Courtesy Reuters

The Unification of Arabia

MOHAMMED brought to the Arabic tribes of the desert, who had lived till then in a state of permanent feud and primitive paganism, the blessings of unity, political order and enlightenment. Under his leadership and that of his immediate successors, and under the impulse of a religious ideal, the Arabs of the desert for a short time held a position of the highest importance in the world's political arena. But the great Empire founded by Mohammed's successors grew much too fast and became much too vast for Arab cohesive and constructive forces. Very soon the Arabian peninsula -- after having established a permanent ascendancy for the Arab language and civilization outside Arabia proper -- relapsed into its primitive chaotic disorganization. Only after many centuries was it again awakened, this time by the religious impulse of Wahhabism.

A scion of the princely family which had embraced and propagated Wahhabism, Abdul Azis ibn Abdur Rahman, better known by the name of his family, Ibn Saud, has taken upon himself the task of organizing a stable and orderly government in Arabia and of transforming the unruly and illiterate nomads of the desert into citizens. He is striving, and with success, to divert the religious enthusiasm of his followers into modern social activity. Arabia has not only to organize, but also to enter the complex civilization which, having originated about two hundred years ago in Western Europe, is now on the way to becoming universal since the World War. At the beginning of the World War, Ibn Saud was still the Sheikh of Nejd, one of the major Sheikhs of Central Arabia but not more than that, unknown to and without any importance for the outside world or even the Arab world as a whole. Now, twenty years later, he is the undisputed lord over a strongly organized, united and cautiously but firmly modernized Arabia. The history of those twenty years has been no accident: long ago Ibn Saud conceived the scheme of a united

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