Emirate of Abdelkader

The Emirate of Abdelkader, Emir Abdelkader Resistance, or Emir Abdelkader State, was founded by Emir Abdelkader with the allegiance of the Algerian people to resist the French invasion.

Emir Abdelkader Resistance
مقاومة أمير عبد القادر
Flag of Emirate of abdelkader المقاومة الجزائرية
Seal of Emirate of abdelkader المقاومة الجزائرية
Motto: “ النَّصْرُ مِنَ اللَّه وَالْفَتْح قَرِيب ”
“victory from Allah and reconquest is near” Military motto
“ لَا شَيْء أَكْثَرُ فَائِدَة مِنْ التَّقْوَى وَالشَّجَاعَةَ ”
“Nothing is more beneficial than piety and courage”
CapitalMascara then Tagdemt[1]
Common languagesArabic (official, government, religious, literature), Berber
GovernmentShura Council
• 1832-1847
Emir Abdelkader
Minister of Internal Affairs 
• Established
27 november 1832
CurrencyMuhammadiyya[2] Nisfia & Douro
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Regency of Algiers
French Algeria
Today part of Algeria


The system of government was simple and analogous to the regime of the deys of Algiers.[3] However, it profoundly revised the doctrine of power to a more egalitarian basis. The emir was head of the state, and governed with his divan or council of ministers. He was assisted by a majlis, an advisory council of wise personalities, ulamas and khalifas representing the provinces and presided over by a qâdî al qudât.[4] Algeria was divided by the emir into eight khalifalik, themselves subdivided into aghalik which grouped several caïdats. This division took into account local influences and history, especially on the tribal level.[5]

Economic policyEdit

The emir very early attached importance to structuring an economy, perceived as necessary for the perpetuation of his state. He set up a number of factories and industries in Tagdemt, his new capital. Local production of the necessary goods, especially the war effort,[6] was accorded great importance. The cities of Tlemcen, Mascara, Miliana, Medea and Tagdemt made the necessary powder. Tagdemt and Miliana had foundries and weapon factories. He also wished to regulate the souks with greater surveillance and security of the sites and trade routes to promote trade. Agriculture was encouraged, with the suppression of the kharaj to encourage the fellahs and the utilization of periods of truce. Finally, the emir set up a currency struck at Tagdempt to ensure the financial autonomy of the state in 1834 to 1841.[7]

Military structureEdit

The emir realized that the power of the state reflects in its military strength; also it gives ii a great image. The Emir used the military to enforce order and security and to stop the chaos that spread after the fall of Turkish rule in Algeria.

Social organization in Algeria was mainly tribal then, with individuals only attached to their tribes; nationalism was unknown at the time. In war or conflict the tribes gathered together with their men and cavalry then went to war. Afterwards the men returned to their tribes and continued with their daily work; military service was not enforced with the tribes. The regular army of the emir was formed of volunteers. Recruitment was open to young people from all regions and all tribes, and called for jihad against the French invaders. Recruitment had no requirements and was for all ages and in all regions of the Emirate. The emir organized an army to protect the Emirate because he knew that he would confront French armies that were better-trained and better-equipped, commanded by experienced officers and generals. The emir was the first leader to establish a national army in the modern history of Algeria.

He also built factories to manufacture weapons using the experience of the French, Spaniards and Italians.

Military laws of the first Algerian resistance

He called his army Jaish Al-Mohammadi (Mohammad's Army), divided into three divisions: infantry, cavalry and artillery. Then he developed military law regarding discipline, recruitment, policies, salaries and weapons. The Jaish Al-Mohammadi was formed of 8,000 soldiers, 2,000 cavalry, 2,240 light cannons and 20 heavy cannons.

  • Khayala (Cavalry): soldiers who fought on horseback
  • Moushat (Infantry): soldiers fighting on foot
  • Tobajiya (Artillery): soldiers with cannons. The artillery unit soldiers of the Jaish Al-Mohammadi were deserters from the French army, Turks and Kouloughlis. They were experienced in maintaining light and heavy cannons. Each artillery unit had twelve soldiers.
    • Irregular: 10,240
    • Regular: 5,960
Algerian Cavalry
the first Algerian Resistance infantry around 1832-1847


Emir Abdelkader classed a unique uniform for each type of soldier, the cloth was linen and gasket.[clarification needed] It consisted of a jacket of grey wool including a hood and trousers also made from wool are in blue also Sedria (vest) are in red. Every three months a soldier was given a shirt and a pair of shoes, yellow leather including a burnous (long cloak made from wool).

