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Historical Algerian Figures; Emir Abd el-Kader

    He is Abd el-Kader Ben Muhieddine, better known as Emir Abd el-Kader, born in 1808 in El Guetna (near Mascara) in Algeria. He is the third son of the scholar Sidi Muhieddine and Zohra (Muhieddine's second wife), a cultivated woman. He is an Algerian cunning politician and military leader, also a writer and poet, a philosopher and theologian, a Sufi (mystic) and humanist. He learned the Koran by heart at early age. He is endowed with a curious mind and a phenomenal memory; he can quote Greek philosophers (Plato, Aristotle) and many other writings (including the Muqaddima book of Ibn Khaldun) without having them at his disposal. The Emir is considered the founder of the modern Algerian state who led the Algerians in their 19th century struggle against French colonialism and domination between 1832 and 1847. He left many books such as Reminder to the Intelligent, Being and Mind, Emir‘s autobiography and other spiritual writings.

   Abd el -Kader opposed the Ottoman rule in Oran in1832.At 25 years old, he took the place of his father leading the jihad. Abd el -Kader, who was recognized as commander of the faithful (Emir el Mouminine), quickly gained the support of tribes throughout Algeria. From his capital in Tlemcen, he set about building a territorial Muslim state based on the communities of the interior but drawing its strength from the tribes and religious brotherhoods. By 1839, he controlled more than two-thirds of Algeria. His government maintained an army and a bureaucracy, collected taxes, supported education, undertook public works, and established agricultural and manufacturing cooperatives to stimulate economic activity. The French in Algiers viewed with concern the success of a Muslim government and the rapid growth of a viable territorial state that barred the extension of European settlement. 

     Abd el-Kader fought running battles across Algeria with French forces, which included units of the Foreign Legion, organized in 1831 for Algerian service. Although his forces were defeated by the French under General Thomas Bugeaud in 1836, he negotiated a favourable peace treaty the next year (Tafna Treaty 1837). By this convention, France recognized its authority over the entire western Beilik (except Oran, Arzew, Mostaganem and Mazagran), the beilik of the Titteri and the province of Algiers (except Algiers, Blida as well as the Mitidja plain and the Algerian Sahel). In these territories, two-thirds of Algeria, Abd el-Kader strives to organize an independent and sovereign state on a religious basis.

To provoke new hostilities, the French deliberately broke the treaty in 1839 by occupying Constantine. Abd el -Kader took up the holy war again, destroyed the French settlements on the Mitidja Plain, and at one point advanced to the outskirts of Algiers itself. He struck where the French were weakest and retreated when they advanced against him in greater strength. The government moved from camp to camp with the Emir and his army. Gradually, however, superior French resources and manpower and the defection of tribal chieftains took their toll. 

Reinforcements poured into Algeria after 1840 until Bugeaud had at his disposal 108,000 men, one-third of the French army. Bugeaud's strategy was to destroy Abd el-Kader's bases, then to starve the population by destroying its means of subsistence (crops, orchards, and herds). On several occasions, French troops burned or asphyxiated non combatants hiding from the terror in caves. One by one, the Emir's strongholds fell to the French, and many of his ablest commanders were killed or captured so that by 1843 the Muslim state had collapsed. He was obliged to surrender to the commander of Oran Province, General Louis de Lamoriciêre, at the end of 1847.

    El Emir died on 26 May 1883 in Damascus (Syria).The Algerian government brought his remains back to Algeria to be interred in the Al-Alia cemetery with much ceremony on July 5, 1966, the fourth anniversary of independence and the 136th anniversary of the French conquest. To honour him, his name was given to the Islamic University and a mosque in Constantine, a city in the United States of America bears his name: Elkader in Iowa, the notes of the Algerian Dinars are engraved with his photo, many places in Paris and Lyon also bear its name, etc.

Historical Algerian Figures; Emir Abd el-Kader (Written by ARAB Sabrina)

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