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῾Abd Al‐qādir

By:
Vincent J. Cornell
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World What is This? Provides global coverage of the Muslim experience from the end of the eighteenth century through the twentieth century

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῾Abd Al‐qādir

(1808–1883), Algerian independence leader, Ṣūfī mystic, and poet. Born Muḥyī al‐Dīn al‐Ḥasanī at Wādī al‐Ḥammām, some 20 kilometers west of Mascara in Algeria, into a family of northern Moroccan origin who claimed descent from the prophet Muḥammad, Amīr ῾Abd al‐Qādir entered history after the French occupation of Algiers on 5 July 1830. This invasion led ῾Abd al‐Qādir's father Sīdī Muḥyī' al‐Dīn to proclaim a jihād against European colonization in the region of Oran. Ill health forced him in November 1832 to hand over control of the anticolonial resistance to his son, who was proclaimed “Sultan of the Arabs” by the tribes of Hāshim, Banū ῾Āmir, and Gharābah. Despite mixed results on the battlefield, this tactic prevented the “pacification” of Algeria and led the French to enter into negotiations with ῾Abd al‐Qādir on 26 February 1834. Now officially recognized as “commander of the faithful” (amīr al‐mu῾minīn), ῾Abd al‐Qādir 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 (28 June 1835), the French generals Clauzel and Bugeaud counterattacked, burning Mascara, occupying Tlemcen, and scoring a victory against ῾Abd al‐Qādir's army at Wādī Sikkāk (6 July 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 (30 May 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‐Qādir. Disputes over secret codicils to the treaty—as well as the “Iron Gates” expedition in which the Duke of Orléans 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‐Qādir's threat, Bugeaud was appointed governor‐general of Algeria on 29 December 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” (smālah) on 16 May 1843 caused the Arab tribes to surrender to the French and forced ῾Abd al‐Qādir to flee to Morocco. Although French attacks on the Moroccan cities of Tangier and Mogador (1844) compelled the Moroccan sultan, Mawlay ῾Abd al‐Raḥmān, 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 Sīdī Brāhīm (23 September 1846), the French counterattack crushed this revolt and forced him back across the Moroccan border. ῾Abd al‐Qādir surrendered to the French on 23 December 1847.

After pledging not to resist the French in Algeria, he 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). His 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. After his death on the night of 25–26 May 1883, his body was interred next to the tomb of the great Andalusian mystic Ibn ῾Arabī (d. 1240).

Although initiated into the Qādirīyah Ṣūfī order by his father, Amīr ῾Abd al‐Qādir joined the Naqshbandīyah in Damascus. He also remained associated with the unofficial Akbarīyah tradition throughout his life, a link which led to the amir's burial next to his father's intellectual eponym, Muḥyī al‐Dīn Ibn ῾Arabī. His penultimate “opening” (fatḥ) into Sufism was at the hands of a master of the Akbarīyah, Muḥammad al‐Fāsī al‐Shādhilī, whom he met in Mecca in 1863. ῾Abd al‐Qādir's major Ṣūfī works are Kitāb al‐mawāqif (Book of Stages), an extended discourse on the doctrines of Ibn ῾Arabī, and a Diwān or collection of mystical poems.

See also Algeria.

Bibliography

  • ῾Abd al‐Qādir ibn Muḥyī al‐Dīn. Écrits spirituels. Translated by Michel Chodkiewicz. Paris, 1982. Translation of ῾Abd al‐Qādir's Kitāb al‐Mawāqif. Chodkiewicz's introduction is the best discussion of the amir's Sufism available in a European language.
  • Blunt, Wilfrid. Desert Hawk: Abd el Kader and the French Conquest of Algeria. London, 1947. Biography of the amir, based primarily on French sources.
  • Danziger, Raphael. Abd al‐Qadir and the Algerians: Resistance to the French and Internal Consolidation, 1832–1839. London and New York, 1977. Detailed account of the first phase of the Algerian resistance.
  • Jazā'irī, Muḥammad ibn ῾Abd al‐Qādir al‐. Tuḥfat al‐zā'ir fī ma'āthir al‐Amīr ῾Abd al‐Qādir wa‐akhbār al‐Jazā'ir. Damascus, 1964. Biography of ῾Abd al‐Qādir and the Algerian resistance, written by the amir's son. This is the primary source for the “Algerian side” of the issue.
  • Rouina, Karim. Bibliographie raisonnée sur l'émir Abdelkader. Oran, 1985. Indispensable bibliography for anyone attempting a serious study of ῾Abd al‐Qādir and the Algerian resistance against colonialism in the nineteenth century.
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