The Hashemite Caliphate was a hijaazi Hashemite proposal for the union of all countries ruled by the different branches of this royal family so as possibly later all arab countries.
The Hashemite realms
For centuries the Hashemite family has been the traditional keepers of the Holy Muslim Cities. Being descendent from the family of Prophet Muhammad the Hashemite always had a strong prestige over all the Arab Nation. Politically the Hashemite usually were neutral and moderate allowing all Muslim to perform the Hajj.
Such neutrality ended in 1916 when the then Grand Sherif of Mecca, Hussayn bin Ali, openly criticized the Ottoman rule. Hussayn was deposed and executed being replaced for the first time in centuries by a non-member of the Hashemite family and a non-arab. As result his son, Faisal bin Hussayn, led the Arab Rebellion supported by the FK against the ottomans which lasted two years. In 1918 Faisal was victorious and proclaimed the Hashemite Kingdom of the Hijaaz with him as king. The Holy Cities were once again on Hashemite hands. Since then the Hashemite are the most loyal FK allies in the Middle East.
On July 1920 Abdullah bin Hussayn, one of the brothers of Faisal I, proclaimed the independence of Syria with him as sultan. Soon close relations between the two Hashemite countries were established.
Also in 1920 a widespread rebellion erupted in Iraaq against the Ottomans. Instead of proclaiming their independence (like many did in other regions of the empire) Iraaqis started to fight each other. The world woke up to the iraaqi humanitarian disaster and putted Iraaq under a joint English-Kemrese-Scottish LoN mandate (the State of Iraaq or the Mesopotamian Mandate) in order to pacify the region and prepare it to further independence. But after a year of fighting against the insurgents the FK troops suffered heavy casualties and were accused of brutality. FK governments started to think about abandoning Iraaq while they were pressured by national oppositions. In order to find an honorable way out Iraaq was given to the Hijaaz under the condition of pacifying it and make it independent. Iraaq became then in personal union with the Hijaaz so as became the third independent country under Hashemite rule.
Beside the three states a fourth one was ruled by a branch of the Hashemite royal family, the al Habieli. The small Emirate of Beihan, in south Arabia, was an English protectorate.
The Hashemite Caliphate
King Faisal of the Hijaaz and Iraaq started to think about unifying all these countries under Hashemite rule into a new larger one. He was an arab nationalist and in his mind the ideal of the arab countries united from the Arabian Gulf to the Atlantic under a restored Caliphate led to the monarchist Pan-Arabism ideal. In a first step of his plan he wanted to gather the Hijaaz, Iraaq, Syria and Beihan under his rule. Being the most notable living arab leader and tracing back his origins to the Prophet Muhammad he expected later that all other arab countries would follow him in his plan.
Throughout the 1920’s King Faisal stretched relations between the four Hashemite realms in terms of economic and military alliances in order to a further establishment of the Hashemite Caliphate.
Despite King Faisal’s charisma, leadership capabilities and highly prestigious family origins the other arab monarchs didn’t seem much interested in joining his project. In fact many of them felt threatened by his intentions as they had their own ambitions and wouldn’t give up their political powers. Some were afraid that the proclaiming of the Hashemite Caliphate would bring an era of Hashemite expansionism against those who didn’t want to follow the ideal. Among those who felt more threatened there was the Bedouin Free State where the Rashidi royal family had a strong leadership over the local Bedouins. As the proposed Hashemite Caliphate would be composed by two non-contiguous main areas (Iraaq and Syria in the north and the Hijaaz in the south) with the Bedouin Free State between them would be perfectly logical that it would be invaded soon and the Rashidi wouldn’t have a place to go. Also some non-arab countries such as Turkey and Persia also distrusted from King Faisal’s intentions. They weren’t interested in the birth of a new powerful country in the region.
The Saudis and the War of 1926
Among the most notable Hashemite rivals there was the al-Saud royal family, from central Arabia. Since the 18th century the Saudi allied themselves to the al-Wahhab family establishing the core of the several Saudi States which existed ever since. Saudis and Wahhabis were the political and spiritual leaders respectively of their Bedouin tribes.
In the Saudi States Islam was taken into a fundamentalist tendency and considered the Hashemite not to be proper keepers of Mecca and Medina as they were considered too moderate and connected to foreign interests.
In 1902 Abdul-Aziz al-Saud re-established the Saudi state by proclaiming the Saudi Emirate of Nefd. During the next years Abdul-Aziz was able to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottomans and their allies (the Rashidi) to increase his emirate and try to conquer Mecca and Medina. For him the Holy Cities should be ruled by the most pure Muslims and that meant the Saudi and the Wahhabi.
By the early 1920’s some of his many sons had already reached the majority age and he decided to choose an heir. Instead of simply choosing his oldest son Abdul-Aziz decided that his successor wouldn’t be necessarily his oldest son but the most capable. For him the future crown-prince should give proves to deserve to rule.
Such caused a strong rivalry between the several princes and there were some who died mysteriously during those years. Among the competitors there was Prince Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud, his second oldest son. Prince Faisal was able to convince his father, now titled as sultan, to lead a campaign against the Hijaaz and to conquer the Holy Cities. In case of victory no other prince would be able to compete with him as Faisal would definitely win all favors from both the sultan and the Wahhabi.
Wasn’t difficult to convince the sultan that a preventive war was needed. The King Faisal’s intentions to proclaim the Hashemite Caliphate thus becoming both political and spiritual leader of Islam was seen by Saudi-Wahhabi radicals as an insult. Beside Nefd would be almost surrounded by enemies and their allies in case the Hashemite Caliphate would be proclaimed.
