Tuesday, January 29, 2013

'Abd al-Qadir

‘Abd al-Qadir (b. September 6, 1808, Guetna, near Mascara, Algeria — d. May 26, 1883, Damascus, Syria) was an Algerian independence leader, Sufi mystic, and poet. Born at Wadi al-Hammam, some 20 kilometers west of Mascara in Algeria, into a family of northern Moroccan origin which claimed descent from the prophet Muhammad, 'Abd al-Qadir's father, Muhyi al-Din al-Hasani, was a shaykh in the Qadiri Sufi order of Islam. In his childhood, he learned to memorize the Qur'an and was well trained in horsemanship and theological and linguistic studies, having an education far better than that of his peers. In 1825, 'Abd al-Qadir set out for the Muslim pilgrimage -- the hajj -- with his father. While in Mecca, he met Imam Shamil, the future leader of the anti-Russian resistance during the Caucasian War (1834-1859). The two spoke at length on different topics. He also traveled to Damascus and Baghdad, and visited the graves of noted Muslims, such as Shaykh Ibn Arabi and Sidi Abd-el Kader El Jalili. This experience cemented his religious enthusiasm. On his way back to Algeria, he was impressed by the reforms carried out by Muhammad 'Ali in Egypt. He returned to his homeland a few months before the arrival of the French.

‘Abd al-Qadir entered history after the French occupation of Algiers on July 5, 1830. This invasion led ‘Abd al-Qadir’s father, Sidi Muhyi al-Din, to proclaim a jihad against European colonization in the region of Oran. Ill health forced Sidi in November 1832 to hand over control of the anti-colonial resistance to his son, who was proclaimed “Sultan of the Arabs” by the tribes of Hashim, Banu ‘Amir, and Ghrarabah. Despite mixed results on the battlefield, this tactic prevented the “pacification” of Algeria and led the French to enter into negotiations with ‘Abd al-Qadir on February 28, 1834. Now officially recognized as “commander of the faithful” (amir al-mu‘minin), Amir ‘Abd al-Qadir was able to extend his authority to the gates of Algiers itself by the middle of 1835.

The amir’s continued agitation for Algerian autonomy led to a resumption of hostilities. After an Algerian victory at Macta (June 28, 1835), the French generals Clauzel and Bugeaud counterattacked, burning Mascara, occupying Tlemcen, and scoring a victory against ‘Abd al-Qadir’s army at Wadi Sikkak (July 6, 1836). Although abandoned by his troops three times, the Amir successfully regrouped his tribal forces and continued to inflict heavy losses on the French. The desire to protect their western flank while pursuing the conquest of Constantine led the government of King Louis-Philippe to negotiate once again. The resulting Treaty of Tafna (May 30, 1837) divided western Algeria into two spheres of influence; the urban areas remained in French hands, while the interior portions of the province of Oran, the beylik of Titteri, and part of the province of Algiers were given over to ‘Abd al-Qadir. Disputes over secret codicils to the treaty -- as well as the “Iron Gates” expedition in which the Duke of Orleans opened a corridor between Constantine and Algiers -- led to the resumption of hostilities and the Amir’s invasion of the Mitidja in November 1839.

In the face of ‘Abd al-Qadir’s threat, Bugeaud was appointed governor-general of Algeria on December 29, 1840. By sending mobile columns into the Algerian hinterland, he succeeded in occupying the major towns of Orania and Tlemcen (1841-1843). The capture of the Amir’s “traveling capital” (smalah) on May 16, 1843, caused the Arab tribes to surrender to the French and forced ‘Abd al-Qadir to flee to Morocco. Although French attacks on the Moroccan cities of Tangier and Mogador (1844) compelled the Moroccan sultan, Mawlay ‘Abd al-Rahman, to declare the Amir an outlaw, he appeared again in Algeria in 1846 at the head of numerous clandestinely organized uprisings. Despite a major victory at Sidi Brahim (September 23, 1846), the French counterattack crushed this revolt and forced him back across the Moroccan border. ‘Abd al-Qadir surrendered to the French on December 21, 1847. Two days later, his surrender was made official to the French Governor General of Algeria, Henri d'Orleans, duc d'Aumale.

