King Hussein bin Talal (1935-1999)
His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal, the father of modern Jordan, will always be remembered as a leader who guided his country through strife and turmoil to become an oasis of peace, stability and moderation in the Middle East. Among Jordanians, his memory is cherished as the inspiration for Jordan's climate of openness, tolerance and compassion. Known to his people as Al-Malik Al-Insan ("The Humane King"), King Hussein established a legacy which promises to guide Jordan for many years to come.
At the time of his passing on February 7, 1999, His Majesty was the longest serving executive head of state in the world. Of great significance to Muslims throughout the world, the late King Hussein was also the fortieth generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
He was born in Amman on November 14, 1935, to Prince Talal bin Abdullah and Princess Zein al-Sharaf bint Jamil. King Hussein is survived by two brothers, Prince Muhammad and Prince El Hassan, and one sister, Princess Basma. After completing his elementary education in Amman, His Majesty attended Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt, and Harrow School in England. He later received his military education at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England.
Early in young Hussein’s life, and on July 20, 1951, his grandfather King Abdullah was martyred at al-Aqsa mosque in al-Quds (Jerusalem). Hussein was there, with his grandfather, as they went regularly to perform Friday prayers. A medal King Abdullah had recently given the young Prince Hussein, and which he wore after his grandfather’s insistence, saved Hussein from the assassin’s bullet.
On September 6, 1951, King Abdullah’s eldest son, King Talal, assumed the throne. He was soon followed by his eldest son, Hussein, who was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on August 11, 1952. A Regency Council was appointed until King Hussein’s formal accession to the throne on May 2, 1953, when he assumed his constitutional powers after reaching the age of eighteen, according to the Islamic calendar.
Throughout his long and eventful reign, King Hussein worked hard at building his country and raising the living standard of each and every Jordanian. Early on, King Hussein concentrated on building an economic and industrial infrastructure that would compliment and enhance the advances he wanted to achieve in the quality of life of his people. During the 1960s, Jordan’s main industries -including phosphate, potash and cement- were developed, and a network of highways was built throughout the kingdom.
On the human level, the numbers speak for King Hussein’s achievements. While in 1950, water, sanitation and electricity were available to only 10% of Jordanians, today these reach 99% of the population. In 1960 only 33% of Jordanians were literate, while by 1996, this number had climbed to 85.5%. In 1961, the average Jordanian received a daily intake of 2198 calories, and by 1992, this figure had increased by 37.5% to reach 3022 calories. UNICEF statistics show that between 1981 and 1991, Jordan achieved the world’s fastest annual rate of decline in infant mortality -from 70 deaths per 1000 births in 1981 to 37 per 1000 in 1991, a fall of over 47%. King Hussein always believed that Jordan’s people are its biggest asset, and throughout his reign he encouraged all -including the less fortunate, the disabled and the orphaned- to achieve more for themselves and their country.
King Hussein also struggled throughout his 47-year reign to promote peace in the Middle East. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he was instrumental in drafting UNSC Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from all the Arab lands it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for peace. This resolution has served as the benchmark for all subsequent peace negotiations. In 1991, King Hussein played a pivotal role in convening the Madrid Peace Conference, and providing an "umbrella" for Palestinians to negotiate their future as part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The 1994 Peace Treaty between Jordan and Israel is a major step toward achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.
While working towards Arab-Israeli peace, King Hussein also worked to resolve disputes between Arab states. During the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis, he exerted vigorous efforts to peacefully effect an Iraqi withdrawal and restore the sovereignty of Kuwait.
King Hussein always persevered in his pursuit of genuine Arab reconciliation, wherever a conflict arose between neighbors or within a country, such as his mediation in the Yemeni civil war. Furthermore, in almost every speech or forum His Majesty called for international humanitarian aid to relieve the people of Iraq from their daily suffering.
King Hussein’s commitment to democracy, civil liberties and human rights has helped pave the way in making Jordan a model state for the region. The kingdom is internationally recognized as having the most exemplary human rights record in the Middle East, while recent reforms have allowed Jordan to resume its irreversible drive to democratization. In 1990 King Hussein appointed a royal commission representing the entire spectrum of Jordanian political thought to draft a national charter. Today the National Charter, along with the Jordanian Constitution, serves as a guideline for democratic institutionalization and political pluralism in the country. In 1989, 1993 and 1997, Jordan held parliamentary elections which were accredited internationally as among the freest and fairest ever held in the Middle East.
King Hussein married Queen Noor on June 15, 1978. They have two sons -Hamzah and Hashem- and two daughters -Iman and Raiyah. His Majesty is also survived by three sons -Abdullah, Faisal and Ali- and five daughters -Alia, Zein, Aisha, Haya and Abeer- from three previous marriages. Toward the end of his life, King Hussein became the proud grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren.
HRH Prince Muhammad, the Personal Representative of His Majesty, has two sons: Talal and Ghazi. HRH Prince El Hassan has four children: Rahma, Sumayya, Badiya and Rashid, as well as three grandchildren. HRH Princess Basma has four children: Farah, Ghazi, Sa’ad, and Zein.
Over the course of his life, His Majesty King Hussein was an avid sportsman. He was an accomplished aviator, motorcyclist and race-car driver who also enjoyed water sports, skiing and tennis. He was well-known to ham radio operators throughout the world as the friendly voice of "JY1". In his final years, King Hussein enjoyed surfing the Worldwide Web and developed a strong appreciation for the power of the Internet as a force for progress and understanding. King Hussein's directive to provide Internet access for every Jordanian school highlights yet another aspect of his enduring legacy.