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Journal of Islamic Studies 14:3 (2003) pp.

Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies 2003



A M A L S A A D - G H O R AY E B
Lebanese American University

The objective of this study is to outline the principal forces which have
served as catalysts to the politicization of the Sh;6a community in
Lebanon, and to uncover the causes of Eizbu8ll:hs emergence. While
this political mobilization has found expression through several different
channels over the years, the factors underlying the rise of Eizbu8ll:h is a
worthwhile subject owing to the fact that the party is the most profes-
sional, organized, and cohesive of the diverse political forces represent-
ing the Sh;6a, with a sizeable presence in the Lebanese parliament.
Over and above the domestic political clout of the party, Eizbu8ll:h
owes its geostrategic significance to its having compelled Israel
unilaterally to withdraw its military forces from Lebanese territory in
May 2000, after eighteen years of occupation. Moreover, Eizbu8ll:h
remains a threat to Israel, because of its role in inspiring and indirectly
contributing to the Palestinian Intifada (revitalized just four months
after Israels withdrawal from Lebanon), as well as its ongoing pressure
to liberate the disputed territory of the Shiba6 Farms from Israeli
occupation. Eizbu8ll:hs international profile was once again raised
in the aftermath of the events of September 11 and, more recently,
Americas invasion of Iraq, with the US administrations declared
objective of uprooting Islamic terrorist groups such as Eizbu8ll:h.
These considerations render a study of Eizbu8ll:hs origins especially
pertinent to the formidable challenge that both the USA and Israel face
from Islamic movements in the Middle East and beyond. Eizbu8ll:hs
emergence is attributable to a unique set of conditions (as will later be
shown), which cannot be applied to other Islamic groups. Yet at least
some common factors contributed to the rise of all of these Islamic
movements, notwithstanding their disparate ideological platforms and
goals. Eizbu8ll:h official MuAammad Fnaysh attributes their rise to
factors such as modernization, political alienation, and the perceived
274 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
failure of other secular ideological experiments, in addition to past
Western colonialism and current US neo-colonial policies in the region,
specifically its support for Israel.1 An analysis of the factors conducive
to Eizbu8ll:hs ascendance will therefore shed light on the unfolding of
a much wider regional phenomenon.
Bearing these issues in mind, one can easily understand why much
research has been devoted to the study of the movement. However, most
of the studies have focused on the organizations alleged involvement in
the Western hostage crisis of the 1980s,2 its various ideological pillars,3
the partys evolution into a pragmatic political player in Lebanese
politics,4 or a combination of all three themes.5 To date, no work has
focused exclusively on the underlying causes of Eizbu8ll:hs emergence,6
a gap which this article attempts to fill.
At this juncture it is crucial to point out that although this paper
professes to examine the elements leading to the political mobilization of
the Lebanese Sh;6a and the emergence of Eizbu8ll:h, it does not consider
the two to be synonymous, nor does it assume that the same factors
which politicized the Sh;6a as a community were also directly responsible
for the birth of Eizbu8ll:h. The elements spurring Sh;6; communal
mobilization are clearly distinct from those for religious activism.
Granted, the chief determinants of Sh;6; communal politicization have
been the same social, economic, and political circumstances that have

MuAammad Fnaysh, Eizbu8llahs MP for the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc
and member of the Parliamentary Works Council, interview by author (tape
recording), southern suburbs of Beirut, 3 Apr. 2003.
See e.g. Magnus Ranstorp, Hizballah in Lebanon: The Politics of the
Western Hostage Crisis, with a foreword by Terry Waite (New York: St Martins
Press, 1997) and Hala Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengeance (London: Fourth
Estate, 1997).
Examples include Martin Kramer, Redeeming Jerusalem: The Pan-Islamic
Premise of Hizballah, in The Iranian Revolution and the Muslim World, ed.
David Menashri (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1990), 10530; and As6ad Abu
Khalil, Ideology and Practice of Hizballah in Lebanon: Islamization of Leninist
Organizational Principles, Middle Eastern Studies, 27/3 (July 1991), 390403.
A sample of such works includes Nizar Hamzeh, Lebanons Hizballah:
From Islamic Revolution to Parliamentary Accommodation, Third World
Quarterly 14/2 (1993), 32137; and Augustus Richard Norton, Hizballah:
From Radicalism to Pragmatism? Middle East Policy, 5/4 (Jan. 1998), 14758.
See Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu8llah: Politics and Religion (London: Pluto
Press, 2002).
While the title of Shimon Shapiras work on the movement (The Origins of
Hizbollah, The Jerusalem Quarterly, 46 (Spring 1987), 11625) might appear to
promise such a focus, the work concerns itself with outlining the organizational
development of the movement rather than unearthing its socio-economic,
political, and cultural origins.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 275
propelled Third World radical and populist movements to action.7
Catalysts to political action such as modernization, political margin-
alization, and alienation are not exclusive to the Lebanese Sh;6a, but
obtain in many different cultural settings, as advanced by social-
movement theory. Social-movement theorists such as Karl Deutsch detail
the politicizing effect of economic development and the social mobiliza-
tion it spawns,8 while Samuel Huntington expounds on the potentially
destabilizing effect generated by the gap between the two in developing
societies.9 Other social-movement theorists point to socio-economic
factors that contributed to the political mobilization of the Lebanese
Sh;6a, such as the necessity of increased wealth and education in fostering
communal mobilization,10 and the politicizing consequences that the
persistent sense of relative deprivation engenders, despite such group
achievements.11 Political catalysts responsible for creating a crisis of
participation are also considered by theorists to be crucial to the
political mobilization of communities.12
Be that as it may, the advent of Eizbu8ll:h was not the inevitable
product of the convergence of these conditions, but of the interplay
between a unique configuration of factors among which the above-
cited catalysts played only a secondary role. Thus, in addition to the
components that social-movement theorists cite to explain the rise of
other social movements and which played an indirect role in Eizbu8ll:hs
emergence, other conditions were present that were directly responsible
for the movements birth, such as the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the
roles of Iran and Syria. Eizbu8ll:hs genesis was therefore the product of
this particular composite of direct and indirect factors. As affirmed by
Fred Halliday, Review Article: The Politics of Islam: A Second Look,
British Journal of Political Science, 25 (July 1995), 401.
See Karl Deutsch, Social Mobilization and Political Development,
American Political Science Review, 55/3 (Sept. 1961), 493514; and Samuel
Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, Conn.: Yale
University Press, 1969).
Ibid. 534.
See id. and Joan M. Nelson, No Easy Choice: Political Participation in
Developing Countries (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976), 117;
Stein Rokkan cited in Nissan Mordechai, Minorities in the Middle East: A
History of Struggle and Self-Expression (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1991), 13;
and Joseph Rothschild, Ethnopolitics: A Conceptual Framework (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1981), 117.
See Ted Gurrs seminal work on the subject in Relative Deprivation and the
Impetus to Violence, in Ted Gurr (ed.), Why Men Rebel (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1970), 2258.
See e.g. Huntingtons theory on the gap between the rate of political
participation and the level of political institutionalization in Political Order in
Changing Societies, 55.
276 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
Eizbu8ll:h official 6Al; Fayy:@, the determinants of the partys emergence
are like a chemical equation; a change in one of its elements will change
the result.13 Assuming the absence of one of these determinantsthe
Israeli invasion, for examplea Sh;6; Islamic party with social and
political goals might still come to be, but the resistance movement of
Eizbu8ll:h would not have materialized.14
Having said this, it is important to note that while the rise of the
party cannot be directly or solely attributed to the socio-economic and
political factors which served to mobilize the Sh;6a on a communal basis,
one can claim that the origins of Eizbu8ll:h ultimately lie in them. In
the final analysis, the mobilization of the community along religious
lines did not occur in a political vacuum, but was anchored in and ema-
nated from the decades of communal mobilization that preceded it.15
Accordingly, any study seeking to uncover the roots of Eizbu8ll:hs
emergence must also examine what led to these earlier stages.
As outlined by Fayy:@, this political awakening was first set in motion
by secular leftist and Arab nationalist groups, which were then largely
appropriated by the sectarian AMAL movement, and culminated in
the third stage of Sh;6ite political mobilization, the establishment of
Eizbu8ll:h.16 The first phase of this politicization involved members
of the Sh;6a community who expressed their discontent through the
medium of secular non-sectarian organizations as individual Sh;6;s.
During the second phase the Sh;6a as a community channelled their
discontent into a sectarian presence. With the third and final phase of
political activism, Sh;6; protest assumed a distinctly Islamic character,
expressed by many Sh;6;s as believers in a religious ideology.17