'Abd al-Qadir was exiled to France, in violation of the promise that he would be allowed to go to Alexandria or Acre, on the faith of which he had surrendered. 'Abd al-Qadir and his family were detained in France, first at Toulon, then at Pau, being in November 1848 transferred to the chateau of Amboise. There he remained until October 1852, when he was released by Napoleon III on taking an oath never again to disturb Algeria.

After pledging not to resist the French in Algeria, 'Abd al-Qadir was released from prison in 1852 and given a pension by Napoleon III. Choosing exile in the Muslim-ruled Ottoman Empire, he settled first in Brusa (1853), and finally in Damascus (1855). In Damascus, 'Abd al-Qadir devoted himself anew to theology and philosophy, and composed a philosophical treatise, of which a French translation was published in 1858 under the title of Rappel a l'intelligent, Avis a l'indifferent. He also wrote a book on the Arab horse.

While in Damascus, 'Abd al-Qadir befriended Lady Jane Digby (Jane Digby el-Mezrab), the British socialite who married a Syrian shaykh, and Isabel and Richard Burton, the famous explorer and translator of the Kama Sutra and The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (popularly known as The Arabian Nights).

'Abd al-Qadir's final beau geste came in July 1860, when he personally protected the French consul in Damascus and several thousand Christians from massacre by Druze rebels.  In July 1860, conflict between the Druze and Maronites of Mount Lebanon spread to Damascus, and local Druze attacked the Christian quarter, killing over 3,000 persons.  'Abd al-Qadir and his personal guard saved large numbers of Christians, bringing them to safety in his house and in the citadel.  For this action, the French government, which granted the Amir a pension of 4000 Louis, bestowed on him the Grand Cross of the Legion d'Honneur.  He was also honored by Abraham Lincoln for this gesture towards Christians with several guns that are now on display in the Algiers museum.

In 1864, 'Abd al-Qadir became a Freemason being initiated at the Lodge of Pyramids as a courtesy for the Lodge Henri IV, in Paris.

After his death on the night of May 25-26, 1883, the body of 'Abd al-Qadir was interred next to the tomb of the great Andalusian mystic Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240).

Although initiated into the Qadiriyah Sufi order by his father, Amir ‘Abd al-Qadir joined the Naqshbandiyah in Damascus.  He also remained associated with the unofficial Akbariyah tradition throughout his life, a link which led to the amir’s burial next to his father’s intellectual eponym, Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi.  His penultimate “opening” (fath) into Sufism was at the hands of a master of the Akbariyah, Muhammad al-Fasi al-Shadhili, whom he met in Mecca in 1863. 

‘Abd al-Qadir’s major Sufi works are Kitab al-mawaqif ("Book of Stages"), an extended discourse on the doctrines of Ibn ‘Arabi, and a Diwan or collection of mystical poems.

Today 'Abd al-Qadir is recognized and venerated as the first hero of Algerian independence.  Not without cause, his green and white standard was adopted by the Algerian liberation movement during the War of Independence and became the national flag of independent Algeria.  He was buried in Damascus in the same mausoleum as Ibn 'Arabi, until the Algerian government brought his remains back to Algeria to be interred with much ceremony on July 5, 1966, the fourth anniversary of independence and the 136th anniversary of the French conquest.   The Emir Abdel Kader University and the mosque bearing his name have been constructed as a national shrine in Constantine, Algeria, and the town of Elkader, Iowa, in the United States is named after him.

'Abd al-Qadir, the  amīr of Mascara (from 1832), was the military and religious leader who founded the Algerian state and led the Algerians in their 19th-century struggle against French domination (1840–46).

His physical handsomeness and the qualities of his mind had made 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) popular even before his military exploits. Of medium height, lithe and elegant, with regular features and a black beard, his demeanor was exceptionally refined, and his life-style was simple. He was known as a religious and educated man who could excite his co-religionists with his poetry and oratorical eloquence.

Algeria was an Ottoman regency when the French army landed there in 1830. The government was controlled by a dey (bey - governor) and by the Turkish Janissaries who had chosen him. These rulers, supported by the Koulouglis  (people of mixed Turkish and Algerian ancestry) and by certain privileged tribes, and aided by the fact that they were of the same religion as the people, long held Algeria firmly in their grip.

