The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has lost a prominent son, one of the countries statesmen, a former Minister of Information, Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani. He was a ministry of information in himself; involved in Islamic ideology, literature, journalism, social and charity work, as well as sports, and the fine arts. The dearly departed was respected by all sections of society, and he was lovingly known as “Ibn Mecca” [the son of Mecca] however after I got to know him I would say that he is rather “Ibn Saudi Arabia” [the son of Saudi Arabia] thanks to his sense of national pride and his love for his country.
My knowledge and love for the departed was only increased after he became Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Saudi Research and Publishing Company which the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper falls under. This is the first Board of Trustees of its kind in the Arab media; its job is to support independence and professionalism according to the line drawn by the Saudi Research and Publishing Company to differentiate between ownership and management and the editorship. After he was appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani sent an article to the newspaper however with apologies I told him that I was unable to publish this. I later met him at an event in Jeddah, where he said “welcome to the man who prevented the publication of my article.” I felt embarrassed due to the man’s stature and age [and I apologized to him] however he smiled and said “don’t worry, my son…you cut [the suit] and we’ll wear it!”
This reflects his character and quality, and he would often telephone to offer his congratulations whenever he read something that he liked in the newspaper. He telephoned one day and said “give your colleagues my regards for the launch of the newspaper in Qatar, this is exemplary work, for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper is for all people in the Middle East!”
His influence is endless, and the beauty of this is that Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani was extremely humble, as well as quick witted and humorous, and he would speak in a beautiful Meccan accent. In early Ramadan, Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani telephoned me whilst I was in Jeddah after I had stopped writing my articles, he asked me “what’s wrong, my son, why have you stopped writing?” I told him jokingly “the devils are chained in Ramadan, my good doctor” and he answered quickly “by God I don’t know, in Mecca they say that you will have no problem if you begin [your article] with the words ‘in the name of God.'” I could not help from laughing, and I informed him that I had chosen to take a month holiday from writing every year. He said “in any case, I just wanted to check [on you] for you know that I have little experience in the media, even though I am a former minister of information, and I know the secrets of the media, and its problems.”
Another beautiful story about Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani is one that I heard from the great singer and artist Abou Bakr Salim concerning his famous patriotic song “Ya Biladi Wassili” [My Steadfast Country]. Abou Bakr Salim revealed that during his tenure as Minister of Information – during a period when Saudi Arabia was preparing to host a session of the Islamic Summit Conference – Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani telephoned him and asked him “Where are your distinctive patriotic songs? We want a song that reflects the development of this country, but you only have two days [to produce it]!” Dr. Mohamed Abdu Yamani, with his knowledge of the media, was well aware that patriotic language has a strong effect, how can this not be the case when poetry is the Arabs’ mother tongue?
According to Abou Bakr Salim, he took the first plane to Cairo. Abou Bakr Salim said that during take-off, he was humming to himself, and addressing the airplane he hummed “God be with you…and be steadfast” which is where he got the idea for the song. He was inspired by the words of the Minister, and so he imagined that the airplane was the homeland, and he wrote his great song whose lyrics include “Oh my steadfast country, God be with you, be steadfast and we are with you, be steadfast and God will protect you, God of the Universe.”
God bless Mohamed Abdu Yamani, he was a noble man who always had a kind word to say; may his soul rest in peace. Amen.