Table of contents
Izzedeen al-Qassam biography (Palestinian Journeys)
Izzeddin al-Qassam was born in the town of Jabla, south of the Syrian city of Latakiya.
His father was Abd al-Qadir, his mother was Halima Qassab, his brother was Fakhr al-Din, and his sister was Nabiha. He had four half-brothers (through his father): Ahmad, Mustafa, Kamil, and Sharif.
He and his wife, Amina Na‘nu‘, had three daughters—Khadija, Aisha, and Maimana—and one son, Muhammad.
He completed his elementary education in his hometown at his father’s elementary school (kuttab). At age fourteen he travelled to Cairo to attend the lectures given at al-Azhar Mosque by its most distinguished teachers, including the great reformer Shaykh Muhammad Abdu.
Having obtained the Ahliyya diploma, he returned to Jabla in 1903, where he succeeded his father in running the kuttab and teaching the basics of reading and writing, Qur’an memorization, and some modern subjects.
While he was in Egypt, a rebellion against the British occupation was led by Ahmad Urabi, an Egyptian army officer; it was unsuccessful. Qassam was deeply affected by the nationalist turmoil, as well as by the calls for reform, the maintenance of national unity, self-reliance, and resistance to foreign occupation.
Qassam became the imam of the Mansuri Mosque in Jabla and won people’s respect through his sermons, lectures, and personal conduct. His reputation spread to neighboring regions.
After the Italian attack on Libya in 1911, Qassam called for aiding the Arab people of Libya through demonstrations and volunteering to fight on their side. He was among the first to join the revolt against French occupation on the Syrian coast in 1919–20 and fought valiantly against the French in the mountains surrounding the Citadel of Salah al-Din (Qal‘at Salah al-Din) north of Latakiya. Aware that he posed a threat to their control, the French authorities sentenced him to death.
In late 1920, Qassam, his family, and some companions sought refuge in the city of Haifa where he worked as a teacher in the Burj secondary school established by the Muslim Society, which was in charge of Islamic waqf in the district of Haifa. He then began to give religious lessons in the Istiqlal Mosque built by that same society, where his sermons excited much attention. A few years later he became imam and preacher of that mosque and founded a night school to offer adult literacy classes.
Qassam took part in founding a branch of the Society of Muslim Youth in Haifa and in July 1928, he was elected its president. That society was effective in spreading national consciousness among youth and men and in drawing them into its ranks.
In 1930, Qassam was appointed a religious official (ma’dhun) by the Shari‘a Court in Haifa. In this capacity, he traveled through the villages of the Galilee and got to know the people who lived there, all of which increased his reputation.
Qassam followed closely the growing menace of Zionism as a result of British support of the “Jewish National Home,” and he became convinced that Britain was the root cause of the problem and that only armed struggle could restrain the Zionist project. In his view, this could only be accomplished through sincerity of faith; abandonment of all party affiliation and family loyalty; cooperation; sacrifice; commitment to secrecy; and strict organization and timing. He combined this with a particular compassion toward the poor and those with very low income, and he sought continuously to improve their lot in life. He drew into his circle an ever increasing number of countryside inhabitants and elderly who migrated to Haifa to work in its port, industries and refinery, living in miserable suburbs to the east of the city. Many of them had been forced off their lands when these passed into Jewish hands.
Qassam was reluctant to declare jihad against British colonialism before his preparations were completed. However, the flood of mass Jewish immigration in the early 1930s, the increasing level of surveillance over his activities by the authorities, and his apprehension of a pre-emptive move against him all led him to declare jihad on the night of 12 November 1935 in Haifa. Along with eleven companions, he took to the forests of the village of Ya‘bad in the district of Jenin, where for six hours they fought a much larger British force on 20 November. Shaykh Qassam and four of his men were killed, and the others were wounded or captured.
In mourning, Haifa declared a general strike on 21 November 1935. All shops and restaurants closed their doors and thousands turned out to bid farewell to the fallen martyr and his companions in the largest funeral procession ever seen in that city.
Qassam was buried in the cemetery of Balad al-Shaykh in the Haifa district.
Izzeddin al-Qassam is regarded as the most venerable figure of Palestinian jihad, a source of inspiration for Palestinian resistance for succeeding generations. His assassination was to a large extent instrumental in igniting the Great Palestinian Rebellion (1936–39).
حموده، سميح. “الوعي والثورة: دراسة في حياة وجهاد الشيخ عز الدين القسّام”. ط 2. القدس: جمعية الدراسات العربية، 1986.
الحوت، بيان نويهض. “القيادات والمؤسسات السياسية في فلسطين 1917-1948. بيروت: مؤسسة الدراسات الفلسطينية، 1981.
دروزة، محمد عزة. “مذكرات محمد عزة دروزة: سجل حافل بمسيرة الحركة العربية والقضية الفلسطينية خلال قرن من الزمن” (خمسة مجلدات). بيروت: دار الغرب الإسلامي، 1993.
عودة، زياد. “من رواد النضال في فلسطين 1929- 1948”. عمان: دار الجليل للنشر والدراسات والأبحاث الفلسطينية، 1987.
“الموسوعة الفلسطينية”، القسم العام، المجلد الثالث. دمشق: هيئة الموسوعة الفلسطينية، 1984.
نافع، بشير موسى. “الشيخ عز الدين القسّام: مصلح وقائد ثورة“. “حوليات القدس”، العدد 14، خريف- شتاء 2012، ص 6- 21.
نويهض، عجاج. “رجال من فلسطين”. بيروت: منشورات فلسطين المحتلة، 1981.
Abdul Hadi, Mahdi, ed. Palestinian Personalities: A Biographic Dictionary. 2nd ed., rev. and updated. Jerusalem: Passia Publication, 2006.
A Scholar for Soldiers – Abdullah Ladadwi – Islam21c
On an early morning in the hills of Ya’bad, a man stood facing hundreds of guns as foul as those pointing them.
“Surrender yourselves!” a voice calls.
“No,” the man tells his soldiers, “We will never surrender. Open fire and die as martyrs.”
There, in the face of tyranny, the man would fight his last fight. Defiant. Constant. Fearless.
A swift warm breeze brushes through his beard, made white from hardship.
“Here it is,” he whispers, “My jihād has come at last.”
The sound of a bullet penetrates the silence, then fades slowly, echoing through the barren hills of Jerusalem.
A lifeless body is carried through the streets and lowered into the soil of a land treasured beyond measure. Thousands of mourners covering more than five kilometres follow behind. Forcing their way past police lines, they follow the vessel of a man who gave away his wealth so that others might benefit from it; a man who dedicated his life to learning to spread knowledge to others, and sacrificed his own life so that others may live. The procession follows him in death as they followed him in life, never forsaking the man who possessed every characteristic of a faithful and true believer.
In the weeks that follow, peasant guerrilla bands and urban commandos led by Qassamiyun spring up across Palestine.
The 1936 uprising had begun.
“Let there be a group among you who call [others] to goodness, encourage what is good, and forbid what is evil— and it is they who will be successful.”
Muhammad ‘Izz ad-Din ibn Abdul al-Qadar al-Qassam was born in 1882 in Jebla, situated in the Latakia district in modern-day Syria. Born to a house established on Islamic principles, he was raised on the moral and religious grounds of Islam. His father owned a centre in which he taught Qur’ān, and al-Qassam was nurtured in the mosques and Islamic institutes of the city. He studied in an Islamic school until the age of 14, where he learned Qur’ān and studied prophetic traditions. He also mastered the Arabic language and how to read and write sufficiently well.
In 1902, he travelled to Cairo and became a student at the al-Azhar University, where he studied under Sheikh Muhammad ‘Abduh, an experience given prominence in many of the contemporary biographical sketches of al-Qassam. From a young age, al-Qassam encouraged and practised self-sufficiency, one of the many moral elements he mastered along with humility, courage, asceticism, and willingness to sacrifice for a cause. This shows in the story relayed by al-Tanukhi, a close friend of al-Qassam at al-Azhar:
“We were studying at al-Azhar together and were short of money. I asked the Sheikh, ‘What will we do for funds?’” Al-Qassam asked al-Tanukhi if he had any specific abilities, and al-Tanukhi replied that he could cook nammoura, an Arab dessert. He then told al-Tanukhi to make the dessert, which he would then sell. Al-Tanukhi’s father, who was visiting Cairo at the time, passed by the university and saw them selling the food. He curiously asked what they were doing, and al-Tanukhi, embarrassed, replied, “This is what al-Qassam told me to do,” to which his father replied, “He taught you to be self-sufficient.”
Al-Qassam lived in Egypt for nine years. Then, with all his knowledge, he went back to his hometown and became a preacher in the Great Mansouri Mosque. He taught children in the day and adults at night, dedicating his time to spreading awareness and knowledge, and determined to exert himself as much as possible to the service of Islam. Al-Qassam undertook an Islamic revival in Jebla based upon the conscientious practice of religious obligations combined with orthodox voluntary practices. His unique teaching methods and insistence on piety, accompanied by a good sense of humour, made him popular, specifically among the youth.
For example, to illustrate the theme of one of his sermons on ‘He who remembers his Lord and he who does not are like the living and the dead,’ al-Qassam encouraged his disciples to grab a villager who did not pray, place him in a coffin, and carry him around Jebla. Acquaintances of al-Qassam, as well as his disciples and members of his family, described him as a man who was always smiling and laughing. Sheikh Nimr, a student of his in Haifa, described him as “an intensely active man but with a child-like charm,” adding that al-Qassam “laughed like a child, spoke with the simplicity of a child, and was a warm and impulsive person.” His wife attributed his good humour to a complete confidence and trust in Allāh: “At the worst times, he would always laugh and tell us not to worry.”
Stories still circulate in Jebla of al-Qassam’s humility and the profound simplicity in which he lived. One of these stories mentions a time when an important official came to the town to meet al-Qassam, only to find him sharing a simple lunch with a worker at the communal hammām (public bath). ‘Izzat Darwaza, leader of the Istiqlal party described him as such: “His face was illuminated by an inner light. He was a man lacking in arrogance or self-love. He was open and available to all of the people, and the people loved him. He lived the life of a mujāhid.”
Al-Qassam devoted himself to moral reform, endlessly encouraging the community to keep regular prayers, maintain the obligatory fast, and strive to eradicate gambling and consumption of alcohol. His campaign was successful, so much so that those among the townspeople who were not previously notably practicing became either reformed or began to conform to Sharī’a standards in public. Due to his acquisition of moral authority from the Turkish authorities responsible for the district, al-Qassam was able to call upon the police in the rare cases of flagrant violations against the Sharī’a standards of the town. On a few occasions when he heard that there were mule trains smuggling alcohol through the district, al-Qassam sent out his disciples to intercept the caravans and destroy all contraband. It is said that the religious revival in al-Qassam’s Jebla reached such a point of Sharī’a legislation that the women would go out into the market on a Friday at noon unveiled, assured that they would not encounter any man, as they were all at the Jumu’a prayer.
The Italian invasion of Libya was a crucially important episode in al-Qassam’s early career and activism; the beginning of the ideological impulses that later shaped his world. His response to the event was not limited to a mere supportive prayer, but instead he responded by recruiting volunteers and raising funds to the aid of the Libyan liberation struggle. He used his status as a respected preacher to urge his people to help the Libyans suffering from the occupation. He also led several demonstrations in Jebla under the banner:
“يا رحيم يا رحمان أنصر مولانا السلطان وأكسر الاعداء الايطاليين“
“Oh Allāh, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious, grant our Muslim Sultan victory and defeat our Italian enemies!”
Al-Qassam soon decided that fundraising for jihād against the Italians was not sufficient. In June 1912, while preaching the Friday sermon at the al-Adham mosque in Jebla, he called for volunteers for jihād. Many townspeople came forward, but only those who received previous military training with the Ottomans were accepted. He then raised funds to finance the expedition and provide a modest pension for the families of the mujāhidīn for the duration of their absence. Accompanied by a number of anywhere between 60 and 250 mujāhidīn, al-Qassam made his way to Alexandretta (İskenderun). There, he was expecting provision and transport to Libya via Alexandria from the Ottoman authorities. He and his men waited there for over a month, then were eventually ordered by the Ottoman authorities to return to Syria. This was because the new government in Istanbul was occupied by the close threat of a war in the Balkans. Thus, they hastily made peace terms with Italy in 1912, whose terms included refusal of transport to potential mujāhidīn.
They returned to Syria grief-stricken that they could not fight alongside their brothers in Libya. They used part of the money raised for the aborted expedition to build a school, and the rest they set aside, which was later used in the eruption of the First World War.
“Allāh has indeed purchased from the believers their lives and wealth in exchange for Paradise.”
In 1914, al-Qassam enlisted to fight with the Ottoman army.
He was sent to a camp south of Damascus. There, he received his training and remained as chaplain, assigned to the garrison. Among the chaos of the Ottoman collapse in the Arab East, and with British forces in Syria as well as French build-ups in Lebanon, al-Qassam returned to his hometown of Jebla and initiated military training for every able-bodied man. He then sold his house in Jebla. With the proceeds of the sale, as well as the money left over from the failed jihād in Libya and donations from local landowners, he purchased arms for the Jebla militia and prepared himself for jihād. First, they fought the Alawite bands that had emerged from the mountains and had begun to occupy the orchards and farmland outside of Jebla. These Alawites had been encouraged by the French to stand against the Sunni communities of the Latakia districts, no doubt as part of the destabilising manoeuvre prior to French occupation.
By the end of the First World War, most of the Syrian-Lebanese coastal area, as well as the greater part of Northern Syria including Ladhiqiyya and the Alawite region, came under French occupation. Engaged in negotiations with their British allies over the future of the Arab Ottoman provinces, the French refused to consider or even recognise the Arabs’ demands for unity. Hence, until its eventual demise in 1920, the Damascus government extended control over only the interior of Syria.
A descendent of the Crusaders, the hostile French general Henri Gouraud entered Syria and kicked the grave of Saladin in Damascus, claiming that the Crusaders had returned to take their revenge and finally gain victory. Though dated back six or seven centuries prior, the Crusaders never forgot how Saladin defeated them, forcing them to leave the Levant. As a man overwhelmed by his keenness to fight in the path of Allāh, al-Qassam refused to tolerate any humiliation of Islam or accept any actions that demeaned it. In response to this humiliation against Saladin, as well as the French occupation, Arab patriots, including al-Qassam, took to the forests, mountains, and orchards of Northern Syria, where they established bases of resistance.
Al-Qassam’s group, which was based in the village of Zanqufa, consisted mainly of his disciples and a handful of relatives. During this time, al-Qassam seized the opportunity to introduce his followers to a combined religious and military training regimen, which implanted a strong sense of jihād within them. Each month, he would teach his men a new verse from the Qur’ān, helping them to commit the verse to memory and thoroughly explaining its meaning. But the overall position of the mujāhidīn began deteriorating as the French increasingly consolidated their hold on the district, specifically due to the large population of pro-French Alawites. Landowners who were either serving with al-Qassam or funding the mujāhidīn from Jebla were put under severe pressure by the French to either pay their taxes or lose their property. This caused major division, which led to quarrels in the village mosque where the mujāhidīn and their supporters met. Al-Qassam, who was greatly upset by the feud, understood that the French were succeeding in their attempt to spread corruption and divide the Muslims. Keen on preventing any discord among his Muslim brothers, he famously declared, “We are here to fight the French, not to quarrel among each other.” This statement shows that al-Qassam was indeed a righteous person, as the true believers support one another and strengthen the bond of unity among them. True believers denounce sectarianism and the creation of divisions within the Dīn, and instead adhere to the Qur’ān and the practices of the Prophet.
Regrettably, the landowning fighters abandoned al-Qassam, which left only the poor mujāhidīn remaining. He and his men left their post and moved towards Aleppo. There, they fought under the command of Ibrahim Hananu, who had been fighting French forces in Northern Syria since the San Remo conference, which had repudiated the Arab’s demands for an independent Arab kingdom and instead awarded France the mandate for all of the Levant, excluding only Palestine.
On alert for any developing resistance, the French sent a delegation to negotiate with al- Qassam, offering him land, position, and money. He sternly declined their offer, refusing to accept any form of bribery from the enemies of Islam. The Syrians remained defiant for two years after the initial occupation, up until the great battle that took place near Damascus, which was consequently seized following the martyrdom of Yusuf al-Azma. Upon invading the Levant, the French divided it into four major sections: the Damascus state, the Aleppo state, the Alawite state (in the Latakia), and the Druze state, located near the Mountain of the Druze. These four states were formed in an attempt to divide the Muslims, thus making it easier for the invaders to control them in accordance to their ancient rule of ‘divide and conquer’; a strategy which, unfortunately, has been proven to be effective in many Islamic states. Following the fall of Damascus, the French military court sentenced Sheikh ‘Izz ad-Din to death, which forced him to flee the French-occupied Syria. Accompanied by a few of his relatives and disciples, al-Qassam travelled to Palestine.
“The believers, both men and women, are guardians of one another…”
Al-Qassam arrived in Haifa, Palestine in 1921.
From this point onwards, what is significant in the story of al-Qassam was his total commitment to Palestine, which became his home. His sight was now focused on serving its people and ensuring the survival of its future. He dedicated his time and efforts towards serving its farmers and peasants by setting up night schools for its illiterate casual labourers, as well as raising funds for the unemployed to help them start a new working life. Holding the position of preacher at al-Istiqlal mosque (the biggest mosque on the inlet from the Mediterranean Sea), al-Qassam mixed with delinquents, as well as social and religious outcasts, seeking to rehabilitate them. He faced no difficulty in establishing a new life in Palestine, where he lived with his wife and children in the Old Quarter of Haifa.
Though many people believe al-Qassam to have been Palestinian, it is imperative to recognise that he was not. Truly righteous Muslims do not give importance to nationality, nor is their desire to aid one another limited by artificial, geographical, or political borders. Al-Qassam gave no importance to nationalism, but sought to unite the Muslims under the only banner that mattered: the banner of Islam. He was described as a man “uninfected by the nationalist disease” and sensitive to what he perceived as backwardness and moral debasement among the Muslims. He firmly emphasised that the only possible way in which Muslims could progress and liberate themselves from foreign oppression and occupation would be through the revival of Islam.
Al-Qassam would study the men who seemed most concentrated in their prayers and invocations, and most responsive to his preaching. He would visit them in their homes and award them with further discussion and observation. Invariably, these men were mostly illiterate and without formal education: railway and construction workers, artisans, stevedores, and shopkeepers. He formed them into dozens of circles, each circle unknown to the other, where he taught them to read by using the Qur’ān as text. Meanwhile, he preached to them their duty towards, and the inevitability of, jihād. Many of his followers were in fact former tenants recently driven off their land by exclusion policies of the Jewish National Fund, or by their inability to meet the demands of rising rents in the land boom stimulated by continuous Zionist purchases.
“Do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them; those will have a great punishment.”
