|Portrait of Zahir al-Umar by Ziad Daher Zedani, 1990|
|Governor of Sidon, Nablus, Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramla, Jaffa and Jabal Ajlun|
|Preceded by||Darwish Pasha al-Kurji (Sidon)|
|Succeeded by||Jezzar Pasha (Sidon)|
|Sheikh of Acre and All Galilee
Emir of Nazareth, Tiberias and Safad
|Succeeded by||Jezzar Pasha (Acre)|
|Multazem of Tiberias|
1730 – 1750s
|Preceded by||'Umar al-Zaydani|
|Succeeded by||Salibi al-Zahir|
|Multazem of Deir Hanna|
|Preceded by||Sa'd al-Umar|
|Succeeded by||Ali al-Zahir|
|Died||August 21, 1775
|Children||Salibi, Ali, Uthman, Sa'id, Ahmad, Salih, Sa'd al-Din, Abbas (surnames: al-Zahir)|
Zahir al-Umar al-Zaydani (alternatively spelled Dhaher al-Omar or Dahir al-Umar) (Arabic ظاهر آل عمر الزيداني Ẓāhir āl-ʿUmar az-Zaydānī, ca. 1690–21 August 1775) was the autonomous Arab ruler of northern Palestine during the mid-18th century, during the Ottoman era. For much of his reign, starting in the 1730s, his domain mainly consisted of the Galilee with Tiberias, Arraba, Nazareth, and Deir Hanna serving as successive headquarters, before he made Acre his seat of power in 1746. He fortified Acre and under his rule the city became a prosperous center of the cotton trade between Palestine and Europe. In the mid-1760s, he founded modern-day Haifa.
Zahir successfully withstood assaults and sieges by the governors of the Sidon and Damascus provinces, who sought to limit or eliminate his influence. He was often supported in these confrontations by the rural Shia Muslim clans of Lebanon. In 1771, in alliance with Ali Bey al-Kabir of Egypt and backed by the Russian Empire, he captured Sidon, while Ali Bey's forces conquered Damascus, both acts in open defiance of the Ottoman sultan. At the peak of his power in 1774, Zahir's autonomous rule extended from Beirut to Gaza and included the Jabal Amil and Ajlun regions. However, by then, Ali Bey was dead, the Ottomans made peace with the Russians, and the Sublime Porte felt secure enough to check Zahir's power. The Ottoman Navy attacked his Acre stronghold in the summer of 1775 and he was killed outside of its walls shortly after.
The wealth Zahir accumulated through monopolizing the cotton market and setting his own prices to European importers financed his sheikhdom. For much of his rule, he established domestic security and a relatively efficient administration. Together with his flexible taxation policies and his battlefield reputation, these factors made him popular among the local peasantry. Zahir was notably tolerant of religious minorities, and encouraged Christian and Jewish participation in the local economy. This led to the significant growth of the Christian communities in Acre and Nazareth and the Jewish community in Tiberias. Zahir's rule also saw the construction of numerous building works across the Galilee.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Rule
- 3 Politics
- 4 Family
- 5 Legacy
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
Zahir was born in the village of Arraba (also called 'Arrabat al-Battuf) in the central Galilee. His family, the Zaydani clan, were Sunni Muslim notables from the Qaisi tribal confederation based in the Tiberias area and who had strong connections to the Arab-Bedouin tribesmen of the Galilee, which at the time was part of the Ottoman Empire. Zahir was the youngest of four sons born to Sheikh ʿUmar az-Zaydānī. He grew up in the village of Saffuriya.
Zahir's father and grandfather had both served as the multazem (chief tax collector) of Tiberias, having been appointed by the Druze emirs (princes) of the Maan family which governed the region from their headquarters in Mount Lebanon. In 1698, ʿUmar az-Zaydānī was appointed multazem of the Safad region by Bashir Shihab I, the Qaisi emir who succeeded the Maans as governor of Mount Lebanon. The Zaydani family maintained commercial trade relations extending from the Galilee to Aleppo, and members of the family controlled a number of tax farms in the Galilee, such as Zahir's uncle Ali who held the tax farm of al-Damun. Zahir's elder brother, Sa'd became the head of the family when their father died. However, the family's tax farms were transferred to Zahir, who was still a teenager. This was done as a precautionary measure, so that in the event of a default in tax payments, the Ottoman government would not be able to hold the actual owners of the tax farms accountable. This gave Zahir considerable power within the Zaydani clan.
In 1707, Zahir killed a man in a fight in Tiberias. As a result, Sa'd opted to move the family to Arraba, after being offered safe haven there by the Bani Saqr tribe. It was there that Zahir gained a degree of formal education under the tutelage of a Muslim scholar named Abd al-Qadir al-Hifnawi. During his youth, he also learned how to hunt and was trained in fighting. When the village of Bi'ina was besieged by forces dispatched by the governor of Sidon sometime between 1713 and 1718, Zahir played an important role in defending the village and also managed to escape pursuit by the governor's troops. According to chroniclers at the time, this event turned Zahir into a folk hero in the region. He continued to gain the respect of the local peasantry throughout the 1720s for his martial skills. Along with Sa'd, he also gained prestige among the people of Damascus with whom he continued the commercial relationships his father had previously established.
The contacts he made in Damascus included the Muslim scholar Abd al-Ghaffar al-Shuwaki who introduced Zahir to Sayyid Muhammad of the al-Husayni family, which provided the sharifs (religious notables who traced their lineage to the Islamic prophet Muhammad) of Damascus at the time. Zahir married Sayyid Muhammad's daughter and moved to Nazareth because she found Arraba to be too small of a town. Zahir inherited Sayyid Muhammad's fortune when the latter died.
Consolidation of power in Galilee
Around 1730, Zahir and his brother Yusuf took control of the town of Tiberias, with the backing of the Bani Saqr. Prior to seizing the town, Zahir made arrangements with the governor of Sidon that included his appointment as the multazim of Tiberias and Arraba. This marked a significant change from the past appointments of his relatives as multazims of Tiberias, because it came directly from the governor of Sidon rather than the semi-autonomous rural chiefs of Mount Lebanon. Zahir worked to make Tiberias his principle base of power. He was joined by other members of the Zaydani clan, and eventually maintained a brigade of 200 horsemen from his clan. He appointed his cousin Muhammad ibn Ali, the multazim of al-Damun, as their commander.
