On the issue of Hizbullah and Secularism

Dry Ice

Legendary Member
Chibli Mallat:

For Hizb Allah, as for Amal,control comes first, and liberation second. In other words, despite the rhetoric, what is hoped for in the resistance efforts in the South depends on the perceived outcome in terms of popularity and preeminence that results from driving the Israelis out. Hizb Allah, therefore, tries to be the only kernel of resistance in the South. It is in the context of the contrast between a primary scene, internal, and a supportive "external" one, that Hizb Allah tries, with some degree of success, to monopolize the Southern resistance. The wave of assassinations of communists and other leftist militants in 1984-5, in Beirut and in the South, even though these movements were particularly instrumental in the early organization of armed resistance against the occupiers.1

The great victories that the Islamic resistance has realized against Israel, and the sacrifices that the inspired fighters have offered in their holy operations (‘amaliyyatihum al-jihadiyya ) against the Zionist occupation and its agents, help the Muslims take power (Istilam daffat al-Hukm ) and get rid of the mischief of the Maronite regime, especially as these victories and accomplishments need a power that protects them and keeps sentinel to defend them from rotting away and disappearing.2

In theory, Shamseddin, Fadlallah, as well as the shadowy leaders of Hizbullah and other groups, are all working to establish an Islamic Republic, which they define as a State ruled by Islamic Law. But there is little agreement beyond this common denominator.

The starting point of the divergences is the model of Khumaini’s wilayat al-faqih. While the radical Shi’i groups seem to stand by the pure Iranian system, the ways the Najaf companions approach the model are indicative of intellectual wariness, if not disagreement, with the shape of the Islamic state as advocated and practised by the Iranian clerics.

In a sense, a minimum of dissent from the Iranian model is inevitable in multiconfessional countries like Lebanon or Iraq. In Iraq for instance, the discussions in 1982 over the program of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq show how the Iranian model was not wholeheartedly adopted by a Shi’i opposition (which is nonetheless totally dependent on Teheran) which cannot ignore its inappropriateness for the Iraqi Sunni population. In Lebanon, this problem is further complicated by the presence of an important Christian population. And unlike Iraq, the Shi’i community of Lebanon remains a minority when compared to the aggregate of the other confessional groups.

This position of ‘relative minority’ bears on the theory of wilayat al-faqih in two ways. (a) Like Iraq, there is a Sunni-Shi’i problem: the different clerical structure between the Sunnis and the Shi’is, and the Shi’i mujtahids’ traditional independence from the State 3, give wilayat al-faqih a strong Shi’i ring, and render it sectarian. (b) But in addition to the Sunni-Shi’i differences, the Christian community in Lebanon is inherently impervious to the appeal of the Islamic theoreticians.

To the Sunni-Shi’i divide, Fadlallah answers with a universalist Islamic appeal, in which Shi’ism is portrayed as one further school of Islam, neither superior nor inferior to the other Sunni schools. But this attitude only postpones the issue of political dominance. The way out for Fadlallah is an overarching reference to Islam, which operates as an umbrella beneath which several possibilities ought to be explored. "Whatever the difference between the styles of action,...there is no stopping at one particular model... There must be taken into account the necessity of reality without adhering to just one model, or to narrow models, except for the limits, or the general lines, as they are defined by the rules of the law (Ahkam ash-Shari’a)". 4

In this context, the institutional model conveyed by the Shura (the consultation process among the Muslim companions of the Prophet, generally understood in modern Islamic theory as an elected Assembly, and perceived to be more of a Sunni than a Shi’i constitutional point of departure) becomes one of the avenues for change, with weaknesses and strenghths depending, he adds, on the "objective conditions of the Islamic situation" (ash-Shurut al-mawdu’iyya ‘alas-Saha al-Islamiyya). Similarly, prescriptions of the Shi’i theory of Wilayat al-Faqih, with the necessary abiding by the decision of the mujtahid, are relativized in Fadallah’s strategy by the many problems of the system’s articulations. In particular, he discusses the issue of the silence of the faqih, or the multiplicity of fuqaha’ and the inevitable contradiction of their decisions. 5 In this way, Fadlallah succeeds in relativizing the importance of the theory without rejecting it out of hand. In his views, all the practicable routes towards the Islamic state should be explored.

In the case of Shamseddin, there has been from early on an effort at an institutional theory of the Islamic state. His first work, when he still was a young scholar in Najaf, is a book on the system of governance in Islam. This work is in the intra-Islamic polemology tradition, and Shamseddin goes at great length to vindicate the Shi’i, as opposed to the Sunni, "system of governance". The Shi’i State is portrayed as a "divine State" ("Dawla Ilahiyya), in which the leader, the Imam, has been appointed by God through the wishes of the Prophet Muhammad. The Sunni State, devoid of this God-inspired succession mechanism, is a "divine human State" ("Dawla Ilahiyya Bashariyya"), in which the Imam is chosen by men without any divine intervention. After long historical discussions, Shamseddin comes to a radical result : "And the importance of this is to reach a definite conclusion: Islam has worked to establish the divine State on earth." 6

Nazam al-Hikm is however an early work, written years before the ‘alim had to grapple with the Lebanese situation. When he went back to Beirut, in 1969, to second Musa as-Sadr at the Supreme Shi’i Council, the confrontation with a fragmentized confessional society triggered a more sophisticated approach to institutional matters. 7 The main problem was not so much intra-Muslim polemics as the exclusion of Shi’is from an effective place in State institutions dominated by Christian Maronites. Shamseddin’s arguments moved towards a "Christian-Muslim dialogue", which opened a common ground with Christianity against materialist messages like communism, and more importantly, against the secular appeal. In 1980, Shamseddin published a book against "Secularism", which he considers as one of the anti-religious doctrines of the communist brand. For him, the opposition to the confessional State, Ta’ifiyya, must not verse into secularism, which disavows religion. Instead, society and the State must return to the souls of both Christianity and Islam, within "pluralism" al-’Adadiyya , a concept Shamseddin coined in 1985. For this, Shamseddin developed "the general lines of the system of a pluralist democracy based on the principle of consultation", which, in essence, have much in common with other reformist programs put forward by the Lebanese "secular" opposition.

This is a far cry from the theory of wilayat al-faqih, but these positions are an answer to Lebanon’s realities. In the Lebanese melting-pot, wilayat al-faqih is suspect for Sunnis, and a non-starter for Druzes and Christians. Fadlallah and Shamseddin are faced with a daunting dilemma. If they reject Khumaini’s theory outright, the Iranian model is dangerously undermined.8 If, on the contrary, they wholeheartedly embrace it, the non-Shi’i population of Lebanon, as well as part of the non-clerical Shi’i leadership, are up-in-arms against such a proposal. The only narrow road left to them is a constitutional non-committal, or, what amounts to the same, paying lip-service to two or more contradictory positions. Thus Shamseddin will talk of ‘Adadiyya and of the legitimate fears of the Christians that should be satisfied, and Fadlallah will constantly call for a dialogue with the Christians for the values shared with the Muslims. The vindication of an Islamic state will remain, but the emphasis is on the "spiritual", and the periodization, as in the case of Israel, is one of longue durلe.

These nuances are important. It is difficult to expect from Fadlallah or Shamseddin to clearly take position against the Khumaini theory of wilayat al-faqih. When Mughniyya undermined this theory, he was clearly siding with Shari’at Madari against Khumaini. For Fadlallah and Shamseddin, too much Shi’i popular feeling in Lebanon is identified with Imam Khumaini to be openly at variance with him, and their alignment with the Islamic Republic of Iran is inevitable, although a careful reading of their advocacy shows that they rarely miss an occasion to praise Syria along with Iran. Furthermore, such a theory as applied in Lebanon would secure their pre-eminence: as vice-president of the Supreme Shi’i council, (and in effect, with the absence of Musa as-Sadr, the leader of the council) Shamseddin is the inevitable candidate for a Lebanese Islamic state leadership. And the intellectual fame of Fadlallah, whose supporters claim that in the learned Shi’i world, he is third after Khumaini and his teacher of Najaf Abul-Qasem al-Khu’i, as well as his exceptional popularity in Shi’i Lebanon, make him at least as prominent as Shamseddin in terms of clerical leadership. For both, the governance of the jurist is their governance.

Yet most of this debate is rhetorical. Until decisive changes in the Lebanese military-political situation allow for a clearer picture of strengths and weaknesses of each of the many protagonists, the Islamic theoreticians from Jabal ‘Amil will not see their ideas discussed as serious platforms. Too much distrust has been harboured among and inside the communities, for an idea, however moderate, to be divorced from its bearer or the group that is confessionally identified with him. In a sense, Fadlallah and Shamseddin have come to realize these constraints. In a first stage, the theories derived from the studies at Najaf, or modelled after the Iranian enthusiasms, have been slowly watered down to avoid non-winning confrontations. In a second stage, the debate of ideas has been so pervaded by the stagnation on the ground as to sound, like the socio-economic grievances, hollow. Even the most attractive leitmotiv, the resistance to Israel, has been overtaken by priorities.

But whatever these limits, the intellectual saga of Jabal ‘Amil is not over. Al-’Irfan continues to be published after 80 years, and Muhammad Mahdi Shamseddin and Muhammad Husain Fadlallah are writing as profusely as ever. But the intellectuals of Jabal ‘Amil were pushed by the Lebanese tragedy into pure politics. Considering the constraints, it is not certain that this was a good investment of energies. Al-’Irfan’s literary endeavours, Mughniyya’s monumental study of the jurisprudence of Imam Ja’far as-Sadeq, Fadlallah’s poetry and exegetical work on the Qur’an, and Shamseddin’s historical studies on themes of the Husain revolution, might better survive Middle Eastern storms than the forays into institutional and strategic theories. But the need for these remains at present, though the answers will not come out solely from the South of Lebanon.

1. Samir Kassir

2. Mhammad Z'aiter

3. Fouad Khoury

4. Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah

5. Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah

6. Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine

7. Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine

8. After a visit of Teheran on the occasion of a Congress on Muslim Thought, divergences have been reported between Fadlallah and his hosts over the appropriateness of an Islamic state in its Iranian form for Lebanon.

My Moria Moon

Legendary Member
Orange Room Supporter
This is
Okay, I believe that first we need to go back to the modern history of the Shiites in Lebanon and then to the birth of Hezbollah and look for the reasons why there is a Hezbollah in the first place and the goals & objectives that it was created for.

Briefly, Hezbollah is a purely Shiite phenomenon that constitutes the highlight of the Shiite renaissance in Lebanon after they have been in the shadows for too long.

The Covenant of 1943 did not take into consideration any substantial Shiite representatives and as the years passed, there was a need for the Shiite community to find new leaders.

In the 1950's, the role of two major individuals will help in reshaping the history of the Lebanese Shiites, those two men were: Sheikh Mohammad Husein Fadlallah, born in Najaf (Iraq) in 1935 from a Lebanese father and Imam Musa Sadr born in Qom (Iran) in 1929, both studied at Najaf, the wholy cited which was renowned for its Shia religious teachings.

From Martin Kramer, The Oracle of Hizbullah: Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah

When Fadlallah decided to come to his ancestral Lebanon, the eloquent and slightly unconventional cleric from Najaf knew where his art would be most appreciated. He arrived in Beirut in 1966 and selected as his arena the mixed Shi'ite-Palestinian shantytown of Nabaa in East Beirut. Nabaa was the poor relation of the neighboring Burj Hammud, one of the oldest of the city's Shi'ite communities, dating back to the 1940s, when Shi'ites first began to leave the countryside in pursuit of economic opportunity. The Shi'ites, made to feel unwelcome in Sunni West Beirut, had preferred Burj Hammud, settled between the world wars by Armenian refugees. Poorer and more recent Shi'ite arrivals squatted in neighboring Nabaa, and were joined by Palestinian refugees of war. In Burj Hammud and Nabaa, Shi'ite entrepreneurs had opened workshops and small factories. Those Shi'ites who came from the southern town of Bint Jubayl and its vicinity brought with them their traditional craft of shoemaking and established a number of shoe factories which supplied the Lebanese market. There were as many people from Bint Jubayl in Nabaa, as in Bint Jubayl itself, and the transplanted community readily accepted this brilliant native son, who had all the right credentials of descent and learning.

Community leaders welcomed Fadlallah for their children's sake as well. In the crush of the city, young people were moving away from their rural ways and even their faith. Their confusion could not be addressed by the corrupt and obscurantist shaykh who presided over the neighborhood before Fadlallah arrived.

Fadlallah immediately identified the malaise of the confused young men and women who had distanced themselves from religious belief, and set out to redeem them through a socially aware reading of Islam. He opened a husayniyya, a place of communal gathering where Shi'ites mourn the martyrdom of the Imam Husayn. There he established a social and cultural association known as the Family of Fraternity (Usrat al-Ta'akhi), which supervised clinics, youth clubs, and a middle school for Islamic studies called the Islamic Law Institute (Al-Ma'had al-Shar'i al-Islami). The best of the students went on to Najaf for further studies. The Family of Fraternity also published a journal, Al-Hikma, which gave Fadlallah's writings a wide circulation.

Fadlallah now made excellent use of the sermonizing conventions he had acquired in Najaf. He would begin his sermons with formal invocations and quotations from the Qur'an, intoned sonorously as though to cast a spell. This would draw the audience into a state of attentiveness, and confirm his authority as a master of the sacred text. Then he would introduce his general theme, discussed on a high level of abstraction in the formal cadences of classical Arabic. In many of Fadlallah's written pieces, he went no further than this, leaving the reader with an impression of a rather formal brilliance. But in sermons, a clear break would occur, signified by his passage to a more colloquial Arabic. Here came the transition from the sacred to the temporal, as Fadlallah descended from his broad theme to the trying questions posed by the present. At this point, his speech became feverish; in an arresting mannerism, he would wipe his high forehead with a handkerchief, as if to cool a mind racing past safe limits. Fadlallah performed like an artist on the pulpit, deftly weaving words into a dense and intricate carpet of quotations and allusions of immense suggestive power.

Fadlallah simultaneously developed a freer style of lecturing for youth clubs and groups. A lecture differed in many subtle ways from a sermon, but the most obvious departure came at the end, in the question-and-answer period. Not every sermonizer could think quickly enough on his feet to answer impromptu questions and summon the necessary quotations from Islamic sources. Fadlallah had that talent, and it endeared him to the inquisitive young, who were eager for dialogue and wrestled with difficult dilemmas that other clerics preferred to avoid.

Fadlallah's words derived their power from their combination of traditional Islamic themes and the fashionable rhetoric of anti-imperialist nationalism. The young generation that Fadlallah sought to touch had been nurtured on the ideas of Arab revolution championed by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, the paladin of pan-Arabism. These ideas revolved around the belief that, despite the coming of formal political independence, a disguised imperialism thwarted the Arab advance to true independence. Fadlallah, too, believed that imperialism remained the paramount obstacle to self-fulfillment, and he borrowed heavily from the vocabulary of Arab revolution. Fadlallah held that "imperialism cannot bear having Muslims proceed from a premise of intellectual self-reliance and it cannot bear having the Muslims act through economic and political self-sufficiency. It wants us to continue sitting at its table, feeding ourselves with the thought and consumer products it offers us."

There was nothing original in this idea of economic and cultural imperialism, sucking the lifeblood of its oppressed victims. But Fadlallah's formulations diverged from the prevailing discourse of pan-Arabism in this important respect: for the Arabs, Fadlallah substituted the Muslims, and for Arabism he substituted Islam. Imperialism had to be fought "in order to weaken it, limit its interests and break its spine, exactly as imperialism endeavors to weaken poor peoples economically, politically, militarily, by all available means."

But Arabism was a false god; only Islam could serve as the basis for a viable struggle against imperialism. Unlike some Islamic theorists, Fadlallah did not deny the values of Arab nationalism, particularly its emphasis upon unity in the struggle for Arab liberation. But the ethos of Arabism had failed to unify the Arabs. Nationalism's incapacity to stir the deepest commitment, was demonstrated by the failure to liberate Palestine. Most of the positive values of Arab nationalism had been derived from Islam in the first place, and the liberation of Palestine and the Arabs could be hastened only by returning to an Islamic conceptualization of struggle and sacrifice.

The searing issue of the early 1970s for Lebanon's Shi'ites was the emergence of a Palestinian resistance on Shi'ite ground. Expelled from Jordan in 1970, Palestinian armed organizations relocated to Lebanon and began to attack Israel across Lebanon's border. Israel retaliated with uneven accuracy, often at the expense of Shi'ite bystanders. Should the Shi'ites turn their backs on the Palestinians or demonstrate solidarity by facilitating the attacks and sharing the consequences? This dilemma confronted Shi'ites not only in the south, in places like Bint Jubayl, but also in Beirut, where their Palestinian neighbors, including those in Fadlallah's own Nabaa quarter, had also armed themselves.

Sayyid Musa al-Sadr could never give Shi'ites a straightforward answer to their own Palestinian question. While he felt the pull of solidarity, he dreaded the inclusion of the Shi'ites in the ring of suffering that surrounded the Palestinians. After all, peace had prevailed for a generation along the frontier between Lebanon and Israel. The south had been transformed into a battleground only after the emergence of an armed Palestinian resistance, which used the region as a platform for attacks against Israel. Not a few Shi'ites shared the view, widespread in Lebanon, that the Palestinians were pursuing their war of liberation at Lebanon's expense and bore responsibility for the hellish Israeli reprisals upon the villages of the south. Sayyid Musa sympathized with Palestinian aspirations because the Palestinians had been dispossessed, but did not believe that the Shi'ites, alone among all Arabs, should bear the burden of their struggle. As he said in private conversation in 1973, "Our sympathy no longer extends to actions which expose our people to additional misery and deprivation."

Fadlallah understood the dilemma differently. Formed in the Arab world of the 1950s, he knew the language of Arab unity, Arab liberation, and Arab socialism. The whole enterprise of the younger generation of Najaf clerics had been the appropriation of that language and its translation into the categories of Islam. Najaf's poets also had vied with one another in spinning words on Palestine. Fadlallah shared the Arab nationalist conviction that Israel was the instrument of a wider Western plot to dominate the Arab and Muslim worlds. The conflict to the south was not a problem between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, but between two blocs contending for the world. The Shi'ites, Fadlallah warned, could not opt out of this conflict, for they were slated for victimization. "The problem of the South is part of the Palestinian problem," he said in a lecture delivered in Bint Jubayl in 1972. "The claim of politicians and some others, that the departure of the Palestinian fedayeen from the region will solve the problem, is talk for the sake of talk, anachronistic words, a temporary anesthetic." Israel did not strike the south only in reaction to Palestinian attacks. Israel coveted the south and wished to possess it. Israel had taken territory in each of the previous three wars, declared Fadlallah, and would provoke yet another war to gain more.

Fadlallah understood the Shi'ite fear of taking a stand against Israel. "Israel frightened the entire Islamic world and appeared as the invincible element in 1967," he later said. "The Islamic world, and especially the Arab world, experienced such a psychological defeat that if any of us heard the word 'Israel' he trembled in fear, as many of us did with regard to the agents of Israel." So to embolden his listeners, Fadlallah conjured up another fear, of eventual displacement, by an Israel which would grow like a cancer unless it was excised.

This argument set Fadlallah apart from Sayyid Musa al-Sadr. Its premises lay deep in the discourse of pan-Arabism, which Sayyid Musa never fully mastered. For Sayyid Musa, the salvation of the Shi'ites lay in Lebanon's recognition of their place in the mosaic. He appealed to those who clung to their Shi'ism and preserved their faith in Lebanon. But Fadlallah spoke the young Shi'ites who were beyond the reach of Sayyid Musa, who scoffed not only at Shi'ism but at Lebanon, and who believed that by espousing causes larger than both they might lose themselves in the revolutionary mass. Seeing no reason to cling to a sectarian Shi'ism, they instead offered their services to the leftist militias and the Palestinian organizations. To the young Shi'ites yearning to identify with anything but Shi'ism, Fadlallah offered the alternative of an ecumenical Islam. Embrace the cause of Palestine, he urged, but do so in the spirit and name of Islam.

This did not mean that Fadlallah endorsed the wild fury of the Palestinian attacks on Israel. The Shi'ites, the Palestinians, and the Arabs as a whole, had to face the limitations imposed by their situation. The people had to overcome of effects of the feudal order and the quarreling Arab regimes, in order to challenge an Israel supported by the greatest power in the West, the United States.

The Arabs primed themselves to expect a quick fix, and avoided long-term planning, while the aggressors unfolded their multistage plan "to gain control of our country and our resources, and then remove us from our homelands under the slogan 'a land without a people for a people without a land.'"

The Arabs had to set aside their daydreams and begin by taking a profound look at the enemy's future plans, on the basis of present and past experience. "We should then plan our political, economic, and military life accordingly."

Fadlallah was too cautious to spell out a precise plan of action. He spoke instead of the necessity of individual transformation from within. "It is the individual who will grasp the gun, who will fly the plane. Tell me, by God, how will the individual advance this fateful cause, unless he possesses profound faith and moral fortitude, so that he will not yield to temptation?"

Fadlallah proclaimed Islam a theology of liberation at a moment when Arab revolutionaries and intellectuals denounced it as the paramount obstacle to an effective Arab challenge to Israel.

But Fadlallah's message did not resonate beyond a few Beirut neighborhoods. Sayyid Musa al-Sadr's voice carried much further, because he spoke directly to the strong sense of Shi'ite particularity which still gripped the community. Both men wore the same turban, but the differences were profound. The physically towering Sadr possessed an informal dignity that reflected the self-confidence of someone of the most noble descent. He relied heavily upon that pedigree, for when he spoke, his Persianized Arabic betrayed his foreign roots. Fadlallah was short and stocky, and could be readily mistaken for an acolyte. But his effortless and flowing Arabic proclaimed him the most Arab of Arabs.

The Shi'ites showed their preference. Sayyid Musa's deportment, lineage, winning manner, and message of hope captured the imagination and won the loyalty of many of Lebanon's Shi'ites. That Sadr spoke accented Arabic hardly mattered. Bereft of self-confidence, the Shi'ites of Lebanon were eager to defer to outside authority. Still strongly Shi'ite in identity, they were not embarrassed to look for leadership beyond the Arab world, to the seat of contemporary Shi'ite culture in Iran. Fadlallah had a much narrower appeal, which did not extend much past his own neighborhood. He won favor particularly with Shi'ites who shared his reading of the Palestinian problem as fateful for the Shi'ite community itself. Among these followers, young Shi'ites who had joined Palestinian organizations, and even risen to positions of some prominence, looked to Fadlallah as the cleric whose words most perfectly justified their choice.

But they were too few. Fadlallah remained in the shadows, while Sayyid Musa became the Imam Sadr, hailed by many of Lebanon's Shi'ites as leader and savior. Fadlallah used his time to cultivate his support at the most local level, and to bolster his scholarly credentials. Later, when asked what he did during these years, Fadlallah said that he spent them laying "foundations," and sharing the suffering of the poor. He also wrote his first full-length book, about methods of propagating Islam in the Qur'an, and he began work on a second, about the relationship of Islam to the use of force. The theme would soon prove timely as Lebanon began its descent into civil war.

A 15 years old thread worth bumping up for the sake of some perspective. Start on page one, all you interested. The value of this forum is also very much in its archived data.