Khaz'al Khan al-Kaabi

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Sheykh Khaz'al
Emir of Mohammerah And Dependencies
Sheikh of Sheikhs of Banu Kaab
Head of Mehaisin Confederation
Lieutenant-General H.H Shaikh Khaz’al Khan ibn Haji Jabir Khan, Sardar-i-Aqdas, Amir of Mohammerah.jpg
Sheikh Khaz'al in military uniform
Emir of Mohammerah
MonarchyJune 1897 – April 1925
CoronationJune 1897
PredecessorMaz'al Jabir al-Kaabi
SuccessorSheikhdom dissolved
Head of Mehaisin Confederation
ReignJune 1897 – April 1925
Bay'ahJune 1897
PredecessorMaz'al Jabir al-Kaabi
SuccessorAbdullah Bin Khaz'al
Sheikh of Sheikhs of Banu Kaab tribe
ReignJune 1897 - April 1925
Bay'ahJune 1897
PredecessorMaz'al Jabir al-Kaabi
SuccessorAbdullah Bin Khaz'al
Born(1863-08-18)18 August 1863
Basra Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died24 May 1936(1936-05-24) (aged 72)
Tehran, Imperial State of Iran
Full name
Khaz'al bin Jabir bin Mirdaw bin Ali bin Kasib bin Ubood bin Asaaf bin Rahma bin Khaz'al
HouseAl Mirdaw
FatherJabir al-Kaabi
Styles of
Reference styleHis Highness
Spoken styleYour Highness
Alternative styleMoulay

Khaz'al bin Jabir bin Merdaw al-Ka'bi GCIE KCSI (Arabic: خزعل بن جابر بن مرداو الكعبي‎، Persian: شیخ خزعل‎) (18 August 1863 – 24 May 1936), Muaz us-Sultana, and Sardar-e-Aqdas (Most Sacred Officer of the Imperial Order of the Aqdas),[1] was the fifth Emir of "Mohammerah" from the Kasebite clan of the Banu Ka'b, to which he is also the Emir (or the "Sheikh ul-Mshayikh"),[2] the Overlord of the Mehaisan tribal confederation and the Sardar of the Shatt al-Arab. He was the fifth and youngest son of Sheikh Jabir bin Mirdaw, and his mother, Sheikha Noura, was the daughter of Talal Bin Alwan, the Sheikh of the powerful Bawi tribe. He was born on the 18th of August 1863, in the village Qout Al Zain in the district of Abu Khasib in Basra and he ascended to the throne on 2nd June 1897 upon the death of his brother and predecessor, Sheikh Maz'al Jabir al-Kaabi.

Historical background[edit]

The British were providing Khaz'al with meager shares of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.[citation needed] Khaz'al was also the darling of many Sunnite Iraqi nationalists, who sought to foment dissent among Iran's Arab population by referring to Khuzestan as Arabestān and glorifying Khaz'al as its independent "Sultan".[3] Khaz'al became a strong candidate for the throne of Iraq, but later withdrew his candidacy in favour of Faisal I of Iraq.

The tribal leaders of the Bani Kaab, an Arab tribe which had originally come from the area of what is now Kuwait in the 16th century, had often been the Imperial-appointed tax farmers for the entire province for many years after the fall of the Mshashaiya. The Bani Kaab were the largest and most powerful tribe in the province. In the early 19th century the Bani Kaab had dissolved into a number of rival clans that often clashed and feuded with each other.

Of these factions, the Muhaisin clan, led by Jabir al-Kaabi, became the strongest and under his leadership the Bani Kaab were reunified under a single authority, the capital of the tribe being moved from the village of Fallahiyah to the flourishing port city of Mohammerah. Unlike previous leaders of the Bani Kaab, Jabir maintained law and order, and established Mohammerah as a free port and sheikhdom, of which he was Sheikh. Jabir also became the Imperial-appointed governor-general of the province.

