Ibadi connections: Tripoli, Cairo, Baghdad, & Muscat during World War II | الروابط الإباضية: طرابلس والقاهرة وبغداد ومسقط في الحرب العالمية الثانية

Baruni_family_members (53v)

The letter from 1946 in Arabic from the Sultan of Muscat to the British Consul in Muscat, listing the members of Sulaymān al-Bārūnī’s family who wish to return to Tripolitania. See the original here on the Qatar Digital Library.

As part of an ongoing project on the history of the Ibadi community in Cairo, I have been looking into the later life of the famous Ibadi activist, revolutionary, and diplomat Sulaymān al-Bārūnī. There has been some great stuff written on him in the past but most stories end with his death in Bombay in 1940. But for years after al-Baruni’s death, the British Foreign Office continued to be interested in his relatives , who were spread out across northern Africa and western Asia at the outset of World War II in 1939.

The Baruni family’s history is truly a remarkable one, with members scattered across the region in Jerba, Jebel Nafusa, Tripoli, Alexandria, Cairo, Baghdad, and Muscat. Following Sulaymān Pasha’s death in 1940, a series of telegrams and letters circulated among British officials in Egypt and the Gulf regarding the future of al-Bārūnī’s family members in Cairo, Baghdad, and Muscat, in particular. [1]

Unfortunately, Sulaymān’s son Ibrāhīm had for some years been suffering from deteriorating mental health in Iraq (he was described in one British exchange as “a wandering lunatic”). [2] By 1943, he appears to have been admitted to a mental hospital there. But most of the members of his immediately family were in Muscat, listed by name in a letter from the Sultan of Muscat to the British Consul there (see Figure 1). [3]

A cousin of the late Sulaymān Pasha, “Omar Bu El- Sheikh Ahmed El-Baruni,” petitioned the British government for a couple of years to allow him to travel to Muscat and bring them back to Tripolitania . [4] After an long delay, ʿUmar arrived in Muscat via Cairo and the family boarded a ship called the SS “Barjora” bound for home on 2 May 1947. Their itinerary brought them through Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and on to Libya. [5] Sulaymān’s daughter Zaʿīma, who traveled with the family back to Tripolitania, would go on to publish a book on the life of her father. [6]

Yusuf_to_Qasim_Baruni_Extract (194)

An English translation of an extract from a letter from Yūsuf al-Bārūnī to Qāsim Muḥammad al-Bārūnī, the two sons of Muḥammad al-Bārūnī (owner of the Baruni Press in Cairo). See facsimile here on the Qatar Digital Library. It is a pity the full Arabic original does not survive.

An earlier chapter in the period following Sulaymān Pasha’s death that drew me to this story in the first place, however, was connected to another branch of the Baruni family. The two sons of Muḥammad al-Bārūnī, the founder of the first Ibadi Press in Egypt, Qāsim Muḥammad and Yūsuf, were in contact with Sulaymān al-Bārūnī at the later stages of his life [7]. Sulaymān had known their father Muḥammad, with whom he collaborated to publish a book composed by his own father, ʿAbdallāh b. Yaḥyā al-Bārūnī. When Sulaymān died in 1940, Muḥammad’s two sons Qāsim Muḥammad and Yūsuf were residing in Egypt and Iraq, respectively. The final pages of British Foreign Office archival files on Sulaymān al-Bārūnī’s life include an exchange between these two men that is telling of both the times and the long-term presence of Ibadis in Cairo.

Yūsuf al-Bārūnī writes to Qāsim Muḥammd from Muscat (see Figure 2):

I hope that you have had an interview with Azzam Bek [i.e. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ḥassan Azzām, d.1976], and will have a chance of seeing him again. I have written to him about the deceased’s [i.e. Sulaymān al-Bārūnī’s] opinions, as there was a good hope as soon as Italian neutrality becomes clear. [8]

These two men, separated by thousands of kilometers from their Tripolitanian homeland, were discussing  the entrance of the Italians into the second World War and its implications for the Nafusa Mountains. This same issue had prompted the French government in 1940 to invite Sulaymān al-Bārūnī to Tunis via Egypt,  where he could then lead a rebellion against the Italians in Tripolitania. Unfortunately, after so many decades of trying to get back to the Maghrib, the letter came just a month after he died on a trip to Bombay  (see Figure 3). [9]

Baruni_is_Dead (198r)

The telegram in response to the French request to employ Sulaymān al-Bārūnī in Italy, noting that the latter has recently died. See original on the Qatar Digital Library here.

But another, final point relating to this letter deserves mention. Qāsim Muḥammad, located at “Toaloon Road, Atfit Annajar, No. 4” in Cairo, received this letter while living at the Buffalo Agency. Like generations of Maghribi Ibadis before him, he established himself in Cairo at the Ibadi school and residence at Tulun and joined the ranks of the Ibadi community of Egypt–locally invisible and yet so connected globally.

