Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca

Sayyid Hussein bin Ali, GCB (1854 — June 4, 1931) (حسین بن علی; Ḥusayn bin ‘Alī) was the Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917, when he proclaimed himself king of Hejaz, which received international recognition. In 1924, he further proclaimed himself Caliph of all Muslims. He ruled Hejaz until 1924, when, defeated by Abdul Aziz al Saud, he abdicated the kingdom and other secular titles to his eldest son Ali.

Arab Revolt

Hussein bin Ali was born in Istanbul, Ottoman Empire and was the last of the Hashemite rulers over the Hejaz to be appointed by the Ottoman Empire. However, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali rebelled against the rule of the Ottomans during the Arab Revolt of 1916. During World War I, Hussein was initially allied with the Ottomans and Germany. Evidence that the Ottoman government was planning to depose him at the end of the war soured this alliance. An exchange of letters with British High Commissioner Henry McMahon convinced him that his assistance on the side of the Triple Entente would be rewarded by an Arab empire encompassing the entire span between Egypt and Persia, with the exception of imperial possessions and interests in Kuwait, Aden, and the Syrian coast. Hussein was the official leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans.

Following World War I

In the aftermath of the war, the Arabs found themselves freed from the Ottomans but placed under the mandate system of France and the United Kingdom, in which the "liberty" of the inhabitants would be guaranteed by their occupation by European imperial powers. The sons of Hussein were made the kings of Transjordan (later Jordan), Syria and Iraq. However, the monarchy in Syria was abruptly ended when the French were given control over the nation (resulting in much resistance and bloodshed), so his son (Faisal) was installed in Iraq instead.

King of Hejaz

When Hussein declared himself king of the Hejaz, he also declared himself king of all Arabs (malik bilad-al-Arab). This aggravated his conflict with Ibn Saud, with whom he had fought before WWI on the side of the Ottomans in 1910. Two days after the Turkish Caliphate was abolished by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on March 3, 1924, Hussein declared himself Caliph at his son Abdullah's winter camp in Shunah, Transjordan. The claim to the title had a mixed reception, and he was soon ousted and driven out of Arabia by the Saudis, a rival clan that had no interest in the Caliphate. Saud defeated Hussein in 1924. Hussein continued to use the title of Caliph when living in Transjordan.

Exile and abdication

Though the British had supported Hussein from the start of the Arab Revolt and the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, they elected not to help Hussein repel the Saudi attack, which eventually took Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. He was then forced to flee to Cyprus, where he donated funds for the construction of an Armenian church. He went to live in Amman, Transjordan, where his son Abdullah was king. After his abdication, his son 'Ali briefly assumed the throne, but then he too had to flee the encroachment of Ibn Saud and his Salafi forces. His son Faisal was briefly King of Syria and later King of Iraq.

Hussein died in Amman in 1931.

Marriage and children

Hussein, who had four wives, fathered four sons and three daughters with three of his wives. With his first wife Abdliya bin Abdullah he had:

  • Prince Ali, last King of Hejaz married to Nafisa bint Abdullah.
  • Prince Abdullah, Emir (later King) of Transjordan married to Musbah bint Nasser, Suzdil Hanum and Nahda bint Uman.
  • Princess Fatima - married a European
  • Prince Faisal, King of Iraq and Syria married to Huzaima bint Nasser.

With his second wife Madiha he had:

With his third wife Adila Khanmun he had:

  • Princess Sara married Muhammad Atta Amin in July 1933 divorced September 1933.
  • Prince Zeid, succeeded King Faisal II of Iraq on his assassination in 1958, but never ruled as Iraq became a republic. Married to Fakhrelnissa Kabaac.


In the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, Alec Guinness portrayed Prince Faisal, Sharif Hussein's son.



  • Teitelbaum, Joshua (2001). The Rise and Fall of the Hashemite Kingdom of the Hijaz. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1850654603
  • A detailed genealogy

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