"In Lebanon, there are sectarians who don’t deny their sects.. Being loyal to them, they deny sectarianism and call for salvation sincerely, patiently and deeply. They see the salvation of their sects in no sects and salvation of their homeland in the unity of sects, not in sectarianism.” Hani Fahs, As-Safir Newspaper Oct. 17th, 2005
On the death of Lebanese intellectual sayyed Hani Fahs, who passed away on Thursday August 18th, we return to an influential issue to which, the Shi’ite cleric has dedicated his life. The National non-sectarian, Arab non-Iranian and Safi-Alawi, non-Safavid Shi’ism. Sayyed Fahs was an exceptional patriot and an icon of moderation in a series of national and reform efforts that preceded and continue among the sectarians all over the Islamic world, away from political employment for sectarianism putting it above or against home.
The Iranian Safavid Shi’ism dissents are minority aiming at hegemony and expansion. The moderates emerged in previous paths to define the Najaf Marji’ieh and confirm its distinction from Qom Maraji’ieh and the Vali-e-Faqih regime in Iran. They appeared again now, with the Syrian Revolution and the intervention of Hezbollah supporting a tyrant who called him through the Iranian agent to oppress his people, waging all kinds of wars, from aerial bombardments to chemical weapons during the years 2012-2013. They said No for intervention or tyranny and Yes for the Revolution, the Syrian people and the Nation. Their theses and discourse remain a wide Marji’ieh towards co-existence, rapprochement and dialogue.. The present, homeland and the citizen.. the past and the different future.
The expression “Arab Shi’ism” refers to non-Iranian Safavid Shi’ism, just like Alawi-Safi Shi’ism which didn’t declare its opponents as unbelievers or insult them and didn’t curse a principle or religious belief. Arab Shi’ism refuses sectarian fanatism at the expense of the nations as well as mutual hatred among sects. It accepts peaceful coexistence and believes in it.
The concept of Arab Shi’ism, contemporarily, refers to national Shi’ism that does not jump over the country, nor raises the sect above him, or explodes the homeland with the nuclear sectarian bomb, as sayyed Fahs said. It believes in the modern country and free, not affiliated, citizenship. It became active with the Iraqi crisis during the second term of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who used the sect as a platform for his political rise. He used sectarian discrimination against the Sunni citizens which ended with the setback of his forces by Da’ash (ISIS) in June. It was rejected also by the figures of the Arab Shi’a in Iraq and Lebanon, starting from the Marji’ieh of Najaf; which called several times for the need for change, represented in Ayatollah al-Sistani and other Marji’iehs in Najaf, to the Sadrist Movement led by Moqtada al-Sadr in the Supreme Shi’ite Council led by Ammar al-Hakim, to the independent figures and icons such as the late scholar Sayyed Hani Fahs and other Shi’ite intellectuals as well as the Free Shi’a Movement in Lebanon.
They issued statements after others rejecting the intervention of Hezbollah to support the tyrant against his people, and warning from the civil strife and division, and making the country and citizenship above all.
The concept of Arab Shi'ism or Alawi Shi'ism:
Some people call it Arab Shi’ism versus Iranian Shi'ism; meaning the independence from the Vali-e-Faqih, and avoiding joining the Iranian agenda and policy expanded through the sect to achieve its expanding interests. When using this concept they refer to the Arab Shi’a scholars who turned liberation and getting rid of Safavid domination in forming and formulating the doctrine of Shi’ites, since the emerge of their state in (900H – 1500AD) or getting rid of the domination of the Vali-e-Faqih hegemony and its orientations aimed at imposing influence and expansion in its geopolitical radius ..
This concept intermingles with the Alawi Shi’ism concept, after the followers of Ali bin Abi Taleb (may Allah be pleased with him) versus the Safavid Shi’ism, formulated by the Safavid dynasty, and characterized by abhorrent hatred that has no basics in sectarianism or in Islam, such as cursing and insulting the companions, and accusing the mothers of the believers as well as rejecting imams before their folks.
It carries a spirit and approach in which the principles reconcile and refuses the history of sedition like many of Arab and foreign representatives.
With the Shi’ite regeneration and reform in the modern era, many voices emerged from the Hawzas calling for such reform and non-Safavid Shi’ism, opposes the theory of Khomeini and Khamenei in the Velayat-e-Faqih and refuses the Iranian intervention and practices to control the orientations of the sect, such as:
- Sayyed Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr
- Sayyed Moussa al-Sadr
- Sayyed Mohamed Mahdy Shams el Din
- Sayyed Mohamed Hussein FadlAllah
- Sayyed Mohamed Sadeq al-Sadr (father of Moqtada al-Sadr)
- Sayyed Ali el Amin
- Late Sayyed Hani Fahs
- Sheikh Sobhi al Tofaily (former secretary general of Hezbollah)
- Sheikh Mohamed el Hajj Hassan (leader of Lebanese Free Shi’a Movement opposing the intervention of Hezbollah in Syria).
