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Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East [‎88r] (176/220)

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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Ibn Sand, while conscious that, under normal conditions, this meant an
accession of strength to himself, was not blind to the history of his own house
or to the objections against the indiscriminate arming of his tribes. It was.
largely for this reason rather than in view of his immediate requirements for
the campaign against Ibn Rashid, that he pressed so strongly to be provided
with arms. Every rifle in his arsenal meant the equipment of an Akhu, the
addition of one regular soldier to his army, and it was, I venture to think,
a mistaken policy to keep him weak in armament, unless adequate steps could
be taken to prevent the wholesale armament of his tribes.
As matters now stand, Ibn Saud, even if we count to him the tribesmen
armed by the Sharif, is probably weaker in point of armament than Ibn Rashid,
who, in addition to what he had received from the Turks in the early stages of
the war, received, towards the end*of the period under report, at least part of a
consignment of arms promised him by his allies. The Sharif is, of course,
immeasurably superior in armament to both his Central Arabian rivals, but
the continuance of his present methods of check and control will, in course of
time, redress the balance in their favour.
18. Pilgrimage to the Shiah Holy Places.
I have noted, in the fourth section of this report, that the Mission was
instructed to discuss, among other things, with Ibn Saud the question of the
restrictions on pilgrimage to the Shiah holy places necessitated by war
At a very early stage of my work, however, I realised that this portion
of the Mission’s mandate must have been based on a misapprehension, for, if
there is one subject on which Ibn Saud feels strongly, it is the Shiah heresy
and everything connected with it. I exercised my discretion, therefore, to
avoid all reference to the matter in connection with my work, though the
subject was one on which Ibn Saud never tired of expressing his views in
general conversation.
The origin of the misapprehension appears to have been a report of Cap
tain Loch, made in August, 1917, in connection with Dr. Harrison’s visit to
Riyadh, already referred to. Dr. Harrison, in commenting on Ibn Saud’s
attitude towards us, had mentioned that our failure to open a general river
traffic to Baghdad had incurred his censure and Captain Loch had added, as
the result of his own observations at Qalif and Bahrain, that the restrictions
placed on the Shiah pilgrimage had also evoked similar criticism. Sir Percy
Cox had, naturally enough, concluded that both those subjects were of interest
to Ibn Saud, whereas I am now convinced that he never felt and, therefore, had
probably never expressed the slightest concern with either. Both were, how
ever, matters of some concern, respectively to the merchant and Shiah com
munities of the Arabian littoral, and the local reports had been oriented
accordingly in circumstances liable to give rise to misunderstanding.
Ibn Saud, himself a strong Wahhabi, whose authority in Central Arabia
is based on that creed, revivified by himself, finds himself in a somewhat
delicate position in relaton to the Sunni and Shiah elements subject to him
in the Qasim and the Hasa respectively. Formal recognition of the orthodoxy
of the one or the heresy of the other would involve him in a charge of laxity,
intolerable to the followers of the true creed, and is, therefore, impracticable,
while persecution of either would certainly end in the loss of his richest pro
vinces and is, therefore, inexpedient. With rare political wisdom, he has
evolved a policy, which, while satisfying the Wahhabi element by prohibi
tion of the public parade of unacceptable creeds, is sufficiently gratifying tc
the followers of such creeds by reason of its toleration of the private celebra
tion of their ceremonies without let or hindrance.
On rare occasions he has had to interfere in cases of actual conflict, and
the instances, which have come to my notice, show that he has the courage
to check uncalled for interference in matters of religion on the part of Wah
habi zealots. On one occasion, for instance, a party of men from Anaiza
were smoking round their camp fire, when five Akhwan, happening to pass
by and observe them, took it upon themselves to correct the sinners. They
had not got further than the stage of reprohation, when the men of Anaiza
rose up and slew their reprovers, whose relaTives, demanding satisfaction in
the court of Ibn Saud, were curtly informed that it was his, not their, prero
gative to administer correction to his erring subjects.
To a policy of toleration Ibn Saud looks for the eventual conversion of all
his subjects to the true faith, but further than this he does not and cannot
go. The pilgrimage to Shiah holy places is not encouraged, but returning
pilgrims are subjected to no inquisition—nevertheless no one would be more
glad than Ibn Saud, if the pilgrimage to Karbala and Najaf were made per
manently impossible, and no one was more delighted than he at the punish
ment recently meted out to the miscreants of Najaf.
The pilgrimage to Mecca, enjoined in the Quran itself, stands on a differ
ent footing and is not only considered permissible to but obligatory on all
Wahhabis. The conjunction with it of the pilgrimage to the tomb of the

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 [‎88r] (176/220), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, Mss Eur F112/276, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 7 December 2023]

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