Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani, Muhammad Seid

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani, Muhammad Seid


Born 1838 or 1839 in the village of Asadabad, near Kabul; died Mar. 9, 1897, in Istanbul. Muslim religious and political leader whose ideas were the basis of Pan-Islamism.

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani received his higher religious training in Kabul. In 1857 he began his political career at the court of the Afghan emir Dost Muhammad. In 1868 he emigrated to India; from 1869 to 1871 he lived in Istanbul and from 1871 to 1879 in Cairo. While in Cairo he criticized the dominance of foreigners and supported the ideas of the Free National Party. At the demand of the English he was sent from Egypt to India. From 1883 to 1886 he lived in Western Europe. In Paris in 1884, Jamal al-Din and M. Abduh edited the news-paper Al-Urwat al-wuthqa (The Unbreakable Bond). From 1886 to 1887 he lived in Iran and from 1887 to 1889 in Russia. From November 1892 until his death he lived in Istanbul as a guest of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. In late 1944 his remains were transported to Afghanistan.

In his main work, Refutation of Materialists, Jamal al-Din tried to refute certain tenets of materialism from the point of view of Muslim orthodoxy. He came out sharply against the “natural school” of Sayyid Ahmad-Khan and the liberal reforms in Turkey during the Tanzimat period (1839-76). In speeches and in print Jamal al-Din called for the unification of Muslims under the rule of the highest spiritual head, the caliph, in the name of the struggle against the Western European colonialists; he urged the “renewal of the purity of Islam” in the name of the destruction of social injustices and the education of Muslims to overcome their backwardness in relation to other peoples. His ideas about the unity of Muslims irrespective of national and class distinctions lay at the basis of the ideology of Pan-Islamism, which began to find adherents during his lifetime. Jamal al-Din expected to realize these ideas with the aid of the Iranian shah or the Turkish sultan, who he proposed should lead the union of Muslim states.


Ridde nachuriyya (Refutation of Materialists’, literally, Answer to the Naturalists). Hyderabad, 1881. (In Persian.) In French translation, Refutation des materialistes, Paris, 1942.


Bogushevich, O. V. “Mukhammad Dzhemal’ ad-Din al’-Afgani kak politicheskii deiatel’.” Kratkie soobshcheniia In-ta narodov Azii, 1961, vol. 47.
Polonskaia, L. R., and A. D. Litman. “Vliianie religii na obshchestvennuiu mysl’ narodov Vostoka.” Narody Azii i Afriki, 1966, no. 4.
Khakimov, I. M. “Antikolonializm Dzhemal’ ad-Dina al’-Afgani na stranitsakh ’al’-Urva al’-vuska’.” In the collection Arabskie strany. Moscow, 1970.
Al-Urwat al-wuthqa w-al-saura al-tahririya al-kubra (“Al-Urwat al-wuthqa” and the Great Revolution of Liberation). Cairo, 1957.
Encyclopedic de ïlslam, vol. 2. Leiden-Paris, 1965. Pages 427-30.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.