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Wahhabi War

Sites of major battles during the 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

Ottoman flag.svg Ottoman Empire

  • 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 al-Kabeer
Flag of the First and Second Saudi State.svg Abdullah I Executed
Flag of the First and Second Saudi State.svg Ghassab bin

Flag of the First and Second Saudi State.svg Ghaliyya al-Wahhabiyya
Ottoman flag.svg Mahmud II
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
14,000 dead
6,000 wounded[1]
2,000 dead
1,000 wounded
50 captured

The Wahhabi War was fought from early 1811 to 1818, between Egypt Eyalet under the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha (nominally under Ottoman Empire rule) and the army of the Emirate of Diriyah, the First Saudi State, resulting in the destruction of the latter.

Background[edit | edit source]

The Wahhabi movement was a fundamentalist sect within Islam founded by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab that would lead to creation of the Emirate of Diriyah as he and Muhammad bin Saud launched their campaign to reform Islam and consolidate power in Arabia from their power-base, and its eventual crushing by the Ottoman Empire’s Egyptian khedive Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

In 1802 the Wahhabi sack of Karbala resulted in 5000 deaths and the plundering of the Imam Husayn Shrine and, by 1805, the Wahhabis controlled Mecca and Medina.[2] The Wahhabis also attacked Ottoman trade caravans which interrupted the Ottoman finances.[3] 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[4] and the Ottoman Empire, suspicious of the ambitious Muhammad Ali, instructed him to fight the Wahhabis, as the defeat of either would be beneficial to them.[3] Tensions between Muhammad Ali and his Albanian troops also prompted him to send them to Arabia and fight against the Wahhabi movement where many died.[5]

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 Albanians were not able to recapture the holy cities until 1811.[4]

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. He was joined now by most of the principal tribes, and marched to the Saudi capital Diriyah. Their march to Diriyah was 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 in June 1819, and Egyptian garrisons were posted in the principal towns. The head of the Wahhabi state, Abdullah bin Saud, was sent to Istanbul to be executed.[4]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

Most of the political leaders were treated well but the Ottomans were far harsher with the religious leaders that inspired the Wahhabi movement, executing Sulayman ibn Abd Allah and other religious notables, as they were thought to be uncompromising in their beliefs and therefore a much bigger threat than political leaders. The execution of also reflects the Ottoman resentment of the Wahhabist views.[4]

References[edit | edit source]

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