What Is the Project’s Purpose?
- To build bridges of understanding through the life stories of real people who can inspire others.
- To revive the story of Abdelkader, a warrior-saint, statesman and scholar who, upon his death in 1883, The New York Times said “deserved to be counted among the few great men of the century.”
- To create a movement to celebrate Abdelkader’s qualities of knowledge, compassion, intellectual subtly, physical and moral courage, and self-mastery.
- To provide an alternative narrative of Islamic ethics in war and peace.
- To provide educational and interactive opportunities for educators, students and the general public.
To serve as an example for Muslims. As a pious and deeply conservative Muslim, his life of “true jihad” can inspire Muslims in the US and around the world to think differently about the meaning of jihad.
To serve as an example for non-Muslims. His exemplary life of moral courage, compassion, self-restraint, intellectual accomplishment (or, bandwidth, as Bill Gates would say) and chivalry in war can inspire all people, regardless of nationality or belief. His enemies became his greatest admirers.
Abdelkader’s life can provide an alternative narrative of Islamic ethics in war and peace to be held up against the growing Western phobia toward Islam. He represents the little heard good news about Islam.
- Educators and teachers at middle, high school level — social studies, world history, comparative religion and cultures, global education, lessons in leadership;
- Educators at the college level — political and military history, moral education, Islamic studies, inter-religious studies, ethics, just war studies, irregular warfare, mysticism, middle eastern studies;
- Interfaith centers and youth groups; seminary schools
- Foreign policy associations
- Centers for peace making and conflict resolution
- Civic organizations
- Islamic Schools and Muslim educational outreach organizations, such as Islamic Resource Group in Minneapolis, MN.
- Muslim political leaders, educators and religious leaders concerned with promoting Koranic literacy and countering ignorant interpretations of the sacred scripture
- Book clubs and libraries
- The media
Abdelkader’s name translates as “Servant of God.” Throughout his life, he tried to live according to the prescriptions of Divine Law. His Koranically guided life (which incorporates the revealed word of both the Gospels and the Torah) provides a narrative of Islamic ethics in war and peace that confounds today’s stereotypes.
Abdelkader was “local” yet “universal” at the same time. He was deeply and authentically Muslim, yet his religion was not a safety belt holding his identity together, rather a platform for probing the meaning of God’s diverse creation.
Abdelkader exemplifies the kind of Muslim the US should be engaging with today—conservative, committed to his faith, not perceived as “Westernized,” respected for his religious authority, intellect and courage.
Abdelkader was a unifier not a divider. For him, no religion owns Ultimate Truth. The finite cannot grasp the infinite. Nor is there a conflict between politics, religion and knowledge. They should all work to serve the end of glorifying God.
- Politics should be governed by the desire to lead people to live in harmony with one another.
- Religion provides a common moral base of shared values and recognition of a common origin.
- Knowledge will ultimately lead us to grasp the basic unity of mankind.
Abdelkader was a devout “seeker of wisdom” for life. If character is destiny, then understanding how the emir’s character was molded is definitely worth exploring – as a stimulus to thinking about the way we are educated today.
Emir Abdelkader’s was a classic mind, body and spirit type of education, but practiced with a rigor and seriousness of purpose that is rare today – more akin to a cross between Marine Corps, Trappist monk and classical madrassa education.
In the 1830s, a young lawyer from Utica New York named Timothy Davis went West to make his fortune and settled in Dubuque, Iowa. He made a reputation defending local loggers from U.S. government prosecutors. He was a man of strong character—educated, interested in the outside world, versatile, capable and possessing a good character. Perhaps, his was a case of like recognizing like.
Abdelkader’s values and personal character resonated with Davis. As an American conscious of his own country’s recent experience with British imperialism, he seems to have empathized with the principled Arab underdog struggling against the French Goliath.
In 1846, Davis and two partners acquired land along the Turkey River to build a flourmill and a new community. Davis was asked to name it. He chose to name in honor of the famous “Arab chieftain,” who had been frustrating a French colonial occupation of North Africa for 15 years. Being practical, he shortened the name to make it pronounceable for American tongues.
Americans like Davis who were interested in international news subscribed to the popular Littels Living Age, a British digest that reported frequently and sympathetically on the heroic Emir’s struggle and gleefully on the frustration of the French generals.
In naming the new settlement Elkader, Davis showed his awareness of an exemplary civic ethos drawn from the Arab world. The annual high school essay contest in Elkader manifests that humanitarian spirit which this project seeks to expand.
- Abdelkader essay prize now offered statewide in Iowa and soon to be offered to Pakistani madrasa students
- Abdelkader essay champions found in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Pakistan
- Curriculum content being developed for public school social studies
- John Kiser’s book Commander of the Faithful has been adapted by Elsa Marston for middle/ high school students
- Abdelkader narrative soon to be offered to Indonesia and Nigeria.
- Abd el- Kader narrative being used at U Nebraska, Merrimack College, Wesley Theological Seminary, Fordham University, Boston Theological School, Marine Corps University and other schools.
- Creation of Abdelkader Project website