Meaning of SAUDI ARABIA, FLAG OF in English

SAUDI ARABIA, FLAG OF

national flag consisting of a green field (background) bearing, in white, an Arabic inscription and a sabre. The flag has a width-to-length ratio of 2 to 3. When Muhammad began his proselytizing on behalf of Islam, there were no national flags in the modern sense, but in later years various flags associated with Muslim military campaigns became the basis for Arab flags. Their religious inscriptions were popular with most Arab governments because representational art was forbidden by the Muslim faith, and calligraphy had thus become a highly developed artistic form. The colour green was linked with Fatimah, the Prophet's daughter, and was chosen by the Wahhabi, a strict religious sect, when in the late 18th century they began their campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. In the early 20th century the basic flag flown today was already being used by Wahhabi armies. The shahada (Muslim profession of faith) was inscribed in Arabic script on the green field of their banners. This statement translates as There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God. A sabre, symbolic of the militancy of their faith, was sometimes added to the design. The successes on the battlefield of King Ibn Sa'ud led to the establishment of Wahhabi-dominated governments in Najd and Al-Hasa. After World War I the Kingdom of the Hejaz with its holy cities, Mecca and Medina, was captured, followed by Asir. In 1932, its unification complete, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed and its flag made official. The early version had the script filling most of the green field, and the sabre was curved. On March 15, 1973, however, a new design was adopted by royal decree, with a smaller inscription and a straight-bladed sabre. The Saudi flag must always be represented so that the inscription reads correctly on both sides. Also, owing to its religious symbolism, the flag is never to be flown vertically or at half-mast. Although other national flags have small inscriptions, the Saudi flag is the only one currently featuring writing as its central symbolic design. Whitney Smith History This discussion focuses on Saudi Arabia since the 18th century. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Arabia, history of. The coastal parts of the territory that was to become Saudi Arabia participated in the broad trends of Arabian Peninsula history in the Islamic periodthe rise of Islam in western Arabia in the 7th century, the creation and expansion of the Islamic empires to the 10th century, the establishment of separate and usually small Muslim states in the period leading to the 15th century, and the ordering of the Arab Middle East conducted by the Ottoman Empire starting in the 16th century. Central Arabia was linked commercially and intellectually with western Arabia and the Fertile Crescent but was often isolated from general political and military trends because of its remoteness and relative poverty. In the middle of the 18th century in central Arabia an alliance of Muslim Wahhabi religious reformers and the Sa'udi dynasty formed a new state and society that resulted in the creation of three successive Sa'udi kingdoms, including the modern country of Saudi Arabia, officially proclaimed in 1932. The Wahhabi movement Origins and early expansion As the population of the oasis towns of central Arabia such as 'Uyaynah slowly grew from the 16th to the early 18th centuries, the 'ulama' residing there increased in number and sophistication. Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi movement, was born in 'Uyaynah in 1703 to a family of religious judges and scholars and as a young man traveled widely in other regions of the Middle East. It was upon his return to 'Uyaynah that he first began to preach his revolutionary ideas of religious reformation on fundamentalist lines. His teaching was influenced by that of the Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyah, who had died in 1328. The ruler of 'Uyaynah, 'Uthman ibn Mu'ammar, gladly welcomed the returning prodigal and even adhered to his doctrines. But many opposed him, and 'Abd al-Wahhab's preaching was put to a number of severe tests. 'Uthman received threats from the Banu Khalid chief of Al-Hasa, demanding the death of the innovator on pain of withholding annual gifts from the province and even of invasion. 'Uthman, unable to face this danger but unwilling to kill his guest, decided to dismiss 'Abd al-Wahhab from his territory. 'Abd al-Wahhab went to Ad-Dir'iyah, some 40 miles away, which had been the seat of the local prince Muhammad ibn Sa'ud since 1726. In 1745 the people flocked to the teaching of the reformer. The alliance of theologian and prince, duly sealed by mutual oaths of loyalty, soon began to prosper in terms of military success and expansion. One by one the enemies of the new dispensation were conquered. The earliest wars brought 'Uyaynah and portions of Al-Hasa under Wahhabi control, but Riyadh maintained a stubborn resistance for 27 years before succumbing to the steady pressure of the new movement. By 1765, when Muhammad ibn Sa'ud died, only a few parts of central and eastern Arabia had fallen under more or less effective Wahhabi rule. Muhammad ibn Sa'ud's son and successor, 'Abd al-'Aziz I (reigned 17651803), who had been largely responsible for this extension of his father's realm by his exploits as commander in chief of the Wahhabi forces, continued to work in complete harmony with Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab. It was indeed the latter who virtually controlled the civil administration of the country, while 'Abd al-'Aziz himself, later in cooperation with his warlike son, Sa'ud I (reigned 180314), busied himself in the expansion of his empire far beyond the limits inherited by him. Meanwhile, in 1792, Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab died at the age of 89. Wahhabi attacks had begun to attract the attention of the Ottoman government, and in 1798 an Ottoman force invaded Al-Hasa, though it was compelled to withdraw. Qatar fell to the Sa'udis in 1797, and the latter also gained control through local allies over Bahrain and parts of Oman. The economy Long-range economic development is directed through the implementation of five-year plans. In contrast to most developing countries, in Saudi Arabia there is an abundance of capital. The first two five-year plans (197080) established most of the country's basic transport and communications facilities. Subsequent objectives were