“The sentence on you, Omar Mukhtar, is death by hanging in public…”
“From God we come, and unto God we shall return…”
These were the words of Omar al-Mukhtar when he found out he was to be executed.
But who was Omar al-Mukhtar?
He was an Islamic scholar and revolutionary who heroically led the resistance against the Italian occupation of Libya for almost 20 years.
Commonly known as the ‘Lion of the Desert,’ Omar spent his youth studying Islam and became a hafidh at a young age.
He spent many years as a teacher of the Quran, until 1911 when Italian forces invaded Libya.
Now 53 years old, his life was about to take a new turn. Determined to defend his people from what Italian fascists described as the ‘Roman Reconquista,’ Omar and his small groups of men skilfully attacked outposts, ambushed troops and cut critical supply routes, astonishing and embarrassing the highly advanced Italian Royal Army and its troops who were half his age.
Omar’s character and integrity impressed even his enemies, sticking to Islamic principles during the horrors of war and brutal occupation.
After 20 years of fighting, inflicting defeats and setbacks to the Italian invaders, Omar was captured at the age of 73, after being injured in battle.
He was offered many deals and bribes by the Italians to call off his men, but always refused, famously saying:
“We will never surrender. We win or we die.”
On September 16th1931, Omar al-Mukhtar was martyred.
These were the last verses of the Quran he read, before his execution:
[To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul,
Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],
And enter among My [righteous] servants
And enter My Paradise.”
May Allah have mercy on him.