The Al Khalifa Rule in the Qatar Peninsula: History and Sovereignty Conference

Praise be to Allah and prayers and peace be upon the most honorable human being Mohammed bin Abdulla and his family and companions,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Peace and the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you,

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

We are pleased to welcome you in yet another meeting that reaffirms our shared determination to invest in knowledge and enrich our efforts to bring together creative ideas and effective initiatives to promote the Kingdom’s standing and the prevalence of security and peace in our region. We express our thanks and heart-felt appreciation and pride in the attendance, participation and contributions of this brilliant group of intellectuals, thinkers and distinguished historians and media experts taking part in “The Al Khalifa Rule in the Qatar Peninsula: History and Sovereignty” which deals with an important period the history of the Arabian Gulf region, the rule of the Khalifas and their sovereignty on the peninsula of Qatar since the inception of the Al Khalifas’ state in Zubarah in 1762.

That year, 1762, marked a major turning point in the modern history of the region. The Al Khalifa rulers have performed all the acts of sovereignty in conformity with good governance. They were a model example in terms of administration, protection of free trade, securing maritime routes and navigation, maintenance of security, enforcement of law and order, performance of all the responsibilities and duties of a modern state as well as the implementation of the provisions of international treaties in the Qatar Peninsula and Islands of Bahrain.

As a result, Zubarah has become a political capital, a flourishing business center and a major trading hub in the Arabian Gulf.

The most important thing, in my judgement, is that Zubarah under the rule of the Khalifa was a symbol of the eternal unity between the Qatar Peninsula and the Islands of Bahrain. This fact was highlighted by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain when he said “We know the people of Qatar, they are our relatives and friends. They were our people before the rule of Al Thani”. (End of quote)

Bahrain has never given up Zubarah; it has been one of the main demands put before the International Court of Justice, as it – as well as other areas – forms an integral part of the Kingdom’s territories.  These are historic and legitimate rights of the sovereign entity of Bahrain. The new borders were then drawn by force with the support of a foreign power with the aim to control the sources of energy. The Kingdom has also been the target of a series of persistent conspiracies and has suffered a great deal to keep the Gulf Cooperation Council free from tensions and disputes.

In contrast, the rulers of Al Thani have always been a source of rebellion, conspiracy, commotion and division. In their bid to achieve domination and expansion, they use all illegal means including resorting to brutal armed force and forced displacement of people, as happened in the military aggression against Zubarah in 1937 and again in Fasht Al Dibal in 1986, and quite recently the meddling in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain through providing support to terrorist groups, media incitement, and the illegal naturalization of certain segments of the people in order to tamper with the social fabric.

The behaviors of Al Thani caused considerable harm to Bahrain, including the martyrs of duty, the systematic looting of Bahrain’s wealth in its historic territories as well the opposition of the rulers of Doha to the exemplary major reforms instituted and led by His Majesty the King in the Kingdom.

These issues and facts were discussed and documented during the first annual “Derasat” forum in January which was held under the theme “Qatar: The Godfather of Chaos and Crisis in the Middle East” and in the new book “The Qatari Aggression against Dibal in 1986”.

Dear Participants,

There is no doubt that centers of studies and research play an important role in building upon the knowledge of history as an indispensable tool for understanding current events and anticipating the future.

We hope that the work and recommendations of our conference, which will spread over three sessions, will motivate specialists, researchers and those interested in the history of the region to shed light on this eventful period of our history.

Before starting the sessions of the conference, I would like to give a brief introduction to the Al Khalifa ancestry and their migration.

