Saudi Founding Day

Abdullah Nasser al-Otaibi

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A week from now, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will celebrate its Founding Day for the first time. About a month ago, a Royal Order was issued by King Salman bin Abdulaziz marking 22 February as the annual Saudi Founding Day. It is also the first to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of the First Saudi State about three centuries ago.

As such, starting this year, the Kingdom will celebrate two national commemorations each year: the Saudi National Day, which honors the unification of the Third Saudi State under King Abdulaziz Al Saud on September 23, 1932; and the Saudi Founding Day, which commemorates the establishment of the First Saudi State under the pioneering Saudi Imam Muhammad bin Saud on February 22, 1727.

The two tributes perfectly reflect the essence of modern Saudi Arabia. The National Day is the day the Kingdom took its current shape; the start of many long years of building the present-day global power. On the other hand, Founding Day celebrates the establishment of the first full-fledged state in the Arabian Peninsula after the Rashidun Caliphate state. Arabia had lost its “sense of state” after the Umayyads’ migration from Hijaz to the Levant, where they established their state; and the Abbasids’ migration from Mecca to Iraq, where they established the successor to the Umayyad state.

In the various historical eras that followed the Rashidun Caliphate, starting from the Umayyad and Abbasid state to the various states that followed over the course of Islamic conquests, the Arabian Peninsula had no state or government structures. The governance of political life was either tribal or regional. In some cases, it also took the form of a small, weak state with no influence whatsoever compared to the greater states bordering it.

Neither the Umayyad, nor the Abbasid, nor any other subsequent Caliphate in this part of the world was as preoccupied with the Arabian Peninsula as it was in the small vicinity where it was established. As such, the first cradle of Islam was uprooted for centuries, until a divine blessing was bestowed on the region in the person of Muhammad bin Saud, who revived its historical significance and the founding principles of the state established by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

After expanding the true state concept to various parts of the Arabian Peninsula, the tribes and towns of the region successively joined Muhammad bin Saud’s state, making him the first Muslim Arab ruler to restore the “concept of the state” in Arabia after the Rashidun Caliphate.

Therefore, the significance of Founding Day extends far beyond celebrating the foundation of the powerful, just state that Saudis call home today: it also commemorates the revival of the historical importance of the first cradle of Islam.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Emirati daily Al-Ittihad.

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An ancient monarchy under the rule of Al Saud

Saudi Arabia to commemorate ‘Founding Day’ on Feb. 22 annually: Royal order

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