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Ottoman–Saudi War
DateEarly 1811 – 1818
LocationArabian Peninsula
Result Decisive Ottoman victory
Destruction of the Emirate of Diriyah (First Saudi State)
Flag of the First and Second Saudi State.svg Emirate of Diriyah Flag of the Ottoman Empire (also used in Egypt).svg Egypt Eyalet
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the First and Second Saudi State.svg Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz Ibn Mohammed Ibn Saud
Flag of the First and Second Saudi State.svg Abdullah I Executed
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (also used in Egypt).svg Tusun Pasha
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (also used in Egypt).svg Muhammad Ali Pasha
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (also used in Egypt).svg Ibrahim Pasha
20,000 50,000
Casualties and losses
11,000 dead
3,000 wounded
2,000 dead
1,000 wounded
50 captured

The Egyptian–Wahhabi War and also known as the Ottoman–Saudi War, was fought from early 1811 to 1818, between Egypt Eyalet under the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha (nominally under Ottoman rule) and the army of the First Saudi State. It resulted in the destruction of the First Saudi State.

Background[edit | edit source]

The Wahhabi movement was part of a fundamentalist/revisionist movement within Islam that would lead to creation of the first Saudi State, and its crushing by the Ottoman empire’s Egyptian viceroy Muhammad Ali Pasha.

Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and the amir Muhammad ibn Sa’ud launched their campaign to reform Islam and consolidate power in Arabia from their power-base in Diriyah. By 1805, the Wahhabis controlled Mecca and Medina, had attacked Karbala and the Imam Husayn Shrine.[1] The Wahhabis also attacked Ottoman trade caravans which interrupted the Ottoman finances.[2] The Saudi amir denounced the Ottoman sultan and called into question the validity of his claim to be caliph and guardian of the sanctuaries of the Hejaz[3] and the Ottoman empire instructed the upstart Muhammad ‘Ali, viceroy of Egypt, to fight the Wahhabis. The Ottoman empire was suspicious of Muhammed Ali’s ambition, and thought that by ordering Ali against the Wahhabis, the defeat of either would be beneficial.[2]

Campaigns[edit | edit source]

Painting of Abdullah bin Saud, convicted and executed after losing the war.

Muhammad ‘Ali was ordered to crush the Saudi state as early as December 1807 by Sultan Mustafa IV, however internal strife within Egypt prevented him from giving full attention to the Wahhabis. The Egyptians were not able to recapture the holy cities until 1811.[3]

However, it would take until September 1818 for the Wahhabi state to end with the surrendering of the its leaders. Ibrahim Pasha, Muhammad ‘Ali’s son, had taken over the campaign in 1817. Gaining the support of the volatile Arabian tribes by skillful diplomacy and lavish gifts, he advanced into central Arabia to occupy the towns of Unaizah and Buraidah. Joined now by most of the principal tribes, he appeared before the Saudi capital Diriyah in April 1818. With their march to Diriyah plagued by Wahhabi attacks, they arrived in Diriyah in April 1818. It took until September for the Wahhabis to surrender, in part due to Ibrahim’s poorly trained army. Diriyah was destroyed on June 1819, and Egyptian garrisons were posted in the principal towns. The head of the Wahhabi state, Amir ‘Abd Allah, was sent to Constantinople to be executed.[3]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

Amir ‘Abd Allah, as head of the Wahhabi state, was sent for execution to Istanbul, while most of the political leaders were treated well. The empire was far more harsh with the religious leaders that inspired the Wahhabi movement. The execution of Sulayman ibn ‘Abd Allah and other religious notables reflects the resentment of these extremist views. Religious leaders were thought to be uncompromising in their beliefs and therefore a much bigger threat than political leaders.[3]

See also[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Bowen, Wayne H. (2008). The History of Saudi Arabia. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press. pp. 153. ISBN 978-0313340123. OCLC 166388162. http://books.google.com/books?id=S6J2Q3TlJpMC&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=1805+saudi+karbala&source=bl&ots=z7xkfvrX_x&sig=yg1NCeie86areM74Tp0N2ROwUf8&hl=en&ei=f4cCTbnlLsL38AaO_dTrAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=1805%20saudi%20karbala&f=false. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Marsot, Afaf Lutfi Al-Sayyid. A History of Egypt From the Islamic Conquest to the Present. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Elizabeth Sirriyeh, Salafies, "Unbelievers and the Problems of Exclusivism". Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2. (1989), pp. 123-132. (Text online at JSTOR)

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