Emile Nakhle: Jassim Murad's Passing Left Void in Modern History of Bahrain

Late Jassim Murad
Late Jassim Murad

Emile Nakhleh - 2019-01-14 - 11:16 p

It is with great sadness that I write this eulogy for my dear friend Jassim Muhammad Murad. I was stunned when I heard the news from a Bahraini friend today.

This is not a eulogy to mourn Jassim's passing but a celebration of his rich and gracious life. I met Jassim 47 years ago when I was sent to Bahrain in the fall of 1972 as the first US Senior Fulbright Scholar to do research for a book on the making of the new Bahraini state, which became independent a year earlier in 1971. This pleasant, informed, erudite, and generous man was one of the first people I met after my arrival. As I attended all the sessions of al-Majlis al-Ta'sisi (Constituent Assembly), which was formed by the late ruler Emir Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa to write a constitution for the country, I was impressed by Jassim Murad, the elected member of the Assembly, for his knowledge, dignity, curiosity, ideas, and willingness to work with other members for the good of the country. He was a liberally-minded businessman who believed that every Bahraini was entitled to a life of dignity regardless of religious, sectarian, or ethnic affiliation. The more I interacted with him and a few of his colleagues, the more hope I had for the future of Bahrain because of men like Jassim. Once I had a conversation with the country's prime minister about the future of Bahrain as a liberal, reformist, modern state in the Gulf and told him that people like Jassim Murad give one hope that Bahrain was on the right trajectory.

He believed that Bahrainis were entitled to freedoms of speech, assembly, and thought and that all citizens were equal under the law. He also believed that the country's leaders must rule through consultation with the people and must be accountable. As a small country with meager oil resources, Jassim believed that Bahrain could become the shining light and the "City on the Hill" for the rest of the Gulf. Bahrain, he believed, could achieve such a status through education, innovation, enlightened economic policy, and friendly relations with its neighbors.

I began my daily get-togethers with Jassim in his store inside the old suq where he and I and a few friends would gather around four or five o'clock in the afternoon, drink coffee and discuss all kinds of issues. Then he and I would go on his daily walk for a mile or two and then end up at his welcoming home for a bite to eat and a family gathering.  I got to know his gracious wife and gracious family well. I also became close friends with his brother Ali and his lovely family. They made me feel like a member of the Murad family. That friendship has lasted over the decades all these years until he passed away at the age of 89 on January 10.

Jassim was a mine of information, an avid reader, and incessantly curious. He loved learning and exploring of all kinds of topics, from politics to religion and economics. During the debates in the Constituent Assembly's sessions, Jassim would frequently quote the writings of Western and Arab legal experts on why a particular article should or should not be adopted. Most Bahrainis who followed the debates in al-Majlis al-Ta'sisi and who witnessed the completion of the 1973 constitution attributed much of the success to Jassim Murad and a few of his colleagues. I joined Jassim and his friends in celebrating the promulgation of the new document by the Emir Sheikh Isa. The 1973 constitution was a testimony to good governing in which participation in the decision-making process was the guiding principle.

I can imagine what Jassim must have felt in recent years as he witnessed the destruction of the constitutional system of government that Sheikh Isa built, the assault on consultative government, and the deep divisions within Bahraini society. The shining light of the "City on the Hill" has faded and the luster of the "Pearl of the Gulf" has tarnished.

Jassim Murad carried the torch of modern Bahrain. I felt honored and privileged to have known him all these years and to count him among my dearest life-long friends. His passing has left a definite void in the modern economic, political, and social history of Bahrain. Goodbye my friend Jassim and Godspeed.


*Emile Nakhle: Research professor and coordinator of National Security Programs at University of New Mexico. Retired Senior Intelligence Service Officer, a National Intelligence Council Associate and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


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