Fahd of Saudi Arabia

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Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz.jpg
King Fahd in 1998
King of Saudi Arabia
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Reign13 June 1982 – 1 August 2005
Bay'ah 13 June 1982
Predecessor Khalid
Successor Abdullah
Regent Crown Prince Abdullah
(21 February 1996 – 1 August 2005)
Born1921 or 1923
Riyadh, Sultanate of Nejd
Died1 August 2005(2005-08-01) (aged 84)
King Faisal Hospital, Riyadh
Burial2 August 2005
Issue Faisal bin Fahd
Khaled bin Fahd
Muhammad bin Fahd
Saud bin Fahd
Sultan bin Fahd
Abdul Aziz bin Fahd
House House of Saud
Father Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia
Mother Hassa bint Ahmed Al Sudairi

Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (Arabic : فهد بن عبد العزيز آل سعودFahd ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa‘ūd; 1921 or 1923 – 1 August 2005), was King of Saudi Arabia from 13 June 1982 to 1 August 2005. He was one of 45 sons of Saudi founder Ibn Saud and the fourth of his six sons who were kings (Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd, Abdullah and Salman).


Fahd was appointed Crown Prince when his half-brother Khalid succeeded another half-brother King Faisal, who was assassinated in 1975. Fahd was viewed as the de facto Prime Minister during King Khalid's reign in part due to the latter's ill health. Fahd ascended to the throne on the death of King Khalid on 13 June 1982.

King Fahd is credited for having introduced the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia in 1992. He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995, after which he was unable to continue performing his full official duties. His half-brother Abdullah, the country's Crown Prince, served as de facto regent of the kingdom, and succeeded Fahd as monarch upon his death in August 2005.

Early life and education

Fahd bin Abdulaziz was born in Riyadh in 1921 [1] or 1923. [2] [3] [4] He was the eighth son of Ibn Saud. [5] His mother was Hassa Al Sudairi [6] and he was the eldest member of the Sudairi Seven. [7]

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. [8] He received education for four years as a result of his mother's urging. [9] While at the Princes' School, Fahd studied under tutors including Sheikh Abdul-Ghani Khayat. [10] He then went on to receive education at the Religious Knowledge Institute in Mecca. [8] [11]

Early political roles

Prince Fahd was made a member of the royal advisory board at his mother's urging. [12] In 1945, Prince Fahd traveled on his first state visit to San Francisco for the signing of the UN charter. [13] On this trip he served under his brother Prince Faisal, who was at the time Saudi Arabia's foreign minister. [11] Fahd led his first official state visit in 1953, attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the House of Saud. [10] [14] [15] On 24 December 1953, Prince Fahd was appointed education minister, being the first person holding this post in the country. [16] [17]

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. In 1962, Fahd was given the important post of interior minister. [9] As interior minister he headed the Saudi delegation at a meeting of Arab Heads of State in Egypt in 1965. [11] He was named second deputy prime minister in 1967, which was created for the first time by King Faisal. [11] [18]

Crown Prince

U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Crown Prince Fahd in 1978 Photograph of Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Jimmy Carter - NARA - 177429.tif
U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Crown Prince Fahd in 1978

After the death of King Faisal in 1975, Fahd was named first deputy prime minister and concurrently crown prince in 1975. [19] [20] Although Prince Fahd had two elder brothers, Prince Nasser and Prince Saad, who had prior claims to the throne, both were considered unsuitable candidates. [19] By contrast, Prince Fahd had served as minister of education from 1954 to 1960 and minister of interior from 1962 to 1975. [19]

Appointment of Prince Fahd as both crown prince and first deputy prime minister made him a much more powerful figure in contrast to the status of King Khalid when he had been crown prince during King Faisal's reign. [21]


King Fahd gave money for building mosques throughout the world. The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, at Europa Point Gibraltar, which opened in 1997, is one such mosque. Abdulaziz Mosque Gibraltar.jpg
King Fahd gave money for building mosques throughout the world. The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, at Europa Point Gibraltar, which opened in 1997, is one such mosque.

When King Khalid died on 13 June 1982, Fahd succeeded to the throne. [22] He was the fifth king of Saudi Arabia. [23] However, the most active period of his life was not his reign, but when he was Crown Prince. [24] He adopted the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in 1986, replacing "His Majesty", to signify an Islamic rather than secular authority. [11]

Foreign policy

King Fahd with Ronald and Nancy Reagan and Donald and Ivana Trump in 1985 Ivana Trump shakes hands with Fahd of Saudi Arabia.jpg
King Fahd with Ronald and Nancy Reagan and Donald and Ivana Trump in 1985

Fearing that the 1979 Iranian Revolution 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. [25] In fact, according to United States Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Fahd told Haig in April 1981 that he had been used as an intermediary by President Jimmy Carter to convey an official U.S. "green light to launch the war against Iran" to Iraq, although there is considerable skepticism about this claim. [26] [27]

Fahd was a supporter of the United Nations. He supported foreign aid and gave 5.5% of Saudi Arabia's national income through various funds especially the Saudi Fund for Development and the OPEC Fund for International Development. He also gave aid to foreign groups such as the Bosnian Muslims in the Yugoslav Wars, as well as the Nicaraguan Contras, providing "a million dollars per month from May to December 1984". [28] King Fahd was also a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and an opponent of the State of Israel. [29] Fahd was a staunch ally of the United States, and has been quoted by the CIA as saying, "After Allah, we can count on the United States." [30] He did however at times distance himself from the US, declining to allow US to use Saudi airbases to protect naval convoys after the attack on the USS Stark, and in 1988 agreed to buy between fifty and sixty nuclear-payload-capable CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles. [31]

