Haj Amin el-Husseini: Appointment to Mufti (1921-22)

Figure 1.--Hre we see Plestinian school boys, the Mufti of Jerusalem, anf Sir Herbert Samuel at the Jerusalem Mosque. The photograph is not dated, but was probably taken in the 1920s. The photograph shows the Dome of the Rock in the background. Source: American Colony in Jerusalem.

The first British High Commissioner for Palestine was Sir Herbert Samuel, a British Jew. Sammuel assumed control (July 1,1920). Samuel sought to build a positive relationship with the Palestinian Arabs and one of the steps he took was pardoning Husseini. Sir Robert Storrs, governor of Jerusalem took the further step of appointing Husseni to the post of Grand Mufti. This was theoretically an elected post, but Sir Richard essentially rigged the election. He thought that given the importance of the Husseni family that it would helpful to British interests to reign in Husseni's radicalism. He sought to do this by bringing him into the system with the important post. Husseni was not, however, brought into the system. The British thus made an advocate of violence into the principal religious and political spkesmen for the Palestinian Arabs. The post of Grand Mufti was actually invented by the British. The Mufti while disdaining the British, used that title and several others, includung "eminence." The Islamic scholar, sheikh-and president of his former university, Al-Azbar in Cairo, writes, "In Islam, there are no "eminencies" and no "grand" muftis. Before Allah all men are equal, and it ill behooves a religious teacher to assume such redundant titles... A mufti is a teacher in Islam. And even to that title Hajj Amin should have no claim, for he has not finished a single course of studies here at the University. He owes his appointment to political influence and family connections. He is a politician." As Grand Muffti he had both influence and access to funds. One estimate is 200,000 pounds annually. He used these funds to work against the British. He both financed terror attacks and worked establisjing his personal authority in Palestine. The British also appointed Husseni president of the Supreme Muslim Council, and, later, the Arab Higher Committee. This gave him access to even more resource. The head of the Council, until Husseni obtained the post, was elected every 5 years. Husseni essentially seized control. He used threats to bring others under control. This gave him access to the Council allowance from the British Mandate government. He also gained control over Muslim charitable donatiins as well as donations from abroad. He used these resources to purchase patronage and influence in Palestine. One of Husseini's major projects as Grand Mufti was to begin the renovation of the Al-Aqsa and Omar mosques on the temple mount (Haram as Sharif) in order to build up the importance of Jerusalem as a Muslim holy place and Palestinian national symbol. These projects were noted not only in Palestine and the wider Arab world. It served to generate donations from around the Arab world. The work provide more patronage. The post of Grand Mufti was also important in the wider Islamic world. Jerusalem was a holy city not only to Christians and Jew, but also to Muslims. Jerusalem is the third most important city (after Mecca and Medina) to Muslims because of the Islamic sites. Husseini was both an Arab nationalist and a Muslim fundamentalist. He detested European imperialism and materialism. As an Islamicist he found European seccular life offensive and resisted its implementation in Palestine. Until Husseini the post of Grand Mufti was a position filled by Koranic scholars. Husseini turned the post into a political platform. Husseini became a strident spokesmen against British rule and virulent anti-Semite. He set up hit squads to attack both political opponents and isolated Jewish settlements. [Porch, p. 22.] The Palestinians Arabs have a notable record of choosing poor leaders and backing failed foreign groups (Hitler, the Soviets, Saddam, and now fundamentalists). This uneviable record began with Husseini.


Porch, Douglas. The Path to Victory (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York, 2004), 796p.


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Created: 8:58 AM 10/6/2012
Last updated: 8:58 AM 10/6/2012