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Ikhwan Revolt

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Title: Ikhwan Revolt  
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Subject: Unification of Saudi Arabia, Battle of Sabilla, Sultan bin Bajad Al-Otaibi, Ikhwan raid on Busayya, History of Saudi Arabia
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Ikhwan Revolt

Ikhwan Revolt
Part of Unification of Saudi Arabia

Flag of Ikhwan
Date 1927-1930
Location British Mandate of Mesopotamia
Kuwaiti Emirate
Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz
Result Ikhwan defeat
Ikhwan Ibn Saud's Army
  • Allied Arab clans

British RAF

Commanders and leaders
Sultan bin Bajad
Faisal al-Dawish
Ibn Saud Abdul-Aziz
10,000[1] 30,000[1]
Casualties and losses
500 in Battle of Sabilla[1]
450 in Jabal Shammar
200 in Battle of Sabilla[1]
500 in Jabal Shammar
About 100 killed in the raids
700 killed in Sabilla
1,000 killed in Jabal Shammar
250 killed in raid on Awazim tribe
2,000 killed in total[1]

The Ikhwan Revolt began in 1927, when the tribesmen of the Mutayr and Ajman rebelled against the authority of Ibn Saud and engaged in cross-border raids into parts of Trans-Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait.[2] The relationship between the House of Saud and the Ikhwan deteriorated into an open bloody feud in December 1928.[1] The main instigators of the rebellion were defeated in the Battle of Sabilla, on 29 March 1929.[3] Ikhwan tribesmen and troops loyal to Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud clashed again in the Jabal Shammar region in August 1929,[1] and Ikhwan tribesmen attacked the Awazim tribe on 5 October 1929. Faisal al-Dawish, the main leader of the rebellion and the Mutair tribe, fled to Kuwait in October 1929 before being detained by the British and handed over to Ibn Saud.[4] Faisal Al-Dawish would die in Riyadh on 3 October 1931 from what appears to have been a heart condition.[4] Government troops had finally suppressed the rebellion on 10 January 1930, when other Ikhwan rebel leaders surrendered to the British.[1] In the aftermath, the Ikhwan leadership was slain,[5] and the remains were eventually incorporated into regular Saudi units. Sultan bin Bajad, one of the three main Ikhwan leaders, was killed in 1931, while al-Dawish died in prison in Riyadh on 3 October 1931.[1]


In the beginning of the 20th century Arabia was an arena of tribal wars, which had eventually led to unification under the leadership of Al Saud. The main tool for achieving these conquests was the Ikhwan, the Wahhabist-Bedouin tribal army led by Sultan bin Bajad al-Otaibi and Faisal al-Dawish.[6][7] From the Saudi core in Nejd, and aided by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the Ikhwan had completed the conquest of the territory that was to become Saudi Arabia by the end of 1925. On 10 January 1926 Abdul-Aziz declared himself King of the Hejaz and, then, on 27 January 1927 he took the title of King of Nejd (his previous title having been 'Sultan').

The Ikhwan undermine the authority of Ibn Saud

After the conquest of the Hejaz, some Ikhwan leaders wanted to continue the expansion of the Wahhabist realm into the British protectorates of Transjordan, Iraq and Kuwait. The tribesmen had already attempted external territorial gains in the Kuwait-Najd Border War and raided Transjordan, but suffered heavy casualties. Defying Ibn Saud, elements of the Ikhwan, mainly constituting of the Mutair tribe under al-Dawish, raided on southern Iraq in 5 November 1927, clashing with Iraqi troops near Busayya, resulting in some 20 casualties on both sides.[1] Ikhwan elements also raided Kuwait on January 1928. In both occasions they looted camels and sheep, and though they raided brutally, they suffered heavy retaliations from the Royal Air Force and Kuwaitis.[8]

In January 1929, an Ikhwan raid on into the Sheikhdom of Kuwait resulted in killing of an American missionary, Dr. Bilkert, who was traveling by car with another American, philanthropist Charles Crane.[9] With no signs of Ibn Saud mobilizing his forces to stop the raids, RAF resources were extended to Kuwait.[9]

Open revolt

Battle of Sabilla

Abdul-Aziz, however, refused to agree to the wild Ikhwani raids. Although the Ikhwan had been taught that all non-Wahabbis were infidels, Abdul-Aziz was well aware that the few parts of central Arabia not part of his realm had treaties with London. He himself had just won British recognition as an independent ruler only a year earlier, and recognized the danger of a direct conflict with the British.

The Ikhwan therefore openly revolted on December 1928. The largest confrontation of the parties occurred in 30–31 March 1929, in the Battle of Sabilla, where the Ikhwan leadership were massacred.[5] The Battle of Sabilla was the last major battle of camel raiders, thus having an historic importance. It had become a scene of carnage for the technologically mediocre Ikhwan against the cavalry and machine-guns of Ibn Saud's army. In the aftermath of the battle some 500 Ikhwan tribesmen died, whereas Ibn Saud's losses were about 200.[1]

Battle of Jabal Shammar

Ikhwan tribesmen and government troops clashed again in the Jabal Shammar region on August 1929, resulting in the deaths of some 1,000 men.[1]

Attack on Awazim tribe

Despite their losses, the Ikhwan tribesmen went on with their rebellion by attacking the Awazim tribe on 5 October 1929, resulting in the deaths of some 250 individuals.

Final accords

Faisal Al-Dawish fled to Kuwait in October 1929, and government troops finally suppressed the rebellion on 10 January 1930, when Ikhwan rebel leaders surrendered to the British.[1]


In the aftermath, the Ikhwan leadership was slain,[5] and the remains were eventually incorporated into regular Saudi units. Sultan bin Bajad, one of the main Ikhwan leaders, was killed in 1931, whereas Faisal al-Dawish died in prison in Riyadh on 3 October 1931.[1]

In September 1932, the two kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o University of Central Arkansas, Middle East/North Africa/Persian Gulf Region
  2. ^ Harold,Dickson. [Kuwait and her Neighbors], "George Allen & Unwin Ltd", 1956. pg 300-302
  3. ^ "Battle of Sibilla (Arabian history) - Encyclopedia Britannica". 1929-03-29. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  4. ^ a b Dickson
  5. ^ a b c 'Arabian Sands' by Wilfred Thesiger, 1991, pps 248-249
  6. ^ King Abdul Aziz Information Resource retrieved 19 January 2011
  7. ^ 'Arabian Sands' by Wilfred Thesiger, 1991
  8. ^ Peter W. Wilson, Douglas Graham. Saudi Arabia: the coming storm . M.E.Sharpe, 1994: p.45
  9. ^ a b Leatherdale, Clive. Britain and Saudi Arabia, 1925-1939: the Imperial Oasis. p.115.
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