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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎154v] (306/406)

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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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Prophet at Madina is anathema and hotly inveiglied against; the reverence
of other Sunni saints and their tombs, of which an instance is the pilgrimage
to the tomb of Abdulla ibn Abbas at Taif, largely resorted to by women dis
appointed of offspring, is regarded as an act of idolatry; while Ibn Sand
never tires of inveighing against the Sharif for permitting the laxity ot
morals, which makes Mecca itself a byword.
In 1917 Ibn Sand arranged a ceremonious pilgrimage on a large scale
from Najd, in which rode his father and his brother, Muhammad. Ihe
former’s return on account of illness before he reached Mecca was, without
any reason whatever, interpreted in Sharifian circles as being indicative of
fear or hatred, while the experiences of Muhammad and his fellow-pilgrims
and the growing delicacy of the political situation decided Ibn Saud to allow
no official pilgrimage from Najd during the year under report. I ha\m no
reason to credit reports emanating from Mecca to the effect that Ibn Saud
had threatened to visit disobedience in this matter with dire penalties—his
orders were in themselves sufficient; while he did all that was reasonably
possible to facilitate the journey of the Kuwait pilgrimage, -which passed
through Buraida, when I was there at the end of August.
On the whole, I am of opinion that Ibn Sand’s decision to send no pil
grimage from Najd this year was a wise precaution against trouble; the
Sharif’s actions and public pronouncements at this period were, at any rate,
not calculated to make a Najd pilgrimage free of serious risk of disturbance.
19. Location of Political Agent A mid-ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Agency. in Najd.
The question of the permanent location of a British Agent at the Wah
habi court, on which I was instructed to elicit Ibn Sand’s views, was a very
delicate matter to approach, more particularly in view of Ibn Sand’s growing
dissatisfaction at his treatment by H.M.’s Government, and I regret to say
that I had had no reasonable opportunity to make such a proposal when my
Mission terminated in circumstances which left no doubt that Ibn Saud
would not consent to it unreservedly.
Towards myself Ibn Saud was invariably frank and cordial; I saw him
daily, often, indeed, more than once a day, and he seemed to take pleasure
in giving me his views and discussing politics, history and the affairs of the
world in general. Nevertheless, ut was obvious to me that my presence with
him was a matter which necessitated continual explanations_to a critical and
hostile audience; according to his own account, he countered the adverse com
ments of the strict Wahhabi element by the explanation that my stay, though
prolonged, was temporary and necessitated only by the Sharifian situation and
the blockade, in regard to which he found it necessary to be in close touch
with the British Government. He never allowed it to be supposed publicly
that I was in any way interested in his operations against Hail.
At the same time, he made it clear to me that he regarded my presence
as absolutely necessary and, indeed, advantageous to him, and he never sug
gested that I should go, until, in the circumstances already indicated, he
informed me very frankly that if H.M.’s Government were not disposed to
modify their recent policy towards him, he would not expect me to return or
to be replaced.
Public opinion would certainly be hostile to the permanent location of a
British representative in Najd, but Ibn Saud would, I am convinced, be pre
pared to run counter to the views of his subjects, if the presence of such a
representative were likely to be to his own political advantage. That will
depend on the line of policy decided on in due course by H.M.’s Government.
In any case, if we may assume that our policy in the future will be such
as to dispose Ibn Saud to agree to the permanent representative of H.M.’s
Government at his court, the nature of the agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. to be established will be a
matter demanding serious consideration. The jealousy and exclusiveness of
Najd render it, in my opinion, quite out of the question to establish an agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company.
on the ordinary lines in vogue at the ports on the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. coast, with all
the paraphernalia of office establishments, escorts and flags. The display
of alien power would be as unwelcome to the Wahhabi as the influx of alien
personnel; the presence of even Muslim clerks and servants from outside
would be a ground of suspicion and anxiety to Ibn Saud, calculated to dis
turb the even tenour of our relations with him.
For these reasons, I am convinced that, at any rate, for many years to
come, H.M.’s Government should aim at making their representation at the
Wahhabi court as _ unostentatious as is compatible with efficiency. The
British Agent at Eiyadh must be content to live the life of the people, adopt
their manner of dress and, above all, to submit to the somewhat irksome
restrictions imposed on social intercourse alike by the bigotry of the people
and the jealousy of their ruler. Perhaps even it would be politic in the
beginning so to arrange matters that the presence of a British Officer at
Eiyadh should be intermittent and not permanent, constituting a series of
visits at reasonable intervals rather than continuous residence.

About this item


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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1 item (203 folios)
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English in Latin script
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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎154v] (306/406), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/390/1, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 27 January 2020]

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