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Glimpses of an Untold History of the Gulf: Notable Slaves as an Example

Abdulrahman Alebrahim

Résumé

Although the history of slaves and slavery in the Gulf has been the focus of some research, certain aspects of this history have been lost in the dominant historical narratives. This paper focuses on an untold aspect of the local history: notable slaves. Despite the obstacles to researching this topic, the paper sheds light on a gap between local and foreign sources, whereby the local historiography of enslaved populations in the region since the 19th Century has been largely neglected. Giving a brief overview of local slave communities, the paper draws on examples from Kuwait, Najd, al-Zubayr and Hayil to show how certain enslaved individuals gained significant prominence, occupying a range of important positions within these emirates and sheikhdoms. In doing so, this article sheds light on a largely untold aspect of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula’s social and political history between the 19th and 20th Centuries, which is scarcely documented, except in a marginal manner.

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Keywords :

Gulf, slavery, slaves, Kuwait, Arabia
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I would like to extend my thanks to Hamad Abdullah Al-Angari and Talal Eyada Almu'aed Al-Shammari for discussing many of the topics dealt with in this article.  Also, I am grateful to Ismael Louber for his valued discussions and conversations. I would like to express my gratitude to Arabian Humanities and to Laurent Bonnefoy whose endeavours have made possible the publication of this article.

Introduction

1The marginal history of the Gulf has not received sufficient attention from researchers despite the emergence of local documents and manuscripts. However, exploring these histories is essential to enrich the field of Gulf studies. Certain aspects of the marginal history of the Gulf have been partially lost in the dominant historical narratives supported by local governments and also by the lack of scholarly work in these countries to preserve the histories of marginalised populations. Official historical narratives are usually centred around the history of ruling families, wealthy merchants, or religious and political elites. Such an approach to national history is somehow narrow in perspective as it neglects other significant segments of society.

  • 1 Rutter, Eldon. “Slavery in Arabia,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 20, no. 3 (1933): pp (...)

2The history of slaves and slavery in the Gulf has been the focus of some research, including the works of Eldon Rutter, Benjamin Reilly, Matthew Hopper, Jerzy Zdanowski and others.1 Nonetheless, despite their importance and substantial contribution to the field, these works tend to focus on the history of slavery in the Gulf in terms of its economic and political implications. As a result, the social history of slaves in the Gulf region, beyond its political and economic implications, has been neglected by historians despite its significant historical importance for the region.

  • 2 Alebrahim, Abdulrahman. Kuwait's Politics Before Independence: The Role of the Balancing Powers. (B (...)
  • 3 See for example: Al-shammari, Ahmad. al-'Awazem khilâl alf ʿâm.(Kuwait: Dar Afaq, 2017): Afifi, Ali (...)
  • 4 Al-Awadi, Hesham. Tarîkh al-ʿabîd fi-l-Kuwayt. (Cairo: Dar Altanweer. 2021)

3Gulf historical sources mainly pay attention to the upper classes of society, such as ruling families, merchants and religious scholars, while other social segments are merely mentioned in relation to these elites. An example of people who have been largely neglected in Gulf history are the slaves, particularly, as this is the focus of this paper, notable slaves. Nonetheless, as shown in this paper, several slaves during the 19th and 20th centuries gained significant prominence and notability in the sheikhdoms and emirates of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. However, this elite-focused approach to the socio-political history of the Gulf has been questioned by certain historians who attempted to revisit the dominant narrative by paying closer attention to the role of other groups within society in the political development of the region.2 Likewise, more recently, several researchers have attempted to address this gap, studying specific non-elite categories such as divers and sailors while others have depicted the histories of local tribes, women, and workers, and some have even researched traditional clothing and ornaments.3 Furthermore, slaves in the Gulf, although rarely researched in the local scholarship, have recently been addressed by Kuwaiti historians.4

  • 5 Al-Zabidi, Murtada. Tâj al-ʿaroos min jawahir al-qamoos, volume 5 (first edition) (Cairo: Dar ibn a (...)
  • 6 Al-Hatem, Abdullah. Min hunâ bada’at al-Kuwait (second edition) (Kuwait: Al-Qabas Press, 1980).

4This paper is concerned with al-târîkh al-muhammash, often translated as “marginalised history” or “history of the margin”. It can also be argued here that al-târîkh al-muhmal (neglected history) or al-târîkh al-maskût ‘anhu (untold history) also fall under the umbrella of al-târîkh al-muhammash, from an Arabic language perspective. Hence, the term al-târîkh al- maskût ‘anhu refers to the untold history of people or events that have been silenced by historians, whether deliberately or not.5 It is not argued here that local sources have not mentioned slavery at all but that the mention of slavery in local sources remains marginal. As explained further in this paper, several local sources have mentioned slaves and their role in the political affairs of the region, but mainly within a narrative centred around rulers and elites. As a matter of example, with regard to Kuwait’s social history, the works of Abdulaziz al-Rushaid – who wrote the first history of Kuwait in 1926 – Yusuf bin Isa al-Qinaʿi, Saif Marzouk al-Shamlan and Rashid al-Farhan primarily involved the history of upper classes, including the country’s ruling family. Such scholarship mainly covers prominent figures, including scholars and merchants, but fails to mention other segments of society, with the exception of sporadic references to those interacting with the influential figures on whom the historians focus. A notable exception to this is al-Hatem who referred to workers, divers, women, shopkeepers, soldiers, guards and fishermen, though quite briefly.6 Thus, historians have overwhelmingly highlighted three aspects of Kuwait society, rulers, merchants, and religious scholars, overlooking other segments that have significantly impacted Kuwait’s rise and growth as a sheikhdom and a state. This has given prominence to a narrow historical narrative revolving around the merchants, the sheikhs and the religious elite.

5Al-Shamlan’s work is particularly indicative of historians’ neglect of marginal segments of Kuwait’s society, including slaves. Although his work is of great historical value, particularly his published documents concerning his grandfather Shamlan bin ʿAli and his study of pearl diving, which provides some insights into certain marginal segments of Kuwait’s society7, al-Shamlan seemed to have ignored significant historical events and did not include critical social groups in his account of Kuwait’s social history other than the elites. Nevertheless, it appears that he had a critical understanding of the role of other social segments —slaves, for example — as evidenced by a television program that he co-presented and prepared in the 1960s, which remains to this day a rich source of Kuwait’s oral history. In these audio-visual documents, al-Shamlan interviewed people from a range of social groups; these included a shepherd,8 local tribesmen,9 freed slaves10 and villagers.11 In addition, while he talked about the history of local folk music and songs in these television series in his writings, al-Shamlan made no mention of groups that were precisely involved in these activities.12 Nonetheless, his attempt to preserve the oral history of Kuwait remains praiseworthy.

6Moreover, the dominance of this historiographical tradition is particularly evident in the work of early Kuwaiti historians, such as al-Rushaid who mainly focused on the history of the elites, analysed the basic socio-economic structure of the country and discussed Kuwait’s intellectual life in his time. Hence, like other historians, his writing of history seemed to have neglected several segments of society, including slaves. Indeed, he merely mentioned slaves as part of an elite-focused narrative, as explained later in the article with the example of a slave called ‘Anbar and his relationship with the Sheikh of Kuwait. Al-Rushaid stated, about his book, History of Kuwait:

  • 13 Al-Rushaid, Abdulaziz. Tarîkh al-Kuwayt, volume 1 (Al-Matbaʿa al-Aisriyya, 1926). p 7.

