As for those who strive in Us,
We surely guide them to Our paths (Quran)
As to the Islamic history, Bahrainis were amongst the first people to embrace Islam. Al-Oraibi (2009) mentioned that "in the year 8 A.H. (630 A.D.), the Prophet sent al-Alla al-Hadhrami as his representative to invite the people of Bahrain proper to Islam. The local Persian governor, al-Mundhir ibn Sawa, was receptive to the invitation and so were the vast majority of people, including all the Arabs." Al-Oraibi (2009) added that "the tribe of Abd al-Qays [the most influential tribe in the region], which was generously praised by the Prophet, dispatched a delegation of twenty people to al-Madina in order to meet the Prophet and acquire knowledge of the newly revealed dispensation. The delegation was headed by Abdullah al-Ashajj, Munqidh ibn Hayyan and al-Jarud."
As of Shiism in Bahrain, Al-Oraibi (2009) mentioned that it seems that Shi'ism "in its primitive form, expressed as sympathy toward the Prophet's progeny, was born almost synchronously with the acceptance of Islam." He explained this by stating that the preaching of the first governors seems to have ingrained fervent loyalty to Imam Ali; the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and Shia Muslim's first Imam. These first governors were Aban ibn Sa'id ibn al-Aas, Ma'bad ibn Abbas and Umar ibn Abi Salama; a son of the Prophet's wife Um Salama. Al-Oraibi (2009) cited that "Um Salama is said to have preached the legitimate right of Imam Ali to assume leadership of the community as the Prophet's successor", adding that "this role of Umar does not sound unlikely if we bear in mind his mother's love for the Prophet's progeny, especially Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, whose martyrdom was received by her with deep sorrow." Al-Oraibi (2009) has also stated that "AI-Tabari [a prominent Muslim historian] relates that in a dialogue with Imam Ali, Um Salama expressed her enthusiasm to engage in the battle of Jamal had it not been for her religious scruples."
Cole (1987: 178) described the people of Bahrain by stating that "the Baharina or indigenous Arab Shi'i inhabitants of eastern Arabia are still a majority on the isles of Bahrain and once constituted an even greater proportion of the population (Cole, 1987: 178)". "The North African traveller Ibn Battuta visited Qatif around 1331, finding it inhabited by Arab tribes whom he described as 'extremist Shi`is' (rafidiyya ghulat)" (Cole, 2002) . "The wealth of this region often gave it an autonomy from surrounding powers expressed in a local ideology of Shi'ism. The Shi'i pastoralists, peasants and pearl divers were dominated by their own elite of clan elders, urban merchants, and landholders (Cole, 1987: 178)".
Turning to recent history of Bahrain, The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (2007) described the beginning of this era by citing that:
“Al Khalifa family, a branch of the Bani Utbah tribe that has ruled Bahrain since the 18th century, succeeded in capturing Bahrain from a Persian garrison controlling the islands in 1783. In the 1830s the Al Khalifa signed the first of many treaties establishing Bahrain as a British Protectorate” (The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, 2007).
Bahrain declared its independence on August 15, 1971, prompted by British Government announcement of 1968 -which was reaffirmed in March 1971- to end the treaty relationships with the Arabian Gulf sheikdoms (The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, 2007). Currently, Bahrain is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC. Other members of the GCC are The Sultanate of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the States of Qatar and of Kuwait. The GCC was formed in 1981 to “effect coordination, integration and inter-connection between member states in all fields in order to achieve unity between them” (Gulf Cooperation Council, 2008).
As of the Central Bank of Bahrain (2011), the population of Bahrain in 2010 was 1,234,571, including 568,399 non-nationals and 666,172 nationals. The majority of Bahrainis are Shiites (Naqvi, 2011:9), while the remaining are Sunnis. It must be mentioned here that the Bahraini political opposition (mainly Shiites) has protested what it refers to as an organized program of political naturalization of Arab and non-Arab Sunnis. Gengler (2011:59) described this issue of political naturalization by stating that "the issue of granting Bahraini citizenship on a sectarian basis for political purposes is primus inter pares among the nation’s myriad contentious subjects, and it presents an instructive lesson in miniature on the ethnic bases of political action in Bahrain." Gengler (2011:62) elaoborated in describing this issue, where he has pointed to the following revealing incident:
"Hard evidence [that was presented by the oppsition in relation to the government effort to alter Bahrain’s demography was] a 17-minute video interview taken in June 2002 with members of the al-Dawäsir tribe of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, who tell how they were solicited to obtain Bahraini nationality and public housing in the run-up to the 2002 elections. Not only were they granted passports in just a matter of months, said the al-Dawäsir, but for Bahrain’s 2002 elections they were gathered and driven to a polling station on the King Fahd Causeway linking Bahrain to Saudi Arabia in order to cast their votes" (Gengler, 2011:62).
Despite its small size and population, Bahrain played an instrumental role in spreading the teaching of AhlulBayt a.s. (the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad SAAW) throughout the region. Despite its current situation, we pray that Allah will enable the people of Bahrain to reclaim the past role of their country as a great lantern of Islamic knowledge contributing to informing the world about the true teachings of Islam.
¨ Al-Oraibi , A., (2009) A Case Study of the Theosophical School of Bahrain in the 7th/13th Century. PhD Thesis, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill Universily, Montreal.
¨ Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (2007) Background note: Bahrain- profile [Online]. Electronic Information Department of State Web Site. USA. Available on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26414.htm [Accessed 12 March 2009].
¨ Central Bank of Bahrain (2011) Economic indicators report - March 201 [Online]. Financial Stability Directorate, CBB. Available From: ttp://www.cbb.gov.bh/assets/E%20I/EI%20Mar2011.pdf. [Accessed 15 November 2011].
¨ Cole, J. (1987) Rival empires of trade and imami shi'ism in eastern arabia, 1300-1800. Int. J. Middle East Stud. Vol.19, 1987, pp. 177-204.
¨ Cole, J. (2002) Sacred space and holy war: the politics, culture and history of shi'ite islam. I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, London/ New York.
¨ Gengler, J. (2011) Ethnic conflict and political mobilization in bahrain and the arab gulf. Phd Thesis.The University of Michigan.
¨ Gulf Cooperation Council (2008) The GCC charter [Online]. Available From: http://www.gcc-sg.org/eng/index.php?action=Sec-Show&ID=1. [Accessed 28 January 2008].
¨ Puri, M. (1993) Persian gulf geopolitics. International Studies, Vol. 30(4), pp. 437-474.
وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَن يَنقَلِبْ عَلَىَ عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَن يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ
Muhammad is but a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him. Will it be that, when he dieth or is slain, ye will turn back on your heels? He who turneth back on his heels doth no hurt to Allah, and Allah will reward the thankful.
سورة آل عمران - آية 144
Bahrain is an archipelago of low lying islands located in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf of the eastern shore of Saudi Arabia, with a total area of about 700 sq. km. Bahrain’s civilized history is dated thousands of years back. As per Puri (1993), “the islands are known to have been inhabited by man since perhaps the beginning of history”. The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (2007) stated that “the site of the ancient bronze age civilization of Dilmun, Bahrain was an important centre linking trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley as early as 5,000 years ago.”