Rise to power[edit]

After Jabir's death in 1881, his elder son, Maz'al, took over as tribal leader and Sheikh of Mohammerah, as well as the provincial governor-general, which was confirmed by an Imperial firman (executive order). However, in June 1897 Maz'al was killed. Some accounts state that he was assassinated by his younger brother,[4] Khaz'al, while others state that this was done by a palace guard under orders from Khaz'al.

Thereafter Khaz'al assumed his position as Sheikh of Mohammerah, proclaiming himself not only the leader of the Bani Kaab, but also the ruler of the entire province. He then appointed his sons to the governorships of the various cities, towns and villages within his control, including Naseriyeh.

Unlike his brother, Khaz'al had ambition. He had great vision for the future of Mohammerah and the Arabs. His rule in Mohammerah was "Supreme and unhindered".[5] The Arabs saw him as:

... a most astute politician and a far-seeing statesman with personal magnetism. He had ambition and was full of dreams. He believed that his brother's modus operandi could not achieve Arab greatness"[6]

Relations with the Qajars and tribal leaders[edit]

Khaz'al established and maintained close relations with the Qajar court, who had accepted Khaz'al as the neighbour government. The rest of the province (the eastern and northern regions) remained under the domination of Bakhtiari Khans, Lur tribal leaders, and Persian groups. Several of the Bakhtiari Khans, in particular, had entered into alliances with Khaz'al. The Qajar Shah made him an Officer of the Nishan-e-Aqdas (Imperial Order of the Aqdas) in 1920.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company[edit]

Once oil was discovered in Masjed Soleyman in 1908, by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) which later became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, eventually BP, Khaz'al's ties to Britain strengthened. In 1909, the British government asked Percy Cox, British resident to Bushehr, to negotiate an agreement with Khaz'al for APOC to obtain a site on Abadan Island for a refinery, depot, storage tanks, and other operations. The refinery was built and began operating in 1912. Khaz'al was knighted in 1910 and supported Britain in World War I.[7]

Following the discovery of oil in Mohammerah-controlled territory, the British moved quickly to establish control over the vast oil resources in the province, which culminated in the foundation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909. The British established a treaty with Khaz'al, whereby in exchange for their guaranteed support and protection against any external attack, he would also guarantee to maintain internal security and not interfere with the process of oil extraction. As part of the treaty they were given a monopoly of drilling in the province in return for an annual payment to Khaz'al, though the profits of the company vastly exceeded the annual payments.

APOC had made Khaz’al extremely wealthy. Not only was Khaz’al receiving revenue from oil production but he also owned a certain amount of shares in the oil company. It was said that "In all Arabia and its Sheikhdoms, in Mesopotamia and Iran, from the Red Sea to the Caspian, there was no sovereign so rich as Sheikh Khaz’al."[6]

British influence in southern Persia mainly derived from the relationships which had been established between the British government and various tribal leaderships, including especially Khaz'al and the Bakhtiari khans, and also, though less importantly, the Qawāmis of Shiraz and many of the minor khans of the Persian Gulf littoral.[8]

Sheikh Khaz'al turns down the throne of Kuwait[edit]

In 1920, the Sheikh of Kuwait, Salim Al Mubarak Al Sabah, ambushed Ibn Saud's men over a border dispute between Kuwait and Najd. When Percy Cox was informed of this event, he sent a letter to Khaz'al offering the Kuwaiti throne to either him or one of his heirs, knowing that Khaz'al would be a wiser ruler. Khaz'al, who considered the Al Sabah as his own family, replied "Do you expect me to allow the stepping down of Al Mubarak from the throne of Kuwait? Do you think I can accept this?"[9] He then asked:

...even so, do you think that you have come to me with something new? Al Mubarak's position as ruler of Kuwait means that I am the true ruler of Kuwait. So there is no difference between myself and them, for they are like the dearest of my children and you are aware of this. Had someone else come to me with this offer, I would have complained about them to you. So how do you come to me with this offer when you are well aware that myself and Al Mubarak are one soul and one house, what affects them affects me, whether good or evil.[9]