This history is divided into two parts. First, […] the past of present rulers of Kuwait and their related events and wars [...]. It examines [Kuwait’s] economic, social, geographical and political situation […] as well its intellectual movement and literary renaissance. The second part is about those who had an impact on the history of Kuwait.13

7As shown in the above quote, it is worth questioning whether Kuwaiti historians were fully aware of the role and impact of other social segments, including slaves, on various aspects of Kuwait’s social life. Likewise, the marginal position of these groups at the time Kuwaiti historians wrote about major events in Kuwait history ought to be questioned.

  • 14 Oualdi, M’hamed. A Slave Between Empires : A Transimperial History of North Africa. New York: Colum (...)

8Other scholars have recently addressed this topic, although in a different geographical and historical context. For instance, M’hamed Oualdi discusses the life of a Circassian slave, Husayn, who became a “dignitary” of the Ottomans in Tunisia. Oualdi’s example reveals how a slave gained notability and power through education and military formation in addition to a favourable historical context.14 Likewise, in this paper, the notion of notable slaves is used to refer to slaves with political powers and higher social prominence, a status historically uncommon in the Gulf’s slave communities. This status usually meant that these notable slaves also earned respect and authority among free men from the elites, religious scholars, and the wider community. However, as discussed in this article, the examples cited here refer to notable slaves who acquired power only through the political and social position of their slave owners. In some cases, their position was due to their military skills as they often played a role in the defence of the sheikhdoms and emirates of the region.

9This article first discusses some of the obstacles to researching the history of marginalised Gulf communities, along with issues surrounding historiographical contextualisation and the marginalisation of histories. In this respect, the history of slaves and slavery in the Gulf has been neglected by the dominant Gulf historical narrative and scholarship. Based on this premise, this paper focuses on one aspect of the marginal history of the Gulf with particular respect to slavery, drawing on the examples of prominent notable slaves in the Gulf region.

Researching the untold history of the Gulf: past and present challenges

  • 15 Please see King Abdul Aziz foundation publications such as Al-Ousajei, Mohammed. Tarîkh Ibn 'Abaad. (...)

10Researching slavery and the role of slaves, including notable slaves, in the development of the Gulf States political and social history comprises several challenges: historiographical, social and legal. It can be argued here that local historical sources have downplayed the significance of enslaved populations. For example, in Najdî manuscripts, several of which have been published, there is little mention of slaves and slavery while several notable slaves appear in the accounts of Western travellers in the Arabian Peninsula and its shores.15

  • 16 Al-Naqeeb, Khuldoon. Sirâʿ al Qabaliyya wa-l-dimuqrâtiyya: Halat al-Kuwayt, (London: Dar al-Saqi, 1 (...)
  • 17 Hopper, Slaves of One Master.
  • 18 Zakariya, Ahmad. ʿAshayir alshâm (Damascus. Dar Al Fikr, 1997) p185.

11Gulf historians have rarely paid close attention to populations of lower social status, including slaves who were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. For example, in his book, Ṣîraʿ al-Qabîla wa-l-Dîmuqrâtîyya: Hâlat al-Kuwait, Khaldun al-Naqeeb described Kuwait’s society as made of five distinct groups based on their economic status: the merchants, the ruling family, the notables (including ship captains, religious men and office clerks, artisans, and shopkeepers) and finally, sailors and domestic servants.16 Despite this, slaves, for example, who for the most part, were domestic servants in the elite’s households, played a major role in the pearl industry but seem largely neglected in this dominant narrative.17 Likewise, Ahmad Zakariya mentioned slaves within Bedouin communities and placed them at the bottom of the social hierarchy. He states that the ‘Anaza and Shammar tribes were composed of a hierarchical structure based on four main groups: the sheikhs, the elites, the commoners – tribe members – and the slaves at the bottom.18 Hence, this analysis from local researchers and historians seems rather restrictive as it solely focuses on socio-economic status rather than on the role of various social segments of society.

12In addition, several recent laws have significantly prevented people – local historians, in particular – from discussing sensitive issues, considered social taboos, related to ethnicity and social status, including slavery and its social implications. These laws were enacted under the banner of “National Unity”. For example, the governments of Kuwait and Bahrain issued strict laws at the beginning of the new millennium. In 2002, Bahrain’s government issued its Press, Printing, and Publishing Regulations, Article 69 of which relates to inciting hatred against a sector or sectors of people and/or to any incitement that leads to the disruption of public security or spreading discord in society and prejudice to national unity.19 In Kuwait, the situation is more strict: in 2011, the parliament issued a law relating to “National Unity”, whereby Article 2 prohibits any form of expression calling to or exhorting, at home or abroad, the hatred of, or contempt for, any segment of society. It also bans any incitation to harm “National Unity” or foster sectarian strife or tribalism; spreading ideas that call for the supremacy of any race, group, colour, origin, religious sect, gender, or lineage, and any attempt to justify or reinforce any form of hatred, discrimination, or incitement for it is punishable by law. Notably, the law also forbids the writing, broadcasting or publishing of articles or “false rumours” that may infringe upon “National Unity”. For example, under this legal framework, mentioning the names of freed slaves’ families and their descendants is punishable by law,20 in addition to being extremely sensitive socially even when addressed academically and within the framework of social justice and equity. Hence, it is now socially and legally imperative in Kuwait to avoid discussing various topics, especially in the Arabic language.

  • 21 See, for instance, Al-Fahad, Abdulaziz H. “The ʿImama vs. the ʿIqal: Hadari – Bedouin Conflict and (...)

13Nonetheless, despite the above restrictions, social hierarchy and ethnicity are often associated with the family names. For instance, as discussed further below, tribal affiliations and ethnicity are often known through the family names. In reality, as is the case in other Gulf countries, last names often give reliable clues as to the ethnic and tribal origins of Kuwaiti families and to the possible slave origins of certain groups. In this sense, this also shows how ethnicity and social hierarchy often come into play. Likewise, for non-slave populations, ethnic divisions between asîl and ghayr-asîl lineages in Kuwait society are highly sensitive, and no exceptions are made for academics and researchers. This is particularly true for Arabic scholarship although various works published in English have addressed these topics.21

14These issues have now become far more sensitive in Kuwait and the Gulf than in the past. To illustrate, several audio-visual interviews recorded in the 1950s onwards, which are discussed later in more detail, are indicative of how the new legislation has impacted research on the issue of slaves and slavery in the Gulf. For instance, TV programs broadcasted before the National Unity legislation discussed the history of music in Kuwait, and involved guests who identified themselves as “Black” or ʿabîd (slaves). This shows how people may have been less sensitive about issues relating to slavery or ethnicity in the Gulf.

  • 22 Alebrahim, Abdulrahman. “Slavery and Post-Slavery Gulf History and the Social Historian’s Dilemma”. (...)

15Hence, the above shows how researching the history of slaves in the Gulf, especially in Arabic, is a complex matter and may prevent local historians, from discussing sensitive issues, considered social taboos, as they relate to ethnicity and social status, including slavery and its social implications.22

Slaves in the Gulf since the 19th century: historiographical contextualisation

Slaves in the local written primary sources

16The Gulf history literature on slavery reveals a clear difference between local and foreign sources, including the accounts of foreign travellers to the Arabian Peninsula or British colonial archives. From the perspective of local, written and oral historical sources, the overall history of slaves in the region since the 19th century has been largely neglected.

  • 23 Ibin Ruzaiq, Hamid. al-Fath al-mubîn fî sirat al-sâda al-busuʿaidiyyîn. ed Mohammed Saleh and Mahmo (...)

