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Abdullah I
King of Jordan
Reign 1946–1951
Successor Talal I
Junior wives
Musbah bint Nasser
Suzdil Khanum
Nahda bint Uman
Princess Haya
Talal I
Prince Nayef
Princess Munira
Princess Maqbula
Father Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca
Mother Abdiya bint Abdullah
Born 1882
Mecca, Ottoman Empire
Died 20 July 1951 (aged 69)
Al Aqsa Mosque Jerusalem

Abdullah I bin al-Hussein, King of Jordan [‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Husayn] (February 1882 – 20 July 1951) (Arabic) عبد الله الأول بن الحسين born in Mecca, Ottoman Empire, (in modern-day Saudi Arabia) was the second of three sons of Sherif Hussein bin Ali, Sharif and Emir of Mecca and his first wife Abdiyya bint Abdullah (d. 1886). He was educated in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey and Hijaz. From 1909 to 1914, Abdullah sat in the Ottoman legislature, as deputy for Mecca, but allied with Britain during World War I. Between 1916 to 1918, working with the British guerilla leader T. E. Lawrence, he played a key role as architect and planner of the Great Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule, leading guerilla raids on garrisons.[1] He was the ruler of Transjordan and its successor state, Jordan, from 1921 to 1951[2]—first as Emir under a British Mandate from 1921 to 1946, then as King of an independent nation from 1946 until his assassination.


Early political career

In 1908 Abdullah persuaded his father to stand, successfully, for Grand Sharif of Mecca, a post for which Hussein acquired British support. In the following year he became deputy for Mecca in the parliament established by the Young Turks, acting as an intermediary between his father and the Ottoman government.[3]

Abdullah maintained contact with the British throughout the First World War and in 1915 encouraged his father to enter into correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, British high commissioner in Egypt, about Arab independence from Turkish rule. (see McMahon-Hussein Correspondence).[3]

Founding of the Emirate of Transjordan

During the visit to Turkey with Mustafa Kemal

When French forces captured Damascus at the Battle of Maysalun and expelled his brother Faisal, Abdullah moved his forces from Hejaz into Transjordan with a view to liberating Damascus, where his brother had been proclaimed King in 1918.[3] Having heard of Abdullah's plans, Winston Churchill invited Abdullah to a famous "tea party" where he convinced Abdullah to stay put and not attack Britain's allies, the French. Churchill told Abdullah that French forces were superior to his and that the British did not want any trouble with the French. Abdullah acquiesced and was rewarded when the British created a protectorate for him, which later became a state; Transjordan. He embarked on negotiations with the British to gain independence, resulting in the announcement of the Emirate of Transjordan’s independence on 25 May 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (renamed simply Jordan in 1949). This date is Jordan’s official independence day. His brother Faisal became King of Iraq.

Abdullah set about the task of building Transjordan with the help of a reserve force headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Peake, who was seconded from the Palestine police in 1921.[3] The force, renamed the Arab Legion, in 1923 was led by Glubb Pasha (Sir John Bagot Glubb) between 1930 and 1956.[3]

Although Abdullah established a legislative council in 1928 its role remained advisory leaving him to rule as an autocrat.[3]

During the Second World War Abdullah was a faithful ally of the British, maintaining strict order within Transjordan, and helping to suppress a pro-Axis uprising in Iraq.[3]

Prime Ministers under Abdullah formed 18 governments during the 23 years of the Emirate.

Expansionist aspirations

Coronation of King Abdullah in Amman. Right to left: King Abdullah, Emir 'Abd al-Ilah (Regent of the Kingdom of Iraq), and Emir Naif (King Abdullah's youngest son), 25 May 1946.
Outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 29 May 1948.

Abdullah, alone among the Arab leaders of his generation, was considered a moderate by the West. He may have signed a separate peace agreement with Israel, but for the Arab League's militant opposition. Because of his dream for a Greater Syria comprising the borders of what was then Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the British Mandate for Palestine under a Hashemite dynasty with "a throne in Damascus," many Arab countries distrusted Abdullah and saw him as both "a threat to the independence of their countries and they also suspected him of being in cahoots with the enemy" and in return, Abdullah distrusted the leaders of other Arab counties.[4][5][6]

Abdullah supported the Peel Commission in 1937, which proposed that Palestine be split up into a small Jewish state (20 percent of the British Mandate for Palestine) and the remaining land be annexed into Transjordan. The Arabs within Palestine and the surrounding Arab countries objected to the Peel Commission while the Jews accepted it reluctantly.[7] Ultimately, the Peel Commission was not adopted.

In 1946–1948, Abdullah actually supported partition in order that the Arab allocated areas of the British Mandate for Palestine could be annexed into Transjordan. Abdullah went so far as to have secret meetings with the Jewish Agency (future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was among the delegates to these meetings) that came to a mutually agreed upon partition plan independently of the United Nations in November 1937.[8][9] This idea of secret Zionist-Hashemite negotiations in 1947 was expanded upon by New Historian Avi Shlaim in his book Collusion Across The Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. This partition plan was supported by British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin who preferred to see Abdullah's territory increased at the expense of the Palestinians rather than risk the creation of a Palestinian state headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi propagandist[10] Mohammad Amin al-Husayni.[3]

Jordanian Royalty
Hashemite Dynasty
Flag of Jordan.svg

Abdullah I
   King Talal I
   Prince Naif
   Princess Haya
   Princess Munera
   Princess Maqbouleh
   Prince Asem
Great Grandchildren
   Princess Yasmine
   Princess Sarah
   Princess Noor
   Princess Salha
   Princess Nejla
   Prince Nayef
   King Hussein I
   Prince Muhammad
   Prince Hassan
   Princess Basma
   Princess Alia
   King Abdullah II
   Prince Faisal
   Princess Aisha
   Princess Zein
   Princess Haya
   Prince Ali
   Prince Hamzah
   Prince Hashim
   Princess Iman
   Princess Raiyah
Abdullah II
   Prince Hussein
   Princess Iman
   Princess Salma
   Prince Hashem

The claim has, however, been strongly disputed by Israeli historian Efraim Karsh. In an article in Middle East Quarterly, he alleged that "extensive quotations from the reports of all three Jewish participants [at the meetings] do not support Shlaim's account...the report of Ezra Danin and Eliahu Sasson on the Golda Meir meeting (the most important Israeli participant and the person who allegedly clinched the deal with Abdullah) is conspicuously missing from Shlaim's book, despite his awareness of its existence".[11] According to Karsh, the meetings in question concerned "an agreement based on the imminent U.N. Partition Resolution, [in Meir's words] "to maintain law and order until the UN could establish a government in that area"; namely, a short-lived law enforcement operation to implement the UN Partition Resolution, not obstruct it".[11]

Less than a week before the outbreak of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Abdullah met with Meir for one last time. Abdullah proposed to Meir the creation "of an autonomous Jewish canton within a Hashemite kingdom," but "Meir countered back that in November, they had agreed on a partition with Jewish statehood."[9] Depressed by the unavoidable war that would come between Jordan and the Yishuv, one Jewish Agency representative wrote, "[Abdullah] will not remain faithful to the 29 November [UN Partition] borders, but [he] will not attempt to conquer all of our state [either]."[12] Abdullah too found the coming war to be unfortunate, in part because he "preferred a Jewish state [as Transjordan's neighbor] to a Palestinian Arab state run by the mufti."[9]

The Palestinian Arabs, the neighboring Arab states, the promise of the expansion of territory, and the goal to conquer Jerusalem finally pressured Abdullah into joining them in an "all-Arab military intervention" against the newly created State of Israel on 15 May 1948, which he used to restore his prestige in the Arab world, which had grown suspicious of his relatively good relationship with Western and Jewish leaders.[9][13] Abdullah's role in this war became substantial. He distrusted the leaders of the other Arab nations and thought they had weak military forces; the other Arabs distrusted Abdullah in return.[14][15] He saw himself as the "supreme commander of the Arab forces" and "persuaded the Arab League to appoint him" to this position.[16] His forces under their British commander Glubb Pasha did not approach the area set aside for the new Israel, though they clashed with the Yishuv forces around Jerusalem, intended to be an international zone.

After conquering the West Bank and East Jerusalem at the end of the war, King Abdullah tried to suppress any trace of a Palestinian Arab national identity. Abdullah annexed the conquered Palestinian territory and granted the Palestinian Arab residents in Jordan Jordanian citizenship.[17] This shocked the other Arab states. In 1949–1950, Abdullah entered secret peace talks with Israel, which, when it was leaked, shocked the other Arab states even more. Abdullah's struck a compromise with the other Arab states by discontinuing the peace talks with Israel in return for the acceptance of the West Bank's annexation into Jordan.[18]


On 20 July 1951, Abdullah, while visiting Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was shot dead by "a Palestinian from the Husseini clan."[13] On 16 July, Riad Bey al-Solh, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon, had been assassinated in Amman, where rumors were circulating that Lebanon and Jordan were discussing a joint separate peace with Israel. The assassin passed through apparently heavy security. Abdullah was in Jerusalem to give a eulogy at the funeral and for a prearranged meeting with Reuven Shiloah and Moshe Sasson.[19] Abdullah was shot while attending Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock in the company of his grandson, Prince Hussein.[20] The Palestinian gunman, motivated by fears that the old king would make a separate peace with Israel, fired three fatal bullets into the King's head and chest. Abdullah's grandson, Prince Hussein, was at his side and was hit too. A medal that had been pinned to Hussein's chest at his grandfather's insistence deflected the bullet and saved his life.[20] Once Hussein became king, the assassination of Abdullah was said to have influenced Hussein not to enter peace talks with Israel in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in order to avoid a similar fate.[21]

The assassin was a 21-year-old tailor's apprentice Mustafa Ashu,[22] who according to Alec Kirkbride, the British Resident in Amman, was a "former terrorist".[23] Ten conspirators were accused of plotting the assassination and were brought to trial in Amman. The prosecution named Colonel Abdullah el Tell, ex-Military Governor of Jerusalem, and Dr. Musa Abdullah Husseini as the chief plotters of "the most dastardly crime Jordan ever witnessed." The Jordanian prosecutor asserted that Col. Tell had given instructions that the killer, made to act alone, be slain at once thereafter to shield the instigators of the crime. Tell and Husseini fled to protection in Egypt and four local co-conspirators were sentenced to death in Amman. Jerusalem sources added that Col. Tell had been in close contact with the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, and his adherents in Arab Palestine.

Abdullah was succeeded by his son Talal; however, since Talal was mentally ill, Talal's son Prince Hussein became the effective ruler as King Hussein at the age of seventeen.

Marriages and children

Abdullah had married three times.[24]

In 1904, Abdullah married his first wife Musbah bint Nasser (1884 – 15 March 1961) at Stinia Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. She was a daughter of Emir Nasser Pasha and his wife Dilber Khanum. They had three children:

  • HRH Princess Haya (1907–1990). Married Abdul-Karim Ja'afar Zeid Dhaoui.
  • HM Talal I (26 February 1909 – 7 July 1972).
  • HRH Princess Munira (1915–1987). Never married.

In 1913, Abdullah married his second wife Suzdil Khanum (d. 16 August 1968), at Constantinople. They had two children:

In 1949, Abdullah married his third wife Nahda bint Uman, a lady from Sudan, in Amman. They had no children.



  1. ^ Avi Shlaim (2007) Lion of Jordan; The life of King Hussein in War and Peace Allen Lane ISBN 9780713997774 p 3
  2. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ISBN 0-550-18022-2, page 3
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Michael T. Thornhill, ‘Abdullah ibn Hussein (1882–1951)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 10 March 2009
  4. ^ Shlaim, 2001, 82.
  5. ^ Tripp, 2001, 136.
  6. ^ Landis, 2001, 179–184.
  7. ^ Morris, 190
  8. ^ Rogan, 2001, 109–110.
  9. ^ a b c d Morris, 193–194
  10. ^ "al-Husseini," 361
  11. ^ a b [1] Karsh, 1996.
  12. ^ "Meeting of the Arab Section of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency," qtd. in Morris, 194
  13. ^ a b Sela, 2002, 14.
  14. ^ Morris, 189
  15. ^ Bickerton, 103
  16. ^ Tripp, 2001, 137.
  17. ^ Karsh, Arafat's War, 43.
  18. ^ Hiro, 4
  19. ^ Avi Shlaim (2007) p 46
  20. ^ a b Assassination of King Abdullah of Jordan
  21. ^ Bickerton, 161
  22. ^ Michael T. Thornhill, ‘Abdullah bin Hussein (1882–1951)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 24 November 2006.
  23. ^ Wilson, 1990, p. 211.
  24. ^ Christopher Buyers, "Al-Hashimi Dynasty Genealogy"


  • Bickerton, Ian J., and Carla L. Klausner. A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.
  • Hiro, Dilip. "Abdullah ibn Hussein al Hashem." Dictionary of the Middle East. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. pp. 3–4.
  • "al-Husseini, Hajj (Muhammad) Amin." Sela. The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. 360–362.
  • Karsh, Efraim. Arafat's War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest. New York: Grove Press, 2003.
  • Landis, Joshua. "Syria and the Palestine War: fighting King 'Abdullah's 'Greater Syria plan.'" Rogan and Shlaim. The War for Palestine. 178–205.
  • Morris, Benny. 1948: The History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008
  • Michael Oren 6 Days of War,(Oxford, 2002), ISBN 0-345-45912-4 pp. 5, 7.
  • Rogan, Eugene L., ed., and Avi Shlaim, ed. The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Rogan, Eugene L. "Jordan and 1948: the persistence of an official history." Rogan and Shlaim. The War for Palestine. 104–124.
  • Sela, Avraham, ed. The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. New York: Continuum, 2002.
  • Sela, Avraham. "Abdallah Ibn Hussein." Sela. The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. 13–14.
  • Shlaim, Avi (1990). The Politics of Partition; King Abdullah, the Zionists and Palestine 1921–1951 . Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07365-8.
  • Shlaim, Avi. "Israel and the Arab coalition in 1948." Rogan and Shlaim. The War for Palestine. 79–103.
  • Shlaim, Avi (2007) Lion of Jordan; The life of King Hussein in War and Peace Allen Lane ISBN 9780713997774
  • Tripp, Charles. "Iraq and the 1948 War: mirror of Iraq's disorder." Rogan and Shlaim. The War for Palestine. 125–150.
  • Wilson, Mary Chrstina (1990). King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39987-4.

External links

Preceded by
New creation
Emir of Transjordan under the British Mandate
Succeeded by
Himself as King of Transjordan
Preceded by
Himself as Emir of Transjordan
King of Jordan
1946–1951 (titled as King of Transjordan 1946–1949)
Succeeded by
H.M. King Talal bin Abdulla


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