he received his education until secondary school. Then, he moved to Beirut to study at the Teachers House and obtained his diploma.


At that time, his political activities were for the Arab cause and resistance to the French. When the latter pressured him, he left for Cairo and wrote for the Al-Ahram newspaper. He received a telegram to work for the Saudi government. The reason behind the invitation was well-known Syrian leader Shukri Al-Quwatli, who suggested Hamza to King Abdulaziz when he searched for a young man fluent in English and Arabic.


Hamza left Egypt and arrived in Jeddah on 25 December 1926 to work as an assistant to the Director of Foreign Affairs (Abdullah Al-Damluji), who resigned in 1928 and left the vacancy to a Lebanese man. He held the position until transfer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


He served Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz for nine years, followed by Minister Plenipotentiary to France. He wrote some books, including The Heart of Arabia (1933), The Countries of Saudi Arabia (1937), and In the Land of Asir (1951).





Rushdie Malhas (1899 – 1959)


Rushdie Malhas was born in Nablus, Palestine, and studied there and in Istanbul. He served as the secretary of the Arab Covenant Association as well as worked as a journalist in Damascus and for the newspaper Al-Istiqlal Al-Arabi. He joined King Abdulaziz’s service following Yusef Yassin’s invitation to edit the newspaper Umm Al-Qura.


After five years, he became Minister Plenipotentiary and headed the Political Division until his death.


Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Faraj (1898 – 1954)


He was born in Kuwait to a Saudi father from the Al Dawasir tribe. His mother is Sheikha Al-Thunayan, from the Al-Khalifat tribe. He received his early education in Al-Kuttaib, and studied at Al-Mubarakiya School in Kuwait, starting his working life as a teacher there.


Hashem Al-Rifai encouraged him to work with the Saudi government. King Abdulaziz assigned him as supervisor of the Al-Ahsa and Qatif municipalities. That was the golden period in his life; he devoted himself to thought, creativity, and meeting writers and intellectuals.


Al-Faraj’s intellectual heritage included printed books, articles, and manuscripts that he could not complete or print in life.


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