Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Faisal ibn Abd Aziz, an exceptional King

I was surprised when a friend, Shabbir Ahmed MD, told his stories when he was in Arab Saudi. Prior to his stories, I didn't know such honourable person was exist in Arab Saudi. Here, I share you his stories. You can read the original in http://www.galaxydastak.com/cgi-bin/forum/webbbs_config.pl?read=314123119140233

The Empty Quarter is the second largest desert in the world following only the Sahara of Africa. It is located in the south eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula touching the capital Riyadh.

Especially, the Bedouins living in that area, speak the Quraish dialect. They live in tents and migrate with their camels, sheep and goats in search of nearby live oasis or water resources, primarily natural water springs. They live the simplest of lives and basically eat dates, melons, rice, wheat bread, chicken (rarely), lamb, and camel. They use plenty of camel milk and skin in different forms. They have a tough life, the temp going to 116 degrees F easily in the summer, fighting scorching winds and finding their ways through moving sandunes. Almost every Bedouin is a master of stars, finding direction, time and even seasons through them.

King Faisal was a King only by title but truly he was a saint. He used to sit with us on the floor in the royal palace. He shunned being called Malik, "Say Faisal!" Few people know that he was a scholar of the Qur'an par excellence.

A man of few words and very dignified manners, an humble yet imposing personality, he was a very affectionate father figure to us. He would never mind any questions and spoke fluent Arabic, English and French. He was easily the most outstanding mu'min I have seen in my life.

One day, the youngster Shabbir gathered all his courage and asked, "Please tell us the best way to learn the Qur'an." His answer was brief and to the point, "My dear son! Remember that the Qur'an explains itself. Learn the ancient Makkah dialect and socialize with the nomads." With this, he appointed a teacher for us (10 young doctors) to learn the pre-Islamic poetry in relation to the Qur'an.

I never saw him sitting on his throne except when in the company of foreign diplomats. With him, we always ate what he ate. The man never gave himself a special treatment or sought a special seating. He would stand up to welcome us and stand up to say farewell without fail.

I can call him the living Qur'an. He never raised his voice, never showed arrogance and he was extremely good as a patient. Never did I hear the word "ouch" from him when going through a medical procedure.

Just casually reciting some verse(s) in a conversation, if we made a mistake in recitation, he wouldn't ever say we were wrong. Rather, he would gently ask us to read again.

Malik Faisal was very fond of telling us young doctors to ride the camels at least twice a week maintaining that it was the best thing for physical fitness.

His joy knew no bounds when one day he heard from me that I would even decline to drink non-alcoholic beer. Often, he would repeat, "If you wish to attain supreme success in both lives, love Prophet Muhammad (S), yes, love him, yes again, love him in word and action."

When Z.A. Bhutto was the PM of Pakistan, he called an international Islamic conference in Lahore in 1973. The proposal came forward that Malik Faisal be accepted as the AMIRUL MU'MINEEN of the entire Ummah. The work was moving ahead in that direction but ..... Alas!

When he was shot in March 1975 right in the middle of his chest, I was one of the first medical men to see him. We knew that the bullets had gone through his heart and that his moments were numbered. Can you believe that there was no groaning at all? The only words he was uttering repeatedly were what the Prophet (S) had uttered, "Allahumma Rafiqil A'la" (Allah is the Supreme Companion.)

Ah, those 8 years of my life, including the initial times of Malik Khalid as well, what wonderful memories!

Malik Faisal bin Abdul Aziz was a unique figure in the Saudi Dynasty. His predecessor, Malik Saud bin Abdul Aziz had spoiled the image of Islam, the Arabs and his illustrious father, Malik Abdul Aziz, the founder of the desert Kingdom.

Saud was a classic picture of pomp and luxury. He drank heavily, was a notorious womanizer, extremely prodigal and cared little for the welfare of the nation. The royal family and the council of ministers dethroned him in 1964. Fahd, after Khalid, was similar but, because of frequent intoxication and ill health, he wielded little power. He was King only as a formality. He was more powerful as the Crown Prince when his health was better and Malik Khalid was ailing, aging).

Malik Faisal (1906-1975) was quite the opposite, a man of extraordinary piety and the most noble character expected of a true mu'min. Saudi Arabia truly shifted into high gear and started flourished during his rule (1964-1975).

King Khalid was a simple, honorable gentleman who only graciously followed Faisal's policies although with much less vigor. The ailing Khalid was not very intelligent and he was no reformist.

Such was Faisal's consciousness of time that we could fix our watches by his scheduled appearance to the audience. One morning, he desired to meet with us at 8:30 AM. We young doctors were all at the palace at 8:15. I was looking at my beautiful golden RADO watch, the most elite and fashionable gift of that era. The King had given it to me only two weeks ago and I still have it, looking and working brand new after 34 years of constant use. But that morning! - Well, the watch was showing 8:29 and there was no sign of the King arriving. I was getting delighted at about to find some imperfection for once in the mu'min of the century. Nay, exactly at 8:30 the silk curtain moved and therefrom entered the lone, slim, awe-inspiring figure of the King with his trade-mark dignified smile saying, "Assalam alaikum, Sabah al-Khair, Ya Ahlan!" (Peace be unto you all, have a blissful morning, O Welcome, all of you).

There was a serious revolt by the unruly Saudi employees of ARAMCO, Dahran against the American officers and their families one late night of 1972. Law enforcement personnel were too few to quell the rebellion. The provincial governor frantically called the King at 2 AM. The Malik did not know how to panic. He had been the right hand of his great father since age 12 during all his expeditions! He calmly ordered, "Do not fight. Move everyone to safety. Save lives. Make a video." You can imagine how successful the strategy was. It saved bloodshed and every single culprit was caught the next morning.

