‘The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria'
By Elsa Marston (Author), Barbara Petzon (Foreword)
A brilliant military strategist, superb horseman, statesman, philosopher, Muslim hero . . . Emir Abdel Kader (1808-1883) was an international celebrity in his own time, known for his generosity and kindness even towards enemies. Today he is recognized as one of the noblest leaders of the 19th century and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. This fascinating biography of the heroic Arab who led the resistance to the French conquest of Algeria, endured betrayal and imprisonment, and in 1860, in Syria, saved thousands of innocent people from mob violence brings a vital message for our times.
"The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria" by award-winning children's author Elsa Marston is the 184 page biography of a 19th Century leader, an Arab hero who led the fight in Algeria against opposing French forces. Abd el-Kader (1807-1883) was especially known for his ability as a military strategist and Muslim political leader. What is less well known is his that in 1860 he was responsible for saving thousands of Christians from Syrian mob violence which earned him international recognition from Abraham Lincoln, Pope Pius IX, and Napoleon III. Enhanced with a section of period photography, "The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria" is especially recommended for young readers ages 13 to 16 and would make a significant and highly valued addition to both school and community library biography collections.
(Midwest Book Review)
“Such is the history of the man for whom our town is named. A scholar, a philosopher, a lover of liberty; a champion of his religion, a born leader of men, a great soldier, a capable administrator, a persuasive orator, a chivalrous opponent; the selection was well made, and with those pioneers of seventy years ago, we do honor the Shaykh.”
(Elkader High School, Elkader, Iowa, class of 1915)
"This book introduces us to a true Muslim hero, a man who combined the best qualities of a freedom fighter and a peacemaker. Often called the George Washington of Algeria, the Emir Abd el-Kader led his people in a long fight to resist the French conquest and colonization of their country. . . . Elsa Marston's excellent biography presents [Abd el-Kader's] legacy as a model for young Muslims today . . . and for non-Muslims who are not exposed to enough Muslim voices of reason and compassion."
(Barbara Petzen, Director, Middle East Connections)
“This clear and accessible biography will provide young readers with a valuable portrait of the Emir Abd el-Kader, who was so admired in 19th-century America. It is an admirable contribution to the understanding of the encounters between Muslims and Christians in the age of colonialism.”
(Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of How to Read the Qur’an and Teachings of Sufism)
“At a time when negative stereotypes dominate the public perception of Islam and Muslims, our young people are sorely in need of positive role models who embody the highest ideals of what it means to live a life of dignity and purpose. Marston has filled that void with this gripping narrative of the life of Emir Abd el-Kader, a towering figure who inspires us all to a greater sense of humanity and justice no matter what religion we may practice.”
(Robert F. Shedinger, Luther College, author of Was Jesus a Muslim?)
“Abd el-Kader―a man of principle, Muslim spiritual leader, diplomat, Arab luminary―led a rich and engaged life, despite decades of exile. This Algerian hero's story provides a fascinating window into the history of the nineteenth century, reflecting social and religious values and the tumultuous political times, and helping us make connections between France's brutal colonial policies, the Algerians' valiant resistance, and one leader's dignified and powerful struggle for justice. Marston's is an important contribution to youth literature, and will doubtless be a truly lasting one.”
(Zeina Azzam, Georgetown University, Director of Educational Outreach, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies)
“The special merit of Marston's very beautiful book is that the virtues and human qualities of Abd el-Kader play a central role in her story. In bringing this story to American youth, the author is offering them the chance to discover not only the values of mercy and peace within Islam, but also the life of a person who completely embodied those values. This book is not only a beautiful narrative that is based on solid documentation, but it is above all a useful book for our children who are going to inherit a world which is in urgent need of mercy and peace.”
(Ahmed Bouyerdene, author of Emir Abd el-Kader: Hero and Saint of Islam)
“Award-winning author Elsa Marston's books about the Middle East are often categorized as ‘juvenile fiction and non-fiction.' However, The Compassionate Warrior, like most of her work, is a piece of solid scholarship, engagingly narrated, that will also have great appeal for adults. The Emir Abd el-Kader is an inspirational figure from Algerian history who deserves to be better known, and this exceptional book is a welcome contribution to that cause.”
(Laurence Michalak, University of California, Berkeley)
“Elsa Marston's biography illuminates the extraordinary story of Emir Abd el-Kader. This 19th century hero was tireless in his efforts to protect innocent lives and the honor of Islam. His example is an inspiration for us all.”
“The Compassionate Warrior provides us with a rich opportunity to learn about the life and teachings of a prominent Muslim spiritual teacher who resisted French colonialism. Not being content with returning violence for violence, Emir Abd el-Kader also protected Syrian Christians at a later point in his life. . . . This volume is highly recommended for all who seek to learn about spiritual ways of responding to the traumas of the contemporary world.”
(Omid Safi, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters)
“In her engaging biography, the author shows well how Emir Abd el-Kader, head of a religious order and a fighter against colonial intrusions, preached tolerance and coexistence among communities, as was evident of his defense of the downtrodden during the exceptional Damascus riots of 1860. It is good of the author to bring to light the tolerance of a brave and compassionate hero who was needed then and is needed now as a model of leadership.”
(Leila Fawaz Tufts University, author of An Occasion for War: Mount Lebanon and Damascus in 1860)
“In Elsa Marston's story of Emir Abd el-Kader we learn about the character of a man who was regularly faced with difficult decisions. In his journey, we see that being a warrior does not always mean going to war, but can also involve simply fighting for what is right. We witness the heroism that lies in human nature, even during the horror of battle, and the compassion that makes heroism possible. There is no avoiding the strong sense of justice that permeates all of his actions, and that that commitment to justice is deeply informed by his faith and spirituality. The remarkable nature of his story only highlights the importance of being true to one's convictions. His story is both awe-inspiring and inspirational.”
(Hussein Rashid, Hofstra University, associate editor of Religion Dispatches magazine)
“It is not very often that we readers and teachers come across a book that reveals so much history and biography in such an engaging and compelling way. Although the life of the great Algerian freedom fighter of the nineteenth century is the central focus of the book, the story also features French and North African colonial history, Christian-Muslim relations, and European politics. This book is an excellent vehicle for young people to explore a fast-moving story of heroic resistance to power, of nobility in times of war, of famous people and trying times, while all along learning―and probably enjoying―history, ethics, cross-cultural relations, and the inner workings of Muslim societies.”
(Roger Gaetani editor of Introduction to Sufism: The Inner Path of Islam and A Spirit of Tolerance: The Inspiring Life of Tierno Bokar, former teacher and developer of educational materials)
“Abd el-Kader, who fought for nearly two decades against occupation and oppression, refused the oppression of others, and believed that despite all our differences, we were brothers and sisters in humanity. His many battles, as a resistance fighter, as a prisoner, as an intellectual, and as a believer, embodied this simple and yet revolutionary idea. His message, in a world with more interaction than ever before, is not only still relevant, but key for us to preserve our ability to coexist and to work together for a better future. I think he is more needed today than in the 19th century.”
(Majed Bamya, descendant of Abd el-Kader, diplomat and social activist)
Age Group: 12-16