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Emir Abd el-Kader: Hero and Saint of Islam – Ahmed Bouyerdene (2012)

The fascinating life of Abd al-Qādir ibn Muḥy al-dīn (1808-1883) is described in this book which was originally published in French. Abd el-Kader was born in Algeria. His father, Muhyi al-Din al-Hasani had a tariqa (Sufi school) in the Qadiriyya tradition of Hasan ibn Ali (which explains the “al-Hasani” in his name). Raised a Sufi, taught in a variety of subjects and early to make the ‘big’ Hajj (not only a trip to Mecca, but also other (Sufi) sanctuaries in different countries). But then the French started to meddle in the area and Abd el-Kader suddenly had another occupation: he became an “Emir”, a “leader of the faithful” at the age of 22.

Abd el-Kader was so heroic that he started to gain respect even from his adversaries. For 14 years he led varying cooperations of tribes to try to keep the French in check. In the end he did not succeed and had to surrender after which he was taken prisoner in France. Even though this history is interesting, I was more curious about the man’s thinking and we are well passed half the book before we get to that. The event with which he made name in the West was when he prevented the massacre of Christians by Muslims.

Abd el-Kader was not only a pious man, but also a curious a well-read man with an interest that went outside Muslim subjects. While in France he met many people and he grew in his understanding of both Christianity and French / Western culture. He was even initiated into Freemasonry just before the Grand Orient de France removed the obligation of faith, which caused him to leave.

Be that as it may, in the second half of the book we follow a man who, after his incarceration in France, went into exile nearer to home, but with the freedom to again travel to Mecca and visit other countries. Bouyerdene has a look at his writings and in spite of spiritual maturity, Abd el-Kader finds a master for the next step on his spiritual path.

In the course of this history, you will learn about Muslim culture of two centuries ago, the role of the West in the region, the curiosity of some people in ‘the other side’, but most of all, about a fascinating man who was both of this world and of ‘the other’.

2012 World Wisdom, isbn 1936597179

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