Al-Muntafiq (Arabic: المنتفق) is a large Arab tribal confederation of southern and central Iraq. Members of the Muntafiq tribal confederation are the largest and most influential Iraqi Shia community. The confederation’s tribes predominantly settled in Baghdad and Iraq's southern provinces. The majority of Shia Iraqis’ come from the Muntafiq tribal confederation, the confederation is not homogeneous in terms of sect/religion. Centuries of intermarriage and intermingling created mixed Sunni- Shia tribes. Therefore, a minority of individual tribes within the confederation is Sunni. Overall, it is almost impossible to delineate who is, and who is not part of the Muntafiq. Nevertheless, the majority of Iraqi Shia are Muntafiq members.
The tribe is divided into three main branches: Bani Malik, al-Ajwad, and Bani Sa'id. Most of the tribe traces its genealogy to the tribe of Banu 'Uqayl of the large and ancient Banu 'Amir confederation of Nejd. However, the tribe's traditional leaders are the Al Saadun ("the house of Saadun"), who are said to be Sharifs originating from Mecca, while the al-Ajwad branch is said to partially originate from the ancient Arab tribe of Tayy (who later became the tribe of Shammar, currently also found in Iraq). The Muntafiq tribe was led by Yusuf Beg of the Saadun clan. They were traditional rivals of the Dhufir and of Ibn Saud, although Yusuf sometimes co-operated with Ibn Saud. Nevertheless, as Ibn Saud gained control over the Arabian Peninsula, members of the Muntafiq and Dhufir moved into Mesopotamia and settled. The Dhufir and the Muntafiq tribes subsequently, integrated and became Iraqi tribes.
The tribe begins to appear in the Iraqi deserts in the late Abbasid era, and was once one of the most powerful Bedouin tribes in Iraq. In Ottoman times, the tribe held control over the region of Basrah under Ottoman suzerainty. In 1521, they successfully occupied al-Ahsa and al-Qatif (eastern Saudi Arabia today) on the Ottomans' behalf, before being expelled by Banu Khalid.
During the Ottoman era, most of the tribe settled into sedentary life and took up agriculture in southern and western Iraq. During the Ottoman era, from the late eighteenth century onwards, al-Muntafiq converted to Shia Islam.
The city of Nasiriya in southern Iraq was named after one of the tribe's sheikhs, and the surrounding province was known as "Al-Muntafiq Province" until 1976. Those who remained bedouin were herders of small animals such as sheep and goat, rather than camels, and this made them less mobile and less competent as a fighting force compared to the camel-herding tribes of inner Arabia.
Although the tribe's nominal leaders, the Al Saadun, are Sunnis, most of the tribe's members follow the Shi'ite sect of Islam. After many decades of sedentarization, the tribal bond has weakened and the leadership of the Al Saadun is largely nominal.
- Thompson, Christiane. "Iranian Tentacles into Iraq". School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- "Muntafiq". King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Information Resource. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- The Shi'is of Iraq By Yitzhak Nakash, pg.27
- Lorimer, Gazetteer, 2B:1273; Great Britain, naval intelligence division, geographical handbook series, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, September 1944, 379-80; Great Britain, office of the civil commissioner, The Arab of Mesopotamia, Basra, 1917,6.