cover of book

Lightning through the Clouds: ?Izz al-Din al-Qassam and the Making of the Modern Middle East
by Mark Sanagan
University of Texas Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-1-4773-2058-7 | Cloth: 978-1-4773-2056-3
Library of Congress Classification DS125.3.Q36S26 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 956.9404092


Lightning through the Clouds is the first English-language life-and-times biography of ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam, a preeminent figure who helped to reshape the political and religious landscape of the region. A Syrian-born, Egyptian-educated cleric, he went from the battlefields of World War I to join the anticolonialist fight against the French in Syria. Sentenced to be executed by the French military, he managed to escape to Palestine, where he became an increasingly popular presence, moved by the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Outraged by British rule and the encroachment of Zionism, he formed a secret society to resist the colonization of Palestine first by the British and then by Jewish immigrants from Europe, once again taking up arms and advocating for a moral, political, and military jihad as the only solution. His death at the hands of Palestine Police in 1935 drew thousands to his funeral and sparked the 1936–1939 Arab Revolt.

His influence continues to be felt in the region; for example, the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas organization is named the ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Al-Qassam is either revered or reviled, depending on the observers’ perspective, but he is without doubt a fascinating and historically significant individual whose influence on the past, and our present, makes this examination of his life both important and timely.

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