 

بما أنّني أقوم بالبحث في تاريخ الجالية الإباضية في القاهرة خلال العصر العثماني، أقرأ الكثير حاليا حول حياة المجاهد والثائر والديبلوماسي الإباضي المشهور سليمان باشا الباروني. كُتب الكثير عن هذه الشخصية التاريخية المثيرة للاهتمام خلال السنوات الماضية ولكن دراسات المؤرّخين عادةً تتوقف عند وفاته في عام ١٩٤٠م في بومباي في الهند. ولكن “المكتب الأجنبي” للدولة البريطانية كان يهمّهم بقية أفراد العائلة البارونية الذين كانو منتشرين بين طرابلس والقاهرة ومسقط وبغداد وغيرها من مدن شمال إفريقيا والشرق الأوسط في بداية الحرب العالمية الثانية في عام ١٩٣٩ م [1]ـ

تتابع الوثائق والرسائل أخبار ابراهيم بن سليمان الباروني، الذي كان يعاني منذ عدّة سنوات بمرض عقلي. بداية من ،١٩٤٣ يبدو أنّه اُلتحق بمشفى للأمراض العقلية في بغداد (وصفه تقرير بريطاني “مجنون متجول”). [2] ولكن أغلبية أفراد أسرته كانوا في مسقط في عمان في سنوات عديدة بعد وفاة سليمان باشا، كما نعرف من قائمة أسماءهم في رسالة من سلطان مسقط إلى القنصل البريطان [3] ـ

طلب أحد أبناء أعمام سليمان الباروني اسمه عمر بو الشيخ أحمد الباروني من الدولة البريطانية لمدة سنوات الإذن ليسافر من طرابلس إلى مسقط ليرجع بأسرته لبلادهم. [4] بعد تأخير أولي، وصل عمر إلى مسقط هو عبور بالقاهرة وكانت أسرة الباروني على متن سفينة “اس اس بارجورا” في الثاني من شهر ماي عام  ١٩٤٧م . [5]  رجعت إلى طرابلس معهم زعيمة بنت سليمان باشا الباروني التي قامت بنشر كتاب حول حياة والدها فيما بعد [6]ـ

ولكني أصلا كنت أهتمّ بهذه الفترة التاريخية بعد وفاة الباروني لأنّ فرع آخر من عائلة الباروني له علاقة بحياة سليمان باشا. أبنا محمد الباروني، مؤسّس المطبعة البارونية (أو مطبعة إباضية في القاهرة)، وهما قاسم محمد ويوسف، كانا بالاتصال بسليمان الباروني في المراحل المتأخرة من حياته. [] كان سليمان باشا يعرف أباهما الذي تعاون معه في نشر كتاب لأبيه عبد الله بن يحيى الباروني. عند وفاة سليمان الباروني في عام ١٩٤٠، تراسل يوسف (العراق) بقاسم محمد (القاهرة). في آخر الملف حول حياة سليمان باشا، يوجد مقطع من رسالة تعكس السياق التاريخ الذي كانا يعيشان فيه (انظر صورة ٢) [8]ـ

بين هذين الرجلين آلاف الكيلوميترات وبين وطنهما طرابلس وهما يناقشان احتمال دخول إيطاليا إلى الحرب العالمية وآثاره في جبل نفوسة. شجّع الفرنسيين على أنّهم يخدّموا سليمان الباروني ليرأس المعارضة الليبية على الإطاليين.  للأسف، بعد سنوات طويلة من محاولته في الرجوع إلى المغرب، وصلت الرسالة إلى سليمان باشا بعد موته بشهر [9]ـ

ولكن نقطة أخيرة تستحق بالذكر وهي أنّ قاسم محمد وصلت إليه الرسالة هذه و هو يسكن في في “رقم ٤ عطفة النجار، شارع طولون”–أي في وكالة الجاموس. مثل الأجيال التي سبقته،  في وسط القاهرة يعيش مندمجا ومربوط عاليما

 

Notes

[1] “FILE NO. 15/3 SULEIMAN AL BARUNI AND HIS RELATIVES.” Available online here: https://www.qdl.qa/en/archive/81055/vdc_100000000881.0x0000e1

[2] Ibid, 30r.

[3] Dated 29 Oct 1946 (Ibid, 54r.)

[4] Ibid, 27r.

[5] Ibid, 66r.

[6] Zaʿīma al-Bārūnī had a remarkable life of her own. See the reference to this work as well as her life of activism here: http://www.tamatart.com/?p=717

[7] “15/3 Vol 1 XV – B/1 VISITORS SUSPECTS & UNDESIRABLES SULEMAN AL BARUNI AL NAFUSI & HIS RELATIVES Jan 1923- June 1940” (f.198r). Available online in full here: https://www.qdl.qa/en/archive/81055/vdc_100000000881.0x0000e0

[8] Ibid, 194r.

[9] Ibid, 198r.

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