The Formation of the Shi ͑a Communities in Kuwait: Migration, Settlement and Contribution between 1880 and 1938

Mohammad al-Habib

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The presence of the Shi ͑a communities in Kuwait, which includes groups of ͑Ajam, Baharna, Hassawiyya and a few from Iraq, currently constitute between twenty and thirty percent of the Kuwaiti population, and their historical role in building the state of Kuwait has been significant since the early history of Kuwait.
Relying on a variety of primary sources, including British government documents, the writings of western travellers and the reports of American missionaries in Kuwait, the private papers of more than twenty three Kuwaiti Shi ͑a individual archives, and oral-history interviews with descendants of Shi ͑a immigrants to Kuwait, this thesis discusses the construction of the Shi ͑a communities by focusing on the causes of their migrations from their motherland to Kuwait between 1880 and 1938, the period when their migration came to its peak. By analysing the internal political, economic, religious and social conditions of the Shi ͑a homelands and Kuwait itself, in the overall regional context of the Gulf sheikhdoms, the British and Ottoman empires, and other great powers interested in the Gulf region, this thesis examines the reasons behind the Shi ͑a migrations. It considers merchants, artisans and labourers who left their places of origin (i.e. southwestern Iran, Bahrain, and al-Hasa) and chose Kuwait as their final destination in which to settle.
The thesis also examines the Shi ͑a’s historical relationships amongst themselves, with the Sunni, and the government. It defines the economic roles of the different Shi ͑a social groups, (merchants, artisans and labourers), in transferring Kuwait from nascent town to a prosperous city. The thesis will fill a significant gap in Kuwaiti historiography as its subject has so far not been studied in any depth by Persian Gulf scholars.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway Univ London
  • Daechsel, Markus, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • Shia in Kuwait, Shia in the Persian Gulf, History of Kuwait, Shia History of Kuwait, Minorities in Kuwait, Merchants History of Kuwait, Trade in Kuwait, Migration in the Persian Gulf Region, Ethnicity in Kuwait, Ajam Community in Kuwait, Baharna History in Kuwait, Hassawiyya Community in Kuwait, Ajam Merchants in Kuwait, Transnational Role of Ajam Merchants in the Persian Gulf, History of Migration and Transnational in the Persian Gulf Region.
  • Migration in the Persian Gulf
  • Transnational network of the Ajam Merchants in the Persian Gulf
  • Transnational role of Kuwaiti Merchants in the Persian Gulf
  • History of Migration in the Persian Gulf

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