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For the ancient region, see Al-Habash.

Al-Ahbash (Arabic: ‫ األحباش‬/ al-aḥbash / English: "The Ethiopians"), also known as
the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects(AICP) (Arabic: ‫جمعية المشاريع الخيرية‬
‫ اإلسالمية‬/ jam'iyyat al-mashari' al-khayriyya al-Islamiyya)[1] is a Sufi religious
movement which was founded in the mid-1980s.[2] The group follow the teachings of
Ethiopian scholar Abdullah al-Harari.[2] The AICP claims to run its Islamic schools
being affiliated with Al-Azhar,[3] a claim which has been denied by Al-
Azhar.[4][5][6][7][8] Due to the group’s origins and activity in Lebanon, the Ahbash have
been described as the "activist expression of Lebanese Sufism".[9]
The Association of Islamic Charitable
‫ججججججج جججججججج ججججج‬
jam'iyyat al-mashari' al-khayriyya al-Islamiyya

Leader Shaykh Hussam Qaraqira

Founded 1983
Beirut, Lebanon

Headquarters Various

Ideology Religious pluralism


Religion Sunni Islam (Ash'ari, Sufi)

The Association of Islamic Charitable Projects was founded in the 1930s by Ahmad al-
Ajuz,[10] According to Gary Gambill the AICP arrived in Lebanon in the 1950s, where
he says "they blended Sunni and Shi'a theology with Sufi spiritualism into a doctrinal
eclecticism that preached nonviolence and political quietism".[11] The AICP remained
without a leader until the 1980s when Abdullah al-Harari became the nominal head of
the organization.[12] and was taken over by Al-Ahbash in 1983.[9]
Al-Ahbash was founded in the suburb of Bourj Abu Haidar, in West Beirut, as a small
philanthropic and spiritualist movement among the Sunni lower classes.[9] From there
they spread throughout Lebanon to Tripoli, Akkar and Iqlim Al-Kharrub in the Chouf,
where they founded educational and religious institutions.[13] Beginning in the 1990s,
Ahbash propelled from a minority group to the largest Sunni religious organization in
Lebanon mainly due to Syrian government backing[14]—having close links to Syrian
intelligence.[15] The Syrians supported and promoted the Ahbash in order to limit the
influence of radical and fundamentalist Sunni movements in Lebanon.[16][17][18] There
growth was also aided by the forcible seizure and control of many prominent mosques
in West Beirut in the early 1980s, despite the protests of Dar al-Fatwa (the official
body for Lebanon's Sunni Muslims).[16][17] At the end of the 1990s there were close to
250,000 Ahbash members worldwide, according to a high-ranking Ahbash
activist.[1] While the Ahbash still owe their original growth to the Syrians, politically,
they are in an undeclared alliance with Mustaqbal, perhaps for reasons of current
political expediency.[19]
Several public figures became Ahbash members when it emerged in Francebeginning
in 1991, such as rapper Kery Jamesor Abd Samad Moussaoui.[20]
In 1995, members of a Salafi jihadi group called "Osbat al-Ansar" killed the leader of
Al-Ahbash, Sheikh Nizar Halabi,[9][21] who was reportedly being groomed by the
Syrians to become Lebanon's Grand Mufti.[17] His murder led to a heavy-handed Syrian
response—concluding with the gruesome public execution of his assassins in 1997.[22]
Religious beliefsEdit
Al-Ahbash beliefs are an interpretation of Islam combining elements of Sunni
Islam and Sufism. Their religious ideology is very much in line with the traditional
Sunni doctrines, although the groups sometimes unrestrained use of takfir has brought
them under discension by the wider Islamic community.[9]Al-Ahbash follows
the Shafi school and Ash'aritheology, their Sufi aspect is derived from
the Rifa'i brotherhood.[14] The group rejects Islamist figures such as Ibn
Taymiyyah, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Sayyid Qutb. It advocates
Islamic pluralism, and opposition to political activism (its slogan is "the resounding
voice of moderation").[9] It also promotes its beliefs internationally through a major
internet presence and regional offices, notably in the United States.[23]
Doctrinal aspectsEdit
Shaykh Habashi's syncretic teachings draw upon a conflation of different branches of
Islamic theology, and thereby elude unambiguous classification. In an address to his
followers, Shaykh Habashi stated that "[w]e are Ash'aris and Shafi'is. The Ash'ariyya is
the basis of our belief, and the Shfi'iyya is our daily code."[1] According to Thomas
Pierret, Ahbash's ideology "can be termed "neo-tradionalist", in that it aims to preserve
the Islamic heritage of the Ottoman era[14] - which they consider themselves to be the
Shaykh Habashi in his books and lectures blends[24][25][26][27][28] elements of Sunni
and Shi'a theological doctrines with Sufi spiritualism by supporting the legitimacy of
Imam Ali and his descendents while condemning Mu'awiyya, the caliph and governor
of Damascus, and his son Yazid as "seditious" thus adopting Shi'ite tradition whereas
setting apart from all other Sunni jurists.[9][10][12][29][30] Although not explicitly stated,
Sufism plays also an important role in al-Ahbash's doctrine as demonstrated by the
practice of several Sufi traditions such as the pilgrimage to holy men's tombs (Ziyarat),
mystical dancing sessions, use of musical bands in religious ceremonies[31] and the
support of three Sufi Tariqas.[9] The contention that it is a primarily Sufi
movement,[9] however, has been disputed.[1]
Mustafa Kabla and Haggai Erlich identify "moderation" as the key word in al-Ahbash's
"necessary science of religion"[9] and instance the group's twelve-goal platform whose
second item calls for "[p]reaching moderation [...] and good behavior as ways of
implementing religious principles, while combating extremism and zeal.".[1] This
position is also reflected in the groups's decided opposition to the Salafist
movementand Islamist thinkers, namely Sayyid Qutb, Muhammed ibn 'Abd-al-
Wahhab, and Ibn Taymiyyah.[1][9]
Rejection of anthropomorphismEdit
One further critical cleavage is al-Ahbash's strict rejection of any form of
anthropomorphism of God which they accuse Wahhabis of.[1] Consequently, Shaykh
Habashi holds that "it does not befit God to speak like that, and his word is not a voice
or letters"[32]and that therefore, the Qur'an contains the word of God but could be
written only after "Gabriel listened to His word, understood it, and passed it on to the
prophets and the angels."[1][27][28] This is a highly controversial point of view
within Islam which is not fully compatible with the consensus of Sunnis, and Wahhabis
accuse Ahbash of doubt regarding the origin of the Qur'an.[1] Another famous example
regards the interpretations of the Qur'anic sentence describing God seated on his
throne after creating the world. According to Wahhabi texts, this means that he
literally sat on his throne; however, according to Shaykh Habashi, copying
the Mu'tazila school of thought, it meant that he took control of the world.[33][34]
Separation of religion and stateEdit
The arguably most important split, however, is the question of the relation between
religion, politics, and the state. Departing from most Islamic writings on this topic, al-
Ahbash advocates a separation of religion and state and thereby rejects the idea of an
Islamic state. Al-Fakhani, an AICP representative said "Most of our states are Islamic
and Muslims wish the presence of an Islamic state, but the regional and international
conditions do not allow it."[35] Consequently, the group repeatedly emphasized the
need for Muslim-Christian co-existence and tolerance towards other religious groups
in Lebanon.[1]
The tolerant stance in Al-Ahbash's public rhetoric is doubted by some Muslim groups,
orthodox Sunni in particular. They accuse the group of an excessive use of Takfir – the
act of declaring another Muslim an unbeliever – and thereby of the provocation of
inner-Islamic tensions.[23][36][37][38] Al-Ahbash has mainly used takfir
against Wahhabi and Salafileaders.[37][39] According to Tariq Ramadan, Al-Ahbash
"adherents carry on a permanent double discourse: to Western questioners, they claim
to support the emancipation of women and laicism to oppose the "fundamentalists"
(all the issues they know are sensitive and useful for getting them recognized).
However, within Muslim communities, they carry on an extremely intransigent and
closed discourse, usually treating most of the principal Muslim ulama as kuffar *by
which they mean "unbeliever,' "impious people"). They base their teachings on
interpretations recognized as deviant by all other schools of thought and all other
scholars of note (for example, their singular understanding of the meaning of the name
of God, or their assertion that the Qur'anic Text was interpreted by the angel Gabriel,
or the practice of praying to the dead). Their approach on very specific points of
doctrine (such as those we have referred to) is hostile and usually violent."[40]
