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The bittersweet exile of Libya's founding father Sulayman al-Baruni in Oman

English History

Saturday 10 December 202204:19 pm
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منفى آمن وغُربة عذبة... رحلة مؤسس أول جمهورية عربية إلى عُمان


The soul does not know where it will be born, which land will embrace its diaspora, and which coffins await the collapse of its sickly body.

The countries that our destinies have carried us to, ask us which one do we belong to, after our paths have become lost between cities? Our memories are here, while our dreams are there. Our hopes are here, while our loved ones are there. It is said that love is a curse, and that, after separation, a young lover becomes an old man with a thousand centuries of torment on his back, but what can be said about someone who fell in love with the land, and became ill after parting with it?

Oman. It was no coincidence that the founder of the first Arab republic (the Tripolitanian Republic) in 1918 chose this land as his exile in the last 16 years of his life. He had an old spiritual connection with it, as if they needed each other. He was the fighter who left his homeland by force, and it was the land that was looking for a figure who would bring the people together in its love, and unite the ranks of the Omanis.

The founder of the first Arab republic spent 16 years in the Sultanate of Oman after his exile from Tripoli. Tasked with organizing state affairs, he assumed a position equivalent to prime minister and held domestic, foreign, military, and financial policy

As he entered his fifth decade, ​​Sulayman Pasha al-Baruni was living in exile, far from his native homeland Libya. He had been exiled and prevented from returning to any of the countries of the African Mediterranean basin, because of his activeness and struggle for freedom against the Italians, and the problems he caused to the French.

The Libyan activist and freedom fighter first arrived in Oman in 1924 on board a pilgrim ship from the port of Jeddah on the Red Sea, to which he had come to from Mecca after performing the Hajj pilgrimage.

This was not al-Baruni's first attempt to enter Oman, as the British authorities had previously rejected a request to facilitate his visit to Muscat in 1923, especially since his reputation as an activist fighting against the Italian occupation preceded his name. He renewed the attempt a year later, following the facilitations and mediations that Sharif Hussein bin Ali provided for him with the English.


Oman: Al-Baruni's old interest

Al-Baruni's relationship with Oman surfaced before his election as a member of the "Ottoman Council of Envoys" in 1908, and his activities and contacts increased after he became a member, according to a study issued by the Omani Studies Center of the Sultan Qaboos University, under the title "​​Sulayman Pasha al-Baruni and his Presence in Omani Culture".

The study indicates that he was keen on realizing the independence of Oman on the one hand, and its friendly relationship with the Ottoman Empire on the other. And it is worthy of note that he requested in writing that Sultan Faisal bin Turki and the Imam and sheikhs of the Sultanate submit a set of books related to Oman and the Ibadi belief, as a gift, to the library of the "Council of Envoys", which was established by the Ottoman Empire.

The Libyan activist and founder of the first Arab republic al-Baruni searched for his family's roots in the Sultanate of Oman. He was keen to find any connection of his ancient Libyan family with the Omani tribes, and sent written inquiries on this

The Libyan activist's relationship with Oman did not end at books, as it seems that there is another secret behind his interest, which is searching for his family's roots in Oman. Al-Baruni was keen to find any connection of his ancient Libyan family with the Omani tribes, and he sent written inquiries on this connection.

Abu al-Yaqthan al-Hajj Ibrahim bin Issa mentions al-Baruni in his book "Sulayman al-Baruni Pasha in the Stages of His Life", in which he relied on the letters of al-Baruni that he was sending from Oman and Iraq to him. He says that the al-Baruni family in the Nafusa Mountains in west Tripoli, and the al-Barwani family in the Kingdom of Oman located on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, come from one tree, and there is a sizable group from the al-Barwani family in the Kingdom of Zanzibar, including Prince Massoud bin Saeed al-Biruni, ruler of the state of Bismarck in German East Africa.

Al-Baruni in Oman

Al-Baruni was a man of wisdom, a poet who was fluent in taming language, and a figure that left an impression on everyone who knew him. These attributes qualified him to be one of the custodians of Omani unity, and with his arrival, he tried to bridge together the views of the two main authorities in Oman at the time, represented by Sultan Taimur bin Faisal and Imam Muhammad al-Khalili. Muscat, Shinas, Sohar, Dhofar, and other regions were under the control of Sultan Taimur, while Samail, Nizwa, Nakhl, Rustaq, and Bahla were under Imam al-Khalili, and this constituted a continuous conflict between the two Omani authorities.

