Shaikh Asad Bayyoud Tamimi, Leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement and former Imam of Masjid al-Aqsa, died in Amman, Jordan on the night of March 21. He was 75. His funeral the following day was attended by thousands of mourners, among them Palestinian and Jordanian leaders as well as the mufti of Jordan who represented king Husain.
A fiery speaker and revolutionary, Shaikh Tamimi was away in Lebanon in June 1967 when the Israelis launched their attack on Egypt, Syria and Jordan leading to the occupation of Al-Quds. Following the end of the war and refusal by the Zionists to permit his return to Al-Aqsa, Shaikh Tamimi settled in Amman where he had an uneasy relationship with the Jordanian monarch.
King Husain barely tolerated the outspoken Shaikh’s presence but could do little about it for fear of a popular backlash from the large Palestinian community in Jordan. Even so, Shaikh Tamimi was imprisoned on several occasion in the eighties for his outspoken views. Often, he was tortured by the prison authorities but they could not silence him. He relentlessly criticised the Zionist occupiers of Palestine and exposed the subservience of Arab rulers to the west and Zionism.
Both Shaikh Tamimi and his son Nader were declared persona non grata by Saddam Husain of Iraq for their criticism of the Iraqi invasion of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Shaikh Tamimi was a strong admirer of Imam Khomeini and called for Iran-style revolutions in all Muslim countries, especially the Arab world.
While Shaikh Tamimi maintained personal relations with Yasir Arafat, he strongly disagreed with the latter’s secular approach. In 1962, when Arafat was about to launch his Fatah Movement leading to the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), he had invited Shaikh Tamimi to join it.
The Shaikh told Arafat in no uncertain terms that no movement for the liberation of Palestine based on secularism or nationalism would succeed. If he were really serious, he should launch an Islamic Movement for the liberation of Palestine, he told Arafat. The Shaikh said jihad should be declared against the zionist occupiers to mobilise Muslims worldwide.
During one of his interviews with the Crescent International, Shaikh Tamimi revealed that Arafat promised to consider his proposal and get back to him. Arafat, the secular clown of Palestinian politics, never bothered to contact Shaikh Tamimi again. The slippery path of secularism and nationalism chosen by Arafat and his men has led to the present predicament of the Palestinians who are at the non-existent mercy of the zionists.
Shaikh Tamimi went on to establish the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in 1978 (not to be confused with the Islamic Jihad of Palestine of which Dr Fathi Shiqaqi was a leader who was martyred by zionist Mossad agents in Malta in October 1995). He was a popular speaker at international conferences and had attended a number of seminars organised by the Muslim Institute in London during the eighties. The late Dr Kalim Siddiqui had close personal relations with Shaikh Tamimi.
In his final years, Shaikh Tamimi was quite ill and unable to travel. His death on March 21 deprives the Islamic Movement in Palestine of another pillar of resistance. But the struggle for the liberation of Palestine must go on.
Shaikh Tamimi will be remembered as a charismatic and courageous leader of the Palestinian struggle who made his contribution by bringing Islam to the forefront of the movement at a time when nationalism and secularism reigned supreme in much of the Middle East.
Muslimedia: April 16-30, 1998