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HUSAYN IBN ‘ALI (c.1853-1931), amir and sharif ofMeccaand leader of the Arab revolt against the Ottomans in World War I. Husayn, of the `Awn branch of the Hashemite family, was appointed to the emirate by Sultan `Abdulhamid II in 19o8. Husayn and his son, `Abd Allah (Abdullah), engineered the appointment, portraying the former as loyal to the sultan and opposed to the Committee for Union and Progress, which had proposed `Ali Haydar of the Zayd branch of the Hashemites as its candidate.

Husayn supported the Ottomans when he attacked `Abd al-`Aziz ibn `Abd al-Rahman Al Sa`ud of Najd (1910) and the Idrisi of `Asir (1911), but such operations dovetailed with his efforts to prevent those leaders from encroaching on tribes whose loyalty he claimed. However, attempts by the vali (Ar., wali; Ottoman governor) to extend his control over the vilayet (Ar., wilayah; Ottoman administrative district) of Hejaz (the district containingMecca) and the threatened extension of the Hejaz railway fromMedinatoMecca, moved Husayn to seek help. In 1914, `Abd Allah met Lord Kitchener inCairo, asking for British support should the Ottomans attempt to remove Husayn.Kitchenerdemurred, since the Ottomans had yet to enter World War I. Husayn had coveted the emirate of Hejaz for himself and his progeny, but when the Ottomans entered the war in October,Britainsought Hashemite assistance by enticing Husayn with promises of future glory. Kitchener cabled `Abd Allah: “It may be that an Arab of true race will assume the Khalifate at Mecca or Medina, and so good may come by the help of God out of all the evil that is now occurring.” These comments, although ambiguous, were heady words for Husayn, and he must have swelled with expectation. In subsequent negotiations withBritain,Londontried unsuccessfully to downplay the caliphal notion. Nevertheless,Britainlet him believe that he would obtain large areas of Arab territory, includingSyria,Palestine, andIraq, to rule. It was on this basis, along with substantial financial assistance, that Husayn loosed the Arab Revolt against theOttoman Empirein June 1916.

Husayn presented the revolt as more Islamic than Arab, and demonstrated this by the application of shari’ah (the divine law) inHejaz. But he contended that, although the revolt was inspired by Islam, the Arabs were best qualified to lead it.

Husayn never received the support he hoped for from the Arab and Muslim world. Many Arabs later saw in him an accessory to British and French imperialism. Indian Muslims never forgave him for revolting against the caliph, and they castigated him for his abuse of pilgrims.

Husayn’s rule in Hejaz lasted until the fall ofMeccato Ibn Sa’ud in 1924, and it was plagued by financial problems exacerbated by the reduction and eventual suppression of his British subsidy. Husayn’s preoccupation with what he saw as British perfidy inSyria,Iraq, andPalestine, his inability to form the tribal confederacy necessary to confront Ibn saud, his cruel method of government, and his alienation of the Hejazi merchant class led to his downfall. Proclaiming himself caliph in March 1924 earned him only ridicule. As Ibn saud bore down onHejaz, the British left Husayn hanging. Neither of his sons, who ruled in Transjordan andIraq, gave him shelter, and he died a broken man inAmmanin 1931, after spending most of his exile in the distinctly non-Arab country ofCyprus.

[See also Arab Nationalism.]


Baker, Randall. King Husain and theKingdomofHejaz.CambridgeandNew York, 1979. The only published study to date of Husayn, concentrating on his relations with the British.

Dawn, C. Ernest. From Ottomanism to Arabism.Urbana,Ill., 1973. Contains several excellent essays on the origins and ideology of the Arab revolt.

Kedourie, Elie. In the Anglo-Arab Labyrinth: The McMahon-Husayn Correspondence and Its Interpretations.London,1976. The most thorough study of the Husayn-McMahon negotiations and their historical and bureaucratic contexts.

Kostiner, Joseph. “The Hashemite `Tribal Confederacy’ of the Arab Revolt, 1916-1917.” In National and International Politics in theMiddle East: Essays in Honour of Elie Kedourie, edited by Edward Ingram, pp. 126-143.London, 1986. Excellent introduction to the sociopolitical context inArabiaduring the Arab revolt.

Ochsenwald, William. Religion, Society, and the State inArabia: The Hijaz under Ottoman Rule, 1840-1908.Columbus,Ohio, 1984. The best study to date of the Hejazi society, politics, and economy inherited by Husayn from the Ottomans.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/husayn-ibn-ali-2/

  • writerPosted On: April 4, 2014
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