One wonders how to approach the subject of Sheikh Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri. Should it be dealt with from a political perspective? And if so, should one tackle his role, or rather roles in internal policy or perhaps foreign policy? But if we were to overlook politics, should we speak about Sheikh Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri as the man of letters who is a great admirer of al Mutanabbi and al Ma’ari [10th Century Arab poets among the greats]? Or as the writer of the eloquent letters sent to his son?
Or perhaps one could discuss the historian behind the priceless masterpieces ‘Li Surat al Lail Hatafa al Sabah,’ and ‘Fi al Sabah Yahmadu al Qawm al Sara’. Both books are the crown jewels of Tuwaijri’s writings and include rare scrolls and crucial correspondence written in the early years of the Saudi state, which was founded at the hands of the venerable King Abdulaziz.
What gateway can one enter to access the illustrious life of Sheikh al Tuwaijri?
It is my belief that anyone who was destined to see Sheikh al Abdulaziz, even if only once, will have retained a special memory of him. He knew how to reach people and using his foresight was a master at knowing who to bring close and who to keep at an arm’s length. He was an unforgettable man whether as cabinet minister, advisor, nobleman, or writer, as all of these traits are simply secondary to the man he was.
In brief, Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri of Najd (who died 10 June 2007) was born approximately one century ago, in the small town Hawtat Sodair. He then moved to al Mujammaa, the largest town in the Sodair region and a customarily calm town that was witnessing the aftermath of one of the battles that took place during the establishment of the modern kingdom. Those who had left the town were returning at the time, including Sheikh al Tuwaijri’s father.
But Sheikh Abdulaziz experienced the harshness of being an orphan after his father past away while he was still a young boy. His eldest brother was the bursar of both al Mujammaa and Sodair, after which he became the bursar of Buraida in Qaseem. Sheikh al Tuwaijri succeeded his brother as the bursar of al Mujammaa.
The life of this great man is the story of his ascent and accomplishments, a key Saudi figure with a compelling story. Anyone interested in reading the best brief biography can refer to Saudi writer Muhammad al Saif’s article in ‘Al Jazirah’ newspaper [Saudi daily]. He related the details of the late Sheikh joining King Abdulaziz’s forces and the Saudi Arabian National Guard under King Saud unto his great story with King Abdulaziz whom he served as a sincere and dedicated advisor.
But these are but fleeting accounts of the life of Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri who is certainly a worthy subject of a great biography, but which unfortunately has yet to be compiled. He was a statesman, administrator and a man who was very perceptive and a pleasure to talk to. Those who knew Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri would know that his favorite story was that of King Abdulaziz.
Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri never tired of reiterating his love for King Abdulaziz to the extent that his eyes would shine with tears when he spoke of the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman al Faisal al Saud. I attended his gathering in Riyadh and saw him at the Langham Hotel in London. Still, he ceaselessly expressed his admiration for the late founder, King Abdulaziz. He spoke to his audience, myself included, of King Abdulaziz’s heroic feats.
He recounted a story in which King Abdulaziz after having received criticism against his bursar in Mujammaa, Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri, and summoned him to the al Marbaa Palace in Riyadh. The king gave him a reproachful look and asked him to sit down in a harsh tone, which grieved the young man. After some time, one of the king’s senior relatives came into the room, and likewise the king asked him to sit down in the same harsh manner. The young Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri felt relief at this and understood the king’s message and did not feel any discrimination. The king then addressed him, stressing the importance of people’s rights and how he would never be lenient with his officials when the matter involved integrity and people’s rights. After the young al Tuwaijri explained the matter in question and the truth was revealed, the king smiled at him. As the sheikh spoke, I felt as though I was actually sitting with the king and that the monarch had just smiled at him. Despite all the books and studies written about the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri spoke about the late King Abdulaziz as if it were the first time you ever heard of him.
Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri was a Saudi bridge that rose high above the ground to connect Saudi Arabia with the Arab world. His symposiums and his very persona transformed to become a mobile Saudi symposium and a Saudi gateway into the world of politics and intellectualized politics.
There is no writer, poet, novelist, thinker or intellectual in the Arab world who does not feel that Abdulaziz al Tuwaijri was his friend if they were of the same generation, or if their fathers were. He alone achieved what all universities and societies failed to. Many Arab intellectuals admired and respected Sheikh Abdulaziz, which was evident during the cultural events of Janadria Festival in Riyadh. Under his tutelage, he had made the festival the most important cultural event in the Arab world.
One more memory that I retain of that dignified sheikh is when he gave me advice, calling me ‘my son’ at a small gathering in his home. Then he dictated a two-page dedication to his scribe on the front page of his “Li Surat al Lail Hatafa al Sabah.” Suddenly, he began to cry and then said, “Son, by God I wish to meet God. I’m not worried about my actions. I’m proud of my children. Throughout my life, I strove to serve my country. I love my country. I hope I haven’t wronged anybody…”
Indeed, the man was a rare Saudi phenomenon and a story to tell and remember.