- Ronald Bruce St John
king of Libya, Libyan religious and political leader, descendant of a distinguished North African family that traced its ancestry to the Prophet Muhammad, was the first head of state after Libya won independence in 1951. Born at Jaghbub in eastern Libya, Sayyid Muhammad Idris al-Mahdi al-Sanusi was the eldest son of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Sanusi, in turn the eldest son and successor to Sayyid Muhammad bin ʿAli al-Sanusi, the founder of the Sanusi Order, a strictly orthodox order of Sufis established in Libya in 1842. Idris was schooled in traditional Islamic studies at the Kufrah Oasis, a Sanusi center in southeastern Libya, where he earned a reputation for piety and scholarship. After Italy invaded Libya in 1911, an occupation the Sanusi Order resisted with force, Idris assumed leadership of the order in 1916 Idris tried to reach a peaceful accommodation with the Italians but when his ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Dictionary of African Biography.