Abdul Hameed Shoman (1890-1974)

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Abdul Hameed Shoman, founder of the Arab Bank, was born in 1890 in the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina. It so happened that he grew up during one of the more perilous periods of modern history, in which cataclysmic changes were taking place. He was oppressed with a constant thought, a sort of premonition of the lurking dangers that awaited the region, which confirmed his belief in the need to buttress right with might, such might that may only be attained, in an age where interests clash, by building a solid economy.
Abdul Hameed made up his mind to immigrate to the new world in pursuit of ambitions that for long had preoccupied his mind, and thus, in 1911, he boarded a ship to the United States of America. As soon as he arrived there, he labored diligently, working day and night. Within a short period of time, he managed to attain one success after another that soon he owned a highly profitable textile factory for ready-to-wear clothes which carried his name in the city of New York.
Compelled by his genuine patriotic feelings, Abdul Hameed Shoman began to fashion the idea of starting a bank with joint Arab participation, a bank that would commit to developing Arab economies. Such a bank, he reasoned, would constitute a nucleus of unified Arab effort and would contribute to strengthening and developing the newly rising economies, for he believed in the significant role that banks can play in shaping the lives of nations and their economies.

Thus, no sooner had he arrived home for the first time since he left to the new world 18 years earlier, than he had arranged for a meeting in Cairo with the chairman of the board of the Bank of Egypt, Tal’at Pasha Harb, in which he proposed to him the idea of establishing a joint Egyptian Palestinian bank, however, certain events made such a proposal untenable at that time.
By 1930, Abdul Hameed Shoman had succeeded in establishing the Arab Bank, and ever since he was keen on opening branches for the Bank in Arab capitals, so that it may truly be, as he had envisioned, a bank for all Arabs.
Abdul Hameed continued to take interest in political development of events in the region; he was attracted to the movement of Arab nationalism whose tide was sweeping over; he was an ardent supporter of the unity between Syria and Egypt; and he stood with national Arab liberation movements. He continued to remain preoccupied with the nationalist cause. “When I made up my mind to establish this bank, I chose not to give it my name, nor the name of my home village of Beit Hanina, neither the name of my homeland of Palestine, rather the name of the Arab nation; my greater patrimony. Thus, I called it the Arab Bank,” Abdul Hameed once said.
Thanks to Abdul Hameed’s dedication and labor, as well as the set of principles that he firmly laid down, the Arab Bank has become one of the largest financial institutions whose reach extend across the Arab world and globally.
Abdul Hameed Shoman kept up with the Bank’s progress until his death in 1974. His body was laid to rest at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Abdul Majeed Shoman, the eldest of Abdul Hameed’s sons, assumed the leadership position, and continued down the path that was charted by his father. Not only was Abdul Majeed Shoman able to preserve and safeguard this magnificent economic edifice but also further expand and help it thrive by allocating so much of his time and energy for that purpose, thus earning in the process great esteem and renown as one of the illustrious names in commerce and the financial sector in the Arab world. Abdul Majeed has always believed in the significance of science, financing of scientific research, supporting and encouraging scientists, as well as sponsoring Arab humanistic creativity. This was the reason behind his idea of establishing Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation in 1978. Thus, Abdul Majeed’s belief and aims merged with Abdul Hameed’s grand vision and nationalistic impulse, which called for the betterment and advancement of the Arab nation, so that it may take a leading role in science and human progress.
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