First: Ancestry

In his writings about the Utoubs, the late Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, may God have mercy on him, said: “The Utoubs are a tribal alliance that includes many branches and clans that belong to several tribes. The tribal alliance was created by inter-marriage between the different branches.   Many sources refer to this alliance as “Bani Utbah” or “Bannu Utbah” (the sons of Utbah), plural “Utoub/s”. Othman bin Sanad mentions that “It appears that the sons of Utbah descend from multiple ancestors/ lineages. They are not grouped in a family tree under one father or a mother but became relatives by inter-marriages”.  Tribal alliances are known in the Arabian Peninsula since before Islam. Some of the Utoub clans belonged to the tribe of Anaza such as Al Khalifa, Al Sabah, Al Jalahmah and Al Fadhel, who all descend from Jumaila bin Wael. Some other belonged to the tribes of Tamim and Sulayim such as Al bin Ali.  They were known under the family name of “the children of Salim’ until they settled in Kuwait after which this family name disappeared and each of them began to carry the name of his clan”.

Documents and sources confirm that the lineage of the Al Khalifas in the eighteenth century / twelfth Hijra century goes back to Khalifa al-Kabeer (Khalifa Senior), namely Shaikh Khalifa bin Mohammed bin Faisal Al-Utbi, the founder of this clan in al-Haddar part of al-Aflaj south-east of Najd in the Arabian Peninsula. This lineage to the shaikh (chief) of the Al Khalifa branch of Bani Utbah was consistently reported by historians when writing about the Al Khalifa shaikhs or personalities in Kuwait, Zubarah or Bahrain. This was confirmed by Arab sources such as Ibn Laboon Al Najdi or Abdul Jalil Al Tabatabae; or by foreign sources such as French Ottier (1750 AD /1164 Hijra), Dutch Kniphausen (1756 AD / 1170 Hijra) and the Danish Nippor (1765 AD / 1179 Hijra), which leaves no doubt that the family name “Al Utbi” was the one used by all the Utoubs. Certain other families or houses were also attached to this lineage as a result of the proximity of residence and subsequent inter-marriage or through alliances in which case the lineage will be extended to cover the in-laws or the allied clans.

Al Nabhani said that Bani Anaza are “divided into many clans, the largest of which is Jumaila. Banu (children of) Jumaila themselves are divided into sub-clans, the most famous of which are the Banu Utbah. Banu Utbah are also divided into clans, the largest and the most noble one is the Al Khalifa. The Al Khalifa clan has grown in size and power to equal a branch of a tribe and subsequently the clan was called by the name of Khalifa, namely Al Khalifa (Descendants of Khalifa)”.

In his letter to Abdul Aziz Al Rasheed, Shaikh Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa said that Al Khalifa are descendants of Jumaila and they are known among their tribe as the “Bajadeen”. Jumaila is a branch of the Anaza tribe and the closest to it were the Amarats”. However, Shaikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa in his letter to Saif Marzouq Al Shamlan mentions that “The Al Khalifa are descendants of Taghlub bin Wael”. This in general agrees with the lineage to Anaza bin Asad mentioned by Ibn Sanad. Therefore, the Utbah from whom this tribe descends is none but the Utbah bin Saad bin Zuhair, the known clan of Taglub, and Al Jumaila is a branch of Utbah.

One of the researchers explained the issue of taking the Al Jumaila branch of Al Utoub into Anaza, while they were used to be in the past linked to Wael. Othman bin Sanad pointed out that “This is quite common in to see in the clans of Taghlub bin Wael of Najd, as the majority of them have been taken into other tribes, such as Al Dawaser, Anaza, Shummar and others”.

Second: Migration


In the second half of the seventeenth century AD / the eleventh century of Hijra (about 1671 AD/ 1082 Hijra), clans of the tribal alliance of Al Utoub migrated from their homeland in al-Haddar in Aflaj, south-east of Najd and settled in al-Mubaraz of al-Ihsa in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula which used to be called the province of Bahrain and was governed then by the Bani Khalid tribe.  The chief of Bani Khalid Barrak bin Ar’ayr gifted a garden of date palm trees in Qatif to the Al Utoubs after they helped him in conquering the area that year. This garden was donated by Shaikh Khalifa bin Mohammed bin Faisal Al Utbi, the great grandfather of the Al Khalifas, to a mosque he built in Kuwait upon their arrival there.