6Al; Fayy:@, member of Eizbu8ll:hs Planning Council and head of a
research centre associated with the party, the Consultative Centre for Studies
and Documentation, interview by author (tape recording), southern suburbs of
Beirut, 10 Feb. 2003.
Ibid., where Fayy:@ agrees with this point.
Two qualifications are in order here: first, the author is not making the
assumption that any of these phases cancelled out preceding ones. Sh;6; activism
is still expressed through these different forms to this day. By recounting these
phases I intend merely to underline the extent to which Eizbu8ll:hs emergence
was rooted in the decades of the Sh;6; politicization that preceded it. Secondly,
none of this implies that the Sh;6a who initially joined leftist and Arab nationalist
organizations were not motivated by communal considerations, or that AMAL
followers did not also identify themselves as Sh;6; believers, or that Eizbu8ll:hs
adherents did not also pursue communal goals related to the advancement of the
Sh;6a as a sectarian community, only that the different modes of expression were
predominantly characterized by these identities and orientations.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 277
Not only is Eizbu8ll:hs emergence due to the factors either indirectly
or directly prompting its establishment, but most importantly perhaps
due to the Sh;6; cultural heritage shaped by centuries of historical
memories of persecution, and socio-economic and political deprivation.
Three historical events typify this history and constitute the backbone of
Twelver Sh;6; political culture: the usurpation of Im:m 6Al;s caliphate,
the martyrdom of Im:m Eusayn, and the occultation of the Twelfth
Im:m. This historical experience bred a collective Sh;6; identity infused
with a sense of injustice and injected with an inclination to reject author-
ity. As declared by Fnaysh, the culture of rejection or of confronting
oppression is part of the Sh;6; identity.18
While this rejection has not always assumed a militant character, given
the appropriate socio-political context, the Sh;6; religio-political heritage
has functioned as an intellectual frame of reference, furnishing Sh;6a
leaders with a potent tool to mobilize believers politically. In particular,
the Kerbala drama has lent itself well to this mobilizational effort,
despite the events initial effect of breeding a culture of mourning or
religion of lament19 among the Sh;6a. However, this politically quietist
interpretation was eventually abandoned in the late 1960s and early
1970s by Sh;6; clerical leaders such as 2yatu8ll:h R<Au8ll:h Khumayn;,
Sayyid MuAammad B:qir al-4adr, Im:m M<sa al-4adr, and Sayyid
MuAammad Eusayn Fa@lu8ll:h. According to the activist reinterpreta-
tion, Eusayns anticipated martyrdom was a deliberated act of resistance
to oppression as personified by Yaz;d, and an attempt to effect a
consciousness-raising trauma in the minds of the Sh;6a. The intended
effect of Eusayns martyrdom was to provide the Sh;6a faithful with a
model of resistance and self-sacrifice in confronting the Yaz;ds of their
It is not the case, however, that the Sh;6; faith is intrinsically
revolutionary, or that the political mobilization of the Lebanese Sh;6a
was the inescapable outcome of such an anti-establishment tradition.20
If that were the case, then the Sh;6a communities in Iraq, Bahrain, and
elsewhere would have undergone a similar radicalization. Moreoveras
mentioned abovea tradition of opposition is not tantamount to a
tradition of political activism, for Sh;6; history shows that opposition can
acquire a passive form as well as a militant one, such as the mandatory
Fnaysh, 3 Apr. 2003.
Elias Canetti, quoted in Emmanuel Sivan, Sunn; Radicalism in the Middle
East and the Iranian Revolution, IJMES 21 (1989), 6.
The same conclusion as the authors is also shared by Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003;
and Augustus Richard Norton, Lebanon: the Internal Conflict and the Iranian
Connection, in John L. Esposito (ed.), The Iranian Revolution: Its Global
Impact (Gainsville, Fl.: University Press of Florida, 1990), 119.
278 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
practice of taqiyya (dissimulation) which the Fifth Im:m imposed on the
community in the wake of Imam Eusayns martyrdom.
Clearly then, the Sh;6; religio-political heritage is a necessary cause
of Sh;6; religious and, to a lesser extent, communal activism, but not
a sufficient one. It is necessary for the expression of this political
mobilization in a distinctly Sh;6; Islamic mode, but not sufficient in
that it would remain confined to the theoretical realm in the absence
of the combination of determinants required to create such an activist
It is highly doubtful that the Sh;6; cultural heritage alone would have
served to mobilize the Lebanese Sh;6a politically and eventually shift
their otherworldly focus to a this-worldly one, had there not been the
required conjunction of these catalysts. In the absence of any socio-
economic deprivation, the Sh;6as historical underdog status might not
have resurfaced, nor would it have contributed to the communal
solidarity derived from such a status. Without political marginalization
and alienation, a distinctly Sh;6; religious political leadership (most
probably) would not have emerged, for there would have been no
political vacuum to fill. Finally, had there been no Israeli invasion and
Western intervention, an Islamic reform movement may still have
transpired, but the birth of an Islamic resistance movement-cum-party
would have been precluded.
Before exploring each of these catalysts in depth, it is first necessary
to examine the historical background against which these factors came
into being in the Lebanese setting. The importance of studying the
historical context lies in the essential role played by shared historical
fate in nurturing a sense of group cohesion, and in engendering a distinct
political subculture that was indispensable to the mobilization of the
Lebanese Sh;6a as a community.


The Lebanese Sh;6a trace their origins to the Prophets Companion,

Ab< Dharr al-Ghif:r;. Having been expelled by the Caliph Mu6:wiya
from Syria, al-Ghif:r; settled in the Jabal-62mil region, which was
populated by the Christian 62mil; tribe of Yemeni origin. By the middle
of the eighth century, the proselytism process begun by al-Ghif:r;
was completed, and the Sh;6; faith became firmly entrenched in the
62mil; community.21 The eleventh century represented an aberration in
Majed Halawi, A Lebanon Defied: Musa al-Sadr and the Shi6a Community
(Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1992), 2930.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 279
Sh;6; history; under the auspices of the Sevener Sh;6; F:3imid dynasty
based in Egypt, three local Sh;6; dynasties ruled over parts of Lebanon.
A century later, under the rule of the Christian Crusaders, the Lebanese
Sh;6a suffered a steep retrogression in status owing to their designation
as dissenters.22 Survival as a community was further imperilled by
the Maml<ks, who evicted all Kisraw:ns Sh;6; inhabitants23 who had
migrated there in the previous century from Iraq and northern Syria.24
Consequently, the remote regions of Jabal 62mil, Jizz;n, and Ba6:lbakk
became sanctuaries for persecuted Sh;6;s. But even cloistered in such
areas, they still chose to readopt the practice of taqiyya and tried to
disguise themselves as Sh:fi6; Sunn;s.25
The assumption of power by the Ottomans in 1516 left the Sh;6;s
situation virtually intact. While Christians and Jews were granted
cultural rights and autonomy, Sunn; Ottomans did not recognize Sh;6;s
as a separate community.26 By classifying them as Sunn; Muslims,
their Sh;6; identity was legally expunged, forcing them to perform their
religious rituals in secret. Even as late as 1918, Ottoman soldiers still
prohibited the public observance of the 62sh<r: ceremony.27 So
maltreated were the Sh;6a that they identified with the Maronites in
the DruzeMaronite conflict of 1860, and were even reported to have
given shelter to Maronite refugees.28 It is most probably this attempted
cultural effacement that once prompted a Eizbu8ll:h leader to speak of
Ottoman and Israeli oppression in the same breath.29 On the socio-
economic level, the Sh;6a remained a deprived community. While Beirut
and Mount Lebanon flourished socially, economically, and politically,
the Sh;6; areas witnessed little change during the mid-nineteenth century.
Only a small group of Sh;6; notables (zu6am:8) benefited from the
Ottoman land reforms of 1858, which enabled them to acquire landed
Helena Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon and its Implica-
tions for the Future, in Juan R. I. Cole and Nikki R. Keddie (eds.), Shi6ism and
Social Protest (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 138.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 30.
Fuad Khuri, From Village to Suburb: Order and Change in Greater Beirut
(Chicago Press: 1975), 27.
See Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 30; Joseph Olmert, The Shi6is and the
Lebanese State, in Martin Kramer (ed.) Shi6ism, Resistance and Revolution,
(Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1987), 189.
Stuart E. Colie, A Perspective on the Shi6ites and the Lebanese Tragedy, in
Michael Curtis (ed.) The Middle East Reader, (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction,
1986), 115.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 192.
Colie, 115.
Al-Sayyid 6Abb:s al-M<ssaw;, Min Jibsh;t illa al-Nabish;t (speech on the
day of his assassination), Biq:6, Man:r TV, 16 Feb. 1992.
280 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
property or become tax farmers (multazims).30 Moreover, it was only
this group who stood to gain from the political reforms instituted by
the Ottomans, the outcome of which was the zu6am:8s monopolization
of Sh;6; representation.31
Concomitant with the political and economic ascendancy of the
zu6am:8 class was the decline of the political influence of the 6ulam:8.32
As sole recipients of government funds, zu6am:8 were able to exact a
certain degree of compliance from the 6ulam:8.33 Nevertheless, the
6ulam:8 preserved a fair degree of religious authority, thereby facilitating
their propagation of the Sh;6; faith as a transnational identity.34 The
Safavid importation of 62mil; Sh;6; scholars in the sixteenth century,
which laid the foundation of the cherished relationship between the
62mil; Sh;6a and the Sh;6a of Iran, expedited the task of the 6ulam:8.
Furthermore, the historic ties to the Sh;6; shrine cities of Kerbala and
Najaf in Iraq further encouraged the pan-Islamic affiliation of the
Lebanese Sh;6a.35
The cultural affinity among the Lebanese, Iranian, and Iraqi Sh;6a has
elicited the allegation that the Lebanese Sh;6a historically lacked a strong
tradition of Arabism.36 However, there is much evidence to indicate that
Arabism and Islam were not considered mutually exclusive identities:
the Sh;6;s involvement in the Maronite and Sunn; agitation against the
Ottomans testifies to this point.37 Since the ideology espoused by the
Ottoman Empire was an essentially Islamic one, those who sought
liberation from Ottoman rule had to embrace a counter-ideology that
was Arab nationalist.38 The Sh;6;s resistance to the French, in light of
their establishment in 1922 of a Maronite-dominated independent
Lebanese state (following the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire
in 1918 and Frances subsequent mandate over Greater Syria) was
also indicative of the Sh;6;s loyalty to the pan-Arab ideal.39 Motivated
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 190.
Colie, A Perspective on the Shi6ites, 115.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 191.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 90.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 139.
Bassam Tibi, The Crisis of Modern Islam: A Pre-Industrial Culture in the
Scientific Technological Age, trans. Judith von Sivers (Salt Lake City: University
of Utah Press, 1988), 7.
Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Syria and Iran:
Middle East Powers in a Penetrated Regional System (London: Routledge,
1997), 116.
Colie, A Perspective on the Shi6ites, 115.
Bassam Tibi, Islam and Modern European Ideologies, IJMES 18
(1986), 22.
Colie, A Perspective on the Shi6ites, 116.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 281
primarily by a desire to remain part of the Greater Syrian state, the
community orchestrated the Biq:6-based insurrection of 1924, and
participated in the Druze Revolt in Syria of 19257.40
Yet a significant portion of the Sh;6; elite did not support the Druze
Revolt and wholeheartedly championed the cause of an independent
Lebanese state. For many Sh;6; zu6am:8 and tribal leaders from the Biq:6,
a sovereign Lebanese state held the promise of a bigger slice (18 per cent)
of the political pie.41 Under a Sunn;-dominated Greater Syrian state they
would be numerically overwhelmed by the Sunn; majority and, as such,
would have no significant political role to play. In effect, the zu6am:8
were coopted by the French, who in turn expected them to hold their
communities in check as a quid pro quo for their inclusion in the political
system.42 In the event, this political inclusion was insubstantial as the
zu6am:8 were allocated merely honorary posts,43 while the highest and
most influential posts were reserved for the Christians, Maronites in
The French policy of establishing the political, social, and economic
supremacy of the Maronite community was attributable to the favoured
relationship between the two, which can be traced back to the thirteenth
century.45 The communitys affluence and social status were also
reinforced by its monopolization of the Western educational system,
instituted in the mid-nineteenth century by European and American
missionaries.46 The Sh;6a, by contrast, remained a marginalized com-
munity with no foreign backing and consequently no educational or
economic achievements. If anything, French rule had the net effect of
further reducing the Sh;6; position in view of the arbitrary partitioning
of Greater Syria. Divorced from southern Syria, Ba6:lbakk stagnated
economically,47 while the division of Galilee into northern Palestine and
South Lebanon demoted Jabal 62mil to a geo-economic periphery.48

See Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 140 and Olmert, The Shi6is and the
Lebanese State, 192.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 1923.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 140.
Arnold Hottinger, The Zu6am:8 in Historical Perspective, in Leonard
Binder (ed.), Politics in Lebanon (New York: John Wiley, 1966), 96.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 140.
Elizabeth Crighton and Martha Abele MacIver, The Evolution of
Protracted Ethnic Conflict: Group Dominance and Political Underdevelopment
in Northern Ireland and Lebanon, Comparative Politics, 23/2 (Jan. 1991), 130.
Khuri, From Village to Suburb, 312.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 40.
Chibli Mallat, Shi6i Thought From the South of Lebanon (Oxford: Centre
for Lebanese Studies, 1988), 5.
282 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
In the final analysis, the only concrete gain made by the community
was the unprecedented cultural autonomy it enjoyed under the French
mandate. As part of its divide-and-rule policy, France attempted to sow
discord between Sunn;s and Sh;6;s by granting the latter de jure
recognition of their Ja6far; school of law and by legitimizing the
establishment of their own religious courts in 1926.49 Although the
public commemoration of 62sh<r: was an important by-product of
the French decision, the continued use by the zu6am:8 of ritual as a tool
for inculcating the Sh;6a masses with a sense of political resignation
served to mitigate the benefits of any such legitimization.50


As indispensable components of the modernization process, economic
development and social mobilization are the two most conducive to
political mobilization. Economic development refers to a societys
general economic growth, while social mobilization is defined as one
of the consequences of modernization.51 The process of social mobiliza-
tion entails various social, economic, and psychological changes for
those caught in its throes, such as changes of residence, of occupation,
of social setting, of face-to-face associations, of institutions, roles and
ways of acting, of experiences and expectations, and finally of personal
memories, habits and needs, including the need for new patterns of
group affiliation and new images of personal identity.52 As the by-
product of factors such as urbanization, literacy, education, increased
communications, and exposure to mass media,53 social mobilization
creates new needs and expectations that translate into increased
demands on the political system, which in turn find expression in an
expanded scope for political participation.54
In line with the premisses of this theory, the political mobilization
of the Lebanese Sh;6a community was in large part attributable to the
Western-inspired model of economic development pursued by the
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 192.
Hrair Dekmejian, Islam in Revolution: Fundamentalism in the Arab World
(New York: Syracuse University Press, 1985), 166. An excellent example of this
is recorded by Emrys Peters, Aspects of Rank and Status among Muslims in a
Lebanese Village, in Louise E. Sweet (ed.), Peoples and Cultures of the Middle
East (New York: Natural History Press, 1970), ii. 76123.
Deutsch, Social Mobilization and Political Development, 493.
Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 33.
Deutsch, Social Mobilization and Political Development, 4989.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 283
Lebanese state, and the social mobilization it engendered. Put more
precisely, it was the fact that the pace of economic development lagged
far behind the Sh;6as rapid social mobilization that radicalized the
The end of the 1940s ushered in an era of rapid economic growth
for Lebanon. Having superseded the Port of Haifa as a transit route for
Arab states,55 Lebanon assumed its new role as financial and commercial
broker between the Arab world and the West.56 The upshot of this
development was the domination of the Lebanese economy by the
service sector. In contrast to the agricultural sector, which comprised 50
per cent of the Lebanese workforce but received only 15 per cent of the
national income, the service sectors 14 per cent share of the workforce
earned it 46 per cent of the GNP in 1956.57 By the early 1970s the
service sector occupied two-thirds of all of its activities; this was the
worlds highest ratio allocated to the tertiary sector.58
The fate of the Sh;6; peasants was worse still, for their areas received
a meagre 5.1 per cent of the national budget.59 The fact that the
livelihoods of 90 per cent of the Sh;6; labour force in the South and
Biq:6 depended on the agricultural sector60 underscores the adverse
impact of such an uneven economic development. By 1974 the situation
had improved little, for although both regions together contributed
26 per cent of the GNP in that year, the South was allocated only
0.7 per cent of the national budget.61 Further exacerbating matters was
the southerners exploitation by the Regie de Tabacs, which came to
employ almost three-quarters of the Souths agricultural workforce.62

Laurel D. Mailloux, Peasants and Social Protest: 19751976 Lebanese
Civil War, in Suad Joseph and Barbara L. K. Pillsbury (eds.), MuslimChristian
Conflicts: Economic, Political and Social Origins (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press,
1978), 107.
Badre, Economic Development in Lebanon, in Charles A. Cooper and
Sydney Alexander (eds.), Economic Development and Population Growth in the
Middle East (New York: American Elsevier Publishing, 1972), 168.
Suad Joseph, MuslimChristian Conflict in Lebanon: A Perspective on the
Evolution of Sectarianism, in MuslimChristian Conflicts: Economic, Political
and Social Origins, 78.
Badre, Economic Development in Lebanon, 161.
Emile Sahliyeh, Religious Fundamentalisms Compared: Palestinian
Islamists, Militant Lebanese Sh;6a and Radical Sikhs, in Martin E. Marty and
R. Scott Appleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms Comprehended (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1995), 138.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 52.
Augustus Richard Norton, Amal and the Shi6a: Struggle for the Soul of
Lebanon (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987), 18.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 57.
284 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
Coupled with a steep increase in tobacco imports, the Regies abuse
of the southern Sh;6;s precipitated the tobacco riots of 1973.63
The subjugation and resulting bitterness of the Sh;6; peasantry was
symptomatic of the policy of internal colonialism applied by the state,
whereby the development of the core area (Beirut), completely eclipsed
the deprived periphery (the South and Biq:6). This urbanrural gap was
sustained by the enforced dependence of the economically backward
peripheries on Beirut, where the service industry was concentrated.64
Thus, the economic ascendancy of Beirut and the Maronite areas of
Mount Lebanon was achieved at the expense of the rural periphery,
the South and Biq:6 in particular,65 where in 1964 only 6.5 per cent
and 6.9 per cent of all investments were made, respectively.66
In fact, on almost every index of economic development, the Sh;6;
regions fared worse than other Lebanese areas: while 94 per cent of
Beiruts and 90 per cent of Mount Lebanons residents had running water
in 1974, only 59.5 per cent of southern households had access to it.67
The states neglect was also displayed by the fact that the South and Biq:6
had only 13 per cent of all hospital beds, in comparison with the 77.1
per cent share claimed by Beirut and Mount Lebanon.68 Discrepancies
in basic needs were accompanied by a gross educational disparity: in
contrast to Beirut and Mount Lebanons allocation of 77.5 per cent of all
private schools, only 7.5 per cent were located in the South and Biq:6.69
Even the standard of the public schools in the South was below par,
owing to Israels continuous bombardment of the region since 1968.70
So acute was the regions marginality that ever since independence it
was no longer referred to as Jabal 62mil, but as al-Jan<b, the South.71

Ibid. 58.
Riad Tabbarah, Background to the Lebanese Conflict, International
Journal of Comparative Sociology, 20/12 (1979), 117.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 61.
Receuil de Statistiques Libanaises (Beirut: Le Ministe`re de Plan, Direction
Centrale de la Statistique, 1970), 112.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 62.
Ibid. 63.
Ibid. 19.
Lebanon and its Present Needs for Rehabilitation and Development:
Final Summary Report of the Needs in Villages, Towns and City Quarters
(Beirut: Hariri Foundation, 1987), 76.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 194. See also Al-Sayyid 6Abb:s
al-M<ssaw;, Min Jibsh;t illa al-Nabish;t (speech on day of his assassination),
Biq:6, Man:r TV, 16 Feb. 1992. For Eizb8ull:hs former Secretary-General,
6Abb:s al-M<ssaw;, the distinction between the two terms is crucial, insofar
as the former term signifies strength, challenge and force and was used by
Im:m 6Al;.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 285
Unbearable living conditions were compounded by the high birth
rates in both the South and Biq:6, which surpassed all other regions.72
The IsraeliPalestinian fighting that flared up in the South combined with
these push factors to set in motion an irreversible process of rural
urban migration, which began in earnest in the late 1950s73 and
accelerated in the late 1960s.74 By the early 1970s, a full 63 per cent of
Sh;6;s had become urbanized, half of them concentrated in Beirut,75
where they formed ghettos in the southern suburbs of the city. The Israeli
shelling in October 1976 of a marketplace in the southern town of Bint
Jubayl, resulting in the death of seven, precipitated a mass evacuation,
further swelling the Sh;6; population of the southern suburbs.76 Over
and above this, the Israeli invasion of the South in 1978 generated
yet another large-scale migration to the suburbs, to the extent that
by the early 1980s, one third of the countrys total Sh;6a population
resided there.77
As one facet of social mobilization, urbanization is conducive to
political mobilization insofar as its dislocating impact creates a social,
economic, and psychological void that can be filled appositely by
communal re-identification.78 In the case of the Lebanese Sh;6a
migrants, the destabilizing effect of their flight from rural village to
urban slum created new psychological and material needs, which the
defunct Lebanese state was incapable of addressing. Thanks to the
institutionalization of sectarianism in the Lebanese socio-political order,
these needs were aptly met by communal affiliations.
The heightened communal consciousness of the Sh;6a was itself a
product of the urbanization process. The southern suburbs became a
meeting point for the Sh;6a communities of the Biq:6 and the South,
where together they underwent the same social and cultural dislocation
and, in due course, developed a sense of communal solidarity.79 The
radicalizing potential of this sense of communal cohesion lay in the
Sh;6;s growing awareness of their deprived status vis-a`-vis other
communal groups.

