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Shia in Bahrain

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Shias in Bahrain were estimated to be approximately 55% of Bahraini citizens in 1979.[1] A source from 2011 placed the estimate of Shiites in Bahrain somewhere near 60% of the Muslim population.[2] This number is no longer accurate due to the increasing rates of naturalization of Sunni migrants in Bahrain.[2][3] Most major mosques in the country were Shia, however, the ruling family practices Sunni Islam. According to the Washington Institute, the views of Shia and Sunni leaders in Bahrain are similar to their Arab neighboring countries.[4]

The most recent official Bahraini estimate, published in 2011, revealed that 51% of the country's citizens are Sunnis, while the Shi'ite population had declined to 49% of the citizen population.[5]


Sunnis and Shias United for Bahrain

Although about half of Bahrain's Muslim population consists of Shia Muslims (estimated at 55-60 percent as of 2021), the Sunni royal family, Al Khalifa, governs the country.[6][7]


The Sunni al-Khalifa family arrived in Shia Bahrain from Najd in 1783. Their rule has been oppressive and tyrannical for the native Shia majority. The people of Bahrain celebrated the victory of the Shiite Iranian Revolution and formed gatherings to support it. In 1979, they wanted to participate in determining their own destiny through protests against the Al Khalifa government. [8] Al Wefaq, as part of the Shia society in Bahrain, follows two goals: opposition to the current government in Bahrain and change the structure of society to based on rule of the people. Established in 2001, it was founded by more than 100 Shia scholars such as Ali Salman, Saeid Shahabi, Abdul Amir al-Jamri and Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, leader of Al Wefaq.[8]

February 14 Youth Coalition[edit]

According to behavior of Al-Khalifa's government, Shia activists prompted on February 14, 2011. They named that day as the Day of Rage and asked the people to protest against al-Khalifa's behavior at that day. The Al-Khalifa came into contact with the protesters and from that day widespread wave of Al-Khalifa's actions against Shiites has been performed, including the detention of women and men and children and their torture, the destruction of Shia mosques and cemeteries.[9]


The majority of Sunni-Shia unity

There are various sects in Bahrain, such as Bahrani, Arab, Howala, Ajmi, Asians. On the other hand, dominant political and official system in Bahrain are governed by Sunni people.[6]

According to the reports of The Guardian, when Āl Khalīfah family have begun to govern Bahrain, Shiites who have pieces of land, were changed to peasants. Now, High-ranking official positions belong to Sunnis and only few positions are ruled by Shiites. It is necessary to mention that in Bahrain Sunni is not synonymous with rich, nor Shia with poor, but on the whole the Shia majority faces worse economic circumstances. [6]

Shia scholars[edit]

Bahrain has an ancient and historic background which arise from the presence of Shiite scholars.[10] Some of them are listed as following:

Maitham Al Bahrani, Kamal al-Deen Maitham bin Ali bin Maitham al-Bahrani, commonly known as Sheikh Maitham Al Bahrani was a leading 13th Century Twelver Eastern Arabian theologian, author, and philosopher. Al Bahrani wrote on Twelver doctrine, affirmed free will, the infallibility of prophets and imams, the appointed imamate of `Ali, and the occultation of the Twelfth Imam.[11] Yusuf al-Bahrani Yusuf ibn Ahmed al-Bahrani (1695–1772) (Arabic: يوسف البحراني) was a Bahraini theologian and a dominant person in the intellectual development of Twelver Shia Islam.[12] Isa Qassim Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim (Arabic: آية الله الشيخ عيسى أحمد قاسم) is Bahrain's leading Shia cleric and a politician. He is the spiritual leader of Al Wefaq, Bahrain's biggest opposition society. He was the leader and the founders of Islamic Enlightenment institution.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joyce, Miriam (2012). "5: After the Shah's Departure". Bahrain from the Twentieth Century to the Arab Spring. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-137-03178-5. Reviewing events in Bahrain during 1979, Ambassador Walker wrote that fortunately the Shia community, approximately 55 percent of the population of 340,000 Bahrainis, was divided...
  2. ^ a b "Popular Protests in North Africa and the Middle East (III): The Bahrain Revolt" (PDF). International Crisis Group: 1. 6 April 2011.
  3. ^ "Bahraini Shi'ites protest against settling Sunnis". Retrieved 2024-02-19.
  4. ^ Pollock, David. "Sunnis and Shia in Bahrain: New Survey Shows Both Conflict and Consensus". washingtoninstitute. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  5. ^ "وثيقة بحرينية: الشيعة أقل من النصف". Al Jazeera. 4 July 2011. Archived from the original on 20 March 2023. كشفت وثيقة بحرينية رسمية حديثة أن نسبة المواطنين السنة من إجمالي مواطني البلاد تعادل 51%، في حين توقفت نسبة الطائفة الشيعية عند 49% [A recent official Bahraini document revealed that the percentage of Sunni citizens out of the country’s total citizens is 51%, while the percentage of the Shiite community stopped at 49%..]
  6. ^ a b c Lulu, Tahiyya (3 March 2011). "The real story of Bahrain's divided society". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Johnson, Thomas A. (2012). Power, National Security, and Transformational Global Events: Challenges. CRC Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-1439884225.
  8. ^ a b Staff Writer. "The formation of several movements in Bahrain". farsnews.
  9. ^ Toby C. Jones and Ala'a Shehabi (January 2, 2012). "Bahrain's revolutionaries". Foreign Policy. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  10. ^ Bandarchi, Mohammadreza. "shia in Bahrain". pajoohe.
  11. ^ Juan Cole, Sacred Space and Holy War, IB Tauris, 2007 p33
  12. ^ Staff Writer. "The Autobiography of Yūsuf al-Baḥrānī". University of California Press.
  13. ^ Staff Writer. "Bahrain strips Sheikh Isa Qassim of nationality". Retrieved 21 Jun 2016.