The tribe of Shammar (Arabic: شمّر Šammar) is a Qahtanite Arab tribe, descended from the ancient tribe of Tayy. It is one of the largest and most influential Arab tribes, with an estimated around 12 million members in the world; 3 million in Iraq, over 6.5 million in Saudi Arabia (concentrated in Ha'il), a Syrian population is thought to exceed 0.5 million along, with an unknown number in Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar.[1] The current seat of the tribe's leadership is in the city of Mosul, in Northern Iraq. In its "golden age", around 1850, the tribe ruled much of central and northern Arabia from Riyadh to the frontiers of Syria and the vast area known as Al Jazira in Northern Iraq.

One of the early famous figures from the tribe was the legendary Hatim Al-Ta'i (Hatim of Tayy; died 578), a Christian Arab renowned for generosity and hospitality who figured in the Arabian Nights. The early Islamic historical sources report that his son, Adiyy ibn Hatim, whom they sometimes refer to as the "king" of Tayy, converted to Islam before Muhammad's death. Another figure from Tayy during this period was Zayd al-Khayr, a prominent member of Tayy who is said to have led Tayy's delegation to Muhammad accepting Islam.


The Shammar are a tribal confederation made up of three main branches: the Abdah, the Aslam, and the Zoba. The modern tribe of Shammar are descendants of the Tayy tribe of Yemen. The earliest non-Arab sources refer to Arabs as Taits, thought of as referring to the Tayy, as Ayas ibn Quasiba, a ruler of pre-Islamic Iraq, had contact with both the Byzantine and Persian Empires. Sections of Tayy began migrating to neighboring regions such as Iraq and Syria before the existence of Islam. Tayy participated heavily in the Muslim conquests of the early centuries of Islam, with sections or individual members of the tribe settling in many parts of the Islamic Empire, including Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Most of these, however, were later assimilated into the local populations or into other tribes.

In the Namārah Inscription (the second oldest pre-Islamic Arabic inscription, dating from 328 CE), the name "Shammar" is believed to refer to a city in Yemen, though it may refer to the city where the Himyarite King Shammar Yahri'sh lived, the present-day Rada (located about 100 kilometres (62 mi) from Dhamar, an ancient historic site). Since King Shammar Yahri'sh ruled during the last decade of the 3rd century AD, it could be referring to the city he lived in or one named after him. It could also be referring to the city of Hayel, although there is no evidence that Imru Al-Qays fought the Tayy.

Led by Usma bin Luai the Tayy invaded the mountains of Ajaa and Salma from Banu Assad and Banu Tamim in northern Arabia in their exodus from Yemen in 115 CE. These mountains are now known as Jabal Shammar. The Tayy became nomadic camel-herders and horse-breeders in northern Nejd for centuries. Because of their strength and blood relations with the Yemenite dynasties that came to rule Syria (Ghassan) and Iraq (the Lakhmids), the Tayy expanded north into Iraq all the way to the capital at the time, al-Hirah. The area of the two mountains subsequently came to be known as "Jabal Shammar" ("Shammar's Mountain") from the 14th century, the first time that the Shammar as a tribe were noted in literature. In modern times, it is believed by some genealogists that the Tayy were absorbed into the Shammar tribe.


Led by Usma bin Luai, the Tayy invaded the mountains of Ajaa and Salma from Banu Assad and Banu Tamim in northern Arabia in their exodus from Yemen in 115 CE. These mountains were renamed to "Jabal Tayy" (Tayy's Mountain), and then again in the 14th century, after the tribe changed their name, to Jabal Shammar (Shammar's Mountain). There, Tayy, later Shammar, became urbanised city-dwellers in the city of Ha'il, nomadic pastoralists, camel-herders and horse-breeders in northern Nejd, or agriculturists in the countryside outside Ha'il or in the surrounding desert oases. These divisions were based on profession, personal interest and skill, and not family or blood-line stratifications within the tribe. It is common for the same nuclear family to have members living each of the three different lifestyles.

Because of their strength and blood relations with the Yemenite dynasties that came to rule Syria (Ghassanids) and Iraq (Muntherids), the Tayy expanded north into Iraq all the way to al-Hira, the capital at the time.

Since some sections of Tayy, and most of the Ghassanids and Muntherids, were present in Mesopotamia and the Levant prior to Islam, they participated heavily in the Muslim conquests of the early centuries of Islam. Consequently, sections or individual members of the tribes settling in many parts of the Islamic Empire, including Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and outside the Arab world. Most of these, however, were later assimilated into the local populations or into other tribes.

Oral tradition mentions that the first chiefs of the Shammar tribe, Arar & Omair, were of the 'Abda family of Dhaigham, who ruled Shammar from Jabal Shammar.

In the 17th century, a large section of the Shammar left Jabal Shammar under the leadership of the Al Jarba and settled in Iraq, reaching as far as the northern city of Mosul, their current stronghold. The Shammar are currently one of Iraq's largest tribes and are divided into two geographical, as opposed to genealogical, subsections. The northern branch, known as Shammar al-Jarba, is mainly Sunni, while the southern branch, Shammar Toga, converted to Shia Islam around the 19th century[2][3][4] after settling in southern Iraq.

The Shammar that remained in Arabia had tribal territories extending from the city of Ha'il northwards to the frontiers of the Syrian Desert. The Shammar had a long traditional rivalry with the confederation of 'Anizzah, who inhabited the same area. The city of Ha'il became the heart of the Jabal Shammar region and was inhabited largely by settled members of Shammar and their clients. Two clans succeeded each other in ruling the city in the 19th century. The first clan, the Al Ali, were replaced by the Al Rashid.

