Islamic history in
Capsule Form (1990)
Alexander "Sasha" Volokh
The modern history of Egypt started around 1775, when the mamluk Ali Bey tried to strengthen Egypt
by allying himself with the tujjar (long-distance merchants) and by engaging in wars of expansion in
But his second-in-command was bribed by the Ottomans, and Ali was deposed.
Ali's sons met with equally grisly fates: Husain, hero of the second fitnah, had been killed at
Karbala in 680 by Ummayyad armies, and Hasan al-Banna, out of grief, turned inwards and founded the
Society of Muslim Brothers, which was outlawed by Nasser.
All was not lost, however; Husain made a surprising recovery from the Karbala incident and went on
to not only be the king of the Hijaz after World War I, but also Emir of Transjordan after Abdallah
Husain went to Transjordan after being expelled from the Hijaz by the Saudi dynasty, which had come
from Najd after defeating the Rashid dynasty, a group of rightly-guided men called Abu Bakr, Umar,
Osman, and Husain's father Ali.
(Husain, by the way, is also famed for his correspondence with McMahon during World War I; McMahon,
in disgust at the failure of his negotiations, left politics for show business and can now be seen
on the Tonight Show.)
In the Arab world, Husain is admired not only for his courage in facing the Ummayyad armies, which
numbered 5,000, with his meager group of 72 men, but also for his role in the Arab revolt, which
began as a revolt against certain arbitrary actions taken by the Ottoman government, which was a
virtual triumvirate at the time, being ruled by Talat, Enver Hoxha, and Jemal al-Din al-Afghani.
Abdallah, the Emir of Transjordan before Husain, was the son of Zubayr who had saved the Prophet's
life at Uhud and who had been killed at the Battle of the Camel, one of the many battles in the
Egyptian nationalist war led by Mustafa Camel and Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid.
Abdallah had also been a prominent figure in the second fitnah, and although Husain had been killed,
Abdallah was never found and ended up receiving Transjordan as a gift from Churchill, in return for
not fighting the French who had deposed his brother Faisal.
Faisal, as we well know, was elected king of Iraq by a 99.8% majority, and when he died, his son
Ghazi took the throne.
He died soon afterwards; one of his more lasting achievements was the development of the Ghazi way
of life, followed by the Rumi Seljuks.
In was, in fact, from these Seljuks that sprang the Ottoman Empire; each Ottoman sultan received,
upon his coronation, the sword of Osman, the founded of the Empire.
Osman had tried to use his sword against Ali (who had had him killed in 656, instigating the first
fitnah) but, as has already been mentioned, Ali was deposed by his second-in-command.
He was then murdered by a Kharijite rebel in 661, and Muawiya became the first Ummayyad caliph.
He tried to centralize the administration of the Caliphate, following the guidelines laid down by
such luminaries as Nasser and Mustafa Camel, the abovementioned Egyptian nationalist, who later took
on the surname Ataturk.
Ataturk, a devout Muslim, rose to power through his association with the religious organization CUP
(Congress of Ulama for Predestination).
As for Nasser, he was popular at first but ran into problems prosecuting his drug war in the Yemen,
where his so-called "crack regiments" were being decimated by gorilla warfare.
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