Conflict with Reza Khan[edit]

In 1921, realizing the threat posed by Reza Khan Mirpanj (Reza Shah), who had just staged a coup d'état with Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee, Khaz'al proceeded to take steps in order to protect himself. He attempted to form an alliance with all the Bakhtiari, Lur, and Khamseh tribes, in order to prevent Reza Khan from gaining too much power. His ultimate aim was that through this tribal alliance the Zagros Mountains would become a nearly impenetrable barrier against the forces of the central government. However, the various tribal groups often clashed with each other and were unable to come to agreements, and his proposal failed.

The Khaz'aliyah Yacht, where Khaz'al was Kidnapped, near Qasr Al-Failiyah (Failiyah Palace) in Mohammerah

Later that spring Reza Khan made two attempts to convince Khaz'al to meet him in Tehran to discuss his position in the new government. However, Khaz'al was suspicious of Reza Khan's motives and refused to go there himself, instead stating that he would send an emissary.

A few weeks later in April, Reza Khan ordered one of his commanders, who had a friendly relationship with Khaz'al, to meet Khaz'al, ostensibly to convince him to journey to Tehran. The commander, General Fazlollah Zahedi, accompanied by several government officials, met with Khaz'al and spent an evening with him onboard his yacht, anchored in the Shatt al-Arab river by his palace in the village of Fallahiyah near the city of Mohammerah.

Sheikh Khaz'al Bin Jabir (centre) with Sir Hugh Bell (right) and Talib Al Naqib (Left).

Later that evening a gunboat, sent by Reza Khan, stealthily made its way next to the yacht, which was then immediately boarded by fifty Persian troops. The soldiers arrested Khaz'al and took him by motorboat down the river to Mohammerah, where a car was waiting to take him to the military base in Ahwaz. From there he was taken to Dezful, accompanied by his son, and then to the city of Khorramabad in Lorestan, and then eventually to Tehran.

Upon his arrival, Khaz'al was warmly greeted and well received by Reza Khan, who assured him that his problems would be quickly settled, and that in the meantime, he would be treated very well. However, many of his personal assets in Iran were quickly liquidated and his properties eventually came under the domain of the Imperial government after Reza Khan was crowned the new Shah. The sheikhdom was abolished and the provincial authority took full control of regional affairs.

Khaz'al spent the rest of his life under virtual house arrest, unable to travel beyond Tehran's city limits. He was able to retain ownership of his properties in Kuwait and Iraq, where he was exempted from taxation. He died in May 1936 while alone in his house, as earlier in the day his servants had been taken to court by the police. It is said that he did not die of natural causes, but that he was murdered by one of the guards stationed outside his house under direct orders from Reza Shah.

Humanitarian acts[edit]

Chaldean victims of the Ottoman Empire[edit]

On October 1914, the Assyrian genocide occurred whereby thousands of Chaldeans were killed or deported by the Ottoman Empire. After having experienced such atrocities on the hands of the Ottomans, the Chaldean Catholics began to migrate away from their homeland, in search of somewhere safer. Some of these emigrants found their way to the city of Ahwaz where,

“...under the protective shadow of His Highness the Sardar Aqdas… they found refugee, and when their numbers increased, they approached His Highness asking for a plot of land that they may build a church and a school to bring up their children and he accepted with what he promised of the welcoming of the heart and the tolerance of the palm and he granted them the land and he provided them endowment. The Chaldeans had found in Ahwaz justice and safety and were envied by their brothers who had not emigrated.” [10]

When the Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldean Catholics, His Beatitude Emmanuel Joseph saw what had been done, in the year 1920, he decided to repeat what he had seen to Pope Benedict XV. He explained that those of his spiritual children who had remained happy in the East were the ones who emigrated to Ahwaz and lived under the shadow of His Highness the Sardar Aqdas. His Holiness the Pope was moved by the benevolence of His Highness Sheikh Khaz’al Khan towards those who were distressed amongst the children of the church and he granted him the Order of St Gregory the Great of the rank of Knight Commander, announcing His Holiness's thanks and his acknowledgment of “...the grace of this great and generous Arab King”.

