Saudis have been marrying non-Saudis since 1744 when Muhammad Ibn Sa'ud married his son with the daughter of Muhammad Ibn Adbul Al Wahhab to seal their politico-religious alliance. Inter-clan and inter-tribal marriages are a long tradition on the Arabian Peninsula, both as a way of creating alliances, and of renewing the population. Political marriages have also extended beyond the peninsula to neighbouring regions like Central Asia, the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Africa. With the advent of 19th and 20th century national boundaries, these marriages have become inter-national as well as inter-tribal and cross-cultural.
Recently, however, there have been increasing difficulties for Saudis, especially women, but also men, to receive permission to marry non-Saudis, or non-nationals (eg children of a Saudi mother born outside the Kingdom to a non-Saudi father, or children of non-Saudis born and raised in the Kingdom). These difficulties apply to marriage to any non-Saudi; however, they seem to be more difficult for marriage to non-Arabs, and non-Westerners in particularly. Certainly, non-Muslim men are not allowed religiously to marry Muslim women, implying necessary conversion to Islam for non-Muslim men wanting to marry Saudi women.
Yet the Royal House of Saud, founded by King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud (Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman Ibn Saud) in 1932, along with the founding of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has had its share of inter-clan, inter-tribal, inter-national, cross-cultural, and even inter-faith marriages (within the Abrahamic faiths).
With that in mind, I have prepared a series of posts respectfully looking at contemporary Royal Saudi/non-Saudi marriages, and the children of those marriages. This general introductory post will be followed by more specific ones dealing with individual members of the Royal House of Saud, and their mixed marriages and families.
First, however, some background information, and some general questions, themes, and perspectives will get us started.
As this genealogy of the Imams of the First and Second Saudi Dynasties, and then the Kings of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows, all of the recent Kings of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been sons of the founder, that is, brothers, usually in order of age. Before them, in the First and Second Saudi States, "Imams" (to emphasize their combined political and religious roles) were the first sons of the previous Imam, with a few exceptions. During the Second Saudi State, there was such infighting among pretenders to the throne that the state was weakened and collapsed.
For our purposes, a few intermarriages from earlier times, both inter-tribal and inter-cultural, stand out.
Saud ibn Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn Saud, son of Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad ibn Saud, the second ruler of the First Saudi State and his wife, the daughter of Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, ruled the First Saudi State from 1803 to 1814. His reign was characterized by both religious and political dominance, as befit his heritage, over the Nejd and the Hijaz, including the capture of Mecca and Medina. Following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, and the desire of the Salafi religion of Al Wahhab, his forces purified the Kaaba, and demolished the graves of important Meccans. In response, other Muslims were angered, and these actions led to the Ottomans eventually sending Muhammad Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, to retake Mecca from the Al Saud.
Saud ibn Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was born in 1878, the son of Abd al-Aziz ibn Faisal ibn Saud from his marriage to Wadhba bint Muhammad bin Hazzam al-Mana al-Hithlain, daughter of the sheikh of the Ajman Bedouin tribe, a loyal tribe with which the Al Saud were already intermarried. Nonetheless, after the fall of the Second Saudi State, in large part due to infighting among Faisal’s sons, the Al Saud revolted against the Ajman. After the Ajman defeat of Al Saud, Abd al-Aziz was pardoned, and married Nura bint Abd al-Rahman, the sister of his conqueror Amir Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd al-Rahman, cementing the relationships of the Ajman and Al Saud anew. Later, he, in turn, took wives from defeated tribes, as part of a politics of inclusion and reunification of Arabia under Al Saud.
Raised in both a Bedouin tribe, the al-Murra, where his family sought refuge after the fall of Riyadh, and later in Kuwait, where he attended the majlis, he combined the art of war with that of diplomacy, spirituality with physicality, and Bedouin with Saudi values. Eventually, his control of an increasing territory over the Arabia Peninsula made him a coveted ally, during both world wars, of the British, who wanted to secure their control of both the Middle East and of India. He not only founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but secured its independence, political and financial. All subsequent kings of Saudi have been his sons.
Saudi-Wahhabi/Saudi raised in Turkey
Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud was the third son of King Abdul Aziz, from his marriage to a descendent of Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, Tarfa bint Abdullah ibn Abd al-Latif Al ash-Shaykh. The most influential of his many wives was Effat al-Thuniyyan Al Saud, born and raised in Turkey, a descendant of the members of the Al Saud displaced as prisoners after the fall of the First Saudi State (1818) to Turkey (Istanbul) and Egypt (Cairo). Her main impact was noted in King Faisal’s reforms in favour of women, but also in broader social reforms. A private girls’ university in Jeddah, named in her honour, is testimony to her ideals. Her sons, Saud and Turki. are graduates of Princeton and Georgetown respectively, which gives them educational qualifications higher than those of their princely peers.
Further reading on the House of Saud: this excellent PBS site.
Further reading on the First and Second Saudi States, and on the Founder of the KSA, King Abdul Al Aziz Ibn Saud: this excellent Saudi Aramco article
Keep your Saudi Royals straight and read their biographies: this well organized site
Some questions for now, and later:
What are the positive and/or negative aspects of intermarrying with non-Saudis for Saudi Royals?
What are the challenges within these marriages for husband and wife/wives, and their children?
How do their intermarriages impact the KSA?
How do their intermarriages impact non-Royal Saudis?
Are these intermarriages so in the background that there is little knowledge of them or impact on others?
Should they be more in the foreground?
Coming next...The King and the Christian