Bahrain History - Islam's arrival and after

Bahrain History - Islam's arrival and after Last updated on Wednesday 14th April 2010

The people of Bahrain are very proud of the fact that they were one of the first territories outside mainland Arabia to accept Islam. And to do so peacefully. About the year 640A.D., the Prophet Mohammed sent a letter to the ruler of Bahrain inviting him to adopt Islam. For whatever reasons he did so fairly soon thereafter and for another two centuries, Christians and Muslims lived peacefully together in Bahrain. Even today in 1996, Bahrain has a tiny community of indigenous Christians.

Bahrain was a part of both the Umayyad and Abbasid empires from the 9th to 11th centuries. It was a staunchly Shiite Muslim community -- once again because of the Persian influences -- and during these years, it appears to have been well-governed and prosperous. It once again became an important port on the trade routes (pictured) between Iraq and India. Bahrain changed hands often during the Middle Ages and was caught in various squabbles and disputes between petty Gulf sheikhs who seem to have been constantly fighting with one another.

In 1487 the Omanis conquered Bahrain and built a fort whose ruins can be seen today. Prior to their arrival, the island had been visited two years earlier by a Portuguese explorer who had commented on both the quality and the number of pearls. The Portuguese were in the Gulf for a little over a century, being driven from Bahrain in 1602 by the Bahrainis themselves. After the expulsion of the Portuguese, the Bahrainis appealed to the Persians for protection and so once again came under their control.

The Al-Khalifa, the ruling family of Bahrain, arrived in the islands in the mid-18th century. They came from Kuwait where they had helped their relatives, the Al-Sabah, to establish power there. At first, the Al-Khalifa had settled on the northwestern coast of Qatar but in the early 1780's, they drove the Persians out of Bahrain and occupied the principal islands. From then until now, the Al-Khalifa have maintained their control of Bahrain.

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