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Omar al mukhtar, born in the year 1856, is known in modern Libya as the heroic martyr who sacrificed his life while trying to free Libya from Italian colonization. As a child, Omar AL Mukhtar had lived in the region of Cyrenaica, which was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. He had also lost his father at a young age, and lived much of his youth in poverty. However, he would not only change the course of his tribe, country and people, but also the world of Libyan Muslims in the Post Colonial Era.
A short while after his father had passed, Omar al Mukhtar, at the age of 16, was brought under the care and tutelage of one of the Sheikhs in his home town. As he grew in age, he had developed a life style of only sleeping three hours per day in order to stay awake the rest of the day worshiping god. He ended up memorizing the whole Quran and reciting it every week. This has led people to see him as a humble, and deeply religious man.
He earned the name of“Lion of the Desert” by defending the people he was traveling to Sudan with, from a lion that blocked their path. Instead of allowing his people give up a camel which was a prized possession at the time, to the lion, he took a horse and a shot gun, and chased the lion. Eventually he came back with the lions head. This has highlighted his courage and maturity at that time.
His fifties was marked by the dawn of the Italian colonization (1911-1943) of Libya as. At a time when the world was being controlled by European powers, Omar Al Mukhtar stood firm for Islam and faced the Italian colonizers of Libya with great courage in the face of danger. He had fought fiercely against the French with a group called Banu Sanus, who would later be known as the Sanusies. Briefly, they also fought the British. As part of a global “feast”, Italy joined the European nations in causing havoc in the southern part of the northern hemisphere by colonizing Libya. It was during this time, Omar Al Mukhtar, gathered his forces in the face of an attack against Libya, his homeland. Although, Al mukhtar was offered large sums of money to pacify this resistance, he refused and responded with this quote: “I’m not a sweet bite of a meal anyone can swallow. No matter how long they try to change my belief and opinion, Allah is going to let them down.” They then suggested he leave his home town to live closer to the ruling party complete with a monthly salary, but he again refused by saying, “No, I will not leave my country until I meet my lord. Death is closer to me than anything, I’m waiting for it by the minute.”
The Sanusi, Muhammad az-Zaway, who once fought with him against the French, attempted to persuade him to retreat to Egypt with the rest of those who had fought against the French. However, he refused to turn his back on the enemy knowing well that his chances were slim against a force that was enlarging by the minute. He and his companions defended themselves until only he and one of his companions were left. At last his horse was shot dead under him, causing him to fall to the ground. He was shackled and brought to a city called Suluq, where the Italian military post was. Al Mukhtar believed Jihad, which is defined as a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty, was ordained upon every able Muslim while his homeland was occupied by the colonizers. With his faith, heroism and courage he earned the respect of even his enemies.
His hanging took place before hundreds of people in 1931. Intending to scare the Muslims, the Italians, however did not succeed in doing this. In fact the opposite had taken place. His hanging shook the entire Muslim world, and numerous rebelions took place specifically in North Africa. His last quote was “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” Which means, “From god we have come, and to god we will return.”
Today, Omar Al Mukhtar is known for his braveness and courage during the Italian resistance throughout Libya. He is loved and appreciated by many,. This is proven by the fact that his face is printed on the Libyan 10 Dinar note.
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