King Hussein bin Talal
(1935 - 1999)
Prior to his death at age 63 on February 7, 1999, King
Hussein bin Talal was the longest serving executive head of state in the
world. Of great significance to Muslims throughout the world, King Hussein
I was also the forty-second generation direct descendant of the Prophet
Muhammad. He was born in Amman on November 14, 1935, to Prince Talal bin
Abdullah and Princess Zein al-Sharaf bint Jamil. King Hussein has two
brothers, Prince Muhammad and Crown Prince El Hassan, and one sister,
After completing his elementary education in Amman,
Hussein attended Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt, and Harrow School
in England. He later received his military education at the Royal Military
Academy Sandhurst in England.
Early in young Husseins life, and on July 20, 1951,
his grandfather King Abdullah was assassinated at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Hussein was there, with
his grandfather, as they went regularly to perform Friday prayers. A medal
his grandfather had recently given the young Prince Hussein, and which he
wore after his grandfathers insistence, saved Hussein from the
On September 6, 1951, King Abdullahs eldest son, King
Talal assumed the throne. When he was determined to be mentally
incapacitated, Talal was quickly replaed by his eldest son, Hussein, who
was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on August 11, 1952.
A Regency Council was appointed until King Husseins formal accession to
the throne on May 2, 1953, when he assumed his constitutional powers after
reaching the age of eighteen, according to the Islamic calendar.
Throughout his long and eventful reign, King Hussein
worked hard at building his country and raising the living standard of each
and every Jordanian. Early on, King Hussein concentrated on building an
economic and industrial infrastructure that would compliment and enhance
the advances he wanted to achieve in the quality of life of his people.
During the 1960s, Jordans main industries -including phosphate, potash
and cement- were developed, and a network of highways was built throughout
On the human level, the numbers speak for King
Husseins achievements. While in 1950, water, sanitation and electricity
were available to only 10% of Jordanians, today these reach 99% of the
population. In 1960 only 33% of Jordanians were literate, in 1996, this
number climbed to 85.5%. In 1961, the average Jordanian received a daily
intake of 2198 calories, and by 1992, this figure had increased by 37.5% to
reach 3022 calories. UNICEF statistics show that between 1981 and 1991,
Jordan achieved the worlds fastest annual rate of decline in infant
mortality -from 70 deaths per 1000 births in 1981 to 37 per 1000 in 1991, a
fall of over 47%. King Hussein has always believed that Jordans people
are its biggest asset, and he continues to encourage all -including the
less fortunate, the disabled and the orphaned- to achieve more for
themselves and their country.
King Hussein also struggled throughout his 45 year reign
to promote peace in the Middle East. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he was
instrumental in drafting UN Security
Council Resolution 242 which calls on Israel to withdraw from Arab
lands it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for peace. This resolution
has served as the benchmark for all subsequent peace negotiations. In 1991,
King Hussein played a pivotal role in convening the Madrid Peace Conference, and
providing an "umbrella" for Palestinians to negotiate their
future as part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The 1994 Peace Treaty between Jordan and
Israel is a major step toward achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting
peace in the Middle East.
While working towards Arab-Israeli peace, King Hussein
has also worked to resolve disputes between Arab states. During the 1990-91
Gulf Crisis, he exerted vigorous efforts to peacefully effect an Iraqi
withdrawal and restore the sovereignty of Kuwait.
King Hussein has persevered in his pursuit of genuine
Arab reconciliation, wherever a conflict may arise between neighbors or
within a country, such as his recent mediation in the Yemeni civil war.
Furthermore, and in almost every speech or forum, Hussein called for
international humanitarian aid to relieve the people and children of Iraq
from their daily suffering.
King Husseins commitment to democracy, civil
liberties and human rights has helped pave the way in making Jordan a model state for the region. The
kingdom is internationally recognized as having the most exemplary human
rights record in the Middle East, while recent reforms have allowed Jordan
to resume its irreversible drive to democratization. In 1990, King Hussein
appointed a royal commission representing the entire spectrum of Jordanian
political thought to draft a national charter. Today the National Charter,
along with the Jordanian Constitution, serves as a guideline for democratic
institutionalization and political pluralism in the country. In 1989. 1993
and 1997, Jordan held parliamentary elections which were accredited
internationally as among the freest and fairest ever held in the Middle
King Hussein married Queen Noor on June 15, 1978. They
have four children: Hamzah, Hashem, Iman and Raiyah. Hussein also had eight
children Alia, Abdullah, Faisal, Zein, Aisha, Haya, Ali and Abeer
from three previous marriages
HRH Prince Muhammad, the Personal Representative of His
Majesty, has two sons: Talal and Ghazi. HRH Crown Prince El Hassan has four
children: Rahma, Sumayya, Badiya, Rashid and three grandchildren. HRH
Princess Basma has four children: Farah, Ghazi, Saad, and Zein.
Hussein was an accomplished aviator, motorcyclist and
race-car driver. He enjoyed water sports, skiing, tennis, ham radio, and
surfing the Internet. King Hussein read extensively on political affairs,
history, international law, military science and aviation. In addition to
being an avid reader, the King was the subject of numerous books. He wrote
three books: Uneasy Lies the Head (1962), about his childhood and
early years as king, My War With Israel (1969), and Mon Métier
Hussein's later years were plagued by health problems.
He had surgery for a cancerous kidney in 1992, and had six months of
chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the Mayo Clinic in 1998. In
October 1998, Hussein left his hospital bed to help mediate the Wye River peace accord between Israel
and the Palestinians, winning accolades from all sides for his deft
At the end of January 1999, Hussein returned to Amman
in between cancer treatments in the United States to announce that his
oldest son, Abdullah,
would succeed him on the throne.
The succession has now taken place.
Sources: The Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan, Associated Press, and other news reports.