Discovering King Faisal: The Leader that Muslims Need

Discovering King Faisal: The Man Behind The Name Shah Faisal

And How His Reign Relates to Today’s Fight for Palestine

My parents called me Faisal. I always thought it was just a random name they liked, and never really gave it too much thought. 

It was only when I visited the grand Faisal Mosque in Pakistan in the early 90’s (I was 9 or 10), that I learned why. 

Naturally, I was super excited that we were visiting a mosque that bore my name – especially one that was so majestic.

The iconic Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan

The Mosque is named after the late Saudi King Shah Faisal. Shah Faisal is a leader with courage whose actions send shockwaves to America. Simply, with a stroke of pen, the economy of America was in tatters. And yet not a single bullet was fired.

Who is King Faisal Deeply Rooted in Islam

King Faisal was humble, and his leadership was deeply rooted in Islamic principles.

This was in part due to his strong religious education from a young age, memorizing the Quran by age 10 and being tutored by the renowned scholar Sheikh Abdullah on Islamic sciences and history.

His speech from when he took power in 1964:

 “I beg of you, brothers, to look upon me as both brother and servant. ‘Majesty’ is reserved to God alone and ‘the throne’ is the throne of the Heavens and Earth.” He understood his role was rooted in service, first and foremost – unlike many modern-day monarchs who demand nothing but the utmost reverence from the masses. 

Faisal sought to establish unity among Muslims and supported pan-Islamism.When pressured with demands for a written constitution, he famously declared

“our constitution is the Quran,”

reflecting his dedication to ruling only under Islamic law.

Personality and appearance

Faisal was known for his integrity, extreme humility, kindness, and tact with everyone.

As a result, he was ascetic, avoiding displays of extravagance and luxury. 

Faisal embraced a simple Bedouin lifestyle, leading his father King Abdulaziz to remark “I only wish I had three Faisals” when discussing the succession.

King Faisal Education and Modernisation

King Faisal believed more than most in the power of education to transform the world.

He once expressed that “if I were not a king, I would have chosen to be a teacher”, highlighting his passion for learning and knowledge and implored his people to “arm yourselves with science.”

His governance emphasised building an education system founded on the pillars of “belief, science, and work”. This focus was part of a broader agenda to modernise and uplift Saudi Arabia while preserving its Islamic heritage.

He also established the country’s very first public school for girls.

Other pioneering initiatives included providing free healthcare and medicine for citizens, implementing food subsidies to reduce consumer prices and setting up a social security system for the needy.

King FaisalAdvocacy for Palestine and Strategic Use of Oil

One of King Faisal’s most defining stances was his support for the Palestinian cause.

He viewed the plight of the Palestinian people as a central issue for the Arab world and famously stated in a radio broadcast in 1965:

“We consider the issue of Palestine our cause and the first Arab cause, and Palestine is more valuable to us than oil. Oil can be used as a weapon in battle if necessary. The Palestinian people must return to their homeland, even if it costs us all our lives.”

He was explicit and clear in his threats, stating very clearly:

“Any drop of oil that goes to Israel will make me cut off the oil for you.”

He was true to his words.

In 1973, he masterfully used oil as a form of political leverage during what became known as the OPEC crisis.

Recognizing the West’s heavy dependence on Middle Eastern oil, he led OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) in cutting their production and implementing an embargo against countries supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

This one strategic action quadrupled oil prices worldwide and sent shockwaves through the global economy.

The Western dependency on his product was the leverage he needed. By cutting oil production and implementing an embargo against countries supporting Israel, King Faisal knew he could induce a crisis that would reverberate around the globe.

And it did. The impact was immediate and severe.

Long lines at gas stations became a common sight in the United States. The crisis even led to shifts in American foreign policy, encouraging a more balanced approach in the Middle East. In Europe, the situation forced governments to invest in alternative energy sources and reconsider their foreign policies as well.

The leverage had worked.

For this type of leverage to be so effective, it requires you to be completely self-sufficient and independent.

You can’t make a stand for what you believe in if you’re worried about biting the hand that feeds. You will always be compromised that way, especially when the counter-threats come in.

Your Details are Our AMANAH
Get our weekly newsletter

When the US oil supply was cut off during the Ramadan War, Henry Kissinger warned Faisal of the consequences. Kissinger received a response from King Faisal, who demonstrated this imperviousness to external threats beautifully:

“We lived, and our ancestors lived on dates and milk, and we will return to them.

You [Kissinger] must have noticed, nothing in this dinner tonight carries foreign mark. The meat on the table comes from locally hunted camels. The delicacies all made on Arab land, from Arab resources.

The lamps that give us light tonight, burn on fuel extracted from camel fat. If you dare come here, we would set our wells on fire and wander into the deserts. We, as you see, would survive. What would you do?”

King Faisal’s skilful use of this leverage not only elevated Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical significance but also demonstrated the potency of controlling a single, essential resource to achieve far-reaching political goals. There was nothing the West could say in response.

Proactive, Powerful and Passionate about Palestine

His whole life, King Faisal was deeply moved and affected by what had been going on in Palestine. He once said:

“The livers are torn apart, and the wings are torn apart when we hear or see our brothers in religion, in the homeland, and in blood, their sanctities are violated, they are displaced and abused daily, not for something they committed, nor for the aggression they attacked, but for the love of control and aggression and to commit injustice.”

