Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī
|Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī|
|Born||Sayyid Jamaluddin ibn Safdar
1839 Location disputed
|Died||9 March 1897 (aged 58)|
|Cause of death||Cancer of the jaw|
|Resting place||Kabul, Afghanistan|
|Notable idea(s)||Pan-Islamism , Sunni-Shia unity, Hindu-Muslim unity|
Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī (Pashto: سید جمال الدین افغاني), also known as Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn Asadābādī (Pashto: سید جمال الدین اسدآبادي) and commonly known as Al-Afghani (1838/1839 – 9 March 1897), was a political activist and Islamic ideologist who travelled throughout the Muslim world during the late 19th century.
He is one of the founders of Islamic Modernism as well as an advocate of Pan-Islamic unity in Europe and Hindu–Muslim unity in India, he has been described as being less interested in minor differences in Islamic jurisprudence than he was in organizing a united response to Western pressure.
He is also known for his involvement with his follower Mirza Reza Kermani in the successful plot to assassinate Shah Naser-al-Din, who Al-Afghani considered to be making too many concessions to foreign powers, especially the British Empire.
Early life and origin
As indicated by his nisba, al-Afghani claimed to be of Afghan origin.
His true national and sectarian background have been a subject of controversy.
According to one theory and his own account, he was born in Asadābād, near Kabul, in Afghanistan.
Supporters of the latter theory view his claim to an Afghan origin as motivated by a desire to gain influence among Sunni Muslims or escape oppression by the Iranian ruler Nāṣer ud-Dīn Shāh.
One of his main rivals, the sheikh Abū l-Hudā, called him Mutaʾafghin ("the one who claims to be Afghan") and tried to expose his Shia roots.
He was educated first at home and then taken by his father for further education to Qazvin, to Tehran, and finally, while he was still a youth, to the Shi'a shrine cities in present-day Iraq (then-part of Ottoman Empire).
It is thought that followers of Shia revivalist Shaikh Ahmad Ahsa'i had an influence on him.
Especially in his writings published in Afghanistan, he also used the pseudonym ar-Rūmī ("the Roman" or "the Anatolian").. or centuries the long and narrow valley of Kunar with Pashat as its main town had been ruled by a Pashtunized Sayyid family of Arab descent.
Sayyid Ali Tirmizi bin Sayyid Kanbar Ali Ferghani, known as the Pir Baba Buner (a descendent of Sayyid Ali Akbar bin Imam Hasan al-Askari), who had accompanied Zahir al-Din Babur from Tirmiz, was the founder of the family.
His shrine in the village of Paucha in Buner is venerated to the present day.
Emperor Humayun, who was the son and successor of Babur, had granted him Kunar free of revenue.
His descendants known locally as de Konarr pachayaun (kings of Kunar) as well as de Konarr sayyedaun (Sayyids of Kunar) gradually became secular.
At the age of 17 or 18 in 1855–56, Al-Afghani travelled to British India and spent a number of years there studying religions.
His first documents are dated from Autumn of 1865, where he mentions leaving the "revered place" (makān-i musharraf) and arriving in Tehran around mid-December of the same year.
At that time he encouraged the king to oppose the British but turn to the Russians.
However, he did not encourage Mohammad Azam to any reformist ideologies that later were attributed to Al-Afghani.
Reports from the colonial British Indian and Afghan government stated that he was a stranger in Afghanistan, and spoke the Dari language with an Iranian accent and followed European lifestyle more than that of Muslims, not observing Ramadan or other Muslim rites.
In 1868, the throne of Kabul was occupied by Sher Ali Khan, and Al-Afghani was forced to leave the country.
He travelled to Constantinople, passing through Cairo on his way there.
He stayed in Cairo long enough to meet a young student who would become a devoted disciple of his, Muhammad 'Abduh.
He entered Star of East masonic lodge on 7 July 1868 while staying in Cairo.
His membership number was 1355.
He also founded a masonic lodge in Cairo and became its first Master.
According to K. , in The Masters Revealed, Paul JohnsonH.P. 's masters were actually real people, and " BlavatskySerapis Bey" was Jamal Afghani, as a purported leader of an order named the "Brotherhood of Luxor".
Afghani was introduced to the Star of the East Lodge, of which he became the leader, by its founder Raphael Borg, British consul in Cairo, who was in communication with Blavatsky.
As concluded by Joscelyn Godwin in The Theosophical Enlightenment, "If we interpret the 'Brotherhood of Luxor' to refer to the coterie of esotericists and magicians that Blavatsky knew and worked with in Egypt, then we should probably count Sanua and Jamal ad-Din as members."
In the late 1860s he was in Afghanistan until he was expelled and returned to India.
He went to Istanbul and was again expelled in 1871, when he proceeded to Cairo, where his circle of disciples was similar to Blavatsky's Brotherhood of Luxor.
Afghani was forced to leave Egypt and settled in Hyderabad, India, in 1879, the year the Theosophical Society's founders arrived in Bombay.
He then left India and spent a short time in Egypt before arriving in Paris in 1884.
The following year he proceeded to London, and then on to Russia where he collaborated with Blavatsky's publisher, Mikhail Katkov.
In 1871, Al-Afghani moved to Egypt and began preaching his ideas of political reform.
