Al Thunayyan Family

views updated


A branch of the Al Saʿud, the ruling family of Saudi Arabia.

The Al Thunayyan (also Al Thunayan, Al Thunaiyan) are descended from an eponymous ancestor who was the brother of the dynasty's founder, Muhammad ibn Saʿud. That Thunayyan joined his brother in support of the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the Islamic reformer whose teachings (known outside Arabia as Wahhabism) have provided the essential ideological legitimacy for the rule of the Al Saʿud family.

Abdullah ibn Thunayyan was briefly ruler of Najd (18411843), following the second Egyptian occupation of the Saudi state, then met defeat at the hands of Faysal ibn Turki Al Saʿud, who restored Saudi rule over both central and eastern Arabia. Subsequently, the family of Abdullah moved to Istanbul, acquiring there a certain cosmopolitanism that set them apart from their Najdi cousins. His great-grandson, Ahmad, returned to Arabia to serve as private secretary to Amir (later King) Abd alAziz, also known as Ibn Saʿud, from before World War I until his death in 1921. Ahmad accompanied the young Prince (later King) Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz on the latter's diplomatic tour of Europe in 1919. Ahmad's intelligent and well-educated niece Iffat later became Faysal's very influential wife. A number of Al Thunayyan hold mid-level positions throughout the Saudi government and two are deputy ministers.

see also al saʿud family; faysal ibn turki al saʿud; muwahhidun.


DeGaury, Gerald. Faisal: King of Saudi Arabia. London: Baker, 1966.

Kechichian, Joseph A. Succession in Saudi Arabia. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Malcolm C. Peck

Updated by J. E. Peterson