Receuil de Statistiques Libanaises, 60.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 195.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 154.
Tibi, Islam and Modern European Ideologies, 182.
Martin Kramer, The Oracle of Hizbullah: Seyyid Muhammad Husayn
Fadlallah, in R. Scott Appleby (ed.), Spokesmen for the Despised: Funda-
mentalist Leaders of the Middle East, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1997), 99.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 141.
Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 37.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 142.
286 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
The ultimate effect of centuries of Ottoman rule, Western intervention,
and French suzerainty, followed by the Lebanese states unbalanced
development programme, was the socio-economically disadvantaged
position of the Sh;6a in comparison with other communities. While
the commercial, financial, and real-estate sectors were dominated by
Christians, the neglected agricultural and industrial sectors were almost
the exclusive preserve of the Sh;6a.80 Translated into income, the Sh;6;s
predominance in this sector placed them at the very bottom of the social
pyramid. In contrast to the national average income of 6,247 Lebanese
pounds (or $1910), the average Sh;6; income was almost 2000 pounds
($612) less in 1971, with 53 per cent of Sh;6a households earning less
than 3000 pounds ($917) and 22 per cent less than 1500 pounds ($459),
a proportion almost three times as great as for the Christians and twice
as great as for the Druze.81
The Sh;6;s low level of educational achievementitself a product
of Ottoman and French discrimination as well as state policycould be
held partly responsible for their low incomes stemming from low-status
occupations. With the poorest literacy rates in the country,82 the South
and the Biq:6 yielded the highest percentage of men and women who had
never attended school (50 per cent, compared with the national average
of 30 per cent);83 the Sh;6; community as a whole completed the least
number of academic years.84
In effect, the absence of crosscutting cleavages in Lebanese society,
and the attendant convergence of class and sect, produced a Sh;6a
community-class.85 However, it was not until the Sh;6a rubbed
shoulders with their wealthier compatriots in the city that they came to
perceive themselves as the proletariat of Lebanon.86 Moreover, their

Joseph and Pillsbury, MuslimChristian Conflict in Lebanon, 81.
See Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 197 and Joseph Chamie,
Religious Groups in Lebanon: A Descriptive Investigation, IJMES 1/2 (Apr.
1980), 1823.
Michael Hudson, The Precarious Republic: Political Modernization in
Lebanon (New York: Random House, 1968), 75.
Mahmud A. Faksh, The Shi6a Community of Lebanon: A New Assertive
Political Force, Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies, 14/3 (Spring
1991), 38.
Chamie, Religious groups in Lebanon, 182.
Muhsin Ibrahim quoted in Elizabeth Picard, Political Identities and
Communal Identities: Shifting Mobilization among the Lebanese Shia
Through Ten Years of War, 19751985, in Dennis L. Thompson and Dov
Ronen (eds.), Ethnicity, Politics and Development (Boulder, Col.: Lynne Rienner
Publishers, 1986), 164.
Karim Pakradouni quoted in Fuad Ajami, The Vanished Imam: Musa
al-Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon (London: I. B. Tauris, 1986), 178.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 287
exposure to the mass media further perpetuated this self-perception
and its attribution to the states inequitable distribution of income. As
such, their discontent was not rooted in an abstract sense of absolute
deprivation, but in a concrete sense of relative deprivation vis-a`-vis
other groups.
Even by Eizbu8ll:hs own analysis, socio-economic deprivation was
a significant factor behind the groups formation. According to
Eizbu8ll:hs Secretary-General, Sayyid Eassan NaBru8ll:h, the belts of
misery played a fundamental role in politicizing those who felt
desperate about life and this world on a religious basis.87 Although
Eizbu8ll:hs Deputy Secretary-General, Shaykh Na6;m Q:sim, concedes
that deprivation was a factor conducive to the emergence of Eizbu8ll:h,
he is careful to point out that religiosityand hence political mobili-
zationis not confined to the lowest social stratum, but is characteristic
of all social classes.88
In fact, statistics corroborate this assertion: one survey conducted in
1995 reports that only 44 per cent of Eizbu8ll:h supporters belonged
to the low socio-economic stratum. The other 56 per cent were divided
between high and medium socio-economic strata, 38 per cent of whom
belonged to the second category.89 The fact that the majority of first
rank and second rank Eizbu8ll:h officials have received a secular
university education further attests to Q:sims claim.
Prima facie, these facts and figures appear to contradict the relative-
deprivation thesis. On closer inspection however, they actually serve to
verify it. Relative to other communal groups, the Sh;6a did suffer from
income, occupational, and educational deprivations, but in absolute
terms their general level of education had risen to the extent that an
active and radicalized intelligentsia emerged from among their ranks
following the civil war.90 This educational progress was the direct result
of President Shih:bs economic development scheme, which sought to
improve the infrastructure of the entire country, with particular
emphasis on the Sh;6; peripheries. Between 1959 and 1973 the number
Al-Sayyid Eassan NaBru8ll:h, Martyrs Day, southern suburbs of Beirut,
Man:r TV, 28 June 1996.
Shaykh Na6;m Q:sim, Eizbu8ll:hs Deputy Secretary-General, interview
by author (tape recording), southern suburbs of Beirut, 17 Mar. 1998. In addition
to his post as Deputy Secretary-General, Q:sim also acts as one of the seven
members of the partys supreme decision-making body, the Majlis al-Sh<ra
al-Qar:r (Decision-Making Council), and heads the partys strategic Planning
Council, as well as the Parliamentary Works Council.
Judith Harik, Between Islam and the System: Sources and Implications
of Popular Support for Lebanons Hizballah, Journal of Conflict Resolution,
40/1 (Mar. 1996), 56.
Crighton and MacIver, Ethnic Conflict, 133.
288 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
of students in the South and Biq:6 rose from 62,000 to 225,000 as a
result of the school-building programme he initiated. However, this was
the only part of his scheme that made any headway and by the time his
successor, Charles Eel<, assumed office, development was brought to a
virtual standstill.91
In effect, the limited educational advancements attributable to
Shih:bs policies only accentuated the Sh;6as sense of relative depriva-
tion for two reasons: First was the rising expectations phenomenon,
effectuated by the discontinuation of Shih:bs program. While the state
afforded the community unfettered access to the formal educational
system, it failed to furnish it with a commensurate level of economic and
political opportunities. In effect, aspirations spawned by educational
achievements far outpaced expectations of their fulfilment, thereby
generating a gap between the two.92 Thus, the Sh;6a intelligentsias sense
of relative deprivation was magnified by its status immobility which
bound it indefinitely to the lower middle class stratum. Even those
Sh;6; new men who managed to match their educational status with
economic achievements felt deprived by their thwarted attempts at
political mobility. Second was the fact that although the Sh;6a had made
significant inroads into the educational system, and to a lesser extent the
economic system, their general educational level was still inferior to that
of other communities, as were their incomes.93 While these disparities
were much less pronounced vis-a`-vis the Sunn; community, political
power and social prestige still eluded the Sh;6a.
Although these circumstances are considered by some researchers on
Islam to be conducive to the espousal of religion as a goal-replacement
mechanism in Islamic societies,94 the political mobilization of the
Lebanese Sh;6a was initially channelled into non-Islamic avenues of
political participation, specifically leftist and Arab nationalist parties.
According to Fayy:@, this should not, however, be considered surprising,
given the dominance of Arab nationalist sentiment throughout the region
and the subsequent ascendancy of communism across the globe.95 As
such, the states uneven economic development and the communitys
social mobilization had a direct impact on the politicization of members

Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 141.
See Huntingtons Gap Hypothesis, in Political Order in Changing
Societies, 534.
Crighton and MacIver, Ethnic Conflict, 133.
See Nazih Ayubi, Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World
(London: Routledge, 1991), 176; and Valerie Hoffmann, Muslim Fundamen-
talists: Psychosocial Profiles, in Fundamentalisms Comprehended, 209.
Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 289
of the Sh;6a community, but were only indirectly responsible for
propelling the later Sh;6; religious activism.
Another prevalent thesis among students of Islam posits that social
mobilization contributed to the resurgence of Islam by provoking a
reaction against the attendant process of Westernization. This thesis
is based on the premiss that the uprooting impact of urbanization
reinforces communal solidarity. When combined with the other aspects
of social mobilizationsuch as mass-media exposure, improved com-
munications, literacy and educationurbanization creates even greater
social, psychological, and cultural dislocations. These dislocations are
primarily the products of the Westernized culture that pervades the
urban setting in developing countries.96 The subsequent cultural clash
breeds an acute sense of animosity towards the West, accompanied by
calls for religio-cultural authenticity,97 which results in the defensive
return to Islam and the concurrent cultural retrospection.98
The rejection of Westernization does partially explain the emergence
of Eizbu8ll:h in Lebanon. The Western-inspired economic development
model adopted by the Lebanese state, coupled with the consummation
of centuries of European, particularly French, socio-cultural infiltration,
did result in the radicalization of the Sh;6a once they had become socially
mobilized. However, it would be a gross oversimplification to consider
this response as purely reactionary. The Sh;6a rejected Western political
domination and the imposition of Western cultural values, norms, and
ideas that accompanied modernization but they did not reject Western
modernization per se, as reactionaries do.99 In fact, they not only
accepted Western modernization but also valued its technological and
developmental aspects.100 What is more, it was precisely the inaccessi-
bility of Western modernity as technology, and the Sh;6;s inability to
imitate it, which contributed to their radicalization. To borrow Nazih
Ayubis perceptive phrase: The Islamists are not angry because the
aeroplane has replaced the camel; they are angry because they could not
get on the aeroplane.101 The fact that they could not manufacture an
aeroplane reinforced their radicalization by exacerbating their sense of

