Human habitation of the Qatar Peninsula dates far back to nearly four thousand years BC, according to archaeological evidences, excavations, inscriptions and scarce potteries found in various areas of the country.
In the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus referred that the first dwellers of Qatar were the Canaanite tribes, who were known for their navigation and naval commerce. Furthermore, the Greek geographer Ptolemy’s so-called Map of Arabia included as well what Ptolemy himself then called “Qatra”, which is thought to be a reference to the Zubara city, being previously one of the most important commercial ports in the Gulf area.
Qatar played a vital role as narrated by the Arab-Muslim historical sources. The Qatari dwellers involved themselves in preparing the first naval fleet to transport armies during the Muslim conquests.
Under the Abbasid rule during the eighth Hijri century (14th AD), Qatar witnessed a period of economic prosperity as made evident by the written records found in the Maroub Fort on the western coast that represents the Abbasid architectural character.
Upon their military alliance with the Turks during the tenth Hijri century (16th AD), the Qataris could drive the Portuguese away, and that was the beginning of the rule of the Ottoman Empire over the whole Arabian Peninsula including Qatar for about four successive centuries.
The Turkish rule in the region, however, declined with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and a treaty was entered with Britain in 1916 providing for the protection of the Qatari lands and people. The British authority was restricted mostly to its supervision on some administrative affairs.
Qatar was ruled by the Al-Thani Dynasty, after its leader Thani bin Mohammad — father of Sheikh Mohammad bin Thani, who was the first sheikh later on to have an actual power over the Qatari Peninsula during the mid-nineteenth century.
Being a descendent of the Bani Tameem Tribe with their ancestral lineage dating back to Mudhar bin Nizar, the Al-Thanis settled on the Jibrin Oasis in the south of Nejd prior to their movement to the north of the Qatari Peninsula. Then, they moved to Doha in the mid nineteenth century under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammad bin Thani.
The succession of the rulers of Qatar
• Sheikh Mohammad bin Thani (1850-1878).
• Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammad Al-Thani (1878-1913).
• Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani (1913-1949). The first oil discovery in the country was made during his rule.
• Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al-Thani (1949-1960).
• Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al-Thani (1960-1972).
• Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani (1972-1995).
• Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani the Father Emir (1995-2013).
• Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani came to power on 25.6.2013.
Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammad Al-Thani
Founder of the Modern State of Qatar (1826-1913)
Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammad Al-Thani, Emir and founder of the modern State of Qatar, descended from the Tameem Tribe. Born in 1242 Hijra corresponding to 1826 AD, he acquired full capability in the management of the country’s affairs since his youth, succeeded in guiding its policies with wisdom and steered the country during a period that witnessed major events and changes.
At the local level, he sought to turn Qatar into a single unified and independent entity. Under his leadership, Qatar emerged as a coherent and stable country whose tribes he assembled to usher its future and thus consolidating its existence and borders. Regionally, Sheikh Jassim adopted a shrewd policy in dealing with the two major powers competing to dominate the Arabian Gulf and its territories, namely the British Empire, which had to extend its influence through the Government of India, and the Ottoman Empire, which was seeking to retain its control of the region following the demise of the Portuguese influence in the sixteenth century.
Sheikh Jassim was appointed as a deputy governor of Qatar in 1876 and was granted as well by Sultan Abdul-Hamid a significant civil rank in 1888 and a higher one in 1893. This actually caused a kind of political tension in Sheikh Jassim’s relationship with Britain.
December 18, 1878 was a turning point when Sheikh Jassim took power. It was also the inception of the modern State of Qatar achieved as a result of Sheikh Jassim’s assiduous efforts that led to gaining full recognition by both powers of Qatar’s independence.
However, Sheikh Jassim adamantly opposed the Ottoman attempts to increase their influence in Qatar by appointing administrative personnel in Zubarah, Doha, Al-Wakrah and Khor Al-Odaid, or by establishing a customs post in Al-Badaa or reinforcing the Ottoman garrison. As a result, a crucial battle broke out between the Qatari tribes led by Sheikh Jassim and the Ottomans in Alwajbah 15 kilometers west of Doha on 25 March 1893. The Qataris fought bravely and defeated the ottomans, the battle became a turning point in the history of Qatar.
The era of Sheikh Jassim was marked by security, justice and welfare. Total renaissance and prosperity were then experienced in all social and economic aspects of life. That was clearly evident in the pearl diving business and Qatar became one of the major pearl exporters. Maritime transportation business and means developed. The Qatari port which was upgraded to cope with the growing import and export traffic requirements helped the development of this sector. More ships operated in the fields of trade, diving for pearl or transport. Businesses, resources and markets also thrived and diversified along with the population growth and urban expansion.
(Courtesy: Qatar Embassy)
State of Qatar