Profile: Sati' al-Husari

Al-Husari is known for his work on developing education, particularly in Iraq.

    Elements of al-Husari's curriculum remained
    in use in Iraq up to 2003 [GALLO/GETTY]
    Born in 1880 to Syrian parents living and working in Yemen, al-Husari is considered a leading figure of Arabism and the mentor of several pan-Arab political parties formed in the 20th century.


    The son of a magistrate, the young al-Husari was a brilliant student. He graduated from the Royal School in Istanbul in 1900 and soon assumed several key positions in education. His writings about developing the education system gained him respect across the Arab world.


    He left Turkey for Syria in 1919 after the fall of the Ottomans. He was welcomed by Prince Faisal bin al-Hussein, the would-be King of Syria. The prince told the young thinker when he first met him: "Whenever I read your writings or hear about you, I think you are an old man, but seeing you now and realising that you are still young, makes me feel happy that you still have plenty of time to serve our nation."  


    When Faisal was installed as the King of Syria in 1920, he offered al-Husari the ministry of education. Shortly afterwards, Faisal was deposed by the French, who occupied Syria and installed their own mandate system.


    Work in Iraq

    Al-Husari left with his king to Europe. King Faisal was installed as Iraq's king in 1921 with al-Husari as the general director of the education ministry.


    The then Jewish minster of education, Sason Hisqiyal, opposed the appointment, arguing that the post could not be offered to non-Iraqis. King Faisal granted al-Husari Iraqi citizenship.


    Al-Husari lived in Iraq for 20 years and established the groundwork for a complete education system, making the study of history a key component of the curriculum from primary to high school.   


    Al-Husari always stressed that the key factors for creating a viable and strong Arab nation were a common language and history, rather than religion.


    He developed a belief that the bonds of race and community are deeper and stronger than those of religion.


    His Islamist critics downplayed his beliefs arguing that he unnecessarily ignored religion as a motivator.


    They said al-Husari failed to realise the efficacy of the Islamic bond between Arabs and other non-Arab Muslims, which enabled the Islamic state to flourish until the fall of Baghdad, the capital of the Islamic empire, to the Mongols in 1258.


    Al-Husari argued that his ideas were misunderstood. In his book Al-Urooba Awalan (Arabism First), he insisted that Arab unity would be the best foundation for establishing a greater Muslim unity. 


    Influenced by al-Husari's pan-Arabism, and backed by strong public passion, Rashid Ali al-Gailani, the then-Iraqi prime minister, and a group of nationalist officers rose in 1941 against the British military presence in Iraq and sought to end the British-Iraqi agreement of 1930, which they believed made Iraq a servant of British interests. The revolt was supressed and the pro-British government reinstalled, while al-Husari was forced into exile in Syria.

    He participated in the preparations for the establishment of the Arab League, which saw the light in Egypt in 1945. Two years later he was appointed as the league's cultural director. He occupied the position for 18 years, during which he wrote most of his works. He returned to Baghdad in 1965 and died there in 1967.

    Sati' al-Husari regarded Arab unity as his mission in life and believed it was the only way for Arabs to win back their freedom and dignity.

    When the Arab armies were defeated by the Israelis in 1948, he was asked for the reason for the loss. He responded "because they were seven armies only", indicating that if all Arab armies were united as one, they would not have been defeated.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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