The History of the Hashemites
The Hashemite Family’s great ancestor is Hashem, the grandfather of Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who was from the Quraysh clan in Mecca. The Hashemites are the grandchildren of Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him, from his daughter Fatima Al Zahraa, may God be pleased with her, and Ali bin Abi Taleb, may God honour him, the fourth of the Rashidun Caliphs.
Bani Hashem remained the leaders of Quraysh and the communities in the Hijaz, representing the moral elite and the masters of politics and economy. They earned the respect and admiration of the pilgrims of Al Bayt Al Haram. In modern history, the Hashemites led the 1916 Great Arab Revolt , which was the first step in efforts to build the envisioned Arab state.
Respected by the visitors of the Grand Mosque, the Hashemites, who possessed business acumen, were also of the moral elite and statesmen and considered among the leaders of Quraysh and the Hijaz. In modern history, the Hashemites led the Arab revolution that sought to build one unified state, with the firing of the Great Arab Revolt’s first shot heralding the first step to seeking Arab independence.
The Hashemite Lineage
The Hashemite clan is the progeny of Ismail bin Ibrahim, peace be upon him. Hashem was Quraysh leader Amr bin Abd Manaf, who was nicknamed Hashem — from the Arabic verb meaning ‘crush’ — because he crushed dry bread and served it as porridge with stock and meat to the people of Mecca in a year of drought. The people of Quraysh also gained fortune thanks to Hashem because he paved the way for the trade journeys of winter to Yemen and summer to the Levant.
Qusai bin Kilab is seen as the one who brought glory to the Hashemites, for he had a role in ensuring that the Hashemites had the honourable task of administering the pilgrimage, taking care of pilgrims and serving them water as well as raising the tribe’s banner. The Hashemites’ inclination towards independence is evident in their pioneering political and social leadership. They founded the first public forum ‘Dar Al Nadwa’ for meetings and consultations, and they used to hold meetings to discuss public policies.
The Hashemites also divided Mecca into quarters and that was their entry into the state system they had come to define, with the aim of regulating people’s affairs on the basis of justice and equality. They also created the Hilf Al Fudul alliance, led by the sons of Abd Manaf, to ensure the security and stability of the pre-Islam Hajj delegations and prevent harm from befalling people.
The Hashemites maintained their leading position amongst the people of Quraysh after Islam, representing the top tier of the community of Hijaz and continuing their custodianship over the Grand Mosque.
Despite the political changes over the consecutive Islamic eras, the standing of the Hashemites and their high religious, moral and historical stature endured. Since the fourth Hijri century, the Hashemites had had the autonomy to administer matters in Mecca. Consecutive states respected their position as the Ashraf, including their custodianship over the Grand Mosque and their taking care of the pilgrims.
When the Ottoman state took over the Levant and Egypt (1516-1517), Sultan Selim I made it a point to affirm the role of Sharif Abu Nami (who hoisted the Hashemite Banner) as the Emir of Mecca, a recognition that was maintained by his Ottoman successors. As such, the Ashraf continued to administer Hijaz and supervise the affairs of the Grand Mosque and the pilgrimage.
In modern history, the firing of the first shot of the Great Arab Revolt on 10 June 1916, was the first step taken by the Hashemites to build the Arab state, after years of alienation.
For the sake of independence and Arab sovereignty, the Hashemites led the modern Arab renaissance, which was part and parcel of the Arab consciousness movement led by the free Arabs who had organised themselves in pro-independence societies. Prince Faisal I, at the time, was the link between them and his father Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the Emir of Mecca, whom Arabs sought as the leader of their awakening and Revolt, due to his religious, legitimate and historical status.
But Sharif Hussein bin Ali paid the price of fighting for the independence and liberty of Arabs. He was banished to Istanbul in 1893, where he stayed until returning in 1908 as Emir of Mecca. This had its profound effect on his unwavering determination to represent Arab aspirations for independence and liberation and the desire to build an independent state at the dawn of the 20th century.
On account of their high religious and historical stature, the Hashemites were at the forefront of modern Arab history.
Building the United Arab State
After a resounding defeat in the Caucasus on 15 January 1915, the Ottoman state asked Sharif Hussein bin Ali to proclaim holy war in the name of Sultan Mehmed V Reşâd, and to prepare volunteer Arab troops to send them to Syria. He was requested to cooperate with the wali (governor), Wahib Bek, in mobilising Arabs, arming them and preparing them to join fighting at the various fronts. In response, Sharif Hussein sent a reply to the grand vizier saying:
“We will heed the demands of the high state if it meets the demands of Arabs, which are:
Pardoning all Arab prisoners of conscience.
