The Shaykh of Shaykhs: Mithqal al-Fiyaz and Tribal Leadership in Modern Jordan
By Yoav Alon
2016, Stanford UP, 978-0-80479-932-4, $24.95 pb.
Reviewed on January 1, 0001
Jordan’s stability in a region long beset by unrest is a testament to its Hashemite monarchy leadership and the tribal base supporting it. Among the largest (more than 150,00-strong) and most influential of Jordan’s tribes is the Bani Sakhr confederacy, whose most famous and politically influential shaykh was Mithqal al-Fayiz (1880-1967). A hero of the World War I Arab Revolt, Mithqal learned tribal leadership from his father and grandfather. Gaining trust and fame “as a leader of raids” in his youth, he matured into a respected mediator whose “judgment combined the conventions and precedents of the law with societal norms and his own views” of justice. But he is best remembered as a nation-builder whose “fierce opposition to early attempts to extend British rule east of the Jordan River paved the way for Abdullah bin Hussein to establish the Emirate of Transjordan” and ultimately led to the modern state. This detailed biography deeply explores the power and impact of Bedouin tribal leadership.