King Fahd developed a peace plan in order to resolve Arab differences particularly between Algeria and Morocco. [32] [33] He also actively contributed to the Taif accord in 1989 that ended conflict in Lebanon. [17] [32] In addition, he led the Arab world against the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. [32] He developed a special bond with both Syrian President Hafez Assad and Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak during his reign. [34]

Islamic activities

He took steps to support the conservative Saudi religious establishment, including spending millions of dollars on religious education, [35] strengthened separation of the sexes and power of the religious police, publicly endorsed Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz's warning to young Saudis to avoid the path of evil by not travelling to Europe and the United States. [36]

This further distanced him from his inconvenient past. [35]

Persian Gulf War, 1991

In 1990, Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, 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. [37] This decision brought him considerable criticism and opposition from many Saudi citizens, who objected to the presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil; [38] this was a casus belli against the Saudi royal family prominently cited by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. His decision was also objected to by his full brothers or the Sudairi Seven. [37] Another cause for criticism came when during an event with the British Royal Family, King Fahd was seen wearing a white decoration in the shape of a cross; in 1994 Bin Laden cited this as "abomination" and "clearly infidelity". [39]

Reform and industrialization

In regard 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 contract of the century, the Al-Yamamah arms deal was signed on his watch. [40] 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 endured a stagnation in infrastructure development from 1986 till 1999 when the new King, Abdullah, fully came into power.

Like all the countries bordering 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 be to reduce the power of the Ulemas Council had been increasing its power. [41]

Succession mechanism

In an effort to institutionalize succession King Fahd issued a decree on 1 March 1992. [42] The decree expanded the criteria for succession, which had been only seniority and family consensus, and led to speculations. [42] The most significant change by the edict was that the King did acquire the right to appoint or dismiss his heir apparent based on suitability rather than seniority and that the grandsons of Abdulaziz became eligible for the throne. [42]

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. [7] He suffered a debilitating stroke on 29 November 1995 [17] and became noticeably frail, and decided to delegate the running of the Kingdom to Crown Prince Abdullah on 2 January 1996. [38] [42] [43] On 21 February, King Fahd resumed official duties. [44]

After his stroke King Fahd was partly inactive and had to use a cane and then a wheelchair, [45] 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 in Saudi Arabia, although he could hardly utter a word because of his deteriorating health. However, it was 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. [46]

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. [47]


Forbes estimated Fahd's wealth to be $25 billion in 2002, [48] Fortune Magazine reported his wealth in 1988 at $18 billion (making him the second richest person in the world at that time). [49] In addition to residences in Saudi Arabia he had a palace on Spain's Costa del Sol which made Marbella a famous place. [50]

Recreational activities

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 $US100 million Abdul Aziz. The ship featured two swimming pools, a ballroom, a gym, a theatre, a portable garden, a hospital with an intensive-care unit and two operating rooms, and four American Stinger missiles. [51] The king also had a personal $US150 million Boeing 747 jet, equipped with his own fountain. In his visits to London he reportedly lost millions of dollars in the casinos and was even 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. [52]

Personal life

King Fahd was married at least thirteen times. The spouses of King Fahd were as follows:

King Fahd had six sons and four daughters. [9] His sons are:

One of his daughters, Latifa bint Fahd, died at age 54 in Geneva in late December 2013. [60] [61] Al Jawhara bint Fahd who was another daughter of him and wife of Turki bin Mohammad bin Saud Al Kabeer died in June 2016. [62]



King Fahd was admitted to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh on 27 May 2005 for unspecified medical tests. [63] An official (who insisted on anonymity) told the Associated Press unofficially that the king had died at 07:30 on 1 August 2005. King Fahd was 84. [64] Official statement was announced on state television at 10:00 by then information minister Iyad Madani. [64]


King Fahd was buried in the last thawb (traditional Arab robe) he wore. Fahd’s body was carried to Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque, and funeral prayers were held at around 15:30 local time (12:30 GMT) on 2 August. [64] 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 kilometres away, a public cemetery where Fahd’s four predecessors and other members of the Al Saud ruling family are buried. [65] [66]

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.

In accordance with regulations and social traditions, Saudi Arabia declared a national mourning period of three days during which all offices were closed. Government offices remained closed for the rest of the week. [64] 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 Arab countries declared mourning periods. [8] Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Yemen, the Arab League in Cairo, and the Palestinian Authority all declared three-day mourning periods. [8] Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates declared a seven-day mourning period and ordered all flags flown at half-staff. [67] In Jordan, a national three-day mourning period was declared and a 40-day mourning period was decreed at the Royal Court.

Many foreign dignitaries attended the funeral, such as US Vice President Dick Cheney, French President Jacques Chirac, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Prince Charles of the United Kingdom, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Singapore President of Singapore S.R. Nathan, and President of Mauritania Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya (under deposition).


Foreign honours

Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit (1977) [69]

See also

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Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Born: 1921 Died: 2005
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Saudi Arabia
13 June 1982 1 August 2005
Succeeded by
Saudi Arabian royalty
Preceded by
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
25 March 1975 13 June 1982
Succeeded by
Political offices
New title Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh
Preceded by
Faisal bin Turki I
Minister of Interior
Succeeded by
Nayef bin Abdulaziz
Preceded by
Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Succeeded by
Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud