Sulayman al-Baruni

Sulayman al-Baruni (Arabic: سليمان باشا الباروني; c. 1870 – 1 May 1940) was a Berber Ibadi scholar, poet, statesman and a prominent figure in the history of Libya.

Sulayman al-Baruni
المجاهد سليمان الباروني.JPG
A photograph of Salayman from 1908
Bornc. 1870
Died1940 (aged 69–70)
Occupation(s)Anti-colonial fighter, Ibadi scholar, Poet, Statesman
  • Abd Allah al-Baruni (father)

Early life and studiesEdit

Al-Baruni was born in the Jabal Nafusa in what was then the vilayet of Tripolitania, part of the Ottoman Empire, around 1870. He was born to an influential Berber family that belonged to the Ibadi sect of Islam. His father, Abd Allah al-Baruni, was a jurist, poet and theologian.[1] In 1887, he started his studies at the University of Ez-Zitouna in Tunisia, where among his teachers were the reformists, Muhammad al-Nakhli [fr] and Uthman al-makki. Al-Nakhli, a critic of colonialism and sufism, had the great influence on the young Sulayman.[2] In 1893, after six years of studies, he entered the Al-Azhar University, where he studied for three years. He was getting exposed to more anti-colonial movements while in his stay in Egypt. He also became familiar with Mustafa Kamil's ideas and held him in high regard. After ending his studies in the al-Azhar, he went to the M'zab valley to study under the prominent Mozabite Ibadi scholar Muhammad ibn Yusuf Atfayyash, who taught him Arabic studies, theology, and traditional Ibadi literature.[3]


In Cairo he founded a newspaper and later a printing press. During the reign of Abdul Hamid II, he was arrested several times by the Ottoman authorities on the accusation that he was planning to re-establish an Ibadi imamate or emirate in the Jabal Nefusa. In the general election of 1908, following the Young Turk Revolution, al-Baruni was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as the member for the Jabal Gharbi.[4]

Following the outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War in 1911, al-Baruni immediately began recruiting Berbers to resist the invasion. He played a leading role at the Congress of Aziziyya, a meeting of important Tripolitanian leaders, in late October 1912, following the Ottoman capitulation. He eventually sought an understanding with the Italians in the hopes of creating an autonomous Ibadi principality centred on the Jabal Nefusa and Marsa Zuaga. At minimum he hoped the Berbers would receive special privileges in the new Italian Libya. What remained of Berber resistance in Tripolitania was crushed at the battle of al-Asabʿa on 23 March 1913. Al-Baruni and several other leaders who had been connected with the Ottomans, went into voluntary exile in French Tunisia. Italy sent Count Carlo Sforza to Tunisia to persuade the exiles to return. Al-Baruni was the first to be convinced, suggesting to the other that they should return to Tripolitania in exchange for an agreement from Italy that they could retain the position in Tripolitanian society and that their past resistance would not be held against them. Al-Baruni seems even to have been promised Berber autonomy. The Italians also asked him to write a monograph on the Jabal Gharbi.[4]

Al-Baruni did not return until October 1916, when he was appointed governor (Arabic wāli, Turkish vali) of Tripolitania, Tunisia and Algeria by the Ottoman sultan in the midst of the First World War.[5] None of these territories were under actual Ottoman control at the time, but the Ottomans were actively working to organise the war against Italy in Tripolitania. In November 1918, al-Baruni was one of four local notables elected to represent the Tripolitanian Republic that was proclaimed in the aftermath of the Ottoman surrender.[4] With the promulgation of the Legge Fondamentale (Fundamental Law) in June 1919, al-Baruni made his peace with Italy.[6]

By September 1921, as a result of the Italian policy of divide and conquer, there was a civil war in Libya between the Berbers, who increasingly looked to Italy for protection, and the Arabs. Among the Berbers, al-Baruni was widely blamed for this state of affairs. He went into his final exile in November 1921. He traveled to France, Egypt, Turkey and Mecca before settling in Oman. There he was appointed finance minister.[6]

He died on 1 May 1940 while visiting Mumbai in the company of the Sultan of Oman, Said bin Taimur.[7] After his death, his daughter, Za'ima bint Sulayman, gathered some of his papers and published them at Tripoli in 1964 under the title Safahat khalida min al-jihad li'l-mujahid al-Libi Sulayman al-Baruni.[4]

In popular cultureEdit

  • The Libyan television series, El Zaiman, starring the Moroccan actor Rabie Kati as Sulayman al-Baruni and the Libyan actor Saleh El Qarad as Bashir Saadawi, aired on Salam TV in Ramadan 2020.[8][9]


  1. ^ Veccia Vaglieri, L. (1986) [1960]. "al-Bārūnī". In Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. I (2nd ed.). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Publishers. p. 1070. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_SIM_1248. ISBN 9004081143.
  2. ^ Ghazal, Amal (2014). Gelvin, James L.; Green, Nile (eds.). Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print. Univ of California Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-520-27502-7.
  3. ^ Ghazal, Amal (2014). Gelvin, James L.; Green, Nile (eds.). Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print. Univ of California Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-520-27502-7.
  4. ^ a b c d Anna Baldinetti, "Italian Colonial Rule and the Muslim Elites in Libya: A Relationship of Antagonism and Collaboration", in Meir Hatina (ed.), Guardians of Faith in Modern Times: ʻUlamaʼ in the Middle East (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 91–108, at 96–102.
  5. ^ Rachel Simon, Libya Between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman Involvement in Libya during the War with Italy (1911–1919) (K. Schwarz, 1987), p. 229; for al-Baruni's military command in the First World War, see Angelo Del Boca, Mohamed Fekini and the Fight to Free Libya (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 61ff.
  6. ^ a b Ronald Bruce St. John (ed.), "Baruni, Suleiman", Historical Dictionary of Libya, 5th edn. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014), pp. 56–57.
  7. ^ Ghazal, Amal (2014). Gelvin, James L.; Green, Nile (eds.). Global Muslims in the Age of Steam and Print. Univ of California Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-520-27502-7.
  8. ^ Safi, Chaima (2020-05-02). "مسلسل الزعيمان عمل درامي ليبي بمعايير عالمية". Elaph (in Arabic). Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  9. ^ "مسلسل "الزعيمان" ينفض الغبار عن تاريخ ليبيا المنسي | حنان مبروك". Al-Arab (in Arabic). 2020-04-16. Retrieved 2020-06-22.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit