Fahd’s education took place at the Princes’ School
in Riyadh, a school established by Ibn Saud specifically for the education of members of the House of Saud. While at the Princes’ School, Fahd studied under tutors including Sheikh Abdul-Ghani Khayat. In 1932, Fahd watched as his father officially founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by signing the Treaty of Jeddah
Early political positions
In 1945, Prince Fahd traveled on his first state visit to San Francisco
for the signing of the UN
charter. On this trip he served under his brother, Prince Faisal
, who was at the time Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister. In 1954, at the age of 30, Prince Fahd was appointed Education Minister by his father. In 1953, Fahd led his first official state visit, attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
on behalf of the House of Saud.
Prince Fahd led the Saudi delegation to the League of Arab States
in 1959, signifying his increasing prominence in the House of Saud — and that he was being groomed for a more significant role.
Prince Fahd had two brothers born before him, Prince Nasser
and Prince Saad
, who had prior claims to the throne, but both were considered unsuitable candidates. By contrast, Prince Fahd had served as minister of education from 1954 to 1960 and minister of interior from 1962 to 1975.
In 1962, Fahd was given the important post of Interior Minister and six years later, he was the first person appointed to the position of Second Deputy Prime Minister. After the death of King Faisal in 1975, Fahd was named first deputy Prime Minister
and concurrently Crown Prince.
On 25 March 1975, King Faisal
was assassinated by his nephew and King Khalid
assumed power. Fahd, as next in the line of succession, became Crown Prince
and First Deputy Prime Minister. Especially in the later years of King Khalid’s reign, Fahd was viewed as the de facto
prime minister. When King Khalid died on 13 June 1982, Fahd succeeded to the throne. He adopted the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
” in 1986, replacing “His Majesty”, to signify an Islamic rather than secular authority.
Grand Mosque Seizure, Iran, and Islamic education
The 1979 Revolution
radically transformed the political landscape in the Middle East, as the hereditary monarchy of the Shah of Iran
was deposed in favor of a Shi’a theocracy
. In the same year, anti-monarchist dissidents in Saudi Arabia seized the Grand Mosque
, and accused the Saudi royal family of being insufficiently Islamic and so unfit to rule the Kingdom. Fearing that the 1979 Revolution in Iran could lead to similar Islamic upheaval in Saudi Arabia, Fahd spent considerable sums after ascending the throne in 1982 to support Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
in its war with Iran.
He also changed his royal title to “custodian of the two holy mosques”
, and took steps to support the conservative Saudi religious establishment, including spending millions of dollars on religious education, further distancing himself from his inconvenient past.
At the same time as King Fahd presided over a more strict Islamic policy at home he was known to enjoy luxurious living abroad, even in ways that would not be allowed in his own kingdom. He visited the ports of the French Riviera, in his 147-metre (482 ft) yacht, the $100 million Abdul Aziz
. The ship featured two swimming pools, a ballroom, a gym, a theater, a portable garden, a hospital with an intensive-care unit and two operating rooms, and four American Stinger missiles
The king also had a personal $150 million Boeing 747
jet, equipped with his own fountain. In his visits to London he reportedly lost millions of dollars in the casinos and even was known to circumvent the curfew imposed by British gaming laws by hiring his own blackjack and roulette dealers to continue gambling through the night in his hotel suite.
Persian Gulf War, 1991
In 1991, Iraqi
forces under Saddam Hussein
, placing the Iraqi army (then the largest in the Middle East) on the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. King Fahd agreed to host American-led coalition troops in his Kingdom, and later allowed American troops to be based there. This decision brought him considerable criticism and opposition from many Saudi citizens, who objected to the presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil; this is a casus belli
against the Saudi royal family prominently cited by Osama bin Laden
Reform and industrialization
In regards to reform, King Fahd showed little tolerance for reformists. In 1992, a group of reformists and prominent Saudi intellectuals petitioned King Fahd for wide ranging reforms, including widening political representation, and curbing the royal family’s wasteful spending. King Fahd first responded by ignoring their requests and when they persisted, reformists were harshly persecuted, imprisoned and fired from their jobs.
During King Fahd’s rule, the royal family’s lavish spending of the country’s wealth reached its height. In addition, the biggest and most controversial military contracts of the century, the Al-Yamamah arms deal
was signed under his watch.
The contract has cost the Saudi treasury more than $90 billion. These funds were originally allocated to building hospitals, schools, universities and roads. As a result, Saudi Arabia has endured a stagnation in infrastructure development from 1986 till 1999 when the new King, Abdullah, fully came into power.
Like all the countries overlooking the Persian Gulf
, Saudi Arabia under King Fahd has focused its industrial development on hydrocarbon installations. Up to this day, the country is reliant on imports for nearly all its light and heavy machinery.
King Fahd established a Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs directed by senior family members and technocrats in 1994. The council was planned to function as an ombudsman of Islamic activity concerning educational, economic and foreign policy matters. The chairman of the council was Prince Sultan
. Prince Nayef
, Prince Saud
and a technocrat Mohammed Ali Aba al Khayl were appointed to the newly established council. One of the covert purposes of the council was thought to reduce the authority of the Ulemas Council that increased its power.
