Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam (Arabic:
عزّ الدين القسّام, ‘Izz ad-Dīn al-Qassām) (Full name: Izz al-Din ibn Abd al-Qadar
ibn Mustapha ibn Yusuf ibn Muhammad al-Qassam Numerous variant spellings:
Ezzedine al-Qassam, Ezzedeen al-Qassam, Izzedine al-Qassam, Izzedine el Qassam) Sheikh
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam (1882– November 20, 1935) (Arabic: عزّ الدين القسّام, was
a radical Syrian preacher and agitator,founder of the Black Hand movement in
Palestine. His death fighting the British in Palestine kindled the
Palestine Arab uprising
and turned him into a Palestinian Arab national hero.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam was born in Jableh, in northern Syria some time in 1882. He
was educated at al-Azhar University, and returned to become the
Imam of the
local mosque, preaching reformist radical Islam. Following the Italian invasion
of Libya in 1911, al-Qassam declared a
and collected funds for Libyan resistance. He also wrote a victory anthem. He
enlisted a few dozen volunteers and set out for Libya, but was arrested and sent
home by the
Izz al-Din al-Qassam enlisted in the Ottoman army when World War I broke out.
After basic training he was made a chaplain at a base near Damascus. He came
home before the end of the war.
Al-Qassam participated in the 1921 Syrian revolt against the French.
Faisal I had declared his kingdom of Greater Syria in Damascus in line
with British promises to the Arabs, but then Syria was given to the French as a
mandate, and the revolt was broken. Izz al-Din al-Qassam organized a local militia to fight the
Izz al-Din al-Qassam was sentenced to death after the revolt failed. He fled
Damascus, first to Beirut and then to Haifa. Izz al-Din al-Qassam began
preaching radical Islam and resistance to British rule there. He set up a
night school for poor workers and preached to them as imam of the
Istiqlal (Independence) mosque, and he would seek them out on the streets and in
brothels and hashish dens. As the name of the mosque suggests, the preaching was
nationalist and xenophobic.
Sheikh Qassam was a leading member of the Young Men's Muslim Association.
He was associated with the Istiqlal (Independence) party, and his agitation was
financed by several well-off businessman.
In 1929 Shaykh al-Qassam became the marriage registrar of
Hajj Amin Al Husseini's Supreme Muslim Council Sharia court in Haifa.
This allowed him to tour the northern villages, where he could spread agitation
and build a basis for revolt among the rural populace. He delivered fiery
political and religious sermons in which he encouraged villagers to organize
guerilla cells to attack the British and Jews.
Palestine Arab riots and massacres of 1929, Shaykh Qassam
intensified his agitation and obtained a
from Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Taji al-Hasani, the Mufti of Damascus, legitimizing
In 1930 al-Qassam organized and established the Black Hand, an anti-Zionist
and anti-British group, classified by the
British Mandate government as a terrorist group. He recruited and arranged
military training for his peasant force, and by 1935 he
had enlisted between 200 and 800 men. The cells were equipped with bombs and
firearms, which they used to kill Jews in the area, to steal farm equipment, to
destroy Jewish planted forests and sabotage the British railways.
In the mid-1930s, Qassam decided that the time was ripe for revolt. Jewish
immigration to Palestine was rising, and the world economic crisis was being
felt in Palestine as well. Discontent was growing. He tried to enlist the help
of the Grand Mufti, but al-Husayni was initially unenthusiastic. Toward the end
of November 1935, some of the Black Hand gang had killed a British constable.
Al-Qassam feared arrest, so he and twelve of his men hid out in villages and
caves in the hills between Jenin and Nablus, spending ten days on
the move, during which they were fed by local villagers. Two of his men got into
a firefight with British forces and killed a Jewish police officer. British police
began a manhunt and
surrounded al-Qassam in a cave near Ya'bad. Al-Qassam was killed resisting
arrest. His death sparked a movement, beginning with a mammoth funeral in Haifa.
The movement soon became the
Palestine Arab uprising.
The revolt was soon co-opted by the Mufti and the Husseini family and lasted from
1936 to 1939. The fighters called themselves Qassamiyun, followers of al-Qassam.
The Syrian Izz al-din al-Qassam became the paradigmatic Palestinian Arab
The military wing of the
Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, bears his name
as does the home-made Qassam rocket. .
Shaykh Izz al-din al-Qassam is buried in the Muslim cemetery of Balad
ash-Sheikh, near Haifa.
November 12, 2008
Synonyms and alternate spellings: ; Ezzedine al-Qassam, Izzedine al-Qassam, Izzedine el Qassam,
Ezedine al-Qassam, Izz al-Din, Al-Qassam.