Izzeddin al-Qassam

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  • Izzeddin al-Qassam was born in Jabla, a town south of the Syrian city Latakiya. His parents were Abd al-Qadir and Halima Qassab. He had four siblings: brother Fakhr al-Din, sister Nabiha, and half-brothers Ahmad, Mustafa, Kamil, and Sharif through his father. Izzeddin married Amina Na‘nu‘, and together they had three daughters—Khadija, Aisha, and Maimana—and a son, Muhammad. Izzeddin completed elementary school in Jabla at his father’s kuttab. At fourteen, he went to Cairo to attend lectures by distinguished teachers like reformist Shaykh Muhammad Abdu at al-Azhar Mosque. After obtaining his Ahliyya diploma, Izzeddin returned to Jabla in 1903 to run the kuttab and teach reading, writing, Qur’an, and modern subjects, succeeding his father. During his time in Egypt, Izzeddin was deeply affected by the failed 1881 rebellion against British occupation led by Egyptian army officer Ahmad Urabi, as well as calls for reform, unity, self-reliance, and resisting foreign rule. Back in Jabla, Izzeddin became the imam of Mansuri Mosque, earning respect through his sermons, lectures, and conduct, and gaining renown in neighboring regions. After Italy attacked Libya in 1911, he called for the support of Libyans through protests and volunteering as a fighter. He was among the first to join the 1919-1920 revolt against French occupation on the Syrian coast, fighting valiantly and earning a death sentence from French authorities. In late 1920, Izzeddin, his family, and companions fled to Haifa where he worked as a teacher. He gave religious lessons and exciting sermons at the Istiqlal Mosque built by the Muslim Society administering Islamic waqf in Haifa. A few years later he became the mosque’s imam and preacher, also founding a night school for literacy classes. Izzeddin helped establish a Haifa branch of the Society of Muslim Youth, serving as its president starting July 1928. The society effectively spread national consciousness and drew youth into its ranks. In 1930, the Shari‘a Court in Haifa appointed Izzeddin as a religious official, allowing him to travel to Galilee villages and increase his reputation. As the British-supported “Jewish National Home” grew more threatening, Izzeddin became convinced only armed struggle could restrain Zionism, blaming British rule as the core issue. He believed success required faith, abandoning affiliations, cooperation, secrecy, strict organization and timing. Izzeddin felt great compassion for the poor, constantly working to improve their lives. He drew many impoverished, displaced peasants into his circle. Reluctant to declare jihad before completing preparations, Izzeddin was compelled to act by massive Jewish immigration in the early 1930s, increasing surveillance, and fear of preemptive action against him. On November 12, 1935, he declared jihad in Haifa with eleven companions. On November 20, they battled a much larger British force for six hours in Ya’bad village, Jenin district. Izzeddin and four men died as martyrs. The rest were wounded or captured. Mourning his death, Haifa declared a general strike on November 21, closing all shops and restaurants. Thousands attended the funeral procession, the city’s largest ever. Izzeddin was buried in Balad al-Shaykh cemetery near Haifa. Revered as the most venerable Palestinian jihad figure, he remains an inspiration for resistance, his assassination instrumental in igniting the 1936-1939 Great Palestinian Rebellion.

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