Faisal was born in Mecca, Ottoman Empire (in present-day Saudi Arabia) in 1885, the third son of Hussein bin Ali, the Grand Sharif of Mecca. He grew up in Istanbul and learned about leadership from his father. In 1913, he was elected as representative for the city of Jeddah for the Ottoman parliament.

Following the Ottoman Empire's declaration of war against the Entente in December, 1914, Faisal's father sent him on a mission to Constantinople to discuss the Ottomans' request for Arab participation in the war. Along the way Faisal visited Damascus and met with representatives of the Arab secret societies al-Fatat and Al-'Ahd. After visiting Constantinople Faisal returned to Mecca via Damascus where he again met with the Arab secret societies, received the Damascus Protocol, and joined with the Al-Fatat group of Arab nationalists.