HM King Abdullah II is the constitutional monarch of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Supreme Commander of the Jordanian Armed Forces, The Arab Army. He is also the Custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem.
Location: King Abdullah is not the leader of a rich or populous country, nor is he a religious scholar, but what makes his role vital is being the linchpin to the central cause of the Islamic world: the issue of Palestine and Jerusalem, and his being the Custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites there. There are over 12 million Palestinians in the world, 3 million in Jordan itself, around another 5 million in the occupied territories and Israel, and 2 million in Gaza. As Palestine is not recognized as a state by the entire international community, the responsibility for an equitable peace falls largely on its next door neighbour Jordan, and on King Abdullah II in particular, especially as his family have been the hereditary Custodians of the Holy Sites from before the creation of the state of Jordan itself. Moreover, in the face of increased pressure to dissolve the very notion of Palestinian identity, dissolve UNRWA and illegally and unilaterally grant Jerusalem to Israel, King Abdullah has been the only influential voice actively—but responsibly—resisting this catastrophe for the Islamic world. Moreover, Jerusalem is one of Islam’s three holiest sites and is as holy to Muslims as it is to Jews and Christians, and its loss would represent a grievance based not only on justice but on faith to all the world’s 2.1 billion Muslims, a situation with explosive potential consequences, to say the least.
Lineage: King Abdullah II is a 41st-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through the line of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Hasan. The Hashemite Dynasty is the second-oldest ruling dynasty in the world, after that of Japan. As the current bearer of the Hashemite legacy, HM King Abdullah II has a unique prestige in the Islamic world, in addition to his being the Custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem (and of course Jordan itself).
Longevity: King Abdallah II is now the longest-serving Arab ruler. His father King Hussein himself ruled for 47 years and was the longest-serving Arab leader when he died in 1999.
Support for Jerusalem (Al-Quds): HM King Abdullah II is the custodian of Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem, the sacred compound which contains Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Indeed, the Hashemite Custodianship of the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem is essential in safeguarding the pre-1967 Status Quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The Status Quo is a critical insurance against attempts at temporal and spatial division of Al-Haram Al-Sharif and Judaizing its surroundings. His Majesty is also the custodian of Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem. He has firmly supported the upkeep and renovation of these sites. In 2016 King Abdullah issued a Royal Benefaction to provide for the restoration of Jesus’ Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, at his own personal expense. And in 2018 he helped fund the restoration of the entire Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem from his own funds, in particular the US$1.4 million received from the 2018 Templeton Prize.
Reformer: HM King Abdullah’s progressive vision for Jordan is based on political openness, economic and social development, and the Islamic values of goodwill and tolerance. Under his reign Jordan has witnessed sweeping constitutional changes (one third of the Constitution was amended), and political and social reforms aimed at increasing governmental transparency and accountability.
Islamic Outreach: In response to growing Islamophobia in the West in the wake of 9/11 and rising sectarian strife, King Abdullah II launched the Amman Message initiative in 2004 (see “www. ammanmessage. com” on page 53), which was unanimously adopted by the Islamic World’s political and temporal leaderships. King Abdullah II is also credited with one of the world’s most authoritative websites on the Holy Qur’an and Tafsir: the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought’s Altafsir.com (see “Altafsir. com” on page 170). He also founded the World Islamic Sciences and Education University (W.I.S.E.) in Jordan (see www.wise.edu.jo) in 2008. In 2012, King Abdullah II set up integral professorial chairs for the study of the work of Imam Al-Ghazali at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Imam Al-Razi at the King Hussein Mosque. In 2019 King Abdullah established the Integral Chair for the Study of Imam Al-Suyuti’s Work at Al-Husseini Grand Mosque. And in 2022 His Majesty established the Integral Chair for the Study of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Work at Al-Salt Grand Mosque and at the World Islamic Sciences and Education University (W.I.S.E.). In 2014 King Abdullah established a fellowship for the study of love in religion at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.
Majalla Law: 80% of Jordan’s laws are based on the Ottoman Majalla and hence on traditional Hanafi shariah. Jordan has a Chief Mufti, official muftis in every province, army and police grand muftis and shariah courts for all personal status issues for Muslims. Yet it has Orthodox-Priest-run courts for its native Christian population in Christian personal status issues, and Jordan guarantees Christian seats in the Parliament and de facto at every level of government. It has civil law for all citizens and additional tribal laws and customs for tribesmen and tribeswomen.
Interfaith Outreach: HM King Abdullah II is also lauded as an interfaith leader for his support of the 2007 A Common Word initiative (see “A Common Word” on page 121). He was also the initiator and driving force behind the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week Resolution in 2010 (see “UN World Interfaith Harmony Week” on page 156). In 2014 HM King Abdullah hosted HH Pope Francis in Jordan (having previously hosted both HH Pope Benedict XVI and HH Pope John Paul II). In 2015 the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ on Jordan’s River Bank was unanimously voted a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thus, at the same time that DA’ISH was destroying Syria and Iraq’s historical and archaeological treasures, King Abdullah was preserving not just Muslim Holy Sites, but Christian Holy Sites and universal historical and religious treasures as well.
Safe Haven: Jordan has around 2 million registered and unregistered refugees from Syria and Iraq and other regional conflicts (such as Libya and Yemen), in addition to around 2 million refugees from the Palestine conflict. Despite its paucity of resources, Jordan has welcomed and accommodated a staggering number of refugees and is seen by many as the most stable country in a turbulent region. It has the highest percentage of refugees of any country in the world.
Templeton Prize Winner 2018: HM King Abdullah was awarded the 2018 Templeton Prize, the most prestigious prize in the world in religious affairs. He is the second Muslim, and the first statesman, ever to be granted this honour. The prize recognizes those who have “made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”. The judges mentioned in particular King Abdullah’s work in promoting intra-Islamic religious harmony, reclaiming the narrative from extremists, as well as between Islam and other faiths.
Reform: In 2021, HM King Abdullah II pushed for political modernization and announced the introduction of a new committee of 92 members tasked to modernize the political system and to propose new laws for local governments. The committee proposed draft laws for political parties and elections, as well as 22 amendments to the Jordan Constitution regarding parliamentary work and empowering women and youth.