The Study of the history of an Arab nation Essay

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The Study of the history of an Arab nation

Historical Background

Bahrain is the only Muslim country that has a relaxed culture because it does not apply strict observance of Islamic law on foreigners, instead, the people and the government is western-friendly that is why it is known as “an oasis of liberalism.”  It signifies a well stable country in the Middle East.

Bahrain means “two seas” in Arabic, which may stem from the main islands natural spring water, which seems to magically flow out of such unkind environment. According to the people of Bahrain, Two Seas signifies the two sources of water: the sweet water in springs and salty water in seas.  The Persian Gulf separates it from the mainland.

Made of several Islands, Bahrain is a foremost tourist and nightlife destination four Saudis, who often make the journey across the bridge to Manama for a drink of beverages under Bahrain’s cool Oasis like environment. An archipelago of about thirty-six islands, the country was first called by the Sumerians “Dilmun” which signifies ‘the land of the merchants and trade.’ Manama, Bahrain’s major island serves as the nation’s capital and the host of the countries international airport, it is also hosts to numerous great restaurants, comforting, sea breezes, discos, and bars.

The Rise of Dilmun Civilization

The island was named Bahrain during the early years of the Islamic era denoting the entire region stretching from Basra to Oman in the south. Its historical records reveals that Bahrain became part of the Babylonian empire about 600 B.C. in which, this record referred to Bahrain as “Life of Eternity.” This indigenous people were first called Bahamah, which were mainly descendants of Arab Abdul-Quais of Rabe’a” (History of Bahrain).  Many historians believed that 6000BC when Bahrain was broken away from the mainland and that people started to inhabit the peninsula during the prehistoric period.

            During the pre-Islamic period, Bahrain was considered to have been torn from the Arabian Peninsula around 6000 BC. Its history was first introduced around 3000 BC with the establishment of the Dilmun civilization during the Bronze Age, which lasted for more than 2000 years. According to an internet article entitled Bahrain: The pre-Islamic Period, Dilmon was developed as a centre of business and commerce as early as 3rd millennium B.C. owing to its location along the trade route that connects Mesopotamia with the Indus valley (India and Pakistan, today).

Dilmun was one of the earliest civilizations, which was mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh as a paradise; Bahrain was recorded as the “Life of Eternity” and/or “Pearl of the Persian Gulf” (@Ilo Expat).  It was then an essential trade center operating as a transshipment spot from Arabia to India. In his article entitled The Kingdom of Bahrain Jiff McBride noted that it was believed that Dilmun extended far beyond the boundaries of what is Bahrain today.

The Decline of Dilmun

McBride also noted that prior to the coming of Islam, Bahrain was identified by its Greek name of Tylos, the term that pertained to the Persian Gulf coast of Arabian mainland; and was thought to be famous for its pearl during the first century AD.  However, in 2000 B.C., the civilization of Dilmun had declined because the trade that sustained Bahrain had stopped.  Since Dilmun ceased from the scene, invasions coming from everywhere began to dominate the country.

Assyrian Claimed the Island

            From 750 B.C., an Assyrian king claimed its ownership of Bahrain after its gradual decline because its trade with India discontinued.   This event has led to Babylonian invasion of the land, in which there was no complete account of historical references for this segment until the arrival of Alexander the Great in 4th century B.C.

Persian Conquered Bahrain (4th to 7th century)

            It is noted that the arrival of Alexander the Great had brought Bahrain into existence.  Alexander’s invasion of Bahrain had brought many changes to its people. From three hundred B.C. to three hundred years A.D., the article noted that Bahrain was prosperous but was under the influence and was frequently ruled by the Persian. However, the article cited that from the third and fourth century AD the people of Bahrain adopted a new faith, the Christian faith. The article pointed out that many people adopted the Nestorian sect of Christianity and it became well established on the Arabian region of the Gulf by the early 5th century.

Furthermore as stated in the article, church record reveals that Bahrain was the seat of two Nestorian bishoprics existing on the Arabian side of the Gulf prior to the coming of Islam that was believed to have survived until 835 AD. According to McBride, with the arrival of Mohammed in the Gulf in 640 A.D., he sent a letter to the ruler of Bahrain encouraging him to accept Islam, which he did, not long afterwards. Thus, Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully in Bahrain since then even today. According to an internet article entitled Bahrain, the people of Bahrain were proud of the fact that they were among the first territories that outside mainland Arabia to accept Islam peacefully.

