Abd Allāhʿ

Abd Allāhʿ

▪ Sudanese religious leader
in full  ʿabd Allāh Ibn Muḥammad At-taʿīʾishī,  also called  ʿabdullahi 
born 1846, Sudan
died Nov. 24, 1899, Kordofan

      political and religious leader who succeeded Muḥammad Aḥmad (al-Mahdī (Mahdī, al-)) as head of a religious movement and state within the Sudan.

      ʿAbd Allāh followed his family's vocation for religion. In about 1880 he became a disciple of Muḥammad Aḥmad, who announced that he had a divine mission, became known as al-Mahdī, and appointed ʿAbd Allāh a caliph (khalīfah). When al-Mahdī died in 1885, ʿAbd Allāh became leader of the Mahdist movement. His first concern was to establish his authority on a firm basis. Al-Mahdī had clearly designated him as successor, but the Ashraf, a portion of al-Mahdī's supporters, tried to reverse this decision. By promptly securing control of the vital administrative positions in the movement and obtaining the support of the most religiously sincere group of al-Mahdī's followers, ʿAbd Allāh neutralized this opposition. ʿAbd Allāh could not claim the same religious inspiration as had al-Mahdī, but, by announcing that he received divine instruction through al-Mahdī, he tried to assume as much of the aura as was possible.

      ʿAbd Allāh believed he could best control the disparate elements that supported him by maintaining the expansionist momentum begun by al-Mahdī. He launched attacks against the Ethiopians and began an invasion of Egypt. But ʿAbd Allāh had greatly overestimated the support his forces would receive from the Egyptian peasantry and underestimated the potency of the Anglo-Egyptian military forces, and in 1889 his troops suffered a crushing defeat in Egypt.

      A feared Anglo-Egyptian advance up the Nile did not materialize. Instead ʿAbd Allāh suffered famine and military defeats in the eastern Sudan. The most serious challenge to his authority came from a revolt of the Ashraf in November 1891, but he kept this from reaching extensive proportions and reduced his opponents to political impotence.

      During the next four years, ʿAbd Allāh ruled securely and was able to consolidate his authority. The famine and the expense of large-scale military campaigns came to an end. ʿAbd Allāh modified his administrative policies, making them more acceptable to the people. Taxation became less burdensome. ʿAbd Allāh created a new military corps, the mulazimiyah, of whose loyalty he felt confident.

      But in 1896 Anglo-Egyptian forces began their reconquest of the Sudan. Although ʿAbd Allāh resisted for almost two years, he could not prevail against British machine guns. In September 1898 he was forced to flee his capital, Omdurman, but he remained at large with a considerable army. Many Egyptians and Sudanese resented the Condominium Agreement of January 1899, by which the Sudan became almost a British protectorate, and ʿAbd Allāh hoped to rally support. But on Nov. 24, 1899, a British force engaged the Mahdist remnants, and ʿAbd Allāh died in the fighting.

▪ king of Saudi Arabia
also spelled  Abdullah , in full  ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz  
born c. 1923
 king of Saudi Arabia from 2005. As crown prince (1982–2005), he had served as the country's de facto ruler following the 1995 stroke of his half brother King Fahd (reigned 1982–2005).

      ʿAbd Allāh was one of King ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz's 37 sons. For his support of Crown Prince Fayṣal (1964–75) during Fayṣal's power struggle with King Saʿūd (1953–64), ʿAbd Allāh was rewarded in 1962 with command of the Saudi National Guard. In 1975 King Khālid (1975–82), Fayṣal's successor, appointed him deputy prime minister, and in 1982 King Fahd appointed him crown prince and first deputy prime minister. In 1995 Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke, and ʿAbd Allāh briefly served as regent the following year. Although Fahd subsequently returned to power, ʿAbd Allāh ran the daily affairs of the country and became king after Fahd died in 2005.

      ʿAbd Allāh was committed to preserving Arab interests, but he also sought to maintain strong ties with the West, especially with the United States. In 2001 relations between the two countries grew strained over Saudi claims that the U.S. government was not evenhanded in its approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The situation worsened later in the year, following the September 11 attacks against the United States and the subsequent revelation that most of the attackers were Saudi nationals. ʿAbd Allāh condemned the attacks and, in a move to improve relations, proposed a peace initiative that was adopted at the 2002 Arab summit meeting. The plan called upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories (the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights) and promised in return a full Arab normalization of relations with the Jewish country. Tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia resurfaced, however, after ʿAbd Allāh refused to support a U.S.-led attack on Iraq (Iraq War) or to allow the use of Saudi military facilities for such an act. (See Iraq War.)

      On the domestic front, ʿAbd Allāh introduced a program of moderate reform to address a number of challenges facing Saudi Arabia. The country's continued reliance on oil revenue was of particular concern, and among the economic reforms he introduced were limited deregulation, foreign investment, and privatization. He originally sought to placate extreme Islamist voices—many of which sought to end the Saʿūdī dynasty's rule—yet the spectre of anti-Saudi and anti-Western violence within the country's borders led him, for the first time, to order the use of force by the security services against some extremists. At the same time, in 2005 ʿAbd Allāh responded to demands for greater political inclusiveness by holding the country's first municipal elections, based on adult male suffrage.

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Universalium. 2010.

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