With that said, he was not weak. He was proactive and believed in taking firm action against those who went on the attack.

“Be honey to those who seek your friendship, but deadly poison to those who dare attack you.”

“If the war bells start ringing on Palestine, you will soon see me, my brothers and son leading the battle against Israel” – King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz

Palestine was a cause he stayed extremely passionate and committed to. On the occasion of US President Richard Nixon’s visit to the Kingdom on 21 June 1974, Faisal said directly to him, unflinching:

“The injustice and aggression inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people is unparalleled in history, even in the dark ages. An entire people has been displaced from their land and homeland to replace another people. The Arab States have appealed to the world’s conscience for nearly a quarter of a century to realize the right and lift the injustice against them, but our pleas have not been heeded, forcing them to take up arms in defense of their rights, lands and sanctities.”

Despite all of his responsibilities and governance of the burgeoning Saudi Arabia, it was something he never forgot about, with Palestine always at the forefront of his thoughts.

In a later meeting with Henry Kissinger, Henry Kissinger said in his 1982 memoirs that when he met King Faisal in Jeddah the king was sad, so he told a joke to King Faisal. Faisal was unamused and responded to him abruptly and wittily:

Henry Kissinger: “My plane ran out of oil so will your majesty order it to get supplied with oil and we are ready to pay at international rates?
King Faisal: And I’m an old man who wishes to pray in Al-Aqsa before I die so will you help me in my wish?”

Faisal’s grandson, Prince Amr bin Mohammed Al Faisal, said:

“I am told by my relatives, my other relatives, after 1967 and the fall of Jerusalem to the Israelis, that was a turning point in his life. He never smiled again, according to them. I didn’t see him smile much, and he became very quiet and contemplative, and mostly he would spend his time listening rather than speaking himself.”

If he felt like that back then, with the horrors of what is happening in Gaza and Rafah today, how would he feel today?

Back then, he was so moved by the cause, he felt compelled to give a strong call to action to his people and to the Ummah at large:

“I stopped all oil supplies to the West. What are we waiting for? Palestine is calling upon you. Palestine is crying for your help. Rescue it from the Zionist disaster. What scares us? Do we fear death? To die a better death is to die as a martyr in the path of Allah. We need to rise. An Islamic revival. This is the call of Islam, the call for jihad fi sabi lillah, for the sake of Islam and get back our Holy Land from the hands of Zionist Israel. I pray to Allah that my death will be of a martyred one. I will destroy Israel and free the Palestinians.” – King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz

Sadly it has remained unheeded, to this day.

Reflecting on King Faisal’s life and legacy provides us with profound insights into the role we each can play in today’s world, particularly amidst the ongoing and unabating genocide in Gaza.

He was very clear about the reality of what was happening. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda or media narrative otherwise.

“Teach your children that Palestine is being invaded and that Al-Aqsa mosque is a hostage, and that Zionism is the enemy, and the resistance is an honour and there is no state named Israel.”

“Zionism is the mother of all evils.”

As someone who shares his name, I feel a deep connection to his dedication to justice, education, impact and most of all his unwavering support for the Palestinian cause. It doesn’t matter that he was a King with power – we see plenty of those today who don’t bat an eyelid – what set him apart was a strong commitment to act with courage and integrity. To use whatever resources were available to him to take a stand against oppression and injustice, to act for those less fortunate, for those being oppressed. In the end, it cost him his life.

The Ummah needs way more courageous action-taking leaders like him. If scarce from the top down, then they must come from the bottom up.

Now, as we witness injustices that echo and surpass the struggles of his time, we too must embrace his call to action.

We are all capable of doing something, even if it’s small. Boycotting. Lobbying. Marching. Building. Advocating. Teaching. Contributing to our communities to make the world a better place. But we MUST stay united on this issue, and not let ourselves become divided.

“Our hope in Allah is that we all come together with faith, sincerity and unwavering determination for everything that benefits us as Muslims.” – King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz

Let this be our mission, as it was his, to ensure that our actions are consistent, united, and mirror the noblest of our values and aspirations, insha’Allah.

May Allah have mercy on his soul and grant him Jannah al Firdaus, ameen.

Recent Posts

Top 5 Islamic Influencers in Egypt

During the Palestinian Genocide of 2023, there was one man who single-handedly, demolished false propaganda, and rendered seasoned journalists, and… Read More

November 23, 2023

Thinking with your Heart

Imagine this you did nothing wrong, unarmed pinned to the ground, and surrounded by six other heavily armed men that… Read More

November 21, 2023

What does God want from Muslims?

What does God want from us Muslims? Somebody ask me. I did not have an answer for him at that… Read More

July 26, 2023

7 Guidelines to Be a Successful Muslim CEO

As a Muslim CEO, you are blessed with certain privileges and chosen to lead people. A transformation process that ultimately… Read More

July 18, 2023

Experience the holy month of Ramadan in the Istanbul style

Istanbul, where two continents converge, is also the location of several extremely unique Ramadan customs. Ramadan, known in Turkish culture… Read More

March 22, 2023

6 Arab business success secrets that can help entrepreneurs

The "Arabian Business Secrets of Arabs" have long been a topic of interest, both within the Arab world and beyond.… Read More

February 13, 2023