Hussein Bin Ali

Hussein bin Ali

Hussein bin Ali  was the Sharif and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917, when he proclaimed himself and was internationally recognized as King of the Kingdom of Hejaz

He initiated the Arab Revolt in 1916 against the increasingly nationalistic Ottoman Empire during the course of the First World War. In 1924, when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished, he further proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims. He ruled Hejaz until 1924, when, defeated by Abdul Aziz al Saud, he abdicated the kingdom and other secular titles to his eldest son Ali.

Early life

Hussein bin Ali was born in 1854 in Istanbul as the eldest son of Sharif Ali ibn Muhammad and his wife, Salha Bani-Shahar. He was the last of the Hashemite rulers over the Hejaz to be appointed by the Ottoman Sultan.

As a Hashemite, he was highly respected in the Islamic world. His noble lineage granted him the status he maintained in the Hijaz: as a descendant of Muhammad the British recognised this status.

Arab Revolt

Though there is no evidence to suggest that Sharif Hussein bin Ali was inclined to Arab nationalism before 1916. The rise of Turkish nationalism under the Ottoman Empire, that culminated in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, nevertheless displeased the Hashemites and resulted in a rift between them and the Ottoman revolutionaries. During World War I, Hussein initially remained allied with the Ottomans but began secret negotiations with the British on the advice of his son, Abdullah, who had served in the Ottoman parliament up to 1914 and was convinced that it was necessary to separate from the increasingly nationalistic Ottoman administration. The British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, appealed to him for assistance in the conflict on the side of the Triple Entente.

Starting in 1915, as indicated by an exchange of letters with British High Commissioner Henry McMahon, Hussein seized the opportunity and demanded recognition of an Arab nation that included the Hejaz and other adjacent territories as well as approval for the proclamation of an Arab Caliphate of Islam.

McMahon accepted and assured him that his assistance would be rewarded by an Arab empire encompassing the entire span between Egypt and Persia, with the exception of British possessions and interests in Kuwait, Aden, and the Syrian coast.

But after protracted negotiations, with neither side committing to clear terms, including on key matters such as the fate of Palestine, Hussein became impatient and commenced with what would become known as the Great Arab Revolt against Ottoman control in 1916.

Following World War I

In the aftermath of the war, the Arabs found themselves freed from centuries of Ottoman rule.

Hussein’s son Faisal was made king of Syria but this kingdom proved short-lived as the Middle East came under mandate rule of France and the United Kingdom.

The British government subsequently made Faisal and his brother Abdallah kings of Iraq and Transjordan, respectively.

King of Hejaz

When Hussein declared himself King of the Hejaz, he also declared himself King of the Arab lands (malik bilad-al-Arab). This only aggravated his conflict with Abdulaziz ibn Saud, which was already present because of their differences in religious beliefs and with whom he had fought before the First World War, siding with fellow anti-Wahhabi Ottomans in 1910.

Two days after the Turkish Caliphate was abolished by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 3 March 1924, Hussein declared himself Caliph at his son Abdullah’s winter camp in Shunah, Transjordan.

The claim to the title had a mixed reception, and Hussein was soon ousted and driven out of Arabia by the Saudis, a rival clan that had no interest in the Caliphate.

Abdulaziz ibn Saud defeated Hussein in 1924, but he continued to use the title of Caliph when living in Transjordan.

Exile and abdication

Although the British had supported Hussein from the start of the Arab Revolt and the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, they elected not to help him to repel the Saudi attack, which eventually took Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. Hussein was then forced to flee to Cyprus, before going to live in Amman, Transjordan, where his son Abdullah was king.

After his abdication, another of his sons, Ali, briefly assumed the throne of the Hejaz, but then he too had to flee from the encroachment of the Saudi forces. Another of Hussein’s sons, Faisal, was briefly King of Syria and later King of Iraq.

Hussein died in Amman in 1931 and was buried in Jerusalem.

  • Years of life: 1854 – 4 June 1931


Sharif Husayn, the Prince of Mecca, who declared a military uprising against the Ottoman Empire from the Arabian Desert on June 10, 1916
The funeral of King Hussein in Jerusalem, 1931

Useful Information

Hussein bin Ali
Arabic: الحسين بن علي الهاشمي‎
Translit: al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī al-Hāshimī

Marriage and children

Hussein, who had four wives, fathered five sons and three daughters with three of his wives. With his first wife Abidiya bint Abdullah he had:

  • Prince Ali, last King of Hejaz married to Nafisa bint Abdullah.
  • Hasan bin Hussein, died young.
  • Prince Abdullah, Emir (later King) of Transjordan, married to Musbah bint Nasser, Suzdil Hanum, and Nahda bint Uman.
  • Princess Fatima – married a European Muslim businessman from France.
  • Prince Faisal, later King of Iraq and Syria, married to Huzaima bint Nasser.

With his second wife Madiha he had:

  • Princess Saleha, married to Abdullah bin Muhammed.

With his third wife Adila Khanmun he had:

  • Princess Sara, married Muhammad Atta Amin in July 1933, divorced September 1933.
  • Prince Zeid, who succeeded in pretense King Faisal II of Iraq upon his assassination in 1958, but never actually ruled as Iraq became a republic. Married to Fahrelnissa Kabaağaç.


National Honours

  • Founding Grand Master of the Supreme Order of the Renaissance
  • Founding Grand Master of the Order of Independence (Jordan)

Foreign Honours

  •  United Kingdom : Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath


In the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, Alec Guinness portrayed Prince Faisal, Sharif Hussein's son.

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