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Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East [‎85r] (170/220)

The record is made up of 1 file (110 folios). It was created in 27 Aug 1893-19 Dec 1918. It was written in English and French. 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 Documents collected in a private capacity. .


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Wahhabi doctrines were in practice divided in their allegiance between those
doctrines and the codes of unwritten customary law, by which their lives were
regulated; the townsfolk of Najd, among whom the tyranny of public opinion
in matters of religion is strong and well organized, are tacitly assumed to be
^devout Wahhabis and, therefore, required no special attention;
(2) Mutawwas or, as Palgrave aptly calls them, Zelators, were appointed
from among the Ulama of the towns to minister to the religious needs of the
Badawin, to instruct them in the simple tenets of the Wahhabi faith, to
■ extol the merits of a life lived on the Prophet’s own model, to condemn the
wickedness of the customs of desert society, to preach the physical glories of
Paradise, and to inculcate the duty of death for the faith as the surest means
of obtaining direct entry into that haven of rest and delight. The Mutawwas
at first worked among tli£ nomads, but sedulously extolled the superior merit
.of communal life in the service of God ;
(3) the train thus laid for the breakup of the essential characteristics
-of Badawin society, suitable sites were, as discovered, made available for the
foundation df permanent settlements, and a number of villages or towns have
sprung up during the last five or six years in various parts of Najd, a feature
of which was the substitution of the bond of religious brotherhood for family
ties—thus, while the Akhwan, for instance, of the Mutair retained in relation
to their own Akhwan tribesmen the rights and privileges of tribal society,
they acquired, with the Akhwan of tribes formerly hostile, all the rights and
privileges of religious brotherhood;
(4) The Akhwan, thus collected in convenient centres and enthusiastic
tor their new faith, immediately evinced a desire to sever their old ties with
their unconverted tribesmen, but this tendency Ibn Saud, with rare political
acumen, discountenanced and thus was forged a strong bond of communal
interest between important sections of all the great tribes of Najd—on this
foundation Ibn Saud built the edifice of his political power, relying on the
Badawin elements of his new settlements equally with the old settled towns
folk, whom he was now able to release, to a large extent, from the irksome
obligation, under which they had long lain of fighting the battles of their
(5) the peace and security of his territories being assured by the obliga
tion to discard the ancient practice of raiding imposed on the new brother
hood, Ibn Saud was able to use the reserve energy of the Akhwan, henceforth
vowed to fight only for the faith or in self-defence against attack, as the
nucleus of his standing army. To them alone he distributed the arms and
ammunition at his disposal; on them he relied to form the backbone of his
army in war; they combined the hardiness of Badawin with the stability of
the Badhr; the interests of economy were served without loss of efficiency.
To sum up, we may say that the object of Ibn Saud in fostering the
Akhwan movement has been to increase his military strength by spreading
the burden of military service over a greater number of his subjects, to mini
mise the elements of weakness inherent in a Badawin state and a Badawin
army and to economise his resources by substituting the hope of eternal reward
for more mercenary considerations.
It may be asked with what ultimate end in view Ibn Saud has created this
organization and whether there is any guarantee of his ability to control the
movement. To the first question I would answer that he is actuated by no
motive other than the desire to create a strong permanent bulwark against
foreign aggression in the future and by a vague ambition to bring Jabal
Shammar once more under the sway of his house; as regards his ambitipns in
other directions—for he cannot fail to have considered the possibility of
extending the Wahhabi frontiers once more to the furthest confines of Arabia
—it is impossible to say more than that he regards the British Government as
an insuperable and permanent obstacle to the realisation of such dreams and
is prepared to accept that position.
The answer to the other part of the question is more difficult; it can, I
think, be confidently answered in the affirmative, so far as regards any possible
forward policy, but it would be too much to expect that a system based on
fanaticism could be controlled at will in the event of that fanaticism being
seriously provoked by hostile aggressive action. It is this possibility, the
more perilous in the event of Ibn Saud himself passing from the scene, that
renders it desirable, in the interests of the future peace of Arabia, to discour
age aggressive action by the Sharif or other elements under our control. ^Th e
hornets’ nest of Wahhabism may be regarded with equanimity, so long as it is
left undisturbed, but the latest advices from Arabia, received so late as a few
days ago, indicate that the Sharif is preparing yet another attack on Khurma.
The prospect of hostilities between Ibn Sand and the Sharif need not, in
the changed-circumstances, cause us any anxiety for ourselves, but it should
be realised, before it is too late, that Khurma is but an incident in a bigger
struggle yet to come. His Majesty’s Government should make up its mind
whether or not they are prepared to see Mecca attacked and overrun once more
by the Wahhabis. On the whole I am inclined to the view that, so long as

About this item


The file contains correspondence, memoranda, maps, and other papers relating to Middle Eastern affairs and a few other miscellaneous matters. The majority of the file concerns discussions of and proposals for the post-war settlement of Near Eastern territories, including Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula. The basis of these discussions was the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.

Other matters covered by the papers include events in Siam [Thailand] and Burmah [Myanmar] and the colonial rivalry in the region between France and Britain, the Baghdad Railway, and relations with Ibn Saud in Arabia, including a report on the 1917-18 mission to Najd by Harry St John Philby (folios 67-98).

Folios 99-110 are six maps with accompanying notes that show the various proposed territorial settlements and spheres of influence in the Near East and one showing Britain's global colonial possessions.

Memoranda and correspondence comes from officials at the Foreign Office and 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. . Other correspondents include French and Italian government officials.

Extent and format
1 file (110 folios)

The file is arranged in roughly chronological order, from the front to the back.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the front of the envelope with 1, and terminates at the inside back last page with 110, these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio.

Pagination: the file also contains an original printed pagination sequence.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East [‎85r] (170/220), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, Mss Eur F112/276, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 7 December 2023]

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