For 15 years, al-Qassam worked day and night enlightening the people of Haifa and its neighbouring villages of the great danger that threatened their existence: the oppressive British mandate forces, whom, with the Balfour declaration in hand, gave exclusive permission to Jewish colonists to settle in Palestine. Al-Qassam recognised this as a perilously menacing act, and strived to make people aware of it. This proved to be difficult, as many Palestinians welcomed and celebrated the British troops that had entered Palestine when it was mandated to Britain. This was due to the famous reputation of the British at that time, which was that they were a civilised and tolerant people, especially when compared with the barbaric and brutal practices of the French forces. Heedless of their true intentions, the Palestinians believed that the British would enlighten them and spread knowledge, bringing them modern technology and solving their problems with contemporary solutions. Behind closed doors, however, the British had already collaborated with the French to divide the Arab colonies between them — a division accomplished as the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Al-Qassam warned his people about the British and to be wary of their sly intentions, not to be taken in by their sugar-coated words and empty promises. He also warned them about the colonial settlers, as he foresaw that their emigration to Palestine would result in them usurping the land. Several Arabs ignored his warnings, regarding the Jewish settlers as guests and welcoming them as people of the Scripture. An example of such ideologies was published in the Makkan newspaper Al-Qiblah in 1918, in an article where Arabs were urged to welcome the Jewish migrants, and to be friendly and hospitable towards them.
Al-Qassam was just and equitable in all aspects of his life. He never gave false testimony, nor was he willing to hide evidence for fear of his own safety. He devoted his life to striving against what was false and deceptive, doing everything in his power to eradicate all oppressive practices. He gathered forces and spent several years fighting the Zionist and British colonisers in Palestine, intent on freeing the Holy Land from occupation.
“Among the believers are men who have proven true to what they pledged to Allāh. Some of them have fulfilled their pledge with their lives, others are waiting their turn. They have never changed their commitment in the least.”
Sheikh al-Qassam and his companions proceeded to Ain Jalut, the valley where the Muslims won against the Mongol invasion several centuries prior. In this location, he delivered his last call: “In the name of Allāh, on this blessed day we announce our revolution against the British occupation.” Meanwhile, the British forces gathered 400 soldiers and began canvasing the area to locate al-Qassam.
They hunted him and a dozen of his fighters for 10 days, eventually surrounding them in a cave near Ya’bad.
There, on the 20th of November, 1935, he was assassinated, aged 52.
His defiance and the manner of his death electrified the Palestinian people, and his death became a major contributing factor to the 1936-1939 Palestinian revolt.
An obituary was published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram following al-Qassam’s death, eulogising him as a martyr with the following statement:
“I heard you preaching from up in the pulpit, summoning to the sword … Through your death, you are more eloquent than you ever were in life.”
His body lies buried in Haifa.
The life and thought of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam – The Islamic Quarterly
Consider ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam as a man of many facets, as a living rebuttal of the schematic division of Islam; of `Sufi indifference to activism’, or `salifiyya indifference to dhikr’. Consider ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam in terms of the reintegration of the Modern Muslim Personality.
On November 21, 1935 a three-column wide front-page headline in the Jerusalem Post announced that a British constable had been killed and another injured in a battle with Arab gunmen near Jenin. The gunmen were described as “bandits” and “brigands” in the headline and in the body- of the story.“1”
According to the official statement issued by the British authorities and quoted in full by the Post: “Among the bandits known to have been killed were: Sheikh Izz-ed-Din al Qassam . . . who disappeared from his house in Haifa early this month and was the organiser of the band”. “2”
Both British and Zionist intelligence circles were in fact better
informed. They knew Sheikh ‘Izz-ed-Din was the President of the Young
Men’s Moslem Association, a popular khatib (preacher) at the Istiqlal
mosque near the Haifa railroad yards, and a roving mathun (marriage
registrar) for the Haifa shari’a court. Al-Qassam had been under
surveillance, had been brought in for questioning, and had been
cautioned against his habit of publicly preaching jihad against both the
British occupation and the Zionist colonisation over the preceding
decade. He was also suspected of having organised a series of
clandestine armed attacks against Jewish settlers and British officials
in and around Haifa beginning in the early 1930’s, but the authorities
did not prosecute him, for lack of evidence.“3”
Al-Qassam however was convinced that his arrest was imminent and could jeopardise the secret organisation he had carefully built over the previous decade. Taking only twelve of the men in Haifa most openly identified with him, he moved up into the mountains near Ya’bud between Nablus and Jenin early in November. After one of his patrols had killed a Jewish policeman serving in the British force in an accidental encounter, he divided his group to better evade the inevitable pursuit.
But al-Qassam’s group was discovered and surrounded by a large force of British police and soldiers. Called upon to surrender, al-Qassam told his men to die as martyrs and he opened fire. AI-Qassam’s defiance and the manner of his death (which seemed to stun the traditional leadership) electrified the Palestinian people. Thousands forced their way past police lines at the funeral in Haifa and the secular Arab nationalist parties envoked his memory as the symbol of resistance. Five months later, a band of mujahidin, led by one of
al-Qassam’s companions in the flight from Haifa, ambushed a group of Jewish travellers in northern Palestine. In the weeks that followed, peasant guerilla bands and urban commandos led by other Qassamiyun sprang up across Palestine. The 1936 Uprising had begun.“4”
‘Izz-ed-Din Ibn Abdul-Qadar Ibn Mustapha Ibn Yusuf Ibn Muhammed al-Qassam was born in Jebla in the Latakia district of Syria in 1882 (1300 AH).“5”
His grandfather and grand-uncle were prominent sheikhs of the Qadari tariqa who came to jebla from Iraq. His father, Abdul Qadar, held a post with the shari’s court during Turkish rule but was better known as the murshid of the Qadari tariqa in Jebla.“6”
However, Sheikh Abdul-Malik al-Qassam, nephew of al-Qassam and the Imam of a mosque in Jebla, says that Abdul Qadar also followed the Naqshabandiya tariqa, which was to play a noticeably militant role in resisting colonial conquest in 19th century Syria, as well as in India, Turkestan and in the Caucasus, while reaffirming the Shari’a orthodoxy of the turuq. “7”
Al-Qassam, who followed the Hanifi school of juris-prudence, studied as a boy with a well-known `alien from Beirut, Sheikh Selim Tayyarah, who had settled in Jebla and taught there at the Istambuli Mosque. Shortly after the turn of the century, al-(Zassam left Jebla for Cairo to study at Al Azhar.“8”
According to some of his Arab biographers as well as some of his disciples and acquaintances in Haifa, al-Qassam studied under Sheikh Muhammed `Abdu while he was at Al Azhar. The extent of his study with `Abdu at Al Azhar is as indeterminate as the date of his departure from Jebla for Cairo. All reports agree he returned as an ‘alien from A1 Azhar in 1909. ‘Abdu died in 1905, and al-Qassam left Jebla for A1 Azhar either in 1902“9” or in 1904.“10” However significant the experience, it is given prominence in many of the contemporary Arab biographical sketches of al-Qassam, to the exclusion of any of the other more certain influences upon his life.“11”
His oldest follower, Muhammed Hanifi, who became al-Qassam’s disciple
a few years after the Sheikh’s return from AI Azhar, confirms reports
of his study with ‘Abdu, and says the Sheikh also talked of having met
Rashid Rida in Cairo, but never mentioned al-Afghani to him in any
context that he could recall.
