As I mentioned previously on this blog, I sometimes like to listen to the old speeches of Hafez al-Assad, who was president of Syria from 1971 until 2000. Another speech of his that I found interesting was the one that he delivered after the outbreak of the October War in 1973 (6 October 1973), when Arab forces led by Egypt and Syria fought against Israel. I note in particular the references to Arab history and jihad during this speech as the war in that year occurred during the month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. I also note the fact that Hafez says 'may God be pleased with them' after mentioning the names of the first four Rashidun caliphs (Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali). This kind of formulation is associated with Sunnis even though Hafez was Alawite in origin.
Below is the speech translated in full, and I have included some footnotes to provide context.
Screenshot from the address delivered by Hafez.
Oh citizens, oh our intrepid soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers, oh sons of our defiant people.
With my regards to every one of you, I address in you the authentic Arab spirit, the spirit of courage and heroism, the spirit of exertion and sacrifice, the spirit of self-sacrifice and giving. In address in you the affection for the homeland for which you have had a natural disposition, and the faith in the cause that you have been determined to defend.
Since around a week ago the enemy has been mobilising and preparing, thinking that it will inflict a treacherous strike on us, and we have been awake, staying up, observing their movements and rests, and we are prepared and ready to repel their new likely aggression. For we have not allowed them to take us by surprise, and our armed forces have hurried to give them the appropriate response, and our brothers in Egypt have not allowed them to take them by surprise, so the great army of Egypt has hurried to defend the dignity of Egypt and the dignity of the Arab Ummah.
So regards to our army and our people, and regards to the army of Egypt and the great Arab people of Egypt, and it is necessary for me in these decisive moments to direct regards from the heart to these intrepid military personnel who have come to our area from the brotherly Maghreb in order to participate in the battle of glory and dignity, and to offer the blood in generosity alongside their brothers in Syria and Egypt, so they have embodied in that the unity of the Ummah and the unity of fate and the sanctity of the aim.
We today are waging the battle of honour and glory defending our precious land, our glorious history, the heritage of the fathers and forefathers. We are waging the battle of faith in God and ourselves and with solid determination and decisive determination that victory should be our ally in that. Israel has transgressed and has been struck by deception and arrogance has filled the heads of the officials in it, so they have intensely engaged in the crime and savoured the way of aggression, as their hearts are filled with black hatred for our people and humanity, and they are overcomes by a thirst for bloodshed, and their steps are guided by a disdain for the principles of humanity and its supreme example and the international resolutions and laws. The likes of these people are the likes of those who preceded them from the warmongers, who do not stop at a limit and do not desist unless they are deterred by the peoples believing in their right, and defending in the path of their freedom and existence. And as we carry out our duty in defending our land and the honour of our Ummah, we are prepared to expend every sacrifice and accept every hardship in the path of the victory of the truth and victory of the principles, and in the path of the reign of just peace.
Oh citizen brothers:
The hardships are a test of the metal [/essence] of the peoples and testing their authenticity, and whenever the Ummah faces an increase in hardship, the pure metal [/essence] appears and the firmly-rooted authenticity is confirmed. Indeed you are the sons of an Ummah known over the course of history for stances of manliness and defiance, stances of heroism and self-sacrifice, sons of an Ummah that has carried the message of light and faith to the regions of the Earth, and the world has acknowledged it without exception for the highest qualities and most noble ethics. So oh descendants of Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali (may God be pleased with them),[i] oh descendants of Khalid[ii] and Abu Obeida,[iii] Amr,[iv] Sa'ad[v] and Salah al-Din[vi]: indeed the conscience of our Ummah calls on us and the souls of our martyrs encourage us to embody [/assimilate] the meanings of Yarmouk, Qadisiya, Hateen and Ayn Jalut,[vii] and indeed the masses of our Ummah from the Ocean[viii] to the Gulf gaze with their eyes and hearts upon our great steadfastness, and all of them are full of hope and trust that we are proceeding to victory.
Oh our intrepid soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers, we are people of right and people of a just cause, and God gives victory to the one who is on right and the one who defends and upholds his right. Indeed you today are defending the honour of the Arab Ummah and protecting its dignity and protecting its existence, and you are making sacrifices so that the coming generations may live delighted and at ease. And the will of the Lofty and Powerful is that your jihad should be in this day of the days of the distinguished month, the month of Ramadan, the month of jihad, the month of the Badr expedition,[ix] the month of the day of al-Fatah,[x] the month of victory: a clear page in the history of our armed forces that we add to the multiple pages of heroism and self-sacrifice that they have written with the blood of the pious martyrs in the history of our area and our homeland. Our forefathers were victorious by faith in sacrifice, and competing with each other for martyrdom in defence of the religion of God and the message of truth. And indeed you today by your heroic acts and your courage, draw inspiration from this spirit and revive it and revive through it the traditions of our glorious Ummah.
Your arms before you are a trust, so use them well, and the honour of the Arab soldier is a trust on your necks, so protect the trust, and the future of our people is in your custody, so expend the impossible in defence of it. And indeed our people- the hearts of whose sons are filled with fervour- stand behind you in one rank protecting your back lines and supporting your jihad with all they have. And behind them are the masses of our Arab Ummah that I think only take the stance that the nationalist obligation in this decisive stage dictates. And behind them afterwards in the world are multiple friends supporting our right and supporting our cause and supporting our struggle.
We are not people who desire killing and destruction, but rather we are repelling killing and destruction from ourselves. We are not aggressors and we have never been aggressors, but rather we are and remain repelling the aggression from ourselves. We do not want death for anyone, but rather we repel death from our people. We love freedom and want it for us and others besides us. And we defend today so that our people may enjoy their freedom. We are advocates of peace, and we work for the sake of peace for our people and all the peoples of the world. And today we defend so that we may live in peace. So proceed on the blessing of God and if God supports you no one can overcome you. And peace be upon you.
[i] The first four Rashidun Caliphs.
[ii] Khalid bin al-Waleed, who was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad and a central figure in the Arab conquest of the Levant.
[iii] Abu Obeida bin al-Jarrah, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad who was a notable military commander in the time of the caliph Omar and consolidated the conquests of the Levant.
[iv] Amr bin al-Aas, who led the Arab conquest of Egypt.
[v] Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqas, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad who was an important military commander in the time of the caliph Omar. He was a commander of the Arab forces at the Battle of Qadisiya in 636 that played a decisive role in the collapse of the Sassanid Empire.
[vi] Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi.
[vii] All four of these battles are well known in Arab history. The first two were victories against the Byzantines and Sassanids respectively, and were important points in the Arab conquests of the Levant, Mesopotamia and Persia. The latter two were victories over the Crusaders and Mongols respectively.
[viii] The Atlantic Ocean: i.e. the Maghreb region with its Atlantic Ocean coastline.
[ix] The Battle of Badr in which the Muslims were victorious over the pagan Quraysh.
[x] The conquest of Mecca.