محمد أمين الحسيني - Haj Amin al-Husseini

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

محمد أمين الحسيني - (Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini) (1897 - 4 July 1974) was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and Muslim leader in Mandatory Palestine.

Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini
Al-Husseini was the scion of a family of Jerusalemite notables.
After receiving an education in Islamic, Ottoman and Catholic schools, he went on to serve in the Ottoman army in World War I.
At war's end, he positioned himself in Damascus as a supporter of the Arab Kingdom of Syria.
Following the fiasco of the Franco-Syrian War and the collapse of the Arab Hashemite rule in Damascus, his early position on pan-Arabism shifted to a form of local nationalism for Palestinian Arabs and he moved back to Jerusalem.
From as early as 1920, in order to secure the independence of Palestine as an Arab state he actively opposed Zionism, and was implicated as a leader of a violent riot that broke out over the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
Al-Husseini was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, but was pardoned by the British.
From 1921 to 1937 al-Husseini was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, using the position to promote Islam and rally a non-confessional Arab nationalism against Zionism.

His opposition to the British peaked during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. In 1937, evading an arrest warrant, he fled Palestine and took refuge in, successively, the French Mandate of Lebanon and the Kingdom of Iraq, until he established himself in Italy and Germany.
During World War II he collaborated with both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, meeting Adolf Hitler and asking him to back Arab independence.
He requested, as part of the Pan-Arab struggle, Hitler's support to oppose the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish national home.
He was promised the leadership of the Arabs after German troops had driven out the British.
He helped recruit Muslims for the Waffen-SS. At war's end, he came under French protection, and went to Cairo to avoid prosecution.

In the lead-up to the 1948 Palestine War, Husseini opposed both the 1947 UN Partition Plan and King Abdullah's designs to annex the Arab part of British Mandatory Palestine to Jordan, and, failing to gain command of the 'Arab rescue army' (jaysh al-inqadh al-'arabi) formed under the aegis of the Arab League, formed his own militia, al-jihad al-muqaddas.
In September 1948, he participated in establishment of All-Palestine Government.
Seated in Egyptian-ruled Gaza, this government won a limited recognition of Arab states, but was eventually dissolved by Gamal Nasser in 1959.
After the war and subsequent Palestinian exodus, his claims to leadership, wholly discredited, left him eventually sidelined by the Palestine Liberation Organization, and he lost most of his residual political influence.
He died in Beirut, Lebanon, in July 1974.

Early Life

Amin al-Husseini was born around 1897 (?) in Jerusalem, the son of the mufti of that city and prominent early opponent of Zionism, Tahir al-Husayni.

:مفتي‎ (muftī - Turkish: müftü ) is a Sunni Islamic scholar who is an interpreter or expounder of Islamic law (Sharia and fiqh). In religious administrative terms, a mufti is roughly equivalent to a deacon to a Sunni population. A muftiate or diyanet is a council of muftis. A Mufti will generally go through an Iftaa course and the person should fulfill the following conditions set by scholars in order that he may be able to issue verdicts (fataawa). They are eight: knowledge of Arabic, mastery over the science of principles of jurisprudence, sufficient knowledge of social realities, mastery of the science of comparative religions, mastery of the foundations of social sciences, mastery of the science of Maqasid ash-Shari`ah (Objectives of Shari`ah), mastery of the science of Hadith, Mastery of legal maxims

The al-Husseini clan consisted of wealthy landowners in southern Palestine, centred around the district of Jerusalem.
Thirteen members of the clan had been Mayors of Jerusalem between 1864 and 1920.
Another member of the clan and Amin's half-brother, Kamil al-Husayni, also served as Mufti of Jerusalem. In Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini attended a Qur'an school (kuttub), and Ottoman government secondary school (rüshidiyye) where he learnt Turkish, and a Catholic secondary school run by French missionaries, the Catholic Frères, where he learnt French.
He also studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle with its non-Zionist Jewish director Albert Antébi.

Courtyard - Al-Azhar University - Cairo - 1912
محمد رشيد رضا‎
Rashid Rida
In 1912 he studied Islamic law briefly at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and at the Dar al-Da'wa wa-l-Irshad, under Rashid Rida, a salafi intellectual, who was to remain Amin's mentor till his death in 1935.

The Salafi methodology, also known as the Salafist movement, is a movement among Sunni Muslims named by its proponents in reference to the Salaf ("predecessors" or "ancestors"), the earliest Muslims considered to be examples of Islamic practice.
The movement is often described as related to, including, or synonymous with Wahhabism. Salafism has become associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islam.

