Faisal I of Iraq by Ali A Allawi - review by Philip Mansel

Philip Mansel

Building a Kingdom

Faisal I of Iraq

By

Yale University Press 634pp £30 order from our bookshop
 

The Prophet Muhammad founded a dynasty as well as a religion. Since the seventh century, relations and descendants of the Prophet have ruled Muslims as caliphs, sultans or kings, as the monarchs of Morocco and Jordan still do today. Between 1921 and 1958 Iraq was also such a kingdom. Its founder was Faisal I, subject of this enthralling, scholarly and ground-breaking biography. There have been hundreds of books on Lawrence of Arabia; this is the first book in English since 1933 on this far more important figure, in whose service Lawrence became famous and whom he called ‘one of the most attractive human beings I have ever met’.

Faisal and his dynasty, the Hashemites, which had ruled in Mecca since the 13th century, had the flexibility and confidence to deal with many different worlds: Islam, Arab tribalism and nationalism, the Ottoman, French and British empires, and expanding oil companies. Unlike the Saudis, who expelled them from the Hejaz in 1925, the Hashemites had good relations with Shi’a Muslims, who revered their ancestor Imam Hassan, the Prophet’s

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter