Haj Amin al-Husseini
(1893 - 1974)
Appointed Mufti of Jerusalem by the British
in 1921, Haj Amin al-Husseini was the most prominent Arab figure in
Palestine during the Mandatory period.
Al-Husseini was born in Jerusalem in 1893, and went on to serve in the
Ottoman Army during World War I. Anti-British and anti-Jewish, the mufti was the key nationalist figure among Muslims in Palestine.
Fearful that increased Jewish immigration to Palestine would damage
Arab standing in the area, the mufti engineered the bloody riots against
Jewish settlement in 1929 and 1936.
Al-Husseini's appointment as mufti was itself the
subject of much controversy. The decision to grant al-Husseini the
position was made by Herbert
Samuel, the first high commissioner of Palestine. It was odd that
Samuel, a British Jew, would appoint a man who would be responsible
for so much unrest within the Mandatory area. Al-Husseini in fact had
been sentenced to ten years in prison by the British for inciting
riots in 1920. None of that sentence was served, as al-Husseini
had fled to Transjordan, and was soon after amnestied by Samuel
For his part, al-Husseini had used his influence
to quiet additional disturbances in 1921. He assured Samuel that he would continue to maintain order,
and it was with this understanding that the high commissioner granted
him the position of mufti. In the following year, he was also
appointed to lead the Supreme Muslim Council, expanding his already
significant powers. Known later as the Grand Mufti, al-Husseini was
able to establish himself as the preeminent Arab power in Palestine.
One of the mufti's most successful projects was
the restoration of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa
funds collected from India and various Arab states, the Dome was
plated in gold. The impressive looks of the Dome greatly enhanced the
status of Jerusalem in the eyes of Muslims throughout the world.
Similarly, al-Husseini's own status as Mufti of Jerusalem increased
his standing as an influential Arab leader.
The mufti was dismissed from his position
following the riots of 1936. No longer able to stay in Palestine, he
continued his extremist activities from abroad. During World War
the mufti was involved in the mobilization of support for Germany among Muslims. In November 1941 the Mufti
met with Hitler. Although he continued to be involved in politics, al-Husseini's
influence gradually declined after the defeat of the Arab armies in
Sources: The Jewish Agency for Israel
and The World Zionist Organization