Granting decentralised administration to Syria and Iraq.
Recognising the prerogative of the Ashraf in Mecca as a hereditary right.”
This response was the start of the political crisis that hastened the launch of the Revolt. At the time, the British were exerting efforts to win over the Arabs to their side; therefore, in a letter to the Hashemite Sharif Hussein bin Ali in April 1915, British High Commissioner Sir Henry McMahon said Britain was ready to help Arabs gain independence. Several letters followed in what has come to be known as the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. Sharif Hussein agreed to enter into negotiations on the basis of the liberation and unity of Arabs as well as the proclamation of independence.
Arabs chose Sharif Hussein bin Ali to represent them, with the free Arabs yearning for independence in the Levant, Iraq and North Africa looking up to him and seeing an embodiment of religious stature, political acumen and moral weight for all Muslims.
Britain agreed to Sharif Hussein’s demands, which stressed the importance of recognising Palestine as purely Arab land, countering any British claims that sought to remove Palestine, particularly Arab Jerusalem, from the borders of the Arab state.
Meanwhile, Djemal Pasha was issuing arbitrary execution sentences that were implemented in Beirut and Damascus on 6 May 1916. In addition, many Arab nationalist figures were jailed. At the dawn of that bloody day, Prince Faisal, in Damascus, uttered his famous cry: “Oh Arabs, death is sweet!” And with that, the Great Arab Revolt’s quest to liberate the land and the people began.
The Arab armies — the Northern Army led by Prince Faisal, the Eastern Army led by Prince Abdullah and the Southern Army led by Prince Ali — fought on three fronts: the Hijaz front in Mecca, Medina Munawara, Taif, Jeddah and along the Red Sea coast; the Jordan front in Aqaba, Tafileh, Maan, Azraq, Shobak, Wadi Musa, Hassa and others; and the northern front of Syria on the way to Damascus and arriving at Homs, Aleppo and the northernmost point of Maslamiya.
With the end of the military battles of World War I, Prince Faisal, leading his victorious army, entered Damascus in October 1918 and was received as a welcomed conqueror in the capital of the Umayyad state. Transjordan, south of Syria, became part of an administration that set its capital in Damascus. The free Arabs worked alongside Prince Faisal, who entrenched the principles of the Great Arab Revolt throughout the Levant, focusing on bolstering the foundations of his administration and supporting it with laws and work to enhance education and the economy.
Prince Faisal represented the Arabs at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, defending Arabs’ rights to establish an internationally recognised Arab state. However, the victors in World War I had secretly demarcated the land that had fell from the Ottoman state, dividing it amongst themselves theoretically. At the same time, free Arabs proclaimed Faisal bin Al Hussein King of Syria and launched the Arab Kingdom of Syria on 8 March 1920. Fearing the success of this state established on the principles of the Great Arab Revolt, the French army, led by General Gouraud, attacked the Arab state’s army in Syria and the Battle of Maysaloun ended the first modern Arab entity after four centuries of Ottoman rule.
Prince Abdullah bin Al Hussein attempted to restore the rule of his brother Faisal. He came to Maan when ‘local governments’ were established to administer Transjordan after the Syrian kingdom had fallen. The free Arabs came together around Prince Abdullah and supported him. He arrived in Amman on Wednesday, 2 March 1921; and, employing his political acumen, began work to establish a political system based on the Arab demand for independence, reaffirming the renaissance approach spearheaded by his father, Al Hussein bin Ali. In his talks with Winston Churchill, the British secretary of state for colonies, and British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, Prince Abdullah succeeded in securing Britain’s recognition of the establishment of a state in Transjordan. Working closely with his people, he was able to build the Jordanian state, securing its independence de jure, and officially proclaiming the independence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on 25 May 1946.
The Establishment of the State
After Prince Abdullah arrived in Amman from Maan, he embarked on work to establish a political system and centralised rule. He focused on pushing for the Arab demand for independence and affirming the continuation of the Arab revolutionary awakening, brought on by the Arab Revolt. To achieve all that, he had to surmount various difficulties and challenges.
Under Prince Abdullah bin Al Hussein’s reign, the Emirate of Transjordan witnessed major achievements and historical milestones, foremost of which were gaining international political recognition and issuing the Basic Law in 1928 as the Emirate’s first Constitution. It also signed the Jordanian-British Treaty, held elections for the first Jordanian legislature in 1929 and established and developed the Arab Army.