During the civil war that tore apart the Second Saudi State in the late 19th century, the emirs of Ha'il, from the house of Al Rashid, intervened and gradually took control of much of the Saudi realm, finally taking the Saudi capital Riyadh in 1895 and expelling the Saudi leaders to Kuwait. The Bedouin Shammari tribesmen provided the majority of the Al Rashid's military support. Later, in the first two decades of the 20th century, Al Rashid were defeated by Ibn Saud and his Wahhabi forces during his campaign to restore his family's rule in the Arabian Peninsula, with Jabal Shammar falling to Saudi rule in 1921. Following Al Rashid's defeat, the clan of their uncles, Al Sabhan, eventually pledged allegiance to Ibn Saud in Riyadh. Ibn Saud also married a daughter of one of the Shammari chiefs, who bore him one Saudi King, Abdullah.

After the establishment of modern borders, most Bedouins gradually left their nomadic lifestyle. Today, most members of the Shammar live modern, urbanised lifestyles in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and some sections settled in Syria and Jordan. Despite this, the vast majority of Shammar continue to retain a strong tribal identity and loyalty to their tribe. Many also participate in Bedouin Cultural Festivals to learn about their ancient lifestyles, and to take part in traditional activities like folk dance and tent-weaving.

House of Rashid

The House of Rasheed (Arabic: آل رشيد Āl Rashid or Alrasheed) were a historic Shammar dynasty on the Arabian Peninsula. They were the most formidable enemies of the House of Saud in Nejd. They were centered in Ha'il, a city in northern Nejd that derived its wealth from being on the route of the Hajj.

The Al Rasheed derived their name from the grandfather of Abdullah, the first Rasheedi amir of Ha'il, who was named Rasheed. The Rasheedi emirs cooperated closely with the Ottoman Empire. However, this cooperation became problematic as the Ottomans lost popularity.

As with many Arab dynasties, the lack of a generally accepted rule of succession was a recurrent problem with Rasheedi rule. The internal dispute normally centered on whether succession should be horizontal (i.e. to a brother) or vertical (to a son). These divisions within the family led to bloody infighting. In the last years of the nineteenth century six Rasheedi leaders died violently. Nevertheless The Al Rasheed family continued to rule and fight together against Ibn Saud.

Saudi Arabia- The first twenty years of the 20th century on the Arabian Peninsula featured a long-running series of wars as the Saudis and their allies sought to unite the peninsula. While the Al Rasheed rallied the majority of other tribes to their side, the effort proved futile, and by 1921 Ha'il was captured and given to Ibn Saud's army by the British command. Some members of the Rasheed family left the country and went into voluntary exile, mostly to Iraq. By the 1990s only a handful were still outside Saudi Arabia.

Shammar in Iraq

Under the leadership of Banu Mohamad, known as Al Jarba, there was a massive exodus into Iraq. Many of the Shammar in Iraq gave up the nomadic life to settle in major cities, especially the Jazirah plain, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates from Baghdad to Mosul. Droughts triggered several migrations of Shammar into Iraq, which, according to the Ottoman census upon its annexation, had only 1.5 million inhabitants. Today, Alhuchaim tribes of Samawa have a large majority of Shammar. Clans from Abda in Ain Tamur, Hacham of Alaslam in Souq Alshiokh, Aladhadh of Alaslam in the city of Nasiriyah are a few examples of Shammar outside of the Jazirah. The Shammar took over the Jazirah after displacing Al-Ubaid tribe. According to Sheikh Abdullah Humaid Alyawar, the son of the sheikh of Shammar, in Iraq the total population of Shammar is estimated to be 1.5 million. Abdullah Alyawar also stated that the majority of Shammar in Iraq live in the South and is Shiʻi, but it does not affect the tribe's unity. Iraq is also the home of Aljarba, the Sheikh of the entire Shammar tribe. Shammar Toga, which is entirely Shiite, is based in Al-Hafriya, very close to Al-Suwayrah, in the province of Wasit. Its current head is Sheikh Faleh ibn Sayyid Hameed ibn Sayyid Safook Al-Shammari. The Shammar Al-Sayeh, a tribal confederation of tribes from Shammar, is the branch of Shammar who were independent of Aljraba's authority. Shammar is composed of groups such as Al-Zuhairy and Al-Towej in Najaf.

The Shammar became one of the most powerful Iraqi tribes, owning vast tracts of land and provided strong support of the Hashemite monarchy. Shammar power was threatened after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958 by Abdul-Karim Qassem, and the Shammar welcomed Ba'athist rule. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Ghazi al-Yawar, from the Al Jarbah clan, was unanimously chosen as interim president. Al-Yawar uncle is the current Sheikh of Sheikhs of Shammar.


Main sections

(Al Twalah: is the Sheikhs and ruler of AL ASLAM Clans and they are the Leaders of Jabal Shammar in Ha'il.)





  1. مدح لقبيلة شمر في ذكرى أستقلال الأردن
  2. The Shi'is of Iraq.Yitzhak Nakash, p.27
  3. Haydari, ‘Unwan al-Majd, pg. 110-15, 118
  4. ‘Abdallah Mahmud Shukri (al-Alusi), “Di’ayat al-Rafd wa al-Khurafat wa al-Tafriq Bayn al-Muslimin”, al-Manar 29 (1928): 440
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Williamson, John Frederich (1974). The History of Shmmar (Arabic).
  6. Al Rasheed, p. 35.
  7. Hail online Arabic reference.
  8. Al Rasheed.


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