Millions of Saudis, GCC nationals, Arabs and many around the world are remembering the life and legacy of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz who passed away early Friday.
In local press and on social media, the late monarch is being hailed as a “king of hearts;” remembered for his “statesmanship, just governance and leadership, with a down to earth, direct, compassionate and kindhearted character,” according to several online posts.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz was announced the seventh king of Saudi Arabia, and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz his crown prince, and Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, the deputy crown prince. King Salman tweeted from his official Twitter account his pledge to the Saudi people: “I ask Allah to make me succeed in serving our dear people and in achieving their wishes, and that He keeps our country and nation safe and stable, and He protect it from all mischief and harm.”
Heads of state from around the world sent their condolences and many are on their way to Saudi Arabia to attend the funeral.
Many are now hailing King Abdullah’s many achievements. He was a reformer who changed the face of Saudi Arabia, a statesman who “led his country to safety in turbulent times.” On Twitter, Arab media personalities summed up some of his important achievements with this tweet: “28 universities, 200,000 students on scholarships, 6 medical cities, 11 specialized hospitals, 22 general hospitals, a railway network, 11 sport cities in nine years of the reign of King Abdullah”
A prominent topic being discussed in memory of the late King is his scholarship program. Today about 200,000 Saudi students, males and females, are studying in North America, Europe, China, Australia, Japan, among other countries.
The program allowed for unconditional enrollment for whoever is willing to go and learn.
For female students, the King’s scholarship Program offered to pay for a male family companion to travel with the girl. This left many conservative parents with little excuse but to allow their daughters to go abroad and study.
On this topic, one Twitter user posted: “We will not forget the great scholarship program the greatest development project in the history of the country it would not have happened had it not been for the will of King Abdullah may Allah bestow him with mercy.”
Another emphasized the opportunity it gave to people of lower income to travel and study in the most expensive universities in the world: “you served your religion and country … hundreds of thousands of your sons [and daughters] will not forget you ... you made the scholarship available to those with limited income ... the love of your people is from heart to heart.”
He has also been hailed him as a pioneer for women’s rights. In the 20 years of his political career – as crown prince first then as king – he changed laws which restricted women’s active participation in social, economic and political life.
Women entered the Saudi Shoura Council, a woman was appointed as deputy minister of education and more women than ever entered the work force.
Many have been retweeting King Abdullah’s statement on women and the need to improve their status: “A women is my mother... is my sister... is my daughter... is my wife... I was born from a woman.”
A YouTube clip of that statement was also reposted by many. Others are tweeting his picture among a group of women saying that: “King Abdullah – Allah’s mercy be upon him – was the man of bold decisions in enabling women and activating her role in many domains”
Saudis are also remembering the way King Abdullah spoke to his ministers and to the scholars of the country, as “simply but firmly.”
One of his prominent messages to the government was the notion that “the people of Saudi Arabia come first, and you have been appointed to serve them.”
Many Saudis today are also expressing feelings towards him as a father figure, respected not just as a head of state or monarch.
Saudi writer Turki al-Hamad, wrote: “And the king of hearts has left us but he is not dead, those who die are those leave this life without a beautiful memory and King Abdullah the humane has left a lot. May Allah have mercy on Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.”
One of his speeches to the Saudi people has also had a special impact on many remembering him. It was four years ago during the turbulent times of the Arab Spring.
“Oh gracious people, Allah knows that you are in my heart; I carry you always, and I take determination and strength from you after Allah. Peace and mercy and blessing be upon you. And do not forget me in your prayers.”
The king is dead. But as –Saudi author Thamer Shaker expressed - the legacy he left in their hearts will endure.
Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1
- World pays tribute to late Saudi King Abdullah
- Salman bin Abdulaziz declared Saudi king
- King Salman: Our nation needs its unity, solidarity
- Obama hails late Saudi King as ‘candid’ and courageous leader
- Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz: A legacy in pictures
- Saudi King Abdullah’s legacy and the GCC
- Saudi King Salman