Opinion

Why is Founding Day important?

February 24, 2022
Why is Founding Day important?
Abdullah Bin Bjad Al-Otaibi



Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement to hold the annual celebration of the Founding Day is a very important event not only in correcting history, but also in dealing with reality and building the future.

The legitimacy of states develops with the development of data and the changes of history. The history of Muslims teaches us that the Umayyad state was unable to develop its legitimacy and came to an end within decades, while the Abbasid state was able to maintain continuous development and hence it lasted for centuries.

Imam Muhammad Bin Saud, founder of the first Saudi state, is really worthy of mention. We must remember the unique position that he enjoyed while all his contemporaries were unable to achieve a similar position.

The moment of his hiring of the preacher Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab was an important occasion in the history of the state.

The imam consciously chose the sheikh, and in this he has an ancestor, who was none other than his grandfather Ibrahim Bin Musa, one of the sheikhs of Diriyah, who chose the well-known Hanbali Sheikh Ahmed Bin Atwa.

Ibrahim Bin Musa, the sheikh of Diriyah, was mentioned in the past in the Ottoman documents, according to papers collected and published by Dr. Rashid Al-Asaker. These documents shed light on complex issues that were easily analyzed and made subject of research by the sheikh.

It was possible for him to address these issues with reason and wisdom, and delved into them and analyzed them away from fanaticism and enthusiasm.

These included the differentiation between the state and dawa or preaching, which is an issue whose importance stems from reconstructing history in a way that is closer to accuracy and objectivity without diminishing the role of dawa but by focusing and emphasizing the role of the state.

There had been great deviation in that history through different stages for known reasons, whether in the writings of traditional historians or in the writings of historians ideologically espoused by political Islam movements and organizations, with decades of their control over educational, research, cultural and media institutions.

These outfits may bow to the storm, but they do not back down. I underscored this aspect in a previous article.

After the announcement about celebrating the Founding Day, it is visible a clear example of what was referred to in that article. The state, the dawa, the prince, the sheikh, the sultan and the jurist are expressions that speak of the duality of the relationship that binds the two sides in Islamic history, which have different and diverse relations.

In the Saudi context, Muhammad Bin Saud, the prince, was interested in uniting the nation and the state, while Muhammad Bin Abdul Wahhab was concerned with the monotheism of the Creator, and the prince was convinced of this “dawa” and its origin.

The dawa of the Sheikh served the prince’s ambition and vision, and the relationship between the grandchildren of the prince and the grandchildren of the Sheikh continued intact till date.

Muhammad Bin Saud had full faith in his project and vision, and all, including the sheikh, the merchant and the leader of the tribe stood with him. Some of his sons were killed in the battles for safeguarding monotheism, and they were Faisal and Saud.

Imam Abdul Aziz and Abdullah were his two other sons. Abdullah was the father of Imam Turki, founder of the second Saudi state.

Ibn Khaldun wrote in detail about “asabiyya” or fanaticism and “the state” in a long debate, and it is well known that this is not an area to elaborate, and what is important in this context is that Muhammad Bin Saud never called for tribal or regional fanaticism.

But, he rather aspired to build a strong state and entity that is far away from local clashes among cities, villages and tribes and brought the country out of these narrow conflicts to the broad vision.

Because of historical circumstances, the easiest way to build state ideology was dawa. There were no other discourses capable of reaching everyone and it would be a mistake to judge historical occasions based on completely different historical circumstances.

Among the mistakes of the dawa was its adoption of the ideology of loyalty and disavowal and its expansion and strictness in its details, which is the ideology of the political opposition in Islamic history, in contrast to the ideology of obedience espoused by the state.

Revolutions or strife succeeded one after another in Saudi history, due to the lack of separation between the two ideologies.

The Sabla Brothers movement, Juhayman Group and Al-Qaeda were based on the ideology of loyalty and disavowal. Before and after, it was used by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Surouriya Group to promote their ideas under a Salafist cover.

The dawa has refined the stability and development of the state, but it needs to be re-interpreted in light of the tremendous change in circumstances.

Among the benefits of the dawa is the dissemination of monotheism and the rejection of superstitions that have long lived in the minds of Muslims, and from which many peoples — Muslims and non-Muslims — suffer, to this day. Superstition is the enemy of reason and hinders development.

Change and development throughout history and geography are faced with rejection, reluctance or opposition, but the strong and successful countries transcend all of them and set out for their future.

Saudi Arabia is witnessing a historic leap in all fields, thanks to judicious decisions and policies at domestic, regional and international levels. Anyone who observes the situation can easily discover that history is being rewritten in Saudi Arabia, and numbers and statistics speak of it in volumes.

Saudi Arabia is a regional leader and pioneer, and highly influential internationally. With Vision 2030, whose architect is Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia presents impressive models in dealing with all topics and issues, and the Founding Day and its multiple dimensions come within this vision.

Saudi Arabia has presented a strong model in the fight against financial corruption and the world is talking about it. It also tackles administrative corruption, through the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority.

Other concerned institutions pursue intellectual and cultural corruption and that is within the Vision 2030 mechanisms and programs. The pillars of the Vision will reach its goals, and the opponents will pay the price.

Finally, countries that are capable of rejuvenation and development with strength, decisiveness and wisdom change history, develop societies and elevate the value of individuals, and Saudi Arabia is a very good example of this.

This article was originally published in Asharq al-Awsat.


February 24, 2022
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