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 since 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 da’wa network, which makes its influence felt in all Muslim countries. On June 21st, 2017, King Salman appointed his son, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz as Crown Prince of the Kingdom.
Birth: 31 December 1935 (Age: 86)
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
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.
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 a target for them and in an effort to combat this extremist ideology, King Salman launched the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI) in an inauguration ceremony attended by US President Donald Trump during his first trip to the Middle East.
Successful Governor: King Salman was governor of Riyadh Province from 1955-60 and from 1963- 2011. During that period, he oversaw the development of the capital city Riyadh from a small town into a thriving city of more than 7 million people. He played a major role in attracting capital projects and foreign investment into his country and improved political and economic relationships with the West. He built up a strong reputation for having an efficient and corruption-free administration.
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 Muhammad bin Salman is the second Crown Prince from the new generation appointed by King Salman. This has 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.
Covid-19: The Hajj was all but cancelled as only 1,000 residents were allowed to perform the pilgrimage. Strict lockdown measures and travel restrictions have been enforced.
“He who believe’s that the Qur’an and Sunnah are obstacles in the path of development or progress, has not read the Qur’an or did not understand the Qur’an.”
268 billion barrels of proved crude and natural gas reserves
25th son of Ibn Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia