Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918 – 2 November 2004), the founder of United Arab Emirates (UAE) our father and legand, he was the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE for over 30 years (1971–2004). Sheikh Zayed provided leadership to my country for over half a century. On August 6th, 1966, Sheikh Zayed became Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and within weeks a massive development program was underway. Schools, hospitals, roads and housing were constructed. Sheikh Zayed’s vision had always extended beyond the borders of Abu Dhabi.
In 1968, Britain announced that it would withdraw from the area before the end of 1971. Immediately Sheikh Zayed took the lead in calling for a federation of the emirates. The rulers of the emirates moved quickly and on the 2nd December, 1971, the United Arab Emirates formally emerged onto the international stage While Sheikh Zayed himself always attempts to share credit for the remarkable ensuing developments with his fellow members of the Supreme Council of Rulers (comprising the ruler of each of the seven emirates) no-one doubts that, without his wisdom and guidance, they would never have happened. The Supreme Council itself has recognized this by re-electing Sheikh Zayed to successive five-year terms as President.
Using the country’s enormous oil revenues, Sheikh Zayed built up institutions such as hospitals, schools and universities and made it possible for UAE citizens to enjoy free access to them. He also decreed that the State would undertake the cost of foreign health care for those families unable to afford it.
When asked by the New York Times in April 1997 why there is no elected parliamentary democracy, Sheikh Zayed replied,
“Why should we abandon a system that satisfies our people in order to introduce a system that seems to engender dissent and confrontation? Our system of government is based upon our religion (Islam) and that is what our people want. Should they seek alternatives, we are ready to listen to them. We have always said that our people should voice their demands openly. We are all in the same boat, and they are both the captain and the crew. Our doors are open for any opinion to be expressed, and this well known by all our citizens. It is our deep conviction that Allah has created people free, and has prescribed that each individual must enjoy freedom of choice. No one should act as if they own others. Those in the position of leadership should deal with their subjects with compassion and understanding, because this is the duty enjoined upon them by Allah, who enjoins upon us to treat all living creatures with dignity. How can there be anything less for mankind, created as Allah’s vicegerent (khalif or Caliphate) on earth? Our system of government does not derive its authority from man, but is enshrined in our religion and is based on Allah’s Book, the Quran. What need have we of what others have conjured up? Its teachings are eternal and complete, while the systems conjured up by man are transitory and incomplete.
Not to forget that Sheikh Zayed was also an advocate for the education and participation of women in the work force, within traditional parameters. His views regarding woman’s rights were considerably more liberal than his contemporaries in the GCC nations.
“We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognized the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations.” – Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
“The greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people.”- HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
On the 2nd of November Sheikh Zayed, the nation leader had passed away, after a log journey of giving, achievements and development of people and land. In line of the his vision, the nation keeps going under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of united Arab Emirates and the members of the Supreme Council of Rulers and their crown princess.