The Coming of Christianity

            Christianity came to Bahrain during the third and fourth century A.D. According to a document (, many inhabitants of Bahrain adopted the Christian faith and that during the fifth century; a Nestorian sect of Christianity was well established in the Gulf prior to the coming of Islam. According to the history of Bahrain, Christianity left its traces in Muharraq, and in some villages named after a bishop or with a Christian name. Ayesha Saldanha even pointed out that prior to the arrival of Islam, Bahrain was the ‘centre of Christianity’ perhaps in the Gulf region. She noted that Bahrain was the seat of two Nestorian Bishoprics during the time of the arrival of Islam.

The Coming of Islam and the Islamic Belief

            Bahrain was among the first to embrace Islam peacefully through the invitation of Prophet Mohammed himself to the Bahrain ruler to accept Islam. Bahrain officially embraced in the eight year of Islamic calendar (hejra) came under the Islamic control in 1783 after the Khalifa family droved out the ruling Persians out of the country.

According to the history of Bahrain, Bahrain became the main centre of understanding for centuries beginning from the early days of Islam in the sixth century. During this time, Islam is a religious belief that God revealed to the Prophet Mohammed the rules governing the society and the conduct of its members. It teaches that individual should live in a manner approved by the revealed law and serving the community to create a perfect human society (Bahrain).

            Bahrain embraces a religion that recognizes no religious difference between the state and religion. The development and spread of Islam in Bahrain leads the country to become Islamic state embracing the whole teachings of Islam as contained in the five pillars of Islam, which determines the necessary acts that reinforced the faith. The five pillars of Islam are the Shahada or the recitation “there is no God but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his prophet” Salat or the daily prayer, Zakat or the call to alms giving, Sawm or the call to fasting, and Hajj the call to pilgrimage.      

The Qarmatian Republic

            During the 9th to 11th century, McBride noted that Bahrain became part of the two competing Persian empires and the people became a faithfully Shiite Muslim Community once more due to the Persian influences, but it appears that during this time also, Bahrain was well governed and flourishing and became a vibrant port on the trade route between Middle East and India. Bahrain became part of both the Umayyad and the Abbasid empires and had gain economic advances under good governance by these Muslim ruling families.

The Bedouin Sunni Dynasty (1487-1602)

However, during the middle ages, Bahrain experienced frequent leadership change as it was caught in different bickering between the sheikhs in the Gulf who had been fighting constantly with another. Finally in 1487, Bahrain was invaded and eventually conquered by Oman, which built a fort in which its ruins can still be seen today. From the 1500s until they were driven out by the Bahrainis.

The Invasion of Portuguese in Bahrain (1521 – 1602)

Portuguese conquered Bahrain in early 16th century by Commander Antonio Correia by beheading the king of Bahrain.  The invasion is done to utilize the island as a pearling port and military defense force. The Portuguese were in the gulf as they used the fort to protect their trade routes among Africa, India, and Europe, comprising more than a century of inhabiting the country.

They strengthened the fort by erecting new stone towers, this forts is now widely known as the Portuguese fort.  However, due to ruthless mistake of putting to death the brother of one of the island’s wealthiest traders, the Portuguese and other Europeans were driven out of the island because of the uprising of the people with the military assistance of the Persians.  The Portuguese colonized the country for eighty years using a brutal force that compelled the people to take arms against them.

Perhaps due to the fear of Portuguese reprisal, Bahrain begged for protection from the Persians, this then put them again under Persian control. From the early 1870s, the Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s ruling family from Kuwait, drove out the Persians and occupied the main islands and had became the ruler of Bahrain until today.

Persia Rules Bahrain (1602 – 1783)

            Bahrain first came under the Persian rule in in the third century A.D. with the coming of the Sassanians, a Persian Dynasty, which held the area until the coming of Islam four centuries afterward. Under the Sassanians, Persian influence on the Gulf was strengthened eliminating the threat posed by Oman. According to an internet article entitled Persian Gulf States- Historical Setting the Sassanians were powerful and they had established agricultural colonies and were strong enough to engage other nomadic tribes in the interior.

This agricultural and military advancement has brought the Gulf people wide exposure to Persian culture, particularly in the Persian beliefs in Zoroastrianism. The succeeding centuries saw different powers that controlled Bahrain and the whole Gulf area. For more than a century, the Portuguese brutally controlled Bahrain but they were driven out of the region with help of the Persians. From the sixteenth century Bahrain drifted between two powers that laid control of the archipelago, the Portuguese, and the Persian civilization. With the expulsion of the Portuguese Bahrain once again was under the control and influence of the Persians.

Some Archeological Facts about Bahrain

            Many archeological findings have been uncovered about Bahrain, which are dated four or five thousand years B.C.; only in 1960s were these excavated civilization have been found out (Explorer).