to diversify the economy (including the development of agriculture-based industry, such as flour milling); to reduce dependence on foreign labour (especially at the management level); to increase domestic food production; to improve education, vocational training, and health services; and to further connect the different regions of the country. Industrial development is centred on the towns of Al-Jubayl on the Persian Gulf and Yanbu' on the Red Sea coast, both of which are part of a plan to use natural gas to fuel industries. Resources The economy of Saudi Arabia is dominated by petroleum and its associated industries. In terms of oil reserves, Saudi Arabia ranks first, with almost one-fourth of the world's known reserves. Oil deposits are located in the east, southward from Iraq and Kuwait into the Rub' al-Khali and under the waters of the Persian Gulf. Other mineral resources are known to exist, and the government has pursued a policy of exploration and production in order to diversify the economic base. Geologic reconnaissance mapping of the Precambrian shield in the west has revealed deposits of gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, iron, titanium, pyrite, magnesite, platinum, and cadmium. There are also nonmetallic resources such as limestone, silica, gypsum, and phosphorite. Forest and rangeland resources are limited, the former covering a total of only about 600 square miles, mostly in Asir. The land Relief The Arabian Peninsula is dominated by a plateau that rises abruptly from the Red Sea and dips gently toward the Persian Gulf. In the north the western highlands are upward of 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) above sea level, decreasing slightly to 4,000 feet in the vicinity of Medina and increasing southeastward to more than 10,000 feet. The watershed of the peninsula is only 25 miles (40 kilometres) from the Red Sea in the north, receding to 80 miles near the Yemen border. The coastal plain, known as the Tihamah, is virtually nonexistent in the north, except for occasional wadi deltas, and it widens slightly toward the south. Wadis flowing to the Red Sea are short and steep, though one unusually long extension is made by Wadi Al-Hamd, which rises near Medina and flows inland to the northwest for 100 miles before turning westward. The imposing escarpment that runs parallel to the Red Sea is somewhat interrupted by a gap northwest of Mecca but becomes more clearly continuous to the south. Toward the interior, the surface gradually descends into the broad plateau area of the Najd, covered with lava flows and volcanic debris as well as with occasional sand accumulations; it slopes down from an elevation of about 4,500 feet in the west to about 2,500 feet in the east. There the drainage is more clearly dendritic (i.e., branching) and is much more extensive than that flowing toward the Red Sea. To the east, this region is bounded by a series of long, low ridges, with steep slopes on the west and gentle slopes on the east; the area is 750 miles long and curves eastward from north to south. The most prominent of the ridges are the Tuwayq Mountains (Jabal Tuwayq), which rise from the plateau at an elevation of some 2,800 feet above sea level and reach a height of more than 3,500 feet southwest of Riyadh, overlooking the plateau's surface to the west by 800 feet and more. The interior of the Arabian Peninsula contains extensive sand surfaces. Among them is the world's largest sand area, the Rub' al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), which dominates the southern part of the country and covers more than 250,000 square miles. It slopes from above 2,600 feet near the border with Yemen northeastward down almost to sea level near the Persian Gulf; individual sand mountains reach heights of 800 feet, especially in the eastern part. A smaller sand area of about 22,000 square miles, called An-Nafud (nafud designating a sandy area or desert), is in the north central part of the country. A great arc of sand, Ad-Dahna', almost 900 miles long but in places only 30 miles wide, joins An-Nafud with the Rub' al-Khali. Eastward, as the plateau surface slopes very gradually down to the gulf, there are numerous salt flats (sabkhahs) and marshes. The gulf coastline is irregular, and the coastal waters are very shallow. Drainage There are virtually no permanent surface streams in the country, but wadis are numerous. Those leading to the Red Sea are short and deep, but those draining eastward are longer and more developed except in An-Nafud and the Rub' al-Khali. Soils are poorly developed. Large areas are covered with pebbles of varying sizes. Alluvial deposits are found in wadis, basins, and oases. Salt flats are especially common in the east. The people Language Arabic is a Semitic language. It originated in Arabia, where the language is presumed to be the purest. Classical written Arabic is standard throughout the Arab world, while spoken Arabic varies considerably. Such colloquial variations are evident even within Saudi Arabiain part because of the strength of traditional group allegiances and in part because of varying external influences in different parts of the kingdom. English is widely understood. Ethnic groups Considerable ethnic homogeneity is evident. Saudi nomads are pure Arabs, or at least descendants therefrom. As in the case of language, variations have developed because of a long history of regionalism and tribal autonomy and because some localities have been subjected to important outside influences. Thus, the influence of black Africa is evident along the Red Sea littoral, and influences from Iran, Pakistan, and India are seen in the east. An increasing number of outsiders enter and leave Saudi Arabia. By the late 1980s the estimated number of foreign workers was between one-fourth and one-fifth of the country's total population. At first most of these were Arab, such as Yemenis, Egyptians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Iraqis. Increasing numbers of non-Arab Muslims such as Pakistanis have been employed, as have large numbers of non-Muslim Koreans and Filipinos who are hired in group contracts for specified periods. Among specialized technical workers, most are Europeans and Americans. Also of note is the number of people making the annual pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca. By the late 1980s the number approached 2.5 million a year, of whom about half traveled from Arab countries and half from African and Asian countries.

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