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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Treating Tripoli – Libya’s Treaty with America

Reflecting on history teaches you a lot. But to learn authentic history, you need a good teacher; I am most fortunate to have a Teacher like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. He brought to my attention a long while ago about what is called the Treaty of Tripoli. When the Libyan unrest started and the American politicking kicked off, I was reminded of what my Teacher and later my research taught me about this Treaty between present-day Libya and America.

After the long and bloody war fought on American soil by British colonialists choosing to cut ties with the British Empire of the mid-18th century, America for the first time achieved independence. One of the primary reasons the British, now on American soil, to have revolted was the standard British imperialism of the day, blocking American trade via sea. One of the tools used, as is today by nations, was to create oppressive and undemocratic legislation like the Navigation Acts. The aim was to stop the American settlers from trading with the French, Dutch and the Spanish. When America gained independence, one of the first political strategies played by the master of “divide and rule”, the British Empire made sure that American ships were not only not protected from piracy in the seas, but also created animosity between seafarers and their sponsors during the 1780s.

One such sponsor of trade of the time was the Muslim chiefdoms and caliphates around the Mediterranean- Morocco, Algiers and Libya, then known as the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.

It is a historical fact that whilst the whole of Europe were looking for ways to fight the new America, the first nation to officially recognise and offer diplomatic ties to this new America was none other than a Muslim nation- the kingdom of Morocco, in 1777. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the USA and Morocco, negotiated in 1787, is the longest unbroken treaty relationship in US history.

The Pashas and rulers of the Muslim world provided protection to ships from pirates in the larger part of the Mediterranean, and the British were quick enough to create bad blood between the Muslim states of the day and the new United States of America that Britain lost. Piracy, fights and wars ensued in the region. Undoubtedly, there was the driving force of religion from both sides that also played a significant part.

One of the actions that Tripoli offered to the new USA was protection against the pirates and related attacks as long as USA paid Jizyah to Tripoli’s Pasha. Similar such arrangements were made with Algiers and Tunis as well. Despite the fact that no side was innocent in starting or supporting piracy, fights and wars, one thing that did come to the American mariners was safety of passage when they signed a Treat of Peace and Friendship with Tripoli. In signing the Treaty, the then president of USA, John Adams stated:

Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfil the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.

The treaty in English (putting aside the later controversy regarding the Treat originally in Arabic and the English translation unanimously ratified by the US Senate) reads:

Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.

Article 1.

There is a firm and perpetual Peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, made by the free consent of both parties, and guaranteed by the most potent Dey & regency of Algiers.

Article 2.

If any goods belonging to any nation with which either of the parties is at war shall be loaded on board of vessels belonging to the other party they shall pass free, and no attempt shall be made to take or detain them.

Article 3.

If any citizens, subjects or effects belonging to either party shall be found on board a prize vessel taken from an enemy by the other party, such citizens or subjects shall be set at liberty, and the effects restored to the owners.

Article 4.

Proper passports are to be given to all vessels of both parties, by which they are to be known. And, considering the distance between the two countries, eighteen months from the date of this treaty shall be allowed for procuring such passports. During this interval the other papers belonging to such vessels shall be sufficient for their protection.

Article 5.

A citizen or subject of either party having bought a prize vessel condemned by the other party or by any other nation, the certificate of condemnation and bill of sale shall be a sufficient passport for such vessel for one year; this being a reasonable time for her to procure a proper passport.

Article 6.

Vessels of either party putting into the ports of the other and having need of provisions or other supplies, they shall be furnished at the market price. And if any such vessel shall so put in from a disaster at sea and have occasion to repair, she shall be at liberty to land and reembark her cargo without paying any duties. But in no case shall she be compelled to land her cargo.

Article 7.

Should a vessel of either party be cast on the shore of the other, all proper assistance shall be given to her and her people; no pillage shall be allowed; the property shall remain at the disposition of the owners, and the crew protected and succoured till they can be sent to their country.

Article 8.

If a vessel of either party should be attacked by an enemy within gun-shot of the forts of the other she shall be defended as much as possible. If she be in port she shall not be seized or attacked when it is in the power of the other party to protect her. And when she proceeds to sea no enemy shall be allowed to pursue her from the same port within twenty four hours after her departure.

Article 9.