17Local historiography – especially the Najdî primary sources– has mainly been written in the forms of annals, known by Arab historians as the Ḥawliyât. As explained earlier, local historians – especially during the 19th and early 20th centuries – generally wrote brief accounts focusing on ruling families, merchants, religious scholars, and elites. As a result, slaves are largely absent from this narrative, even those known for their uncommon status and importance. For example, with regards the Najdî historiography, Salem al-Ḥarq, a slave owned by Abdulaziz bin Saud in the first Saudi State, is not mentioned in any of the Najdî sources, despite his significant military contribution as one of the leaders of the Saudi troops invading Oman in the early beginnings of the 1800s. However, according to Hamid bin Ruzaiq, al-Ḥarq described as “a Nubian slave”, had a primary role in the occupation of Oman and al-Buraimi and the subsequent spread of Wahhabism in these regions.23

  • 24 Al-Bassam, Abdullah. Tohfat al-mushtaq fî akhbar Najd wa-l-ʿIraq wa-l-Hijâz. ed. Ahmad al-Bassam (R (...)

18In general, Najdî primary sources, despite mentioning certain slaves, do not point to the role they played and their historical importance except when the narrative involves rulers or the elite. For instance, Bilal al-Ḥarq, Salem al-Ḥarq’s son, a slave owned by Faisal bin Turki Al-Saud, is mentioned anecdotally in Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Bassam’s work, Toḥfat al-Mushtaq; Bilal al-Ḥarq was appointed emir of al-Qateef in al-Aḥsa during the second Saudi State.24 It is interesting to note here that while the same primary sources explicitly mention the role played by Bilal al-Ḥarq in the second Saudi State, nothing is written about his father, Salem al-Ḥarq, despite his significant role in the expansion of the first Saudi State. This suggests that Bilal al-Ḥarq was directly involved with the Saudi State, being appointed by Faisal bin Turki himself and in constant contact with him to organise the affairs of the State in al-Aḥsa and al-Qateef. However, Salem al-Ḥarq, being sent to Oman on a military mission, was not considered as having an important impact on the internal affairs of the Saudi State. This, therefore, may explain this discrepancy within the Najdî historiography.

  • 25 Ibn Bishr, ʿUnwan al-majd fî tarîkh Najd, Second volume, pp 99–100.

19Another example of this focus on slaves merely when rulers and elites are involved is the role played by two slaves in the events surrounding the assassination of Turki bin Abdullah Al-Saud, the founder of the second Saudi State. These slaves were Ibrahim bin Hamza, owned by Mishari Al-Saud, and Zuwiyed, Turki bin Abdullah Al-Saud’s slave. According to Ibn Bishr, Turki bin Abdullah was assassinated by Ibrahim bin Hamza; Zuwiyed, who witnessed the incident, wounded one of Mishari Al-Saud’s supporters defending his master, Turki bin Abdullah. Zuwiyed was later imprisoned before escaping and joining Turki bin Abdullah’s sons in al-Aḥsa.25

  • 26 The Al-Rashed are a prominent ruling families of the al-Zubayr Sheikhdom.
  • 27 Zuwiyed here is not the slave mentioned earlier in the second Saudi state.
  • 28 Al-Ghimlas, Abdullah al. Tarîkh al-Zubayr wa-l-Basra maʿa isharat li tarîkh al-Kuwayt wa-l-Ihsâ’, f (...)

20Based on this, it appears that social hierarchy does have an impact on the mention of slaves beyond their mere condition as enslaved individuals. However, in the eyes of local historians these enslaved individuals remain assigned to their condition as slaves, usually at the bottom of the social strata. The local historiography reveals this perspective on slaves, as evidenced by local, Arabic primary sources. For example, al-Ghimlas explicitly referred to certain notables from al-Zubayr as “slaves” or “descendants of slaves” regardless of their legal or social status. Another instance is Marzuq, the head of al-Ḥammârâ in al-Zubayr (i.e. the equivalent of the local police chief), is referred to as “al-Rashed’s slave”,26 while Zuwiyed27, a local slave of al-Rashed family, was merely called a “slave”.28

  • 29 Al-Bassam, Abdullah. Makhtût fi-l-ansâb wa-l-târîkh, p 17. A copy of the manuscript is in the autho (...)
  • 30 The terms ghayr-asîl and khadhîrî refer to non-tribal people/lineage. The terms asîl often used int (...)
  • 31 Although they have the same names, this merchant is not the Kuwaiti historian mentioned previously.

21The above not only applies to slaves but also to other socio-ethnic groups. Indeed, tribal lineage and social status do seem to have an impact on the mention of less prominent individuals and families and non-tribal groups. However, regardless of their socio-economic status these individuals remain described as belonging to their assigned socio-ethnic group. For instance, in Makhtût fî al-Ansâb wa-l-Tarîkh, Abdullah bin Abdulrahman al-Bassam refers to specific prominent families in Najd as “Mawâlî”, including two men from Dawademi: “hum min al-mawâlî” (they are slaves).29 Tribal lineage and affiliation are explicitly mentioned in certain sources with reference to individuals not recognised as belonging to an ancestral Arab tribe and pejoratively referred to as ghayr-asîl or khadhîrî.30 Abdullah al-Ghimlas, for instance, a Zubayri historian, described several people from the elites, merchants and rulers, as khadhîrîs, including Abdulaziz al-Rushaid,31 a merchant from al-Zubayr.

Slavery in Western travelogues

  • 32 Musil, Alois. ʿAn al-tarîkh al-muʿassir li shibh al-jazîra alʿarabiya, trans. Mahmoud Kabibo (Londo (...)
  • 33 Wallin, Georg August. Rihalat Wallin Ela Jazirat Al ʿArab, first edition, trans. Samir Shibly (Lond (...)
  • 34 Bell, Gertrude. Malikat al-sahra’, muthakirât rihlat Gertrude Bell min Dimashq ila Hâyil, second ed (...)

22References to slavery in Gulf history can be found in the accounts of Western travellers exploring the Arabian Peninsula, which significantly contrasts with the local historiography, particularly with respect to notable slaves. Indeed, accounts of westerners’ voyages have substantially contributed to the Gulf’s historiography, and the perspectives of travellers have enhanced our understanding of Gulf history. Notably, they report numerous details that were novel to their authors, such as the wildlife in the desert, tribal social structures, ethnic division or the status of enslaved populations in the Arabian Peninsula – worthy of being recorded. Thus, several historical aspects of the social life in the Gulf, neglected by local historians, have been investigated in detail through the accounts of Western travellers in the region. One such detail relates to the documentation of slavery, its nature and its significance in the local communities. For example, Alois Musil, an Austro-Hungarian traveller, in a visit to Hayil at the end of the 19th century, explains that, within the Emirate of al-Rasheed, the emir’s guards comprised 400 enslaved individuals divided into twenty groups, with the emir being responsible for their expenses.32 Georg August Wallin, a Finnish traveller visiting the region in 1845, adds that these guards were Egyptians and Africans, with unshakable obedience to their emir.33 Meanwhile, Gertrude Bell described in great detail the lives of the enslaved females inside the palace of al-Rasheed, including their name, demeanour, the stratification among them, and the number of enslaved women owned by each member of the al-Rasheed elite.34

  • 35 Blunt, Anne. A Pilgrimage to Nejd. (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1881) Vol 1, p 144. http (...)
  • 36 Doughty, Charles M. Travels in Arabia Deserta, first volume (London. Jonathan Cape Ltd & The Medici (...)
  • 37 Oppenheim, Max. Rihla ila diyâr Shamar, second edition, trans. Mahmoud Kabibo (London. Dar Alwarraq (...)
  • 38 Nolde, Eduard. Rihla ila wasat al-jaziîra al-ʿarabiya, first edition, trans. Emad Aldeen Ghanim (Lo (...)