10-A number of Shi’ite intellectuals who supported the idea of the homeland and social justice.
They came out of the bondage of sectarianism towards the homeland and citizenship as they came out of the bondage of sectarian and historical injustice towards social justice. A big part of them formed active rules in the Left movements and contemporary Arab secular currents.
Being affiliated to Arab Shi’ism or Alawi Shi’ism doesn’t mean that they agree in everything. There are partial differences among them, but at least they agree with each other in matters concerning Iranian hegemony and the Khomeini theory of the Vali-e-Faqih as well as their approach towards other sects and co-existence.
The concept of Safavid Shi’ism, refers to the Shi’ism formulated by the Safavid state (1501- 1785 AD), which was founded by Sufi leaders, grandchildren of Safi-ad-din al-Ardebili after embracing the Shi’ite doctrine. They have no relation with the Shi’ite jurisprudence; in their reign, many habits increased, such as myths, cursing, slapping faces and deep hostility against the Sunnis and forcing the Sunnis of Iran, who were the majority for nine centuries, to follow their habits.
The historical sources, Sunnis and Shi’ites, prove that Iran’s conversion from Sunnism to Shi’ism, in the reign of the Safavids, was bloody. Shah Ismail has killed a million Sunni in few years, he was testing Iranian Sunnis in various ways, such as asking a Sunni to insult caliphs , then ask him to insult them again, if he agrees, he releases him otherwise his neck would be immediately broken. Insulting caliphs and companions was everywhere; at streets, markets and on the platforms, warning the Sunni recalcitrant with breaking their necks.
In Safavid Shi’ism, Fiqh and doctrine are intermingled with policy, in which some scholars of Jabal Amel contributed. They chose to be close to the Safavid courtiers, among which was Ali Ibn Abdul-Al al-Karky (aka Muhaqqiq al-Karaki (868-940 AH). He immigrated with 63 others to support this state that the Shi’ites of Iraq and Iran refused to support or legitimize. Shah Tahmaseb bin Ismail al-Safawi appointed him as arbiter in matters of legitimacy in the Safavid Empire and gave him an approving formal decree.
El Karki kept justifying the Safavids’ practices. He wrote books for them as references to their practices, then he wrote books on “Turbah Husainiyyah” (The ground of Karbala), possibility of prostrating for human as he has written also a book legitimizing insult and verbal abuse of the companions entitled “Wafts in Theology in Cursing Idols and Juggernaut" meaning Abu Bakr and Omar bin el Khattab (may Allah be pleased with them both). He preferred to curse the companions rather than praising God.
He wrote a message in changing the direction of al-Qibla, so, his Shi’ite opponents called him (the inventor of Shi’a) as he invented and justified the heinous practices of the Safavids; unaccepted by some Shi’ite scholars then and after. Some people say that al-Karaki rejected certain practices, such as killing the famous Sufi sheikh al-Islam in Herat, Saad Eddin Taftazani, who wrote “the Prolonged in Arabic rhetoric" after defeating Uzbeks, the Sunni state 1. His books showed that he was justifying rather than a conservative..!
Previous attempts to break free from the Safavid Shi’ism:
There are ancient and modern as well as continued attempts to get rid of the sediments of Safavid Shi’ism, such as of Ayatollah Alkhonsara (1309-1405 AH), who rejected the Velayat-e-Faqih as represented by al-Karki in the Safavid era or Khomeini after him in the modern era.
He rejected acting for the imam in the age of absence, as well as Iranian intellectual Ahmad Khosravi (died 1946 AD) and the late Ali Shariati (1933-1977AD), who wrote an important book entitled “Alawi Shi’ism and Safavid Shi’ism" in which he tried to differentiate between two tracks in the history of Shi'ism, the first, is the original Shi’ism belonging to Ali bin Abi Talib and the second the false and distorted Shi’ism that appeared throughout history, especially during the reign of the Safavids and after, so did the late Iraqi sociologist Ali el Wardi in a part of his book “Social and political glimpses in the history of modern Iraq.” This attitude is evident in a number of his books, especially his book "Preachers of the Sultans."
Sayyed Mohsen el Amin al Amly (died 1954), Sayyed Mohammed Ali al-Shahristani (died 1967), Sheikh Mortadha Mathary (assassinated 1979) and Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani (died 1979) who was close to Ali Shariati may God have mercy on him, were of the ancestors in this direction too.
Marji’ieh Conflict between Najaf and Qom:
Najaf Hawza represents, in general, an opposition against the Iranian religious establishment (Qom Hawza). Being in two different countries is not the main reason for this discrepancy, but it lies in the different traditions. Qom Hawza is characterized by strong traditions in facing political affairs and the relation with the state while Najaf Hawza is based on the traditions closer to (the Hojjatieh society): poring over internal Hawza work and being completely away of policy.