Zahir extended his rule southward toward Nazareth and the Marj Ibn Amer plain (Jezreel Valley) between Galilee and Jabal Nablus. Capturing these areas was likely a drawn-out process, and Zahir's efforts to wrest control of Nazareth (a town in Safad Sanjak, but controlled by the Jarrar clan based in Nablus Sanjak) caused the ruling clans of the Nablus hinterland (Jabal Nablus), along with Zahir's erstwhile allies in the Bani Saqr tribe, to challenge these moves. Zahir, meanwhile, relied on his Zaydani and Maghrebi forces and the support he received from Nazareth's residents. The Maghrebi forces were mercenaries under the command of Ahmad Agha al-Dinkizli, Maghrebi commander that Zahir employed in the mid-1730s. In 1735, Zahir's forces defeated the Jarrars in Marj Ibn Amer, killed their leader Sheikh Ibrahim, and captured Nazareth.
Following his victory at Marj Ibn Amer, Zahir pursued the Jarrars to their fortified village of Sanur, but withdrew because he did not have the means to capture the fortress. This defeat marked the limit of Zahir's influence south of Marj Ibn Amer and established the Jarrars as the dominant force of Jabal Nablus over their rivals, the Touqans. While the Jarrars and Zahir eventually concluded a truce, the former continued to mobilize the clans of Jabal Nablus to prevent Zahir's southward expansion.
In 1738, Zahir's forces captured the fortress at Jiddin and the Galilee villages in its political orbit, Abu Snan and Tarshiha. Jiddin had been ruled by Ahmad al-Husayn, whose family historically controlled it. The peasants under his rule complained that he governed oppressively and appealed to Zahir, who was known for treating the peasantry fairly, to relieve them of al-Husayn. Zahir, eager to expand his control toward the Mediterranean, accepted their requests and obtained permission from the Governor of Sidon, Ibrahim Pasha al-Azm, to seize the fortress. Likewise, al-Husayn had also approached the governor, who hoping to see two powerful local leaders weakened, gave al-Husayn his blessing as well. Zahir assembled a 1,500-strong force of Zaydani kinsmen, Bani Saqr tribesmen and local peasants and defeated al-Husayn's forces in a battle near the fortress. He was thereafter appointed multazem of Jiddin's subdistrict.
Bi'ina, which was also fortified, withstood a siege by Zahir in 1739, but Zahir later married the daughter of Bi'ina's mukhtar (headman), and thus brought Bi'ina into his domain. He also acquired the fortress of Suhmata through diplomatic means. This further solidified his rule over northern and eastern Galilee. In 1740, Zahir fortified Tiberias and made an agreement with the neighboring Bedouin tribes to end their looting raids in the area. By then, Sa'd had taken control of Deir Hanna and Muhammad ibn Ali captured Shefa-'Amr, entrenching the presence of the Zaydani clan in western Galilee. After negotiations, Muhammad al-Naf'i, the multazem of Safad, surrendered the city to Zahir. Safad was the Ottomans' administrative seat in the Galilee and situated on a strategic hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. He later acquired the fortified village of Deir al-Qassi after marrying the daughter of its sheikh, Abd al-Khaliq Salih.
Zahir's conquest of the Safad region and the western Galilee removed the barriers between him and Metawali (Shia Muslim) clans of Jabal Amil. Zahir informed the Metawalis' sheikh Nasif al-Nassar of his intent on acquiring the fortified villages of al-Bassa and Yaroun on the borders between the Zaydani and Metwali sheikhdoms. Wary of the threat, Sheikh Nasif launched an assault against Zahir and the two sides confronted each other in indecisive skirmishes in the border village of Tarbikha. Zahir then received reinforcements from his Maghrebi horsemen and defeated the Metawalis, pursuing Sheikh Nasif to his headquarters in Tibnin. Zahir's brother Sa'd mediated an end to the fighting and thereafter a mutual defense pact was arranged between Zahir and Sheikh Nasif, whereby the former would receive control of al-Bassa and Yaroun and the Metawalis' support in his confrontations with the governors of Damascus. Sheikh Nasif had his sons, who were captured by Zahir's troops, returned, a ~25% reduction in the Metawalis' tax payments to Sidon, and Zahir's backing in any confrontation with the governors of Sidon.
Zahir, similar to many other strong local leaders under the Ottoman Empire who did not owe their power to the central Ottoman authorities, was disliked by the Ottoman administration. The Ottoman Sultan sent an order to the governor of Damascus, Sulayman Pasha al-Azm, to put an end to Zahir's rule in the Galilee. In September 1742, a military force led by the governor of Damascus came to the Galilee and laid siege to Tiberias. After 83 days, the siege was lifted due to the departure of the Hajj pilgrimage caravan. In July 1743, Governor Sulayman renewed the siege, but while stopping in Acre, he fell ill and died, marking an end to the siege. In 1745, Zahir had a fortress erected on a hill overlooking Saffuriya.
Ruler of Acre
Zahir consolidated his authority over Acre in a drawn-out process starting in the 1730s. At one point, early in his bid for power there, he had his cousin, Muhammad al-Ali of Damun arrested and executed due to the latter's ambitions in Acre. He also a partnership of sorts with the Acre-based Melkite merchant Yusuf al-Qassis, who served as a link between Zahir and the French merchants of Acre. His first direct contact with the French merchants of Acre were in 1731 when he negotiated with them on settling the debts his brother Sa'd owed to the merchants. In the time following As'ad Pasha al-Azm's appointment as the Governor of Damascus in 1743, Zahir requested the tax farm of Acre from the Governor of Sidon who, wary of Zahir's growing power in the province, rejected his request. Instead, Zahir opted to take Acre by force in July 1746.
In the first few years following Acre's takeover, Zahir resided in the fortress of Deir Hanna in the heart of the Galilee. He began fortifying Acre, by launching a project to build walls around the city in 1750, when Governor al-Azm was away from Damascus leading the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. He built other fortifications and buildings in Acre as well. In 1757 he took control of the Mediterranean port cities Haifa and Tantura, and nearby Mount Carmel, all of which had been part of the Damascus Eyalet, unlike most of Zahir's realm at the time, which was in the Sidon Eyalet. He also captured the port village of al-Tira, between Tantura and Haifa, at that time. Zahir's stated justification for conquering Palestine's northern coastal plain was to protect the area from Maltese pirates.
In late 1757, the Bani Saqr and Sardiyah tribes, who Zahir maintained ties with, launched an assault on the Hajj caravan that was heading towards Mecca. Several Muslim pilgrims were killed in the attack, including Sultan Osman III's sister. The attack shocked the Sublime Porte, and discredited the Governor of Damascus and Amir al-Hajj, Husayn Pasha ibn Makki, for failing to ward off the Bedouin. Husayn Pasha had been serving his first term as governor, having replaced al-Azm who Zahir had peaceful relations with, and among his priorities were subduing Zahir and annexing his territories, which were part of Sidon Eyalet. Husayn Pasha lodged a complaint to the Sublime Porte alleging Zahir's involvement in the raid. Zahir denied the allegation and pressed for an investigation into the assault. He also sought to earn the Sublime Porte's favor by purchasing the looted goods of the caravan from the tribes, including the decorated banners representing Muhammad and the sovereignty of the sultan, and restoring them to Sultan Mustafa III (Osman III had died on 30 October). Moreover, Zahir's enemy Husayn Pasha was dismissed from office that year.
Zahir's annexation of Haifa provoked the consternation of Governor Uthman Pasha al-Kurji, who became governor in 1760. Uthman requested that the governor of Sidon, Muhammad Pasha, recapture the port city on his behalf, to which Muhammad complied, dispatching 30 soldiers captained by a Frenchman. The effort was a meager attempt and upon arrival, Zahir had the ship confiscated and its soldiers arrested. The French captain was ordered to pay a fine. The issue over Haifa's annexation was smoothed over with the assistance of an Istanbul-based Ottoman official and friend of Zahir, Yaqub Agha. Yaqub had a high-ranking official named Sulayman Agha intervene in the matter and revoke Governor Uthman's orders.
In 1768 the central Ottoman authorities partially recognized or legitimized Zahir's de facto political position by granting him the title of "Sheikh of Acre, Amir of Nazareth, Tiberias, Safed, and Sheikh of all Galilee". Yaqub was executed not long after and Sulayman Agha died in 1770, depriving Zahir of close allies in Istanbul. In November 1770, Governor Uthman had the governor of Sidon replaced by his son Darwish Pasha and had his other son, Muhammad, appointed governor of Tripoli Eyalet. Uthman was committed to ending Zahir's influence and rule, and Zahir's position was left particularly vulnerable with the loss of support in Istanbul. In response to threats from Damascus, Zahir further strengthened Acre's fortifications and armed every adult male in the city with a rifle, two pistols and a sabre. He also moved to mend ties with his sons, who controlled various tax farms in the Galilee, and consolidate his relationship with the Shia clans of Jabal Amil, thereby strengthening his local alliances.
Alliance with Ali Bey and war with Damascus
Although Zahir was bereft of friends in Istanbul and Damascus, he was forging a new alliance with the increasingly autonomous Mamluk ruler of Egypt and the Hejaz, Ali Bey al-Kabir. Ali Bey shared a common interest with Zahir to subdue Damascus as he sought to extend his influence to the Levant for strategic purposes vis-a-vis his conflict with the Sublime Porte. He had dispatched 15,000-20,000 Egyptian troops to the port cities of Gaza and Jaffa under commander Ismail Bey. Together, Zahir and Ismail crossed the Jordan Valley with their armies and moved north toward Damascus. They made it as far as Muzayrib, but Ismail abruptly halted his army's advance after confronting Governor Uthman Pasha as he was leading the Hajj pilgrimage caravan in order to avoid harming the Muslim pilgrims. Ismail considered attacking the governor at that point to be a grave religious offense. He subsequently withdrew to Jaffa.
Zahir was surprised and angered by Ismail's reticence to attack. He had his son Ahmad and other subordinates collect taxes from villages under Uthman Pasha's jurisdiction in Damascus Eyalet, including Quneitra, while he dispatched his other son Ali on a campaign against the Bani Nu'aym tribe in Hauran, also part of Damascus. In response to Zahir's indignation, Ali Bey sent 35,000 troops under Abu al-Dhahab in May. Together with Ismail's troops, the Egyptian army captured Damascus from Uthman Pasha in June, while Zahir and his Metawali allies captured Sidon from Uthman's son, Darwish Pasha. However, Abu al-Dahab was persuaded by Ismail that confronting the Ottoman sultan, who carried a high religious authority as the caliph of Islam, was "truly ... a scheme of the Devil" and a crime against their religion. A short time after capturing Damascus, Abu al-Dahab and Ismail subsequently withdrew from the city, whose inhabitants were "completely astonished at this amazing event", according to a chronicler of the time period. The sudden turn of events compelled Zahir's forces to withdraw from Sidon on 20 June.
Abu al-Dahab's withdrawal frustrated Zahir who began making independent moves, first by capturing Jaffa in August 1771, driving out its governor Ahmad Bey Touqan and shortly thereafter, proceeding to capture the cotton-producing Bani Sa'b region, which was held by Mustafa Bey Touqan. He had Jaffa fortified and stationed 2,000 troops there. By the end of August, Zahir was in control of Jaffa, while Uthman Pasha had restored his control over Ramla and Gaza.
Peak of power
In an attempt to expand his zone of influence to Nablus, the commercial center of Palestine and its agriculturally-rich hinterland, Zahir besieged Nablus in late 1771. By then, Zahir had had secured an alliance with the powerful Jarrar clan, who were incensed at Uthman Pasha's assignment of Mustafa Bey Touqan as the collector of the miri (hajj pilgrimage tax). Nablus was under the de facto control of the Touqan and Nimr clans, local rivals of the Jarrars. The loss of Jaffa and Bani Sa'b stripped Nablus of its sea access. Nablus was defended by 12,000 mostly peasant riflemen under Nimr and Touqan commanders. After nine days of clashes, Zahir decided to withdraw and avoid a costly stalemate. As he departed Nablus, his forces raided many of the city's satellite villages, from which its peasant defenders originated.
Uthman Pasha had resumed his governorship of Damascus at the end of June 1771 and was determined to eliminate Zahir. To that end, he assembled a coalition that included his sons Darwish Pasha and Muhammad Pasha, who were the governors of Sidon and Tripoli, respectively, and Emir Yusuf Shihab of Mount Lebanon. In late August Uthman Pasha reached Lake Hula at the head of 10,000 Ottoman troops. Before Uthman Pasha could be joined by his allies, Zahir and Sheikh Nasif of the Metawalis confronted the governor's troops on 2 September. Ali al-Zahir, Zahir's son and a commander of one of his four battlefield regiments, raided Uthman Pasha's camp, while Zahir's other troops blocked them from the west. Uthman Pasha's troops hastily retreated towards the Jordan River, the only place where they were not surrounded. The overwhelming majority drowned in the river, with only 300-500 survivors, including Uthman Pasha who almost drowned but was rescued by one of his men. The Battle of Lake Hula marked a decisive victory for Zahir, who entered Acre triumphantly with the spoils of Uthman Pasha's camp. He was celebrated by the residents of the city and on the way there, he was given honorary gun salutes by each of his fortified villages on the route between Tiberias and Acre. He also received congratulations from the French merchant ships at the port of Acre. Zahir's victory encouraged Ali Bey to relaunch his Syrian campaign.
Following his victory against Uthman Pasha, Zahir demanded Darwish Pasha vacate Sidon, which he did on 13 October. He returned two days later after receiving the backing of Emir Yusuf. Zahir decided to move against Emir Yusuf, and together with his ally Sheikh Nasif, he confronted him at Nabatieh on 20 October. Emir Yusuf's men numbered some 37,000. Zahir's Metawali cavalry engaged in a maneuver where they fled the battlefield in apparent defeat, only to have the pursuant troops of Emir Yusuf surrounded by Zahir's men, who dealt Emir Yusuf's army a decisive blow. Emir Yusuf thereafter retreated to his mountain village of Deir al-Qamar, while Sidon was left under the protection of Ali Jumblatt and 3,000 Druze defenders. However, with news of Zahir's victory, Ali Jumblatt and Darwish Pasha withdrew from Sidon, which was subsequently occupied by Zahir and Sheikh Nasif. Uthman Pasha and all of his sons were consequently dismissed from their posts by the Sublime Porte. Although, he could not capture Nablus and its hinterland, Zahir's domain by the end of 1771 extended from Sidon to Jaffa and included an influential presence in the Hauran plain.
Muhammad Touqan captured Jaffa from Zahir in May 1772, the same month that Ali Bey arrived in Acre to seek Zahir's protection after being forced out of Egypt by rival mamluks. In June, the Ottoman loyalist Jezzar Pasha sought to establish himself in Lebanon and took over Beirut from the local Druze chieftains. The Druze had previously been in conflict with Zahir, but due to Jezzar's offensive, the circumstances fostered an alliance between them, Zahir and the Metawali clans of Jabal Amil. Zahir and Ali Bey sought to take back Jaffa and, with help from the Russian Fleet, succeeded after a nine-month siege, in which they exhausted many of their resources. Prior to that, in late October 1772, Zahir and his Lebanese allies captured Beirut from Jezzar, also with Russian naval support.
In March 1773, Ali Bey left Palestine to reestablish himself in Egypt, but Abu al-Dahab had him killed when he arrived there. Consequently, Zahir moved to further strengthen his hold over Jaffa and capture Jerusalem, but he failed in the latter attempt. All of Ottoman Syria came under the official command of Uthman Pasha al-Misri in 1774 in order to bring stability to the provinces of the region. Al-Misri did not seek conflict with Zahir and sought to establish friendly terms with him. As such, he convinced the Sublime Porte to officially appoint Zahir as the governor of Sidon as long as Zahir paid all of the taxes the province had owed to the Porte. Al-Misri further promoted Zahir in February by declaring him "Governor of Sidon, Nablus, Gaza, Ramla, Jaffa and Jabal Ajlun", although this title was not officially sanctioned by the Porte. In effect, Zahir was the de facto ruler over all of Palestine (with the exception of Nablus and Jerusalem), Jabal Amil, and the Levantine coast from Gaza to Beirut.
Al-Misri was recalled to Istanbul in the summer of 1774 and Muhammad Pasha al-Azm was appointed governor of Damascus. Thus, Zahir's governorship of Sidon was left vulnerable because it had largely depended on guarantees from al-Misri. Al-Azm sought peaceful relations with Zahir, but the Sublime Porte, having made peace with Russia and relieving itself from that conflict, aimed to undermine the rebellious rulers of its provinces, including Zahir. Al-Azm managed to secure an official pardon of Zahir from the Porte in April 1775, but not the governorship of Sidon. Meanwhile, conflict between Zahir and his sons had reignited, with Ali of Safad attempting to capture Zahir's villages in the Galilee in 1774. Zahir defeated Ali with support from his other son, Ahmad of Tiberias. Afterward, Zahir's rule was again challenged by one of his other sons, Sa'id, later that year. In response to this challenge, Zahir armed and mobilized 300 of Acre's civilian inhabitants to counter Sa'id. Ali continued to undermine Zahir's rule by encouraging defections by Zahir's Maghrebi mercenaries through bribes.
On 20 May 1775, Abu al-Dahab, having been encouraged by the Porte to eradicate Zahir's influence, captured Jaffa and slaughtered its male inhabitants. News of the massacre spurred the people of Acre into a mass panic, with its residents fleeing and storing their goods in the city's Khan al-Ifranj (the French Caravanserai) for safekeeping. On 24 May, Zahir also departed the city, leaving for Sidon. His son and rival, Ali, subsequently entered it and declared himself governor. However, Ali's Maghrebi troops abandoned him and looted the city as Abu al-Dahab's troops approached it a few days later. They proceeded to conquer Sidon by sea, prompting Zahir to seek shelter with Shia allies in Jabal Amil. Some of Zahir's sons attempted to secure their own peace with Abu al-Dahab, but the latter became ill and died on 10 June, causing the collapse and chaotic withdrawal of his Egyptian troops from Acre. Zahir re-entered the city two days later and reestablished order with the diplomatic assistance of Ahmad Agha al-Dinkizli. However, the setback of Abu al-Dahab's death did not preclude the Sublime Porte from attempting to check Zahir's power and Sidon remained in Ottoman hands.
On 23 April, the Porte dispatched the Ottoman Navy admiral, Hasan Pasha al-Jazayiri, to blockade Acre. He reached Haifa on 7 August after having taken Jaffa from Zahir's son-in-law. Hasan Pasha ordered Zahir to pay the miri dues he owed to the Sublime Porte dating back to 1768. Zahir initially agreed to pay 500,000 piasters of the total amount upfront and a further 50,000 piasters to Hasan Pasha himself to "spare the blood of the people". Hasan Pasha apparently accepted Zahir's proposals, but the arrangements fell apart.
The accounts differ as to exactly how the negotiations collapsed, but sources agree that their failure was the result of disputes within Zahir's inner circle between his financial adviser Ibrahim Sabbagh and his chief military commander, al-Dinkizli. Most accounts claim that Sabbagh urged Zahir not to pay Hasan's requested sums and agitated for war. Sabbagh argued that Zahir's treasury did not have the funds to pay the miri dues and that Zahir's forces were capable of defeating Hasan. Al-Dinkizli pressed Zahir to pay the amount, arguing that mass bloodshed could be averted. He advised Zahir to demand Sabbagh pay the amount if Zahir could not afford to. When the negotiations dragged on, Hasan pressed for a full repayment of the miri dues, warning Zahir that he would be executed if he failed to satisfy the demand. Zahir was insulted by Hasan's threat and in turn threatened to destroy Hasan's entire fleet unless he withdrew his ships.