The cavalry uniform consisted of a red jacket with black stripes on the sleeve seams and back, also a red vest decorated with blue hair[clarification needed] on it. Each cavalryman was issued a haik which covered the head and shoulders, made from camel's hair including a turban.


" لَا شَيْء أَكْثَرُ فَائِدَة مِنْ التَّقْوَى وَالشَّجَاعَةَ " (“Nothing is more beneficial than piety and courage”)


Each soldier had a leather bag which could be worn on a belt[clarification needed] over the right shoulder, also a rifle with a bayonet, pistols and a yatagan (curved blade) attached to his belt. The cavalrymen were armed with a rifle, yatagan and pistol.


As food, each soldier received two kesra loaves [fr] (Algerian bread) and a kilogram of flour and semolina to cook couscous twice a week. Each group of 20 men shared a sheep between them.


The wage of a soldier was paid from April to June monthly depending on rank:

  • Agha (General) 22 Budjus
  • Sayaf (First Lieutenant) 12 Budjus
  • Rais Sayaf (Lieutenant) 8 Budjus
  • Jaouche (Corporal) 7 Budjus
  • Khaba (Captain) 6 Budjus

Budju: a currency used by the Turks in Algeria 1 Boudjou = 50 Mohammadia


In the garrison soldiers often lived in rooms that had mats and carpets. In camp about 20 soldiers lived in a war tent.


Each badge of embroidered sword on attached on each shoulder of the following soldiers including silver rings on their left hand.

  • Agha (General) 4 Gold Badges
  • Sayaf (First Lieutenant) 2 Gold Badges
  • Rais Sayaf (Lieutenant) 2 Silver Badges
  • Jaouche (Corporal) 1 Silver Badge
  • Khaba (Captain) 1 Bronze Badge

Command unitsEdit

  • Emir's Bodyguards – 500 men – commanded by Emir Abdelkader
  • Katiba [fr] (Battalion) – 1000 men – commanded by Agha
  • Sariya (Company) – 100 men – commanded by Sayaf
  • Fasela (Platoon) – 35 men – commanded by Khaba

He also sought to import weapons from the only country that opposed the French invasion of Algeria, England, but failed. The Emir endeavoured to build an arsenal of ammunition and weapons, both in Mascara and Takdempt with the assistance from foreign expertise so the Emir hired men with industrial experience in making weapons like the Spaniards, Italians and also French, the Emir also choose the best strategic locations that are fully fortified like the city of Miliana which he built an weaponry factory in its suburbs so he can manufacture ammunition and weapons.

The emir's factory started to manufacture Algerian weapons. The Algerian Army used weapons captured by the Emir's army from the French. Emir Abdelkader trained his army well and also set up special military combat and tactics, he also benefited from geographical locations like mountains and fields. The Emir always used to ambush the enemy forces, which is known today as “guerrilla warfare”.

Provinces of the EmirateEdit

Abdelkader divided his emirate into administrative provinces to facilitate management and ease the burden on the central government.[8][9]

Provinces of the Emirate of Abdulkader
Province Governor Capital
Titteri Mohammed Barkani Médéa
Miliana Muhieddine Ben Alal Al-Qaleyi Miliana
Tlemcen Mohammed Bouhamedi Tlemcen
Mascara Ahmed Ben Al-Tahami Mascara
Sahara Gadour Ben Abdelbaqi Béchar
Mejdana Mohammed Ben Abdelsalam Al-Maqdani Sétif
Ziban Ferhat Bern Saeed Biskra
Jibal Ahmed Ben Salem Bouïra

Each province was divided into districts which divides into groups of tribes. The head of a district was called Agha and the Sheikh was the head of a group of tribes.

Flag and emblemEdit

Flag of the Emirate of Mascara
Emblem of the emirate of abdelkader


Emir Abdelkader Al-Jazairi designed a banner with green silk bars above and below a center of white silk. A hand drawn on the white center was surrounded by golden words "victory from Allah and the reconquest is near, and the victory by Emir Abdelkader"


The emblem of the state was a hexagram, with writings around its circumference: Allah, Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali. In the middle of the star it said Nasir Al-Din Emir Adbelkader Ben Muhieddine.[10]



Education was a primary concern of the Emir. He was confident that developing in this field is to take care of books and references whatever the value of it scientific, literary. Therefore, the Emir was tried his best to collect books on different subjects by buying, copying or transporting them.

Manuscripts Emirate of Abdelkader.

The Emir also issued strict orders to his soldiers not to mishandle or disrespect books, and breaking these orders was severely punished. He also used to reward them for bringing a book or the author. To copy one manuscript would take several months and this was a long time for the Emir because his Emirate was in war with French invaders.

