Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca

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Hussein ibn Ali
Sharif Hussein in December 1916
King of the Arab Countries[1]
Reign October 1916 – 3 October 1924
Predecessor Position created
Successor Ali (as King of the Hejaz)
Sharif and Emir of Mecca
Reign November 1908 – 3 October 1924
Predecessor Abd al-Ilah Pasha
Successor Ali
Born 1853/1854
Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Died (aged 76–77)
Amman, Transjordan
Burial al-Aqsa Mosque
Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine
  • Abdiyah Khanum
  • Mediha Hanım
  • Adile Hanım
Father Ali Pasha ibn Muhammad
Mother Bezm-i Cihan Hanım
Religion Sunni Islam[2]

Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi (Arabic: الحسين بن علي الهاشمي‎, al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī al-Hāshimī; 1853/1854 – 4 June 1931) was a Hashemite Arab leader who was the Sharif and Emir of Mecca from 1908 and, after proclaiming the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, King of the Hejaz from 1916 to 1924. At the end of his reign he also briefly laid claim to the office of Caliph.

A member of the Awn clan of the Qatadid emirs of Mecca, he was perceived to have rebellious inclinations and in 1893 was summoned to Istanbul where he was kept on the Council of State. In 1908, in the aftermath of the Young Turk Revolution, he was appointed Emir of Mecca by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. In 1916, with the promise of British support for Arab independence, he proclaimed the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, accusing the Committee of Union and Progress of violating tenets of Islam and limiting the power of the sultan-caliph. Shortly after the outbreak of the revolt Hussein declared himself King of the Arab Countries. However, his pan-Arab aspirations were not accepted by the Allies, who recognized him only as King of the Hejaz.

After World War I Hussein refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, in protest at the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of British and French mandates in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. He later refused to sign the Anglo-Hashemite Treaty and thus deprived himself of British support when his kingdom was invaded by Ibn Saud. In March 1924, when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished, Hussein proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims. In October 1924, facing defeat by Ibn Saud, he abdicated and was succeeded as King by his eldest son Ali. His sons Faisal and Abdullah were made rulers of Iraq and Transjordan in 1921.

Early life[edit]

Hussein ibn Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Abd al-Mu'in ibn Awn was born in Istanbul in 1853 or 1854 as the eldest son of Sharif Ali ibn Muhammad, who was the second son of the former Emir of Mecca Muhammad ibn Abd al-Mu'in. As a sharif he was a descendant of Muhammad through his grandson Hasan ibn Ali and a member of the ancient Hashemite house. His mother Bezm-i Cihan, the wife of Ali, was a Circassian.[3][4]

He belonged to the Dhawu Awn clan of the Abadilah, a branch of the Banu Qatadah tribe. The Banu Qatadah had ruled the Emirate of Mecca since the assumption of their ancestor Qatadah ibn Idris in 1201, and were the last of four dynasties of sharifs that altogether had ruled Mecca since the 10th century.

In 1827 Sharif Muhammad ibn Abd al-Mu'in was appointed to the Emirate, becoming the first Emir from the Dhawu Awn and bringing an end to the centuries-long dominance of the Dhawu Zayd. He reigned until 1851, when he was replaced by Sharif Abd al-Muttalib ibn Ghalib of the Dhawu Zayd. After being deposed he was sent along with his family and sons to reside in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. In 1270 AH (1853/1854) Hussein was born to Ali. Muhammad was reappointed to the Emirate in 1856, and Hussein, then aged two or three, accompanied his father and grandfather back to Mecca.[3]

Hussein was raised at home unlike other young sharifs, who were customarily sent outside of the city to grow up among the nomadic Bedouin. Reportedly a studious youth, he mastered the principles of the Arabic language and was also educated in Islamic law and doctrine. Among his teachers was Shaykh Muhammad Mahmud at-Turkizi ash-Shinqiti, with whom he studied the seven Mu'allaqat. With Shaykh Ahmad Zayni Dahlan he studied the Qur'an, completing its memorization before he was 20 years old. He studied poetry and could compose humayni verse, a type of vernacular poetry (malhun). He also practiced horse-riding and hunting.[3][5][6]

Hussein participated in expeditions to different parts of the Hejaz and Nejd during the reign of his uncle Sharif Abd Allah ibn Muhammad (r. 1858-1877). He became acquainted with the different Arab tribes and established relations between them and the Emirate of Mecca.

While Hussein grew up in the Hejaz, his father was in Istanbul, having been recalled there in 1278 AH (1861/1862). Sometime in 1287 AH (1871/1872) Ali became ill and Hussein traveled to visit him, remaining with him until his death. In 1875 he married his cousin Abdiyah, the daughter of Sharif Abd Allah. After Abd Allah's death in 1877, Hussein and his cousin Ali ibn Abd Allah were given the rank of pasha.

