The development of the modern nation states throughout the Arab world is a fascinating and heartbreaking process. 100 years ago, most Arabs were part of the Ottoman Empire/Caliphate, a large multi-ethnic state based in Istanbul. Today, a political map of the Arab world looks like a very complex jigsaw puzzle. A complex and intricate course of events in the 1910s brought about the end of the Ottomans and the rise of these new nations with borders running across the Middle East, diving Muslims from each other. While there are many different factors leading to this, the role that the British played in this was far greater than any other player in the region. Three separate agreements made conflicting promises that the British had to stand by. The result was a political mess that divided up a large part of the Muslim world.
The Outbreak of World War I
In the summer of 1914, war broke out in Europe. A complex system of alliances, a militaristic arms race, colonial ambitions, and general mismanagement at the highest government levels led to this devastating war that would claim the lives of 12 million people from 1914 to 1918. On the “Allied” side stood the empires of Britain, France, and Russia. The “Central” powers consisted of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The Arab Revolt
One of the British strategies was to turn the Ottoman Empire’s Arab subjects against the government. They found a ready and willing helper in the Hejaz, the western region of the Arabian Peninsula. Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the amir (governor) of Makkah entered into an agreement with the British government to revolt against the Ottomans. His reasons for allying with the foreign British against other Muslims remains uncertain. Possible reasons for his revolt were: disapproval with the Turkish nationalist objectives of the Three Pashas, a personal feud with the Ottoman government, or simply a desire for his own kingdom.
Whatever his reasons were, Sharif Hussein decided to revolt against the Ottoman government in alliance with the British. In return, the British promised to provide money and weapons to the rebels to help them fight the much more organized Ottoman army. Also, the British promised him that after the war, he would be given his own Arab kingdom that would cover the entire Arabian Peninsula, including Syria and Iraq. The letters in which the two sides negotiated and discussed revolt were known as the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, as Sharif Hussein was communicating with the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon.
As World War One progressed through 1917 and 1918, the Arab rebels managed to capture some major cities from the Ottomans. As the British advanced into Palestine and Iraq, capturing cities such as Jerusalem and Baghdad, the Arabs aided them by capturing Amman and Aqaba. It is important to note that the Arab Revolt did not have the backing of a large majority of the Arab population. It was a minority movement of a couple thousand tribesmen led by a few leaders who sought to increase their own powers. The vast majority of the Arab people stayed away from the conflict and did not support the rebels or the Ottoman government. Sharif Hussein’s plan to create his own Arab kingdom was succeeding so far, if it were not for other promises the British would make.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement
The Balfour Declaration
Another group that wanted a say in the political landscape of the Middle East were the Zionists. Zionism is a political movement that calls for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land of Palestine. It began in the 1800s as a movement that sought to find a homeland away from Europe for Jews (most of which lived in Germany, Poland, and Russia).
By 1917, the British had made three different agreements with three different groups promising three different political futures for the Arab world. The Arabs insisted they still get their Arab kingdom that was promised to them through Sharif Hussein. The French (and British themselves) expected to divide up that same land among themselves. And the Zionists expected to be given Palestine as promised by Balfour.
In 1918 the war ended with the victory of the Allies and the complete destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Although the Ottomans existed in name until 1922 (and the caliphate existed in name until 1924), all the former Ottoman land was now under European occupation. The war was over, but the Middle East’s future was still in dispute between three different sides.
Through the mandate system, the British and the French were able to get the control they wanted over the Middle East. For Sharif Hussein, his sons were allowed to rule over these mandates under British “protection”. Prince Faisal was made king of Iraq and Syria and Prince Abdullah was made king of Jordan. In practice, however, the British and French had real authority over these areas.
For the Zionists, they were allowed by the British government to settle in Palestine, although with limitations. The British did not want to anger the Arabs already living in Palestine, so they tried to limit the number of Jews allowed to migrate to Palestine. This angered the Zionists, who looked for illegal ways to immigrate throughout the 1920s-1940s, as well as the Arabs, who saw the immigration as encroachment on land that had been theirs since Salah al-Din liberated it in 1187.
The political mess that Britain created in the aftermath of WWI remains today. The competing agreements and the subsequent countries that were created to disunite Muslims from each other led to political instability throughout the Middle East. The rise of Zionism coupled with the disunity of the Muslims in that region has led to corrupt governments and economic decline for the Middle East as a whole. The divisions that the British instituted in the Muslim world remain strong today, despite being wholly created within the past 100 years.
Article from: http://lostislamichistory.com/how-the-british-divided-up-the-arab-world/
How to Fight the Satanic Whispers
Prophet Musa (AS) Encounters The Angel of Death
We will remain weak as long as Islam comes second
The Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammadﷺ
What The Muslim Ummah Can Do To Help During Times of War
Abdullah Ibn Hudhafa
What's so Special about Surah Al-Mulk?