This policy had great success in bringing books from different fields to his emirate, the Emir also build a library to store and organize these books that he has gathered but he also linked the library with many organizations in the emirate like schools, masjids and Zawiya (religious schools), the library was open to everyone students, scholars and even soldiers. He also used to store a huge number of manuscripts in the Takdempt Fortress where he used to keep not only manuscripts but also classified state documents and diplomatic letters.

Manuscripts 'Emirate of Abdelkader'

The emir took care of books and manuscripts even in war; he transported all the books and manuscripts that had been stored in Takdempt fortress to Smala after the Takdempt fortress fell to French invaders, but in 1843 French soldiers seized the books and manuscripts when Smala fell. The Emir also chose qualified teachers to develop education in the emirate, supported the teachers financially and morally and gave them wages to them depending on their qualification as he also build schools across his emirate in villages, towns and cities.

Judicial systemEdit

After establishing the emirate and its administrative divisions, the emir appointed to each region a Qadi (religious judge) to rule in accordance with Islamic religious law (sharia) on the doctrine of Imam Malik. Justice is the basis of governance, so he set requirements for judges: to be honest, just, chaste and practise Islam. To ensure that the judiciary ran well, the Emir paid each judge a respectable monthly wage of 100 Douro (50 Francs) and additional payments based on the type of case he judged. The Emir separated the civil and military judiciary, then appointed for each department a special judge to decide the issues and cases. The judge could be elected for one year only.

The emir also recruited two clerics to each regional councils. The senior cleric studied fatwas (legal judgments) issued by the judge of a particular region then sent them to Mascara for deeper study. The Emir linked all the judges in the regions to review their cases with Supreme Qadi Ahmed ben Al-Hashemi Al-Mrahi.

The Emir also wanted the provisions of the civil and military judiciary to come under sharia (Islamic religious law) which the Emir made the main source and the only source for rule in his Emirate. Its provisions derive from the Quran, Sunnah (teachings and practices of Muhammad) and ijtihad (Islamic diligence) and remind the people of the days of Rashidun Caliphate and also wipe out the bad taste from Turkish rule in Algeria. He considered the success of the new established Emirate to have been removing the corruption inherited from the Turks and working to change the old relations and unify the Algerian people. This policy united the Algerian people, helping him to later face the French invasion.

Immediately and especially if there was a threat against the homeland such as an enemy, response to threats intended to deter others, with no appeal. “He who helps the enemy financially will be financially punished (fines) and the one who helps the enemy physically will be punished by cutting off their heads (executions),” he said.

And so in justice and security, people lived peacefully under the flag of a popular national emirate, crime vanished and calm returned after the chaos that had followed the fall of Turkish rule in Algeria. The emir also fought ethical corruption in society, banning prostitution, drinking alcohol and drugs across his emirate, and also banned soldiers from playing cards and wearing gold and silver except in their weapons and horses, and ordered them to pray at the masjid.

The Emir said “Know that the only purpose of my acceptance of this position (Emir) only that you will be safe on yourselves and your honour and your wealth assured on your country enjoying your religious duties and I cannot reach that except with your help by money or men.”[11][unreliable source?]

See alsoEdit


Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ a et b Mahfoud Kaddache, L’Algérie des Algériens, de la Préhistoire à 1954, EDIF, 2000, p. 603
  2. ^ Emir Abd El-Kader: Hero and Saint of Islam , A liberating Ascensis, p57 (read online)
  3. ^ Ahmed Koulakssis and Gilbert Meynier, L'emir Khaled: premier zaʼîm? : identité algérienne et colonialisme français, L'Harmattan, January 1, 1987 (ISBN 9782858028597, read online)
  4. ^ Ahmed Koulakssis and Gilbert Meynier, L'emir Khaled: premier zaʼîm? : identité algérienne et colonialisme français, L'Harmattan, 1 January 1987 (ISBN 9782858028597, read online)
  5. ^ Mahfoud Kaddache, L’Algérie des Algériens, de la Préhistoire à 1954, EDIF, 2000, p. 598
  6. ^ Mahfoud Kaddache, L’Algérie des Algériens, de la Préhistoire à 1954, EDIF, 2000, p. 603
  7. ^ Abdelkader Boutaleb, L'émir Abd-el-Kader et la formation de la nation algérienne: de l'émir Abd-el-Kader à la guerre de libération, Editions Dahlab, 1er janvier 1990 (read online)
  8. ^ Provinces of the Emirate (read online)
  9. ^ الأمير يبني الدولة ، ختم كاتب الدوان (read online (arabic)
  10. ^ Establishment of the Emirate of Abdelkader (read online)
  11. ^ Emirate of Abdelkader ,Administration in the Emirate (read online)