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Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud: The Early Years
Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (Ibn Saud) was born in Riyadh in 1880. He was born into the Al Saud family which, in the previous century, had consolidated its authority across much of the Arabian peninsula but, at the time of Ibn Saud’s birth, had seen its power greatly diminished. Indeed, in 1890, under threat from the Al Rashid (a powerful family in the Arabian peninsula and implacable enemy of the Al Saud), Ibn Saud went with his family into exile to Kuwait where he spent his early years.
In Kuwait, as Ibn Saud grew to manhood, his thoughts were focused on reclaiming his family’s domains, now occupied by the Al Rashid. He had spent long enough in exile. He judged that if, with God's help, he could take Riyadh, the people of Nejd would support the Al Saud and help him to oust the Rashid.
When he was twenty-one, Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) decided to move on Riyadh.
The difficulties of taking Riyadh with so small a force were obvious and intimidating. Abdul Aziz asked for volunteers to accompany him in the execution of a plan which seemed to have only its boldness to recommend it.
With forty of his devoted friends, he left Kuwait in December 1901 (1318/19 AH) and reached Riyadh in January. The account of Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud)'s assault on the Masmak fort and his retaking of Riyadh from the Rashid is perhaps the most dramatic of all the stories of modern Arabia. In its daring and determination, it was a sure indication of the true character of the man who was to found the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Under cover of night, together with his cousin (Abdullah bin Jelawi) and several other volunteers, Abdul Aziz stealthily made his way to a part of the city wall which he knew they could easily scale, with the help of grappling irons, unobserved. The wall he chose was adjacent to the house of a man who had served Abdul Rahman, Abdul Aziz' father, some years before when the Al Saud had still ruled in Riyadh. When the wife of this man realized that the son of Abdul Rahman had come to reclaim his birthright, she vouchsafed some useful information about Ajlan, the Amir of Riyadh, the man Abdul Aziz would have to oust.
Once within the walls of Riyadh, and with the benefit of this woman's information, the small group quietly made its way to an empty house close to Ajlan's residence. They entered the empty house, climbed to the roof and, by leaping from one roof to the next, they reached Amir's residence. There they waited.
At dawn, after prayers, Ajlan emerged from the Mosque into the street. With his quarry in the open, Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud) gave vent to a loud battle cry and sallied forth from Ajlan's residence to attack. Ajlan fled, with Abdul Aziz and his companions in hot pursuit. Quickly cornered, the Amir defended himself briefly until the sword of Abdullah bin Jelawi cut him down. The garrison of Riyadh was utterly demoralized by the unexpected attack and the death of their leader. Assuming that such an assault could have been mounted only by a large and well-equipped force, and perceiving that the population of the city welcomed the return of the Al Saud, they surrendered without further resistance.
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