In 1920, Khaz’al was awarded the Order of St Gregory the Great of the rank of Knight Commander. Out of the Orders of the Holy Seal, it is the fourth highest Papal order and is the highest papal order that can be received by a non-catholic.

Furthermore, according to the vatican inaugural brief, a potential appointee is eligible only if the “gentlemen” has proven “...loyalty to the Holy See who, by reason of their nobility of birth and the renown of their deeds or the degree of their munificence, are deemed worthy to be honored by a public expression of esteem on the part of the Holy See".

King Faisal I attempts to kidnap Sheikh Khaz’al from Tehran[edit]

The first of a number of attempts to rescue Khaz’al was in 1927 by King Faisal I of Iraq. Faisal felt that the arrest of Khaz’al and the injustice of the Persian government towards Mohammerah were severe and cruel. Moreover, Faisal felt that he was in debt to Khaz’al for withdrawing his candidacy for the throne of Iraq. For Faisal, after being deposed from the Kingship of Syria, was a King without a country. He viewed this mission not only as an act of loyalty, but more importantly, of duty. Faisal informed Nuri al-Said of his plan to which the latter recommended using diplomacy rather than physical intervention.[11]

Meanwhile, al-Said, without Faisal's knowledge, informed Henry Dobbs, the British Ambassador to Iraq, of the latters intentions of kidnapping Khaz’al. Dobbs immediately met with Faisal and warned him of the consequences of such an act, stating that ‘His Majesty's Government’ would take a firm stand against him. "Do not play with fire, King Faisal," warned Dobbs.[11]

Khaz'al in literature[edit]

Abd al-Masīh al-Antākī in The Kitāb Riyāḍ Al-Khazʻalīyah Fī al-Siyāsah Al-Insānīyah (The Garden of Khaz’al in Human Politics).[edit]

The official author of the book is Khaz’al, but it was written by the Syrian poet and journalist, Abdul Maseeh al Antaki. Born in Aleppo, with Greek origins, he emigrated to Egypt and travelled the Arab world. He established the Al Omran newspaper in Egypt and became a frequent figure in Khaz’al’s court.

He explains, in the introduction of the book, his objective:

“...and here I am mentioning His Highness the Sardar Aqdas, so that the reader my learn that His Highness the author is the bearer of the sword and the pen, and that amongst the Arab Kings and Princes he is the greatest King, the most magnificent Prince, the respectable gentleman, the most knowledgeable of the knowledgeable, and I am full of what I have seen myself and have known after my long mission and my study, unexaggerated in my story, and not passed the line of rationality and guidance, so that the Arabs may know that His Highness the Sovereign the Mu’iz has combined between determination and knowledge, and has been struck by both by the most blessed arrow, that is how that Kings and Princes should be, if they sought to revive the glory of their forefathers.” [10]

Ameen Rihani in Molouk el-Arab (Kings of the Arabs)[edit]

"Mention one who does not know him. For he is amongst the Arab Princes. His Emirate being within the vicinity of the Persian Empire. He is the eldest, after King Hussein, the first to fame, and the greatest in generosity. This is what is known by most of those who know in the Arab countries. What most people outside of Kuwait and Basrah do not know, is that this Arab Prince is of the status of the Princes of the Abbasid era for he is rich, wise and generous together. He is like the Barmakids in his generosity, his taste, and his literature. He loves music, literature and poetry and leans towards all that provides pleasure and joy, be it mental, social or physical. Yes, the Sheikh Khaz'al has a universal humanitarian taste, for he does not alienate that which is ugly or vilified in life, and he knows no preference or discrimination in his generosity. A singer visits from Aleppo or Damascus to Mohammerah with nothing but her anklets. After residing a few months at the palace, she returns rich and laden with jewels. And the poets come with poems of praise in their pockets, and return from Mohammerah with bags of gold. He is not in need of my testimony for if he were to wear his official gown, he carries on his chest the testimonies of the Kings of the Earth, of which is the Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great. Amongst those honours are two which are not seen by all, yet are only seen by those who look at this man with the eye of poetry and philosophy. For in his human capacity, he holds decorations from the philosopher Epicurus and the wise divine mystic Ibn Arabi."


