Manuscript (15) Kuwaiti Business Document from the Era of Ruler: Abdullah Bin Al-Sabah
A transcript of the text (with clarifications of words and phrases appearing in parentheses):
“In the name of Allah, from the lowly Sheikh Saleh Bin Saif—may Almighty Allah protect him, amen—and may Allah’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you. My brother, with respect to the five (fifth) yunia, it arrived and (was sold) for a good amount. The twenty-pack went for twenty-five French riyals. My brother, (this) is what you will receive from Muhammad Al-Anzi: Thirty-four French riyals, and Allah willing, I will bring the rest with me. You and I both belong to Almighty Allah.”
At the bottom of the page (upside-down):
The lowly Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdullah Bin Saif
Muhammad, Master of Humankind and Jinn
Topic: A letter concerning business matters.
Sender: Sheikh Saleh Bin Saif Al-Ateeqi (Al-Atiqi)
Recipient: His brother (with no name specified). Saleh had several brothers alive at the time.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Islamic Jurisprudence Library in Kuwait, Manuscript No. خ 991. The letter appears on Page No. 11, which is the last page. The manuscript is from the remaining works of Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdullah Bin Saif Al-Ateeqi and includes (in his handwriting) the supplication one makes upon concluding recitation of the Qur’an. There is also another letter addressed to him in his name.
Document Type: A letter dictated from the sender, then transcribed in the handwriting of Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdullah Bin Saif, whose name appears at the bottom. It seems obvious that the transcriber, who penned the original text of the letter, inserted the title “Sheikh” as well as the words “May Almighty Allah protect him, amen.” It would not be logical for Sheikh Saleh to dictate such words with respect to himself, nor was that known to be his style.
Date: The letter is not dated but appears to have been written after 1206 AH, which is the year in which the sender (Saleh) moved to Al-Zubayr, and before he died there on 13 Rabi’ Al-Awwal 1223 AH (May 9, 1808 AD), because prior to that, Saleh was in Al-Ahsa, which had no need to import the the type of merchandise referenced in the letter from Kuwait.
Commentary: This rare letter includes a number of interesting points.
1. That Sheikh Saleh Bin Saif Al-Ateeqi engaged in the business of trade, which is a relatively unknown facet of his life.
2. That the extended family of the Al-Ateeqi family in Kuwait included various branches descended from the family’s patriarch, Saif Al-Ateeqi (who had settled in Al-Zubayr). Family members mentioned in this letter include Saleh Bin Saif, one of Saleh’s brothers in Kuwait, and Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdullah Bin Saif. Saleh addressed the recipient with the words “my brother,” and the person who transcribed the document was Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdullah Bin Saif, whose name appeared at the bottom of the page.
3. With respect to trade relations between Kuwait and Al-Zubayr, the letter tells us that goods were transported from Kuwait to Al-Zubayr.
4. The currency used for commercial transactions was the French (Austrian) riyal, which was among the currencies in common use at the time.
5. That Sheikh Saleh made trips to Kuwait to visit relatives and take care of business interests.
6. The business dealer mentioned in the text (Muhammad Al-Anzi), with whom a portion of the payment for the merchandise was sent, was likely the head of a trade caravan transporting goods from Iraq and the Levant to Kuwait for several merchants. There was a well-known merchant in Kuwait at that time named Muhammad Bin Musa Al-Anzi (who was from Al-Rawlah), so it may be he who is meant in this text (1).
7. The type of merchandise, which was a junia (referring to a burlap sack weighing approximately eighty kilograms in which grains like rice were stored), was sold in twenty-packs, meaning that every twenty kilograms was packed separately. The Najdi dialect is noticeable in the transcript of the letter, as residents of the coastal areas tend to replace the Arabic letter jim with the letter ya’, which results in them saying yunia instead of junia, yalahmah instead jalahmah, and so on.
8. A confirmation that regular commercial trade took place between the two parties, as the junia that arrived was the fifth of its type.
9. A confirmation of the kin relationship, as Saleh mentioned that the recipient was his brother.
10. The warmth and affection Saleh showed towards the recipient, as he called him “my brother” twice.
11. After talk of money came to an end, Sheikh Saleh reminded his brother (and himself) at the end of the letter that they both belonged to Almighty Allah. The meaning of this friendly note from the honorable scholar was that “you and I are both servants of Almighty Allah.”
12. Both Saleh Bin Saif (at the beginning of the letter) and Abdel-Rahman Bin Abdullah Bin Saif (at the end of the letter) called themselves “the lowly” (often translated to English as “Allah’s humble servant”), which is a well-known phrase used by people of knowledge during that era intended to show humility. It can be understood from his use of the phrase that Abdel-Rahman, too, was of the people of knowledge.
Finally, this document is regarded as a rare Kuwaiti document describing commercial transactions during the reign of Kuwait’s Second Ruler, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Al-Sabah, who died on 13 Jumada Al-Awwal 1229 AH (May 3, 1814 AD). His reign was a period of prosperity and steady growth for the developing emirate in Kuwait. The document also describes the commercial activities of the Al-Ateeqi family in Kuwait and Al-Zubayr, where a number of individuals from the family lived at the time.
Written by: Dr. Imad Muhammad Al-Ateeqi
Updated in Muharram 1439 AH (October 2017 AD)
(1) I examined Muhammad Bin Musa Al-Anzi’s will, which shows how wealthy, generous, and righteous he was. In it, there is a reference to his personal sword, dagger, and rifle, all of which were a necessity for the owners of caravans.