23Broadly speaking, Western travellers to the Gulf appeared to view the local enslaved people from a Euro-centric perspective. For example, Anne Blunt described the ruler of al-Jowf, Jowhar, a notable slave, as a “black negro” having “repulsive African features”. She also found it remarkable that this slave had more power than many white people.35 In a similar way, Doughty discussed the character of ‘Aniyber, a notable slave in Hayil, portraying him as lascivious and cowardly.36 In contrast, Max Oppenheim, a German traveller who visited the region in the 19th century, in his book Riḥla Ilâ Diyâr Shammar, describes slaves as “brave, with knights’ morals”, adding that they were part of the tribe and married within it.37 Likewise, Edward Nolde, another traveller to the Peninsula, explains how Arabs treated their slaves in a manner that was different to Europeans. From his perspective, slaves in the region were under less hardship than commonly assumed about slaves in Europe. For instance, he noted that Arabs treated their slaves more like “spoiled children” rather than slaves, as understood in a traditional (European) slave relationship.38

Slavery in Kuwait’s oral history

  • 39 Al-Salhi, Ahmad. “Saut in Bahrain and Kuwait: History and Creativity in Concept and Practice” (Ph.D (...)
  • 40 TV interview between Siham Mubarak with Amina Mubarak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE_p9c13gEo (...)
  • 41 TV interview between Siham Mubarak and Saleh Marjan (undated: the author has a copy).

24In addition to the above primary sources, a number of more recent oral sources provide interesting insights into the history of slaves in the Gulf since the 19th century. For instance, with regard to Kuwait, audio-visual interviews recorded in the 1950s onwards constitute some of the most important sources for historians. This was, of course, well before the National Unity legislation was introduced half a century later. In several audio-visual sources, mainly concerned with the history of music in Kuwait, several individuals identified themselves using the terms “Black” or ʿabîd (slaves). The relationship between slaves and the local folklore is not new; for instance, Ahmad al-Salḥi, discusses the history of music before the oil boom, stating: “ethnic music is a category that comprises Kuwaitis of non-Arab origins, such as Iranians known as ʿayam, and African people known as khawâl (black) or ʿabîd (slaves)”.39 In another television program, presented by Siham Mubarak, two Black Kuwaitis, Amina Mubarak and Saleh Marjan, while discussing music and local folklore in Kuwait and their bands, explicitly referred to Black Kuwaiti musicians as “al-ʿabîd” and al- khawâl.40 In the same program, Saleh Marjan even affirmed the African origins of the local folklore widespread among Black Kuwaitis. For example, while talking about the folkloric Liwâ dance, he explained: “Liwâ was brought to Kuwait and the Gulf by the slaves from the time of Sabah the First – this is not an Arabic kind of art; this is an African dance.” 41Hence, it appears that for these individuals, the African origins of Black Kuwaitis and their slave origin was not, at that time, such a sensitive topic to address, even in a television program. This shows a sharp contrast with the current taboos and regulations surrounding the issue of ethnicity in Kuwait.

25In addition, in 1988 (before the restrictive laws), in a television program about Sayid Yassen al-Rifaei, a well-known religious scholar, Saif Marzoq al-Shamlan interviewed Sultan al-Takroni, a domestic worker of the scholar. Al-Shamlan did not directly refer to al-Takroni’s ethnic heritage but instead, during the interview, referred to al-Rifaei as “al-Takroni’s master”. Al-Shamlan, while addressing al-Takroni, used the term “ʿammak” to talk about al-Rifaei while al-Takroni referred to him as “ʿammî”; in the Kuwaiti dialect, this term is used to mean paternal uncle or slaveholder. “ʿAmmî” can also be used to show respect to elders and people you work for although it was often used to refer to a slave master. In this case, al-Takroni, as a Black Kuwaiti, was not related to al-Rifaei, so the term was explicitly used to refer to a slaveholder.42

26It is worth mentioning here that the family name al-Takroni, is also evidence of his West-African, slave heritage. This, therefore, suggests that, despite these laws, especially in the Gulf, ethnicity and race are often marked by family names. Indeed, family names are often an indication of the tribal/non-tribal origin of an individual and his or her ethnic background.

27It is important to note here that many of the audio-visual sources about the Gulf history in general and enslaved populations, in particular, are not available online; likewise, the Black individuals appearing on these documents were, of course, not enslaved themselves but descendants of slaves or freed slaves. The topic of slavery remains a sensitive topic in the Gulf, with various social implications; hence, it is critical for researchers to take into account the importance of genealogy and the history of families in the region.

From slaves to notables, an untold history of the Gulf

  • 43 See: Hopper, Slaves of One master and Reilly,  Slavery, Agriculture, and Malaria in the Arabian Pen (...)
  • 44 Lorimer, JG. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman, and Central Arabia, fourth volume, second part (C (...)
  • 45 Zdanowski, Slavery in the Gulf, p 100.
  • 46 Zdanowski, Slavery in the Gulf, p 100.

28Most enslaved populations shared very similar characteristics within the diverse emirates and sheikhdoms of the Gulf region. It is well documented that their presence had a significant impact on the local economies, particularly with regard to the main trading commodities, pearls and dates. In his book, Slaves of One Master, Matthew Hopper explains how the slave trade affected the date and pearl industries, highlighting the profits that Arab merchants gained from trade and how they could be traced back to slaves.43 In addition, their demographics have been documented in local and foreign sources; for instance, Lorimer estimated that in the early beginning of the 20th century, the population of Kuwait was about 35,000, adding that “the negroes [were] a very conspicuous element in the population” amounting about 4,000 individuals.44 According to Zdanowski, by 1930, the number of slaves in Kuwait had halved, amounting to almost 2,000.45 Likewise, on the Trucial Coast, sources suggest that slaves represented about 7,000 of the 80,000 (predominantly Arab) population.46

29Moreover, slaves in the Gulf generally fell under four categories: (a) freed slaves, (b) labouring slaves, who usually had a home life independent of their work, (c) domestic, house slaves, mostly females, and finally, (d) the notable slaves. Even among Arabs themselves, the treatment of slaves varied significantly between tribes or between Bedouins and town dwellers. For instance, Dickson, the British Political Agent in Kuwait, noted:

  • 47 Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, p 501.

“... a bought slave-girl is a man’s personal property. It is not wrong in the eyes of the law for the master to take her as a concubine if he finds her attractive. This can happen only in the case of newly-bought girls, however, and is practised only among town Arabs. The custom does not exist among the simpler and cleaner-minded Badawin.”47

  • 48 In Islam, children who have been breastfed by the same woman are deemed “milk-siblings” similar to (...)
  • 49 Al-Rasheed, Madawi. Al-siyâsa fî waha ʿarabia: emarat Al-Rasheed, second edition, trans. Abdul-Elah (...)

30In addition, the condition of slaves and their social status also significantly differed depending on various contextual factors and social practices. As evidenced by a number of sources, tribal leaders and sheikhs in the Peninsula have been known to use slaves as private secretaries, personal bodyguards or as military leaders, some of whom even serving as the backbone of the local armies. Indeed, various social practices, widespread in the region, strengthened the relationship between rulers and slaves. For example, several sheikhs and emirs in the Emirate of Hayil entertained close relationships with slaves due to their “milk-sibling” status, as known in the Islamic Fiqh.48 In this respect, as argued by Madawi al-Rasheed, in Hayil, it was normal to see more than one slave as “milk-sibling” to the members of the ruling family. The slaves referred to their “milk-sibling” as a brother/sister while the young sheikh would treat his/her “milk-sibling” slave as a brother/sister. This milk kinship status strengthened the relationship between the slave and the sheikh, to the extent that they were often bound together in all circumstances, even death. In Hayil, which saw multiple assassinations of sheikhs due to succession disputes, the “milk-sibling” slave was usually murdered alongside his brother sheikh.49

  • 50 Nolde, Rihla ila wasat al-jazîra al-ʿarabiya, p 52.
  • 51 Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta, second volume, p 50.

