Abd al-Hamid Ben Badis
Founder of the Islamic reformist movement in Algeria
His name and origins:
His name is Abd al-Hamid Ibn Muhammad Ibn Al-Mustafa Mohamed Ibn Al-Makki Kahoul Ibn Ali descendant of the great-grandfather “Menad Ibn Mankush” a major figure in the tribe “Telkata” (or Tolokkata / Tilkata), a major division of the great and glorious Berber tribe “Sinhâja.”in Algeria and the Islamic Maghreb.
As for the origins of his family, he is from a noble and distinguished family, well known for its knowledge, wealth and fame by its prestigious lineage that has a great figure, “Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah Ibn Badis” one of the most famous leaders of the “Zirids” Dynasty whose founder is Prince “Bulukkin Ibn Ziri ibn Menad Al-Sinhâji”.
Many personalities of the strain of Ibn Badis family were very prominent. Ibn Khaldun has mentioned that more than 40 of Ben Badis ancestors occupied prominent positions ranging from teaching and advisory functions to religious positions. The judge position in Constantine was almost devoted exclusively to scholars from Ibn Badis family for a long time. The most famous among Ben Badis ancestors were the judges ; Abu Hamida Abbas Ibn Badis and his grand father Al-Makki Ibn Badis.
His father “Muhammad Al-Mustafa Ibn Badis” was one of the great merchants and farmers, respected among the dignitaries of Constantine, has served as Financial Officer and appointed member of the Supreme Council and City Councillor and Honorary “Pasha Agha”. He was awarded the medal of “Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur” by French colonial authorities. And thanks to his successful intervention in 1945 the inhabitants of “Oued Zenati” survived the genocide in the wake of the famous incidents of May 8. He had worked as well in farming and trade, and got enriched from them.
His mother Zahra bint Ali Ibn Djelloul, daughter of a Honourable family known for its knowledge, piety and wealth in Constantine, Comes from the famous tribe of “Beni Maaf” from Al-Aures mountains.
He was born on Wednesday 11 Rabie Thani in the year 1307 H, corresponding to December 4, 1889 in Constantine. He was the eldest among his siblings.
His education and studies:
In a family deeply committed to Islam, Shaykh Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis was raised. When he was five years old, his father put him in the custody of one of the most famous reciters of the Quran in Constantine Sheikh “Mohammed Al- Madasi “, he finalized the memorization of the Quran before he reaches the age of 13. As the young Abd al-Hamid showed great aptitude for learning and exemplary moral conduct, his master appointed him to lead the prayer of the “Tarawih” during the month of Ramadan at the Mosque of al-Jami’ Al-Kebir for 03 consecutive years.
In 1903, he learned the principles of Sharia and Arabic Sciences under his Shaykh Hamdan Lounici in the the mosque of Sidi Mohamed Al-Najjar.
In 1908, he traveled to Tunisia to continue his studies at the University Ezzitouna, where he completed his studies with eminent scholars of the time, among these are: Sheikh Al-Allama Mohamed Al-Nakhli Al-Qayrawani, Mohamed Al Taher Ibn Achour, Mohamed Al-Khidhr Hussein, Mohamed Sadeq Annaifar, and Bashir Safar.
After 03 years of intense study, he obtained his degree in 1911 (certificate of Al-Alamiyyah), and was ranked first among all students of his promotion. He was the only Algerian student graduated during this session. He taught for one year in Tunisia after his graduation.
His trip to Hijaz (Saudi Arabia):
After his return to Algeria, Shaykh Ibn Badis had no other ambition than to teach in his hometown, Constantine. He began his career by lecturing at the Grand Mosque from the book “Ash-Shifa’ of Al-Qadi Iyadh. However, the Mufti of the city interfered and attracted the attention of colonial authorities. Therefore, Shaykh Ibn Badis decided in 1913 to make the pilgrimage.
Having completed the Hajj to Makkah, he visited Madinah (the city of the Prophet) and stayed there for three months where he finds his teacher Shaykh Hamdan Lounici. He had the privilege to know some great scholars, including Shaykh Ahmed Hussein Al Fayd-Abadi Al-Hindi, and had the invaluable opportunity to teach in the Prophet’s Mosque in their presence.
At that time, Sheikh Ibn Badis had to decide between two choices, to stay in Madinah as his Sheikh Lounici had advised him or to follow the advice of Sheikh Ahmed Hussein Al-Hindi to return to his country to serve Islam and the Arabic language as best he could. Finally, he was convinced with the opinion of Sheikh Ahmed Hussein Al-Hindi, and decided to return home to serve his country.