Therefore, Najaf and Qom became two independent identities that differ from the two national identities: Iraq and Iran; the scholars are identified by the Hawza they belong to, regardless of their origins or nationalities.
The relation between the two Hawzas took a new form after 9/4/2003. Najaf Hawza tended to confirm distinction from Qom Hawza, which played a major role to emphasize the independence of Iraqi Hawza, and therefore, forging a relation with the New Iraqi state dawning from historical traditions of Najaf Hawza.
Most of the Arab Shiite scholars opposed the theory of Khomeini; Velayat-e-Faqih, and suggested different theories. Sheikh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din suggested the theory of “Velayat al Ummah” through elections and putting the state and homeland above the history and sectarianism. Sayyed Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr suggested the theory of the caliphate and the supervision of the Marji’ieh. Others have gathered the two theories, but did not accept Khomeini’s theory of absolute Vali-e-Faqih2.
Najaf Hawza is characterized by being away from policy, although preoccupied with it; but from the perspective of co-existence, homeland and sectarian discrimination, which explains its recent stance from the policies of al-Maliki, for example, or its situation after the fall of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. However, Najaf Hawza still focuses on traditional and linguistic sciences as well as the Hojjati’ieh approach.
Marja’ Abdul Aziz al Hakim refused Khomeini calls for the revolution and politicizing it earlier, who used to incense him with the situation of Qom Marja’ Yezdegerd in (Al Tabgh Revolution) against the Shah or the situation of Turkey’s scholars against the regime of Ataturk3, which apparently changed nothing at thoughts of Sayyed al-Hakim then. A situation adopted by Najaf Marji’ieh until now.
But Najaf Hawza witnessed an ethnic struggle between the Arabs and Persians, between the Arab clergymen and the Iranians on leadership. There were an Arab current inside Najaf Hawza, represented by Mohammed Hussein Kashef el Gheta’, Mohammad Reda al-Modhaffar and Abdul Karim al-Jaziery as well as other Arab Iraqi scholars.
The struggling Marji’ieh is due to the nineties of the twentieth century, when Mohammed al-Sadr, a prominent Shi’ite cleric in Iraq during the last two decades, revived the Arab-Iranian conflict in Najaf Hawza. Al-Sadr founded and led Arab current inside the Hawza, probably did not have to be completed until 9/4/2003, a trend which is known today as (The Sadrist Movement) led by his son, Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr.
This was interpreted by Haider Saeed as saying: "Al-Sadr benefited from the anti-Iranians political cover then, and established an Arab current inside the Hawza, which has led to the influx of large numbers of southern Iraqi people, specifically, to study in Najaf. The number of the students of the Hawza in the 1990s reached about 7000, compared to 500 only in the 1980s. These students broke the pattern of the student of the Hawza; for the first time in Najaf Hawza, brown-skinned young students from the South overwhelmed the Hawza. On the other hand, these students formed the material of which the (Sadrist Movement) would be established.4"
The Sadrist Movement used then a national language derived from the legacy of the Iraqi national classic and from the legacy of founder Mohammed al-Sadr. The main slogan of Fridays’ ceremonies, used to be chanted by al-Sadr in the Kufa Mosque from 1998 until he died in February 1999, was “No, No, America”. Hence, the Sadrist Movement expressed rejection to the Americans, and opening new channels with the opposing Sunni powers, such as (AMS), and called for the (national resistance to the occupation)5, the same situations characterizing the Sadrist Movement until now.
Shi’ite Reform..Between Baa’th and the Vali-e-Faqih:
What was really uncanny, that the Arab Shi’ism was a victim of the Arab National authorization and its regulations. Sayyed Moussa al-Sadr was killed and disappeared after his visit to Libya and his meeting with the assassinated dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 1978, and Saddam Hussein assassinated Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr and his sister Bent al-Huda on April 9, 1982. Nationalists’ policies and their ideology have always targeted the identity of the Arab Shi’ites.
This has been quite evident in the writings of the famous historians of nationalism such as the most prominent historian of the Ba’ath late Dr. Abdul Aziz al-Douri, who considered Iraq's Shi’ites as remnants of the Sassanids, so did Abdul Razak al-Hossan in his book “Arabism in the scale” (1933). Al Rusafi said in his book “The Iraqi Message”: “Iran is the political direction for which the hearts of Iraq's Shi’ites head since the era of the defunct Ottoman Empire" and "their Nationality fade towards the Iranian nationality entrenching their hearts."