The commerce between the United States and Tripoli, — the protection to be given to merchants, masters of vessels and seamen, — the reciprocal right of establishing consuls in each country, and the privileges, immunities and jurisdictions to be enjoyed by such consuls, are declared to be on the same footing with those of the most favoured nations respectively.

Article 10.

The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part and on the part of his subjects for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship are acknowledged to have been received by him previous to his signing the same, according to a receipt which is hereto annexed, except such part as is promised on the part of the United States to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoli, of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no presence of any periodical tribute or farther payment is ever to be made by either party.

Article 11.

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Article 12.

In case of any dispute arising from a notation of any of the articles of this treaty no appeal shall be made to arms, nor shall war be declared on any pretext whatever. But if the consul residing at the place where the dispute shall happen shall not be able to settle the same, an amicable reference shall be made to the mutual friend of the parties, the Dey of Algiers, the parties hereby engaging to abide by his decision. And he by virtue of his signature to this treaty engages for himself and successors to declare the justice of the case according to the true interpretation of the treaty, and to use all the means in his power to enforce the observance of the same.

Signed and sealed at Tripoli of Barbary the 3rd day of Jumad in the year of the Higera 1211 - corresponding with the 4th day of November 1796 by



MAMET Treasurer

GALIL Genl of the Troops

AMET Minister of Marine

MAHOMET Coml of the city

AMET Chamberlain

MAMET Secretary

ALLY-Chief of the Divan

Signed and sealed at Algiers the 4th day of Argib 1211 - corresponding with the 3rd day of January 1797 by


and by the Agent plenipotentiary of the United States of America Joel BARLOW

One of the most celebrated and prestigious American military section is the Marines, or the United States Marine Corps. Part of their parade dress today includes a sword. It is the oldest weapon still in service by the United States Armed Services. The Marines have their origin from the days of the American Revolution and one such occasion after independence saw them in battle against the pirates from the shores of Tripoli. Their bravery was rewarded by the Caliphate of the time, the Mamluks, with its official sword to a Marine, Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon in 1805. By 1825, all Marines carried the Mamluke sword. Til today, with an 1858 variation, the American Marines parade with the Mamluke sword.

A new dawn came upon Tripoli and Libya as a whole, when USA (followed by NATO forces) dropped bombs as part of its Operation Odyssey Dawn. When America was trying to get on its feet, Tripoli’s intervention was signing a Treaty of Peace and Friendship; today when the people of Tripoli are trying to get back on its own feet again, it finds either death raining on them through American intervention or the tyranny of an American puppet from within them slaughtering them. Perhaps, the Marines may remember the gift of honour that decorate them til today, and once again rise with bravery and treat Tripoli with mutual respect and intervene only for peace and friendship.

See a copy of the Original Treaty of Tripoli on Wikipedia.
About the Author

Ima Afroz Ali[Imam] Afroz Ali is the Founder and President of Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences & Human Development, based in Sydney, Australia. He is a qualified Imam in the Islamic Tradition, having studied under Traditional Islam and received licence to teach in various Islamic Sciences. His studies have taken him from university-based Islamic University- Madina, Saudi Arabia then moving towards Traditional Scholarship in Yemen, United States and Mauritania, where he has spent considerable time to learn from the most esteemed Rightly Guided Islamic Scholars of our time. He has also travelled to Cairo, Egypt for further studies in Islamic Jurisprudence with Scholars at al-Azhar University and was on the Board of Advisors at Markaz Aleem in Cairo, Egypt.

He is the Managing Director of and a senior instructor at SeekersGuidance Online Academy.

He continues to present lectures, workshops and training programs worldwide on Islamic Jurisprudence, Spirituality, Ecological Wellbeing, Ethical Rights and Responsibilities, and Personal and Corporate Citizenship.

As a trainer in personal leadership he provides corporate training on Team building, Personal Leadership, Change Management, Business Strategy Development and Corporate Ethics. Further, Imam Afroz utilises his corporate training skills to mentor and train community organisations in Community Sustainability Programs, Personal Leadership and Interpersonal Skills, Spiritual Development, Motivation and Goals Setting. He has initiated philanthropic as well as sustainable environment projects in Australia and abroad, and continues to advocate for peace, acceptance, justice and interpersonal rights.

Imam Afroz is a founding member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change. He is also the recipient of the International Ambassador for Peace award and is an Australian Ambassador for the Charter for Compassion.


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