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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎151v] (300/406)

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The record is made up of 1 item (203 folios). It was created in 27 Dec 1918-2 Jun 1919. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.

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32
Khurma holds its own, as there seems good reason to believe it will, there is-
little danger of a far-reaching extension of Wahhabi activities, but I am con
vinced that the defeat of Khalid Ibn Luwai will be a signal for the storm.
15. The Khurma Episode.
When I passed through the little village of Khurma, situated m the lower
reaches of the Wadi Subai, in December, 1917, on my way to Taif, I became
aware of the existence of trouble, but the manoeuvnngs of the bubai and
Buqum tribes had little in them to indicate that a storm was brewing in that
quarter which was destined to form, as it were, the Leit-motiv of Central
Arabian politics. The circumstances that the Buqum were acting under the
command of the Amir of Turaba, official representative of the King of the
Hijaz, alone differentiated the operations I saw from the eternal outridmgs
of Ataiba, Harb and Qahtan in the vast steppe country of the west.
According to such information as I was able to collect m Central Arabia,
Khurma, having, like the rest of Arabia, formed part of the great Wahhabi
Empire and having received from Saud himself dispensation from the obliga
tion to pay taxes to the Central treasury, had settled down under its Ashraf
headmen, who exercised a time-honoured overlordship over the Subai owners
and negro cultivators of the palm groves of the village, to the enjoyment of
practical autonomy under the vague suzerainty of Najd. At a later period,,
it passed under the similarly vague suzerainty of Turkey, and Ottoman author
ity was, doubtless, exercised, on behalf of the Sultan, by his representative,
the Sharif of Mecca. During the last decades of the 19th Century, however,
when the whole of Najd acknowledged the sway of Ibn Rashid, there appears,
to be reason for believing that Muhammad Ibn Rashid extorted from the Turk
ish authorities a substantial recognition of his authority and the acceptance of
the line of Wadi Aqiq as the boundary between his own territories and the
area of elective Turkish domination, namely, the Hijaz. By this arrangement
Khurma must have been included by implication in the territories of Ibn
Rashid, on whose expulsion from Najd, at the beginning of the present cen
tury, Ibn Saud resumed sway over the territories of his ancestors.
The important facts of the case are, firstly, that, so far as I have been
able to ascertain, Khurma was always in the past too insignificant, either to
form a bone of contention between the authorities concerned or to be men
tioned specifically in any public agreement; secondly, that it always remained
in enjoyment of virtual autonomy and independence; and, lastly, that it w T as,
if anything, naturally dependent on Najd in virtue of its allegiance to the
Wahhabi faith. With that allegiance no attempt appears ever to have been
made to interfere, and I see no reason for questioning the correctness of Ibn
Saud’s statement that Shara Law has always been administered at Khurma
for the benefit of its inhabitants by ecclesiastical officials of the Wahhabi
persuasion, of whom the Qadhi, actually in office at the present time, suc
ceeded his father, who, in turn, owed his appointment to Faisal Ibn Saud at
least 50 years ago.
The fans et origo mali —and this we have on the authority of certain letters;
written by Sharif Abdulla himself to the tribal leaders of the Subai—was an
attempt on the part of the Sharif in the Summer of 1917 to impose an orthodox
Qadhi on the people of Khurma in place of the Wahhabi official, who had
ministered to them for so long or, in other words, to interfere with the religious-,
liberty of the community. /This attempt - was strongly resented and
stoutly opposed by the people of Khurma, led by Sharif Khalid Ibn
Luwai, their Amir; the newly appointed Qadhi was refused admission to his
See and the forces of the Sharif were set in motion to enforce submission to his
orders by the rebellious community.
The Sharif, imputing to Ibn Saud certain unspecified and certainly
imaginary activities calculated to undermine his authority in the Khurma
area, announced to the British Authorities his intention of sending troops to
reduce the Subai and the drama began on or about the 1st June, 1918, with an
attack on the Subai encampment, which resulted in the defeat of the Sharifian
forces with the loss of two guns and two automatic rifles.
Ibn Luwai announced his victory to Ibn Saud in the customary Badawin
way and I, at Riyadh, was in an excellent position to appreciate the effect of
the ostentatious announcement of the victory of the true faith over the infidel
on the dour spirits of the fanatical Wahhabis, seared by the painful rigours
of a mid-summer Ramdhan.
The messengers from Khurma had passed, on their way, through the
important Wahhabi settlement of Ghat Ghat, whose inhabitants responded
without delay to the call for assistance by despatching a strong contingent
towards the scene of action. Riyadh clamoured for war with the Sharif and,
so far as I was in a position to judge, its clamour secured the important
advocacy of the Imam Abdul Rahman himself and of the Wahhabi high priest ;
but Ibn Saud, making no secret of the seriousness of the situation in his con
versations with me, resisted the pressure brought to bear on him, recalled the
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Part 9 primarily concerns the dispute between Bin Saud [‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin ‘Abd al-Raḥmān bin Fayṣal Āl Sa‘ūd] and King Hussein of Hejaz [Ḥusayn bin ‘Alī al-Hāshimī, King of Hejaz], and British policy towards both. The item includes the following:

  • a note by the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. 's Political Department, entitled 'Arabia: The Nejd-Hejaz Feud', which laments the fact that relations between Bin Saud and King Hussein have to some extent been reflected in the views of the two administrations with which they have respectively been brought into contact (i.e. the sphere of Mesopotamia and the Government of India in Bin Saud's case, and the Cairo administration in King Hussein's case);
  • reports on the presence of Akhwan [Ikhwan] forces in Khurma and debate as to which ruler has the stronger claim to it;
  • attempts by the British to ascertain whether or not a treaty exists between King Hussein and Bin Saud;
  • a copy of a report by Harry St John Bridger Philby entitled 'Report on Najd Mission 1917-1918', which includes as appendices a précis of British relations with Bin Saud and a copy of the 1915 treaty between Bin Saud and the British government;
  • reports of alleged correspondence between Bin Saud and Fakhri Pasha, Commander of the Turkish [Ottoman] forces at Medina;
  • reports of the surrender of Medina by Ottoman forces;
  • discussion as to whether Britain should intervene further in the dispute between Bin Saud and King Hussein;
  • details of the proposals discussed at an inter-departmental conference on Middle Eastern affairs, which was held at Cairo in February 1919;
  • reports that King Hussein's son Abdulla [ʿAbdullāh bin al-Ḥusayn] and his forces have been attacked at Tarabah [Turabah] by Akhwan forces and driven out.

The principal correspondents are the following:

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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎151v] (300/406), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/390/1, in Qatar Digital Library <https://www.qdl.qa/archive/81055/vdc_100036528095.0x00006c> [accessed 20 July 2019]

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