An Extremely Brief Overview of the Shammar Tribes of Arabia

From Yemen to the Jabbal Shammar

Also known as “the tribe of Tayy”, the Bedouin people known as the Shammar are of Yemeni origin and call the area between and around the twin mountains of Aja and Salma their homeland. The historic seat of power in Ha’il survives and thrives still today.

Made up of a confederation of 3 main branches, the Abdah, the Aslam, and the Zoba, this ancient tribe can be found in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, but is not necessarily restricted to those locations. Oral histories of the Shammar can be traced back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

Notable Facts about the Tribes of Shammar

The people of Jabbal Shammar are traditionally Muslims who follow either the tenets of Shia or Sunni Islam. Considered to be deeply devout, a strict adherence to the Quran is notable in Jabbal Shammar, with the northern branch known as the Shammar al-Jarba being mostly Sunni, and the southern branch, the Shammar Toga converting to Shi’ism around the 19th century and settling in southern Iraq.

It is estimated that there are roughly 2.5 million members of the Shammar tribes.  Historically, there has been a rivalry between the two main clans, the Al Rashid and the House of Saud. In the late- 19th century, this rivalry became known as the Second Saudi war, with the Shammar supporting and aiding the Al Rashid.

In 1895 Riyadh, the Saudi capital was taken over by the emirs(“rulers”) of Ha’il; a mere two decades later Jabal Shammar succumbed to Saudi rule in 1921. To facilitate peace, Ibn Saud married one of the daughters of a Shammari chief. This daughter became the mother of the current Saudi king Abdullah.

Shammar Today

Mikhlif al-Shammari, a leader of the Shammar is a renowned defender of human rights and has acted as a peacemaker between the Sunni and Shia’ Muslim people of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Advocating equality for all, regardless of sect or gender, Mikhlif al-Shammari has been imprisoned and lashed for his activism.

Amidst social, political, economic and religious tensions, Al-Shammari has fought to bridge the divide between the rival factions of Shia’ and Sunni. Armed with a pen, this writer has gained a devoted following who also seek to quell the turmoil between these sects, despite political and social unrest.

Nomads and Kings

The historical and modern tribes of Shammar have a rich and intricate story that cannot possibly be accurately detailed in such a short space as this. As shifting as the desert sands upon which they raise their herds of camels upon, the Shammar have shown themselves to be formidable foes as well as purveyors of peace across the span of time.

If you want to know more about the Shammari peoples, there is a wealth of information available online. You could also join a social media platform, which has connected people around the globe. Until next time, Wada ‘an (good-bye).