Hasan proceeded to bombard Acre, with Zahir's Maghrebi artillerymen responding with cannon fire, damaging two of Hasan's ships. The following day, Hasan's fleet fired roughly 7,000 shells on Acre without any response from the city's artillerymen. Al-Dinkizli had called on his Maghrebi forces to refrain from returning fire because as Muslims they were forbidden from attacking the sultan's military. Realizing his long-time deputy commander's betrayal, he attempted to flee Acre on 21 August or 22 August. As he departed its gates, he was fired on by Ottoman troops, with a bullet striking his neck and causing him to fall off his horse. A Maghrebi soldier then decapitated his body. Zahir's severed head was subsequently delivered to Istanbul.
Following his death, Sabbagh and Zahir's sons Abbas and Salih were arrested by Hasan Pasha's men. The Sublime Porte also seized property belonging to Zahir, his sons and Sabbagh, which amounted to 83,000 purses of Ottoman currency. They were imprisoned in Istanbul, the Ottoman capital along with their physician, who was known to be talented in his profession. The physician was summoned by the sultan to treat his wife's ailment, which he did successfully, earning him his freedom from incarceration and a medal of honor from the sultan. The physician used his influence with the authorities to have Zahir's children and grandchildren released and returned to their hometowns. Sabbagh was executed by Hasan Pasha. Al-Dinkizli was rewarded with the governorship of Gaza, but died on the way to his new headquarters, likely having been poisoned by Hasan.
Zahir's sons Uthman, Ahmad, Sa'id and Ali continued to put up resistance, with the latter putting up the longest fight from his fortress in Deir Hanna. The fortress eventually capitulated to the combined forces of Hasan Pasha and Jezzar Pasha on 22 July 1776. Ali fled, but was killed later that year in the area between Tiberias and Safad. By then, the rest of Zahir's sons had been arrested or killed. Abbas was later appointed by Sultan Selim III as the Sheikh of Safad, but in 1799, when Napoleon invaded Palestine, but withdrew after being defeated in Acre, Abbas and Salih both left Safad with the departing French forces. This marked the end of Zaydani influence in the Galilee.
Constantin-François Volney, who wrote the first European biography of Zahir in 1787, lists three main reasons for Zahir's failure. First, the lack of "internal good order and justness of principle". Secondly, the early concessions he made to his children. Third, and most of all, the avarice of his adviser and confidant, Ibrahim Sabbagh.
Zahir appointed many of his brothers and sons as local administrators, particularly after he consolidated his control over Acre, which became the capital of his territory. Except for Haifa, Zahir divided the remainder of his territory between his relatives. His eldest brother was appointed to Deir Hanna, and his younger brothers Yusuf and Salih Abu Dani were installed in I'billin and Arraba, respectively. Zahir appointed his eldest son Salibi as the multazem of Tiberias. Salibi was killed in 1773 fighting alongside Ali Bey's forces in Egypt. His death deeply distressed Zahir, who was around 80 years old at the time. He appointed Uthman in Kafr Kanna then Shefa-'Amr, Abbas in Nazareth, Ali in Safad, and Ahmad in Saffuriya. Ahmad replaced Salibi in Tiberias as well, and also conquered Ajlun and Salt in Transjordan. In addition, Ahmad was given authority over Deir Hanna after Sa'd's death. Zahir appointed his nephew Ayyub al-Karimi in Jaffa and Gaza, while al-Dinkizli was made multazem in Sidon in 1774. The appointment of Zahir's relatives and close associates was meant to ensure the efficient administration of his expanding realm and the loyalty of his circle. However, it is not clear if these posts were recognized by the Ottoman government. Among their chiefs functions was to ensure the supply of cotton to Acre.
Zahir had an aide who jointly served in the capacity of mudabbir (manager) and wazir (vizier) assist him throughout much of his rule in matters of finance and correspondence. This official had always been a Melkite (local Greek Catholic). His first wazir was Yusuf al-Arqash, followed by Yusuf Qassis in 1749. Qassis continued in this role until the early 1760s when he was arrested for attempting to smuggle wealth he had accumulated during his service to Malta. He was succeeded by Ibrahim Sabbagh, who had served as a personal physician for Zahir in 1757 when he replaced Zahir's longtime physician Sulayman Suwwan. Suwwan was a local Greek Orthodox Christian and when he failed to properly treat Zahir during a serious illness in 1757, Qassis used the opportunity to replace him with Sabbagh, a friend and fellow Melkite. Sabbagh became the most influential figure in Zahir's administration, particularly as Zahir grew old. This caused consternation among Zahir's sons as they viewed Sabbagh to be a barrier between them and their father and an impediment to their growing power in Zahir's territory. Sabbagh was able to gain increased influence with Zahir largely because of the wealth he amassed through his integral role in Zahir's cotton monopoly. Sabbagh would purchase cotton and other cash crops from the local farmers and sell them to the European merchants in the Levant's coastal cities and his Melkite partners in Damietta, Egypt. Sabbagh served other important role as well, including as Zahir's political adviser, main administrator and chief representative with European merchants and Ottoman provincial and imperial officials.
There were other officials in Zahir's civil administration in Acre, including chief religious officials, namely the mufti and the qadi. The mufti was the chief scholar among the ulama (Muslim scholarly community) and oversaw the interpretation of Islamic law in Zahir's realm. He was appointed by the Sublime Porte, but Zahir managed to maintain the same mufti for many years at a time in contrast with the typical Levantine province which saw its mufti replaced annually. Zahir directly appointed the qadi from Palestine's local ulama, but his judicial decisions had to be approved by the qadi of Sidon. Zahir had a chief imam, who in the last years of his rule was Ali ibn Khalid al-Shaabi. An agha was also appointed to supervise the customs payments made by the European merchants in Acre and Haifa.
Zahir's initial military forces consisted of his Zaydani kinsmen and the local inhabitants of the areas he initially ruled. They numbered about 200 men in the early 1720s, but this force grew to about 1,500 in the early 1730s. During this early period of Zahir's career, he also had the key military backing of the Bani Saqr and other Bedouin tribes. As he consolidated his hold over the Galilee, his army rose to over 4,000 men, many of the later recruits being peasants who supported Zahir for protecting them against Bedouin raids. This suppression of the Bedouin in turn caused the tribes to largely withdraw their military backing of Zahir. The core of his military force were the Maghrebi mercenaries he hired in the mid-1730s under the command of Ahmad Agha al-Dinkizli. Al-Dinkizli served as Zahir's top military commander from 1735 until al-Dinkizli's defection at the Ottoman siege of Acre in 1775. From the time Zahir reconciled with Sheikh Nasif al-Nassar of Jabal Amil in 1768 until most of the remainder of his rule, Zahir also had the support of Nasif's roughly 10,000 Metawali cavalrymen. However, the Metawalis did not aid Zahir during the Ottoman offensive of 1775. Zahir's fortified villages and towns were equipped with artillery installments and his army's arsenal consisted of cannons, matchlock rifles, pistols and lances. Most of the firearms were imported from Venice or France, and by in the early 1770s, from the Russian imperial navy.
According to biographer Ahmad Hasan Joudah, the two principal conditions Zahir established to foster his sheikhdom's prosperity and its survival were "security and justice". Prior to Zahir's consolidation of power, the villages of northern Palestine were prone to Bedouin raids and robberies and the roads were under constant threat from highway robbers and Bedouin attacks. Although following the looting raids, the inhabitants of these agrarian villages were left destitute, the Ottoman provincial government would nonetheless attempt to collect from them the miri (Hajj tax). To avoid punitive measures for not paying the miri, the inhabitants would abandon their villages for safety in the larger towns or the desert. This situation hurt the economy of the region as the raids sharply reduced the villages' agricultural output, the government-appointed mutasallims (tax farmers) could not collect their impositions, and trade could not be safely conducted due to insecurity on the roads.
By 1746, however, Zahir had established a law and order in the lands he ruled. He managed to co-opt the dominant Bedouin tribe of the region, the Bani Saqr, which greatly contributed to the establishment of security in northern Palestine. Moreover, Zahir charged the sheikhs of the towns and villages of northern Palestine with ensuring the safety of the roads in his respective vicinity and was required to compensate anyone who was robbed of his/her property. general security reached a level whereby "an old woman with gold in her hand could travel from one place to another without fear or danger", according to biographer Mikhail Sabbagh.
This period of calm persisted between 1744 and 1765 greatly boosted the security and economy of the Galilee. The security established in the region encouraged people from other parts of the empire to immigrate to the Galilee. Conflict between the local clans and between Zahir and his sons remained limited to periodic clashes, while there were no attacks against Zahir's domains from outside forces. While Zahir used force to strengthen his position in the region, the local inhabitants generally took comfort in his rule, which historian Thomas Philip described as "relatively just and reasonably fair". Accounts from that time tell of the great admiration which the people had for Zahir, especially for his war against bandits on the roads. Richard Pococke, who visited Tiberias in 1737, witnessed the building of a fort to the north of the city, and the strengthening of the old walls, and attributed it to a disagreement with the pasha (ruler) of Damascus.
In addition to providing security, Zahir and his local deputies adopted a policy of aiding the peasants cultivate and harvest their farmlands to further guarantee the steady supply of agricultural products for export. These benefits included loans to peasants and the distribution of free seeds. Financial burdens on the peasants were also reduced as Zahir offered tax relief during drought seasons or when the harvest seasons were poor. This same tax relief was extended to newcomers who sought begin cultivating new farmlands. Moreover, Zahir assumed responsibility for outstanding payments the peasants owed to merchants from credit-based transactions if the merchants could provide proof of unsatisfactory payment. According to historian Thomas Philipp, Zahir "had the good business sense not to exploit peasants to the point of destruction, but kept his financial demands to a more moderate level." He regularly paid the Ottoman authorities their financial dues, ensuring a degree of stability in his relationship with the sultanate.
When Zahir conquered Acre, he transformed it from a decaying village into a fortified market hub for Palestinian products, including silk, wheat, olive oil, tobacco and cotton, which he exported to Europe. With cotton in particular, Zahir was able to monopolize the market for it and its foreign export. He did business with European merchants based in the Galilee's ports, who competed with one another for the cotton and grain cultivated in the rural villages under Zahir's dominion or influence in the Galilee's hinterland and Jabal Amil. Previously, European merchants made direct transactions with local cotton growers, but Zahir, with the help of Ibrahim Sabbagh, put an end to this system of commerce by making himself the middleman between the merchants and the growers living under his rule. This allowed him to both monopolize cotton production and the merchants' price for the product. Zahir's designation of prices for the local cash crops also prevented "exploitation" of the peasants and local merchants by European merchants and their "manipulation of the prices", according to Joudah. This caused financial losses to the European merchants who lodged numerous complaints to the French and English ambassadors to the Sublime Porte. A formal agreement to regulate commerce between Zahir and the European merchants was reached in 1753. Zahir further encouraged trade by offering local merchants interest-free loans.
The high European demand for the product enabled Zahir to grow wealthy and finance his autonomous sheikhdom. This control of the cotton market also allowed him to gain unofficial control over all of the Sidon Eyalet, outside the city of Sidon itself. With mixed success, Zahir attempted to have French merchant ships redirected from the ports of Tyre and Sidon to Haifa instead, in order benefit from the customs fees he could exact. The city of Acre underwent an economic boom as a result of its position in the cotton trade with France, and became the fortified headquarters of Zahir's sheikhdom.
Relationship with religious minorities
Zahir maintained tolerant policies and encouraged the involvement of religious minorities in the local economy. As part of his larger efforts to enlarge the population of the Galilee, Zahir invited Jews to resettle in Tiberias around 1742, along with Muslims. Zahir did not consider Jews to be a threat to his rule and believed that their connections with the Jewish diaspora would encourage economic development in Tiberias, which the Jews considered particularly holy. His tolerance towards the Jews, the cuts in taxes levied on them, and assistance in the construction of Jewish homes, schools and synagogues, helped foster the growth of the Jewish community in the area. The initial Jewish immigrants came from Damascus and were later followed by Jews from Aleppo, Cyprus and Smyrna. Many Jews in Safad, which was governed by Zahir's son, moved to Tiberias to take advantage of better opportunities in that city, which remained under Zahir's direct rule. The villages of Kafr Yasif and Shefa-'Amr also saw new Jewish communities spring up under Zahir's rule.
Zahir encouraged local Christian settlement in Acre, in order to contribute to the city's commercial dynamism in trade and manufacturing. Christians grew to become the largest religious group in the city by the late 18th century. Zahir's territory became a haven for Melkites and Greek Orthodox Christians from other parts of Ottoman Syria who migrated there for better trade and employment opportunities. In Nazareth, the Christian community prospered and grew under Zahir's rule, and saw an influx from the Maronite and Greek Orthodox communities of Lebanon and Transjordan, respectively. The Melkite patriarch lived in Acre between 1765 and 1768. Along with the Jews, the Christians contributed to the economy of Zahir's sheikhdom in a number of ways, including the relative ease with which they were able to deal with European merchants, the networks of support many of them maintained in Damascus or Istanbul, and their role in service industries.
Zahir allowed the Franciscan community of Nazareth to build churches in 1730, 1741 and 1754 on sites Christians associated with Jesus's life. In Acre, he allowed the Greek Orthodox community to build St. Gabriel Church over a ruined Crusader church in the city, and in 1750 they enlarged the St. George Church. The largest Christian community in Acre, the Melkites, built the largest church in the city, St. Andrews Church, in 1764, while the Maronites built the St. Mary's Church for their congregation in 1750. In an indication of the prosperity that the Christians enjoyed under Zahir's rule, no further churches were allowed to be built under Zahir's successors.
The Druze of the Galilee did not fare well under Zahir and his Zayadina clan, owing largely to the conflict between Zahir and the Druze emirs of Mount Lebanon. In Galilean Druze oral traditions, Zahir's reign was synonymous with oppression. During this period, many Druze villages were either destroyed or abandoned and there was a partial Druze exodus from the Galilee, particularly from the villages around Safad, to the Hauran region east of the Jordan River.
The alliance cemented between Zahir and Ali Bey of Egypt brought together Egypt and Palestine politically and economically in a way that had not been experienced since before the Ottoman conquest of the Middle East in the early 16th century. While their attempts to unite Palestine and Egypt economically and politically were unsuccessful, their rule posed the most serious domestic challenge to Ottoman rule in the 18th century. While friendly ties between the two leaders were fostered due to their mutual ambitions of independence from Ottoman influence, the friendship between them began when Ali Bey was briefly exiled to Palestine from Egypt in 1766.
Zahir developed a strong relationship with the Shia Muslim peasants of Jabal Amil and their sheikhs. He maintained law and order in Jabal Amil, while leaving its mostly Shia inhabitants to their own devices. The Shia also benefited economically from Zahir's monopoly of the cotton industry and their sheikhs provided him men of great military skill to support his struggle against the Ottoman authorities. Zahir was a key backer of the Shia in their war with the Druze Jumblatt clan and the Shihab dynasty under Mulhim Shihab, and likewise, Shia forces were critical to the defense of Zahir's sheikhdom against expeditions by the Ottoman governor of Damascus in 1771 and 1772.
His relationship with the rural sheikhs of Mount Lebanon under the Shihab dynasty were mixed. While Sheikh Mansur Shihab of Chouf allied himself with Zahir, his nephew and rival, Yusuf Shihab of the Tripoli region remained supportive of the Ottomans. The latter participated in the 1771 Ottoman expedition against Zahir and the Shia sheikhs of Jabal Amil. Zahir and his Shia allies followed this victory with further decisive blows against Emir Yusuf and the Ottomans in Mount Lebanon, finally occupying Sidon (by then, functioning only as the de jure capital of its province) by the end of the year. The relationship between Zahir and Yusuf was based on immediate interests, so when the Ottoman commander Jezzar Pasha turned Beirut into an autonomous province in 1772 and threatened Yusuf's authority, he requested Zahir's aid in securing intervention with his Russian allies to blockade Jezzar.
Zahir's clan belonged to the Qaisi political faction in the centuries-long struggle between the Qais and Yaman tribes. The Ma'an and Shihab dynasties, who ruled Mount Lebanon (and often the Galilee) semi-autonomously, also belonged to the Qaisi faction. For the most part, Zahir respected the socio-political system that prevailed in the region he ruled. The alliances between him and local notables were bolstered by a network of marriages between the influential families of the area, including Zahir's Zaydani clan. Zahir's own marriages were politically advantageous as they allowed him to consecrate his rule over certain areas or his relationships with certain Bedouin tribes, local clans or urban notables. Zahir had a total of five wives. Among his wives was a woman from the Sardiyah, a Bedouin tribe active in Transjordan and Palestine. Zahir was also married to a daughter of Sayyid Muhammad, a wealthy religious notable from Damascus, a daughter of the mukhtar (headman) of Bi'ina, and a daughter of the mukhtar of Deir al-Qassi.
Zahir had eight sons from his wives, and according to Tobias Smollett, a daughter as well. His sons, from eldest to youngest, were Salibi, Ali, Uthman, Sa'id, Ahmad, Salih, Sa'd al-Din and Abbas. His daughter's husband's name was Karim al-Ayyubi, who was also Zahir's cousin. By 1773, Zahir had a total of 272 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Zahir also three brothers, Sa'd, Salih "Abu Dani" and Yusuf, and a sister named Shammah.
As Zahir consolidated his power and reduced external threats to his rule in the 1760s, his sons aspired for more influence and ultimately fought against their father and each other in order to secure their place as Zahir's successor. Besides support from elements of the Zaydani clan, Zahir's sons maintained their own power bases, largely derived from their mothers' clans, and also made their own alliances with other powerful actors in the region. Zahir was victorious in the many conflicts he had with his sons, but their frequent dissent weakened his rule and played a contributory role to his downfall in 1775.
Prior to his sons' individual rebellions, Zahir had eliminated other relatives who challenged his power, including his cousin Muhammad al-Ali in 1743 and his elder brother Sa'd, who was assassinated by Uthman al-Zahir in 1761 on Zahir's orders. Sa'd had been collaborating with Governor Uthman Pasha and the Bani Saqr tribe to kill Zahir and replace him.
The assassination of Sa'd indirectly led to the first conflict between Zahir and his sons, in this case Uthman. The latter had been promised control over Shefa-'Amr in return for killing Sa'd, but Zahir reneged due to pleas by Shefa-'Amr's residents not to appoint Uthman as their governor. Backed by his full-brothers Ahmad and Sa'd al-Din, who were angered by Zahir's refusal to cede them more territory, Uthman besieged Shefa-'Amr in 1765, but under Zahir's instructions the locals of the vicinity defended the town and succeeded in preventing its capture. The three brothers then appealed to Zahir's eldest and most loyal son, Salibi, to intervene on their behalf with Zahir, but Salibi was unable to persuade Zahir to make concessions. The four brothers then attempted to rekindle their alliance with the Bani Saqr, who Zahir had since been routed at the Marj Ibn Amer plain in 1762. This effort failed when Zahir bribed the tribe not to back his sons and subsequently had Uthman imprisoned in Haifa for six months before exiling him to a village near Safad.
Uthman renewed his rebellion in May 1766 with backing from the Druze clans of the Galilee, but this coalition was defeated by Zahir near Safad. This conflict expanded to include competing Druze and Shia factions from Mount Lebanon and Jabal Amil, with the Druze emir Mansur Shihab and the Shia sheikh Qublan siding with Zahir, while the Druze emir Yusuf Shihab and the Shia sheikh Nasif al-Nassar sided with Uthman. Mediation by the Druze emir Isma'il Shihab of Hasbaya culminated in a successful peace summit near Tyre between the two factions and a reconciliation between Zahir and Uthman, whereby the latter was granted control of Nazareth.
In September 1767, conflict between Zahir and his son Ali of Safad commenced over the former's refusal to cede to the latter control of the strategic fortress of Deir Hanna or the village of Deir al-Qassi. Prior to the dispute, Ali had been loyal to Zahir and proven himself effective in helping his father suppress dissent among his brothers and in battles against external enemies. Zahir's forces intimidated Ali into surrendering later that month, but Zahir nonetheless pardoned Ali and ceded to him Deir al-Qassi. However, conflict was renewed weeks later with Ali and his brother Sa'id backed by Sheikh Nasif, Emir Yusuf and Damascus Governor Uthman Pasha poised against Zahir, Uthman al-Zahir, Sheikh Qublan and Sidon Governor Muhammad Pasha al-Azm. With mediation from Ibrahim Sabbagh, he settled his dispute with Sa'id, granting the latter control over Tur'an and Hittin.
Ali refused to negotiate, gained the backing of Salibi, and defeated his father at Deir Hanna, who had since demobilized his troops and relied on local civilian volunteers from Acre. When Zahir mobilized his Maghrebi mercenaries in Acre he launched a campaign against and defeated Ali, who subsequently fled Deir Hanna, in October. Out of sympathy for Ali's children whom remained in the fortress village, he pardoned Ali on the condition he pay 12,500 piasters and 25 Arabian horses for the fortress. By December 1767, Zahir's intra-family disputes were put to rest for several years (until 1774-75), and through intercession by his son Uthman, a close and enduring alliance was established between Zahir and Sheikh Nasif.
Zahir's rule radically changed the landscape of the Galilee. With the restoration and re-fortification of Acre and the establishment of the secondary port city of Haifa, the Galilee significantly strengthened its ties with the Mediterranean world. Following Zahir's death, his successor Jezzar Pasha maintained the cotton monopoly Zahir had established and Galilee's economy remained almost completely dependent on the cotton trade. The region prospered for decades, but with the rise of the cotton market in the southern United States during the early-mid 19th century, European demand shifted away from Palestine's cotton and because of its dependency on the crop, the region experienced a sharp economic downturn from which it could not recover. The cotton crop was largely abandoned, as were many villages, and the peasantry shifted its focus to subsistence agriculture.
In the late 19th century, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Claude Reignier Conder wrote that the Ottomans had successfully destroyed the power of Palestine's indigenous ruling families who "had practically been their own masters" but had been "ruined so that there is no longer any spirit left in them". Among these families were the "proud race" of Zahir, which was still held in high esteem, but was powerless and poor. Zahir's modern-day descendants in the Galilee use the surname "Dhawahri" or "al-Zawahirah" in Zahir's honor. The Dhawahri clan constitute one of the traditional elite Muslim clans of Nazareth, alongside the Fahum, Zu'bi and 'Onallas families. Other villages in the Galilee where descendants of Zahir's clan live are Bi'ina and Kafr Manda and, prior to its 1948 destruction, al-Damun. Many of the inhabitants of modern-day northern Israel, particularly the towns and villages where Zahir or his family left an architectural legacy, hold Zahir in high regard.
Although he was mostly overlooked by historians of the Middle East, some scholars view Zahir's rule as a forerunner to Palestinian nationalism. Among these scholars is Karl Sabbagh, who asserts the latter view is his book Palestine: A Personal History, which was widely reviewed in the British press in 2010. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) radio station, Voice of Palestine, broadcast a series about Zahir in 1966, praising him as a Palestinian national hero who fought Ottoman imperialism. Zahir is considered by many Arab nationalists as a pioneer of Arab liberation from foreign occupation.
Zahir and his family built fortresses, watchtowers, warehouses, and khans (caravanserais). These buildings improved the domestic administration and general security of the Galilee. Today, many of these structures are in a state of disrepair and remain outside of Israel's cultural preservation laws.
In Acre, Zahir rebuilt the Crusader-era walls and built on top of various Crusader and Mamluk structures in the city. Among these were the caravanserais of Khan al-Shawarda and its Burj al-Sultan tower and Khan al-Shunah. In 1758, he commissioned the construction of the al-Muallaq Mosque, He also built the Seraya government house in Nazareth, which serves as that city's municipal headquarters until 1991. In Haifa, which Zahir founded, he built a wall with four towers and two gates around the new settlement. Within Haifa, he built the Burj al-Salam fortress, a small mosque, a customs building, and a government residence (saraya). In Tiberias, he commissioned the building of a citadel (now ruined) and the al-Amari Mosque. The latter was built with alternating white and black stone, typical of the architectural style of Zahir's building works, and a minaret.
Fortifications and other structures were built in the rural villages under Zahir's control. In Deir Hanna, Zahir's brother Sa'd built a large fortress and an adjacent mosque, both of which were severely damaged during a siege by Jezzar Pasha in 1776. In Khirbat Jiddin, he rebuilt the demolished Crusader fortress with the addition of a mosque and hamaam (bathhouse). The mosque was destroyed by Israeli forces when the village was captured during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In Shefa-'Amr, Zahir's son Uthman built a large fortress with four towers, of which one remains standing. Another of his sons, Ahmad, rebuilt the Crusader fortress in Saffuriya.
In Tibnin, in modern-day Lebanon, and in Safad, Zahir or his son Ali had Crusader-era fortresses rebuilt. Zahir fortified the village of Harbaj, although the village and its fort are currently in ruins. At Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee, Zahir built five fountains, one of which remained standing by the 19th century. That remaining fountain was the largest of its kind in the Galilee. In the village of I'billin, Zahir's brother Yusuf built fortifications and a mosque. The I'billin fortress was later used as the headquarters of Aqil Agha, the 19th century semi-autonomous Arab sheikh of Galilee.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Zahir al-Umar.|
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Darwish Pasha al-Kurji
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|Multazem of Tiberias
|Multazem of Deir Hanna