31Likewise, even without the status of “milk-sibling”, enslaved men and women were sometimes treated like other family members. Broadly speaking, Arabs tended to treat their slaves in very distinctive ways, which might appear at odds with a Eurocentric conception of slavery. This orientalist conception of looking at slavery is quite salient in foreign sources, such as European travelogues. For instance, Nolde, a European traveller who visited the northern parts of Arabia, felt that Arabs treated their slaves rather like “spoiled children”, which, according to him, contrasted with Europeans’ treatment of slaves.50 This somehow close bond between enslaved people and slaveholders was particularly true for ruling families and elites and often resulted in manumission. An example of this is the case of two men, ‘Anbar and ‘Aniyber, freed by the House of al-Rasheed despite their father being a slave owned by Abdullah al-Rasheed.51

32As far as the position of slaves in the Gulf communities during the 19th and 20th centuries is concerned, several slaves gained notability in other ways than the milk-kinship system or social practices. Several examples from Kuwait, al-Zubayr and Hayil show that certain enslaved individuals gained significant prominence in these sheikhdoms, occupying a range of administrative positions. Despite this being scarcely documented, except in a marginal manner, notable slaves are known to have been the head of customs administration, in charge of order forces, and even city rulers.

  • 52 A slave called Aman was put in charge of customs, but the author could not find additional informat (...)

33In Kuwait, towards the second half of the 19th century, during the reign of Sabah al-Sabah, a Black slave called ‘Anbar was appointed as the head of the customs. This was an exceptional event as no slaves had ever reached this position which had always been filled by individuals from the merchant class, including Abdulmosen al-Ajeel, Abdullatif al-Abduljalil, Abdulwahab al-Jassar and others.52

  • 53 See also: Al-Rushaid, Tarîkh al-Kuwayt, vol. 2, pp 26–27; Al-Shamlan, Min tarîkh al-Kuwayt, pp 131– (...)

34A specific event involving an influential local merchant is particularly indicative of ‘Anbar’s relatively powerful status, despite his enslaved condition. Abdullah al-‘Anqari, from the local merchant elite, had a caravan-load of goods delayed at the customs at the request of ‘Anbar. Al-‘Anqari urged him to expedite the customs, but he vehemently refused, thereby standing against the social order of the time despite the great social gap between the two individuals. This resulted in a quarrel with ‘Anbar violently assaulting al-‘Anqari. Upon hearing the news, other powerful merchants threatened Sabah al-Sabah to leave the sheikhdom if no action was taken against ‘Anbar. Al-Sabah refused to concede to the merchants’ demands, so they decided to leave Kuwait. This lack of action on behalf of al-Sabah was met with strong disapproval from members of the ruling family, including his own son, Mohammed, who feared that if no action were to be taken, the al-Sabah family would lose their authority. As a result, Mohammed al-Sabah shot ‘Anbar dead in front of the merchants, putting an end to their threat to leave the sheikhdom.53 These events suggest that the position of that particular slave and his affiliation to the Sheikh granted him a special status, notability and even power over some of the most influential elites of that time.

  • 54 See also, for instance: Al-Sani, Abdulrazaq and Al-Ali, Abdulaziz. Imârat al-Zubayr bayn hijratayn (...)
  • 55 Al-Ghimlas, Tarîkh al-Zubayr, p 71.
  • 56 Al-Ghimlas. Tarîkh al-Zubayr, p 72–73.
  • 57 OualdiA Slave Between Empire, p 25.

35In the sheikhdom of al-Zubayr, ruled by Najdî immigrants who had fled famine and the emergence of Wahhabism, another slave gained notability and prominence by heading an important institution in the sheikhdom, al-Ḥammâra, equivalent to the local police force.54 This was unusual as this position was traditionally headed by free men, including Abdullah bin Battah, Hazaa al-Shibly and others. Thus, the slaves appointed to these roles enjoyed power and social rank. This institution was traditionally very loyal to the local ruler despite the frequent changes at the head of the sheikhdom. Members of this force were known to be armed with extensive powers to control security within the sheikhdom. During the rule of Abdullah al-Rashed at the end of the 19th century, Marzoq, a slave owned by the ruler, was appointed as chief of al-Ḥammâra.55 In 1894, Marzoq played a crucial role in saving the life of the Sheikh of al-Zubayr, when other members of the local elite attempted to seize power over the sheikhdom after the Ottoman Wâlî had sent an envoy to the sheikhdom. A mob violently assaulted the envoy and the ruler in protest of the rising taxes imposed by the Ottomans, while members of the elite attempted a coup in the sheikhdom. Hence, al-Ḥammâra, under Marzoq’s command, played a critical role in preventing this coup and ensured the safety of the Sheikh and the Ottoman envoy. As al-Ghimlas noted, Abdullah al-Rashed openly showed his appreciation and gratefulness to this notable slave; Marzoq himself, while containing the violent mob, openly and proudly shouted: “I am the slave of al-Rashed, leave him alone, I dare you!”56 It appears here that Marzoq had no problem identifying himself as a slave while proclaiming his allegiance to the ruler, al-Rashed. A parallel may be drawn here with the dignitary slave discussed by Oualdi: “Husayn had no difficulty labeling himself a ‘mamluk’, nor did he, as a member of this group, cease acting for the ‘interest of his government’ and the ‘love of his country’.”57 This should not, however, be understood as an acquiescence of their condition as enslaved individuals but it tends to denote a sense of duty towards the ruler and the state.

36The examples of Marzoq in al-Zubayr and ‘Anbar in Kuwait illustrate how some slaves did gain notability and earned the respect of eminent individuals, as they occupied positions traditionally held by members of the elite.

The Peak of Notability, Slaves as Rulers in the Emirate of al-Rasheed

  • 58 Lorimer. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf. Geographical, third volume, p 41.

37The geographical location of the Emirate of al-Rasheed in Hayil and the diversity of its population differentiated it from other emirates and sheikhdoms in the heart of Najd. According to Lorimer, “Hayil [is] the capital of the Jabal Shammar province of Central Arabia ... the size of Hayil is small [compared] to its political importance...”.58

  • 59 Lorimer. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf. Historical, fifth volume, p 64.
  • 60 Al-Shammari, Khalif. Jamaʿat doun al-eʾatraf: al-raqîq wa Dawrohum fi emarat al-Rasheed, (Universit (...)

38The expansion of the Emirate of al-Rasheed beyond the geographical boundaries of Hayil, in addition to its cultural and demographic diversity, gave birth to an idiosyncratic political administration, especially during the rule of Talal al-Rasheed from 1822 to 1876. Indeed, during his reign, Talal al-Rasheed encouraged foreign merchants, including Persian Shia, Jews and Christians from Iraq, Iran and the Levant, to settle in the province.59 This cultural diversity, in addition to the already diverse social fabric of Hayil, paved the way for non-tribal individuals, such as slaves, to hold high ranking positions within the administration, thereby gaining respectability and notability in the eyes of the traditional Arab elite. For example, slaves are known to have filled positions as emirs of Hajj, Zakat collectors and even political ambassadors of the Emirate abroad. For example, ‘Anbar al-Abdallah, a slave owned by Abdallah al-Rasheed, and a slave called Abdulrahman were both appointed emir of Hajj by the rulers of Hayil, Abdallah (1835-1846) and Mohammed al-Rasheed (1873-1897), respectively.60

  • 61 Al-Hamaad, Hamad. “Hokum Mohammed al-Abdulla bin Rasheed li Najd (1873-1897” (’s thesis, King Saud (...)
  • 62 Al-Shammari, Jamaʿat doun al-eʾatraf, p 10.

