The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.
~ James Shirley
Death is the only reality. As an Urdu poet Saifi Amrohvi has said: “ Kasha kashey ghum-e-hasti azzab ho jata, no hoti mout agar zindgi ka mutaqbil.” The struggle of life would have turned sore and curse if death were the not the ultimate destination of Life.” This morning throngs of mourners gathered in Mecca to pay their respects to the departed King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud. He was 90. He was suffering from pneumonia. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz is the new king as the most powerful and richest desert state enters into a new curious phase.
Paying his tributes to King Abdullah, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement – “King Abdullah’s life spanned from before the birth of modern Saudi Arabia through its emergence as a critical force within the global economy and a leader among Arab and Islamic nations,“
“This is a sad day. The United States has lost a friend, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and the world has lost a revered leader,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “He was so proud of the Kingdom’s journey, a brave partner in fighting violent extremism who proved just as important as a proponent of peace.”
He was declared as head of state or King in August 2005; but he was the virtual King since 1996 after his step brother and the reigning monarch King Fahd suffered the heart attack. Saudi Arabia is a conservative state and things do not change there so easily. However, King Abdullah was always seen as reformer. Time and again he had disciplined the fanatical wing of more hard-line clerics of his theocratic state.
According to ‘Forbes’ magazine, the King was among the world’s most powerful people and was ranked 8th globally. King Abdullah was a prominent son among the endless list of sons of founder of Saudi State, Shah Abdul Aziz Al Saud. He had held important political posts throughout most of his life. He began his career in 1961 as mayor of Mecca, and in 1962, he was appointed commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a post he was still holding when he became king. He also served as deputy defense minister and was named crown prince when Fahd took the throne in 1982.
He was the first ruler in Saudia who had allowed women the right to vote and to compete in the Olympics. He had wisely weathered the storms of ‘Arab Spring’ rampant in and around most of the Arab states. He was blessed with good health and long life. He outlived two of his crown princes, namely Conservative Interior Minister Nayef and Defense Minister Salman. His family was an entourage of four wives, seven sons, and fifteen daughters.
Last but not the least, her mother Princess Fahda was strongly associated with the Bedouin traditions unlike the sophisticated mother of his seven step brothers Princess Sudairi (popularly known as Umme Sattam – the mother of seven sons) . Princess Fahda was a member of the ‘Abde’ section belonging to the powerful Shammar Tribe.
In the initial phase of his ascendency, King Abdullah had tried to mend fences with Iran, the most powerful diplomatic adversary of KSA in the region. However, Geopolitics compelled him to change tracks. Both of these countries don’t see eye to eye in most of the matters.
He is also known for his support of Radical Militants around the globe. However, on record, in Sep 2014, King Abdullah has warned the West of the rising threat from the Islamic State terrorists. He had called for “rapid” action. King Abdullah has warned that the West will be the next target of the radical Islamists sweeping through Syria and Iraq, unless there is “rapid” action.
“If we ignore them, I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month,” he said in remarks quoted by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
By: Naim Naqvi