The ruling family of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi dynasty, is known as the House (al) of Sa˓ud. Founding of the dynasty is conventionally dated in 1744, when the ruler of the small oasis town Dir˓iyya (south of Riyadh), Muhammad ibn Sa˓ud, made an alliance with the reformist religious activist Muhammad ibn ˓Abd al-Wahhab. Muhammad ibn Sa˓ud accepted the strict, puritanical interpretation of Islam propounded by Muhammad ibn ˓Abd al-Wahhab as the basis for his state, and the latter pledged his support for the expansion of the former's domains. Two Saudi realms in Arabia (1744–1818, 1824–1891), destroyed by Ottoman intervention and internal strife, preceded the foundation of the current Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by ˓Abd al-˓Aziz ibn ˓Abd al-Rahman al-Sa˓ud (known in the West as Ibn Saud) at the outset of the twentieth century. By 1934, ˓Abd al-˓Aziz had expanded the kingdom to its current boundaries. He has been succeeded as ruler by a number of his thirty-six sons: Sa˓ud (1953–1964), Faysal (1964–1975), Khalid (1975–1982) and Fahd (1982–present). Including the direct descendants of ˓Abd al-˓Aziz, the descendants of his brothers, and significant cadet branches of the family, the number of princes in the Saudi royal family is estimated now at between five and eight thousand.
F. Gregory Gause III