During the fifteenth century the Sunni Arab Jabri dynasty extended its control over the Eastern Arabian region, which was then known in its entirety as Bahrain.
Succession crisis on the island of Hormuz
During the previous century the Arabian dynasty which ruled the island of Hormuz had dominated the region. However, in 1475 Hormuz was weakened by yet another succession crisis. The ruler, Fakhruddin, died leaving four sons:
Salghur, succeeded in marginalizing his two brothers, Maqsud and Shehabuddin, making himself the ruler of Hormuz. However, Salghur’s youngest brother, Ya’s, staged a revolt and Salghur was forced to flee.
Salghur arrived in Al-Hasa and requested assistance from the ruler of Bahrain, Ajwad Bin-Zamil Al Jabr.
Amir Ajwad Bin-Zamil saw an opportunity for strengthening the position of Bahrain against Hormuz. So he agreed to help Salghur, in exchange for relinquishing any claims against the islands of Bahrain and Qatif. Salghur was forced to agree.
So Ajwad Bin-Zamil mustered his forces in the area of Ras al-Khaima. At this time Qatar and much of the shoreline of the modern Emirates was ruled by Ajwad’s son Zamil Bin-Ajwad Al Jabr.
The Bahraini fleet successfully invaded Hormuz. Ya’s and his chief minister, Khawaja Attar were arrested.
The status of Bahrain’s ruler Ajwad Bin-Zamil Al Jabr had been greatly enhanced by this military success and his role in controlling the succession in Hormuz.
Restoring peace & prosperity
Awjad Bin-Zamil was recognized as the Sultan of Bahrain, Qatif, Al-Hasa and the Chieftain of the Najd region of Saudi Arabia. He was also able to gain control over substantial regions of Oman, where the Jabri rulers of Bahrain would also control questions of political succession on several occasions.
Meanwhile, the situation did not look so good in Hormuz, which had been badly affected by the instability, with the finances being badly drained.
Once Salghar had successfully established himself as the ruler of Hormuz, it seems that he deeply regretted his agreement with the Jabri rulers of Bahrain and the resulting loss of revenue to his impoverished kingdom.
Salghar requested that Ajwad Bin-Zamil pay him an annual tribute, but Ajwad refused. This led to at least three attempted Hormuz invasions of Bahrain. All of these failed.
However, the financial and economic ruin of Hormuz – which stands at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf – affected the entire region. Trade suffered all along both sides of the Gulf coast. The military standoff between Bahrain and Hormuz further worsened the situation.
So Bahrain’s ruler, Ajwad Bin-Zamil – from his position of strength – decided on a diplomatic solution that could benefit everyone. He agreed to pay Hormuz an annual revenue of 5,000 dinars from Bahrain’s vast trading and pearling wealth, in exchange for Hormuz recognizing Al-Jabr rule in Arabia and ceasing from making further claims against the western coast of the Arabian Gulf.
Bahrain & Hormuz – two great rival Gulf powers
This agreement appears to have been respected over the coming years and formed the basis for dealing with subsequent tensions between these two major Gulf powers. For example, when the Sultans of Bahrain extended their influence throughout Oman, right down to the major Omani ports which were under the control over the rulers of Hormuz.
As a result, Hormuz threatened to prevent Bahraini ships accessing the Gulf of Hormuz. However, a diplomatic understanding seems to have been reached based on the previous agreement between the two sides, from which both Bahrain and Hormuz mutually benefitted.
However, the relationship between Bahrain and Hormuz remained difficult. In 1511, Khawaja Attar, the Hormuz minister who Ajwad Bin-Zamil had thrown in jail, was back in power. He briefly succeeded in invading the islands of Bahrain, so the Al-Jabr rulers sent forces to attack the Omani ports under Hormuz control. Khawaja Attar was forced to withdraw.
The end of the old order
The Jabri period seems to have been one of growth and prosperity for Bahrain. It was also a period of religious revival. Bahrain’s rulers supervised the building of new mosques and some of the most respected clerics and legal experts from the Maliki doctrine were brought from Egypt and other parts of the region.
When the Portuguese began invading the region in subsequent years, it was reportedly only the rulers of Bahrain who struggled to defend these Omani ports, after the rulers of Hormuz withdrew their military support. However, both the islands of Bahrain and Hormuz would jointly come under Portuguese control over the next century, while Eastern Arabia came under Ottoman control.
This marked the moment when the fate of the Bahraini islands was to be separate from that of the Arabian mainland; after nearly a thousand years where this region of Greater Bahrain had been a single political unit.