Background History

Bahrain is very proud of the fact that it is the first territory outside the mainland of the Arabian Peninsula to accept and embrace Islam. Bahrain was known as Awal Islands in the pre-Islamic age of idolatry. The name was derived from the pagan idol worshipped by the Wael Tribe who along with the whole of Arabia had sunken into moral decline and decay. At this critical juncture in history, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) appeared in Makkah in the 7th century CE and called the people to the worship of the Creator, the One true God of all humanity. He united the rich with the poor, the light skinned and the dark skinned, and the Arabs with the non-Arabs. He called the people to prayer, almsgiving, fasting, justice for all, liberation of women and freedom for slaves. Al-Ala’a Al-Hadhrami arrived in Bahrain in the eighth year of the Islamic calendar with a letter from Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) to the king of Bahrain, Al-Mundhir ibn* Sawa At-Tameemi, inviting him to accept Islam. The king consulted with the heads of the tribes and most of them agreed to accept the Prophet’s invitation and consequently embraced Islam.

Following the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) and the 30 year reign of the four Rightly Guided Successors (caliphs): Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (May God be pleased with them), Bahrain came under the control of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. From the 7th to the 13th century CE, it was a key stop on the trade routes between Iraq and the Indian subcontinent. As a major producer of pearls, Bahrain became known throughout the Islamic empire as an economic gem.

Over the centuries that followed, Bahrain came under the control of a number of Arab and Persian dynasties. Even the Portuguese ruled the islands for 80 years in the fifteenth century. Conquerors, mercantile people, adventurers, slavers, extreme religious groups and soldiers of fortune, all walked these lands and came in search of the treasures of Bahrain.

* The Arabic word ibn (also bin) means ‘son of’.

The Rule of the Al Khalifa Dynasty

Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifa, better known as Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fateh (the Conqueror) was born in Kuwait in the first half of the 18th century and died around 1795 CE. His grandfather, Khalifa, is the founder of the Al-Khalifa dynasty, the ruling family of Bahrain. Sheikh Ahmed was the first Al-Khalifa ruler of Bahrain and is the eighth paternal ancestor of His Majesty King Hamad.

Sheikh Ahmed moved with his father, Muhammad ibn Khalifa, from Kuwait to Qatar where they founded Zubara in 1762 CE which became a major trading and cultural center in the Gulf. When Muhammad ibn Khalifa died, around 1775 CE, he was succeeded by his son Khalifa (Ahmed Al-Fateh’s brother) and during that era, Zubara greatly expanded and prospered. When Sheikh Khalifa was away from Zubara on the Pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca), Nasr ibn Madhkur – whom the Persian ruling dynasty had appointed as Bahrain’s governor – besieged Zubara in 1782 CE. He was overwhelmingly defeated and driven away by the people of Zubara under the command of Ahmed Al-Fateh. In 1783 CE, Sheikh Khalifa died in Makkah and was succeeded by his brother, Sheikh Ahmed, who continued his victories and conquered Bahrain in 1783 CE. His descendants lead the country to this day.


Eleven centuries after Bahrain accepted Islam, with Ahmed Al-Fateh’s victories, a new dynamic era began in these ancient islands. These two major events were behind the idea of establishing a huge Islamic center that carries the name of this illustrious figure.