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Our National Day
By Abdullah S. Al-Shehri
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 09 - 2010

Today, the 23rd of September, is the National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. National Days are designated dates to mark the nationhood of countries. Usually, this nationhood is symbolized by the date of gaining independence from an external colonial power, as is the case with many countries of the world. It could also be a day on which a country celebrates its freedom from an internal oppressing regime as in many cases around the world too. However, for some countries, nationhood of the nation is symbolized by the birthday of a ruler of that nation and is marked as a National Day.
Our Saudi Arabian National Day symbolizes the beginning of an epic that would end centuries of internal tribal feuds, tribal warfare and blood revenge, isolation, epidemic disease, high infant mortality rate, maternal death, highway robbery, starvation, illiteracy, widespread poverty, religious innovation, etc.
Not too long ago, before King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud embarked on his historic mission to unite the centuries-long desolate peoples and places of the vast Arabian desert into one people of one nation. Anyone leaving to go on a journey to perform Haj, or for trade, was not expected to make it home after his trip because he would most likely die on the way to or from his destination, as a result of disease, starvation or armed robbery. It was to the extent that families would accept condolences immediately after the departure of their traveling members as, back then, traveling represented a great risk.
To give a real example of just how life used to be before this county was founded, I am going to tell you this story.
A relative of mine, who passed away recently at the age of nearly 110, and an early contemporary of King Abdul Aziz, told us a heartbreaking story – just months before he died. He remembered when he was a young boy means of supporting one's existence were highly threatened by a long drought in the South Western agricultural regions of this country. Water wells had gone dry, crops had failed for several consecutive seasons, and livestock had been wiped out, forcing adult males – sometimes entire families – to leave their homes in different directions, searching for food. After a long and desperate search with no use, my late relative's father told his wife to take their son (my late relative and narrator of the story) and go back home while he carried on the search-for-food mission on his own. “As my father started to walk away I kept looking at him until I could no longer see him, and that was the last time I saw my father. We would never hear from him again,” recalls my late relative.
A few years later, the Kingdom was founded and he (my late relative) decided to embark on a long journey of his own – one that would take him more than a month on foot from what became later known as Asir province, to the newly established capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There, he joined the security force and served at the royal palace.
Having seen and heard what conditions were like in this part of the world only decades ago, and where we are now as a nation, it is rather ironic, let alone ridiculous, that some of us are still debating whether it is ‘Islamic' or ‘not Islamic' to celebrate National Day, and would need a ‘fatwa' to express their love for their country. For many decades, we, as a people of this country, were deprived of the privilege of celebrating our National Day out of fear that we might be violating the precepts of our Islamic faith!
For many years, this anniversary would come and go without the majority of the population, especially school children, paying any attention to it. Thanks to our wise leadership and the resort to the common sense, people are now able to at least remember this day and what it stands for, while enjoying a day off school and work, as a sign of respect and gratitude for our nation.
The least we could do as citizens of this great nation is to stop for a day every year to remember that our country was founded by the courageous enterprise of resolute men.
May Allah continue His blessings on this nation, on its leaders, and on its people. Happy National Day!

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