Origins-of-Bah-Op 39ivrqp2

(to read Part 1 click here…)

By the 1970s Shia organizations were increasingly predominant as a Bahraini political force. These factions were directly descended from Shia Islamic trends in Iraq.

Around the time of Bahrain’s formal independence in 1971, a number of Bahraini clerics returned from Iraq, having received their education in the Shia holy city of Al-Najaf.

As well as a traditional religious education, these figures had been deeply influenced by new trend of Shia political Islam, in the form of the Iraqi Al-Da’wah Organization.

The Da’wah current in Iraq

Al-Da’wah in Al-Najaf was led by a group of influential Iraqi religious figures; including Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr (father of Muqtada al-Sadr).

Alongside a traditional theological education, Al-Da’wah indoctrination included the political teachings of Muslim Brotherhood ideologues like Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Abulalaa Mawdudi; which emphasized clandestine political activity and even the use of force to establish Islamic government.

Al-Da’wah advocated a secretive cell structure; which, when combined with the Shia principle of “taqiyah” (hiding one’s true opinions in order to coexist with a non-Shia regime) meant that the political aims and aspirations of the Da’wah movement, wherever it took root, were often somewhat murky and poorly understood.

The Da’wah current in Bahrain

Once in Bahrain the Al-Da’wah trend came to root itself in traditional centres of Shia learning and activism; particularly in rural areas like Diraz, Bani Jamra and Sitra.

Al-Da’wah’s emergence in a newly independent Bahrain was stimulated by the return Bahrain of around 20 Bahrainis who had studied in Al-Najaf and wanted to introduce these traditions of religious and political activism into a Bahraini context.

These activists – many of whom were originally from Diraz and of a similar background – would bring back to Bahrain both the very traditional and orthodox learnings of Shia Islam that they had learned from the great Ayatollahs, as well as the relatively recent currents of political Islam.

Figures like Jaafar al-Shehabi and Abdullah al-Madani were instrumental in setting up the Islamic Enlightenment Society, which was essentially the Bahraini face of Al-Da’wah.

Among other important figures in the early stages of this movement were Sheikh Isa Qassim and Abdulamir al-Jamri, both of whom we will encounter in greater detail in later sections.

The Islamic Enlightenment Society was established in 1968 and given a formalized legal status in 1972. Many judges, doctors and other graduates and professionals joined the society, which was based out of a Mosque in Diraz. The society spread its ideology through a succession of clubs and conferences.

Why do Al-Da’wah & the Islamic Enlightenment society matter?

This grouping of Shia clerics and activists who spearheaded Al-Da’wah in Bahrain, were to provide the stimulus for several generations of political activism:

Firstly; within the new Bahraini Parliament as the “Religious Bloc” in 1973;

Later; under the leadership of Abdulamir al-Jamri, these activists would steer popular opposition against the Bahraini authorities during the 1990s unrest; particularly within the context of the Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement.

Finally; the ethos, personnel and infrastructure of Al-Da’wah and the Islamic Enlightenment Society would provide the core of Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, which emerged after King Hamad’s amnesty in 2001.



Origins of the Bahrain opposition: Other sections

Part 1

A major divide within Shia Islam: Al-Da’wah and the Shirazis

Al-Da’wah and the Shirazis in Bahrain

Part 2

The Da’wah current in Iraq

The Da’wah current in Bahrain

Why do Al-Da’wah & the Islamic Enlightenment society matter?

Part 3

Origins of the Shirazi current in Bahrain

Consolidation and radicalization of the Shirazis

Differences between the Da’wah & Shirazi factions in Bahrain

Part 4

Beginnings of labour activism and civil society movements

1953-56 unrest and the Higher Executive Committee

Emergence of left-wing, Marxist and Baathist parties

Whatever happened to Bahrain’s left-wing?

Part 5

Who were the People’s Bloc?

Who were the Religious Bloc?

Part 6

Religious Bloc versus the People’s Bloc in the National Assembly

Eclipse of the left

Part 7

Politicization of Bahraini Shia

The influence of political Islam movements elsewhere

The influence of Ayatollah Khomeini

Politicization of religious festivals

Part 8

The radicalizing influence of Iran’s Islamic revolution

Growing Shirazi radicalism

Exporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution

Part 9

Al-Da’wah contacts with Iran’s revolutionary leadership

Changing Iranian allegiances

Part 10

Saudi oppositionist movements

Part 11

Announcing the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain

Islamic Front aims and ideology

Part 12

1981 coup attempt by Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain

Part 13

Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain after the failed coup

The Shirazi movement loses favour in Iran

Declining influence: The Islamic front in the 1990s

Part 14

Iranian support for Bahrain’s Al-Da’wah movement

Moving into the Iranian ideological orbit

Part 15

What is Welayat Al-Faqih?

Breaking with Shia quietism

Ayatollah Isa Qassim and Welayat Al-Faqih

Part 16

A new generation of Shia clerics

Hezbollah in Bahrain



Major references

(Additional specific references can be found as hyperlinks within the text)

Ali Alfoneh, 2012: Between reform and revolution: Sheikh Qassim, the Bahraini Shi’a, and Iran

Anissa Haddadi, 2012: Bahrain Uncovered: Divided Political Landscape


Abdulhadi Khalaf, 1998: Contentious politics in Bahrain: From ethnic to national and vice versa

F.I. Khuri, 1980: Tribe and State in Bahrain, University of Chicago Press

ISBN 0-226-43473-7

Jane Kinninmont, 2012: Bahrain: Beyond the Impasse

Laurence Louer, 2008: Transnational Shia Politics; Columbia University Press

Falah al-Mdaires, 2002: Shiism & Political Protest in Bahrain’ism_and_Political_Protest_in_Bahrain

Helem Chapin Metz, ed, 1993. Persian Gulf States: A Country Study: The Constitutional Experiment

Katja Neithammer, 2007: Avenues of Political Participation in Bahrain

Bahrain Wikileaks:

Guide to Bahrain’s politics

REFORM IN BAHRAIN: Mansour al-Jamri: LEADING SHIA EDITOR (re. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja)




Bahrain al-Wefaq hails Iran Supreme Leader’s support

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