Political positionsEdit
As a political party, when al-Ahbash ran for the 1992 Lebanese parliamentary
elections, this constituency enabled its candidate, Adnan Trabulsi, to win a seat in a
Beirut district after the Ahbash and Hezbollah concluded an undeclared alliance in
Beirut that assured the election of their respective candidates.[9]However, Trabulsi
lost in the subsequent 1996 elections.[41]
The Ahbash are also allied to the other major Shia party, the Amal Movement.[9]
The group are seen as being controversial within Islam for its anti-Salafi religious
stance, as their Sufi and other beliefs are seen as heretical.[9][23][42] As a result, they are
commonly described by Wahhabis as combining "Sufi polytheism, shirk, with Shi'i
covert anti-Sunna tactics".[3] They are also viewed by other Muslims groups as being
favoured by the governments of the United States, Europe, and Australia, who "do
indeed welcome the Ahbash activities among their Muslim citizens."[43] They have
been described as a sect by various commentators,[40][42][44][45] while others see them
as a valid religious movement.[10][12]
In 2011, the Australian National Imams Council accused the Muslim Community Radio
Incorporated as being associated with Al-Ahbash, which they described as a fringe cult
organisation and violent, and made public announcement for government officials not
to renew its broadcasting license.[46] However, the Australian Communications and
Media Authority granted a 5-year license in 2011, which drew criticism from Islamic
In 2003, Ali Gomaa, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, issued a fatwa describing the
Ahbash as "deviant" that sought to "corrupt the Muslim creed and incite sedition
amongst the Muslim Ummah. Moreover, they are paid agents to the enemies of Islam."
In 2007, Egypt also arrested 22 men for seeking to spread the Ahbash faith in the
In 2012, Muslim protesters in Addis Ababaaccused the Ethiopian government of Meles
Zenawi of promoting Al-Ahbash among the Muslim population of the country.[48]
During the 1990s fighting broke out between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Ahbash
in what became known as the "war of the mosques". The fighting was started due to
the brotherhood believing that Jordan's Ministry of Religious Endowments were giving
precedence to Al-Ahbash members being allowed to teach in mosques from which they
themselves were banned.[49]
Due to its strong historical links with the Syrian government of the al-Assad family, the
Ahbash have often been in conflict with the Lebanese supporters of the anti-
Syrian Hariri family and in 2005 at least two of its members were initially
implicated—jailed and later released—in the Assassination of Rafic Hariri.[50] The
Ahbash also strongly opposed and demonstrated against the Cedar Revolution that
was triggered by Hariri's assassination.[51][52] Ahbash reportedly remains neutral in
the Syrian Civil War, despite pressure from both sides.[53]
In 2010, Ahbash and Hezbollah members were involved in a street battle which was
perceived to be over parking issues. Both groups later met to form a joint
compensation fund for the victims of the conflict.[54]However, despite this instance of
violence, the Ahbash have "normal" and "friendly" relations with Hezbollah. The
Ahbash have also engaged in bloody clashes in Sidon and Tripoli, in the 1990s, against
the rival Sunni Al-Jama'ah Al-Islamiyah.[9]
North AmericaEdit
The Al-Ahbash pray using the South-east direction in Canada and the United
States[55]versus majority of the Muslims who pray towards Qiblah using the North-
east direction in their mosques.[55][56][57]
Saudi ArabiaEdit
Former grand mufti of Saudi Arabia Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz declared Ahbash a "deviant
Roman Silantiev states that the mufti of Ukraine, Ahmad Tamim, a Lebanese citizen,
has been accused of belonging to the "sinister sect" of Ahbash by his opponents,
however, his opponents find it difficult to define the heresy of Ahbash. Ahmad
Tamim's opponent mufti Said Ismaigilov allegedly has links to groups affiliated with
the Muslim Brotherhood.[59]
See alsoEdit
 Politics of Lebanon
 Barelvi
 Nahdlatul Ulama
 Sufi–Salafi relations

External links

Last edited 1 month ago by Felicia777

 Salafi movement
ultra-conservative reform movement within Sunni Islam
 Abdullah al-Harari
Harari Islamic scholar
 Sufi–Salafi relations

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