In regard to religious extremism, Khaz'al said:

It is the scourge of the world. And if I had to come back after death to this Earth, I would only do so if there was no longer a trace of religious extremism left. All humans are brothers whether they like it or not.[12]


Titles, styles and honours[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • Lieutenant General His Highness Sheikh Sir Khaz’al Khan ibn Haji Jabir Khan Al-Kasibi Al-Mehisani Al-Kaabi Al-Amery, Sardar-i-Aqdas, Nusrat Al-Mulk, Mu’izz us-Sultana, Sardar-i-Arfa, The Emir of Mohammerah and Dependencies, GCIE, KCIE, KCSI. (1920)[13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sardar Aghdas". Dehkhoda Dictionary. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  2. ^ "'File 53/75 (D 156) Shaikh Khazal's Claim against Kuwaiti Merchants' [13r] (34/140)". British Archives. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  3. ^ MILANI, MOHSEN M. "IRAQ vi. PAHLAVI PERIOD, 1921-79". Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  4. ^ Shahnavaz, Shahbaz. "ḴAZʿAL KHAN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  5. ^ Ghani, Cyrus (1998). Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power. p. 203.
  6. ^ a b H, RamHormozi (2016). Averting An Iranian Geopolitical Crisis: A Tale of Power Play for Dominance Between Colonial Powers, Tribal and Government Actors in the Pre and Post World War One Era. FriesenPress.
  7. ^ Vassiliou, M.S (2009). Historical Dictionary of the Petroleum Industry. p. 285.
  8. ^ Cronin, Stephanie. "Great Britain v. British influence during the Reżā Shah period, 1921-41". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  9. ^ a b Khalif, Hussein. Tareekh Al Kuwait Al Siyasi. p. 221.
  10. ^ a b Khan, Khaz’al (1911). Riyāḍ Al-Khazʻalīyah Fī al-Siyāsah Al-Insānīyah. p. 9.
  11. ^ a b Ahmad, Nassar. Al Ahwaz, The Past, The Present, The Future. Dar Al Sharq Al Awsat.
  12. ^ al-Rayhani, Amin (1924–1925). Muluk al-Arab, aw Rihlah fi al-bilad al-Arabiah. pp. Vol 2, part 6 on Kuwait.
  13. ^ a b "moham3". Retrieved 2016-10-12.

External sources[edit]

  • Tarikh-e Pahnsad Saal-e Khuzestan (Five Hundred Year History of Khuzestan) by Ahmad Kasravi
  • Jang-e Iran va Britannia dar Mohammerah (The Iran-British War in Mohammerah) by Ahmad Kasravi
  • Tarikh-e Bist Saal-e Iran (Twenty Year History of Iran) by Hossein Maki (Tehran, 1945–47)
  • Hayat-e Yahya (The Life of Yahya) by Yahya Dolatabadi (Tehran, 1948–52)
  • Tarikh-e Ejtemai va Edari Doreieh Qajarieh (The Administrative and Social History of the Qajar Era) by Abdollah Mostofi (Tehran, 1945–49) ISBN 1-56859-041-5 (for the English translation)
  • Amin al-Rayhani, Muluk al-Arab, aw Rihlah fi al-bilad al-Arabiah (in two volumes, 1924–25), Vol 2, part 6 on Kuwait.
  • Ansari, Mostafa -- The History of Khuzistan, 1878-1925, unpublished PhD. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1974

External links[edit]