Although Sa'udi Arabia has a relatively short history as a nation-state, it is heir to an Islamic civilization that developed from the teachings of Muhammad (570–632), born of the tribe of Quraysh in Mecca. The branch of Islam which claims most contemporary Sa'udis is that preached by Muhammad bin 'Abd al-Wahhab (1703?–91), a fundamentalist reformer.
The Sa'udi who has gained greatest renown outside the modern kingdom of Sa'udi Arabia is 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Faysal as-Sa'ud, better known as Ibn-Sa'ud (1880–1953), the father of his country. Forced into exile with his family at a young age, he reconquered his patrimony and left behind him the state of Sa'udi Arabia.
In 1964, Faisal (Faysal ibn-'Abd al-'Aziz as-Sa'ud, 1906–75) was proclaimed king. In his role as prime minister, Faisal instituted many economic and social reforms, including the abolition of slavery. Upon his assassination in March 1975, he was succeeded as king and prime minister by Khaled (Khalid ibn-'Abd al-'Aziz, 1913–82). Together with Crown Prince Fahd ibn-'Abd al-'Aziz (b.1920), King Khaled broadened the country's development policies.
After Khaled's death, Fahd became king; he has pursued the same cautious program of modernization as his two predecessors. Ahmad Zaki Yamani (b.1930), a former minister of petroleum and mineral resources, gained an international reputation as a spokesman for the oil-exporting countries.