Ottoman–Wahhabi War

Ottoman–Saudi War

Sites of major battles during the war.
DateEarly 1811 – 1818
LocationArabian Peninsula
Result Decisive Ottoman victory
Destruction of the Emirate of Diriyah (First Saudi State)
Emirate of Diriyah

Ottoman Empire

Commanders and leaders
Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz Ibn Mohammed Ibn Saud
Abdullah I 
Ghassab bin Shar'an 
Ghaliyya al-Wahhabiyya
Mahmud II
Tusun Pasha
Muhammad Ali Pasha
Ibrahim Pasha
20,000 50,000
Casualties and losses
11,000 dead
3,000 wounded
2,000 dead
1,000 wounded
50 captured

The Ottoman–Wahhabi War also known as the Ottoman–Saudi War, was fought from early 1811 to 1818, between Egypt Eyalet under the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha (nominally under Ottoman Empire rule) and the army of the Emirate of Diriyah, the First Saudi State, resulted in the destruction of the latter.


The Wahhabi movement was a fundamentalist sect within Islam founded by Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab that would lead to creation of the Emirate of Diriyah as he and Muhammad bin Saud launched their campaign to reform Islam and consolidate power in Arabia from their power-base, and its eventual crushing by the Ottoman empire’s Egyptian khedive Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

In 1802 the Wahhabi sack of Karbala resulted in 5000 deaths and the plundering of the Imam Husayn Shrine and, by 1805, the Wahhabis controlled Mecca and Medina.[1] The Wahhabis also attacked Ottoman trade caravans which interrupted the Ottoman finances.[2] The Saudi amir denounced the Ottoman sultan and called into question the validity of his claim to be caliph and guardian of the sanctuaries of the Hejaz[3] and the Ottoman empire, suspicious of the ambitious Muhammed Ali, instructed him to fight the Wahhabis, as the defeat of either would be beneficial to them.[2]


Painting of Abdullah bin Saud, convicted and executed after losing the war.

Muhammad Ali was ordered to crush the Saudi state as early as December 1807 by Sultan Mustafa IV, however internal strife within Egypt prevented him from giving full attention to the Wahhabis. The Egyptians were not able to recapture the holy cities until 1811.[3]

However, it would take until September 1818 for the Wahhabi state to end with the surrendering of the its leaders. Ibrahim Pasha, Muhammad Ali’s son, had taken over the campaign in 1817. Gaining the support of the volatile Arabian tribes by skillful diplomacy and lavish gifts, he advanced into central Arabia to occupy the towns of Unaizah and Buraidah. He was joined now by most of the principal tribes, and marched to the Saudi capital Diriyah. Their march to Diriyah was plagued by Wahhabi attacks. They arrived in Diriyah in April 1818. It took until September for the Wahhabis to surrender, in part due to Ibrahim’s poorly trained army. Diriyah was destroyed in June 1819, and Egyptian garrisons were posted in the principal towns. The head of the Wahhabi state, Abdullah bin Saud, was sent to Constantinople to be executed.[3]


Most of the political leaders were treated well but the Ottomans were far harsher with the religious leaders that inspired the Wahhabi movement, executing Sulayman ibn Abd Allah and other religious notables, as they were thought to be uncompromising in their beliefs and therefore a much bigger threat than political leaders. The execution of also reflects the Ottoman resentment of the wahhabist views.[3]


  1. Bowen, Wayne H. (2008). The History of Saudi Arabia. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0313340123. OCLC 166388162.
  2. 1 2 Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid-Marsot. A History of Egypt From the Islamic Conquest to the Present. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Elizabeth Sirriyeh, Salafies, "Unbelievers and the Problems of Exclusivism". Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2. (1989), pp. 123-132. (Text online at JSTOR)
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