John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1992), 16.
Ayubi, Political Islam, 175.
Tibi, The Crisis of Modern Islam, 53.
Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
Ayubi, quoted in Hoffmann, Muslim Fundamentalists: Psychosocial
Profiles, 208.
290 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
Once this technology became readily available to the Sh;6a, they made
full use of it. Thus, their religious politicization, which ultimately
emanated from their rejection of Western culture, was actually expedited
by their embrace of Western technology. By utilizing modern weaponry
and communications, the Islamicization and political mobilization of the
Sh;6a was greatly facilitated, as were their pan-Islamic links.102
In any case, their response to Westernization was not even initially
an Islamic one. As discussed earlier, the communal politicization of the
Sh;6a preceded their religious politicization; they initially experienced a
communal re-identification, not a Sh;6; Islamic retrospection. In effect,
their political awakening had more in common with the politicization of
other Lebanese sects than with the universal Islamic revival. As follows,
their first communal response to Westernization was to reassert their
Arab identity by rallying round Arab nationalist parties. However,
after the Arab defeat in the 1967 war with Israel and the generalized
perception that pan-Arabism had failed to offset the Western cultural
invasion, leftist parties provided the community with a new locus of
identity. Towards the close of the 1970s, socialism and communism
began to lose ground to Sh;6; Islam owing to the communal and religious
appeal of Im:m M<sa al-4adrs message. This message was reinforced by
the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which had successfully demonstrated
Islams ability to resist the onslaught of Westernization.
Thus, the net effect of the social and cultural Westernization of
Lebanese society, with particular reference to Beirut, was the Sh;6as
embrace of Islam. That this turn to Islam occurred incrementally, and
therefore was not the first reaction to Westernization, is indicative of the
fact that while the causal link between the two concepts may hold true
in all cases of Islamic resurgence, the processes at work behind this
causality differ from case to case.
In a similar vein, the association some students of Islam make between
early religious education followed by a later secular university education
and the birth of Islamic movements, on account of the universitys
highly Westernized character,103 does not apply to Eizbu8ll:h for several
reasons. First, Eizbu8ll:hs members are, by and large, graduates of
secular public schools; only a minority attended religious schools.
Second, those who did attend religious schools were more likely to
pursue a religious higher education (at the theological seminaries in
Najaf or Qom) rather than a secular one at university. Third, the
over-representation in universities of particular sects (the First and
Fifth divisions of the Lebanese State University for example were Sh;6;
Esposito, introd. to The Iranian Revolution: Its Global Impact, 10.
Hoffmann, Muslim Fundamentalists: Psychosocial Profiles, 210.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 291
bastions) meant Sh;6; students were not exposed to their Westernized
Christian counterparts in the university setting. As such, the Sh;6a were
not radicalized by their exposure to the universitys Westernized culture,
but by their contact with the materialistically driven and Western-
oriented urban milieu. The Christians, and to a lesser extent, the Beirut
Muslims, cultural aping of the West in terms of ideas, moral codes,
dress, music, and lifestyles generally, created a cultural dissonance
between them and the Sh;6a. For the Sh;6a, the Christians came to
personify the imperialist West and, accordingly, their radicalization was
a communal or sectarian phenomenon inasmuch as it was a cultural
one directed against Westernization.



As noted in the previous section, the discrepancy in pace between social

mobilization and economic development is conducive to communal
politicization. As Samuel Huntington put it, the social frustration that
this discrepancy breeds, and the lack of mobility opportunities that
aggravates it, promotes an expanded scope for political participation.
Political instability ensues in the absence of complex, coherent, auto-
nomous, and adaptable political institutions through which heightened
participation can be channelled.105
The low level of political institutionalization characterizing the
Lebanese political system only exacerbated the radicalization of the
Sh;6a, whose social mobilization and resultant social frustration ampli-
fied their demand for political inclusion. Dominated by the Maronite
sect, the political system was rigid, exclusive, and disunited. These
factors militated against the institutional incorporation of the Sh;6a,
thereby steering their political participation in a radical direction and
further undermining political stability.
Thus, although there is no denying that a relative degree of
democratization typified the Lebanese political systemowing to the
abundance of trade unions, voluntary associations, and political
parties106its placement of one sect at the core of the system rendered
it quintessentially polarized.107 The Maronites indefinite hegemony
Hilal Khashan, Inside the Lebanese Confessional Mind (Lanham, Md.:
University Press of America, 1992), 378.
Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 55.
Sahliyeh, Religious Fundamentalisms Compared, 139.
Giovanni Sartori, Parties and Party Systems (London: Cambridge
University Press, 1977), i. 134.
292 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
over the Lebanese political system was typical of polarized systems
distinguished by the absence of the alternation of power.108 This served
to detract from the moderating centripetal drives of the Lebanese
system by politically excluding the Sh;6a. In effect, it was the prevalence
of centrifugal drives that radicalized the Sh;6a.109
The polarization of the system was institutionalized in 1943, on
the eve of Lebanese independence, in the M;th:q al-Wa3an; (the
National Pact). An unwritten agreement made between the leaders
of the Maronite and Sunn; communities, the Pact enshrined a sectarian
distribution of all parliamentary, government, and public posts based on
the population census of 1932. According to that census, the Sh;6a
constituted 19.6 per cent of the total population.110 As the third largest
community, they were accorded the speakership of parliament, a posi-
tion lacking much power when compared with the Maronite presidency
and the Sunn; premiership. Moreover, the fact that the sect-based
proportional representation system continued to use the 1932 census as
its demographic benchmark decades later only intensified the Sh;6as
sense of injustice. While the Sh;6a rapidly grew in number to encompass
30 per cent of the population by 1975,111 they were still allocated only
19 per cent of all parliamentary seats.112 By 1985 this number had
increased to 40 per cent, according to one population estimate,113
further underlining the inequitable nature of the system.
By the same token, the Sh;6a were allocated a portion of administra-
tive and government posts disproportionate to their population. In
1946, only 3.2 per cent of first-rank administrative posts were held
by Sh;6;s; in 1955, only 3.6 per cent,114 in contrast to the 40 per cent
controlled by Maronites and 27 per cent by Sunn;s.115 By 1962 they
fared little better, occupying only two out of seventy senior civil service
posts. Even as late as 1984bearing in mind the population estimate
made in 1985they were assigned only one out of twelve Lebanese
ambassadorships.116 Furthermore, although cabinet posts were appor-
tioned equally between Muslims and Christians, the Maronites and
Sunn;s monopolized ministerial portfolios, claiming a quarter each,
Ibid. 138.
Ibid. 135.
Picard, Political Identities and Communal Identities, 162.
Selim Nasr cited in Mallat, Shi6i Thought From the South of Lebanon, 4.
Picard, Political Identities and Communal Identities, 162.
Asad Abu Khalil, Druze, Sunn; and Shi6ite Political Leadership in Present-
Day Lebanon, Arab Studies Quarterly, 7/4 (Fall 1985), 43.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 194.
Colie, A Perspective on the Shi6ites, 116.
Norton, Shi6ism and Social Protest in Lebanon, 158.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 293
leaving the Sh;6a with a 13 per cent share between 1943 and 1964.117
Beyond this, the 13 per cent of portfolios the Sh;6a did control were
politically inconsequential compared with the strategic posts dominated
by the Maronites, such as the ministries of Finance, Education, and
Foreign Affairs; the Justice, Interior, and Economy ministries controlled
by the Sunn;s;118 and the Defence ministry controlled by the Druze.
Together, these disparities fostered a shared perception among the
Sh;6a of the political systemsand not just the governments
illegitimacy. That they held such a perception is corroborated by one
survey of university students conducted in 1974, which revealed that
a colossal 90 per cent of all Sh;6; respondents demanded radical changes
in government institutions.119 The communitys derivative sense of
political alienation is evidenced by the fact that 66 per cent of Sh;6;
university students in 1971 claimed they felt highly alienated, compared
with 37 per cent of Sunn;s and 24 per cent of Maronites.120 Three years
later, the number of highly alienated Sh;6; students grew to 89 per cent,
the same level as the Sh;6; respondents cited above who demanded
radical changes.121
In effect, not only was the Sh;6a intelligentsia radicalized by its
pervasive sense of relative deprivation, as explained in the preceding
section, but also by its strong sense of political alienation that stemmed
from the communitys under-representation in the political system. This
generalized alienation partly explains the appeal of Arab nationalist and
anti-establishment leftist parties to the Sh;6a intelligentsia, who had no
party to call their own. However, the Sh;6;s politicization did not
materialize until the late 1950s, before which time the Sh;6; zu6am:8 kept
the community under control with very little resistance, even on the part
of the 6ulam:8.122 By bussing the newly urbanized Sh;6a to their villages
of origin during election time to vote for them, the self-serving zu6am:8
perpetuated the patronage system.123 Gradually though, the urban
setting served to erode patronclient ties, and the power of the zu6am:8
was effectively undercut by Arab nationalist and leftist groups.

