Lessons Learned from the Emir

June 10, 2019

Written by Reem Esseghir

 

An important aspect of studying history is applying what we learn to our own lives. One way this can be done is by analyzing the traits of historical figures that had such a strong impact on the world. With the case of AEP’s namesake, Emir Abdelkader, there are a multitude of traits we can learn and embody from his example, a few of which are explained below.

 

KNOWLEDGEABLE: One of the marking traits of Emir Abdelkader is his strong education in various fields. During his youth, Abdelkader’s father would send him to cities around the world to learn in the homes of scholars. By the age of fourteen, he had already studied mathematics, history, Greek philosophy, veterinary sciences, and several other subjects. In earning a well-rounded education, Abdelkader became more aware and receptive of other cultures. This aided him later on in his life, when he had to negotiate and work with others from across the globe. It also allowed him to become an outstanding leader, both militarily and civilly. He was able to lead armies in his fight against the French occupation of Algeria but also lead and govern his people for years.

 

JUST: Being “just” is a trait that Emir Abdelkader held throughout his life. For example, during his time in Syria, the Druze began persecuting the Christians because of their faith. Hundreds of them, including women and children, were being chased from their homes and brutally slaughtered. Emir Abdelkader, being someone who always stood up for the oppressed, opened the doors of his home as a refuge to these Christians. He encouraged others to do so, leading to many other Algerians of the city following his example. According to one source, he housed nearly four thousand Christians in his home, telling the Druze, “These Christians are my guests. Try to take one of them, and you’ll learn how well my soldiers fight. We will fight for a just cause, just as we did before!” (Marston, 112).  AEP’s co-founder John Kiser spent many years researching Abdelkader and wrote in his book Commander of the Faithful that the Emir actually housed closer to 10,000 Christians, further demonstrating the compassion of Abdelkader. His continuous fight against the oppression of others was one that became known globally, and one that we should seek to embody in today’s world full of injustices.


FORGIVING: A trait that Emir Abdelkader held that struck many was his ability to forgive. After years of persecution, war, and violence against Algerians, Abdelkader decided to propose a deal to the French in 1847. He promised to stop fighting them so long as they secure him, his family, and his supporters, safe passage to either Palestine or Egypt. The French initially agreed, but quickly broke their promise and instead imprisoned the travelers. Abdelkader and his people were imprisoned in France for five years, being transferred from prison to prison across the country. During this time, they faced severe sickness and loss. However, even after all this difficulty, the Emir always found logical reasons and excuses for the French to commit such actions. This wasn’t a sign of his weakness, but rather of his forgiveness. His message of forgiveness and mercy spread and the streets of France were full of people celebrating his freedom when he was released.

 

It is incredibly important to implement and practice what we learn in our daily lives. After reading about the magnificent traits of Emir Abdelkader, how will you apply what you’ve learned to your own life? What correlations can be drawn between the events that occurred at the Emir’s time and today? How should we act amidst such events? Comment below what you think!

 

Marston, Elsa. The Compassionate Warrior: Abdelkader of Algeria. Indiana: Wisdom Tales, 2013. Print

 

If you would like to read more about Emir Abdelkader and his legacy, check out AEP’s bibliography page. For an in-depth look at his life and the events that unfolded, check out Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883) by John Kiser.

 

Reem Esseghir is a 2017 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize winner and active member of the AEP Youth Initiative.

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