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Ikhwan means "brotherhood" in Arabic, and  is the specific name of several organizations:

1. The farming communities of militant Wahhabi fundamentalists established in Saudi Arabia.

2. The Muslim Brotherhood and several branches of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded by Hassan al Banna in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is a fundamentalist international organization whose goals are the conversion of Muslim countries into states ruled by Sha'aria law, the re-establishment of the Caliphate and ultimately, world dominion. Different factions of the Muslim Brotherhood believe this should be accomplished by violent means in the near term, or by education and "preparation" of society and "democratic" takeover.  

This article discusses the Ikhwan of Saudi Arabia. See Muslim Brotherhood for detailed  information about that group.

The Ikhwan of Saudi Arabia were a Wahhabi religious and military brotherhood that figured prominently in the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under King Abdel Aziz Ibn Sa'ud (1912-30); in modern Saudi Arabia they constitute the National Guard.

Ibn Sa'ud organized the Ikhwan in 1912 from Wahhabi Bedouin tribes. He intended to   make them into a reliable and stable source of an elite army corps. In order to break their traditional tribal allegiances and feuds, the Ikhwan were settled in colonies known as hijrahs. These settlements, established around desert oases to promote agricultural reclamation of the land, further forced the Bedouin to abandon their nomadic way of life. The hijrahs, whose populations ranged from 10 to 10,000, offered tribesmen living quarters, mosques, schools, agricultural equipment and instruction, and arms and ammunition. Religious teachers instructed them in Wahhabi fundamentalist theology.

In 1919, Saud and the Ikhwan began a campaign against the British-backed Hashemite kingdom of the Hejaz ruled by Hussein, on the northwestern coast of Arabia; they defeated King Husein ibn 'Ali at Turabah, then conducted border raids against his sons 'Abdallah of Transjordan and Feilsal of Iraq in 1921-22. The Ikhwan participated in conquering the coastal province of Asir, just south of the Hejaz in 1920, and Ha`il, in the north of the Arabian peninsula, bordering Transjordan and Iraq in 1921.

In 1924, Hussein was proclaimed Caliph in Mecca. The Ikhwan declared that this was 'heresy' and accused Hussein of obstructing their  performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). They then attacked Transjordan, Iraq, and the Hejaz simultaneously, besieged at-Ta`if outside Mecca, and massacred several hundred of its inhabitants. Mecca fell to the Ikhwan, and, with the subsequent surrenders in 1925 of Jeddah and Medina, they won all of the Hejaz for Ibn Sa'ud.

However, a portion of the Ikhwan turned against Ibn Saud  for introducing modern innovations as telephones, automobiles, and the telegraph,  and because he had sent his son to Egypt, a country of unbelievers. Ibn Sa'ud' submitted the grievances for arbitration by the Ulema (religious authorities). However, they provoked an international incident in 1927 by destroying an Iraqi force that had violated a neutral zone established by Great Britain and Ibn Sa'ud between Iraq and Arabia. The British bombed Najd in retaliation in 1928.

A congress convened by Ibn Sa'ud in October 1928 deposed Ibn Humayd, ad-Dawish, and Ibn Hithlayn, the leaders of the revolt. A massacre of Najd merchants by Ibn Humayd in 1929, caused Ibn Sa'ud to confront the rebellious Ikhwan with force. In a battle fought in March on the plain of as-Sabalah (near al-Artawiyah), Ibn Humayd was captured and ad-Dawish seriously wounded. In May 1929 Ibn Hithlayn was murdered. In retribution the Ikhwan killed his murderer, Fahd, the son of one of Ibn Sa'ud's governors, and commandeered the road between Ibn Sa'ud's capital, Riyadh, and the Persian Gulf. The rebels suffered a setback in August at the hands of 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Musa'id; their leader, 'Uzayyiz, ad-Dawish's son, and hundreds of his followers were either killed in battle on the edge of an-Nafud desert or died of thirst in the desert. Following defections, Ibn Sa'ud was able to surround the rebels and force them to surrender to the British in Kuwait in January 1930. The Ikhwan leaders, ad-Dawish and Ibn Hithlayn's cousin Nayif, were subsequently imprisoned in Riyadh.

Those Ikhwan that had remained loyal to Ibn Sa'ud stayed on the hijrahs, continuing to receive government support, and were still an influential religious force. They  eventually became part of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Mujahedin

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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