Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah

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Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah
رحمة بن جابر بن عذبي الجلهمي أو الجلاهمة
— Pirate —
Type Captain
Born c. 1760
Place of birth Kuwait
Died 1826
Place of death Qatar
Allegiance Al Jalahma clan
Years active 1800s
Rank Captain
Base of operations Persian Gulf
Commands Al-Manowar

Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah (Arabic: رحمة بن جابر بن عذبي الجلهمي أو الجلاهمة‎; c. 1760–1826) was an Arab ruler in the Persian Gulf and was described by his contemporary, the English traveller and author, James Silk Buckingham, as ‘the most successful and the most generally tolerated pirate, perhaps, that ever infest any sea.’[1]

As a pirate his reputation was for being ruthless and fearless, and he wore an eye-patch after he lost an eye in battle. He is described by the former British adviser and historian, Charles Belgrave, as 'one of the most vivid characters the Persian Gulf has produced, a daring freebooter without fear or mercy'[2] (perhaps paradoxically his first name means 'mercy' in Arabic). He was born in Qurain (modern day Kuwait) and began life as a horse dealer; he used the money he saved to buy his first ship and with ten companions began a career of buccaneering. So successful was he that he soon acquired a new craft: a 300-ton boat, manned by 350 men.[3] He would later have as many as 2000 followers, many of them black slaves. At one point his flagship was the 'Al-Manowar' (derived from English).[4]

Rahmah's alliances with regional powers tended to be on the basis of shared opposition to the Al-Khalifa: he formed an alliance with the first Saudi dynasty when it conquered Bahrain, and he founded the fort of Dammam in 1809. But after the Saudis’ expulsion, in 1816 he allied himself with the rulers of Muscat in their failed invasion of Bahrain,[5] and turned away from the Saudis, angering them. The Saudis then destroyed the fort of Dammam, causing him to move to Khor Hasan in Qatar.

He died in his ship Al-Ghatroushah, in a sea battle against the Al-Khalifa ships. Rahmah lit the gunpowder kegs with his eight-year-old son by his side, killing all of his men and the Al-Khalifa men that were raiding his ship, preferring to die by his own hand than to die by the hands of Al-Khalifa.

Rahmah's legacy lasted long after his death; in the 1960s Charles Belgrave wrote of how old men in the coffee shops throughout the region would still talk of his exploits.[3]


  1. ^ James Silk Buckingham, Travels in Assyria, Media, and Persia, Oxford University Press, 1829, p366
  2. ^ Charles Belgrave, The Pirate Coast, G. Bell & Sons, 1966 p. 122
  3. ^ a b Charles Belgrave, p122
  4. ^ Charles Belgrave, p126
  5. ^ Charles Belgrave, p128

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