The Story of Amir Abdelkader, the Scholar Who Fought against Colonial Forces in Algeria

Etienne Carjat(Life time: 1828–1906) / Public domain

In Islam, Muslims never forget the efforts and lives of others who have sacrificed all they had for the sake of Allah (SWT) and His religion, Islam. One of such heroic figures in Islam is Imam Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine, the unforgettable Muslim scholar who fought against the colonial forces of France in the northern African nation of Algeria. Also known as Abdelkader El Jazair or Amir Abdelkader, he was a fearless Muslim military and religious leader who carved his name in stone while defending the cause of Islam.

Born on the 6th of September, 1808, he rallied Muslims behind the banner of Islam and confronted the French colonial forces. France then was a major superpower and boasted of one of the most powerful militaries in the world. But that did not stop this Muslim scholar from leading fellow Muslims against the invaders and he recorded tremendous success in his efforts.

When Abdelkader was born, it was into a family of Muslim scholars and he devoted much of his life to learning all he could regarding Islam. In no time, he became a gifted scholar and admired cleric. His knowledge of Islam and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) was so impressive that everyone flocked to learn from him.

Shortly after his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1825, the forces of the French colonial empire invaded his native country of Algeria. It was the beginning of terror for the Algerians as they were now under attack from one of the most intimidating forces in the world. At first, the Muslims felt helpless. But in a short period, the people told Abdelkader’s father to lead them in the resistance against the French invaders. Without wasting time, his father announced the beginning of a jihad (holy struggle) and his son (Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine) joined in this holy campaign against the French.

With time Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine would distinguish himself as a fearless and courageous leader and warrior. Later, the Muslims elected him to be the Amir (leader) since his father had become too advanced in age. Upon becoming the Amir, he immediately set to work leading impressive military expeditions and political incursions. He also recorded success in ensuring unity among all the different tribes in the area and he was able to return security and stability.

As expected, the French forces were not happy with the rapid advancement of Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine and soon resumed hostility. In July 1834, Abdelkader led the Muslims to the Battle of Macta where they inflicted a heavy defeat on the French.

He would continue his struggle against the French on behalf of Islam until he had to surrender in 1847 but not after years of successful military exploits against the French. His surrender did not stop the entire country from admiring him and his followers continued the struggle against France until Algeria got independence in July 1962. May Almighty Allah (SWT) forgive his sins and grant him the highest station in Al Jannah, aameen.