Biography

Abdallah Mukhlis

Biography

Abdallah Mukhlis

عبد الله مخلص
27 December 1878, Aintab
16 December 1947, Jerusalem

Abdallah Mukhlis was born on 27 December 1878 in the town of Aintab in Aleppo province; today it is part of Turkey. His family was known by the name “Shibji Khojazadeh” and traced its origins back to the city of al-Hudayda in Yemen. His father, Mohammad Mukhlis, was an officer in the Ottoman army; his mother hailed from the Hasirji family. He had one daughter, Maqbula.

Abdallah was not yet four years old when his father was posted to the city of Haifa. He was enrolled at the Rushdi School in Haifa and obtained his certificate on 21 July 1890, at the age of twelve. His father decided that he did not need further schooling after that. When his father was reposted by the army to Jenin, one of the districts of Nablus province, young Abdallah Mukhlis began to regularly frequent one of the government offices to study calligraphy and learn the craft of being a scribe. He would read whatever reports and ordinances were issued by the District Commissioner of Jenin, Mohammad Raouf Bek. At the time, Ottoman Turkish was the official language in government departments.

Mukhlis decided to educate himself, so he began to regularly sit with the great ulama of Nablus, such as Shaykh Hassan Hashim, the Mufti of Nablus; Saykh Dawood Hashem, a member of the Muslim Court of Appeals in Jerusalem; and Shaykh Abdullah Soufan al-Hanbali. He greatly benefited from their instruction and intellectual symposiums.

On 14 April 1893 Mukhlis began his first job, as the chief scribe of the Jenin Municipality; he subsequently became the municipality treasurer. On 22 July 1896, he was appointed as a clerk in the Nablus district branch of the Agricultural Bank; two years later, he was also made the bank treasurer. On 4 June 1900, he was promoted to chief accountant of the same branch in Jenin, before being transferred to the same position in Tyre, which was then included in Beirut province.

On 24 July 1907, Mukhlis resigned from his position at the Agricultural Bank and was appointed by the administration of the Hijaz Railway to work in its investments division in Haifa. Within two years, he became the head of this division and worked to form an association to defend the interests of railway workers, called the Railway Employees Cooperative Association. However, just six months after it was established, the Ottoman state Consultative Council decided to shut it down.

Starting in 1909, Mukhlis began writing articles for Arabic newspapers and magazines, including al-Muqtabas, al-Nafaʾis al-Asriyya, al-Liwa’, and al-Mufid and Turkish ones such as Zaman, al-Taraqqi, and Sabah. His scholarly interests were focused on Arab-Islamic heritage and the historic architecture of Palestine and Jordan. On 13 March 1914, Mukhlis was dismissed from his position in the Hijaz Railway administration after a dispute arose between him and the general manager of this administration, a German man called Deichmann, due to the latter's desire to import all the supplies for the railway from German factories only; Mukhlis insisted on soliciting tenders and bids to purchase these supplies.

After being dismissed from this position, Mukhlis worked for some years as a merchant. When the al-Aqsa Mosque book depository was founded in 1922, Mukhlis was appointed as its acquisition agent, so he devoted himself to setting up a great library of historic books within it, for which he collected rare old Qurans, book manuscripts, and whatever other valuable and enjoyable tomes the finest scholars around were generous enough to offer.

Then, on 3 September 1922, he was invited to oversee the general accounts of the Waqf Directorate of the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem, and he was also chosen to sit on the board of the School for Orphans. Barely a year later, the Presidency of the Supreme Muslim Council decided to eliminate his position because he was critical of the council's profligacy in squandering its funds. He then returned to his work as a merchant.

In 1927, Mukhlis was nominated to be a member by correspondence of the Arab Academy in Damascus, and he started publishing some of his articles and research in the academy’s journal. In early 1938, Mukhlis was appointed general director of the Islamic Waqf board in Palestine. He remained in this position until May 1944, when he was forced to resign. After his dismissal from the Waqf, Mukhlis focused entirely on writing and giving talks on Palestinian radio. He also tried to collect as many manuscripts and publications as he could, so much so that his personal library at his home in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood became a library that few could match in Palestine. Scholars were always welcomed in his house, where they would hold rich intellectual discussions. He never missed an opportunity to join in, even in the last years of his life when he was ill.

Mukhlis formed friendships with several well-known scholars of his time, especially in the Levant, Egypt, and Iraq, including Muhammad Kurd Ali, publisher of the journal al-Muqtabas and the first president of the Arab Academy in Damascus; Egyptian polymath Ahmed Taymur Pasha; polymath and priest Father Anastas Mari al-Karmali; and editor of the journal Sawt al-Arab magazine in Baghdad, Shaykh Sa‘id al-Karmi, who was at one point vice-president of the Arab Academy and chief justice in Jordan; Saykh Asʿad al-Shuqayri, one of the ulama of Acre; historian Ajaj Nuwayhed; Najib Nassar, publisher of the Haifa newspaper al-Karmel; the eminent historian Issa Iskandar al-Maalouf, head of the journal al-Athar; and the Tunisian historian Hassan Husni Abdel-Wahhab. He was also had friendships or ongoing correspondence with a number of orientalists, such as the French Dominican Friar Antonin Jaussen, who specialized in Islamic antiquities and history; Englishman David Samuel Margoliouth, professor of Arabic at Oxford University; and Carl Brockelmann of Germany, author of Geschichte der arabischen Literatur [History of Arabic Literature].