Arab Revolt[edit]

Drawing by Khalil Gibran, 1916

Though there is no evidence to suggest that Sharif Hussein bin Ali was inclined to Arab nationalism before 1916, the rise of Turkish nationalism under the Ottoman Empire, culminating in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, nevertheless displeased the Hashemites and resulted in a rift between them and the Ottoman revolutionaries.[7] During World War I, Hussein initially remained allied with the Ottomans but began secret negotiations with the British on the advice of his son, Abdullah, who had served in the Ottoman parliament up to 1914 and was convinced that it was necessary to separate from the increasingly nationalistic Ottoman administration.[7] The British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, appealed to him for assistance in the conflict on the side of the Triple Entente. Starting in 1915, as indicated by an exchange of letters with British High Commissioner Henry McMahon, Hussein seized the opportunity and demanded recognition of an Arab nation that included the Hejaz and other adjacent territories as well as approval for the proclamation of an Arab Caliphate of Islam.[7] McMahon accepted and assured him that his assistance would be rewarded by an Arab empire encompassing the entire span between Egypt and Persia, with the exception of British possessions and interests in Kuwait, Aden, and the Syrian coast. Afterwards Great Britain failed to fulfil its promises and betrayed Arab nationalists by dividing middle east between allies.

Following World War I[edit]

In the aftermath of the war, the Arabs found themselves freed from centuries of Ottoman rule. Hussein's son Faisal was made king of Syria but this kingdom proved short-lived as the Middle East came under mandate rule of France and the United Kingdom. The British government subsequently made Faisal and his brother Abdallah kings of Iraq and Transjordan, respectively.

King of Hejaz[edit]

Sayyid Hussein bin Ali, Sharif and Emir of Mecca, King of Hejaz

When Hussein declared himself King of the Hejaz, he also declared himself King of the Arab lands (malik bilad-al-Arab). This only aggravated his conflict with Abdulaziz ibn Saud, which was already present because of their differences in religious beliefs and with whom he had fought before the First World War, siding with fellow anti-Saudis Ottomans in 1910. Two days after the Turkish Caliphate was abolished by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 3 March 1924, Hussein declared himself Caliph at his son Abdullah's winter camp in Shunah, Transjordan.[8] The claim to the title had a mixed reception, and Hussein was soon ousted and driven out of Arabia by the Saudis, a rival clan that had no interest in the Caliphate. Abdulaziz ibn Saud defeated Hussein in 1924, but he continued to use the title of Caliph when living in Transjordan.

Exile and abdication[edit]

Although the British had supported Hussein from the start of the Arab Revolt and the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, they elected not to help him to repel the Saudi attack, which eventually took Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. Hussein was then forced to flee to Cyprus, before going to live in Amman, Transjordan, where his son Abdullah was king. After his abdication, another of his sons, Ali, briefly assumed the throne of the Hejaz, but then he too had to flee from the encroachment of the Saudi forces. Another of Hussein's sons, Faisal, was briefly King of Syria and later King of Iraq.

Hussein died in Amman in 1931 and was buried in Jerusalem.

Marriage and children[edit]

The funeral of King Hussein in Jerusalem, 1931.

Hussein, who had four wives, fathered five sons and three daughters with three of his wives. With his first wife Abidiya bint Abdullah he had:

With his second wife Madiha he had:

With his third wife Adila Khanmun he had:


National Honours[edit]

Foreign Honours[edit]


In the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, Alec Guinness portrayed Prince Faisal, Sharif Hussein's son.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Recognized by the Allies only as King of the Hejaz, in January 1917
  2. ^ "IRAQ – Resurgence In The Shiite World – Part 8 – Jordan & The Hashemite Factors". APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map. 2005. 
  3. ^ a b c Niḍāl Dāwūd al-Mūminī (1996). الشريف الحسين بن علي والخلافة / ash-Sharīf al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī wa-al-khilāfah (in Arabic). ‘Ammān: al-Maṭba‘ah aṣ-Ṣafadī. 
  4. ^ Royal Ark
  5. ^ Khayr ad-Dīn az-Ziriklī (1923). ما رأيت وما سمعت / Mā ra’aytu wa-mā sami‘t (in Arabic). al-Qāhirah [Cairo]: al-Maṭba‘ah al-‘Arabīyah wa-Maktabatuhā. 
  6. ^ Khayr ad-Dīn az-Ziriklī (2002) [1967]. "الملك حسين / al-Malik Ḥusayn". الأعلام / al-A‘lām (in Arabic) 2 (15th ed.). Bayrūt [Beirut]: Dār al-‘Ilm lil-Malāyīn. pp. 249–250. 
  7. ^ a b c Avi Shlaim. Lion of Jordan. Penguin Books, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-101728-0. 
  8. ^ Teitelbaum, 2001, p. 243.
  9. ^ Al-Hashimi Dynasty, GENEALOGY. Royal Ark


al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Mu‘īn ibn ‘Awn
Born: 1854 Died: 4 June 1931
Regnal titles
New creation
King of the Arab Lands
October 1916 – 3 October 1924
Recognized by the Allies only as King of Hejaz
Succeeded by
Ali ibn al-Husayn
as King of Hejaz
Preceded by
as Ottoman emir
Sharif and Emir of Mecca
June 1916 – 3 October 1924
Succeeded by
Ali ibn al-Husayn
Political offices
Preceded by
Abd al-Ilah Pasha
Sharif and Emir of Mecca
November 1908 – June 1916
Succeeded by
as independent emir
Succeeded by
Ali Haydar Pasha
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Abdülmecid II
Caliph of the Muslims
11 March 1924 – 3 October 1924
Reason for succession failure:
Not widely recognized