Yet the two accounts which are directly based on the recollections of ‘Izz-id-Din ‘Alam-id-Din at-Tanukhi, al-Qassam’s classmate and close friend at Al Azhar, make no mention of al-Qassam studying or meeting with either ‘Abdu or Rida“12”.
AI-Qassam first met and befriended at-Tanukhi, the son of a Damascus notable, at A1 Azhar. Many years later, after the death of al-Qassam, he was to tell al-Qassam’s son Muhammed of the lesson he learned from the Sheikh. “We were studying in Al Azhar together and we were short of money. I asked the Sheikh, `What do we do now for funds?”‘ The Sheikh asked atTanukhi what he could do and at-Tanukhi said he could cook nammourah, an Arab sweet. Al-Qassam told at-Tanukhi to cook the sweets and he would sell them. At-Tanukhi’s father was visiting Cairo at the time and passing by Al Azhar he saw them together selling the sweets and asked his son what he was doing. At-Tanukhi answered with some embarrassment, “This is what al-Qassam told me to do”, and his father replied, “He taught you to be self-sufficient”.“13”
The story is instructive for it is the earliest of many anecdotes in
which Qassam practises and encourages the practice of self-sufficiency
as one of the moral elements along with humility, courage, and
asceticism for training in thabit (steadfastness) which was
also understood by his disciples to mean the willingness to sacrifice
and the practice of moral-ethical behaviour.
While many of the anecdotes reflect the zuhd (ascetic) practices and training methods of the earliest Sufis, they were also understood by some of his disciples in an almost al-Afghani sense of “willingness to sacrifice for the cause .“13” al-Qassam was sensitive to what he perceived as the backwardness and moral debasement of the Muslims of his day and he believed that the only way the Muslims could liberate themselves from the foreign occupation (that was to become all but universal after World War One) and to progress (tagaddum ) would be by the revival of Islam.“14”.
When al-Qassam returned to Jebla he began teaching at a school maintained the Qadari tariga. In addition to the disciplines of tasawwuf, al-Qassam ded instruction in Quran, its commentary and jurisprudence. He also served as Imam at the Ibrahim Ibn Adham mosque in Jebla.“15” al-Qassam still considered himself a follower of the Qadari tariqa.“16” But when he returned to Jebla to visit the tombs of his father, grandfather and grand uncle.“17”
Perhaps this is what the salifi Sheikh at-Tantawi (or his source, at-Tanukhi) -neans when he writes that al-Qassam “took the useful and good things in it [the Qadari tariga] and what was derived from the Quran and the Sunna and left what aroused his suspicion”.“16”
Al-Qassam undertook an Islamic revival in Jebla based upon the conscientious practice of religious obligations and orthodox voluntary practices. To illustrate the theme of one of his sermons, that the Muslim who does not pray ;: a dead man (which suggests as its text the hadith, “He who remembers His I-ord and he who does not are like the living and the dead”.),” he encouraged his disciples to grab a villager who did not pray, put him in a coffin, and carry him around Jebla.“18”
The incident also illustrates how al-Qassam’s insistence on piety was accompanied by good humour. His disciples, members of his family and acquaintances describe al-Qassam as a man who was always smiling or laughing. Sheikh Nimr, who was a student of al-Qassam’s in Haifa, describes him as “an intensely active man but with a child-like charm. He laughed like a child, spoke with the simplicity of a child and was a warm and impulsive person”. His family attributed his good humour to a complete trust and confidence in God. “At the worst times he would always laugh and tell us not to worry”.“19”One story that still circulates in Jebla is how an important official came to the town to meet al-Qassam, only to find him, to his great shock, eating a simple lunch with the fireman at the communal hamaam (public bath).“20” Similar stories circulate about his later life in Haifa, where he lived simply and with the poor in a society rapidly dividing along the strict class lines of a modern industrial city, although he was a salaried official of the waqf. ‘Izzat Darwaza, a leader of the Istiqlal Party, who met al-Qassam several times during this later period in his life, described him in this manner:
|His face was illuminated by an inner light. He was a man lacking in arrogance or selflove. He was open and available to all of the people and the people loved him. And he lived the life of a mujahid.“21”
Al-Qassam devoted himself to moral reform, encouraging the community to keep regular prayer, to maintain the Ramadan fast, and to stop gambling and drinking. His campaign was so successful that those among the townspeople who were not noticeably pious either reformed or began to conform to shari’a standards in public. Because al-Qassam had acquired moral authority with the Turkish authorities responsible for the district, he was able to call upon the police in the case of rare but flagrant violations to enforce Shari’a standards within the town. On a few occasions when he heard that mule trains were moving alcohol through the district he sent out his disciples to intercept the caravans and destroy the contraband.“22”
The religious revival in Jebla reached such a point that the women would go out into the market unveiled on Friday at noon, certain they would encounter no man on the streets, since every male in Jebla was at prayer. “23”
The family of his classmate at-Tanukhi had been exiled to Turkey by the Ottoman authorities for suspected Arab nationalist activities and by this time at-Tanukhi was studying in Paris. When at-Tanukhi’s mother died, al-Qassam travelled to Turkcy to visit the family and according to Hanafi, he took over the responsibility of sending at-Tanukhi money to continue his studies.
But there are no indications that al-Qassam himself was ever involved in the anti-Ottoman Arab national movement. His behaviour and the Turkish assessment would indicate that he was a loyal subject. In September 1911 the Italians invaded Tripolitania (Libya). Al-Qassam began to preach jihad, took up a collection in Jebla to support the combined Turkish-Libyan forces fighting the Italians, and composed a chant for the townspeople:
Unsur Maulana as-Sultan
Wa ksur a’ada ita al-Italiyan
(Oh Most Merciful, Oh Most Compassionate
Make our Lord the Sultan victorious
And defeat our enemy the Italian .)“23”
The governor of Jebla attempted to take control of the fund raising away from al-Qassam; when the townspeople continued to contribute to al-Qassam, the governor accused the Sheikh of plotting against the Ottomans, but an official investigation vindicated al-Qassam and resulted in the discharge of the local governor.
