When the death of Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri was announced two days ago, the first thing that came to my mind was that it’s just a similarity of names, as I thought that the Sheikh Jaber al-Jaza’iri we know had passed away a long time ago!
However, the fact that Sheikh al-Jaza’iri was distant during his older withering years is what gave me that impression. Sheikh Jaber, may he rest in peace, had gotten old by then.
Today, I remember this man who immigrated with his family in the beginning of the 1950s to Saudi Arabia and “neighbored” the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina like many scholars from all over the world did throughout centuries.
The pious Algerian young man, a descendent of royal traditions and the schools of Algerian scholars association led by the first revolutionary religious symbol Sheikh Abdelhamid Ben Badis, later become a star in the sky of preaching and religious movement in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world.
The story of the Islamic University in Medina and the case of Juhayman’s group, which occupied the Grand Mosque for two weeks in 1979, won’t be complete without the remarks, opinion, vision and testimony of Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iriMashari Althaydi
Where it all began
He was born in Lioua in Biskra, South of Algeria, in 1921, making him just under 100-years-old when he died.
He worked as a teacher in some schools of the education ministry and in Dar al-Hadith in Medina. When the Islamic University opened in 1960, he was among the first lecturers there, until he was referred to retirement in 1986.
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The significance of this man who taught in the halls of the Prophet’s Mosque and interpreted the Quran for half a century – I’ve personally attended some of his lessons at the Prophet’s Mosque – is that he’s a maker and a witness of religious and active life in Saudi Arabia, especially in Medina.
The story of the Islamic University in Medina and the case of Juhayman’s group, which occupied the Grand Mosque for two weeks in 1979, won’t be complete without the remarks, opinion, vision and testimony of Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri.
In the beginning, the man was a guide to Juhayman’s group upon the directions of the country’s late mufti Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz. This is according to many testimonies, including a testimony by Nasser al-Huzyaimi. Then he disagreed with them later when they attacked a few shops in Medina and destroyed for hanging photos. This was in 1965, according to Huzyaimi, who was an intelligent member of the group and who is currently a renowned researcher and writer.
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The situation then developed when Juhayman announced religious hostility and rejected the legitimacy of governance. This is where the separation occurred, and Juhayman began to accuse Jaza’iri of writing reports about them to the authorities.
I do not know if Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri wrote down these memories. Not just about his complicated relation with Juhayman’s group, and the “house of Al-Hurra Al-Sharqiya” in Medina, but about the atmosphere of the Islamic University and the religious intellectual political debate that had erupted at the time in the local scene which was new to these arriving controversies.
What is certain is that if the late sheikh did not do this, like others have, we will have lost an important part of history.
May he rest in peace.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.
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