Saudis urged to show their ‘authentic glam’ on Founding Day with traditional costumes

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The inside story of Saudi Arabia’s founding day, celebrating the year it all began

RIYADH: For generations, historians and writers have unknowingly perpetuated the myth that the first Saudi state, precursor to the current Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was founded in 1744.

In fact, as a new reassessment of the Kingdom’s origins reveals, they were 17 years apart.

There is no doubt that the events of 1744, the year in which Imam Mohammad ibn Saud of Diriyah offered sanctuary to the religious reformer Sheikh Mohammad ibn Abdulwahhab, were extremely significant.

In this “Map of Dreiye”, the oldest known map of Diriyah, drawn by a French diplomat in 1808, the UNESCO-listed historic district of At-Turaif on Wadi Hanifah is recorded as ” El Tereif”.

But over time, the significance of this admittedly historic moment of common cause between state and faith has come to obscure the much more complex and deeply rooted origins of the first Saudi state.

It was to correct this neglect of the Kingdom’s crucial embryonic years that Founding Day was created, to celebrate 1727 as the true moment of birth, and to give Saudis a deeper appreciation for a past far richer than many don’t think so.

The original Mecca gate in Jeddah.

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula.

This clock reset from 1744 to 1727 is the result of extensive historical research that was conducted by studying the historical resources held by the New Saudi Historical School.

Ibn Saud’s warriors on the move in the early 20th century as the future founder of Saudi Arabia fought to bring Najd and Hejaz closer together.

“Many historians have linked the rise of the state to the arrival of Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab, and have overlooked the initial period of the reign of Imam Mohammed ibn Saud and the preceding era, even though it was the founding period of the state,” said Dr. Badran Al Honaihen, Associate Director of Research and Historical Studies at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority.

“The revision and reinterpretation of historical events is an intellectual phenomenon found in all parts of the world. Prior writings may be considered judgments and opinions that do not preclude revisions or reaching new conclusions.

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula. (Provided)

Today, no one can say exactly when the long journey to statehood began. The first certain waypoint on the way is the year 430 when the Banu Hanifah tribe migrated to Al-Yamamah in lower Najd from their home in Hejaz on the Red Sea coast.

Here, at the junction of several important caravan routes, the tribe to which the ruling house of Al-Saud belonged settled and prospered, founding Hajr – present-day Riyadh – trading and cultivating crops in the fertile valley that , in time, would take their name — Wadi Hanifah.

With the advent of Islam, the Banu Hanifah entered the scene for the first time in the history of the world.

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula. (Provided)

In 628, six years after the hijra, the flight of Muhammad and his persecuted followers from Mecca to Medina, the Prophet sent letters to various Arab leaders, inviting them to embrace “Islam”, submission to the will of God.

The ruler of the Banu Hanifah at this time was Thumamah ibn Uthal, whose spiritual journey from initial rejection to heartfelt acceptance of Islam is celebrated in hadith.

THE MOST IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENTS OF IMAM MOHAMMED IBN SAUD

• Unified Diriyah under his rule and contributed to its stability.

• Management of internal affairs and strengthening of the Diriyah community.

• Regional stability ensured.

• Constructs the Diriyah wall to counter outside attacks.

• Beginning of unification campaigns.

• Political independence from any outside influence.

• Organized country resources.

• Unified the majority of Najd.

• Secure Hajj and trade routes.

In hadith number 189, he is recorded as saying to Muhammad: “There was no face on the face of the Earth that was more hateful to me than your face, but now your face has become most beloved to me of all faces.”

In historical terms, Al-Yamamah would lie dormant for much of the next 800 years. It was a dark age of neglect and widespread emigration to escape the economic hardships endured under the oppressive Ukhaidhir dynasty, which rose to temporary prominence in Najd in the 9th century.

Fate, however, is a patient force, and by the 15th century the stage was finally set for the return to Banu Hanifah influence.

Generations earlier, part of the tribe had migrated east to settle on the shores of the Persian Gulf. But in 1446, Manaa’ Al-Muraide, chief of the Marada clan of the Al-Duru tribe of the Banu Hanifah, brought his people back to the heart of Arabia, at the invitation of his cousin, Ibn Dira’, the ruler of Hajr .

