Citation for Ḥusayn Ibn ʿAlī (c. 1853–1931)

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Teitelbaum, Joshua . "Ḥusayn Ibn ʿAlī (c. 1853–1931)." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 17, 2022. <>.


Teitelbaum, Joshua . "Ḥusayn Ibn ʿAlī (c. 1853–1931)." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 17, 2022).

Ḥusayn Ibn ʿAlī (c. 1853–1931)

Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī (c.1853–1931), was an amīr and sharīf of Mecca and leader of the Arab revolt against the Ottomans in World War I. Ḥusayn, of the ʿAwn branch of the Hashemite family, was appointed to the emirate by Sultan Abdülhamid II in 1908. Ḥusayn and his son, ʿAbd Allāh (Abdullah), engineered the appointment, portraying the former as loyal to the sultan and opposed to the Committee for Union and Progress, which had proposed ʿAlī Ḥaydar of the Zayd branch of the Hashemites as its candidate.

Ḥusayn supported the Ottomans when he attacked ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Āl Saʿūd of Najd (1910) and the Idrīsī of ʿAsīr (1911), but such operations dovetailed with his efforts to prevent those leaders from encroaching on tribes whose loyalty he claimed. However, attempts by the vali (Ar., wālī; Ottoman governor) to extend his control over the vilayet (Ar., wilāyah; Ottoman administrative district) of Hejaz (the district containing Mecca) and the threatened extension of the Hejaz railway from Medina to Mecca, moved Ḥusayn to seek help. In 1914, ʿAbd Allāh met Lord Kitchener in Cairo, asking for British support should the Ottomans attempt to remove Ḥusayn. Kitchener demurred, as the Ottomans had yet to enter World War I. Ḥusayn had coveted the emirate of Hejaz for himself and his progeny, but when the Ottomans entered the war in October, Britain sought Hashemite assistance by enticing Ḥusayn with promises of future glory. Kitchener cabled ʿAbd Allāh: “It may be that an Arab of true race will assume the Khalifate at Mecca or Medina, and so good may come by the help of God out of all the evil that is now occurring.” These comments, although ambiguous, were heady words for Ḥusayn, and he must have swelled with expectation. In subsequent negotiations with Britain, London tried unsuccessfully to downplay the caliphal notion. Nevertheless, Britain let him believe that he would obtain large areas of Arab territory, including Syria, Palestine, and Iraq, to rule. It was on this basis, along with substantial financial assistance, that Ḥusayn loosed the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire in June 1916.

Ḥusayn presented the revolt as more Islamic than Arab, and demonstrated this by the application of sharīʿah (the divine law) in Hejaz. But he contended that, although the revolt was inspired by Islam, the Arabs were best qualified to lead it.

Ḥusayn never received the support he hoped for from the Arab and Muslim world. Many Arabs later saw in him an accessory to British and French imperialism. Indian Muslims never forgave him for revolting against the caliph, and they castigated him for his abuse of pilgrims.

Ḥusayn 's rule in Hejaz lasted until the fall of Mecca to Ibn Saʿūd in 1924, and it was plagued by financial problems exacerbated by the reduction and eventual suppression of his British subsidy. Ḥusayn 's preoccupation with what he saw as British perfidy in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, his inability to form the tribal confederacy necessary to confront Ibn Saʿūd, his cruel method of government, and his alienation of the Hejazi merchant class led to his downfall. Proclaiming himself caliph in March 1924 earned him only ridicule. As Ibn Saʿūd bore down on Hejaz, the British left Ḥusayn hanging. Neither of his sons, who ruled in Transjordan and Iraq, gave him shelter, and he died a broken man in Amman in 1931, after spending most of his exile in the distinctly non-Arab country of Cyprus.



  • Baker, Randall. King Husain and the Kingdom of Hejaz. Cambridge and New York, 1979. The only published study to date of Ḥusayn, concentrating on his relations with the British.
  • Kedourie, Elie. In the Anglo-Arab Labyrinth: The McMahon-Husayn Correspondence and Its Interpretations (updated ed.). London, 2000. The most thorough study of the Ḥusayn–McMahon negotiations and their historical and bureaucratic contexts.
  • Ochsenwald, William. Religion, Society, and the State in Arabia: The Hijaz under Ottoman Rule, 1840–1908. Columbus, Ohio, 1984. The best study to date of the Hejazi society, politics, and economy inherited by Ḥusayn from the Ottomans.
  • Paris, Timothy J.Britain, the Hashemites and Arab Rule, 1920–1925: The Sherifian Solution. Routledge, 2003.
  • Teitelbaum, Joshua. The Rise and Fall of the Hashemite Kingdom of the Hijaz. New York University Press, 2001.

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