Ralph Crow, Religious Sectarianism in the Lebanese Political System,
Journal of Politics, 24 (Aug. 1962), 504.
Ibid. 506.
Nahfat Nasr and Monte Palmer, Alienation and Political Participation in
Lebanon, IJMES 8 (1977), 501.
Halim Barakat, Social and Political Integration in Lebanon: a Case of
Social Mosaic, Middle East Journal, 27 (Summer 1973), 107.
Nasr and Palmer, Alienation, 496.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 194.
Norton, Shi6ism and Social Protest in Lebanon, 158.
294 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
Thus, the roots of Sh;6a political mobilization lie in the communitys
radicalization by Arab nationalist, socialist, and communist organiza-
tions. The loss of Palestine in 1948 signalled the inception of a Sh;6;
political consciousness.124 Nevertheless, it was not until the rise of Jam:l
6Abd al-N:Bir in the early 1950s, followed by the Ba6ath takeover in
Syria in 1963 and the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation
Organization (PLO) in 1964,125 that the stage was set for the Sh;6;
political participation. As such, the Sh;6a affiliated themselves with the
NaBirists, the Ba6ath Party, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party
(SSNP) among other Arab nationalist parties.
The Sh;6;s affinity for Palestinian fid:8; groups such as the Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was aided by the Cairo
Agreement of 1969, which legitimized the PLOs presence and resistance
activities in Lebanon.126 While Sh;6; sympathy for the Palestinian
resistance groups was sustained until the early 1970s, the ideological
credibility of Arab nationalism was severely compromised by the 1967
war.127 Dubbed the disaster, the Arab defeat by Israel greatly dis-
heartened the community and paved the way for its identification with
leftist organizations.
Accordingly, by the late 1960s Sh;6a intellectuals, urban workers, and
peasants began to gravitate towards the Left.128 Attracted by the
egalitarian slogans of the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) and the
Organization of Communist Action (OCA), the ranks of these groups
began to overflow with Sh;6; members to the extent that the terms Sh;6;
and Communist became synonymous. This conceptual interchange-
ability was based on the fact that 50 per cent of all LCP members were
Sh;6;,129 in addition to the fact that 61 per cent of Sh;6; students
considered themselves leftists in 1971.130 Even people later to become
Islamists, such as the head of Eizbu8ll:hs Foreign Relations unit, Y<ssef
Mer;6, identified themselves with the communist cause.131 Although
this trend persisted well into the 1970s, by the early 1980s both the
Left and Palestinian groups lost ground to AMAL,132 for reasons that
will be revealed below.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 101.
Olmert, The Shi6is and the Lebanese State, 192.
Norton, Shi6ism and Social Protest in Lebanon, 160.
Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, 13.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 117.
Halawi, A Lebanon Defied, 106.
Ibid. 110.
Y<ssef Mer;6, head of Eizbu8ll:hs Foreign Relations Unit and member of
the Political Council, interview by author (tape recording), Beirut, 10 Apr. 1998.
Faksh, The Shia Community, 143.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 295
Despite the fact that these political currents were eventually displaced
by communal politics and then by the politics of Islam, they played an
instrumental role in politically socializing the Sh;6a. But it wasnt until
the appearance of Im:m M<s: al-4adr, cousin of MuAammad B:qir
al-4adr, that the Sh;6a championed their own communal cause. His
charismatic leadership was therefore an indispensable condition for the
emergence of a distinctly Sh;6; political movement. After settling in Tyre
in 1959 to assume the post of Sh;6; mufti, the Iranian-born 4adr of
Lebanese origin pressured the Lebanese government into establishing
the Supreme Islamic Sh;6; Council in 1969. Appointed its leader, 4adr
then pressed for the creation of the Council of the South in 1970133 and
staged a widely observed day of solidarity with the South in the same
year, Lebanons first strike in two decades.134
4adr used this strike, and these institutions, not only to promote the
cultural autonomy of the Sh;6a, but more concretely to redress socio-
economic, political, and security grievances, which were peculiar to
the Sh;6a community, and which were being grossly neglected by the
Lebanese state. In particular, he lambasted the government for failing to
protect Sh;6; southerners from Israels incessant shelling of PLO bases in
the South.135 On the other side of the coin, while 4adr fully sympathized
and identified with the Palestinian cause, and upheld the right of Pales-
tinians to bear arms, he blamed the PLO for exposing the Sh;6; inhabitants
of the South to additional misery and deprivation,136 by provoking
Israeli retaliation and attempting to establish a state within a state.137 He
therefore insisted on the need for the Lebanese state to supervise their
activities.138 This view was eventually shared by most members of the
Sh;6a community, who became increasingly alienated by the Palestinian
resistance, which came to be perceived as an occupation force.139
However, it was not so much the grievances raised by 4adr that
distinguished him from those in the secular movementsundoubtedly,
the Arab nationalist parties inveighed against the governments failure to
protect the South from Israeli raids, as did the Left, which also decried

Although the Council was created as a result of 4adrs efforts, it came to be
dominated by the Sh;6a za6;m Kamel As6ad and later by the current leader of the
AMAL movement Nab;h Berr;.
Fuad Ajami, The Vanished Imam: Musa al-Sadr and the Shi6a of Lebanon
(London: I. B. Tauris, 1986), 124.
Augustus Richard Norton, The Origins and Resurgence of Amal, in
Shi6ism, Resistance and Revolution, 204.
Quoted in Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 162.
Ehteshami and Hinnebusch, Syria and Iran, 119.
Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 125.
Norton, The Origins and Resurgence of Amal, 210.
296 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
the social and political injustices wreaked by the establishmentbut
rather the communal and religious language he adopted to address these
issues. Thus, although the Movement of the Deprived, which 4adr
established in 1974, initially claimed to represent all the deprived in
Lebanon,140 the themes it symbolized were cloaked in a peculiarly
Sh;6; garb, thereby rendering it the first movement which the Sh;6a could
call their own. The distinctly Sh;6; identity of 4adrs movement was
further reinforced by the creation of AMAL in 1975, which he founded
as a militia adjunct of the Movement of the Deprived in the context of
the Lebanese civil war.
4adrs religio-communal idiom therefore proved to be more appealing
to Sh;6;s, including those who had previously identified with the Left,
than did the discourse of secular groups. This is attested by 4adrs ability
to draw between 70,000 and 100,000 people to his mass rallies in 1974,
in comparison with the Left, which could only muster the support of
20,000 to 30,000 demonstrators, of which only half were Sh;6;s.141 As
articulated by Fuad Ajami: Marxian language was easily dismissed
as the language of unbelief, as something ruinous to the Muslim faith.142
By contrast, Sh;6; Islam was a salient feature of 4adrs discourse and
the principal identity marker of his movement, whose charter was
infused with Islamic terminology.143 The movements Sh;6; Islamic
character was also evidenced by 4adrs employment of the 62sh<r:
commemorations as a vehicle for politicizing his adherents. In so doing,
he underscored the danger of reducing the Kerbala drama to tears and
lamentations, which contributed to the defeatist interpretation of the
event and served only to ossify the example set by Im:m Eusayn.144
4adr sought to recast the event as one that epitomized defiance in the face
of injustice145 and which accordingly evoked feelings of pride for the
Sh;6a. In effect, Eusayns martyrdom became a revolutionary exemplar
to be emulated by all those who suffered from injustice and oppres-
sion,146 themes that found a resonance among Sh;6;s of different social
classes and political persuasions.
Yet this is not tantamount to claiming that 4adrs movement was an
Islamic one. Despite his Islamic rhetoric and utilization of the Kerbala
Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 136.
Salim Nasr, Roots of the Shi6i Movement, MERIP 15/5 (June 1985), 13.
Ibid. 137.
Fnaysh, 3 Apr. 2003.
Quoted in Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 144.
Ibid. 143.
Abdulaziz Sachedina, Activist Shi6ism in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, in
Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms Observed
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), i. 430.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 297
paradigm, AMAL was essentially a national reform movement rather
than an Islamic revolutionary one. Rather than call for the systems
overthrow and the implementation of Islamic social and political
objectives, the movement strove to secure a larger political and economic
role for the community within the confines of the secular Lebanese state.
As such, it did not challenge the legitimacy of the systems confessional
underpinningssuch as the Maronite hegemony of the presidencybut
merely pursued a sectarian parity in parliament and the allocation of
administrative posts on the basis of merit.147
It is in light of these reformist and fundamentally secular goals that
4adrs ideology has been identified more closely with 6Al; Shari6:t;s
reformism than 2yatu8ll:h Khumayn;s revolutionism.148 However, for
Eizbu8ll:h members (who all claim to have been socialized in 4adrs
school of thought), any dissimilarity between him and Khumayn; is
obfuscated. As affirmed by Eusayn al-M<ssaw;, leader of Islamic Amal
and Eizbu8ll:h member, 4adr was compelled to adopt a reformist
sectarian discourse as opposed to an Islamic revolutionary one on
account of the Lebanese situation. In light of this background, 4adr
knew that Islamic proposals should not be made very clearly.149
The Islamic dimension of 4adrs movement cannot therefore be
overlooked, only underplayed. As a movement that did not pursue
Islamic domestic goals or concern itself with the fate of the wider Islamic
umma, it clearly did not have an Islamic ideology, but as a movement
that had a distinctly Sh;6; Islamic identity and idiom, neither could it
be described as a secular movement, at least not during 4adrs day.
Perhaps 4adrs AMAL could best be classified as a national-Islamic
reform movement.
Be that as it may, 4adr did not succeed in commanding the allegiance
of the majority of Sh;6;s prior to 1979. Although the communal
consciousness-raising he effected before that period cannot be over-
looked, his popularity actually diminished between 1976 and 1978 as
a result of the civil war.150 As a predominantly sectarian conflict, the
war pitted Maronite militias and government forces against the
Palestinians and their Lebanese progressive allies, the Lebanese
National Movement (LNM). Consisting chiefly of Muslim leftists and
Arab nationalists, the movement drew most of its foot soldiers from

Ehteshami and Hinnebusch, Syria and Iran, 119.
Norton, Lebanon: The Internal Conflict, 122.
Al-Sayyid Eusayn al-M<ssaw;, head of Islamic Amal, an organizational
affiliate of Eizbu8ll:h and a member of the partys Planning Council, interview by
author (tape recording), southern suburbs of Beirut, 21 Aug. 1997.
Norton, The Origins and Resurgence of Amal, 207.
298 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
the Sh;6a community. Even though AMAL had worked closely with
the LNM, its disassociation from the movement in 1976 at 4adrs behest
greatly undermined its support. The upshot of this was that the LNMs
constituent groups continued to command a significant portion of the
communitys political allegiances.
Thus, prior to the outbreak of the civil war in 1975, it was the Sh;6;s
socio-economic and political deprivationshighlighted by 4adrthat
propelled them to political action, but once the war took its toll, it was
the political mobilization of the Maronites that instigated the Sh;6as
militant counter-mobilization. Of all the Lebanese sectarian groups,
the Sh;6a incurred the highest number of fatalities during the civil war,
especially in its first year, at the hands of the Maronite militias (among
others).152 The Maronite militias persecution of the Sh;6a began in late
1975, when they displaced all the Sh;6; residents of E:rat al-Ghaw:rina
in East Beirut, followed by their destruction of the Sh;6; shanty towns of
Maslakh and Karant;na in 1976.153 In particular, it was the eviction of
100,000 Sh;6;s from Nab6a in August 1976,154 and their resettlement in
the overpopulated southern suburbs, which radicalized the community.
In effect, AMAL failed to entrench itself firmly among the community
during the early civil-war years. Sh;6; politicization in the 1970s was
therefore only partly attributable to 4adr, but it was the civil war that
ultimately unleashed the communitys militant potential. Nevertheless,
by the late 1970s three developments, unrelated to the civil war, served
to snowball Sh;6; militancy and, by implication, elevate AMALs standing
in the community. The first of these developments was Operation Li3an;,
Israels first full-scale invasion of Lebanon in 1978. A few months later,
4adr simply vanished en route to Libya, a disappearance that came to
be equated with the Hidden Im:ms occultation. Both these cardinal
events were capped by the Islamic revolution in Iran a year later.155