Nevertheless, the Algerians detested them, and there were continual rebellions in the early 19th century. As a result, the country was left too divided to oppose the French invaders.

The western tribes laid siege to French-occupied Oran and tried to organize themselves, unified by their common Muslim religious sentiment, which was cultivated by the schoolmasters and particularly by members of the religious brotherhoods. The leader of one of the brotherhoods,  Muhyi al-Din al-Hasani (Mahieddin), director of the zāwiyah (religious school) near Mascara, was asked to lead the harassment of the French troops in Oran and Mostaganem.

In November 1832 the aging Muhyi al-Din al-Hasani (Mahieddin) had his young son 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) elected in his place. The youth, already renowned for his piety and military prowess, took over the war of harassment. The ensuing Desmichels Treaty of 1834 gave him the whole interior of the Oran, with the title commander of the believers. In a move to unify his new territories, Amīr 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader), taking advantage of this treaty, imposed his rule on all the tribes of the Chelif, occupied Miliana and then Médéa, and succeeded in defeating General Camille Trézel at Macta. Although pressed by generals Bertrand Clauzel and T.R. Bugeaud, he managed to rally support from Algerians who had become indignant over the French use of violence. By able negotiation, he convinced General Bugeaud to sign the Treaty of Tafna (1837), which further increased his territory and made him master of the whole interior of Oran and the Titteri, with the French having to be content with a few ports.

In two years, 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) had organized a true state, the capital of which was sometimes Mascara and sometimes the fortress of Tiaret (now Tagdempt). He established juridical equality among population groups by suppressing the privileges of the warlike tribes (makhzen) and by imposing equal taxes on all his subjects. First he extended his influence to the Sahara by fighting al-Tijīnī, who dominated the southern oases, and rallying the desert peoples to him. Then he strengthened his authority in the valley of the Chelif and in the Titteri as far as the borders of the province of the east, where he was resisted by the bey of Constantine, Hajj Ahmed. He also exacted harsh punishment of the Koulouglis of Zouatna, who had joined the French. By the winter of 1838, his authority extended across the borders of Kabylie and, in the south, from the oasis of Biskra to the Moroccan border. To destroy the power of al-Tijīnī, he besieged his capital, Ain Mahdi, for six months and demolished it, while all the Saharan tribes paid him homage.

'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) was an absolute leader who only rarely called in the grandees to advise him. Algerian religious sentiment was his support, the one force that could bring his subjects together and unify them in the face of the invader. But that did not prevent him from employing competent persons of all nationalities, whether Jews or Christians, to help him build a modern state. The best known of these Europeans was the future diplomat Léon Roches, who later recounted his adventures in a fanciful book, Trente-deux ans à travers l’Islam (“Thirty-two Years Through Islam”). 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) organized a regular army of approximately 2,000 men, to be supported by either volunteers or contingents furnished by the tribes. As towns near French territory would have been too vulnerable, he fortified interior sites, such as Sebdou, Saida, Tiaret, Taza, and Boghar, where he opened arsenals, warehouses, and workshops, and where he stored surplus crops whose sales were to finance his arms purchases, mainly in England. He set up a new administration, with officials on fixed salaries. He taught his people austerity and set a personal example, living without ceremony in a tent. By expanding education, he slowly spread the concepts of independence and nationality to his people.

When the columns of the duc d’Orléans crossed the Iron Gates, the Amir took it as a violation of the territories granted him by the Treaty of Tafna. Even though he was still far from having completed his own work of organization, he made a surprise attack and destroyed the French colonization of the Mitidja Plain. From then on the war languished until General Bugeaud was named governor general in 1840. Bugeaud convinced the French government to arm him for the conquest of all Algeria. The resulting war was bitter and lasted seven years. The Amir avoided big battles, preferring to use his rifle-armed cavalry in incessant skirmishes, from which it would retreat almost as soon as it had fired. But he was fighting a French army composed of infantry organized by Bugeaud into extremely mobile columns, and he had to contend with the devastation of the countryside practiced by Bugeaud and his lieutenants so as to force the starving inhabitants to desert their leader.