Exonerated by the authorities, al-Qassam soon became convinced that fund raising for the jihad against Italy was not sufficient. In June 1912, while preaching the Friday sermon at Jama’at as-Sultan Ibrahim al-Adham mosque in Jebla, al-Qassam called for volunteers for jihad against the Italians. Many twonsmen volunteered, but he only accepted those who already had military training with the Ottomans, and he again raised funds to finance the expedition and to provide a modest pension to the families of the mujahidan during their absence. Accompanied by anywhere from 60 to 250 mujahidin,“24” al-Qassam went to Alexandretta (Iskandarun), expecting the Ottoman authorities to provide them with sea transport to Libya via Alexandria, the same route used by Anwar Pasha, Aziz al-Masri and Abdul Rahman Azzam, who had already made their way to Libya to participate in the jihad against the Italians in Tripolitania.
In Alexandretta, al-Qassam and the mujahidin waited for more than month. Finally they were ordered by the Ottoman authorities to return to Jebla. A new government in Instanbul, mobilising to meet the closer threat of a war in the Balkans, had abandoned the struggle in Libya and had come to hasty terms with Italy in mid-October 1912.“25”
Some of the money raised for the aborted expedition was used to build
a school. The rest was put aside and when World War One broke out,
al-Qassam volunteered for service in the Ottoman army. In Shawish’s
words, “He was not infected by the nationalist disease”. Although ‘ulama
enrolled in the Ottoman army were usually offered assignment in their
local town or village to register recruits, al-Qassam refused this offer
and requested a military assignment. He was sent to a camp south of
Damascus where he received his training and remained as a chaplain
assigned to the garrison.
In the chaos of the Ottoman collapse in the Arab East, with British forces in Syria and French build-up in Lebanon, al-Qassam returned to Jebla and initiated military training for every able-bodied man in the town. With the fund put aside from the Tripolitania jihad, the proceeds from the sale of his property, and donations from local landowners, al-Qassam purchased arms for the Jebla militia.“26”
Jebla was part of the “Blue Zone’ or “Occupied Enemy Territory North” set aside the Allies for French occupation. From late 1918 through 1919 French forces moved into the zone and consolidated their positions, while the Arab national movement struggled on in Damascus to establish an independent Syrian kingdom for Amir Faisal.“27”
But the first battles fought by the Jebla militia were against Alawite bands that had come down from the mountains and had begun to occupy the orchards and farmland outside Jebla. According to Hanifi, the Alawites had been encouraged by the French to move against the Sunni communities in Latakia district as part of the destabilising manoeuvre prior to French occupation. “28” When the Alawites were driven out of the Jebla area, the French quickly moved in and al-Qassam took his closest disciples into the mountains and established a guerilla base near the village of Zanqufeh on Sahyoun Mountain. From there al-Qassam was able to harrass French forces and continue to train his men in tactics and in the doctrine of jihad. Each month al-Qassam would teach the men a new verse from the Quran, helping them commit the verse to memory and explaining its meaning, usually in the context of jihad, while maintaining the practice of dhikr according to Qadari practices.
A Sunni notable in the district, ‘Umar al-Bitar, had also taken to the mountains with armed followers to resist the French. He was killed in action and his followers joined forces with al-Qassam’s group, which the French in their communiques continued to treat as the guerilla band of ‘Umar al-Bitar. This is probably why several of the Arab biographers describe al-Qassam as serving with ‘LTmar al-Bitar, although al-Bitar’s unit had operated in a different sector . “29”
Although al-Qassam received reinforcements when Hanifi returned
to Jebla from a British prisoner of war camp and brought twenty-five more
townsmen with him to the mountains, the overall position of the mujahidin
deteriorated as the French increasingly consolidated their hold on the
district, with its large pro-French Alawite population.“30”
Important elements within the guerilla group, and in particular several large landowners who were either serving with al-Qassam or supporting the mujahidin with funds from Jebla and were now under severe pressure from the French to pay their taxes or lose their property, questioned the wisdom of trying to hold out any longer.
This division led to quarrels in the village mosque in the mountains where the mujahidin and their supporters met. Al-Qassam, who was disturbed by the bickering which he described as fitna (in the sense of subversion and trial), declared: “Ve are here to fight the French, not to quarrel among each other”.“31”
The effect of this experience would be reflected in Haifa when al-Qassam would again begin recruiting mujahidin but with much greater caution and a greater insistence on character, obedience and the willingness of his followers to sacrifice, fi sabil-Allah.
The landowners abandoned al-(Zassam. Only the poor among the mujahidin remained with him. His mountain base was in danger of imminent encirclement by the French. Finding himself increasingly isolated, al-Qassam abandoned his base and moved towards Aleppo. There he joined forces under the command of Ibrahim Bey Hananu, who had been raiding French forces in northern Syria since May 1920, a month after the San Remo Peace Conference which had repudiated the Arab national movement’s demand for an independent Arab kingdom and had awarded France the Mandate for all of Syria except Palestine.
In mid July 1920 French forces had pushed past resistance by Hananu’s fighting forces and occupied al-Shoghur Bridge on the road to Aleppo and were demanding (among other conditions in an ultimatum to King Faisal) that the government in Damascus punish the “criminals” resisting the French advance, or the French would march on Damascus.
Bs- now, Hananu’s group had disintegrated and al-Qassam accompanied by Hanifi and three other followers remaining from the Jebla and Sahyoun mountain campaign made their way to Damascus on the eve of the battle of Maisalun to see Amir Faisal and ask for arms to resume resistance. At-Tanukhi, back in Damascus and serving as a secretary to Amir Faisal, arranged the meeting and the Amir agreed to provide the Sheikh with fifty rifles. al-Qassam also met with Sheikh Abdul Qadar al-Maghrebi, a great alim of Damascus, and two othe sheikhs for advice. They described the situation in Syria as hopeless and advised al-Qassam to abandon the struggle. With the French army advancing on Damascus and a French military tribunal death sentence on his head for the Sahyoun mountain insurgency-, -al=Qassam decided to flee the capital. He and his men made their way back to Syria through French lines with false passports provided by at-Tantukhi and from there by boat to Tartous, then Beirut, finally reaching Palestine in 1921.
Al-Qassam was to settle in Haifa which was to become a centre of refuge for exiles from French-occupied Syria and Lebanon. A number of the leading exiles including al-Qassam joined the teaching staff of Haifa’s Madrassa Islamiya which maintained branches throughout the city and was supervised and supported by the Jamiat Islamiya, a waqf (foundation) financing and supervising schools and other Islamic institutions in the district. Supported and directed by Haifa’s Muslim notables, the Jamiat was a vehicle for communal self-support and expression for the Muslims of Haifa and the surrounding rural districts through the British Mandate period and an inevitable meeting ground for Islamic and Arab nationalist opposition to the Mandate.