Other major achievements included supporting Arab revolutionaries by receiving them in Amman; establishing the Independence Party; creating an open political scene to allow for the growth of Jordanian political awareness; establishing national political parties; ensuring law and order and building state institutions; proclaiming the Emirate of Transjordan as an independent Kingdom on 25 May 1946, and achieving the unity of the east and west banks of the River Jordan as the first genuine model of Arab unity.
On Friday, 20 July 1951, His Majesty King Abdullah the Founder, may his soul rest in peace, fell martyr. His Crown Prince, His Majesty King Talal took on the mantle of the quest to build the state and rule righteously while looking ahead to the future.
Building the Modern Jordanian State and its Development
The 1952 Constitution
In less a year, which was the duration of his rule, His Majesty King Talal bin Abdullah completed the Jordanian constitution of 1952, embodying the epitome of political development based on the vital engagement of the people in decision making through a comprehensive democratic process and the holding of regular parliamentary elections.
Also under King Talal’s reign, the right to free education was endorsed and many pieces of legislation were drafted. His Majesty also sought to enhance Jordanian relations with Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt, but his illness prevented him from continuing his reign; therefore, the constitutional decision was taken to establish the Regency Council on 11 August 1952, until his son, Al Hussein, became constitutionally of age. On that day, Al Hussein was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
“The Human Being Is Our Most Precious Asset”
On 2 May 1953, His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal received constitutional powers amidst a delicate phase in Arab and international history. His Majesty was able to achieve the highest levels of civil and political development, becoming the builder of a moderate Jordan and securing a decent life for his people, in terms of advancement in the fields of public services, education and science. Jordan also continued to play its Arab and regional role ably and effectively
Throughout 47 years of His Majesty’s leadership, Jordan achieved tangible progress in all fields, especially economically, socially and politically. His Majesty coined the saying “The human being is our most precious asset,” as the cornerstone of development plans, with a focus on ensuring that their gains benefit all regions and all segments of society.
In continuation of a never-ending Hashemite journey of giving, King Hussein’s son, His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, took on the mantle by assuming constitutional powers on 7 February 1999.
Jordanians as the Priority of Reform
His Majesty King Abdullah II has strived to establish the rule of law and ensure that Jordan is a state of institutions based on justice, equality, openness, decent living, combating poverty and unemployment as well as working towards economic, political and social development that reflects positively on citizens and their standard of living.
His Majesty also believes that Jordan can move ahead on its march towards further progress, development and prosperity by achieving moderation, balance, prudent openness and casting away extremism, violence and isolationism; in addition to ensuring that all civil society institutions and the private sector are involved in the building and development process. Openness to other economies of the world is also essential.
His Majesty’s vision is focused on preparing an infrastructure and an environment conducive to a real developmental push that has a positive impact on the lives of citizens. The Royal vision also entails a comprehensive review of all aspects of the national march, identifying problems impeding it and drafting plans and programmes to seek solutions through relentless work towards a modern Jordan based on ensuring the participation of all and on the foundations of liberty, democracy, pluralism and tolerance.
The Royal vision focused on the importance of supporting the democratic march and speeding up reform on a gradual basis that entails the involvement of all segments of society in the political process.
Based on that vision, the political reform process emanates from within and is implemented by empowering citizens through their participation in decision making via their elected representatives and by entrenching the experience of parliamentary governments.
His Majesty believes that success in achieving the ultimate goal of reform is contingent upon having all parts of the reform process undertake their responsibilities and rise up to the challenge. It also requires establishing democratic values and practices, bolstering current conventions, updating them as necessary and achieving a level of political maturity required to achieve the requirements of every reform milestone.
His Majesty calls on all to assume their responsibilities in adopting the values and practices of democracy and to continue to develop them in the future by enrooting them in the educational, legislative and value system through awareness campaigns and curricula as well as through empowering the national institutions responsible for safeguarding these values and practices.
Through this vision, His Majesty reaffirms that security, democracy and welfare are the foundations of the future and are mutually interdependent. Although the current challenges represent a pressing, extraordinary reality, Jordan is confidently moving forward in the march of political development that it has charted for itself.
On Jordan’s Arab, regional and international relations, His Majesty maintains communication with Jordan’s Arab brethren and other world leaders. The Kingdom’s foreign policy is based on clear positions originating from its historical and nationalistic commitment to defend the interests of the Arab nation and serve its just causes.