39That said, it was unusual for high-ranking political positions – such as ambassadors or political messengers to other sheikhs – to be held by a slave. This, therefore, suggests a high degree of trust conferred to these slaves, as such high-ranking positions usually required specific skills and great responsibilities. Few slaves, however, did gain high ranking status and notability, such as ‘Aniyber, who was the political messenger between Hayil and Qatar, and took over the affairs of the Emirate in the absence of his master.61 Likewise, as reported by Khlaif al-Shammari, another enslaved man, Soror al-Mohammed, was the ambassador and official representative of the emir of Hayil to the Ottomans; 62nonetheless, this claim remains largely unsupported.

  • 63 Al-Hamaad, Hokum Mohammed Al-Abdulla, pp 76–79. See also: Al-Rihani, Amin. Tarîkh Najd al-hadîth (B (...)

40Furthermore, slaves in Hayil even became embroiled in political plots and attempted to seize power in the Emirate. For example, Mohammed al-Abdullah al-Rasheed survived two assassination attempts at the hands of slaves. The first assassination attempt was planned by his relatives and their slaves while the second attempt was entirely planned by slaves. One of the slaves involved in the coup attempt, Frijan, revealed the plans to Mohammed al-Rasheed, who executed all the slaves involved.63 These events tend to suggest that notable slaves in Hayil were strong enough to attempt to seize power and rule the Emirate. Indeed, this required a high level of organisation and political power, which would have only been possible for people with authority within the Emirate’s administration. In addition, this is unique to the Hayil Emirate as no such similar events planned by slaves have been recorded in other Gulf emirates and sheikhdoms during that period, to the best of the author’s knowledge.

  • 64 Euting, Julius. Rihla dakhil al-Jazîra al-ʿarabia, first edition, trans. Said Al-Said. (Riyadh: Dar (...)

41Moreover, certain slaves also reached the top of the administrative hierarchy in the Emirate of al-Rasheed by assuming the role of rulers of cities such as al-‘Ula, al-Jowf, Riyadh and others. For instance, in al-‘Ula, Talal al-Rasheed appointed a slave called Saeed al-‘Ali as the local ruler soon after taking over the city in 1846. Al-‘Ali ruled on behalf of al-Rasheed until the city declared secession from the Hayil Emirate in 1892. During his rule, al-‘Ali gained the support of local notables, including a local judge, Moussa al-Qadhi and a local tribal sheikh, Saeed Abd al-Daiʾm. When visiting the city, Euting was amazed at the “cleanliness and beauty” of the Black inhabitants of al-‘Ula and highly praised the generosity of al-‘Ali compared to the “miser” ruler of Tayma, Abdulaziz al-‘Anqari, from a well-known Najdî family.64 In Riyadh, Abdulaziz bin Meteb al-Rasheed appointed ‘Ajlan al-Mohammad as the ruler of the city; he was killed by Abdulaziz Al-Saud, future King of Saudi Arabia, when he stormed the city in 1902.

  • 65 Al-Shammari, Jama'at doun al-e’atraf,. p 11.

42Finally, the city of al-Jowf is another excellent example of how slaves became notables and gained prominence beyond the border of Hayil; this aspect is also well documented by several Western travellers, such as Doughty, Nolde, Blunt or Euting who visited the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. Jowhar, a slave of Mohammed al-Rasheed, was appointed as the ruler of al-Jowf by his master. During his rule, this notable slave replicated Hayil’s political administration in al-Jowf and acted as a de facto ruler, even adopting the social codes of the rulers in the Peninsula at that time. For instance, he was routinely accompanied by armed bodyguards, which was an unusual practice for a slave, as most slaves were more likely to be recruited as bodyguards of rulers. Jowhar exerted all relevant executive powers but had no control over the judiciary which was in the hands of local judges and religious scholars; he also referred all major crimes to the higher authorities in Hayil.65

  • 66 Blunt, A Pilgrimage to Nejd. p 144.
  • 67 Euting, Rihla dakhil al-Jazeera al-ʿArabia, pp 74–75.

43Western travellers witnessed and documented the rule of Jowhar in al-Jowf. For instance, Blunt was astonished to see how this slave could hold such a powerful position and how the local Arabs obeyed him and followed his commands. Unlike other travellers who documented this, Blunt made clear her discontent at seeing Jowhar the “black negro [with] repulsive African features” holding more power than many White people.66 In contrast, Julius Euting criticised Blunt’s remarks, depicting Jowhar as “dignified and friendly”. Euting seemed to demonstrate a deeper understanding than Blunt of the local social practices within the Emirate of al-Rasheed, adding that it was not surprising to see a slave ruling al-Jowf, given the relationship he entertained with his master, Mohammed al-Rasheed.67

  • 68 See also: Al-Rasheed, Al-siyâsa fî wahat ʿarabia: emarat Al-Rasheed, p 68.

44The succession of power in the al-Rasheed Emirate was known to be violent as assassinations were common between the different branches of the ruling family after the death of a ruler, with slaves sometimes taking an active role.68 While a ruler usually relied on his brothers, sons or slaves to maintain authority and power, Mohammed al-Rasheed, who had no children, had to rely on trusted men to run the political administration, especially as the Emirate expanded. Hence, he sought the loyalty of his slave to ascertain his rule over the Emirate. As explained earlier, the milk-kinship system strengthened the relationship between members of the al-Rasheed family and slaves, to the extent that slaves were often more loyal to their powerful slaveholders than their own relatives. This can explain why, more than anywhere else in the region, slaves or freed slaves were given such prominence and power and gained notability.

Conclusion

45This paper has shed some light on an untold aspect of the history of the region. Despite the account of certain Western travellers in the Peninsula in the 19th and 20th Centuries, local Arab sources are silent on this issue, solely mentioning slaves within a descriptive narrative involving rulers or elites. It appears, however, that local oral history can provide rich insights on the issue of the history of slaves and slavery in the Gulf despite the legal and social challenges facing researchers on this matter. As explained above, it is worth investigating the numerous audio-visual sources involving slave descendants and freed slaves as they constitute a rich source of information on the issue of slavery in the region. This, however, is beyond the scope of this paper which specifically focused on notable slaves. On the contrary, this paper has shown how a few members of the slave community, whether they were freed, descendants of slaves or slaves themselves, occupied important positions in the highest spheres of the political administration, thereby gaining an unusual prominence and notability.

46The examples cited in this paper have shed some light on the ways in which enslaved individuals have gained notability and power in certain emirates and sheikhdoms of the Gulf. The example of ‘Anbar in Kuwait and Marzoq in al-Zubayr are indicative of how notability was acquired mainly through the power of the slave master. Their authority was directly derived from the presence and power of their respective slave owners and confined to the remit of their functions and the limits of the Sheikhdom. In the Emirate of Hayil, while notable slaves also acquired power in similar ways, that is, through a powerful slave owner, it is worth highlighting that the example of Jowhar, the ruler of al-Jowf, is unique as he had extensive powers given that he was de facto ruler of the province, as attested by primary sources. Furthermore, the parallels drawn with slave dignitaries of the Ottomans in Tunisia suggest that education and military formation played a more significant role than in the Gulf, where power, authority and notability were primarily derived from military skills or mere allegiance to the rulers and the sheikhs. Nonetheless, more research is needed into the role played by education and scholarship in influencing the socio-political status of marginalised communities, including slaves, in the Gulf region.

47This untold history of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula requires further research, particularly the social and cultural implications of this issue. For instance, it is worth focusing on how certain slaves also gained notability through education and religious knowledge. As documented by certain historians, slave communities within the al-Rasheed Emirate were learned men and women, some of whom endowed books and manuscripts to the local community, still available today. Research in this area, despite its challenges, is still possible today as several key sources are available for researchers, including video-recorded interviews with freed slaves, especially from the mid-20th century, and Ottoman archives, which contain a wealth of Arabic books and records referring to the Ottomans’ relations with the Gulf sheikhdoms.

48Finally, from a social history perspective, critical questions need to be raised with regards the issue of slave communities in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. For instance, it is worth investigating in greater depth the nature of slave communities in the region and their social hierarchies, which appear to be different within the diverse regions of the Peninsula. In addition, although the paper has shed light on aspects of the slave-master relationship, particularly with regards milk kinship and the powerful position of the slaveholder, more research is needed to understand why and how certain enslaved individuals gained notability in the region, often becoming more powerful than many Arabs. This can surely enrich our understanding of the social history of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, as this is a topic that has been too often overlooked.

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Notes

1 Rutter, Eldon. “Slavery in Arabia,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 20, no. 3 (1933): pp 315–332; Hopper, Matthew. S  Slaves of One : Globalization and Slavery in Arabia in the Age of Empire (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2015); Reilly, Benjamin. Slavery, Agriculture, and Malaria in the Arabian Peninsula (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2015); Zdanowski, Jerzy. Slavery in the Gulf in the First Half of the 20th Century: A Study Based on the Records from the British Archives (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Askon, 2008).

2 Alebrahim, Abdulrahman. Kuwait's Politics Before Independence: The Role of the Balancing Powers. (Berlin: Gerlach Press September 2019).

3 See for example: Al-shammari, Ahmad. al-'Awazem khilâl alf ʿâm.(Kuwait: Dar Afaq, 2017): Afifi, Ali. Ru'yat al-rahâla li-l-mar'ah al-badawiyya fi-l-Iraq wa-l-jazîra al-ʿarabia. (Kuwait: Torous, 2020).

4 Al-Awadi, Hesham. Tarîkh al-ʿabîd fi-l-Kuwayt. (Cairo: Dar Altanweer. 2021)

5 Al-Zabidi, Murtada. Tâj al-ʿaroos min jawahir al-qamoos, volume 5 (first edition) (Cairo: Dar ibn al-Jawzi, 2017). volume 1. P 817.

6 Al-Hatem, Abdullah. Min hunâ bada’at al-Kuwait (second edition) (Kuwait: Al-Qabas Press, 1980).

7 Al-Shamlan, Saif Marzuq. Min tarîkh al-Kuwayt (second edition) (Kuwait: That al Salasil, 1986); AlShamlan, Saif Marzuq. al-Ghaws ʿala al-luʾluʾa fî qaṭar: muʾtamar dirasât al-khalîj. (Kuwait: That al-Salasil, 1976); Al-Shamlan, Saif Marzuq. Tarîkh al-ghaws ʿala al-luʾluʾa fi-l-Kuwayt (volume 1) (Kuwait: That al Salasil. 1986); Al-Shamlan, Saif Marzuq. Tarîkh al-ghaws ʿala al-luʾluʾa fi-l-Kuwayt (volume 2) (Kuwait, That al-Salasil, 1989).

8 A television interview between Saif Marzoq Al-Shamlan and Ali Dhobayia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6DoliTI_jU&list=PLcLG47CVbrX4GKHbnVjjxla8ZZkUqFt16&index=18 (accessed November 14, 2020).

9 A television interview between Saif Marzoq Al-Shamlan and an Al-Awazem tribesmen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGXekQ8k6hY (accessed November 14, 2020).

10 A TV interview between Saif Marzoq Al-Shamlan and Sultan Mubarak Al-Takroni: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIKJss_VQ0M (accessed November 14, 2020). Al-Shamlan interviewed Sultan Al-Takroni but did not introduce him as a freed slave despite referring to Al-Rifaei as his owner (‘ammi’ in the Kuwaiti dialect).

11 A TV interview between Saif Marzoq Al-Shamlan and Abu Hulifa villagers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4epo6RjWx2A (accessed November 14, 2020).

12 A TV interview between Saif Marzoq Al-Shamlan and Ibrahem Al-Baker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abOpooMkyf0&list=FLt8izhD3LoAvYFrBGjRrRbA&index=12&t=0s (accessed November 14, 2020).

13 Al-Rushaid, Abdulaziz. Tarîkh al-Kuwayt, volume 1 (Al-Matbaʿa al-Aisriyya, 1926). p 7.

14 Oualdi, M’hamed. A Slave Between Empires : A Transimperial History of North Africa. New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. For more information, please see chapter one, pp 28-29.

15 Please see King Abdul Aziz foundation publications such as Al-Ousajei, Mohammed. Tarîkh Ibn 'Abaad. ed. Abdullah al-Shible (Riyadh. King Abdul-Aziz Foundation, 1999): Ibin Yousuf, Mohammed. Tarikh Ibn Yousuf . ed. Awaydha al-Juhani (Riyadh. King Abdul-Aziz Foundation, 1999).

16 Al-Naqeeb, Khuldoon. Sirâʿ al Qabaliyya wa-l-dimuqrâtiyya: Halat al-Kuwayt, (London: Dar al-Saqi, 1996). pp 54–56.

17 Hopper, Slaves of One Master.

18 Zakariya, Ahmad. ʿAshayir alshâm (Damascus. Dar Al Fikr, 1997) p185.

19 See also: https://www.legalaffairs.gov.bh/AdvancedSearchDetails.aspx?id=5831# (accessed November 14, 2020).

20 See also: https://www.alanba.com.kw/ar/kuwait-news/202187/06-06-2011-الانباء-تنشر-نص-مشروع-قانون-حماية-الوحدة-الوطنية/ (accessed November 14, 2020).

21 See, for instance, Al-Fahad, Abdulaziz H. “The ʿImama vs. the ʿIqal: Hadari – Bedouin Conflict and the Formation of the Saudi State,” in Counter-Narratives: History, Contemporary Society, and Politics in Saudi Arabia and Yemen eds. Eleanor Doumato, Madawi Al-Rasheed and Robert Vitalis (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) pp 35–77; Al-Rasheed, Madawi. Politics in an Arabian Oasis, second edition, trans. AbdulElah al-Noaimi (London. Dar al-Saqi. 2003) pp17–28; Moore, Pete W. Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

22 Alebrahim, Abdulrahman. “Slavery and Post-Slavery Gulf History and the Social Historian’s Dilemma”. LSE Blogs. 27th of September 2021. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2021/09/27/slavery-and-post-slavery-gulf-history-and-the-social-historians-dilemma/ (accessed June 17, 2022).

23 Ibin Ruzaiq, Hamid. al-Fath al-mubîn fî sirat al-sâda al-busuʿaidiyyîn. ed Mohammed Saleh and Mahmoud al-Sulami. Second volume, sixth edition (Oman. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, 2016), pp262 and 354. Ibin Ruzaiq is a Omani historian who witnessed the invasion of Oman.

24 Al-Bassam, Abdullah. Tohfat al-mushtaq fî akhbar Najd wa-l-ʿIraq wa-l-Hijâz. ed. Ahmad al-Bassam (Riyadh. King Abdul-Aziz Foundation, 2015) p 403. Ibn Bishr did not mention Salem al-Harq but mentioned his son Bilal serval times. See Ibn Bishr, Uthman. ʿUnwan al-majd fî tarîkh Najd, Second volume, fourth edition, ed. Abdulrahman al-Sheikh (Riyadh: Darat AlMalik Abdulaziz,1984).