His ideas were considered radical, and he was exiled in 1879.
He then travelled to Constantinople, London, Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Munich.
In 1884, he began publishing an Arabic newspaper in Paris entitled al-Urwah al-Wuthqa ("The Indissoluble Link") with Muhammad Abduh; the title (Arabic: العروة الوثقى), sometimes translated as "The Strongest Bond", is taken from the Quran – chapter 2, verse 256.
The newspaper called for a return to the original principles and ideals of Islam, and for greater unity among Islamic peoples.
He argued that this would allow the Islamic community to regain its former strength against European powers.
Al-Afghani was invited by Shah Nasser ad-Din to come to Iran and advise on affairs of government, but fell from favor quite quickly and had to take sanctuary in a shrine near Tehran.
Although Al-Afghani quarrelled with most of his patrons, it is said he "reserved his strongest hatred for the Shah," whom he accused of weakening Islam by granting concessions to Europeans and squandering the money earned thereby.
His agitation against the Shah is thought to have been one of the "fountain-heads" of the successful 1891 protest against the granting a tobacco monopoly to a British company, and the later 1905 Constitutional Revolution.
He was invited by Abdulhamid II in 1892 to Istanbul.
He traveled there with diplomatic immunity from the British Embassy, which raised many eyebrows, but nevertheless was granted a house and salary by the Sultan.
Abdulhamid II's aim was to use Al-Afghani for Pan Islamism propagation.
Kermani later returned to Iran, and assassinated Naser-al-Din at gunpoint on 1 May 1896, while the Shah was visiting a shrine.
Kermani was executed by public hanging in August 1897, and Al-Afghani himself died of cancer in the same year.
Political and religious views
Al-Afghani's ideology has been described as a welding of "traditional" religious antipathy toward non-Muslims "to a modern critique of Western imperialism and an appeal for the unity of Islam", urging the adoption of Western sciences and institutions that might strengthen Islam.
Although called a liberal by the contemporary English admirer, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Jamal ad-Din did not advocate constitutional government.
In the volumes of the newspaper he published in Paris, "there is no word in the paper's theoretical articles favoring political democracy or parliamentarianism," according to his biographer.
Jamal ad-Din simply envisioned "the overthrow of individual rulers who were lax or subservient to foreigners, and their replacement by strong and patriotic men."
In 1864, the Lodge "Henry IV" extended an invitation to him to join Freemasonry, which he accepted, being initiated at the Lodge of the Pyramids in Alexandria, Egypt.
Blunt had supposedly become a convert to Islam under the influence of al-Afghani, and shared his hopes of establishing an Arab Caliphate based in Mecca to replace the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul.
When Blunt visited Abdul Qadir in 1881, he decided that he was the most promising candidate for "Caliphate," an opinion shared by Afghani and his disciple, Mohammed Abduh.
According to another source Al-Afghani was greatly disappointed by the failure of the Indian Mutiny and came to three principal conclusions from it:
- that European imperialism, having conquered India, now threatened the Middle East.
- that Asia, including the Middle East, could prevent the onslaught of Western powers only by immediately adopting the modern technology like the West.
- that Islam, despite its traditionalism, was an effective creed for mobilizing the public against the imperialists.
Al-Afghani held that Hindus and Muslims should work together to overthrow British rule in India, a view rehashed by Maulana Syed Husain Ahmad Madani in Composite Nationalism and Islam five decades later.
He believed that Islam and its revealed law were compatible with rationality and, thus, Muslims could become politically unified while still maintaining their faith based on a religious social morality.
These beliefs had a profound effect on Muhammad Abduh, who went on to expand on the notion of using rationality in the human relations aspect of Islam (mu'amalat) .
In 1881 he published a collection of polemics titled Al-Radd 'ala al-Dahriyyi (Refutation of the Materialists), agitating for pan-Islamic unity against Western imperialism.
It included one of the earliest pieces of Islamic thought arguing against Darwin's then-recent On the Origin of Species; however, his arguments allegedly incorrectly caricatured evolution, provoking criticism that he had not read Darwin's writings.
In his later work Khatirat Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani ("The memoir of Al-Afghani"), he accepted the validity of evolution, asserting that the Islamic world had already known and used it.
Among the reasons why Al-Afghani was thought to have had a less than deep religious faith was his lack of interest in finding theologically common ground between Shia and Sunni (despite the fact that he was very interested in political unity between the two groups).
For example, when he moved to Istanbul he disguised his Shi'i background by labeling himself "the Afghan".
Death and legacy
Al-Afghani died of throat cancer on 9 March 1897 in Istanbul and was buried there.
In late 1944, on the request of the Afghan government, his remains were taken to Afghanistan via British India.
Thereafter, his remains were laid in Kabul inside the Kabul University; a mausoleum was also erected there in his memory.
In Afghanistan, a university is named after him (Syed Jamaluddin Afghan University) in Kabul.
There is also street in the center of Kabul which is called by the name Afghani.
In other parts of Afghanistan, there are many places like hospitals, schools, Madrasas, Parks, and roads named Jamaluddin Afghan.
In Tehran, the capital of Iran, there is a square and a street named after him (Asad Abadi Square and "Asad Abadi Avenue" in Yusef Abad)
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī.