Queen Zein of Jordan

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The wife of King Talal and the mother of King Hussein I, Zein al-Sharaf Bint Jamal was born on August 2, 1916, in Alexandria, Egypt. She was the eldest of the two children of Sharif Jamal bin Nasser, Governor of Hauran and Wijdan Hanim. Her father was the nephew of Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca  (the father of King Abdullah I of Jordan) and her mother was the daughter of Shakir Pasha, Governor of Cyprus. Zein had one brother and one sister:

  • Sharif Nasser bin Jamal (1927 – 1979), Commander-in-Chief of the Jordanian Armed Forces
  • Sharifa Nafea bint Jamal

On November 27, 1934, Zein married her first cousin Prince Talal bin Abdullah, the eldest son of the future King Abdullah I of Jordan. The couple had six children:

Zein’s four surviving children: Hassan, Hussein, Basma, and Muhammad; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

On July 20, 1951, Talal’s father, King Abdullah I of Jordan was assassinated as he entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, probably because of his moderate attitude towards Israel. The assassin was Mustapha Shukri Usho, a 21-year-old tailor from Jerusalem who belonged to a group that wanted to prevent a permanent division of Palestine by Jordan and Israel. King Abdullah had been accompanied by Zein’s 15-year-old eldest son, the future King Hussein I of Jordan.  Hussein was at his grandfather’s side and was hit too, but a medal that had been pinned to Hussein’s chest at his grandfather’s insistence deflected the bullet and saved his life.

At the time of his father’s death, Talal was in a sanatorium in Switzerland being treated for a nervous breakdown. At first, it was unsure whether Talal would succeed his father due to his mental condition, but on September 5, 1951, he was proclaimed King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Zein became Queen Zein al-Sharaf Talal. On June 4, 1952, the Jordanian Cabinet announced that it was necessary to form a Regency Council because Talal’s condition had worsened despite the treatment he was receiving in Switzerland. The Jordanian Parliament declared Talal mentally unfit on August 11, 1952, and proclaimed his eldest son Hussein as king.


Queen Zein played a major role in the formation of the Jordanian state. In 1944, Zein founded the first women’s association in Jordan. She established the women’s branch of the Jordanian Red Crescent (affiliated with the Red Cross) in 1948 and organized assistance to Palestinian refugees during the Arab-Israeli war in 1949. She participated in the writing of the Jordan Constitution in 1952, which guaranteed women’s rights. After the assassination of King Abdullah I in 1951, Zein held the power while the newly proclaimed King Talal was treated outside the country. She again took the reins of power in August 1952, when her son Hussein was proclaimed king, until May 1953, when he turned eighteen and assumed full constitutional duties. During the reign of her son, King Hussein I, Zein was an influential figure behind the scenes.

Queen Zein died on April 26, 1994, at the age of 86 in a hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland where she was being treated for a heart ailment. She was buried the next day at the Royal Cemetery, near Raghadan Palace within the Royal Compound (Al-Maquar).

Princess Basma, Queen Zein’s daughter, visits her mother’s tomb on the anniversary of her death; Photo Credit – http://www.jordantimes.com

Wikipedia: Zein al-Sharaf Talal

Works Cited:

  • Ar.wikipedia.org. (2017). زين الشرف بنت جميل. [online] Available at: https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%B2%D9%8A%D9%86_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%81_%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%AA_%D8%AC%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%84 [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Zein Al-Sharaf Talal. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zein_Al-Sharaf_Talal [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].
  • PACE, E. (2017). Mother of King Of Jordan Is Dead at 86. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/27/obituaries/mother-of-king-of-jordan-is-dead-at-86.html [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2017). Зейн аш-Шараф Талал. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%97%D0%B5%D0%B9%D0%BD_%D0%B0%D1%88-%D0%A8%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%84_%D0%A2%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BB [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].
  • Unofficial Royalty. (2017). King Talal of Jordan. [online] Available at: http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/king-talal-of-jordan/ [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].