Muhammad Fadil al-Jamali

Muhammad Fādil al-Jamālī (born 1903) was an Iraqi educator, writer, diplomat, and politician who served at various times as foreign minister and premier of Iraq.

Muhammad Fādil al-Jamālī was born in 1903 in Kazimayn (hence he is called al-Kāzimīyah), site of an important Shiite religious shrine immediately to the north of Baghdad. His father, Shaykh (Sheik) 'Abbās al-Jamālī, was a local religious leader of the Shiite sect to which the family belonged. He first entered the mosque school in Kazimayn at age seven to study the Koran but continued his studies in a modern school in Kazimayn and in several different institutions in Baghdad.

Won Coveted Scholarship

Fādil al-Jamālī graduated first in his class from the Elementary Teachers' Training College in Baghdad in 1920 and taught for four years. He was then chosen as one of the first six persons to receive scholarships from the Iraqi government to attend the American University of Beirut, from which he graduated with the B.A. degree in education in 1927. In Beirut he was active in the society known as al-Urwah al-Wuthqah (based on the ideas of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī and Muhammad 'Abduh). This society wanted to achieve a modern and progressive interpretation of Islam. He also took part in the activities of an interfaith society, demonstrating his interest in religious matters.

Upon returning to Iraq, Fādil al-Jamālī was appointed to the Higher Teachers' Training College in Baghdad, where he distinguished himself by advocating education for females—at the time a rather radical concept in the Arab world. In 1929 he was awarded a Macy grant from the International Institute of Teachers' College, Columbia University, for higher studies in education. He achieved the M.A. degree of Columbia University in 1930 and the Ph.D. in 1934. The latter was awarded for a thesis on the New Iraq; Its Problems of Bedouin Education. During his American sojourn, in a summer school at the University of Chicago, he met his future wife, Sarah Hayden Powell, a Canadian; the couple would have three children together.

From Education to Politics

Back in Iraq in 1932 Fādil al-Jamālī served in his country's educational establishment. He first worked as the Iraqi attaché to the Commission of Educational Inquiry sent to Iraq by the League of Nations (known as the Monroe Commission), but soon joined the Department of Education where he became successively supervisor general, director general, inspector general, and director general of education and public instruction. During all of this time he continued lecturing and working in the Higher Teachers' Training College. Most of his writings on educational subjects date from this period of his life; they include studies (in Arabic) on education in the Arab world, in Turkey, and in England, France, and Germany. He wrote also on the philosophy of education in the Koran.

In 1942 Fādil al-Jamālī joined the Iraqi foreign ministry, in which he served out the balance of his public career. He was made director general of the foreign ministry with rank of minister in 1944. In 1945, as an Iraqi delegate, he attended the conferences in San Francisco at which the United Nations was founded. When the Iraqi foreign minister, Arshād al-'Umarī, refused to sign the United Nations charter because of dissatisfaction over the trusteeship issue, Fādil al-Jamālī was authorized to sign for Iraq.

Key Player in Arab League

Fādil al-Jamālī was an ardent exponent of Arab causes. He was among the founders of the Arab League in 1945 and afterwards served as its president. He played a particularly important role as Arab spokesperson in the debates that led up to the partition of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. His position as a delegate to the first General Assembly of the United Nations in 1946, his attendance at the London Conference on Palestine in the same year, as well as his position as president of the Arab League gave him ample opportunity for the expression of his views. In 1946, he warned the representative of President Truman of the danger of revolution among all the Arabs if the rights of the Palestinians were violated.

At this time, the Arab League favored the immediate termination of the British mandate over Palestine and an independent Arab state in the country, and Fādil al-Jamālī was a principal upholder of these views. In 1947 he became foreign minister of Iraq and also co-chair of the Iraqi delegation to the UN Assembly of that year. He strove to protect Arab interests in the debates that led to the UN decision to partition Palestine, and he was among the Arab leaders who walked out of the United Nations in protest when the partition decision was finally reached.

Became Premier of Iraq

Fādil al-Jamālī gave up the post of foreign minister in 1948 and served for a time as ambassador to Egypt before taking up the foreign ministry portfolio once more in 1949. He acted as Iraq's permanent delegate to the United Nations in both 1949 and 1950, when he was made president of the Iraqi Chamber of Deputies in December. In August of 1952 he once more became foreign minister under Premier Mustafā al-'Umarī and again acted as Iraq's chief delegate to the United Nations. In the United Nations he continued his efforts on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs, initiated moves to amend the UN charter in order to abolish the veto of the Security Council, acted to block face-to-face negotiations of Israel and the Arabs with regard to Palestine, and sought to bring about negotiations between France and the Sultan of Morocco to resolve their disputes. He resigned from the foreign ministry and the conjoint post of minister of the interior in 1953, but in September of that year was asked to form a cabinet as premier of Iraq. He served as prime minister until April of the following year.

Fādil al-Jamālī resigned under the impact of severe criticism in the press, and on the part of nationalist and leftist elements, for his handling of relief to the victims of the great floods of that year. Nūrī al-Sa'īd, who succeeded to power in August, wished to have Fādil al-Jamālī as a member of his new government, but in a show of independence Fādil al-Jamālī refused. He was, nonetheless, greatly indebted to Nūrī al-Sa'īd, who had launched him on his public career. Nūrī later appointed him as head of the Iraqi delegation to the Bandung Conference in April 1955. Fādil al-Jamālī also acted as Nūrī's personal representative at the Cairo Conferences in which the Turkish-Iraqi alliance and the Baghdad Pact were discussed. In this connection, acting as Nūrī's envoy, he played an important role in trying to gain Lebanese and Syrian support for the proposed Turkish-Iraqi alliance but was unsuccessful in this mission.

In the United Nations Fādil al-Jamālī on several occasions returned to the theme of the necessity for member nations to observe and uphold the resolutions of the international body. He believed that the organization could not be effective and there could be no international peace if UN resolutions were flaunted by member states. In the early 1950s such criticisms were directed especially at the Israelis, but in 1956 he spoke out strongly against the Hungarian and Soviet governments for their suppression of the Hungarian uprising. Fādil al-Jamālī's tenure as delegate to the United Nations may, in general, be said to correspond with a period during which Iraq's foreign policy was pro-Western.

Tried, Convicted, and Imprisoned

Following the military coup of July 14, 1958 (led by Abd al-Karīm Qāsim), which overthrew the Iraqi monarch, Fādil al-Jamālī was one of 106 former officials who were arrested and brought to trial; at the time of the coup he was foreign minister under Nūrī al-Sa'īd. The trials were conducted by a special military court, later called the People's Court, in a circus-like atmosphere which mocked all judicial procedure and propriety. Their purpose was plainly to discredit and ridicule the defendants.

Fādil al-Jamālī, whose trial began on September 20, was accused of plotting against Iraqi national security, of corruption, of fixing elections, of plotting against Syria, of aiding imperialism, of attempting to unify Syria and Iraq, of attacking Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser ('Abd al-Nāsir) at the last session of the Security Council, and of criticizing Nasser for his intervention in Lebanon. On November 10 he was condemned to death, but in his case the sentence was not carried out. He was, instead, remanded to prison, where he remained until July 14, 1961. During this incarceration he wrote Letters on Islam, Written by a Father in Prison to his Son, published in London in 1965.

Some time after his release from prison, Fādil al-Jamālī left Iraq and public life to take up residence elsewhere. He established himself for a time at Caux in France but ultimately settled in Tunis where he taught in the university. He occasionally contributed articles on Arab affairs to the press in France, Britain, and Tunisia. He is the recipient of numerous honors and has been a member of several civic organizations. These include an honorary degree from the University of Southern California and decorations from the governments of Jordan, Iran, Spain, and China as well as Iraq. He was also a Free Mason.

Further Reading on Muhammad Fadil al-Jamali

Harry J. Almond wrote a biography of Fādil al-Jamālī, Iraqi Statesman: A Portrait of Mohammed Fadhel Jamali (1993). Further details of his diplomatic and political involvements may be followed by pursuing the references given in the indexes of the New York Times and The Times of London. Information concerning his arrest and trial is available in George M. Haddad, Revolutions and Military Rule in the Middle East: the Arab States, volume II (1971).