chapter  5
34 Pages

Saudi Arabia: the Oldest Fundamentalist State

The collapse of the Ottoman empire followed by the abolition of the caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in March 1924 created a leadership vacuum in the world Muslim community. Among those who tried to fill it was Sharif Hussein ibn Ali al Hashim of the Hashimi dynasty which had governed Hijaz, containing Mecca and Medina, since the tenth century and which claimed lineage from Prophet Muhammad. During the First World War the British had successfully encouraged Sharif Hussein to rebel against his Ottoman overlords, and after the war placed his two sons on the thrones of Iraq and Transjordan. The Hashimi-British alliance was regarded as anti-Islamic by non-Arab Muslims as well as by many Arab leaders. Sharif Hussein's claim to the caliphate therefore received scant support outside Hijaz. In certain cases it even aroused outright hostility. Among those who took umbrage at Sharif Hussein's declaration was Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Rahman al Saud (1879-1953) - also known as Ibn Saud - whose forces controlled the territories surrounding Hijaz.