This meeting ground was specifically salifi,“32” and most typified by the well known principal of the Madrassa Islamiya, the exiled Damascus notable, Arab nationalist and salifi sheikh, Kamal al-Qassab.“33” Al-Qassab was a friend of Rashid Rida and Shakib Arslan and he had played a major role in the short-lived United Syrian Kingdom. It was al-Qassab who rallied the Syrian National Congress to directly confront French claims in Syria in March 1920 and who inspired the people of Damascus to seize arms and march out of the city to meet French forces in the battle of Maisalun.
In the early 1920’s al-Qassab and al-Qassam became allies in a controversy some of the Palestinian ‘ulama. The controversy was sparked by their criticism of the custom in Haifa and its twin city, Acre, of Muslim mourners chanting the takbir (“Allahu Akbar”) and then the tahlil (“La ilaha il-Allah”) .out loud and listening to Quranic recitation while accompanying their dead in procession to the cemetery. Both al-Qassab and al-Qassam denounced the practice as bidaa (hateful innovation), according to the sunna of the Prophet. Sheikh Muhammed Subhi Khuzeiran al-Hanifi al-‘All, who was president of the shari’a court of Acre and the Mufti of Acre, Sheikh Abdullah al Jazzar, issued fatwa describing the practice as permitted. In the subsequent controvesy the Acre sheikhs denounced both al-Qassam and al-Qassab as wahhabiya heretics, a standard accusation in any polemic between the orthodox ‘ulama and the salifiya since the pre-modern doctrines of the Nejdi Sheikh Muhammed Abdul Wahhab (to which the reformist salifi doctrine bears a certain similarity) had been universally condemned as heresy by the sunni ‘ulama in the early 19th century. “34”
Al-Qassam and al-Qassab responded with a crushing pamphlet, Criticism and Declaration in Refutation of Khuzeiran’s Delusions, “35” quoting in their favour the views of the four schools of jurisprudence, with supporting With. They also reproduced fatwas they had taken from leading ‘ulama at Al Azhar and in Damascus condemning the popular practice and commending instead that God’s name be invoked in silence when following a funeral cortege in order not to distract the mourners from mediating with full concentration upon death.
Since al-Qassam’s name precedes al-Qassab’s on the pamphlet and al-Qassam was far better trained as an ‘alim (al-Qassab was a “strong man” in Damascus notable politics in his youth and only took up serious religious studies later in life, according to Shawish), we can assume the pamphlet was largely his work. The arguments that al-Qassam marshalled are so overwhelming that it is difficult to understand the motives of the Acre sheikhs. None of the many favourable fatwas collected in Cairo and Damascus by al-Qassam and al-Qassab for publication were taken from salifiya ‘ulamd but Shawish believes this was a tactical decision on the part of the authors. Al-Qassam and al-Qassab suggest in their pamphlet that the Acre sheikhs sought to “ingratiate themselves with the general public” by practising the bidaa. Here there may be a hint of professional job protection at work, for the lower ‘ulama frequently found employment as Quran reciters and professional mourners at popular funerals. Al-Qassam was also opposed to other popular innovations in the practice of Islam, such as the pilgrimage by women to the shrine of Khidr at the foothills of Mount Carmel to sacrifice sheep in gratitude for the recovery of a child from illness or a son’s graduation from school. After making sacrifice the women would perform tribal dances around the shrine. Al-Qassam preached in the mosques of Haifa against the practice and he called upon the people to sacrifice directly and secretly to God.“36”
These controversies concerning practices of popular religion
suggested to some observers at the periphery of al-Qassam’s jihad
movement that the salifi current was the abiding influence on his
thought. But the imperative for the reform of popular religious practice
and the revival of Islam in the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th
centuries was by no means exclusively Fundamentalist or Sal2f2. “37”
In the early 1920’s al-Qassam met the Algerian Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Malik al-‘Alami. He receives no mention in any of the published biographical accounts of al-Qassam, but both Shawish and at-Tantawi are aware of his existence though they identify him as Moroccan.
According to both Shawish and at-Tanukhi, it was Sheikh al-‘Alami who arranged permission for al-Qassam’s wife and daughters to leave Syria and join him in Palestine. Al-‘Alamihad called upon al-Qassam in Haifa and told him he had “some close friends” among the North African officers serving in the French army of the Levant occupying Syria who could intervene with the French authorities to secure the release of his family. Al-Qassam refused, saying he would trust in God and ask nothing of collaborators (Shawish’s version; “Unbelievers”, according to at-Tantawi). Sheikh al-‘Alami was pleased with this reply, according to at-Tantawi, and in both versions of the story, he arranged for family to be reunited. Neither Shawish nor at-Tantawi have anything more to say about Sheikh al-‘AIami.
1) At the time, the Jerusalem Post was a privately owned Jewish newspaper in Palestine that reflected the opinion of the moderate wing of the Zionist movement in Palestine.
2) Ibid., Nov. 21, 1935.
3) Tegart Papers, Reports 1937-1939 (copy available at the Institute of Palestine Studies, Beirut), Memo 17/12/37, pp.2-4, 7-8. Ben-Zion Dinur, ed. Seser Toldot Ha-Haganah, Vol.1, Book 2 (Tel Aviv: Marachot, 1956), pp. 449-453. A detailed if somewhat confused and exaggerated account of some of these same early operations appear in Adel Hassan Ghneim, “Thawrat al-Sheikh Izz-id-Din al-Qassam”, Shu’un Filastiniya, No. 6 (Jan. 1972), pp. 183-184. Also, see the generally accurate summary of al-Qassam’s public life and appreciation of his political achievements in A.W. Kayyali, Palestine: A Modern History (London: Croom Helm, n.d.), pp. 180-183, 229-230.
4) Tegart Papers, “Memo: Terrorism 1936-1937”, pp.iv-v (“… the old followers of Sheikh ‘Izzedin were no doubt the nucleus of the  rebel organisation. …”, united report on ‘Izzid-id-Din al-Qassam, DS 1262, pp.1-6. Dinur, op. cite. pp. 467-469. Zu’ayter Papers, Vol.7, diary entire, 20/11-, 21/11-, 8/12-, 9/12/1935 (n.p.). Kayyali, op. cit., pp. 180-198. Also, Sheikh Abu: Ibrahim al-Kabir Khalil Mohammed, private interview, amman, March 1974 (hereafter referred to as Abu Ibrahim al-Kabir). A small shopkeeper and in his seventies at the time of the interview, he had assumed command of the Haifa section of the Qassamiyun immediately upon the death of the Sheikh.
