Qatar National Day

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Following The Path Of The Founders Every December 18, we celebrate our National Day in commemoration of the historic day in 1878 when Sheikh Jasim, founder of the State of Qatar, succeeded his father, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Thani, as the ruler and led the country towards unity.

This national occasion emphasises our identity and history, embodies the ideals and visionary aspirations that this country was founded on, and pays homage to the great men and women who participated in building our nation. December 18 is the day we remember how our national unity was achieved and how we became a distinct and respected nation out of a society torn apart by conflicting tribal loyalties, devoid of security and order, and overrun by invaders.

National Day is a glorious occasion on which we convey our deepest expressions of affection and gratitude to the people of Qatar who co-operated in solidarity and vowed sincere allegiance and obedience to Sheikh Jasim Bin Muhammad Bin Thani, trusting him as a father, brother, leader, and Imam. In him they found a man who had already distinguished himself in his youth as a pious, brave, self-sacrificing, and wise leader. He was keen on unifying the Qatari Peninsula and safeguarding the interests of its people in the darkest of times ever witnessed by this part of the world.

It was a time of tribal wars on land, and piracy and pillage at sea. It was a time that witnessed the retreat of the Ottoman Empire and the decline of its power and that of the growing influence of the British Empire in the region. Interests and loyalties were shifting: conflicts and disorder were spreading anew in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region. But Sheikh Jasim, with God’s help and the support of the Qatari people, withstood these storms and momentous changes. God helped him overcome the consecutive dangers, crises, and horrors of the time, and navigate our homeland to a safe harbour.

The Qataris proved they were faithful, co-operative, and willing to sacrifice as they struggled in pursuit of liberation for more than half a century. They did it all to finally establish a homeland they could be proud of – a country entrusted to a leadership adhering to justice and consultation in its dealings with the people.

Sheikh Jasim Bin Muhammad, with only limited manpower and resources at his disposal, personally led his Qatari warriors to achieve the unimaginable in decisive battles with the major powers of the time. In the illustrious al-Wajbah Battle against the Ottoman Empire, the Qataris distinguished themselves with their determination to be free from the yoke of oppression and rescue their brothers and sons from captivity. The battle also revealed the astonishing ingenuity and profound perception of Sheikh Jasim’s leadership in making decisions, managing the conflict, and capitalising on the ensuing victory for the benefit of the nation and its people. The wise leadership and the people’s steadfast stand enabled the Qataris to be victorious both in politics and war. The Wajbah Battle became an example of wisdom in leadership, greatness in bravery, and loyalty in the face of magnificent odds.

Before the battle, Sheikh Jasim exerted sincere efforts to negotiate with the Ottoman wali (Governor) of the region, trying in various ways to avoid a military confrontation and spilling of blood amongst Muslims. But anticipating that tyrants would not respond to the voice of reason, Sheikh Jasim, while trying to negotiate, was also getting ready for war. When the wali persevered in his oppression, he found himself in the midst of a ruthless war and faced a crushing defeat, all by the grace and will of God.

Sheikh Jasim must also be credited for maintaining a close relationship with the Ottoman Caliphate in Istanbul despite the events in Qatar. He regarded the Caliphate as a symbol of Islamic unity and believed that this unity must be based on justice and solidarity, not on oppression and subjugation. It should mean fraternity and co-operation among Muslims, not despotism and exploitation.

As witnessed by events and evident in numerous documents of the time, Sheikh Jasim had a deep understanding of humanitarian values and a solid conviction of the need to uphold justice and fight oppression, not just for his Qatari people, but for all oppressed, whoever and wherever they were. He believed the most deserving of protection were those persecuted in their own countries and debased or struck by misfortunes of time. By his deeds, the founding father set an example that freeing the enslaved, feeding the hungry, and helping the needy were principles to be applied and not paid mere lip service. He spent enormous sums of money to liberate great numbers of slaves, bestowed his generosity on countless destitute individuals, and allocated a large portion of his endowment to help the needy – from Qatar to Basra and from the towns of the Gulf to the remote villages in Najd.

From his boyhood, Sheikh Jasim was an enthusiast for knowledge and learning and believed he had an obligation to encourage and promote these values. History credits him with establishing Doha during his reign as a beacon for those seeking knowledge and learning as well as a meeting place for the greatest scholars and judges of the Islamic world. His devotion to knowledge prompted him to import from India and Egypt, and then print at his own expense, large numbers of copies of the most important books, which were then distributed to scholars and their pupils in the region. Sheikh Jasim believed he and his country had a mission to maintain the religious and intellectual importance of the region. He believed that a coming together of religion and science would rally the just, the reasonable, and the conscientious, and save society from the evils of injustice and fanaticism.

In the light of our history, we Qataris of today must heed the message of our heroic forefathers who endured severe hardships and paid a dear price for the unity of our nation. We owe it to them to push forward in our quest to turn ourselves, our institutions, universities, and media into guiding beacons of knowledge and righteousness and to bring wellbeing to all humanity. Our ancestors are the pioneering and inspiring role models we must follow to spread freedom and justice. We must keep this ideal alive in our minds and ensure its influence on our future generations.

Our pride in National Day requires that we renew our bond to our heritage and adapt to modern times those parts of it which are best and most useful. We must strive to ensure progress, but without forsaking our Arab and Islamic identity. Our pride in National Day also demands that we adopt the highest level of personal and collective responsibility. No nation can advance unless its people uphold its foundational values, work together to build it, and fulfil the aspirations of its founders. Good, healthy citizenship implies responsibility and participation. Harmony and unity between people, who all fulfil their constructive roles in society, will bring all of us fortune and happiness now and in the futur

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