The settlement they had founded on the coast, they had named Diriyah after their tribal name, Al-Duru. Now they have established a new Diriyah on the fertile banks of Wadi Hanifah.

In the words of historian Dr. Badran Al-Honaihen, the arrival of Al-Muraide “laid the foundations for the creation of the largest state in the history of the Arabian Peninsula, after the Prophetic State and the Caliphate of Rashidun”.

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula. (Provided)

Another 300 years will pass before the next momentous steps are taken. In 1720, Saud ibn Mohammed assumed the rulership of Diriyah, which the Saudi royal family named after him.

Today, historians date the origin of the first Saudi state to 1727, when Saud’s son, Mohammed, became the ruler of the city-state.

He had, Al-Honaihen said, “seized power under exceptional circumstances.” Diriyah had been torn apart by internal divisions, and a plague that had spread across the Arabian Peninsula had claimed many lives in Najd. Nevertheless, “Imam Mohammed was able to unite Diriyah under his rule and contribute to the spread of security and peace regionally and across the Arabian Peninsula.

“The project of the first Saudi state began in 1727, then his sons took it over after him. What we must remember from this story is unity, security and peace after centuries of lack of unity.

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula. (Provided)

Finally, here was a leader with a vision that exceeded his immediate horizon and who was determined to found a new state, based on education, culture, security and allegiance to the true faith of Islam.

It was to this dynamic, politically and economically increasingly powerful new state that the religious reformer Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab was drawn.

The sheikh, a religious scholar from the nearby village of Al-Uyayna, had become increasingly concerned that many people in the Arab world were abandoning the teachings of the Prophet and reverting to pre-Islamic heretical ways. His attempts to introduce reforms were met with hostility from Al-Uyayna, but he would find refuge in Diriyah.

“The migration to Diriyah of Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab is the natural result of the policies of Imam Mohammed ibn Saud,” Al-Honaihen said. “The imam was known to be religious, and his two brothers, Thunayan and Mishari, and his son Abdulaziz were among those in contact with Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abdulwahhab in Al-Uyayna.

“Sheikh Mohammed left al-Uyayna only after Imam Mohammed invited him to come to Diriyah, and there was a state capable of protecting the Sheikh’s religious mission.”

For his part, “by supporting this reformist mission, Imam Mohammed saw that it was in accordance with the principles of the state he was working to establish, in particular its religious aspect”.

In short, it was not the alliance of the sheikh and the imam that made possible the founding of the first Saudi state, but rather the existence of this state, already politically and economically strong, that made possible the spread of the message of reform.

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula. (Provided)

Al-Honaihen stressed that the decision to officially recognize 1727 as the founding year should in no way be interpreted as undermining the religion as the cornerstone of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“That’s not right,” he said. “The objective is simply to put a specific political date for the founding of the state, namely the accession to power of Imam Mohammed ibn Saud in Diriyah, because a number of wrong policies and opinions had arisen concerning the rise and establishment of the state.

“Furthermore, the state in its constitution stipulates that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Arab Islamic state whose religion is Islam and whose constitution is the Book of God and the Sunnah of its Prophet.”

It was in 1727 that Imam Mohammed ibn Saud ascended the throne, carrying with him the dream of transforming the city-state founded by his ancestors three centuries earlier into the capital of a nation which, at its peak, would bring peace and stability to most of the Arabian Peninsula. (Provided)

It is also clear that Foundation Day is not an alternative to the national holiday, celebrated on September 23, but a complement to it.

“Founding Day is not intended to replace the Saudi National Day, which celebrates the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, but rather to recognize the beginning of the history of the Saudi state with a new event that celebrates the deep historical roots of the Kingdom.”

Although there is no doubt about the year 1727, the precise date of the beginning of Imam Mohammed’s reign is lost to history, according to Al-Honaihen.

February 22 was chosen as the founding day simply because a number of significant events are known to have taken place in the early months of Imam Muhammad’s reign, beginning in 1727.

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