His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani
(may his soul rest in peace)
Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani was born in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on 30th June 1930. He lived a full and rich life, engaging in, and driving significant political, economic, social, and cultural change.
Inspired by his father and grandfather, both of whom were highly respected Islamic scholars and judges, Sheikh Yamani’s first ambition was to become a teacher. Nevertheless, he ended up studying law at the University of Cairo, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Law in 1951.
After finishing his studies, he took a job at the Ministry of Finance in Makkah, whilst also teaching Islamic law. Soon after, the Saudi government sent him to New York University's Comparative Law Institute for non-American lawyers at NYU Law School, and in 1955 he received a Master's degree in Comparative Jurisprudence.
Sheikh Yamani spent the next year at Harvard University Law School, earning his second Master's degree in 1956, and then returned to the Ministry of Finance of Saudi Arabia, joining the new Department of Zakat and Income Tax. That same year, he founded the first law firm in Jeddah, bearing his name. The firm was subsequently expanded, to include branches in Riyadh and Bahrain.
In 1960, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani assumed the position of Minister of State and Member of the Saudi Cabinet. Then he became the Saudi Arabian Minister of Oil (Petroleum) and Mineral Resources (1962-1986).
He is regarded as the architect of several of the Kingdom’s modern laws and regulations, as well as a diplomat representing his country in the international arena.
One of his early contributions was to help establish a premier university in the Middle East and North Africa, to help support the growing oil sector; in 1963 the College of Petroleum and Minerals was established by Royal Decree. It was later renamed the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
His Excellency (may his soul rest in peace) was also the main architect in the nationalisation of Aramco, the country’s national oil company and the largest oil producer in the world. In 1973 the Saudi Arabian government acquired a 25% stake in Aramco. It increased its shareholding to 60% by 1974, and finally took full control of Aramco by 1980.
In 1990, he founded the Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), a non-profit think tank, specialising in oil market analysis and forecasting, and the economics and politics of energy.
One of his activities in his early professional career was to write articles in local Saudi newspapers, arousing interest in various circles. His later writings comprised many papers and contributions to a wide variety of conferences, covering several areas, including oil, geopolitics, Islamic law, and history.
Due to his passion and interest in the Islamic written heritage, in the year 1988, Sheikh Yamani - through the Yamani Cultural and Charitable Foundation - established the Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation.
Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation was established initially with the aim to document and preserve the Islamic written heritage, principally through its work in surveying, imaging, cataloguing, editing, studying and publishing Islamic manuscripts. But, with time, its scope of activity expanded, and it became a Foundation, consisting of three centres, i.e., the Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts, the Centre for the Encyclopaedia of Makkah and Madinah, and the Centre for the Study of the Philosophy of Islamic Law.
Beside his role as Founder, His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani was also the Chairman of the board of directors of the Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation and its three centres for more than three decades.
Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani wrote several books and studies, including “The House of Khadija Bint Khuwaylid (radiyallahu anha) in Makkah Al-Mukarramah - A Historical Study of Its Location, Building and Architecture” (in both Arabic and English), and “Islam and Women”, which was translated into several languages. He also published dozens of articles in Arabic and English in various fields.
Throughout his life he continued receiving numerous honorary doctorate degrees from universities all over the world, including many awards and decorations.
His Excellency loved poetry and music, establishing a poetry award in Egypt that ran for many years, in the name of the late Mohamed Hassan Faqih. He also composed dozens of songs, but those were never published. He was an avid perfumer, gifting his own creations to his friends and family.
Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani passed away in London on Monday 22nd February 2021 at the age of 90. He was laid to rest in Jannat al-Muallaa Cemetery, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, alongside his family.May his soul rest in peace.