King Faisal, the king who did the most for Saudi Arabian women


Two men destined to become kings of Saudi Arabia, Faisal and Khalid

Two future kings of Saudi Arabia, Faisal and Khalid


The King who changed female lives in Saudi Arabia

King Faisal of Saudi Arabia

Many years have passed since the founder of modern day Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz, said wistfully, “If only I had three Faisals!”  That wise old king recognized early that his son Faisal was the hope of the land.  Although at Abdul Aziz’s death, his “next in line to the throne” son Sa’ud stepped into the position of king, Sa’ud’s limitations were many with his disasterous rule bringing the Kingdom to the verge of bankruptcy with his reckless spending and equally reckless decisions.  Finally the sons and advisors of the first king were forced to step in to convince Faisal, who was Crown Prince, that he must assume the kingship.  Faisal was not keen, as he felt that his brother was chosen by his father, whom Faisal always honored.  But, Sa’ud was forced to leave in order to “save the kingdom” and from the moment Sa’ud departed, Faisal turned his energies and wisdom to save Saudi Arabia.  He balanced the budget, cut family expenses, and turned his attention to the plight of women.  Under Faisal’s rule, schools for girls were first opened in the kingdom.  (He was encouraged in this direction by his Turkish wife, Iffat.)  The move was unpopular, costing Faisal much support from the strict men of religion and other ultra-conservatives, who believed that women should remain in purdah and without the benefits of education.

Without King Faisal, education for Saudi Arabian women would not be what it is today, a country where more women are educated than men, and the setback would have cost Saudi women twenty years or more.  Tragically, Faisal was assassinated in 1975 by a nephew who was avenging his brother who was killed in a riot against the introduction of radio and television in the kingdom.

Every Saudi should remember their former King, who was cut down in his prime.

I was reading over some of Faisal’s speeches last evening and felt very wistful when I read words spoken by Faisal in 1963 in Taif, talking about the urgent need for peace in the Middle East.  Here we are, nearly fifty years later, and his words ring as true as they did so long ago:

“Brothers:  The Arab countries today are in urgent need of stability and peace.  Every country, every government, every responsible citizen and every individual in every Arab country should devote himself to the service of his country and his people to raise his country to the place it deserves among the nations of the world.  This is what the Arabs need today.  Quarrels, disagreements, insults and altercations are forbidden by our religion, are unworthy of the Arabs’ dignity and are in conflict with their own interest.  It serves the interest of no one when an Arab inflicts damage to himself or on others.   All it accomplishes is to hinder the Arab countries from carrying out their duties properly.”

Considering the turmoil we are sadly witnessing across the Arab world, an extremely important part of our world, Faisal’s words ring true.  I wish every person would study his life, his words, and take heed.

When I traveled to live and work in Saudi Arabia in 1978, I recall staring at his kingly photograph hanging in the halls of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, a dream of a hospital planned by King Faisal, and a dream he did not live to see realized.  Since I worked for the head of the hospital, Dr. Nizar Feteih, who was also the ruling king’s (King Khalid) cardiologist.  I was fortunate enough to meet various members of the royal family.  Had he lived, perhaps I would have been lucky enough to meet King Faisal.  It is a regret that I never had such an opportunity.

I’ve inserted a photo of a young Faisal and a young Khalid at the begining of this blog.  Since I met King Khalid when he was an elder statesman, never did I dream he was such a handsome young man.  But I should have known, for King Khalid was the father of some of the most beautiful princesses in the kingdom.  His breathtakingly lovely daughters had inherited their father’s fine looks.  And, like their father, they were very sweet natured.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED, scroll down for additional information about King Faisal:





Faisal of Saudi Arabia
King of Saudi Arabia
Reign November 2, 1964 – March 25, 1975 (11 years)
Predecessor Saud
Successor Khalid
Spouse Sultana bin Ahmed bin Muhammad Al-Sudairi (died)Iffat Al-Thunayan
Prince Abdullah Prince Muhammad Princess Sara Princess Lolowah Prince Khalid Prince Saud Prince Sa’d Prince Abdul-Rahman Prince Bandar Princess Latifa Princess Munira Princess al-Jauhara Princess al-Anud Princess Misha’il Princess Fahda Princess Nura Prince Turki Princess Haifa
House House of Saud
Father Abdul-Aziz
Mother Turfa
Born 1906 Riyadh, Al Rashid
Died 25 March 1975(1975-03-25) (aged 69) Saudi Arabia
Religion Sunni Islam

Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (1906 – March 25, 1975) (Arabic: فيصل بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود‎ Fayṣal ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Su‘ūd) was King of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975. As king, he is credited with rescuing the country’s finances and implementing a policy of modernization and reform, while his main foreign policy themes were pan-Islamism, anti-Communism, and pro-Palestinian nationalism.[1][2] He successfully stabilized the kingdom’s bureaucracy and his reign had significant popularity among Saudis. In 1975, he was assassinated by his nephew Faisal bin Musaid.




Faisal was born in Riyadh. He was the third son of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul-Aziz. Faisal’s mother was Tarfa bint Abduallah bin Abdulateef al Sheekh,whom Abdul-Aziz had married in 1902 after capturing Riyadh. She was from the family of the Al ash-Sheikh, descendants of Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahhab. Her father, Abd Allah ibn Abd al-Latif Al ash-Sheikh, was one of Abdul-Aziz’s principal religious teachers and advisers. By the time of his father’s death, Faisal was the second oldest surviving son.

Early life of King Faisal

As one of Abdul-Aziz’s eldest sons, Faisal was delegated numerous responsibilities to consolidate control over Arabia. In 1925, Faisal, in command of an army of Saudi loyalists, won a decisive victory in the Hijaz. In return, he was made the governor of Hijaz the following year.

After the new Saudi kingdom was formalized in 1932, Faisal became Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he continued to hold even as King. Faisal also commanded a section of the Saudi forces that took part in the brief Saudi-Yemeni War of 1934, successfully fighting off Yemeni claims over Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces.

ARAMCO‘s development of Saudi oil after World War II nearly sextupled revenue from $10.4 million in 1946 to $56.7 million in 1950. As King Abdul-Aziz’s health declined and his leadership became lax, Faisal comprehended the necessity for better economic management. In the summer of 1951, Abdul-Aziz enlarged the government bureaucracy to include many more members of the extended royal family. Faisal’s son Abdullah was appointed Minister of Health and Interior.

Crown Prince and Prime Minister

Upon the accession of Faisal’s elder brother, Saud, to the throne in 1953, Faisal was appointed Crown Prince. Saud, however, embarked on a lavish and ill-considered spending program that included the construction of a massive royal residence on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh. He also faced pressure from neighboring Egypt, where Gamal Abdel Nasser had overthrown the monarchy in 1952. Nasser was able to cultivate a group of dissident princes led by Prince Talal who defected to Egypt. Fearing that Saud’s financial policies were bringing the state to the brink of collapse, and that his handling of foreign affairs was inept, senior members of the royal family and the religious leadership (the ulema) pressured Saud into appointing Faisal to the position of prime minister in 1958, giving Faisal wide executive powers.In this new position, Faisal set about cutting spending dramatically in an effort to rescue the state treasury from bankruptcy. This policy of financial prudence was to become a hallmark of his era and earned him a reputation for thriftiness among the populace.

A power struggle ensued thereafter between Saud and Faisal, and on December 18, 1960, Faisal resigned as prime minister in protest, arguing that Saud was frustrating his financial reforms. Saud took back his executive powers and, having induced Talal to return from Egypt, appointed Talal as minister of finance.In 1962, however, Faisal rallied enough support within the royal family to install himself as prime minister for a second time.[9]

It was during this period as head of the Saudi government that Faisal, though still not king, established his reputation as a reforming and modernizing figure.He introduced education for women and girls despite the consternation of many conservatives in the religious establishment. To appease the objectors, however, he allowed the female educational curriculum to be written and overseen by members of the religious leadership, a policy which lasted long after Faisal’s death. It was also during this time that Faisal formally abolished slavery.