In 1841 the French destroyed the Amir’s fortified sites, and he was forced to become a nomad in the interior of Oran. The following year he lost Tlemcen, and communication with his Moroccan allies became difficult. However, despite further reverses and French penetration in the south, 'Abd al-Qadir succeeded in reaching Morocco. But after Bugeaud’s defeat of the Moroccans at Isly, the Sultan was forced to hold 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) in the midst of his empire. The Amir, however, proved to have unflagging energy. Taking advantage of a revolt in the Dahra, he re-entered Algeria, took the Sidi Brahim outpost, and penetrated deep into the interior, all the while escaping the pursuing French columns.

In July 1846, with only a handful of men left, 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) again took refuge in Morocco, the Sultan of which by then considered him to be a burden. Deprived of this last area of support, 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) returned to Algeria and in 1847, with great dignity, turned himself over to General Christophe de Lamoricière and to Bugeaud’s successor, King Louis-Philippe’s son, the duc d’Aumale, who promised him transport to the East.

Louis-Philippe, however, failed to respect his son’s promise. 'Abd al-Qadir (Abdelkader) was held prisoner in France, first at the Château de Pau, where he learned the principles of Freemasonry, and later at Amboise. It was the prince-president Louis-Napoleon who, in 1852, authorized his return to Bursa and then to Damascus, where he led an exemplary life and wrote Rappel à l’intelligent, avis à l’indifférent (“Call to the Intelligent, Warning to the Indifferent”). The French government provided him with a large pension and with a Kabyle guard and even attempted to obtain a throne for him somewhere between Turkey and Egypt, which they wished to remove from Ottoman control. At the time of the 1871 Algerian insurrection, he disowned one of his sons who had tried to arouse the tribes of southern Constantine.

When 'Abd al-Qadir died, he was respected by all. French efforts to make him the symbol of Algerian support for colonial rule were erroneous.  'Abd al-Qadir believed he was carrying out God’s will in admitting that his political role had ended. Present-day Algerians consider him to be the greatest hero of their people.

'Abd al-Qadir was an Algerian Islamic scholar, Sufi, political and military leader who led a struggle against the French colonial invasion in the mid-19th century, for which he is seen by some Algerians as the "modern Jugurtha" (a Numidian king who fought against Roman rule) and a national hero.

In France, after having been considered as an enemy during the first half of the 19th century, he was rehabilitated into a "friend of France" after having intervened in favor of persecuted Christians in Syria during the 1860 Druze-Christian conflict in Lebanon and Syria,  saving many Christian lives from the massacres.

'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri  is often referred to only as Amir 'Abd al-Qadir (El Amir Abdelkader), since al-Jaza'iri simply means "the Algerian". His name can be variously transliterated from its Arabic spelling as Abd al-Kadir, Abdel Kader, Abdelkader, and other variant spellings. He is also often given the titles amir, prince, and shaykh or sheik.

 'Abd al-Qādir was born near the town of Mascara near Oran, in 1808. His father, Muhyi al-Din al-Hasani, was a shaykh in the Qadiri Sufi order of Islam. He was a Banu Ifran Berber and claimed descendance from Muhammad.

In his childhood, 'Abd al-Qadir memorized the Qur'an and was trained in horsemanship, theology and linguistics, and received an education far better than that of his peers. In 1825, he set out for the Muslim pilgrimage, the hajj, with his father. While in Mecca, he encountered Imam Shamil; the two spoke at length on different topics. He also traveled to Damascus and Baghdad, and visited the graves of noted Muslims, such as Shaykh Ibn Arabi and Sidi Abd-el-Kader El Jilani, named also El-Jilali in Algeria. This experience cemented his religious enthusiasm. On his way back to Algeria, 'Abd al-Qadir was impressed by the reforms carried out by Muhammad Ali in Egypt. He returned to his homeland a few months before the arrival of the French.

In 1830, Algeria was invaded by France.  French colonial domination over Algeria supplanted what had been domination in name only by the Ottoman Empire. Within two years, 'Abd al-Qadir was made an amir and with the loyalty of a number of tribes began a rebellion against the French. He was effective at using guerrilla warfare and for a decade, up until 1842, scored many victories. He often signed tactical truces with the French, but these did not last. His power base was in the western part of Algeria, where he was successful in uniting the tribes against the French. He was noted for his chivalry; on one occasion he released his French captives simply because he had insufficient food to feed them. Throughout this period 'Abd al-Qadir demonstrated political and military leadership, and acted as a capable administrator and a persuasive orator. His fervent faith in the doctrines of Islam was unquestioned.