25 Ibn Bishr, ʿUnwan al-majd fî tarîkh Najd, Second volume, pp 99–100.

26 The Al-Rashed are a prominent ruling families of the al-Zubayr Sheikhdom.

27 Zuwiyed here is not the slave mentioned earlier in the second Saudi state.

28 Al-Ghimlas, Abdullah al. Tarîkh al-Zubayr wa-l-Basra maʿa isharat li tarîkh al-Kuwayt wa-l-Ihsâ’, first edition. Ed. Rauf Imad (Amman: Dar Dijla. 2006), particularly pp 46–72.

29 Al-Bassam, Abdullah. Makhtût fi-l-ansâb wa-l-târîkh, p 17. A copy of the manuscript is in the author’s library. Due to the current legislation, names of these families cannot be mentioned here.

30 The terms ghayr-asîl and khadhîrî refer to non-tribal people/lineage. The terms asîl often used interchangeably with qabîlî, in Najd and Zubayr, meaning descendant of an ancestral original Arab tribe. See: Al-Fahad, “The ʿImama vs. the ʿIqal: Hadari—Bedouin Conflict and the Formation of the Saudi State,” pp 35–77.

31 Although they have the same names, this merchant is not the Kuwaiti historian mentioned previously.

32 Musil, Alois. ʿAn al-tarîkh al-muʿassir li shibh al-jazîra alʿarabiya, trans. Mahmoud Kabibo (London. Dar Alwarraq, 2007), p 48.

33 Wallin, Georg August. Rihalat Wallin Ela Jazirat Al ʿArab, first edition, trans. Samir Shibly (London. Dar Alwarraq, 2008), pp 140–141.

34 Bell, Gertrude. Malikat al-sahra’, muthakirât rihlat Gertrude Bell min Dimashq ila Hâyil, second edition, trans. Atiya al-Dhafiri. (Kuwait. Dar Affaq, 2018) p 216 and after.

35 Blunt, Anne. A Pilgrimage to Nejd. (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1881) Vol 1, p 144. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/42215/42215-h/42215-h.htm. (Accessed June 17, 2022)

36 Doughty, Charles M. Travels in Arabia Deserta, first volume (London. Jonathan Cape Ltd & The Medici Society Ltd, 1926), p 603.

37 Oppenheim, Max. Rihla ila diyâr Shamar, second edition, trans. Mahmoud Kabibo (London. Dar Alwarraq, 2008), p 97.

38 Nolde, Eduard. Rihla ila wasat al-jaziîra al-ʿarabiya, first edition, trans. Emad Aldeen Ghanim (London. Dar Alwarraq, 2015), p 52.

39 Al-Salhi, Ahmad. “Saut in Bahrain and Kuwait: History and Creativity in Concept and Practice” (Ph.D. diss., Royal Holloway College, University of London, 2018). Available at: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.792817 (accessed December 9,, 2020)

40 TV interview between Siham Mubarak with Amina Mubarak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE_p9c13gEo (accessed November 14, 2020).

41 TV interview between Siham Mubarak and Saleh Marjan (undated: the author has a copy).

42 TV interview between Saif Marzoq Al-Shamlan and Sultan Mubarak Al-Takroni: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4epo6RjWx2A&t=6s (accessed November 14, 2020). For the word ʿammî see: Dickson, HRP. The Arab of the Desert: A Glimpse into Badawin Life in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, third edition (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1959).

43 See: Hopper, Slaves of One master and Reilly,  Slavery, Agriculture, and Malaria in the Arabian Peninsula.

44 Lorimer, JG. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, Oman, and Central Arabia, fourth volume, second part (Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing, India, 1908-1915), p 222.

45 Zdanowski, Slavery in the Gulf, p 100.

46 Zdanowski, Slavery in the Gulf, p 100.

47 Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, p 501.

48 In Islam, children who have been breastfed by the same woman are deemed “milk-siblings” similar to the status of a brother/sister. This “milk kinship” issue is well documented in Islamic Fiqh. For more on this, see: http://islamport.com/w/fqh/Web/3441/7539.htm

49 Al-Rasheed, Madawi. Al-siyâsa fî waha ʿarabia: emarat Al-Rasheed, second edition, trans. Abdul-Elah al-Noaimi (London: Dar AlSaqi, 2003), p 145.

50 Nolde, Rihla ila wasat al-jazîra al-ʿarabiya, p 52.

51 Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta, second volume, p 50.

52 A slave called Aman was put in charge of customs, but the author could not find additional information about him, other than a document mentioning Aman as Mubarak bin Sabah’s slave. See also: TV interview between Saif Marzoq al-Shamlan and Abdul-Wahab al-Jassar, the head of Kuwait’s customs between 1938 and 1953:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64d_EMhKEN8 (accessed January 29, 2021).

53 See also: Al-Rushaid, Tarîkh al-Kuwayt, vol. 2, pp 26–27; Al-Shamlan, Min tarîkh al-Kuwayt, pp 131–132; and Khazal, Hussein Khalaf. Tarîkh al-Kuwayt al-siyâsî, first volume (Beirut: Dar wa Maktaba al-Hilal, 1967), pp 128–129.

54 See also, for instance: Al-Sani, Abdulrazaq and Al-Ali, Abdulaziz. Imârat al-Zubayr bayn hijratayn bayn sanatai 979 wa 1400 (Kuwait, n.p., 1985); Al-Nassir, Abdulaziz. Al-Zubayr wa safahât mushriqa min tarîkhiha al-‘Ilmi wa-l-thaqâfî, (Riyadh: Wahaj al-Hayat Media, 2010); Alebrahim, Abdulrahman. “The neglected sheikhdom at the frontier of empires and cultures: an introduction to al-Zubayr,” Middle Eastern Studies 56, no. 4 (2020), pp 1–14.

55 Al-Ghimlas, Tarîkh al-Zubayr, p 71.

56 Al-Ghimlas. Tarîkh al-Zubayr, p 72–73.

57 OualdiA Slave Between Empire, p 25.

58 Lorimer. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf. Geographical, third volume, p 41.

59 Lorimer. Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf. Historical, fifth volume, p 64.

60 Al-Shammari, Khalif. Jamaʿat doun al-eʾatraf: al-raqîq wa Dawrohum fi emarat al-Rasheed, (University of Nouakchott. Majallat al-Dirasat al-Tarikhiyah wa al-Ijtimaiyah. No. 27, 2018), p 10.

61 Al-Hamaad, Hamad. “Hokum Mohammed al-Abdulla bin Rasheed li Najd (1873-1897” (’s thesis, King Saud University, 2004), p 78.

62 Al-Shammari, Jamaʿat doun al-eʾatraf, p 10.

63 Al-Hamaad, Hokum Mohammed Al-Abdulla, pp 76–79. See also: Al-Rihani, Amin. Tarîkh Najd al-hadîth (Beirut: Dar Al Jeel), pp 291–92.

64 Euting, Julius. Rihla dakhil al-Jazîra al-ʿarabia, first edition, trans. Said Al-Said. (Riyadh: Darat Al-Malik Abdulaziz, 1999), p 202.

65 Al-Shammari, Jama'at doun al-e’atraf,. p 11.

66 Blunt, A Pilgrimage to Nejd. p 144.

67 Euting, Rihla dakhil al-Jazeera al-ʿArabia, pp 74–75.

68 See also: Al-Rasheed, Al-siyâsa fî wahat ʿarabia: emarat Al-Rasheed, p 68.

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Abdulrahman Alebrahim, « Glimpses of an Untold History of the Gulf: Notable Slaves as an Example », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 16 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2022, consulté le 03 octobre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cy/8343 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cy.8343

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