In 1963, Faisal established the country’s first television station, though actual broadcasts would not begin for another two years. As with many of his other policies, the move aroused strong objections from the religious and conservative sections of the country. Faisal assured them, however, that Islamic principles of modesty would be strictly observed, and made sure that the broadcasts contained a large amount of religious programming.

Struggle with Saud

The struggle with King Saud continued in the background during this time. Taking advantage of the king’s absence from the country for medical reasons in early 1963, Faisal began amassing more power for himself. He removed many of Saud’s loyalists from their posts and appointed like-minded princes in key military and security positions,such as his brother Abdullah, to whom he gave command of the National Guard in 1962.Upon Saud’s return, Faisal demanded that he be made regent and that Saud be reduced to a purely ceremonial role. In this, he had the crucial backing of the ulema, including an edict (or fatwa) issued by the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, a relative of Faisal’s on his mother’s side, calling on Saud to accede to his brother’s demands. Saud refused, however, and made a last-ditch attempt to retake executive powers, leading Faisal to order the National Guard to surround Saud’s palace. His loyalists outnumbered and outgunned, Saud relented, and on March 4, 1964, Faisal was appointed regent. A meeting of the elders of the royal family and the ulema was convened later that year, and a second fatwa was decreed by the grand mufti calling on Saud to abdicate the throne in favor of his brother. The royal family supported the fatwa and immediately informed Saud.

And, history was made when Faisal became the 3rd king of Saudi Arabia.


(This last bit of information pulled from the internet.)


About jeansasson

I'm a woman with a keen interest in a wide range of topics including women's issues; animal rights issues; humanitarian issues and political movements, such as the events currently sweeping the Middle East. I am an avid reader and collector of books, mainly about travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries. I have enormous curiosity about other people and relish hearing about lives and opinions of people from all over the world. I’m the author of the PRINCESS series, GROWING UP BIN LADEN, MAYADA DAUGHTER OF IRAQ, FOR THE LOVE OF A SON, and more. Over the past few years the princess and I have met and worked together to bring out a 4th, 5th and 6th book. The 4th is titled: PRINCESS, MORE TEARS TO CRY while the 5th is titled: PRINCESS, SECRETS TO SHARE. The 6th, titled PRINCESS, STEPPING OUT OF THE SHADOWS is to be released in October 2018. I am currently working on my memoirs. Details to be released soon. You can visit my website ( or check out my books on Amazon for more info.
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6 Responses to King Faisal, the king who did the most for Saudi Arabian women

  1. Kat Canfield says:

    Wish me had more Faisals to help solve the issues for women and all Arabs in the Middle East.

  2. Dear sir , I would like to indicate to u regarding ur above article , that it was King Saud and not King Faisal who initiated female education . Enclosed the Royal Decree in 1960 by which ,King Saud stated that female schools should open around the kingdom . The Decree States :
    “That female formal education will be accessible to all girls around the country , and schools will be opened for them under the supervision of the (the General presidency for formal female Education ) which will be headed by Sheikh Ibrahim Al Sheikh ,the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia “.

    • jeansasson says:

      Heloo Fahda, This is nice information to know. I have not seen this in any books or heard about it, but I believe you. I am pleased that your father was very interested in education for girls and that he started the path to girls education. Thank you again for your very informative note. With warm regards, Jean Sasson

    • Fouad Kamal says:

      That’s not quite accurate. Yes, the Decree was signed while King Saud was on the throne, but, then Crown Prince, and prime minister Faisal, was the one who came up with the idea, fought for it, and at times sent the national guard to accompany women from and to schools in conservative areas like Al-Qasim. It’s worth noting that even though Saud was the king at that time, but since Faisal became the prime minister, his role became more ceremonial than anything.
      When, then Prince Faisal, made the executive order, he had to announce it in the king’s name, for formality, and also as a sign of respect for the king.

      King Saud had some great influences on the nation, however, women education has always been credited to King Faisal as it should.

  3. Pingback: King Faisal Babes FC | Football Teams Named After Dates or People

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