Up until the beginning of 1842 the struggle went in favor of 'Abd al-Qadir.  However, the resistance was ultimately put down by Marshal Bugeaud. In 1837, 'Abd al-Qadir signed the Treaty of Tafna with Bugeaud, in which he recognized France's sovereignty in Oran and Algiers, while France recognized his control over the remaining two-thirds of the country, mainly the interior. When French troops marched through a mountain pass in territory 'Abd al-Qadir claimed as his in open defiance of that claim, he renewed the resistance on October 15, 1839.

'Abd al-Qadir was ultimately forced to surrender. The French armies grew large, and brutally suppressed the native population and practiced a scorched-earth policy.  'Abd al-Qadir's failure to get support from eastern tribes, apart from the Berbers of western Kabylie, also contributed to the quelling of the rebellion. On December 21, 1847, after being denied refuge in Morocco because of French diplomatic and military pressure on its leaders, 'Abd al-Qadir surrendered to General Louis de Lamoricière in exchange for the promise that he would be allowed to go to Alexandria or Acre. Two days later, his surrender was made official to the French Governor-General of Algeria, Henri d'Orléans, duc d'Aumale. The French government refused to honor Lamoricière's promise and 'Abd al-Qadir was exiled to France.

In 1843 Marshal Soult declared that 'Abd al-Qadir as one of the three great men then living ; the two others, Imam Shamil and Muhammad Ali of Egypt also being Muslims.

'Abd al-Qadir and his family were detained in France, first at Toulon, then at Pau, and in November 1848 they were transferred to the château of Amboise. There he remained until October 1852, when he was released by Napoleon III and given an annual pension of 100 000 francs on taking an oath never again to disturb Algeria. He then took up residence in Bursa, today's Turkey, moving in 1855 to the Amara District in Damascus. He devoted himself anew to theology and philosophy, and composed a philosophical treatise, of which a French translation was published in 1858 under the title of Rappel à l'intelligent. Avis à l'indifférent. He also wrote a book on the Arabian horse.

While in Damascus 'Abd al-Qadir befriended Jane Digby and Richard and Isabel Burton. In July 1860, conflict between the Druze and Maronites of Mount Lebanon spread to Damascus, and local Druze attacked the Christian quarter, killing over 3,000 persons. Abd al-Qadir and his personal guard saved large numbers of Christians, bringing them to safety in his house and in the citadel. For this action, the French government increased his pension to 150 000 francs and bestowed on him the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur. He was also honored by Abraham Lincoln for this gesture towards Christians with several guns that are now on display in the Algiers museum.
In June 1864, 'Abd al-Qadir became a Freemason.  In 1865, he visited Paris at the invitation of Napoleon III and was greeted with both official and popular respect. 'Abd al-Qādir died in Damascus on May 26, 1883, and was buried near the great Sufi Ibn Arabi in Damascus.

Alternative names include:

'Abd al-Qadir
'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri
'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhieddine
'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhyi al-Din
'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhyi al-Din ibn Mustafa al-Hasani al-Jaza'iri
'Abd al-Qadir ibn Muhyiddin
'Abd el Kader
Abdelkader El Djezairi
'Abdul Qadir
Al-Jaza'iri, 'Abd al-Qadir
Djezairi, Abdelkader El
El Djezairi
El Djezairi, Abdelkader
Ibn Muhieddine
Ibn Muhieddine, 'Abd al-Qadir
Ibn Muhyi al-Din
Ibn Muhyi al-Din, 'Abd al-Qadir
Ibn Muhyi al-Din ibn Mustafa al-Hasani al-Jaza'iri
Ibn Muhyi al-Din ibn Mustafa al-Hasani al-Jaza'iri, 'Abd al-Qadir
Ibn Muhyiddin
Ibn Muhyiddin, 'Abd al-Qadir
Jaza'iri, 'Abd al-Qadir al-
Jaza'iri, al-

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