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Abd al-Qadir

Born: 1808 AD
Died: 1883 AD
Nationality: Algerian
Categories: Nationalist

1808 – He was born in the town of Muaskar in the area of Oran on September 6, 1808.

1825 – His father 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 theological and linguistic studies, having an education far better than that of his peers. He set out for the Muslim pilgrimage, 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 famous Muslims such Shaykh Ibn Arabi. 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.

1830-1847 – 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; at one occasion released his French captives simply because he had insufficient food to feed them. Abd al-Qadir was eventually 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 (strangely parallelling Jugurtha’s career two thousand years earlier), Abd al-Qadir was forced to surrender. Two days later, his surrender was made official to the French Governor-General of Algeria, Henri d’Orléans, 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.

1848 – 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.

1852 – He was released by Napoleon III on taking an oath never again to disturb Algeria. The amir then took up his residence in Brusa, to Damascus. While in Damascus he befriended Lady Jane Digby and Richard and Isabel Burton.

1860 – In July 1860, when the Moslems of that city, taking advantage of disturbances among the Druzes of Lebanon, attacked the Christian quarter and killed over 3000 persons, Abd al-Qadir helped to repress the outbreak and saved large numbers of Christians. For this action the French government, which granted the amir a pension of L. 4000, bestowed on him the grand cross of the Legion of Honour.

1871 – When the Algerians again rose in revolt, Abd al-Qadir wrote to them counselling submission to France.

1883 – He died at Damascus on the 26th of May 1883.