While the factors cited above served to accelerate communal politiciza-

tion and thereby played an indirect role in the emergence of Eizbu8ll:h,
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, in Shi6ism and Social
Protest, 142.
See Robin Wright, Sacred Rage: The Crusade of Modern Islam (New York:
Linden Press/Simon and Schuster, 1985), 75; and Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i
Power in Lebanon, 142.
Ibid. 143.
Norton, Shi6ism and Social Protest in Lebanon, 168.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 299
the pre-eminent factor responsible for the movements birth was the
Israeli invasion of 1982. Thus, although the process of radicalization
had already taken root more than a decade before Israels invasion of
1982, the scope of this radicalism was expanded and its intensity
reinforced by the invasion. The destruction wreaked by Israel, the
brutality of its subsequent occupation of the South, and the Wests
concomitant intervention in Lebanon, spawned a clutch of Sh;6; Islamic
resistance groups, which coalesced to form Eizbu8ll:h.
Israels aggression goes back to 1968, when the PLO began establish-
ing bases in the South. Israels actual occupation of a part of the South,
its so-called security zone, began a decade later in the aftermath of
Operation Li3an;, resulting in the deaths of 2000 and the displacement
of 250,000.156 Interestingly though, the politicizing impact of this
invasion and the ensuing occupation did not translate itself operationally
into an active resistance on the part of the Sh;6a. The Palestinian
resistances hegemony over the southern battlefield precluded the
emergence of a Lebanese resistance force. Israels success in eradicating
the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon in 1982 permitted other
resistance groups to come to the fore.
Another factor explaining the Sh;6;s non-resistance and the non-
materialization of the Islamic Resistance during the 1978 invasion was
the fact that the Islamic revolution in Iran had not yet taken place.
That the Sh;6;s reacted militantly to the 1982 invasion, after the revolu-
tions occurrence in 1979, is proof of this observation.
It follows then, that the Sh;6;s Islamicizationpartly a product of
the Revolutions demonstration effectwas a necessary condition for
their resistance to Israel, and correspondingly, the advent of Eizbu8ll:h.
Fayy:@ admits as much when he claims that the Israeli occupation
required an Islamic ideological response for its effective dislodgment,
rather than a sectarian one as represented by AMAL.157 But in the final
analysis, there is much doubt as to whether Eizbu8ll:h, the political
movement-cum-party, would have emerged had it not originated as a
conglomeration of armed Islamic groups resisting Israel. Although
there had been a significant number of religious groups and associations
prior to 1982, many of which arose as a direct result of the Iranian
revolution, their merger was not inevitable without the invasion. In the
words of Fnaysh, The Israeli invasion helped these groups think more
about coalescing, which may not otherwise have been the case.158 This
David McDowell, Lebanon: A Conflict of Minorities (London: Minority
Rights Group, 1983), 3.
Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
Fnaysh, interview by author (tape recording), Beirut, 15 Aug. 1997.
300 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
is explicitly articulated by NaBru8ll:h: Had the enemy not taken this step
[the invasion] I do not know whether something called Eizbu8ll:h would
have been born. I doubt it.159 Both Fnaysh and Fayy:@ hypothesize that
a Sh;6; Islamic movement that pursued strictly internal social and
political objectives, such as the establishment of an Islamic Republic in
Lebanon, would most likely have been born in its place.160
Having established that the Israeli invasion could be considered
Eizbu8ll:hs initial raison detre, it is important to appreciate how the
invasion effected such a high level of radicalization among the
community and, by association, how the Islamic Resistance perceived
itself as a natural reaction to it.161 Besides the religious origins of
the resistance to Israel, the enormity of the Israeli invasionand the
brutality of the occupationgenerated a spontaneous resistance that
would later form the backbone of Eizbu8ll:h. The damage caused to
80 per cent of southern villages and the near-destruction of seven of
them162 did much to fuel the Sh;6;s wrath, as did the 19,000 deaths
and 32,000 wounded inflicted by Israel.163
Another radicalizing outcome of the invasion was the mass exodus
from the South, instigated by the destruction of southern produce,
Israels economic blockade of the region, and the flood of Israeli goods
into the Lebanese market. Consequently, an influx of southerners further
swelled the size of the Sh;6; belt of misery, which was transformed
into a repository of militant Sh;6; groups. Even some Palestinian camps
came to provide shelter for the most destitute of the southern refugees,
one of which reportedly housed more Sh;6;s than Palestinians.164 Thus,
the Israeli-supervised 4abra and Chat;la massacres in 1982 not only
victimized Palestinians, but Sh;6; refugees, who constituted close to one-
quarter of those slain.165
As harrowing as the episode was, it was an incident a year later that
both expanded the resistance and inflamed the Sh;6;s fervour: The
Israelis desecration of an 62sh<r: ceremonial procession in Naba3iyyeh.
This incident became a milestone in the Islamic resistance to Israel.166
The 1984 assassination of Shaykh R:ghib Earb, Im:m of Jibsh;t village,
was another seminal event in the movements history in that it exalted
the Im:ms stature among Eizbu8ll:h adherents to Shaykh al-Shuhad:8
Al-6Ahd, 21 Nov. 1997.
Fnaysh, 3 Apr. 2003 and Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
Al-Eaw:dith, 19 Mar. 1999.
South Lebanon 19481986: Facts and Figures (Beirut: D:r Bil:l, 1986), 35.
Ibid. 26.
Colie, A Perspective on the Shi6ites, 118.
Cobban, The Growth of Shi6i Power in Lebanon, 147.
Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 301
(the master/leader of all martyrs) and added impetus to the resistance to
Israels occupation.
Another driving force behind the resistances zeal was Israels mass
detention of Lebanese southerners. By 1983, 10,000 Lebanese and
Palestinians were held captive in Israeli-controlled jails.167 Between 1982
and its 1985 closure the Ans:r prison camp alone is reported to have
detained half the Souths male population at one time or another.168 It
was not merely the high number of detainees that escalated resistance
activity, but the wretched conditions of their imprisonment and their
treatment as hostages with no rights as prisoners of war. Moreover,
the internment of detainees outside of Lebanon in Israels Atlit prison
in violation of the Geneva Convention169along with their torture in
the notorious Khiy:m prison in the South, further ignited the ardour
of the resistance.
It is crucial to note at this juncture that the Islamic resistance factions
did not single-handedly confront the Israeli occupation, but were assisted
by other secular groups such as the LCP, OCA, andas of 1984
AMAL, all of which united to form the Lebanese Resistance Front. After
1985, however, the reconstituted Islamic Resistance became the most
professional and effective force in fighting Israel and its Lebanese
proxy, the South Liberation Army (SLA). It was also during that year
that Israel withdrew unilaterally from those parts of the South it had
annexed to the pre-existing security zone.
Nevertheless, its subsequent reenactment of the Iron Fist policy,
which it had applied to the Occupied Territories, militated against the
potential of the withdrawal to defuse the conflict. Aided by the SLA,
Israel stepped up its campaign of terrorizing the Southerners not only by
escalating its bombardment of Sh;6; villages but by imposing curfews,
sealing off entire villages, and blocking the water and electricity supplies
of villages suspected of sympathizing with the resistance.



Although Eizbu8ll:h was greatly influenced by 4adrs political thought,

the origins of the party do not lie in his sectarian movement alone. In
fact, the source of Eizbu8ll:h was not even located in Lebanon but rather
Chris Mowles, The Israeli Occupation of South Lebanon, Third World
Quarterly, 8/4 (Oct. 1986), 1357.
Ibid. 13556.
Ibid. 1356.
302 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
in the religious academies of Najaf, where hundreds of young Lebanese
Sh;6;s studied in the early 1960s and 1970s under the tutelage of radical
ideologues such as Khumayn; and MuAammad B:qir al-4adr.170
On the Ba6ath partys assumption of power in 1968 however, dozens
of Lebanese students were expelled,171 a deportation policy that reached
its peak in 1977 when over 100 clerics were forced to return to
Lebanon.172 Along with other devout Sh;6;s, the Najaf graduates
including several future Eizbu8ll:h officialsset about recreating the
Iraqi-based Da6wa Party in Lebanon,173 while others established the
Lebanese Muslim Students Union in the early 1970s.174 A political
current coextensive with 4adrs was thus born in the 1960s which would
later evolve into Eizbu8ll:h.
A leading figure behind this current was Sayyid Fa@lu8ll:h, whose
religious authority grew considerably after 4adrs disappearance.175
But rather than establish an organization of his own to rival AMAL,
Fa@lu8ll:h preferred to reform the increasingly secular movement from
within.176 In fact, Fa@lu8ll:h upheld this stance to the very end: even
when Eizbu8ll:h was eventually established, he was not involved nor
did he join in the meetings and the initial work carried out during
Eizbu8ll:hs formation, according to former Eizbu8ll:h Secretary-
General Shaykh 4ubA; al-Fufayl;.177 The advancement of Fa@lu8ll:hs
status to pre-eminent mujtahid of the E:la al-Isl:miyya (Islamic state
of affairs) carried a much higher social and political value than any
association he might have had with a particular political party. If
anything, his organizational affiliation with Eizbu8ll:h would have
undermined his independence and alienated many of his followers who
did not identify with the party.178 In effect, his role was deliberately
confined to the socialization and education of this generation [the Sh;6;
youth of the 1970s].179
In this way, Fa@lu8ll:h was able to woo a significant portion of
AMALs membership, especially its younger activists,180 in the
aftermath of 4adrs disappearance. Along with other members of the

