Succession in Oman after the death of Sultan Qaboos

The much mourned death of Sultan Qaboos now means that Oman’s law of succession comes into force.

Sultan Qaboos Al Said
Sultan Qaboos Al Said

Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled Oman since 1970, drew up ‘Basic Statute of the State ‘ on 6th November 1996 a year after he was involved in a car crash which resulted in fatalities. It was amended in 2011.

Sayyid Turki Al Said
Sayyid Turki Al Said

The Basic Statute of the State includes a law of succession Article (5)  that states “system of governance is Sultani , hereditary in the male descendants of Sayyid Turki bin Said bin Sultan, provided that whomever is to be chosen from amongst them as successor shall be a Muslim, mature, rational and the legitimate son of Omani Muslim parents.” Sayyid Turki was a mid 19th c ruler of Oman. This clearly excluded descendants of Sayyid Turki’s brothers and other relatives.

Sayyid Turki ruled Oman from 1871-1888 and since then descent has been from father to son. Sultan Qaboos does not have children and therefore an additional part of this Basic Statute of the State, Article (6) , assumes critical importance, although it would also appear to need to be undertaken even if a Sultan had eligible children.

Article 6 says that “The Royal Family Council shall, within three days of the throne falling vacant, determine the successor to the throne. If the Royal Family Council does not agree on a choice of a Sultan for the Country, the Defence Council together with the Chairman of Majlis Al Dawla , the Chairman of Majlis Al Shura , and the Chairman of the Supreme Court along with two of his most senior deputies, shall instate the person designated by His Majesty the Sultan in his letter to the Royal Family Council.” The members of the Royal Family Council are not specified, the Majlis Al Dawla and Majlis Al Shura are consultative bodies in Oman. According to a Royal Decree 105/96, the Defence Council is composed of the Minister of Royal Office, the General Inspector of Police and Customs, the Head of Internal Security Services, the Commander of the Royal Navy, the Commander of the Royal Air Force, the Commander of the Royal Guards, the Commander of the Royal Army and the Commander of the Sultan’s Armed Forces; as well as the Sultan.

An assumption can be made that the Royal Family Council comprises those senior members of the Al Said family who are eligible to become Sultan. There are members of the family who are eligible to become Sultan but whose wife may not meet a strict interpretation of being an Omani by birth, though she may have nationality and be a Muslim. Under this interpretation their sons are ineligible.

Unlike the vast extended family of the Al Saud the numbers of the Al Said family who are eligible to become Sultan are probably under 100 individuals and possibly around 50. Some may be considered by ‘outsiders’ to be more suitable because of their social, political or business background. Since Oman, like other Arabian Gulf states is a consensus-driven society, these factors may well be sufficient to push them ahead of other members of the family.

Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said
Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said

For many years the individuals who have been considered a probable future Sultan include 3 brothers who are the sons of one of Sultan Qaboos’s 1st cousins on his father’s side. H.H. Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq bin Taimur Al Said born October 13, 1954, one of his sons, H.H. Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said has worked in the London Embassy of Oman , H.H. Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq bin Taimur Al Said and  H.H. Sayyid Asaad bin Tariq bin Taimur Al Said .

Read who the new Sultan of Oman is here

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman – edition 4