Rule after the 1995 stroke
King Fahd was a heavy smoker, overweight for much of his adult life, and in his sixties began to suffer from arthritis
and severe diabetes
He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 and became noticeably frail, and decided to delegate the running of the Kingdom to Crown Prince Abdullah. On 21 February 1996, he reassumed official duties.
After his stroke King Fahd was partly inactive, though he still attended meetings and received selected visitors. In November 2003, according to government media, King Fahd was quoted as saying to “strike with an iron fist” at terrorists after deadly bombings
, although he could hardly utter a word because of his debilitating stroke and deteriorating health. However, it is Crown Prince Abdullah who took official trips; when King Fahd traveled it was for vacations, and he was sometimes absent from Saudi Arabia for months at a time. When his oldest son and International Olympic Committee
member Prince Faisal bin Fahd
died in 1999, the King was in Spain
and did not return for the funeral.
In a speech to an Islamic conference on 30 August 2003, King Fahd condemned terrorism and exhorted Muslim clerics to emphasize peace, security, cooperation, justice, and tolerance in their sermons.
Fahds’s wealth was estimated to be $25 billion. Fortune Magazine
reported that his wealth in 1988 was $18 billion, making him the second richest person in the world.
King Fahd was married at least four times. He had six sons and three daughters. His sons are:
- Faisal bin Fahd (1945–1999) Died of a heart attack. Director-general of Youth Welfare (1971–1999), Director-general at Ministry of Planning and Minister of State (1977–1999)
- Muhammad bin Fahd (born 1950), Governor of the Eastern province
- Saud bin Fahd (born 1951), former deputy president of the General Intelligence Directorate
- Sultan bin Fahd (born 1951), Army Officer. Elevated to ministerial rank in November 1997. Former head of Youth Welfare
- Khalid bin Fahd (born February 1958)
- Abdulaziz bin Fahd, (born 1973), Fahd’s favorite and youngest son and minister of state without portfolio. He is the son of Princess Jawhara al-Ibrahim, Fahd’s fourth and, reportedly, favorite wife.
The spouses of King Fahd are as follows:
- Janan Harb Al Saud (Widowed)
- HH Princess Al Anood bint Abdulaziz Bin Mousad al Saud (Deceased), mother of Prince Faisal bin Fahd
- HH Princess Al Joharah bint Ibrahim al Ibrahim, mother of Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd
- HH Princess Joza’a bint Abdullah bin Abdulrahman al Saud
- HH Princess Al Joharah bint Abdullah al Sudairi (Deceased)
- HH Princess Modhi bint Turki bin Abdullah al Saud (Divorced)
- HH Princess Joza’a bint Sultan al Adgham al Subaie (Divorced)
- HH Princess Turfa bint Abdulaziz bin Mo’amar (Divorced)
- HH Princess Watfa bint Obaid bin Ali al Jabr al Rasheed (Divorced)
- HH Princess Lolwa al Abdulrahman al Muhana Aba al Khail (Divorced)
- HH Princess Shaikha bint Turki bin Mariq al Thit (Divorced)
- HH Princess Seeta bint Ghunaim bin Sunaitan Abu Thnain (Divorced)
King Fahd was admitted to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital
in Riyadh on 27 May 2005 for unspecified medical tests. An official (who insisted on anonymity) told the Associated Press
unofficially that the king had died at 7:30 EDT on 1 August 2005. A member of the cabinet publicly announced his death on Saudi TV the same morning, and said that he died of pneumonia and a high fever.
He was buried in the last thawab
(traditional Arab robe) he wore. Fahd’s body was carried to Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque, and funeral prayers were held at around 3:30 local time (12:30 GMT). The prayers for the late monarch were led by the Kingdom’s grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh
The “funeral prayer”, during which worshipers remain standing, was performed after afternoon prayers. The ceremony was replicated in other mosques across the Kingdom, where the “prayers for the absentee” were held.
The body was carried by King Fahd’s son, Abdul Aziz bin Fahd
, to the mosque and to the Al-Oud cemetery
some two kilometers away, a public cemetery where Fahd’s four predecessors and other members of the Al Saud ruling family are buried.
Arab and Muslim dignitaries who attended the funeral were not present at the burial. Only ruling family members and Saudi citizens were on hand as the body was lowered into the grave.
Muslim leaders offered condolences at the mosque, while other foreign dignitaries and leaders who came after the funeral paid their respects at the royal court.
According to the regulations and social traditions, Saudi Arabia did not declare a national mourning period. Also, all government offices and public buildings were open as usual and the state flag was not lowered (since the flag of Saudi Arabia
bears the Shahada
, the Islamic declaration of faith
, the flag’s protocol requires the flag not to be lowered)
After his death, many countries declared mourning
, the Arab League
, and the Palestinian Authority
all declared three-day mourning periods. Pakistan
and the United Arab Emirates
declared a seven-day mourning period and ordered all flags flown at half-staff. In Jordan
, a national three-day mourning period was declared and a 40-day mourning period was decreed at the Royal Court.
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