In 1910, Abdullah persuaded his father to stand, successfully, for Grand Sharif of Mecca, a post for which Hussein acquired British support. In the following year he became deputy for Mecca in the parliament established by the Young Turks, acting as an intermediary between his father and the Ottoman government. In 1914, Abdullah paid a clandestine visit to Cairo to meet Lord Kitchener to seek British support for his father's ambitions in Arabia.
Abdullah maintained contact with the British throughout the First World War and in 1915 encouraged his father to enter into correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, British high commissioner in Egypt, about Arab independence from Turkish rule. (see McMahon-Hussein Correspondence). This correspondence in turn led to the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. During the Arab Revolt of 1916–18, Abdullah commanded the Arab Eastern Army. Abdullah began his role in the Revolt by attacking the Ottoman garrison at Ta’if on 10 June 1916. The garrison consisted of 3,000 men with ten 75-mm Krupp guns. Abdullah led a force of 5,000 tribesmen but they did not have the weapons or discipline for a full attack. Instead he laid siege to town. In July he received reinforcements from Egypt in the form of howitzer batteries manned by Egyptian personnel. He then joined the siege of Medina commanding a force of 4,000 men based to the east and north-east of the town. In early 1917, Abdullah ambushed an Ottoman convoy in the desert, and captured £20,000 worth of gold coins that were intended to bribe the Bedouin into loyalty to the Sultan. In August 1917, Abdullah worked closely with the French Captain Muhammand Ould Ali Raho in sabotaging the Hejaz Railway. Abdullah's relations with the British Captain T. E. Lawrence were not good, and as a result, Lawrence spent most of his time in the Hejaz serving with Abdullah's brother Faisal who commanded the Arab Northern Army.
When French forces captured Damascus at the Battle of Maysalun and expelled his brother Faisal, Abdullah moved his forces from Hejaz into Transjordan with a view to liberating Damascus, where his brother had been proclaimed King in 1918. Having heard of Abdullah's plans, Winston Churchill invited Abdullah to a famous "tea party" where he convinced Abdullah to stay put and not attack Britain's allies, the French. Churchill told Abdullah that French forces were superior to his and that the British did not want any trouble with the French. Abdullah acquiesced and was rewarded when the British created a protectorate for him, which later became the Emirate of Transjordan. On March 8, 1920, Abdullah was proclaimed King of Iraq by the Iraqi Congress but he refused the position. After his refusal, his brother who had just been defeated in Syria and was in need of a kingdom, accepted the position.
Although Abdullah established a legislative council in 1928 its role remained advisory leaving him to rule as an autocrat. Prime Ministers under Abdullah formed 18 governments during the 23 years of the Emirate.
Abdullah set about the task of building Transjordan with the help of a reserve force headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Peake, who was seconded from the Palestine police in 1921. The force, renamed the Arab Legion, in 1923 was led by John Bagot Glubb between 1930 and 1956. During the Second World War Abdullah was a faithful ally of the British, maintaining strict order within Transjordan, and helping to suppress a pro-Axis uprising in Iraq. His army, the Arab Legion assisted in the occupation of Iraq and Syria.
Abdullah embarked on negotiations with the British to gain independence; on 25 May 1946 the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on 26 Apr 1949) was proclaimed independent and Abdullah crowned king in Amman.
Abdullah, alone among the Arab leaders of his generation, was considered a moderate by the West. It is possible that he might have been willing to sign a separate peace agreement with Israel, but for the Arab League's militant opposition. Because of his dream for a Greater Syria comprising the borders of what was then Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the British Mandate for Palestine under a Hashemite dynasty with "a throne in Damascus," many Arab countries distrusted Abdullah and saw him as both "a threat to the independence of their countries and they also suspected him of being in cahoots with the enemy" and in return, Abdullah distrusted the leaders of other Arab countries.
Abdullah supported the Peel Commission in 1937, which proposed that Palestine be split up into a small Jewish state (20 percent of the British Mandate for Palestine) and the remaining land be annexed into Transjordan. The Arabs within Palestine and the surrounding Arab countries objected to the Peel Commission while the Jews accepted it reluctantly. Ultimately, the Peel Commission was not adopted. In 1947, when the UN supported partition of Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state, Abdullah was the only Arab leader supporting the decision.
In 1946–48, Abdullah actually supported partition in order that the Arab allocated areas of the British Mandate for Palestine could be annexed into Transjordan. Abdullah went so far as to have secret meetings with the Jewish Agency (future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was among the delegates to these meetings) that came to a mutually agreed upon partition plan independently of the United Nations in November 1947. On 17 November 1947, in a secret meeting with Meir, Abdullah stated that he wished to annex all of the Arab parts as a minimum, and would prefer to annex all of Palestine. This idea of secret Zionist-Hashemite negotiations in 1947 was expanded upon by New Historian Avi Shlaim in his book Collusion Across The Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. This partition plan was supported by British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin who preferred to see Abdullah's territory increased at the expense of the Palestinians rather than risk the creation of a Palestinian state headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammad Amin al-Husayni.
The claim has, however, been strongly disputed by Israeli historian Efraim Karsh. In an article in Middle East Quarterly, he alleged that "extensive quotations from the reports of all three Jewish participants [at the meetings] do not support Shlaim's account...the report of Ezra Danin and Eliahu Sasson on the Golda Meir meeting (the most important Israeli participant and the person who allegedly clinched the deal with Abdullah) is conspicuously missing from Shlaim's book, despite his awareness of its existence". According to Karsh, the meetings in question concerned "an agreement based on the imminent U.N. Partition Resolution, [in Meir's words] "to maintain law and order until the UN could establish a government in that area"; namely, a short-lived law enforcement operation to implement the UN Partition Resolution, not obstruct it".
On 4 May 1948, Abdullah, as a part of the effort to seize as much of Palestine as possible, sent in the Arab Legion to attack the Israeli settlements in the Etzion Bloc. Less than a week before the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Abdullah met with Meir for one last time on 11 May 1948. Abdullah told Meir, "Why are you in such a hurry to proclaim your state? Why don't you wait a few years? I will take over the whole country and you will be represented in my parliament. I will treat you very well and there will be no war". Abdullah proposed to Meir the creation "of an autonomous Jewish canton within a Hashemite kingdom," but "Meir countered back that in November, they had agreed on a partition with Jewish statehood." Depressed by the unavoidable war that would come between Jordan and the Yishuv, one Jewish Agency representative wrote, "[Abdullah] will not remain faithful to the 29 November [UN Partition] borders, but [he] will not attempt to conquer all of our state [either]." Abdullah too found the coming war to be unfortunate, in part because he "preferred a Jewish state [as Transjordan's neighbor] to a Palestinian Arab state run by the mufti."
The Palestinian Arabs, the neighboring Arab states, and the promise of the expansion of territory and the goal to conquer Jerusalem finally pressured Abdullah into joining them in an "all-Arab military intervention" against the newly created State of Israel on 15 May 1948, which he used to restore his prestige in the Arab world, which had grown suspicious of his relatively good relationship with Western and Jewish leaders. Abdullah was especially anxious to take Jerusalem as compensation for the loss of the guardianship of Mecca, which had traditionally held by the Hashemites until Ibn Saud had seized the Hejaz in 1925. Abdullah's role in this war became substantial. He distrusted the leaders of the other Arab nations and thought they had weak military forces; the other Arabs distrusted Abdullah in return. He saw himself as the "supreme commander of the Arab forces" and "persuaded the Arab League to appoint him" to this position. His forces under their British commander Glubb Pasha did not approach the area set aside for the new Israel, though they clashed with the Yishuv forces around Jerusalem, intended to be an international zone. According to Abdullah el-Tell it was the King's personal intervention that led to the Arab Legion entering the Old City against Glubb's wishes.
After conquering the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at the end of the war, King Abdullah tried to suppress any trace of a Palestinian Arab national identity. Abdullah annexed the conquered Palestinian territory and granted the Palestinian Arab residents in Jordan Jordanian citizenship. In 1949, Abdullah entered secret peace talks with Israel, including at least five with Moshe Dayan, the Military Governor of West Jerusalem and other senior Israelis. News of the negotiations provoked a strong reaction from other Arab States and Abdullah agreed to discontinue the meetings in return for Arab acceptance of the West Bank's annexation into Jordan.
On 20 July 1951, Abdullah, while visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was shot dead by a Palestinian from the Husseini clan. On 16 July, Riad Bey Al Solh, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon, had been assassinated in Amman, where rumours were circulating that Lebanon and Jordan were discussing a joint separate peace with Israel. The assassin passed through apparently heavy security. Abdullah was in Jerusalem to give a eulogy at the funeral and for a prearranged meeting with Reuven Shiloah and Moshe Sasson. Abdullah was shot while attending Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the company of his grandson, Prince Hussein. The Palestinian gunman fired three fatal bullets into the King's head and chest. Abdullah's grandson, Prince Hussein, was at his side and was hit too. A medal that had been pinned to Hussein's chest at his grandfather's insistence deflected the bullet and saved his life. Once Hussein became king, the assassination of Abdullah was said to have influenced Hussein not to enter peace talks with Israel in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in order to avoid a similar fate.
The assassin was a 21-year-old tailor's apprentice, Mustafa Ashi, who according to Alec Kirkbride, the British Resident in Amman, was a "former terrorist", Zakariyya Ukah a livestock dealer and butcher. Ten conspirators were accused of plotting the assassination and were brought to trial in Amman. The prosecution named Colonel Abdullah el-Tell, ex-Military Governor of Jerusalem, and Musa Abdullah Husseini as the chief plotters of "the most dastardly crime Jordan ever witnessed." The Jordanian prosecutor asserted that Col. el-Tell, who had been living in Cairo since January 1950, had given instructions that the killer, made to act alone, be slain at once thereafter to shield the instigators of the crime. Jerusalem sources added that Col. el-Tell had been in close contact with the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni, and his adherents in Arab Palestine. El-Tell and Husseini, and three co-conspirators from Jerusalem were sentenced to death. On 6 September 1951, Musa Ali Husseini, 'Abid and Zakariyya Ukah, and Abd-el-Qadir Farhat were executed by hanging.
Abdullah was succeeded by his son Talal; however, since Talal was mentally ill, Talal's son Prince Hussein became the effective ruler as King Hussein at the age of seventeen. In 1967, el-Tell received a full pardon from King Hussein.
Abdullah had married three times.
In 1904, Abdullah married his first wife Musbah bint Nasser (1884 – 15 March 1961) at Stinia Palace, Istinye, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire. She was a daughter of Emir Nasser Pasha and his wife Dilber Khanum. They had three children:Princess Haya (1907–90). Married Abdul-Karim Ja'afar Zeid Dhaoui.
HM Talal I (26 February 1909 – 7 July 1972).
Princess Munira (1915–87). Never married.
In 1913, Abdullah married his second wife Suzdil Khanum (d. 16 August 1968), at Istanbul, Turkey. They had two children:HE Damat Prince Nayef bin Abdullah Beyefendi (Ta'if, 14 November 1914 – Amman, 12 October 1983). A Colonel of the Royal Jordanian Land Force. Regent for his older half-brother Talal from 20 July to 3 September 1951). Married in Cairo or Amman on 7 October 1940 Princess Mihrimah Selcuk Sultan (11 November 1922 – Amman, March 2000 and buried Istanbul, 2 April 2000), daughter of Prince Sehzade Mehmed Ziyaeddin Efendi (Ortakoy, Ortakoy Palace, 26 August 1873 – Alexandria, 30 January 1938) and fifth wife (m. 10 February 1923) Neshemend Hanim Efendi (1905 – Alexandria, 1 February 1934 and buried in Cairo), and paternal granddaughter of Mehmed V by first wife. Father of:
Prince and Prince Sultanzade Asem bin Al Nayef Beyefendi (b. 27 April 1948), married firstly Firouzeh Vokhshouri and had three daughters. Married secondly Princess Sana Asem and they have two daughters and a son.
Princess Maqbula (6 February 1921 – 1 January 2001). Married Hussein bin Nasser, Prime Minister of Jordan (terms 1963–64, 1967).
In 1949, Abdullah married his third wife Nahda bint Uman, a lady from Sudan, in Amman. They had one child .Princess Naifeh (1950–000). Married Samer Ashour.
His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah of Mecca and Hejaz (1882-1921)
His Highness the Emir of Transjordan (1921–46)
His Majesty the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (1946–51)
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE), 1920
Grand Cordon of the Order of the Two Rivers of the Kingdom of Iraq, 1922
Grand Master of the Order of the Hashemites, 1932
Founding Grand Master of the Order of al-Hussein bin Ali
Grand Master of the Supreme Order of the Renaissance
Grand Master of the Order of Independence
Order of Faisal I, 1st Class, 1932
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG), 1935 (KCMG-1927)
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935
King George VI Coronation Medal, 1937
Collar of the Order of Muhammad Ali of the Kingdom of Egypt, 1948
Grand Collar of the Order of Pahlavi of the Empire of Iran, 1949
Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit (with white distinctive) of Francoist Spain, 6 September 1949
Grand Cordon of the Order of Umayyad of Syria, 1950