Husayni Family, al-

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Prominent Palestinian Arab family in Jerusalem.

By the late nineteenth century, the Husayni family had become extremely wealthy. They owned vast tracts of land amounting to about 50,000 dunums, including extensive areas and plantations in Jericho district. The social and political influence of members of the Husayni family was rooted in their ancient status as descendants of the prophet Muhammad, landowners, delegates to the Ottoman parliament, mayors and district governors, religious leaders, jurists, and educators. The family's influence also grew from a style of politics based on a delicate balance between the central authority of the Ottoman state and dominance in local Palestinian society. This balancing created a partnership between the central government in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and the urban upper class of the Arab provinces from the mid-nineteenth century until the demise of the Ottoman state in 1917 and 1918. Such partnership contributed to the further ascendance of the Husayni family since it enabled senior members of the family to act as intermediaries between the Ottoman government and local Palestinian society. The British, like the Ottomans before them, had to depend on the Husaynis and other locally influential notables to administer the local affairs of Palestine.

The senior members of the family include the following: Musa Kazim al-Husayni (18531934) was president of the Arab Executive from 1920 to 1934. Muhammad Amin al-Husayni (18951974) was a founder of Palestinian nationalism and the leader of the Palestine national movement until the nakba of 1948. Munif al-Husayni (18991983) was a close associate of al-Hajj Amin and editor of the Husayni camp's newspaper, al-Jamiʿa al-Arabiyya. Jamal al-Husayni (18921982), born in Jerusalem, served as secretary of the Arab Executive and the Supreme Muslim Council, as well as foreign minister for the All-Palestine government. Rajaʾi alHusayni (1902?) was active from 1945 in the Arab Information Offices, which were organized by Musa al-Alami under the auspices of the League of Arab States, served as minister in the All-Palestine government, and later went to Saudi Arabia to work as a senior official in the government. Ishaq Musa al-Husayni (19041990), a writer who attained

literary prominence on a pan-Arab level, studied Arabic language and literature at the American University in Cairo (19231926), Cairo University (19271930), and the University of London (19301934) where he received a doctoral degree in Semitic languages and literature under the guidance of H. A. R. Gibb, an English expert on Arab culture and literature. Ishaq taught Arabic literature at the American University of Beirut, McGill University in Canada, the American University in Cairo, and the Arab League's Institute for Arab Studies in Cairo. He wrote numerous articles and books, the most widely acclaimed being Memoirs of a Hen (1943), which won the prize of Dar al-Maʿarif, one of Egypt's most prestigious publishing houses.

Dr. Daʾud al-Husayni (19031994), political activist, played an active role in the Palestine Arab Revolt, 19361939. He was captured by the British in Iraq in 1941 and detained in Rhodesia. Allegedly a coconspirator in the assassination of King Abdullah ibn Hussein (July 1951) he then served as a member of the Jordanian Parliament (1956, 1962), reportedly as a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He stayed in East Jerusalem after the ArabIsrael War of 1967 but was expelled to Jordan by the Israeli authorities in 1968 on charges of hostile political activities. Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni (19081948) was a son of Musa Kazim. Unlike most politicians who hailed from notable families, he actually joined the Palestinian commando groups both in the revolt of 19361939 and in the ArabIsrael War of 1948. He died in action (April 1948) at al-Qastal, a mountain along the JerusalemJaffa highway. His son Faysal (19402001) established the Arab Studies Center in East Jerusalem in the 1980s. A senior figure in Fatah, he emerged as a local leader of the Palestinian Arabs in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 and served on the advisory committee of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Conference. Faysal was a pragmatist who advocated coexistence between Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

After 1948, the Husayni family was no longer able to retain its dominance over the field of Palestinian politics. This was due to a combination of changes: the dispersal of the Palestinians, the loosening of family ties, the spread of new ideologies, the emergence of new political elites in many parts of the Arab world, as well as the orientation of Palestinian politics and the general weakening of the landowning, scholarly, and mercantile families that constituted a fairly cohesive social class from the second half of the nineteenth century until the end of the British mandate in 1948.

See also abdullah i ibn hussein; alami family, al-; all-palestine government; arabisrael war (1948); arabisrael war (1967); fatah, al-; husayni, abd alqadir al-; husayni, jamal al-; husayni, muhammad amin al-; husayni, musa kazim al-; league of arab states; palestine arab revolt (19361939); palestine liberation organization (plo); supreme muslim council.


Mattar, Philip. The Mufti of Jerusalem: Al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni and the Palestinian National Movement, revised edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Muslih, Muhammad Y. The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

muhammad muslih