 محمد رشيد رضا‎ - (Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍāʾ Ottoman Syria, 23 September 1865–Egypt, 22 August 1935) was an early Islamic reformer, whose ideas would later influence 20th-century Islamist thinkers in developing a political philosophy of an "Islamic state". Rida is said to have been one of the most influential and controversial scholars of his generation and was deeply influenced by the Salafi movement founded in Cairo by Abduh. Rida focused on the relative weakness of Muslim societies vis-à-vis Western colonialism, blaming Sufi excesses, the blind imitation of the past (taqlid), the stagnation of the ulama, and the resulting failure to achieve progress in science and technology. He held that these flaws could be alleviated by a return to what he saw as the true principles of Islam, albeit interpreted (ijtihad) to suit modern realities. This alone could, he believed, save Muslims from subordination to the colonial powers.

Though groomed to hold religious office from youth, his education was typical of the Ottoman أفندي (effendi) at the time, and he only donned a religious turban in 1921 after being appointed mufti.

أفندي - (Effendi - Turkish‎) is a title of nobility meaning a lord or master.
It is a title of respect or courtesy, equivalent to the English Sir, which was used in Ottoman Empire (Turkey). It follows the personal name, when it is used, and is generally given to members of the learned professions and to government officials who have high ranks, such as bey or pasha. Such a title would have indicated an "educated gentleman", hence by implication a graduate of a secular state school (rüşdiye), even though at least some if not most of these efendis had once been religious students, or even religious teachers.
The word itself is an adaption of the Medieval Greek afendēs (αφέντης), from ancient Greek authentēs (αὐθέντης), generally "doer, master".

In 1913, approximately at the age of 16, al-Husseini accompanied his mother Zainab to Mecca, and received the honorary title of Hajj.
Prior to World War I, he studied at the School of Administration in Istanbul, the most secular of Ottoman institutions.

World War I

al-Husseini in the
Ottoman Army
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, al-Husseini received a commission in the Ottoman Army as an artillery officer and was assigned to the Forty-Seventh Brigade stationed in and around the city of Izmir.
In November 1916 he obtained a three-month disability leave from the army and returned to Jerusalem.

General Allenby enters Jerusalem
He was recovering from an illness there when the city was captured by the British a year later.
The British and Sherifian armies, for which some 500 Palestinian Arabs volunteered, completed their conquest of Ottoman-controlled Palestine and Syria in 1918, alongside Jewish troops.
As a Sherifian officer, al-Husseini recruited men to serve in Faisal bin Al Hussein bin Ali El-Hashemi's army during the Arab Revolt, a task he undertook while employed as a recruiter by the British military administration in Jerusalem and Damascus.
The post-war Palin Report noted that the English recruiting officer, Captain C. D. Brunton, found al-Husseini, with whom he cooperated, very pro-British, and that, via the diffusion of War Office pamphlets dropped from the air promising them peace and prosperity under British rule, 'the recruits (were) being given to understand that they were fighting in a national cause and to liberate their country from the Turks'.
Nothing in his early career to this point suggests he had ambitions to serve in a religious office: his interests were those of an Arab nationalist.

Early Political Activities

In 1919, al-Husseini attended the Pan-Syrian Congress held in Damascus where he supported Emir Faisal for King of Syria.
That year al-Husseini founded the pro-British Jerusalem branch of the Syrian-based 'Arab Club' (Al-Nadi al-arabi), which then vied with the Nashashibi-sponsored 'Literary Club' (al-Muntada al-Adabi) for influence over public opinion, and he soon became its President.
At the same time he wrote articles for the 'Suriyya al-Janubiyya' (Southern Syria).
The paper was published in Jerusalem beginning in September 1919 by the lawyer Muhammad Hassan al-Budayri, and edited by Aref al-Aref, both prominent members of al-Nadi al-'Arabi.
Al-Husseini was a strong supporter of the short-lived المملكة العربية السورية (al-Mamlakah al-Sūriyya al-‘Arabīyah - Arab Kingdom of Syria), established in March 1920.

المملكة العربية السورية, al-Mamlakah al-Sūriyya al-‘Arabīyah, was the first modern Arab state to come into existence, but only lasted a little over four months (8 March–24 July 1920). During its brief existence, the kingdom was led by Sharif Hussein bin Ali’s son Faisal bin Hussein. Despite its claims to territory of a Greater Syria, Faisal's government controlled a limited area and was dependent on Britain which, along with France, generally opposed the idea of a Greater Syria, and refused to recognize Faisal as its king. The kingdom surrendered to French forces on 24 July 1920.

