Fahreddin Pasha, or Umar Fakhr-ud-Din Pasha (1868–1948) was the commander of the Ottoman army. He was governor in Medina from 1916 to 1919. He was nicknamed “the Tiger of the Desert” by the British for his patriotism in Medina.
In 1914, before the Ottoman Army was mobilized, Staff Colonel Fahreddin Bey was appointed the commander of the XII Corps stationed in Mosul. He was promoted to the rank of Mirliva on November 12, 1914. He was further appointed as the Deputy Commander of the Fourth Army stationed in Aleppo.
In the First World War, Fahreddin Pasha personally led his forces on May 23, 1916, toward Medina in Hejaz to defend the holy city. On July 17, 1916, the Ottoman authorities entrusted Fahreddin Pasha with the leadership of the Hejaz Expeditionary Force.
The Pasha not only had to defend Medina but also protect the single-track Hejaz Railway from the sabotage attacks of T. E. Lawrence and Sharif Hussein’s forces, on which his entire logistics and supply lines depended upon. The Ottoman garrisons of the isolated small train stations withstood the regular night attacks. They secured the tracks against an increasing number of attacks (there were around 130 major attacks in 1917 and hundreds in 1918).
With the advent of the Armistice of Mudros between the Ottoman Empire and the Entente Powers on October 30, 1918, Fahreddin Pasha refused to withdraw from Medina and did not recognize the armistice.
“Prophet of God! I will never abandon you!”
One Friday in the spring of 1918, after prayers in the Masjid al-Nabawi, the Pasha ascended the steps of the pulpit, stopped halfway, and turned his face to the Prophet’s tomb and said:
“Prophet of God ﷺ! I will never abandon you!”
He then addressed the men:
“Soldiers! I appeal to you in the name of the Prophet, my witness. I command you to defend him and his city to the last cartridge and the last breath, irrespective of the strength of the enemy. May Allah help us, and may the spirit of Muhammad ﷺ be with us.
“Officers of the heroic Ottoman army! Oh little Muhammads, come forward and promise me, before our Lord and before our Prophet, to honour your faith with the supreme sacrifice of your lives.”
Call to Surrender
According to the Ottoman Imperial Archive, Fahreddin Pasha received a call in August 1918 to surrender to Sharif Hussein’s forces. He replied with these words:
“Fahreddin, General, Defender of the most sacred city of Medina. servant of the Prophet. In the name of Allah, the Omnipotent. To you who broke the power of Islam, caused bloodshed among Muslims, jeopardized the Caliphate of the Commander of the faithful, and exposed it to the domination of the British.
On Thursday night the fourteenth of Dhu’l-Hijja, I was walking, tired and worn out, thinking of the protection and defense of Medina, when I found myself among unknown men working in a small square. Then I saw standing before me a man with a sublime countenance. He was the Prophet ﷺ, may Allah’s blessing be upon him! His left arm rested on his hip under his robe, and he said to me in a protective manner, ‘Follow me.’ I followed him two or three paces and woke up. Immediately I proceeded to his sacred mosque and prostrated myself in prayer and thanks.
“I am now under the protection of the Prophet, my supreme commander. I am busying myself with strengthening the defenses, building roads and squares in Medina. Trouble me not with these offers.”
According to the Ottoman Imperial Archive, he refused to hand over his sword even upon the receipt of a direct order from the Ottoman Minister of War. He refused any orders and kept the flag of Ottoman Sultan high in Medina for 72 days after the end of the war.