King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, the monarch of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since 1999, is the 43rd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Recognized as the Prophet's household, Al al Bayt, Abdullah's family has long served the Arab world superintending the Quraish tribe, maintaining the holy sites of Mecca and Madina, and symbolizing the unity of Arab society and life. Indeed, even during the reign of the Ummayads, the Abbassids, the Fattimides, the Ayyoubids, and the Ottomans the Hashemites were recognized, if not as the actual caliphs then at least as the symbolic leaders of Dar al-Islam.
Abdullah did not inherit much land or wealth. But, he did inherit the Hashemite legacy and moral clout.
This past week, he made a state visit to Washington, DC in an effort to wield that influence. In a speech before a joint session of Congress he made an impassioned speech for the United States to once again take the lead in helping to forge peace in the Middle East. He made no new policy proposals. He offered no new insights into how to solve the dilemmas of of Muslim on Muslim violence. He offered no new concessions to remove the threat of extremists in Hammas, al-Qaeda, or Hezbollah.
But, he nevertheless commanded the respect and attention of every congressman and senator. I was privileged to have been invited to come to Washington to attend the joint session and was able to witness first-hand the power of his influence.
If only he commanded the respect and attention of the mullahs, imams, and ayatollahs of Islam! But, of course, he does not. And for all the impassioned king's rhetoric, real headway in the Middle East is going to have to spring from something other than good intentions, long geneologies, or heartfelt pleas.