In addition to his support to pan-Arabist policies of King Faisal I, al-Husseini tried to destabilize the British rule in Palestine, which was declared to be part of the Arab Kingdom, even though no authority was exercised in reality.

 Nabi Musa Procession - Jerusalem
During the annual Nabi Musa procession in Jerusalem in April 1920, violent rioting broke out in protest at the implementation of the Balfour Declaration which supported the establishment in Palestine of a homeland for the Jewish people.

 Nabi Musa Procession - Jerusalem
Thousands of Muslims would assemble in Jerusalem, trek to Nabi Musa, and pass three days in feasting, prayer, games and visits to the large tomb two kilometres south, identified as that of Moses' shepherd, Hasan er-Rai, They were then entertained, as guests of the waqf, before returning on the seventh day triumphantly back to Jerusalem. The Ottomans appointed the al-Husayni clan as official custodians of the shrine, and hosts of the festival, though their connection with the cult may date back to the previous century.

The Palin Report laid the blame for the explosion of tensions on both sides.
Ze'ev Jabotinsky, organiser of Jewish paramilitary defences, received a 15-year sentence.
Al-Husseini, then a teacher at the Rashidiya school, near Herod's Gate in East Jerusalem, was charged with inciting the Arab crowds with an inflammatory speech and sentenced in absentia to 10-years imprisonment by a military court, since by then both had fled to Syria.
It was asserted soon after, by Chaim Weizmann and British army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, that al-Husseini had been put up to inciting the riot by British Field-marshal Allenby's Chief of Staff, Colonel Bertie Harry Waters-Taylor, to demonstrate to the world that Arabs would not tolerate a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
After the April riots an event took place that turned the traditional rivalry between the Husseini and Nashashibi clans into a serious rift, with long-term consequences for al-Husseini and Palestinian nationalism. Great pressure was brought to bear on the military administration from Zionist leaders and officials such as David Yellin, to have the Mayor of Jerusalem, Musa Kazim Pasha al-Husayni, dismissed, given his presence in the demonstration of the previous March.
Colonel Storrs, the Military Governor of Jerusalem, removed him without further inquiry, replacing him with Raghib al-Nashashibi of the rival Nashashibi clan.
This had a profound effect on his co-religionists, definitely confirming the conviction they had already formed from other evidence that the Civil Administration was the mere puppet of the Zionist Organization.
Until late 1920, al-Husseini focused his efforts on Pan-Arabism and the ideology of the Greater Syria in particular, with Palestine understood as a southern province of an Arab state, whose capital was to be established in Damascus.
Greater Syria was to include territory of the entire Levant, now occupied by Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The struggle for Greater Syria collapsed after France defeated the Arab forces in Battle of Maysalun in July 1920.
The French army entered Damascus at that time, overthrew King Faisal and put an end to the project of a Greater Syria, put under the French Mandate, in accordance with the prior Sykes-Picot Agreement. Palestinian notables responded to the disaster by a series of resolutions at the 1921 Haifa conference, which set down a Palestinian framework and passed over in silence the earlier idea of a south confederated with Syria.
This framework set the tone of Palestinian nationalism for the ensuing decades.
Al-Husseini, like many of his class and period, then turned from Damascus-oriented Pan-Arabism to a specifically Palestinian ideology, centered on Jerusalem, which sought to block Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine.
The frustration of pan-Arab aspirations lent an Islamic colour to the struggle for independence, and increasing resort to the idea of restoring the land to  دار الإسلام‎ - Dar al-Islam.

دار الإسلام‎ - house/abode of Islam or Dar as-Salam, house/abode of Peace is a term used by Muslim scholars to refer to those countries where Muslims can practice their religion freely. It's the area of the world under the rule of Islam , literally, "the home of Islam" or "the home of submission." These are usually Islamic cultures wherein Muslims represent the majority of the population, and so the government promises them protection. Most Dar al-Islam areas are surrounded by other Islamic societies to ensure public protection.
Muslim scholars maintain and believe that the labeling of a country or place as being a part of Dar al-Islam revolves around the question of religious security. This means that if a Muslim practices Islam freely in his place of abode, despite that the place happens to be secular or un-Islamic, then he will be considered as living in the Dar al-Islam.

From his election as Mufti until 1923, al-Husseini exercised total control over the secret society, Al-Fida’iyya (The Self-Sacrificers), which, together with al-Ikha’ wal-‘Afaf (Brotherhood and Purity), played an important role in clandestine anti-British and anti-Zionist activities.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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