Abdelhamid Ben Badis
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|Abdelhamid Ben Badis|
Abdelhamid Ben Badis at his young Age.
|Born||December 4, 1889
|Died||April 16, 1940
|Era||19th century philosophy|
Abdelhamid Ben Badis (Arabic: عبد الحميد بن باديس, Ben Badis; December 4, 1889 – April 16, 1940) was an emblematic figure of the Islamic Reform movement in Algeria. In 1931, Ben Badis founded the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema, which was a national grouping of many Islamic scholars in Algeria from many different and sometimes opposing perspectives and viewpoints. The Association would have later a great influence on Algerian Muslim politics up to the Algerian War of Independence. In the same period, it set up many institutions where thousands of Algerian children of Muslim parents were educated. The Association also published a monthly journal, the Al-Chihab and Ben Badis contributed regularly to it between 1925 and his death in 1940. The journal informed its readers about the Association's ideas and thoughts on religious reform and spoke on other religious and political issues.
Abdelhamid Ben Badis was of an old town middle-class family, which claimed descent from the Zirids, a Berber Muslim dynasty founded in the 10th Century by Bologhine ibn Ziri. Ben Badis grew up in a scholarly and religious household and as a result memorized the Quran at the age of thirteen.
He was still very young when he was placed under the tutorship of Hamdan Lounissi. Lounissi had a significant influence on the youth of Ben Badis. Ben Badis never forgot Lounissi's counsel. Lounissi remarked to him "learn knowledge for the sake of knowledge, not for the office." Lounissi was a stalwart defender of the rights of the Muslim inhabitants of Constantine. Lounissi extracted from young Ben Badis a promise to never enter into the service of France (the Colonial power in Algeria).
Pilgrimages and study
At the Zeitouna University
In 1908, Ben Badis, decided to begin his first trip in order to advance his learning. He traveled to Tunis and enrolled at the Zeitouna University, which was, at the time, a great center of learning and knowledge, particularly in the Islamic fields of studies.
At the Zeitouna University, Ben Badis horizons widened. He learned a great deal of the Islamic Sciences and Arabic Language. He met many scholars who left an indelible mark on his personality and his knowledge of Islam. The teachings of Sheik Mohammed Al-Nakhli convinced him on the need to purge Muslim communities of deviant or incorrect religious practices such as the cult of saints. Sheik Muhammed Al-Taher Ben Achour influenced Ben Badis in finding his appreciation of the splendor of the Arabic language. With Sheik Al-Bachir Safer, Ben Badis developed an interest in contemporary and past problems of Muslim communities, including finding a response to Western colonialism and dealing with its socioeconomic after-effects.
In 1912, he was awarded a degree. He spent another year at the Zeituna University as a teacher.
Ben Badis then embarked on a pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca and spent three months in Medina (the Prophet's town) and started giving lessons to pilgrims and residents in the Prophet's mosque, Al-Masjid al-Nabawi.
In Madinah, Ben Badis met Muslim reformist Sheik Bachir Al Ibrahimi. They met regularly to formulate a clear plan for Islamic reform in Algeria. This was the start of a long friendship which spurred the Islamic Reform movement In Algeria into a position of prominence and influence. Another Reformist, Sheik Husain Ahmed Al-Hindi also residing in Madinah was impressed by Ben Badis' competence and knowledge. He urged Ben Badis to return to Algeria and work to uproot the ills of Maraboutic ideas, ignorance of Islamic knowledge and to deal with cultural and religious decline among the Muslim population of Algeria under French occupation.
Return to Algeria
In 1913, Ben Badis returned to Algeria and settled in Constantine. He started teaching at the Sidi Qammouch mosque. The teachings were destined for men, women, children, and adults. He gave people education in Islamic sciences, Arabic language, literature, and history. It was at this point that Ben Badis conceived the idea of establishing a Muslim organization of religious scholars and leaders.
In 1936, Ben Badis played a role in the founding of the "Algerian Muslim Congress" (CMA). This congress was disbanded the following year in the summer of 1937 and shortly after Ben Badis established and led another organization: the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema.
In addition to working against deviations in the correct practice of Islam, Ben Badis and his fellow members of the Association strove to save the Algerian culture from being eclipsed by French values and morals. Ben Badis and other Islamic scholars resisted the suppression of Algerian patriots; working as a journalist during those years he regularly denounced fascist propaganda and anti-Semitic intrigues of the French occupiers.
Ben Badis was one of the most prominent Algerian Islamic scholars. With the aid of his contemporaries and associates he criticized Maraboutic practices and had a great influence in the creation of an Islamic conservative subsection of Algerian society.
On April 16, 1940, Ben Badis died in his birthplace of Constantine. He was buried in the presence of 20,000 people and his funeral took the aspect of a gigantic humanistic demonstration; anti-colonialist and democratic; the very principles he practiced throughout his life