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HUSAYNI,AL-HAJJAMINAL-(1895-1974), mufti ofJerusalemand a nationalist leader during the period of British rule overPalestine(1917-1948). AlHAJJ Amin al-Husayni came from an aristocratic landowning family that traced its lineage to the prophet Muhammad. His grandfather, father, and half-brother served as muftis ofJerusalem. Husayni studied briefly atal-AzharUniversityinCairo(1912-1913) and, after serving in the Ottoman army, became an active Arab nationalist. From 1918 to 1920, he supported the unification ofPalestinewithSyria, as a step toward a PanArab state, and protested the British Balfour Declaration (November 1917) that promised to establish a national home inPalestinefor the Jewish people. He fled toDamascusafter participating in violent anti-Zionist protests inJerusalemin April 1920.

Husayni emerged as a powerful figure when the British not only pardoned him but appointed him mufti ofJerusalem(May 1921) and president of the Supreme Muslim Council (January 1922). He pledged to maintain order and the British hoped the move would pacify the Palestinian elite. As president, he gained control over the Muslim religious schools, courts, orphanages, mosques, and awgdf (sg., waqf; religious endowments) throughout the country.

Husayni’s effort to maintain calm while pressing for substantive political concessions from the British became more difficult to sustain in the wake of the Wailing Wall crisis (1928-1929) and soaring Jewish immigration in the early 1930s. He headed a delegation toLondon(January 1930) that sought a national government with an Arab majority. He also organized the General Islamic Congress inJerusalem(December 1931) to galvanize support in the Muslim world. The failure of these initiatives to alter the Palestinians’ situation encouraged anti-British radicals to challenge Husayni’s influence. They later criticized his efforts, as president of the Arab Higher Committee, to limit the scope of the general strike that began in April 1936.

Husayni only broke decisively with the British when the Peel Commission called for the territorial partition ofPalestinein July 1937: the nationalist cause appeared lost and British support for the Zionist movement irresistible. At this point he escaped toLebanon(October 1937) and became a bitter enemy of the British. He supported the violent Palestinian revolt against the British (1938-1939) encouraged anti-British political forces inIraq(October 1939 to May 1941), and fled throughIrantoItalyandGermany. Husayni tried to persuade Hitler to pledge support for Arab independence, and appealed over the radio for Arabs and Muslims to revolt against the Allies. At the end of the war, he escaped toFrance(May 1945) and then toCairo(May 1946), where he resumed his political activities. Discredited by his support for Hitler and unable to prevent the establishment ofIsraelin 1948, he lived in exile inEgyptuntil 1959 and then inBeirut. Husayni’s importance fies in his dual role as a religious and political leader. His religious stature enhanced his political leadership and he activated support for the Palestinian nationalist cause both insidePalestineand abroad.

[See also Arab-Israeli Conflict; Arab Nationalism; West Bank andGaza.]


Jbara, Taysir. Palestinian Leader Hajj Amin al Husayni, Mufti of jeru-salem/Princeton, 1985. Generally laudatory biography based on Arab, British, and Israeli sources.

Johnson, Nels. Islam and the Politics of Meaning in Palestinian Nationalism.LondonandBoston, 1982. Extended essay on Islamic motifs in the Palestinian movement, including the role of al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni.

Lesch, Ann Mosely. Arab Politics inPalestine, 1917-1939: The Frustration of a Nationalist Movement.Ithaca,N.Y., 1979. Concise overview of the radicalization of Palestinian politics during the British mandate, based on British, Arab, and Israeli sources.

Mattar, Philip. The Mufti of,jerusalem: Al-Hajj Amin alHusayni and the Palestinian National Movement.New York, 1988. Careful account of Husayni’s life, with emphasis on the shift in his role after 1936, when accommodation with the British proved impossible; based on British, Arab, Israeli, and American sources.

Porath, Yehoshofat. The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement, 1918-1929 and The Palestinian Arab National Movement, 1929-1939.London, 1974 and 1977. Detailed examinations of Palestinian politics, with appropriate attention to Husayni’s role; based on Israeli and British sources.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/husayni-al-hajj-amin-al/

  • writerPosted On: April 4, 2014
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