Jamal al-Din Afghani
Al-Sayyid Mohammad Jamal al-Din Afghani B. Safdar was the most
outstanding figure of Islam
in the 19th century. He was the first person to take a
political attitude toward European colonial
rule, which since has been adopted by various movements
of national liberation throughout the
Muslim world. He's said to have been a philosopher,
writer, orator and journalist, all at the same
time. His actions and preaching contributed to many
reform movements, and the birth of
Salafiyya, and the Muslim Brothers.
Courageous and uncompromising, Jamal al-Din aroused and strengthened
the enthusiasm of his listeners wherever
he went. He preached Islamic revival through reform, and attacked
Muslim rulers who resisted European
encroachments. His goal was to unify all Muslim states into a
Khalifate which will be able to repulse European
intervention and restore the glory of Islam. Contrary to most of his
contemporaries al-Afghani argued that science
was compatible with Islam and that there have been Muslim scientists
before. He saw the West both as a problem
and also part of the solution. He preached modernization but in the
context of Islam.
Sayyed Jamalludin Hussaini Afghani was born in 1837 in Asadabad,
Kunar, Afghanistan. Al-Afghani is a
descendent of Hussain b. Ali (a.s.), thus the title "sayyid".
In Kabul, he followed a Muslim pattern of University studies, with
special attention on philosophy and exact
sciences. In India he received a more modern education. From India he
went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. At home
he served under Amir Dost Mohammad Khan for some time. He went to
Egypt thereafter, where he became
aquatinted with Azharis (scholars of Al-Azher University, the oldest
university in the world, which was built by the
Fatimids in the 10th century AD) and lectured from his home. Then he
went to Constantinople (1870) receiving a
big welcome. Many were jealous of his success there. He decided to
leave Turkey for Egypt.
In Egypt, young and old flocked around him, including Mohammad
the future mufti of Egypt, and Sa'd
Zaghlul, the future hero in the struggle for Egyptian independence.
Al-Afghani lectured on science and politics. He
encouraged his followers to consider journalism, believing it was the
modern method of influencing people's minds.
He and his followers found Misr (review), al-Tidiara (daily), and
Being expelled from Egypt he returned to India. While in Haydarabad,
and under close observation of the British,
Jamal al-Din wrote about the materialism and atheist character of the
West. During this time, his followers in Egypt
started a riot, which later was suppressed by the British and
in the British's takeover of Egypt. While in
Paris, 1883, he attacked British's occupation of the Muslim
Most importantly, he found a publication with
Mohammad `Abduh, an Arabic weekly Urwa al-Wuthka (The
Link). This journal was the organ of a
secret Muslim society.
In 1886, al-Afghani was invited by Shah Nasir al-Din to Tehran.
as a result of the Shah's anger with his
popularity Jamal al-Din was forced out of Iran.
Next, he went to Russia, where he asked the permission of the Tsar to
publish the Quran and other religious books.
He stayed there until 1889. On the Shah's request he once again
to Persia but later was put to asylum for
seven months. When he was released he went to Basra to recover. His
hate for the Shah grew and he damaged
the Shah's reputation. He found (Radiance form the two
1892. Al-Afghani went to Constantinople
on the repeated invitations of Sultan Abd al-Hamid. However, his
opposition with Abu'l-Huda, the leading religious
dignitary at the court, cost him the favors of the Sultan.
He died on March 9, 1897 from cancer of the chin, and was buried in
the cemetery of Nishantash. At the end of
December 1944, his remains were taken to Afghanistan and laid to rest
on January 2, 1945 in the suburbs of Kabul
near Ali `Abad, where a mausoleum had been raised for him.
He wrote little on theology and philosophy. His works were
significantly sought after World War II when the
struggle against the Western colonial rule was at its highest. A lone
fighter, he was misunderstood and under
appreciated by many of his contemporaries. Clearly he was a man
his time. His legacy of Pan-Islamism was
the father of many movements in the Muslim lands. At the end, Jamal
al-Din's unique achievements, Pan-Islamic
ideology, and determined character assured his name in bold prints on
the pages of history.
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