Heads of State History

A Conversation With Ibn Saud

Ibn Saud family tree

In 1927, Yaqub Ali Irfani Sahib, a prominent and devout companion of the Promised Messiah (as), performed the pilgrimage of Hajj. During his stay in Makkah, he also had the opportunity to meet with Sultan Ibn Saud, who was the king of the Hijaz and the custodian of the two holy sites. The conversation that took place between them has been preserved in his memoirs titled Kitab-ul-Hajj.

The Review of Religions is pleased to present the English rendering of their brief meeting for the first time.

Irfani Sahib (ra): Your Majesty! Do you know the reason why you have been bestowed the custodianship of the two holy sites, Makkah and Madinah?

Sultan Ibn Saud:

ذَٰلِكَ فَضۡلُ ٱللَّهِ يُؤۡتِيهِ مَن يَشَآءُۚ

[That is Allah’s grace; He bestows it on whom He pleases.]

Irfani Sahib (ra): No doubt it is owing to His grace, but at times, there are certain reasons as to why Allah the Almighty grants His grace.

Sultan Ibn Saud: I am not aware of the reasons, but what is your thought on the matter?

Irfani Sahib (ra): Your elders came to perform the Hajj during the rule of the Sharif family. However, owing to their difference in beliefs, they were stopped from performing the Hajj. Allah the Almighty was displeased by this and as a result He took this honour [of its custodianship] away from them and it was granted to the house of Saud.

Sultan Ibn Saud: Marhaban! [an expression used to extend a warm welcome to guests]

Irfani Sahib (ra): The reason why I have reminded you of this incident is because the holy city of Makkah is a centre for all Muslims. Muslims of different schools of thought will come here; some of them will even hold beliefs which you may not agree with. Thus, if you oppose them simply owing to a difference of belief then remember that God Almighty will take away this custodianship from you and bestow it upon someone who will not oppose others owing to their beliefs.

(Taufeeq Sharif, the Wazir-e-Ma’arif [1] was interpreting on my behalf and I also tried to converse in whatever little Arabic I knew. Upon hearing this, Sultan Ibn Saud stood up whilst reciting istighfar [seeking forgiveness] and said:)

Sultan Ibn Saud: God-willing I will never do such a thing. In fact, you are here and were not stopped even though I received a complaint against you, but I took no notice of it.

(Whilst this incident highlights a particular moment in my life, it also illustrates one aspect of Sultan Ibn Saud’s moral conduct and character. I observed that his fellow people and the Arab Bedouins would arrive at his royal court and he would sit alongside them on the floor and would converse with them in an informal and casual manner. People would speak to him about different matters, for example they would tell him about their camel calves, etc. and he would listen to them intently and give them a detailed response. I found his royal court to be a reflection of an Islamic government. During my stay in Makkah, I came to learn that the Sultan was present at a formal event held for foreign delegates. During his speech, he stated:)

‘Although we do not have the same kind of developments like your countries such as proper structured roads and other amenities, you have prisons and many grave crimes are committed in those countries. Whereas in my country, neither are crimes committed, nor are there any unnecessarily prolonged court cases or legal loopholes. Therefore, I do not express any sorrow for not having the same way of living as yours, rather I express my delight upon this because as a result, my country (the land of God) is free from all forms of crime.’


[1] Title formerly used in Saudi Arabia for what is now the Minister of Education.

Who was Ibn Saud?

Ibn Saud was the ruler of Hijaz and later the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Full Name: ‘Abd al-’Azīz ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Fayṣal ibn Turkī ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muhammad Āl-Sa‘ūd

Known as: Ibn Saud

Date of Birth: c. 1880

Date of Death: 9th November 1953