Official and unofficial documents constitute important source material for the writing of history. Nations rely heavily on the collection and preservation of their documents and making them available to those who wish to study their history. This is why the Library has been keen to acquire rare documents and books, especially those relating to the history of King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and the history of the Kingdom. It also wants to allocate a wing of the Library to house this collection of about 123,680 documents, which include the following different types:
1- Documents of the George Rentz Collection (in English, French and Arabic)
These cover the period from 1930 to 1960. George Rentz was President of the Saudi Aramco Research and Translation Centre, and a leading light in research and scientific activities. He had very wide relations with many social groups, institutions and intellectuals, both inside and outside Saudi Arabia. He had a special and distinguished interest in everything to do with the Arabian Peninsula. As a university professor, he had many books and had contributed to writing on subjects for the Islamic Encyclopedia. He did his doctorate on the life of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul-Wahhab, the founder of the Kingdom’s Wahhabi Reform Movement. We must also point out that he lived through important events, both in Syria and Egypt, before he settled in the Kingdom. He spoke and wrote Arabic well, and worked as a consultant, expert and scientific examiner on the Affairs of the Arabian Peninsula, on behalf of his country's government and for US publishing houses and researchers interested in this region at the time. The documents in his possession reflect this.
The George Rentz Document Collection includes a huge collection of personal and official documents, studies and research papers, articles and press clippings, journals and reports, most of which are closely related to the history of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf in particular, the Middle East and Islam in general. The documents vary in importance, with some being very rare and of high secrecy. The dominant feature of most of these documents is their scientific and historical value, for example:
– Documents illustrating what Egyptian, Arab, and English newspapers reported about King Abdul-Aziz Al Sa’ud's visit to Egypt.
– Documents illustrating what US newspapers said about King Sa’ud's visit to the United States of America.
– Documents relating to the Al-Bureimi Oasis, the events relating to it and the correspondence that went on between the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Muscat, and Oman at the time.
– Documents about oil agreements between the Kingdom and some US companies.
– Documents illustrating what British newspapers said about the war fought between British forces and the forces of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman on the one hand and the forces of the Imam of Oman, and the repercussions of this war on the region and on the attitude of the Sa’udi state and King Sa’ud towards it.
2. The Abdul-Rahman Azzam Basha Document Collection (in Arabic and English).
These documents cover the period from 1925 to 1960. Abdul-Rahman Azzam Basha was a member of the first Egyptian parliament in 1924 and played prominent roles during his trips overseas to several countries. In 1936, he was appointed as Egypt's Commissioner to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He participated in the international conferences dealing with Palestine that took place in London, then he was appointed Minister of Endowments and Minister of Social Affairs in Egypt and Commander of the Territorial Army. In 1944, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Arab Affairs. In 1945, he served as the first Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and continued in this post until the autumn of 1952. He then continued his activities as a political adviser to Saudi Arabia and its agent in the above-mentioned Al-Bureimi case.
These documents dealt mainly with topics relating to the Arab League, in terms of its origins and its founding charters, its role in trying to find solutions to the Palestinian issue, activating the Arab role, and some countries' winning independence, by their liberation from occupation, in this case Syria, Lebanon and Libya. They also dealt with the role of the Secretary-General of the League, who sought at that time to obtain the approval of Arab countries for the League protocol, including Saudi Arabia, and his meeting with His Majesty King Abdul-Aziz. Important documents include:
– The meeting of Abdul-Rahman Azzam with His Majesty King Abdul-Aziz, and their discussion about the wording of the protocol on the establishment of the Arab League and the unification of Arab ranks.
– The talks between King Abdul-Aziz and US President Roosevelt on 14 February 1945 on the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The document is a diary of those talks.
3 – The Hamza Abu Bakr Document Collection (in French and Arabic)
These documents cover the period from 1920 to 1980. Hamza Abu Bakr played a major role on Algerian radio during the Second World War, in French political life, in parliament, and in French advisory councils. For more than 20 years, he was the Imam of the Paris Mosque, the dean of the Islamic institute, and a member of more than one Islamic Council. He was also very active in Islamic missionary work and had links with most Islamic societies in many Western countries, as well as writing valuable articles, research papers, lectures and studies.
The Hamza Abu Bakr Collection contains a large amount of personal and social correspondence relating to the Paris Mosque and its Islamic Institute, relations with the French state and its organs, ministries, newspapers, senior statesmen, religious and political figures, as well as embassies of Arab and foreign countries, intellectuals and researchers, and dealing with relations with political and religious associations in France, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the countries of Central and West Africa. The documents contain research and studies written by him, or from his holdings resulting from direct contact with European society, and reflecting themes, problems, issues and situations raised more than 70 years ago and still current to the present day. We can mention, for example, topics relating to Muslim-Christian dialogue, East-West dialogue, inter-civilizational dialogue, Islamic tolerance, violence and how to combat it, the image of Islam in the West and the subject of Semiticism and religions. There are also a large number of fatwas and religious consultations that reflect the real problems that Muslims face in western Christian society and their engagement with those fatwas and consultations. Here we are interested in offering examples of all this, especially:
- Legal opinions and consultations that deal with the killing of non-Muslims, issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance and Muslim graves, medical matters such as transplants, medicines and the breaking of the fast, and banking transactions.
- Studies, research and opinions, reflecting the desire to emerge from international problems, such as the Middle East problem, dialogue among representatives of the different religions and inter-cultural convergence.
- Holdings include documents from the Second World War, namely a collection of articles broadcast by Radio Algeria against Germany, and a communique from the American Army to the peoples of North Africa in 1942 that conforms to the communique from the American Army to the Iraqi people.
- Correspondence reflecting the assistance provided by Saudi Arabia to the Paris Mosque and the pilgrims to the Kaaba.
4 – The British Document Collection about King Abdul-Aziz Al (in English).
These documents cover the period 1800-1953, and include copies of the original documents. It is one of the most important sources for the history of the Arabian Peninsula, with its valuable historical material, with very little that is comparable in other sources. The British archive, known as the Public Records House, contains documents collected over several centuries by successive British governments. It provides information on the Arabian Peninsula that is invaluable due to the scarcity of local documents. These documents were issued by the Centre for Historical Studies and Documentation in London, which was created by Najda Fathi Safwat, who searched for the documents and then collected them in bound volumes, which were issued as a series of volumes entitled: The Arabian Peninsula in British Documents (Hijaz and Najd).
Most of these documents cover the period of King Abdul-Aziz's rule, since the time he regained Riyadh until his death, and include a huge collection of reports from British embassies, consulates and representatives, as well as letters from princes and rulers of neighbouring regions, such as Kuwait and Bahrain. It also includes the reports of British staff who visited the region, such as Thomas Lawrence and Sir Percy Cox. These documents also include private letters from local traders and leaders, who wanted to be closer to the British state. The diversity of these sources, and the large numbers, enrich the historical material and help researchers find out about many developments and events in the region, the efforts of King Abdul-Aziz both at home and abroad, his position on British intervention, and the major powers in the Islamic and Arab worlds, for example:
- Original photos from King Abdul-Aziz's letters to the Emir of Bahrain dealing with the treatment of Al-Ahsa merchants in 1913.
- A document in the form of a memorandum of 118 pages in 1934, covering the history of the Arabian Peninsula since the launch of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul-Wahhab Movement, using old British reports dating back to more than three centuries prior to 1934.
5 – The Khayr al-Din Al-Zarkali Document Collection (in English)
These documents cover the period from 1920 to 1975. Al-Zarkali had cultural, political, educational and press roles in Beirut and Damascus before settling in Mecca in 1921. Then he went to Egypt, lived through the Great Syrian Revolution of 1925 and was sentenced to death. He went to Jerusalem, then became an adviser to the Saudi Arabian Commission in Egypt in 1934, and was one of the Saudi delegates in the preparatory deliberations for the establishment of the Arab League and the signing of its charter. He represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at several international conferences, and was assigned in 1946 to manage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jedda Province. Then in 1951 he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Saudi Government to the League of Arab States. Then in 1957 he was appointed as the Kingdom's ambassador to Morocco. From 1930, he was a member of the Scientific Academy of Damascus, as well as becoming a member of the Arabic Language Academy of Egypt from 1946, and the Iraqi Scientific Academy in 1960. He has many writings: The Arabian Peninsula during the reign of King Abdul Aziz, which was issued in 1970, and The Concise Biography of King Abdul-Aziz, which was issued in 1972.
The Zarkali Collection contains a large number of documents in the form of copies of local telegrams, memoranda from the time of King Abdul-Aziz and other kings (Sa’oud and Faysal). It also contains royal orders, political reports, proposals and opinions, reports on press interviews, official interviews with heads of state and ministers, particularly in Egypt, Greece, Morocco, Syria and Lebanon, and the establishment of the League of Arab States. There are also documents dealing with cultural and intellectual matters, symposia, conferences and personal correspondence, of which we can mention in particular:
– Documents about incidents on the Iraqi-Saudi border, and King Abdul Aziz’s correspondence with tribal chiefs, to enhance security.
– A report on the meeting of Khair al-Din Al-Zarkali with the King of Greece, coming from King Abdul-Aziz.
6 – Several collections of private and public sources.
These contain documents about King Abdul-Aziz and the Palestinian issue in English and Arabic, documents about the Saudi camel police, and manuscripts from the 12th and 17th centuries AD.
It also includes a large number of telegrams. Some are encrypted, and sent from the Diwan of King Abdul-Aziz in 1930 AD (1349 AH), to the then Minister of Finance, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and a group of local princes. There are also telegrams issued by the administration of the Kingdom of the Hijaz and the Kingdom of Najd and attachments. There is also a collection of documents containing lists of participants in the Battle of Sabilla from several tribes, and correspondence from King Abdul-Aziz to Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, covering the Palestinian situation, Jewish immigration and the solving of disputes between Muslims, and documents containing lists of tribes and migrations, and various data about them.
All these documents are historically very important because of their relationship to the unification of the Kingdom. The importance of these documents is shown by the importance of their original owners, whether in their personal capacity, the role assigned to them, or the importance of the topics or facts listed in these documents. These collections include a wide variety of documents. There are telegrams, lists, statements, reports, memoranda, correspondence, certificates, legal, political and economic consultations, transcripts, contracts, interrogations, various analytical articles, press clippings, leaflets, notes, lectures, studies, translations, pre-publication drafts of books, as well as correspondence and personal invitations. All of these documents are either handwritten, typed on a typewriter, or printed.