8/21/2005

Empty Tomb

The empty tomb of Algerian national hero Abul Qadir Al-Jazairi (1808-1883), leader of the famous rebellion against the French invasion of Algeria in the mid-19th century. After losing several battles against Abdul Qadir, the French had to bring more enforcements into the country and practiced a scorched-earth policy to terrorize the population. Abdul Qadir was forced to surrender in 1847 and was later exiled to France. He remained there until 1852 when he moved to Bursa, Turkey, and then to Damascus in 1855.

In Damascus, he devoted himself to teaching and writing, and quickly gained popularity and respect among Syrians. In 1860, when sectarian violence broke out in Damascus, he provided refuge for more than 15,000 Christians who escaped the fighting, and helped to bring back peace and calm. He died in 1883 and was buried in the Mosque of Ibn Arabi in Damascus.

The remains of Abdul Qadir were brought back to Algeria on July 5, 1966, four years after Algerian independence and 136 years after the French invasion of Algeria.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"In 1860, when sectarian violence broke out in Damascus"

what secterian violence? never heard of it before. can you please fill me in?
Hanni

GottfriedStutz said...

Hanni, the sectarian violence of 1860 in Damascus, Hawran and much of the Lebanese mountain is what is referred to quite often by the dialect term "aT-Toosheh", and 1860 is called "sent eT-Toosheh".

The event started in Mount Lebanon, and involved various sects, but mainly Maronites and Druzes, then spread to Damascus.

The reasons for this unrest, not the first during the 19th century, are complex - chiefly economic and political.

The incidents in Damascus started on 9 July 1860. It has to be said that given the numerical inferiority of the Christians, things turned very bad for them all the way from the start. Prince Abd Al-Qader was away from Damascus that day, already trying to find arrangements for Christian refugees who had been arriving to Damascus from what is now South Lebanon. In the days that followed, Abd Al-Qader's men (his escort, mainly Algerian) went through Damascus looking for Christian families who lost their houses or who were on the brink of losing their lives, and brought them to Abd Al-Qader's house (you can still visit that house in Damascus, and it is very beautiful). They also sheltered and protected Europeans. In a way, you could say that Abd Al-Qader was simply following a long Muslim tradition of giving shelter to those who need it - all the way from the Prophet Muhammad's instruction that "whoever enters Abu Sufian's house will be safe."

Abd Al-Qader is far from being the only Muslim to protect Christians. Mahayni, Abed and Nouri families in the Maydaan neighbourhood shut their quarter to outside attackers. Thus, the many Christians who lived an Maydaan were unharmed.

The events stopped after a week, on 10 July. Much of the Christian neighbourhood inside the wall was destroyed. The Ottomans sent a new governor, Fu'ad Pasha, who carried out a difficult job of restoration and retribution, but who also had the burden of keeping away a French military expedition which landed in Beirut in order to "protect" the Christians.

There you are. I tried to sum things up as much as I can. Those events are perhaps one of the explanations about the Syrians resentment of anything that might look remotely like a sectarian division or discrimination. Personally, I see in the events another illustration of the complexity of things which defies stereotyping of both Muslims and Christians. Good and bad exist on all sides. Abed Al-Qader, the Muslim families and "qabaDaayaat" of Maydaan, and Hashem Agha (the officer in charge of the Damascus citadel who sheltered Christians in it) are excellent examples of Muslims who understood their religion as one of love and acted accordingly.

Sorry for the lenghty contribution.

Ahmad said...

I'm surprised at how many famous political and religious figures were buried in Damascus.

Ayman said...

Gottfried, again you excel in providing us with valuable historical information. Thanks! :)

GottfriedStutz said...

Ayman, I wouldn't have if it were not for your thought-provoking choice of subjects. By the way, nice photographs if I haven't told you that before :-)

Keep up the excellent job.

GottfriedStutz said...

A little additional info:

The Algerian government's decision to transport Abdul Qadir's remains to Algeria in 1966 is completely understandable since Algeria was now indepdendent, and that independence was inspired by Abdul Qadir's struggle.

However, if you really want to be picky, you could say that, by transporting the remains to Algeria, the government did not show full respect towards Abdul Qadir's own wish to be buried near his the greatest of his spiritual masters - Ibn Arabi.

Well, Abul Qadir was Algerian after all.

By the way, the Prince's descendants still live in Damascus - the Al-Jazairi family. Other Algerian families whose ancestors were in his escort have also blended into the Damascene society (the Karaawii family, for instance.)

bassam al-khouri said...

you can read about the year 1860 in arabic in this link
i cannot write in englisch

http://forum.nadyelfikr.net/viewthread.php?fid=46&tid=26932

tahiyati

Catherine said...

Realley interesting info..Very glad to read about it..thanks!

GottfriedStutz said...

bassam 1958, thank you for the link.

Folks, if you need a reliable reference about the events of 1860 which is well-researched, balanced and particularly accurate in its approach to the original material of that era (autobiographies, accounts, books...), then I would recommend Leila Fawaz' "An Occasion for War: Lebanon and Damascus in 1860", first published in 1994 by I.B. Tauris (ISBN: 1850432015). To my knowledge, it has not been translated into Arabic.

Those of you who live in Damascus will probably find a copy of the book at the Family Bookshop in Abou Rummaaneh.

Oz said...

Ty for that story,

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