5) ‘According to biographical data on al-Qassamin the personal archives of Zuhayr Shawish (Shawish Papers, and private interview, Beirut, March 1974). Al-Qassam’s full name is Mohammed ‘Izzid-Din Bin Abdul Qadar Bin Mustapha al-Qassam. A similar version, but lacking “Bin Mustapha” occurs in the unpublished Mss. of Sheikh Mohammed Said Mustapha at-Tantawi, “AI-Alaam alIslam”, Ch. 23, p. 1. Both Shawish and at-Tantawi(private interview, Mecca, Nov.1976) cite as their mainsource of information ‘Izz-id-Din ‘Alam-id-Din at-Tanukhi ad-Damashqi, who was a close companion of al-Qassam at A1 Azhar. Poet, man of letters, and deputy chairman of the scientific Council in Damascus, Tanukhi was associated with the same Syrian Salafi circles including Zuhayr Shawish and Sheikh Mohammed at-Tantawi’s brother, Sheikh ‘Alt at-Tantawi. Shawish, an exiled leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, was publisher of the Islamic Publishing House (Beirut) at the time of the interview. Shawish also cites a (deceased) disciple, Abu Ibrahim as-Saghrir, as an additional source for his information on the Haifa period.
6) Shawish Papers; at-Tantawi, op. cit., pp. 1, 8; Sheikh Mohammed Hanifi, private interview, Damascus, February 1974. Hanifi is the oldest (95 in 1974) and closest disciple (surviving or not), by consensus of all the surviving disciples.
7) Imam Abdul-Malik al-Qassam (hereafter, Abdul-Malik), private interview, Jebla, February 1974. Albert Hourani, A Vision of History (Beirut: Khayats, 1961), pp.56-57. Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 127-129.
8) Haj Hassan al-Hafian, private interview, Jebla, February 1974 (94 years old), who served under al-Qassam against French occupation of Syria and fought with the Mujahidin in the Palestine 193639 Uprising after al-Qassam’s death.
11) Adel Hassan Ghneim, “Thawrat ash-Sheikh ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam, Shu’un Filastiniya, No. 6 (Jan. 1972), p.181; [‘Ali Abed Ibrahim] “Sheikh ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam”, At-Tala’i was al jamahir, Vol. 4, No. 48 (June 1975), p. 23. Neither of these authors indicates his source, and neither of them indicate elsewhere that they interviewed surviving disciples of al-Qassam. However, Ibrahim cites Ghneim as a source, and Ghneim cites a work by Sheikh Mohammed Nimr al-Khatib, Min athar anndkbar (Ghneim does not provide publication data). Sheikh Nimr was a leading figure in Haifa Islamic circles from the late 1930’s up until partition (1948) and also reports al-Qassam studied with ‘Abdo. (Personal interview, Beirut, February 1974).
12) Shawish Papers; at-Tantawi, op. cit.
13) Mohammed ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam, private interview, Jebla, February 1974. Born in Haifa seven years prior to his father’s death, Mohammed was teaching at the ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam government school in Jebla at the time of the interview.
14) Abu Ibrahim al-Kabir.
15) At-Tantawi, op. cit., Ch. 23, pp. 1-2.
16) At-Tantawi, op. cit., Ch. 23, p.8.
17) Bukhari and Muslim, Mishkat, Book IX, Ch. II.
18) Rashid ‘Ebu, private interview, Jebla, February 1974. As a young boy, ‘Ebu served as a courier for al-Qassam when he was in the mountains above Jebla fighting the French. After al-Qassam’s death he went to Palestine and participated in the 1938-39 Uprising.
19) Umm Mohammed al-Qassam, wife of’Izz-idDin al-Qassam, in her 90’s at the time of the inter view (Jebla, February 1974). Also, Mohammed al-Qassam, Hanifi, and all the other disciples interviewed.
20) Mohammed al-Qassam; Sheikh Nimr alKhatib.
21) Mohammed ‘Izzat Darwaza, private interview, Damascus, February 1974.
22) Ebu; Abdul-Malik.
24) Hanifi (who was not taken along by the Sheikh because he lacked military experience), for the lower figure; Shdwish Papers and at-Tantawi, for the higher figure.
25) At_Tantawi, op. cit., p. 2. Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, p. 224.
26) Hanifi; al-Hafian; ‘Ebu; at-Tantawi, op. cit., Ch. 23, pp. 4-5.
27) Zeine N. Zeine, The Struggle for Arab Independence (Beirut: Khyats, 1960), pp. 34-40; Stephen Longrigg, Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 74-76.
28) The only Alawite opposition to French authority came from a local brigand Sheikh, Sali al-‘Alt, who clashed with French forces in the Spring of 1921. By October 1921 Sali had surrendered (Longrigg, op. cit., pp.120-121; also, Shawish). According to all his disciples from the Sahyoun mountain period, al-Qassam never served with Sheikh Sali, although this is not apparently part of official Syrian Baathist history, and is reported by Ghneim, op. cit., p.181
29) Sharuish Papers and interview; al-Hafian; see Ghneim, p.181, for standard treatment of alQassam’s alleged service with ‘Umar al-Bitar.
30) Hanifi; Shawish Papers. Hanifi also served in the Ottoman army.
31) ‘Ebu; Abdul-Malik.
32) Shawish notes that the orthodox ‘Mama of Syria refused to register as “Syrian” and insisted on registering as “Ottoman” during the earliest years of French occupation. This is also confirmed by Farid Troublsi, great-nephew of Sheikh Abdul Qadar al-Maghrebi of Damascus.
33) Besides al-Qassab and al-Qassam, the faculty included such prominent Syrian exiles as Hani Abu Muslah and Rashid Bey Baydunus, according to al-Khatib.
34) SEI, s.v. “Wahhabiya”. According to Hanifi, Sheikh Khuzeiran had been a classmate of alQassam at A1 Azhar.
35) Muhammed ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam and Mohammed Kamel al-Qassab, Al naqd mal bayan ft dafa’ ‘awham Khuseiran (Damascus: the Authors, 1925).
36) Atif Nourallah, private interviews, Beirut, January and March, 1974. Nourallah’s uncle was a Haifa notable and a patron of al-Qassam.
37) Al-Khatib; Shawish; Nourallah. For reformist currents in the turuq and particularly the tijaniya, see Trimingham, Sufi Orders, pp. 106-110.