House of Khalifa

The House of Khalifa (Arabic: آل خليفة, romanized: Āl Khalīfah) is the ruling family of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The Al Khalifas profess Sunni Islam and belong to the Utub tribe that migrated from Najd to Kuwait in the early 18th century. The Utub tribe is part of the larger Anizah tribal confederation. The current head of the family is Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who became the Emir of Bahrain in 1999 and proclaimed himself King of Bahrain in 2002, in fact becoming a constitutional monarch.

Al Khalifa
Parent houseHouse of Utbah
Founded1766[lower-alpha 1]
FounderKhalifa bin Mohammed[1]
Current headHamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
TitlesKing of Bahrain
Emir of Bahrain
Hakim of Bahrain

As of 2010, roughly half of the serving cabinet ministers of Bahrain were members of the Al Khalifa royal family,[2] while the country's only Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, (serving since independence in 1971) is also from the Al Khalifa family and is the uncle of the current King.


Bahrain fell under the control of Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifa in 1783, following the defeat of Nasr Al-Madhkur who ruled the archipelago as a dependency of Persia. (See Bani Utbah invasion of Bahrain.) Ahmed ruled Bahrain as hakim until 1796, but was based in Zubarah (in modern day Qatar) and spent summers in Bahrain. Ahmed was the first hakim of Bahrain and the progenitor of the ruling Al Khalifa family of Bahrain. All of the Al Khalifa rulers of Bahrain are his descendants.

Ahmed had four children. Following his death in 1796, two of Ahmed's sons Salman and Abdulla moved to Bahrain, and co-ruled it as feudal estates and imposed taxes on the indigenous Baharnah population. Salman settled in Bahrain Island and Abdulla in Muharraq Island, each ruling independently. The Al Khalifa soon became split into two branches, Al-Abdulla and Al-Salman that engaged in open conflict between 1842 and 1846.[lower-alpha 2] Al-Salman branch was victorious and enjoyed complete rule of Bahrain. Until 1869, Bahrain was under threat of occupation by various external powers including the Wahhabis, Omanis, Ottomans, Egyptians and Persians, yet the Al Khalifa managed to keep it under their control.[4] The Al-Abdulla branch continued to be a cause of threat until 1895.[5] Today, Abdulla ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa descendants live in Qatar, while Salman ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa's descendants live in Bahrain.

List of Al Khalifa rulers of Bahrain

Since 1783, the al-Khalifa have been rulers of Bahrain:

NameYears as rulerTitle
Ahmed bin Muhammad bin Khalifa1783–1796Hakim
Shaikh Abdullah ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa, ruling jointly with
Shaikh Salman bin Ahmad Al Khalifa
Shaikh Khalifah bin Sulman Al Khalifa
Shaikh Muhammad bin Khalifah Al Khalifa1834–1842
Shaikh Ali ibn Khalifah Al Khalifa1868–1869Hakim
Shaikh Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al Khalifa1869-1869Hakim
Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa1869–1932Hakim
Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa1932–1942Hakim
Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa1942–1961Hakim
Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa1961–1971
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa1999–2002

Ruling Family Council

Decisions pertaining to the Al Khalifa family, as well as disputes between family members are arbitrated by the Ruling Family Council (Arabic: مجلس العائلة الحاكمة).[6][7][8] The council attends to internal family disputes particularly those related to appropriation of land, sale of real estate and other properties. Members of the ruling family are not allowed to refer these or other disputes to ordinary law courts.[6]

Relations between the political leadership and the rest of the "rank and file" members of the Al Khalifa ruling family have been formally managed by the council since 1932. However, on the eve of the 1973 parliamentary elections, then the Amir Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa issued a decree restructuring the Ruling Family Council to become a formal organ of the state, and giving the administrative head of the council the rank of minister.[6]

The Ruling Family Council is currently chaired by King Hamad,[9] its Deputy Chairman is Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Hamad Al Khalifa,[10] and the Director General is Ibrahim bin Khalid bin Mohammed Al Khalifa.[11]

The King appoints the members of the board of the Ruling Family Council as recognised representatives of various kingship lines and factional alliances within the Al Khalifa family.[6]


Al Khalifa is commonly mistranscribed al-Khalifa. The Al (آل) written with the long (madda) alif is unconnected to the following word and means house, in the sense of family or dynasty, and is not the definite article particle al- 'Al' can also mean 'of'.

Cabinet ministers

As of 2010, roughly half of the serving cabinet ministers of Bahrain were members of the Al Khalifa royal family.[2]

H.R.H. Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister

H.R.H. Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, The Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister

H.H. Shaikh Muhammad ibn Mubarak ibn Hamad Al Khalifah, Deputy Prime Minister

H.H. Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister

H.E. Shaikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister

Lt- General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Minister of Interior

H.E. Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs

H.E. Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance

H.E. Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowment

H.E. Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Oil[12]

See also


    1. The year the family settled in Zubarah
    2. Inter-Al Khalifa conflicts within Bahrain began in 1828 and lasted until 1869.[3]


    1. "History of the Ruling Family of Bahrain". Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
    2. Bahrain Shia demand cabinet change,, 5 March 2010
    3. Baumgartner 2008, p. 20.
    4. Khuri 1980, pp. 24–31; Littlefield 1964, pp. 6–7.
    5. Farah 1985, p. 87.
    6. Khalaf, Abdulhadi. Contentious Politics in Bahrain, From Ethnic to National and Vice Versa. The Fourth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies: The Middle East in a Globalizing World, Oslo, 13–16 August 1998. Archived from the original on 6 August 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
    7. Moran, Dominic (7 February 2007). "Sectarian tensions simmer in Bahrain". International Relations and Security Network. The trio's relationship to their primary political support base, the wider royal family, is managed by the Family Council.
    8. Radhi, Hassan Ali (2003). Judiciary and Arbitration in Bahrain: A Historical and Analytical Study. BRILL. p. 130. ISBN 978-90-411-2217-9.
    9. "HM King Hamad Chairs Ruling Family Council". Bahrain News Agency. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
    10. "Royal Order No. 23 of the Year 2004 on the Appointment of the Deputy Chairman of the Ruling Family Council". Official Gazette of the Kingdom of Bahrain. 22 May 2004. Archived from the original on 3 August 2012.
    11. "Amiri Order No. 69 of the Year 2000 on the Appointment of the Director General of the Ruling Family Council". Official Gazette of the Kingdom of Bahrain. 20 December 2000. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012.
    12. Cabinet

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