al-Wahab (see last entry) meets Hempher the English spy
I found an interesting account of al-Wahab http://www.sufi.it/Islam/wahlast.htm adapted, from the work of Ayyub Sabri Pasha’s Turkish work Mir’at al-Haramain, 5 volumes, Matba’a-i Bahriyye, Istanbul, 1301-1306 A.H., which suggests al-Wahab met an English spy called Hempher in Basra, Iraq in 1713. Hempher subsequently harnessed al- Wahab’s fervour for religious change and used it as a tool to divide the Muslim world. ”Utter nonsense”, according to Daniel Pipes, 1996, perhaps, or even a load of Turkish propaganda, who knows? What we do know is, that Britain had a very definite interest in the region and did its utmost to undermine the power of Mohammed Ali Pasha and his family, see /2014/01/25/colonisation-and-its-impact-on-arab-nationalism-in-the-19th-century-some-comparisons-with-the-situation-today/.
With or without the assistance of Hempher, al-Wahab succeeded in rejuvenating the ideas of ibn Taymiyyah, though he used different tactics to promote his beliefs. He also engaged the support of the well connected ibn Saud family. Al-Wahab criticised the ‘Ahl as-Sunnat wal-Jamaat’, who were the prominent Muslim scholars of the day and accused them of being unbelievers and polytheist. This was presumably because he disagreed with interpretations of the Qur’an, which incorporated other religious and philosophical ideas.
The account continues with a description of the bloodshed, which ensues as al-Wahab and his allies fought for the prominent cities of Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Ta’if, Nejd and Riyadh. With regard to the latter Ibn Saud gained complete control of it in 1902. There is no doubt, that these bloody battles are the inspiration for the ”Islamic” mercenaries now marauding around Syria and Iraq. It wasn’t plain sailing as they suffered defeats in the Hijaz region by the Ottoman, Mohammed Ali Pasha, who considered al-Wahab and his supporters as bandits. When ibn Saud eventually exerted his rule over the newly founded Saudi kingdom, in 1932, he saw himself not merely as a ruler but as a synonym for the state (see Pdf 4386-1906).
The Hejaz and the Hashemites
Earlier entries touched on the relationship between Britain and the Hashemite royal family, notably Prince Faisal of Lawrence of Arabia fame. The Hashemite family and the Ibn Saud clan competed for dominance in the Gulf and Britain gave support to each at different times. When Sharif Hussain appointed himself King of ”the Arab countries”, following the Arab revolt against Turkey, Britain recognised him only as the King of Hejaz. His son Faisal captured both Damascus and the Aquaba Straits, in Jordan, where the family still presides.
Amir Faisal was ambitious and according to fable, the British government promised him Palestine but reneged on this. My preferred account (see previous entries and the ‘Hansard’, parliamentary reports) is, that far from reneging, the Tory party supported Faisal over the Zionists, with regard to Palestine but world events got in the way and the Hashemite family had to settle for Jordan.
Sir Reader Bullard writes, that some English newspapers reported a future Jewish state would include Syria. I believe this is the idea currently but all depends how successful the west is in over-throwing the Syrian regime; and the position of Lebanon. Back then the idea probably was as much a ploy to destabilise the French protectorate, though it no doubt gained substance, through the influence of the Zionist media.
What remained of the Hijaz railway in 2005, the museum, previously the ticket off in Damascus. In its day the line extended, from behind the Abdalli bus station in Jordan to Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure if any of it still runs.
When I was in Irbid, a Northern city near to the Jordanian border, with Syria, in 2005, many students were wearing black and the full hijab. This contrasted to other parts of the country, notably Amman, which had a spate of bombings after I left, these caused the death of a young American woman. The situation had settled by the time I returned in the autumn of the following year. The attacks were said to be the responsibility of Islamists.
Since the recent kidnap of the Jordanian pilot many of the population, reportedly condemn government support for the west’s bombing of the mercenaries (Islamic State), in Syria. According to a friend, many President al-Assad supporters have crossed the border into Jordan, so watch this space. It is fair to say, that the majority of Jordanians simply wish to stay out of the situation, as do many in Lebanon
Thought I’d post some photos of the Roman ruin in Umm Qais, just outside Irbid. The site overlooks Lake Tiberious (the sea of Galilea), in Palestine
The battle for dominance in Saudi, Britain in the thick of it
The story of Amir Faisal is well documented, particularly his connections to T.E. Lawrence, the British commander but his father’s story is less well known. Sir Reader describes how the British government had problems, with the ”dangerous feuds” between Ibn Saud and King Sharif Hussein. Ibn Saud had encroached on Hejaz territory, while Hussein tribes run amok in Mecca and Medina as they levied tolls on foreign pilgrims. Britain had paid subsidies to both leaders, Sharif Hussein received the largest subsidy, which ceased before that of Ibn Saud’s. That ended in 1924, when another battle began between the two adversaries.
Ibn Saud was the victor by 1925 and by 1927 the ‘Treaty of Jeddah’ was drawn up and endorsed by the British government. Reading between the lines, this was important to Britain in respect of its trade with India. We saw, in an earlier post, that Persia (now Iran) was sometimes opposed to Indian goods passing through their territory so Saudi was a useful ally. In 1915 a treaty was drawn up with India, involving the Trucial Coast and strait, which runs from the Indian ocean, through the Arabic sea. The new treaty appeared to give Saudi greater status in the region. Under the agreement Saudi was to remain on friendly terms with Britain and abolish the slave trade. A trade Britain continued to pursue in Latin America. Considering the working conditions of immigrants in Saudi and Lebanon now, the whole agreement is laughable.
Britain has had its fair share of ups and downs with the Kingdom over the interim years but continues to support Saudi in the terrible treatment of its people. I did plan to write more on the subject but lets face it, all that matters to each of them is money, trade and a common agenda; to rid the world of Arab nationalism. If Saudi didn’t have Mecca there would doubtless be less support for it in the Arabic world but the importance of religion, combined with its extensive wealth seals the deal, the Muslim world is stuck with it.