Kramer, Redeeming Jerusalem, 108.
Shapira, The Origins of Hizbollah, 116.
Kramer, The Oracle of Hizballah, 100.
Shapira, The Origins of Hizbollah, 116.
Q:ssim, 17 Mar. 1998.
Kramer, The Oracle of Hizballah, 101.
Ibid. 105.
Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengeance, 68.
Mallat, Shi6i Thought From the South of Lebanon, concurs on p. 28.
Eusayn al-M<saww;, 21 Aug. 1997.
Sachedina, Activist Shi6ism in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, 448.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 303
E:la al-Isl:miyya, these AMAL adherents came to identify themselves
with the Committee Supportive of the Islamic Revolution, a cultural
organization founded in 1979 in the run-up to the revolution in Iran.
Since the committee is considered by Eizbu8ll:h as its prospective
nucleus, party members emphasize the fact that its birth preceded the
Islamic Revolution. The committees staging of a mass demonstration in
support of the revolution, prior to its actual triumph, is cited as proof
of the spontaneous nature of the Islamic movement.181
Be that as it may, it is highly unlikely that the Islamic resistance would
have been launched, and the party subsequently formed, had it lacked
the inspiration of a revolutionary paradigm. Moreover, without Irans
political, financial, and logistical support, its military capability and
organizational development would have been greatly retarded. Even
by Eizbu8ll:hs reckoning, it would have taken an additional fifty years
for the movement to score the same achievements without Iranian
Most significantly, it was Irans dispatch of 1500 Revolutionary
Guards (Pasdaran) to the Biq:6 in the wake of Israels 1982 invasion that
played a direct role in the genesis of Eizbu8ll:h. In a bid to export its
Islamic revolution, Iran had initially sought to propagate Khumayn;s
pan-Islamic ideology by infiltrating existing Sh;6; organizations such as
AMAL.183 When these efforts bore little fruit,184 Iran seized the oppor-
tunity provided by the Israeli invasion to organize the sundry resistance
groups into a single organizational framework. However, it was only
with Syrian consent that Iran was able to enter the Lebanese political
arena, which has been under Damascus control since 1976. In need of a
strategic ally who could help ward off the Israeli and American threat
through the Islamic Resistance, Syria facilitated the Guards entry into
the Biq:6 by granting them direct access to its borders with the region.185
Another factor leading to the formation of Eizbu8ll:h was the
increasingly secular character assumed by the AMAL movement after
4adrs disappearance. Under the leadership of the well-to-do Sh;6;
lawyer Nab;h Berr;, who gained control of AMAL in 1980, the
movements Islamic identity and discourse had to all intents and
purposes evaporated. As related by Fayy:@, Eizbu8ll:h came to restore
the Sh;6; Islamic identity, which AMAL had betrayed.186 AMAL had
clearly metamorphosed into a secular sectarian movement and was
Fnaysh, 15 Aug. 1997.
Kramer, Redeeming Jerusalem, 106.
Ibid. 109.
Ibid. 110.
Faksh, The Shia Community, 48.
Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
304 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
therefore perceived by many Sh;6;s as a significant departure from the
movement 4adr had created. This perception was reinforced by Berr;s
participation in the National Salvation Committee. Established by
president Ely:s Sark;s in June 1982, the declared aim of the Committee
was to replace the PLO in West Beirut with the Lebanese Army and
included an array of leaders, one of whom was Bash;r Gumayel, the
pro-Israeli Maronite leader of the Lebanese Forces militia.187 Berr;s
involvement in what was perceived as an American-orchestrated plan
coupled with the fact that he sat at the same table as Gumayelwas
viewed by AMALs religiously predisposed members as a deviation from
4adrs Islamic, Ahl al-Bayt line,188 thereby creating a schism within the
organization. Consequently, AMAL officials such as Eassan NaBru8ll:h,
4ubA; Fufayl;, MuAammad Yazbek, Eusayn al-Khal;l, Na6;m Q:sim,
MuAammad Ra6id, 6Abb:s al-M<ssaw;, and Ibrah;m al-Am;n al-Sayyid
split from the movement, as did Eusayn al-M<ssaw; (who went on to
found Islamic Amal).
Thus, the bifurcation of AMAL constituted the first stage of
Eizbu8ll:hs inception. The second stage was marked by the participa-
tion of several Islamic groups in resistance activities against Israel, at
the forefront of which was the Association of the 6Ulam:8 of Jabal 62mil
(composed solely of clerics from the South). Although there was some
coordination among the various groups, they were not bound initially
by any organizational links nor did they share a single combative
The coalescence of all of these resistance elements into a single insti-
tutional framework signalled the third and final stage of Eizbu8ll:hs
establishment. With the assistance of the 300 to 500 Pasdaran who
remained in the Biq:6 town of Ba6:lbakk after the bulk of them had
returned to Iran, the defectors from AMAL joined forces with other
Islamists to establish the Committee of Nine, which could properly
be called Eizbu8ll:hs first Majlis al-Sh<ra (the partys supreme decision-
making council).190 The Committee incorporated three ex-AMAL repre-
sentatives, three clerics, and three members of the Committee Supportive
of the Islamic Revolution.191 While they were not represented in the
Cobban, The Making of Modern Lebanon (London: Hutchinson Radius,
1985), 182.
Fayy:@, interview by author (tape recording), Beirut, 18 Feb. 2000, and
Eusayn al-M<ssaw;, 21 Aug. 1997.
Fnaysh, 15 Aug. 1997.
This contradicts Ranstorps assertion on p. 73 that the first Sh<ra was
formed in 1986.
Fnaysh, 15 Aug. 1997. See also al-Sayyid Hassan NaBru8ll:h, 6Ala
al-Hawa, Orbit TV, May 1997.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 305
Sh<ra, all of the factions that resisted Israel were absorbed by the
fledgling organization. In effect, Eizbu8ll:h represented an umbrella
movement that banded together alienated AMAL members, Islamic
Amal, individual clerics and their followings, the Lebanese Da6wa,
the Association of Muslim 6Ulam:8 in Lebanon, and the Association
of Muslim Students.192 Since membership in these organizations over-
lapped with membership in the Committee Supportive of the Islamic
Revolution, Eizbu8ll:h can be considered the politico-military out-
growth of this broad cultural movement. Thus, what originated as a
religious current in the early 1970s metamorphosed into a relatively
disorganized resistance movement, which in turn transformed itself
into a structured political party.


This discussion has focused on the factors that contributed to the

political mobilization of the Lebanese Sh;6a. Its relevance to the study
of Eizbu8ll:h lies in its distinguishing the responsibility of catalysts, such
as social mobilization, political marginalization, foreign intervention,
and external assistance, in the emergence of the movement.
The roots of the Sh;6as political awakening go back to the late 1950s,
when the communitys urbanization first began. Prompted by the
extreme deprivation of the rural peripheriesthe South and Biq:6the
Sh;6as migration to Beiruts slums fostered a communal consciousness
among the socially, culturally, and psychologically dislocated settlers. It
was also in this urban setting that the Sh;6a were exposed to the affluent
and Westernized lifestyles of their Christian and Sunn; counterparts,
thereby engendering a sense of relative deprivation and self-identification
as a community-class. Their general level of social mobilization had
risen by the late 1960s, yet in terms of mass media participation, literacy
and education, it was still below par in comparison with other sects.
Moreover, the gap between their social mobilization and the economic
and political opportunities afforded to them only widened, generating
the potentially explosive phenomenon of rising expectations unfulfilled.
The low level of institutionalization characterizing the Lebanese
political system only exacerbated the Sh;6as frustration and served to
radicalize them further. The communitys under-representation in parlia-
ment, the civil service, and government had the effect of delegitimi-
zing the state and alienating the great majority who came to identify
See Shapira, The Origins of Hizbollah, 124 (but he makes no mention of
the Committee).
306 a m a l s a a d - g h o r a ye b
themselves with various anti-establishment movements. In the absence of
a party to call their own, the Sh;6a divided their loyalties among Arab
nationalist and leftist parties. Despite the fact that Im:m M<s: al-4adr
presented the community with a viable political alternative, the civil war
sidelined the movement he founded, though it did serve to radicalize
the Sh;6; who fought under the LNM banner. It was not until the late
1970s that these organizations lost ground to AMAL, which enjoyed
a considerable growth in popularity after 4adrs disappearance. Sh;6;
support for the movement was further bolstered by the Israeli invasion of
1978 and the Islamic Revolution in Iran a year later.
The radicalization of the Sh;6a reached its apex in 1982, in the wake
of Israels first colossal invasion of Lebanon. In fact, it was this event
which was directly responsible for the birth of Eizbu8ll:h and can even
be considered its raison detre. If the death, destruction, and displace-
ment that befell the Sh;6a wasnt enough, the massacres perpetrated by
the Israelis and their Lebanese proxies, the desecration of Sh;6; religious
ceremonies, and the mass arrests and detention of Sh;6; southerners, was
sure to radicalize the Sh;6a to unprecedented heights. The USAs bias
towards Israel, coupled with its active involvement in the civil war,
further militarized the Sh;6a. With the assistance of Iran and the tacit
support of Syria, Sh;6; groups resisting Israel were able to coalesce into
a single movement. But Eizbu8ll:h was by no means the brainchild of
any Iranian personality; in fact, its leadership nucleus had formed before
the Islamic Revolution unfolded. Eizbu8ll:h was therefore the organiza-
tional manifestation of a religious current that can be traced back to the
Over the past twenty years or so, Eizbu8ll:h has evolved, from an
essentially military organization aspiring to eradicate the Israeli
occupation and to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon, into a
military-cum-political movement. It has relegated the latter goal to the
intellectual realm and now strives for more concrete social and political
objectives. Using the parliamentary podium, the party now presses for
the reform of the Lebanese system and concerns itself with finding
solutions to the many social and economic problems besetting the
country. Thus, in parallel with the partys transformation from an anti-
system revolutionary party into an organization that has accommodated
itself to the reformed post-war political system, Eizbu8ll:hs goals have
witnessed a shift from transformative to reformist.193
Whether or not Eizbu8ll:h will continue to hold sway over a
significant portion of the Sh;6a community in the absence of the Israeli

Fayy:@, 10 Feb. 2003.
l e ba n e s e s h >6a an d em e r g en c e o f h i z b u 8l l 2h 307
occupation, and avoid the fate of secular groups that had previously
commanded the Sh;6; loyalties, remains to be seen. According to Fayy:@,
the competitive edge held by Islamic groups over Marxist and nationalist
ideological movements lies in the supremacy of faith over reason.194 But
even given this distinctive feature all ideologies are, in the final analysis,
subject to ascent and descent, Islam included.195 As conceived by
Fnaysh, the ability of Islamic groups to retain their party faithful is
largely dependent on their willingness to adapt to the socio-political
context within which they operate and their effectiveness in dealing with
the challenges arising from it,196 provided, of course, that the ideological
sincerity of these movements has not been so severely compromised as to
strip them of their Islamic identity. While Eizbu8ll:h has so far succeeded
in striking a delicate balance between ideological integrity and political
reality, it too must be careful not to allow this balance to tilt too heavily
either way, lest it spell its eventual demise.

Fnaysh, 3 Apr. 2003.