Emirate of Jabal Shammar


In ancient Arabia, one of the many tribes was a group called the Shammar. Within the tribe were many different clans, who, overtime spread across Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan.

These proud and ageless people have a history going back to the 1300s and a future which stretches out before them.

Integrated Yet Still a Tribe

Today the Shammar has integrated into countries across the Middle East. But it was not always like that.

For a brief but shining moment, the Shammar tribe controlled its own destiny and ruled the Emirate of Jabal Shammar

Establishment of the Emirate

The area of much of the Arabian Peninsula was under the control of the House of Saud but in 1836 Abdullah bin Rashid established the Emirate of Jabal Shammar, with its capital at Ha’il in the northern area of the region of Nejd. His focus was a bitter feud with the Saudis.

In 1891 his son, Muhammed bin ʿAbdullah, along with the extended Rashid family succeeded in ousting the Saudis from their capital in Riyadh following the Battle of Mulayda.  He exiled any remaining Saudis to Kuwait.

But although the emirate existed as its own entity, the Rashid family was torn by bitter internecine quarrelling which along with the weakening power of the Ottoman Empire left the emirate open to counter-attack.

12 Emirs

The rules of succession between fathers, brothers and sons were not well established then, and so in a bitter fight which was more akin to the Borgias in medieval Italy, the Rashids made their way through 12 emirs in only 85 years.

The first emir, Abdullah bin Rashid who established the emirate, was probably proud of his sons, but without a clear succession, his sons were quick to turn on their own.


Initially, things went well, Abdullah was followed by his son, and then that son by a younger brother.

This is when things begin to get complicated. The second son was killed by a nephew who was in turn killed by Muhammed bin ʿAbdullah, the 5th Emir who defeated the Sauds.

Muhammed was very much more astute in the matters of succession and at the time he acceded to the throne he not only killed his predecessor but the predecessor’s brothers too, who were, of course, his brother’s sons.

The 12th and final emir, Muḥammad bin Ṭalāl, was a grandson of the first emir and therefore a great nephew of Muhammed bin ʿAbdullah who clearly had not eradicated the entire male line of his brother.

This final emir surrendered to the House of Saud who returned in 1921 and established what is effectively the modern country we know as Saudi Arabia.

After the Emirate

This was not the end of the Shammar tribe. There had long been members of the Shammar tribe in Syrian and Iraq, but at the end of the 18th century greater numbers of migrants made their way into Iraq where they continue to live today.