            The most popular excavation in Bahrain is the Burial Mounds that was dated during the period of Dilmun, Tylos, and Helenistic about thousands years B.C.  This tomb was the largest and concrete illustration of the construction methods and the placement of dead bodies in the graves including some articles that were buried along the cadaver were shown in the National Museum.

            Another attraction is the Saar Settlement dated from 2000B.C.  This site presents the remains of many small houses structurally aligned on roads that lead to the main temple.  The site has some materials such as pots, and Dilmun seal that were used during that period.

            The Barbar Temple is dated around 2200 B.C, which shows the ancient beliefs of the people and their practices.  Developments can be notified since it has “legendary abyss of subterranean waters of Enki, the god of spring waters.”

The People of Bahrain and Khalifa Family

            The people of Bahrain were called Baharnah who were believed to be descendants of the tribe Abdul-Qais of Arab origin (History of Bahrain).  They were originally idol worshippers but in the 7th century they were overturned at the onset of the Muslim in the area.  The name Awal was called to Bahrain to recognize that Bahrain was pagan god worshippers in the Islamic eras.

For more than a century, Bahrain was under the rule of the Persian who had brought considerable economic improvement and cultural influence with its people. However, the Persian rule was put to end in 1782 by the Khalifa family after they captured Bahrain from the Persians. The Al Khalifa family first settled on the island of Bahrain in 1782. According to Yitzhak Nakash, the Al Khalifa conquest of Bahrain came after a famine had forced the family to depart central Arabia to move around eastward. They were roamers or wanderers. Prior to their arrival in Bahrain, the Al Khalifa was stationed in Kuwait.

During this time, Bahrain was under the rule of the Iranians since 1602 after the expulsion of the Portuguese, although the actual governance was done by the Arab tribes under the provincial governors in southern Iran. During the Al Khalifa conquest, Bahrain was governed by the Arab Madhkur family in the name of the Shah. The success gained by the Al Khalifa in the monopoly over the pearl trade, and their crossing to Bahrain trade provoked the ruling Sheikh Nasr Madhkur to war against the Al Khalifa which led to the death of an Al Khalifa member. Finally in 1783, Sheikh Ahmad ibn Muhammad Al Khalifa attacked and defeated the Madhkur army and eventually conquered Bahrain. Nakash pointed out that since then, the Al Khalifa ruled Bahrain from their headquarters in Zubara.

Until the early 1800s the rule of the Al Khalifa was never secured. In 1800, the sultan of Oman invaded the islands and from 1802 up to 1811the Al Khalifa was under the Al Sa’ud. It was only in 1861 that the Al Khalifa’s rule was fortified after the British government guaranteed the security of their territories. Bahrain and the British government signed a treaty in 1861, 1880, and 1892 guaranteeing British protectorate of Bahrain that lasted until 1971 when Bahrain finally gained their independence.

Beginning the early eighteenth century, however, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, has been calling Muslims to embrace Islam based on the Sunni teachings, and he made an alliance with the ruler of Dir’iyya, an oasis market in Najd which eventually lead to the formation of the first Saudi state in 1745to 1818. From this alliance, the Al khalifa Sunni Muslim minority became the dominant Muslim party in Bahrain over the Shi’is who was then the majority.

The Al Khalifa conquest of Bahrain had been written in the annals of the history of Bahrain as the most important as the Al Khalifa  rule had not only bring the people of Bahrain enormous economic wealth, the Al Khalifa also brought them stable peace, international exposure and a strong religious and cultural orientation. Today, Bahrain proudly stands as a stalwart of progress, democracy, and religiosity. The ruling As Khalifa family has justified their conquest of Bahrain and ably led the country towards progress and towards a respectable status in the international community of nations in the twenty first century.


            Bahrain’s history has provided many important segments of the world’s history, which leads the minds of those who come across this history to appreciate the country’s history. Although most of these past segments of Bahrain’s struggle was painful as the country was often under the foreign control, yet, the country continued to experience economic prosperity and the people flourished, which proved that Bahrain was indeed “land of the merchant”

            Bahrain’s history also offer a glimpse of knowledge into the world history particularly the how the great leaders of the world regarded the Arabian peninsula in their quest to dominate the known world. Bahrain’s history certainly occupied important pages of the world’s history.

Work Cited



Bahrain: The Pre Islamic Period


History of Bahrain.

Info Center Bahrain. @Ilo’ Expat.

McBride, J. The Kingdom Of Bahrain

Naksh, Y. (2006) Reaching for Power: The Shi’a in the Modern Arab World

Persian Gulf States – Historical setting

Saldanha, A. Bahraini History 101

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