In 1926 Saudi army led by Prince Faisal invaded the Hijaaz. Saudis being in much larger number were able to enter deeply in hijaazi territory although defending troops had better and more modern weapons such as machine guns and even dirigibles and airplanes. After two months of hostilities Medina was under siege. Hijaazi situation was nearly desperate when a coalition of syrian-beihani-iraaqi troops arrived as reinforcements. Such turned the war in favor to Hashemite side and Saudi troops were expelled. Also rumors that the Rashidi were preparing an invasion to Nefd were spread by English intelligence forcing Saudi forces to return in order to protect their northern border. Such was the end of the War of 1926, or War of 1345 as it is known in Muslim countries according to Hijri calendar, after six months or hostilities.
Consequently Prince Faisal lost his chances to be chosen as heir to Sultan Abdul-Aziz and King Faisal I and his plan was strong as the several Hashemite branches were more united than ever.
Despite England and Kemr usually saw in King Faisal their most strong, capable and loyal ally in the Middle East, unifying the arab countries was seen as undesirable. They preferred smaller and less powerful countries in case there was a change of alliances.
It was well known that the huge arab royal families (as consequence of polygamy) were at that time truly cradles of all kind of conspiracies and often the life span of arab rulers was short. England and Kemr trusted in King Faisal but what would happen if someone would kill him?
By the late 1920’s while the hijaazi-iraaqi crown prince Ghazi bin Faisal was studying in the NAL he was reported by intelligence to have strong sympathies over SNORism. Such alarmed FK governments as his father King Faisal would be succeeded by Ghazi sooner or later. If the Caliphate was proclaimed with Ghazi in the throne with a SNORist regime that would simply mean trouble. FK governments were afraid of the possibility of spreading of Russian influence over the Middle East and strategic locations such as the Suez Canal and the Colony of Aden could be in danger.
England and Kemr tried then subtle pressures over King Faisal not to proclaim the Caliphate based on the idea that according to LoN decisions Iraaq could never be absorbed into a larger country as when the LoN mandate was over Iraaq, in 1921, it should become an independent nation. Therefore FK and other countries couldn’t recognize the Hashemite Caliphate as a country if it included Iraaq. As they weren’t able to convince King Faisal they turned to Syria in secret.
Abdullah bin Hussayn, sultan of Syria, was since the beginning a supporter of King Faisal’s pretensions so as fought with him in the Arab Rebellion against the Ottomans. He signed treaties on economic, cultural and military matters with the other Hashemite countries. But by the late 1920’s FK diplomats secretly instigated the idea that the Hashemite Caliphate would turn him into a mere regional level leader instead a head of state.
Such idea made Sultan Abdullah rethink his positions and started to ask King Faisal for more guarantees about his role in the future Hashemite Caliphate. This delayed stronger Syrian integration in the proposed Caliphate keeping the country independent until further decision. Also his heir disliked the idea of becoming just a provincial governor instead the leader of an independent country. The sultan became more and more divided about unifying his country to the other Hashemite realms or remaining independent.
Meanwhile France, another country with interests over the Middle East notably the Suez Canal, was able to sign important commercial contracts with Syria while secretly also was giving support to Christian arabs in order for further deposition of the Muslim Hashemite rule in the country. Such contracts would only remain valid if Syria was kept independent as those contracts shouldn’t be inherited by any successor state. Syria, having a large external debt with France due to weapons imports since independence, wasn’t able to refuse. King Faisal noticed the growing lack of interest about the pan-arabist cause and relations started to become cold.
From feudal to SNORist Caliphate ideal
For many nationalist Syrians the contracts with France were seen as a prove of the weakening of central monarchist power and interference of foreign countries on national politics. Soon the Syrian Hashemite branch became contested by politic leaders such as Shukri al-Kuwatli while new forms of pan-arabism were appearing, notably visions of secular ideals or at least not connected with Islam as in Syria much of the arab people wasn’t Muslim. For many pan-arabism should be independent from religion.
In 1932 the sultan was deposed by a Christian coup which proclaimed the republic. Sultan Abdullah and family fled to exile in Egypt as they didn’t know how they would be received in any Hashemite country. They were afraid to be considered as traitors.
This represented a serious blow in King Faisal’s project but wasn’t enough to abandon his ideal of restoring the Caliphate. But such ideal seemed now more and more far away to accomplish. His vision of Pan-Arabism was mostly a wish of ruling elites and elsewhere new currents moved towards popular secular movements. Even much of the royal family now doubted about the possibility of creating the Hashemite Caliphate. On September 1933 Faisal I of the Hijaaz and Iraaq died poisoned. His monarchist pan-arabism died with him but not the Caliphate ideal. Prince Ghazi succeeded him and made evolve his father’s ideals towards a snorist-like ideal providing it with modern political structures and ideological background. For young King Ghazi the Caliphate ideal should be modernized.
For that he copied many of structures of the SNOR in Russia adapting them to Arab reality, erasing their Christian background and adapting it to an Islamic point of view. His new ideology was called al-Ba’ath (the Renascence) and during four years brought Iraaq, where it was established, to modern political world. But the young king’s death on a mysterious aircraft crash in 1939 gave an end to the ideal as his successors, led by Prince and Regent Ibrahim bin Hussayn, abandoned in favor to return to foreign sympathies.
The Hashemite Caliphate could have been one of the most powerful countries in the Middle East, combining the spiritual and political influence of the Hijaaz, the trade and manufactures of Syria and the oil and agriculture of Iraaq. Some say it was the “most powerful never existent country in the world”.