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An outstanding career

Jan 21,2014 - Last updated at Jan 21,2014

There are few true success stories that come to public light. Apparently, those who selflessly dedicate much of their time and expertise, and often their wherewithal, indiscriminately to others pay little attention to publicity, hence the real unknown devoted servants of the community.

In the summer of 1973, while serving at the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, I was transferred to our embassy in London. There I became closely familiar with the work and the distinguished stature of Barrister Dr Jamal Nasir.

I had known Nasir as a legal authority in the great city of London decades earlier. As a member of the British bar and with his office in the heart of Lincoln’s Inn, the prestigious place of many barristers’ chambers, he dealt mainly with big cases.

But he never refrained from offering help to Jordanians who often needed legal help.

And as legal adviser to the Jordanian embassy and the military offices attached to it, Nasir took care of all related legal matters. In addition, we referred to him many other cases relating to Jordanian visitors to the UK or residents there, which he diligently handled, rarely without successful outcomes.

He never charged a penny for such services. Neither did he once fail to give such matters anything less than priority.

He handled other Arab visitors’ needs with similar generosity, attention and commitment.

Even after my five-year assignment in London was over I continued, as did many of my other colleagues, to seek Nasir’s help for legal matters for a variety of cases, and he was always very gallantly ready. 

The room of one of our official visitors was broken into in a Brussels hotel while I was out with him for a function. His briefcase was forced open and its contents were stolen. The hotel manager declined responsibility for the robbery despite the fact that they knew of the visitor’s important status.

I called Nassir in London and in a matter of days the guest was compensated for all that was stolen.

Similar cases happened to Jordanian official visitors in London earlier and were effectively dealt with by Nasir. He relates to some in his book as mentioned hereunder.

However, the plentiful I believed I knew of this prominent personality over a period of almost 50 years has been dwarfed by what was recently revealed in his just published book summarising a rich life story, a story of struggle and accomplishment.

“Under My Wig” (Gilgamesh Publishing Ltd., UK, 2013) is the Nasir’s latest published work, the fourth after: “The Status of Women Under Islamic Law and Modern Islamic Legislation”, “The Islamic Law of Personal Status” and “Israeli Occupation and the Law of Belligerency”.

Nasir, by any standards, is a world authority whose legal works are used as reference in English courts.

He was born in the small village of Lifta, in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem, when Palestine was under the British Mandate, so his childhood was shaped by events in Palestine while the Zionist scheme for that land was being implemented.

He attended St. George’s school in Jerusalem, went to college at the American University of Beirut and then pursued his law studies and training in London until he was called to the British bar — his cherished goal — as early as 1948.

Nasir continues to practise in England, as well as in many other countries worldwide till this day.

The most recent book tells a lot in just over 200 pages.

Its varied content takes the reader from personal history to politics, to the history of wars and peace in our turbulent region across at least six decades of crowded events, to a vast record of complicated legal cases, to business, to government, to dealing with royalties and world leaders on various matters and much more.

It makes one feel that such a small volume binds as much as an abridged encyclopaedia.

The style is attractive, the writer takes the reader from one stimulating surprise to the other, and so are the unique coincidences and anecdotes that are nicely interwoven in sober material.

The story of the grey-haired man sitting in the London underground next to the young student just in from Jerusalem to read law in the mid 1940s, who happened to also be coming from Jerusalem, but for a totally different purpose, as the brief conversation between them then revealed, is fascinating.

That grey-haired man happened to be David Ben Gurion.

Another most unusual coincidental encounter happens in Oxford; it begins with offering a student a lift and ends up with a meeting with Bill Clinton who would later become president of the United States.

Then Clinton meets the author, while a member of the Jordanian Senate, again when Clinton addresses the Jordanian General Assembly after the signing of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty in 1994, and invites Nasir to the White House.

Nasir’s legal practice was not confined to the UK and the Arab world; he expanded as far as China and Africa.

The author makes frequent observations in his unique way. In Nigeria, he speaks about corruption and favouritism, excessive richness and severe poverty.

His illustration of the low value of the Nigerian currency is really funny.

He tells that while invited to lunch by a Nigerian official one day in Lagos he inquired about a man following them on the way to the restaurant with a huge stuffed sack on his head.

“This is my servant carrying banknotes to pay for the lunch,” his host laughingly explained.

The book deals gently with the author’s family history, but blends it with the first war in Palestine and the events that led to that war, as well as the many other regional wars that followed.

His family was evicted from its home during the 1948 war to relocate in another part of Jerusalem.

Dramatic events in the Middle East feature well in Nasir’s book. As he recounts his personal involvement, he instils life in his analyses and in his narration of events.

By serving as legal counsel to the Jordanian government, to the Jordanian embassy in London and the military offices attached to it, Nasir was totally engaged. But he was more involved in political and legal matters when he served as minister of justice and acting foreign minister in Jordan.

He was a leading member of the Jordanian delegation to the United Nations after the 1967 war and he led other delegation handling bilateral matters in countries worldwide.

Notably the book saves generous space for the late King Hussein and the “Illustrious Hashemite Family” as he rightly calls it.

King Hussein’s trust in the author was unshakeable.

Nasir served the late Monarch with loyalty and distinct devotion.

He was often given varied delicate assignments, not always of legal nature, as he details. He served, with equal dedication and loyalty, other members of the Jordanian Royal family: Their Royal Highnesses Prince Mohammad and Prince Hassan, King Hussein’s two brothers, in particular, with whom he keeps close relationship until today.

During his elaborate professional career, Nasir travelled worldwide and met many important world leaders, sometimes in the company of King Hussein.

Among many other subjects, the author writes about the Arabian Gulf and how it developed, but not from an outsider’s angle: Nasir dealt heavily with many Gulf countries, particularly Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

His expertise was constantly in demand, not only on the grounds of his outstanding legal abilities but also because of his accredited honesty, personal integrity and for keeping his clients’ interests at the top of his priorities.

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