It was also during his stay in Madinah that he met his friend in the preaching and reform, Shaykh Mohammed Bashir al-Ibrahimi, with whom he spent all his evenings of his stay in Madinah, to study the methods and programs that generated the revival and reform movement in Algeria.
On his way back to Algeria, he stopped in Cairo, visited Al-Azhar Mosque and University, and became aware of the methodology applied and the courses content of Al-Azhar. Then, he visited the Grand Mufti of Egypt Shaykh “Mohammed Boukhit Al-Mutiî at his home in Helwan, and gave him a book of Sheikh Hamdan Lounici. His meeting with the Mufti led him to get (Ijazah Ilmiyya) from the Mufti.
His reformist activity:
Education and Teaching:
On his return from the East in 1914, Shaykh Ibn Badis focused on education and seeks to provide fresh air in this area, because education was for him the cornerstone in any constructive efforts.
He began his educational and teaching activities at the Mosque of Al-Jami’ Al-Akhdar in early Jumada I 1332 AH / 1914, teaching students the entire day according to the designated program for each level, and deliver lessons in the interpretation of the Quran, the Hadith from the book of al-Muwatta, in addition to preaching and lecturing the general public in the evenings, and giving some lesson for the children in the Kuttab. Then, he expanded his efforts in giving lessons in the mosque of Sidi Qmosh and the mosque of Sidi Abd al-Mu’min. In the weekends and summer vacations, he used to take preaching trips around the various regions of the country.
Almsadjada saw a group of virtuous callers by setting up an office would be the basis of the Arab primary education in 1926, it emerged in 1930 School of Education and the Association of Islamic education. And called on Algerians to establish branches in parts of Algeria.
After years of his mosque educational activities, some of those close to him proposed the establishment of an office for an arabic primary school in 1926. In 1930, the school of the association of islamic education and teaching was born. Shaykh Ibn Badis, then, called the Algerians to establish branches of that school throughout the country.
Taking care of the students, he created a committee to monitor their conduct ad supervise the financial fund allocated to help them. He used to send the talented students who were able to continue their higher study to study at Al-Azhar and Zaituna. He urged the education of woman and took great interest in educating her. So, he delivered lessons, particularly for women at the Mosque of Al-Jami’s Al-Akhdar. He used to give special lessons for girls at the school of the association of education and teaching. He granted to girls free education, and sought to enable them to continue to secondary and higher education in the Arab Mashriq.
In order to reform education and the rationalization of educational curricula in Algeria, he called the educators to a conference held in 1937 at the club of Nadi Attaraqqi to exchange views on the matter of the free Arabic education and its free schools, mosques, systems and methods. He also participated in the reform of education system in the Ezzitouna Mosque in Tunis, and sent his proposals to the Commission on the development of curricula reform set up by the governor of Tunis in 1931, which included a summary of his views on education and teaching.
Shaykh Ibn Badis saw that the reform movement should not be satisfied with the education and teaching but also, it should address the press. For that objective, he announced the creation of the newspaper “Al-Muntaqid” in 1925, despite the fact that he had had a previous writing in the press specifically articles in the newspaper “Al-Najah” under a pseudonym “The Constantinian and Al-Absi”
But the newspaper “Al-Muntaqid” did not last long, because of his outspokenness and boldness. After No. 18 the colonial authorities put an end to its publication. The newspaper “Ash-Shihab” came to replace it and continued to be published weekly for four years, then became a monthly magazine from February 1929. To ensure the success of his journalistic experience, Shaykh Ibn Badis opened a printing press called “The Algerian Islamic Press” which had to print his newspapers and then the four papers (Al-Sunna, Sharia, ASSirat, and Al-Bassaïr) “of the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars.
His political participation:
There are many aspects of the reform struggle of Shaykh Ibn Badis; the political aspect is one of the most prominent aspects of his personality. He has contributed with his views and theses in the political thought by addressing the major issues of the Ummah, which he devoted his entire life.
Among his political attitudes are the following :
– In 1931, he published an essay on the origins of power in Islam.
– His role in the healing of the incident triggered between Jews and Muslims in Constantine the summer of 1934.
– His call for and participation in the organization of an Islamic Congress in 1936.
– His political position about the promises of the French state.
– Dialogue with the Research Committee of the French parliament in 1937.
– His call to the elected members to boycott the councils in the month of August 1937.
– The call to boycott the celebrations of the centenary of the capture of Constantine Fall 1937.
– His attitude toward the law of March 8, 1938.
– His disapproval of sending the letter of solidarity with France against the German threat.