It is noteworthy that the Sultan and the Imam met to appoint al-Baruni as their respective ambassadors to King Ibn Saud and King Ali bin Hussein, in an effort to prevent bloodshed between the two kings who were vying for power in the Hejaz at the time. This gives a clear picture of both the Sultan and Imam's belief in al-Baruni's ability to bring the views of warring opponents closer together, as he had done with them.

Al-Baruni refused many important positions in the Omani state, as he was afraid that this would affect his relationship with the Sultan and the Imam, and the book "Sulayman al-Baruni Pasha in the Stages of His Life" is quoted as him saying, "I was repeatedly asked by some people of stature and authority to accept a high position with the Imam, but I humbly refused for fear that I would be viewed as partial or biased, and I care that I stay equal with the two parties so that I can reconcile the issues between them, and the country will be happy God willing."

Despite this, he became an advisor to Imam al-Khalili in 1926, and assumed a position equivalent to prime minister in our time. He was tasked with organizing state affairs, and he held domestic, foreign, military, and financial policy in his hands.

Education was one of the most important things that al-Baruni sought to develop, and he opened the first schools in Oman's Samail region, but, as he later mentions in one of his letters in 1933, what he was seeking in terms of development in education, health, and the establishment of schools and hospitals did not take place, the way he wished and aspired.

In his letters, the Libyan activist mentions two incidents that occurred with an Ottoman doctor, and another American practicing proselytizing in Oman. He says, "As for the hospital, we summoned Dr. Fouad Bashir al-Shami al-Othmani, who was a doctor with us for the 'mujahideen' in the Tripoli wars from 1911 to 1919, but unfortunately he had barely reached Muscat before he contracted malaria, so he arrived in Samail in bad state, and in the course of that month he had passed away. His loss was a great one for us, so we tried to convince the American doctor who was in Muscat to leave preaching, and have the Imam (may Allah honor him) allow him to reside in Samail if we prepared the hospital. He refused to go if he wasn't accompanied by a missionary because the money spent on him from America was allocated for missionary work, so the project ended up being incomplete."


Illness and death

Despite his emotional and historical attachment to Oman, nothing can take the place of his motherland. The coldness of exile invaded al-Baruni's bones, causing him to suffer from several diseases. During the 16 years he spent in Oman, he was battling malaria, which he would sometimes recover from, and then later it would come back, as if to remind him of the need to return home. Perhaps this is due to his deep desire for activeness and the struggle for freedom within his homeland, because despite the accomplishments he achieved in Oman for himself and the country, his heart remained attached to Libya.

In one of his letters, published by Abu al-Yaqthan, al-Baruni describes the feeling of alienation, that disease and illness awakens in us, saying, "How cruel and harsh is the air and heat of Oman on an outlander". In another letter, after traveling to Baghdad for treatment, he says, "I arrived in Baghdad, and began to take medication, and my health is in steady progress every day, praise be to God, and according to the doctor, I will stay here for about another month until the disease is gone and is removed from my body, and perhaps after this I can live in Oman blissfully, and I can do very useful work here."

The question that always plagued the Libyan activist following his exile from his country was: Where to go? But there was no answer

Soon after, al-Baruni returned to Oman, and would go on visits and medical check-ups to Iraq from time to time. He says, "I arrived in Bahrain, then Basra and Baghdad. The chemist of the royal hospital will test my blood today, to check the disease, and tomorrow I start taking the medication. As for my health after leaving Muscat, it is progressing rapidly."

The disease that afflicted al-Baruni's blood was only malaria, and it seems that this stage made him think a lot about leaving, evidenced in one of his letters, "Either a permanent residence for me in Oman if my health lasts, or abandoning it altogether if what afflicted me returns."

The question that always plagued him was: Where to go? But he had no answer, as stated in his letter, "I was expelled from Morocco to the Levant, and now I am being expelled from the Levant with malaria, so where to?"

In 1940, Sulayman al-Baruni traveled with the Omani Sultan Taimur bin Faisal to Bombay (present Mumbai) in India, on a journey of treatment, but he did not know that this would be the last stop in his long, bittersweet journey, which had not been worn out by illness, but by distance from the land he struggled and fought so hard for. His heart stopped in that distant land, while waiting for news that would allow him to return to Libya.

Many Omani poets composed poems of praise and celebration of al-Baruni, the most famous of which is a poem by Dubai's Sheikh Ahmed bin Sultan bin Sulayem, speaking of Oman's loss of such a great man, equally in both his life and in death.


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