Before the 7th century Saudi Arabia was a land of nomadic tribes and scattered oasis settlements. Around 600 A.D. the Prophet Mohammed proclaimed his prophetic message of the oneness of Allah. This, and the establishment of an Islamic government with its capital at Medina, united the countries of the Middle East for the first time. Arabia lost much of its importance after Ali, the fourth ruler, moved the capital to Iraq, although Mecca and Medina continued to play significant roles in the religious life of the region. The later rulers in Damascus and Baghdad lost control of the united Muslim world and most of Arabia returned to tribal rule.

During the mid 1400s, the Saud dynasty controlled a small area around the town of Diriyah, near the present day capital of Riyadh. In the 1700s the Saud ruler formed an alliance with a religious reformer named Muhammad Ibn Abdual-Wahhab. Ibn Abdual-Wahhab opposed the growing trend away from the Islamic teachings and preached that people should return to strict observance of Islamic laws. With the support of Saud armies, the Wahhabi movement, which promoted Islam, spread over most of Arabia.

By the 1800s, the Al-Saud family ruled most of the Arabian Peninsula. This prompted the Ottoman Empire to send its armies to control the influence of the Al-Saud. The Ottoman army captured Diriyah in 1818, but by 1824 the Al-Saud had regained political control of central Arabia and ruled from their new capital of Riyadh. Many years of unrest and tribal wars followed.

The weakening of the Ottoman Empire and the outbreak of World War I provided Ibn-Saud, in 1927, with the opportunity to be enthroned as king of both the Hijaz and Nejd regions. On September 23, 2021 the country proclaimed itself an independent Islamic state with Arabic the national language and the Holy Qur'an as its constitution. The Saud family is the ruling monarchy of Saudi Arabia. The Wahhab family is responsible for religious matters.

Did you know?

The discovery of oil in the 1930s improved the country's economy tremendously, allowing the people to enjoy a high standard of living and an increasingly diverse economy.