– Presentation of petitions.
– The fight against the policy of integration and the granting of nationality.
– The fierce opposition against any attempt to destabilize national unity.
– His interest in the causes of the nation.
– Its position toward the freedom and independence.
Ben Badis and the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars :
Since 1913, during his stay in Madinah, Shaykh Ibn Badis started thinking about founding an association. When he met his companion and friend the late Shaykh Mohammed Bashir al-Ibrahimi in Madinah, they set up the first foundations of the association. They had several meetings since 1920.
As a preparation for its foundation, Shaykh Ibn Badis asked Shaykh Al-Bashir Al-Ibrahimi, in 1924, to develop the fundamental law of the association to bring together scholars and students and work together under the name (Al-Ikha Al-Ilmi). The headquarters of the association will be in Constantine. However, because of some circumstances the projet was delayed.
After that, serious efforts were made to the creation of the association, especially the intellectual atmosphere became conducive to the calls by Shaykh Ibn Badis to scholars in “Ash-Shihab” so that they present their ideas and visions of a project of association. Followed in 1928, his call for students from the university of Ezzitouna and the Arab Mashriq to develop the program of the association during a seminar. During the same period, the club of Nadi Al-Taraqi became a cultural center, and soon became the meeting point of the Muslim elite, and a brilliant cultural landmark.
All these factors have contributed to the birth of the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars a Tuesday, May 5, 1931, during a meeting in the club of Nadi Al Taraki, which brought together 72 religious scholars, representing the entire Algerian territory and all religious tendencies. As a result of that meeting, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis was elected president of the association and Shaykh Mohammed Bashir al-Ibrahimi as vice president.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis, died after a life full of glorious works on the evening of Tuesday 09 Rabie al-Awal 1359 AH, corresponding to April 16, 1940, in Constantine. He was carried by his students and buried the next day after Al-Asr prayer. Hundreds of thousands of people attended his funeral, from all over the country. All Algerians were affected by his death.
In his funeral speech Shaykh Al-Arabi Al-Tibessi said: “Shaykh Abd al-Hamid Ibn Badis in his work and strugle was representing the entire Algeria, and Algeria after his death has to be be Shaykh Ibn Badis.”
Among those who marked this great loss at that time, was the great poet Mohamed Al-Eid Al-Khalifa in a poem which said:
O grave Do you have knowledge of the distinguished visitor?
He is (Ibn Badis) the pleased Imam.
The prominent scholar known in the remotest corners of the country.
He revived Algeria after a long slumber.
In It, the people has become alive again.
Until he says:
Sleep in peace, the people after you have matured
And follow your path with serenity and advance
Fear not that your heritage will be lost
Heirs are as many
His works :
Beside the movement he established and the school of thought he generated, Shaykh Ibn Badis left behind a lot of intellectual works wd by his students and followers. Here is the list of his works:
– “Risalat Jawab ‘An Su’ Maqal », published in 1922.
– ” Al-Awassam Mina Al-Qawassam” a work of “Ibn Al-Arabi” that Shaykh Ibn Badis revised and presented in two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2 in 1926 in 1927).
– ” Tafssir Ibn Badis ” printed by “Ahmed Bouchamal” in 1948 and was published again by the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs in 1982 under the title “Majaliss Atathkir min Kalam Al-Hakim Al-Khabir”.
– “Majaliss Atathkir min Hadith Al-Bashir Al-Nathir » , published by the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs in 1983.
– ” Al-Akaid Al-Islamiya min Al-Ayat Al-Ahadith Al-Quraniya wa An-Nabaouia” printed by his pupil “Mohamed Salah Ramadan” in 1963 and was reprinted twice in 1966 and 1990 and was issued a fourth time by Shaykh “Mohammed Hassan Al-Fothala” in 1984.
– ” Rijal As-Salaf wa Nisao’h”, this book was printed by Sheikh “Mohammed Saleh Ramadan” and “Shahine Mohamed Tawfik” in 1966.
– “Al-Mabadi’ Al-Usol” revised by Dr.Amar TALBI and published in 1988. It was also reviewed and revised by Shaykh ‘Ali Mohamed Ferkous “and was published in 2001 under a new title” Al-Fath Al-Maamoul fi Sharh Mabadi ‘ Al-Usol”.
As for the rest of his works, they were published in the form of articles, lectures, speeches and poems, in the newspapers “Al-Najah”, “Al-Montaqid”, “Ash-Shihab,” “Al- Sunnah”, “Sharia”, ” Es-Sirat”, and “Al-Bassaïr”.