Malik Faisal repeatedly used to say that memorization of the Qur'an was not a dire need of the modern times when we have millions and millions of copies available and millions more printed every year. Only the congenitally blind should become HUFFAZ (memorizing guardians of the Qur'an).

The King, being a master scholar, craved for modernization within the vast limits of the Qur'an. He knew Islam is not to be bound in orthodoxy. The extreme orthodoxy had reason to dislike him.

His political acumen was unrivalled. The world remembers his very effective embargo of oil during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. I saw even his opponents, some western oil officials and top diplomats, admiring the man's integrity, empathy, foresight, trustworthiness and courage during that period of turmoil.

In 1974, Malik Faisal wanted to popularize girls' education in the country, liberate women and began using television as a very useful tool in this regard.

Malik Faisal's namesake nephew, young Faisal who had been studying chemistry in the US, moved back to Saudi Arabia in Feb 1975. He was the assassin who fatally shot the saintly King in the chest on that fateful day in March 1975.

When the mu'min of the century was assassinated, there were two common views behind the tragedy.

1. The student Faisal had remained an extremist and he hated his reformist uncle.

2. The West were terribly apprehensive of the rising international popularity and influence of Malik Faisal.

May Allah bless his 'self'!

In Response To: Re: More About Malik Faisal (Arnold Yasin Holland)

>> Beautifull and important information. Thank you for sharing dear Doctor. <<

SA: You are very welcome!

>> Please go on :-) <<

SA: I think it's enough for now :-) More later In-Sha-Allah if and when appropriate.

>> Would he have accepted your approach you have now on Islam? <<

SA: Well, I was a doctor but young student of Islam, 23 y/o in 1970 and he was a great scholar. Malik Faisal subscribed to Al-Islam and not to N2I which I had very skeptically grown up with. He had very similar ideas as we have today but the environment was not conducive even for the King.

The Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Baaz was a staunch N2I and was he a powerful blind man, O My God! And so were the other elite in the Kingdom, all N2I.

I consider Malik Faisal Shaheed my first true living Qur'anic teacher. Masjid, school and neighborhood, had all been N2I. Fortunately, my elders were all very moderate and took ritualism very lightly. I regard Allama Iqbal (d. 1938) as my first Islamic and philosophical mentor posthumously through his powerful Urdu and Persian poetry (I was born in 1947, 9 years after the great Allama died).

>> And is he the same King that financed M.Bucaille? <<

SA: Yes, when he was the Crown Prince and also Leopold Weiss (Muhammad Asad).

>> Also how was your life with the bedouins? <<

SA: Oh, Wow! Excellent! They are very hospitable and grateful people. I used to treat anyone who would approach me day or night. The tough desert life has made them very shrewd. They are able to recognize sincerity before you blink.

The Bedouins brought sheep and goats, dates and fruit and all kinds of gifts at our beautiful home every day so that I could host the non-stop lines of affectionate visitors. Amazingly, most of the time we never knew who left the gift items in our front-yard at night! Such was their selflessness. Their families would help my wife and mother in the huge kitchen all the time 7d/wk and keep the house neat.

The government, the Saudis including the nomads honored my parents who visited us twice a year when my father got 45 days of vacation from his work in Karachi. They used to request them to let our whole family stay in Saudi Arabia all our lives. Hundreds of Saudi men, women and children were crying when we were finally departing in 1980.

>> And do you still have contact with the Royal Family? <<

SA: Our family left Saudi Arabia during the gentle Malik Khalid's rein primarily for the education of our little kids, back home to the USA. Fahd as the crown prince had little liking for me since I had to consistently decline his indulgences, wine and dance parties etc. So, there has been an absolute breakdown of communication with the royal family from 1982 until today. Fahd became the King in 1982.

"SHARAB, SHABAB, KEBAB" (Wine, beautiful women and rolled lamb kebobs) was the motto of Fahd's life. He was lewd and indecent like King Saud bin Abdul Aziz. He had a one way love affair with the British P.M. Margaret Thatcher. Almost instinctively he used to call her the most gorgeous and sexy woman on earth, "Want to see a heavenly houri? See Margaret!" He was crrrraaazzzzy about her, I don't know why :-) I criticize him only because he was a King and an international figure badly hurting the image of Islam. Otherwise, we must avoid backbiting.

Dear AY, you made me talk so much in the first person, 'me', 'I', me, I. Bad, isn't it?

AY: You made me eager as a 6 year old. Bad, isn't it? :-)

SA: Well, you asked for it :-)

AY: ---. To keep in the middle and profess your own opinion, is true faith.

SA: You see why the Qur'an lays so much emphasis on thinking, reflection and independent analysis.

AY: I have Asad's book on his travels through Arabia, called 'The Road to Mecca', i will look the King up, see how Asad has experienced the King. Do you know the book dear Doctor?

SA: I do have the wonderful book and read it many years ago. Muhammad Asad would hesitate to acknowledge the Crown Prince Faisal openly because of a deviant King Saud and a strongly N2I but powerful Grand Mufti at that time.

The Grand Mufti died in 1999 at the age of 93. Only in the last year of his life did he revert to the Qur'an and, communicating with me through an old professional colleague of mine, he asked me to write THE CRIMINALS OF ISLAM. The Urdu and English editions have a brief introduction from him!

Unfortunately, his successor is reported to be a strongly sectarian N2I as well.

N2I = Number Two Islam.
Shabbir Ahmed struggle against any source other than Quran in interpreting Islam. Any kind of person who use any source other than Quran (hadith, tradition, mullah's word, tasawuf) is categorized as N2I. Another popular term is "Ajami Islam" which was coined by Muhammad Iqbal.