The Coming of Islam
Around 1760, some branches of the Bani Utba (or Utub) tribal confederation – with the Khalifa and the Jalahma clans most prominent among them – left Kuwait for the Qatar peninsula. The Utub created a settlement called al-Zubara on the north-western coast of Qatar, which they developed into a trade and pearling centre. The commercial importance of the port grew after Persian armies occupied Basra in 1776 and many of Basra’s merchants fled to al-Zubara. Continuing hostilities between the Persians and the Bani Utba (or Utub) – in both Kuwait and Qatar – eventually led to a successful Utub invasion of Persian controlled Bahrain in 1783. The Utub subsequently left al-Zubara for the more economically viable Bahrain islands. The Al Khalifa branch rules the islands to this day. Until 2001, Qatari sovereignty over al-Zubara was disputed by Bahrain.
Rahma bin Jabir
The Jalahma clan returned from Bahrain to Qatar around 1785. Rather than settling down in al-Zubara – which became an Al Khalifa dependency –, the Jalahma created a new settlement a few miles north which they called Khor (Khawr) Hassan or ‘beautiful inlet’. With their local leader Rahma bin Jabir, Qatar’s first national hero enters the stage. Rahma developed Khor Hassan into a naval base for attacking merchant ships throughout the Gulf, especially those of the Khalifa family. In his lifelong battle with the Khalifa family and their supporters in Kuwait, Rahma needed powerful allies. Rahma consequently linked up with the Wahhabi movement from Najd when this politico-religious alliance invaded Qatar in 1787. In 1809, Rahma and the Wahhabis conquered al-Zubara and brought the whole of Qatar under joint control.