Abdul Aziz Al Rasheed quoted Shaikh Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa saying “The reason for the migration of Al Sabah and Al Khalifa from al- Haddar was because of a dispute between them and their cousins ​​from the Al Jumaila clan of Anaza. Al Khalifa and Al Subah defeated their cousins and drove them out of the area.  The defeated clan sought help from Al Dawasir tribe who attacked al-Haddar and drove the Al Sabahs and Al Khalifas out.

Al Reiki attributes the migration of the majority of the clans of al- Haddar of al- Aflaj such Al Jumaila and others to the east of the Arabian Peninsula to of the disputes that occurred between the tribes of al- Aflaj. He said that “The cities of al- Aflaj were very strong and powerful during the tenth and eleventh Hijra centuries (sixteenth and seventeenth century), and then became weak and poor and the cities turned into ruins”.

This migration can be considered as part of the great migration of Anaza from Najd, which took place in the second half of the 17th century / 11th Hijra century, either because of the severe drought that hit their areas, or because of tribal conflicts with other tribes, as Reiki points out. While Al Amarat clans migrated to Iraq and Al Rula to Syria, the Al Utoub clans moved to the east of the Arabian Peninsula.

In 1675 AD / 1086 Hijra, Al Utoub moved to Faraiha on the north-western coast of the Qatar Peninsula, which used to be under the control of Bani Khalid, as part of the territory of Bahrain, while al-Huwailah on the north-eastern coast of Qatar Peninsula was governed by Al Musalam. As a result of frictions with Al Musalams who feared a decline in the role of al-Huwailah as a result of the increasing number of Al Utoubs, them gaining strength on one hand and Al Utoubs political and trade competition with other tribal alliances in the Arabian Gulf region such as al Howalla on the other, the clans of Al Utoub alliance comprising about 2000 families were forced in 1701 AD / 1113 AH to migrate to Basra through the eastern coast of the Arabian Gulf, as an Ottoman document dated 1701 AD /1113 Hijra indicates.  The Ottoman authorities did not allow them to stay in Basra, so the tribal alliance moved to al-Qurain (Kuwait).

According to many Arab and foreign reference books, al-Qurain existed well before the arrival of the Al Utoub, i.e since the era of Bani Khalid, but its prosperity and rise as a political and trade center in the Arabian Gulf was achieved at the hands of the Utoubs upon their arrival there in 1701 AD / 1113 Hijra.

According to Francis Warden, the Al Utoubs agreed after settling in Kuwait that government matters be in the hands of the Al Sabah clan while the Al Jalahma clan supervises maritime affairs and the Al Khalifa handles trade. As a result, Kuwait has grown, and its commercial importance increased to the shipping lines between India and Europe and to the commercial caravan routes between Aleppo in the Levant and the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Kuwait’s growth and economic development continued from the early 18th century until the sixties of the same century, when the Al Khalifa clan, headed by Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa, moved to Zubarah on the northwestern coast of the Qatar Peninsula. The reason for this move was to pursue the aspiration of establishing a state for the Al Khalifa and to stay away from the conflict with Bani Ka’ab who used to frequently attack Kuwait, which in turn led to competition between the Al Utoub clans themselves. The migration of Al Khalifa to Zubarah took place in 1762 AD/ 1176 Hijra.

To conclude, surely there are many lessons that can be learned from discussing this history and probably the conference may shed light on some facts that were not known yet or did not receive due research and attention.

It is our hope that the debate and the interaction of opinions in this conference will lead to the development of ideas and contribute to enhancing our efforts in confronting the forces of evil that want to compromise our security, our capabilities and our sovereignty. I thank you once again for your presence and constructive participation, looking forward to seeing thoughtful discussions, fruitful dialogues and valuable recommendations during the sessions of the conference.

Peace and the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.

Thank you.

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