HM King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud was proclaimed the seventh king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2015, after the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz.
Birth: 31 December 1935 (Age: 88)
Source of Influence: Political
Influence: King with authority over 35 million residents of Saudi Arabia and approximately 14 million pilgrims annually.
School of Thought: Sunni, Salafi, Moderate Salafi
Status: Featured in current year
HM King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud was proclaimed the seventh king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2015, after the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz. He had previously held the position of Crown Prince from June 2012. King Salman’s influence comes from being the absolute monarch of the most powerful Arab nation and is manifested by the role Saudi Arabia plays in three critical areas: 1. having the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, which millions of Muslims visit throughout the year; 2. exporting crude oil and refined petroleum products, which ensures its central international role; and 3. propagating Islam through its huge propagation (da’wa) network, which makes its influence felt in all Muslim countries. On 21 June 2017, King Salman appointed his son, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz as Crown Prince of the Kingdom.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques: HM King Salman has significant influence in the global Muslim community through his custodianship of the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Makkah is the main pilgrimage site for 1.9 billion Muslims. Each year approximately 4 million pilgrims perform the Hajj. In addition to this, approximately 10 million pilgrims (including Saudi residents and GCC citizens) perform the Umrah, “the lesser Hajj”, throughout the year. A multi-billion-dollar expansion to the two mosques is well under way.
Controller of Oil Reserves: HM King Salman reigns over a land of massive crude oil reserves—Saudi Arabia has approximately 20 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves—making him a key player in the global petroleum industry. The recent increase in oil prices has boosted its revenue by almost 90 percent from the previous year to over $67bn in the first half of 2022.
Head of the World’s Largest Da’wa Network: King Salman is also head of the most extensive da’wa network of missionary Muslims in the world, promoting the Salafi brand of Islam. Salafism is historically rooted in Saudi Arabia, and owes its global spread to the financial backing of Saudi Arabia. Its violent offshoots have meant that Saudi Arabia itself is now a target for them.
Humanitarian: The King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief) was established in 2015 delivering aid internationally to victims of civil war and natural disaster. KSRelief has funded over $2bn in more than 400 projects in 40 countries. Projects included assisting Syrian patients living in Zataari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan and providing prosthetic limbs to Yemeni civilians wounded during the war. KSRelief signed a memorandum of cooperation with UNICEF and signed an agreement with the UNHCR to support the families affected by war.
Military Action: In March 2015, King Salman launched a nine-state coalition bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The campaign is cited as curbing Iranian influence in the region, but it has also tarnished Saudi’s international reputation as it continues to bomb the poorest nation on earth. The conflict has become even more complicated as cracks appear in the coalition, notably with the UAE, who are backing a new faction.
Key Appointments: The transfer of power from the sons of the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul-Aziz, to the new generation, which some feared would be an issue that would split the country, has been remarkably smooth so far. HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the second Crown Prince from the new generation appointed by King Salman. These appointees have brought changes in law which have had monumental social effects, changes such as allowing women in Saudi Arabia to move freely and drive, and the promotion of cinemas and music concerts.
Hajj: The Hajj was severely curtailed for two years with only 1,000 and then 60,000 residents allowed to perform the pilgrimage, but in 2022 it opened for a million worldwide pilgrims.
“My primary goal is to be an exemplary and leading nation in all aspects, and I will work with you in achieving this endeavour.”
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