When the situation became unsafe in Jerusalem after the adoption of the UN partition resolution in November 1947, Mukhlis feared for his precious library, as his house in Sheikh Jarrah was adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Saving his precious library became his sole preoccupation, so he decided to move the books to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart convent, facing the French Hospital in Jerusalem. However, Zionist militias subsequently bombed the monastery and it collapsed, the books were destroyed .

In April 1947, Abdullah Mukhlis developed prostate cancer. He had surgery in the French Hospital, but it was unsuccessful. He continued to suffer from pain for eight months, until he died on 16 December 1947. He was buried in Bab al-Sahira Cemetery, north of the Old City gate with that name. On his gravestone the following words were inscribed: “Here lies in peace the deceased, mourned by science and homeland, the great scholar and historian Abdullah Mukhlis, General Director of the Islamic Waqf in Palestine. May God give him comfort in his final resting place and make Paradise his abode.” A number of newspapers and magazines in Palestine and across the Arab world eulogized him, and the writer Isaaf al-Nashashibi described him in the following words: “al-Jahiz was the marvel of eloquence, whereas Abdullah Mukhlis the marvel of our times par excellence.”

In addition to Arabic, Mukhlis was also fluent in Turkish and Persian. He was a historian and scholar of Arab-Islamic history and a rationalist thinker who rejected superstition. His writings are remarkable for their objectivity, and he was not afraid to assert his opinions even if they went against prevailing ideas. He was a democrat and a lover of freedoms, opposed to despotism, feudalism, and sectarianism, and also a champion of women’s struggle to win their human rights. He was a proud Arab nationalist with socialist leanings on the one hand, which made him stand alongside workers and defend them; on the other hand, he was proud of his Islamic faith and opposed to stagnation, ossification, and blind faith in old religious ways.

Abdallah Mukhlis wrote, edited, and translated dozens of books, research papers, and articles between 1909 and 1947. Mohammad Khaled Kullab collected a large number of them in three volumes titled Collected Articles and Research of the Historian of Jerusalem, the Great Scholar, Historian, Archaeologist and Man of Letters Abdallah Mukhlis, published by Riyadh’s King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in 2019.

 

Selected Writings

"تاريخ المسجد الأقصى". صيدا: مطبعة مجلة العرفان، 1947.

[A History of the al-Aqsa Mosque]

"جب يوسف الصديق وقبره الشريف". القاهرة: المطبعة السلطانية، 1927.

[Joseph the Righteous: His Pit and his Honorable Grave]

"صاحب مختار الصحاح". بولاق: المطبعة الأميرية، 1919.

[Companion to Mukhtar al-Sihah [dictionary]]

"مئذنة الجامع الأبيض في الرملة". بيروت: المطبعة الأدبية، 1923.

[The Minaret of the White Mosque in Ramla]

"جمهرة مقالات وبحوث مؤرخ القدس العلامة المؤرخ الأديب الآثاري عبد الله مخلص". تجميع محمد خالد كًلّاب (ثلاثة مجلدات). الرياض: مركز الملك فيصل للبحوث والدراسات الإسلامية، 2019.

[Collected Articles and Research of the Historian of Jerusalem, the Great Scholar, Historian, Archaeologist and Man of Letters Abdallah Mukhlis]

 

Critical Editions of Selected Volumes [from classical Arabic]

ابن جابر الأندلسي." بديعية العميان، الحلة السيرا في مدح خير الورى". القاهرة: المطبعة السلفية، 1347 ه.

[Ibn Jabir al-Andalusi, Praise poem to the prophet]

ابن منجب الصيرفي. "الإشارة إلى من نال الوزارة". القاهرة: المعهد العلمي الفرنسي، 1924.

[Ibn Munjib al-Sayrafi, Biographies of viziers in the Fatimid dynasty]

خليل بن أيبك الصفدي. "التذكرة الصلاحية". دمشق/ مجلة المجمع العلمي العربي في دمشق، 1935.

[Khalil b. Aybak al-Safadi, Salah’s memento [literary compendium]]

Translations [from Turkish]

نامق كمال. "سيرة الفاتح"، حيفا، 1910.

[Namik Kemal, Life of the Conqueror]

نامق كمال. "فاتحة الفتوحات العثمانية". حيفا، 1910.

[Namik Kemal, Introduction to the Ottoman Conquests]

 

Sources

 

الزركلي، خير الدين. "الأعلام"، الجزء الرابع. بيروت: دار العلم للملايين، 1980.

العسلي، كامل جميل. "تراث فلسطين في كتابات عبد الله مخلص مع دراسة مفصّلة عن حياته وشخصيته العلمية". عمان: منشورات دار الكرمل-صامد، 1986.

العسلي، كامل (تقديم). "ترجمة حياة عبد الله مخلص بقلمه". "دراسات"، المجلد الثاني عشر، العدد الثامن، 1985.

العودات، يعقوب. "من أعلام الفكر والأدب في فلسطين". عمّان: د. ن. ، 1976.

نويهض، عجاج. "رجال من فلسطين". بيروت: منشورات فلسطين المحتلة، 1981.

هلال، حكمت . "الأديب المجمعي الكبير عبد الله مخلص: العالم الجليل والمؤرخ المنصف". "مجلة مجمع اللغة العربية بدمشق". المجلد 83، الجزء 4 (تشرين الأول 2008).