"There is a contradiction between Shi’ism and Arabism, obvious to the most ridiculous minds,6" they don’t pay any attention to Iraqi important writings about the Iraqi identity and spotlighted the difference between the Arab and Alawi Shi’ism as well as the Iranian and Safavid Shi’ism as Dr. Ali al-Wardi wrote in his book: “Social and Political Glimpses in the History of the Modern Iraq”, as well as prominent poets such as Mohammed Mahdi el Jawahry and others, some of them were from the Ba’ath Party and the Arab Nationalist Movement”.
What is strange also, the celebration of the Arab media with the political Shi’ism loyal to Iran represented in Hezbollah and its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah; especially after the war in July 2006, which he described as an adventure. However, the media or the Arab ideology didn’t pay any attention to the advocates of National and religious Shi’ite reform, the Arab and Alawi, which made great popularity for the Iranian Shi’ism and its expansions in the region that lasted until the current Syrian crisis un-attentive to its adventures or subservience to the Iranian politics at the expense of the interests of the nation and the Lebanese State as well as the whole Arab world.
The Ba’athist tyranny was against the Arab non-Iranian, Alawi non-Safavid Shi’ism, so did the Vali-e-Faqih system. The voices of the moderate Alawi Shi’ism in Iran were assassinated, represented in the past in some intellectual figures such as Iranian intellectual Ali Shariati (assassinated probably in 1977) who wrote a book about the Alawi Shi’ism and Safavid Shi’ism, and founded “Husseineyet al Irshad” in 1969 and Sheikh Mortadha Mathari (assassinated in 1979) as well as Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani (died 1979). The three of them met tragic ends by the SAVAK or the Revolutionary Guards after that. Moreover, the Green Movement which emerged in 2009 calling Iran to stop supporting Hezbullah and stop penetrating the countries of the region was also buried.
The myth of Sunni-Shi’ite conflict:
The (identity) has become a combined entity, with forty faces, as expressed by Darioush Shayghan. The identity doesn’t have one dimension, but many. When it is used by its political employees, it becomes dangerous, as did al-Maliki in the latest Iraqi parliamentary elections held in April 2011 when he made his slogan: establishment of the state of “Aal al Bait” or (the House owners), or as did the Shi’ite jihadist in Syria when they raised the slogan: “We will not leave Zainab to be captured twice”, "and so do Da’ash and other extremist Sunni! Playing on the strings of passion and anger in identity.. although it is not the only dimension..
Professor of ethnic politics Paul Brass said in a classic text: "The politicians can politicize identities that were previously cultural only, and they have the necessary skills to link (primordial deep links of the members of the group with the changing relations of the policy)." "The politicization of identity arises from the competition among the elites on redefining the features of identity in ways that serve the interests of the elite and people,7” he added.
The Sunnis are not one block; neither are the Shi’ites, to talk about Sunni-Shi’ite conflict. Hezbollah, as well, doesn’t represent all the Shi’ites inside or outside Lebanon. Although Velayat-e-Faqih, to which they belong, has roots in the Twelver Shi’ite’s thoughts, perhaps began with Al Naeni and originated by Khomeini, but it is a Caliphate idea rejected by many of Shi’ite Marji’iehs on the top of them, Najaf Marji’ieh and the majority of Qom Marji’ieh, as well as other marji’iehs and scholars such as Sheikh Mohamed Baqir al Sadr, Mohamed Mahdi Shams el din and others.
Shi’ites against Iran:
Usulis are the majority Twelver Shi’a Muslim group. They follow an alive Mujtahid Faqih (there are trends to follow dead Faqihs, but these trends are limited so far). It’s known that the majority of the Twelvers in general, and the Iranians in particular, and other Marj’a, follow Sayyed al-Sistani not the Veli-e-Faqih in Tehran (Khamenei).
Al-Sistani, other Shi’ite Marj’as as well, did not support the Twelver Shi’ites’ fighting to defend Al-Assasd regime, as did Khamenei. Moreover, what is prevailed in the Twelver Shi’ites that the Alawis are not Shi’ites, so, how can we consider it a Sunni-Shi’ite conflict?!
Does anyone remember now that many of the slogans of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 were against Iran's support for Hezbollah? As for Lebanon, from where Hezbollah sends fighters in defense of Al-Assad ruling, the opponents of this party were never unnoticed in the Shi’ite community. The late Shi’ite cleric Mohammed Mahdi Shams el-Din (died in 2002) President of the Shi’ia Supreme Islamic Council, was not close to the party and never supported Velayat-e-Faqih, knowing that his last book (The Commandments) introduced basics for real dialogue between the Sunnis and Shi’ites, based on studying and searching the differences between the two communities in the fields of Hadith and historical readings. The relation between the late cleric Sayyed Mohamed Hussein Fadlallah (died in 2010) with Velayat-e-Faqih and its party in Lebanon was more complicated.
He began related with Al-Da’wa party in Najaf, where he was born and received his education, then, he came under the leadership of Khomeini after the Iranian Revolution. He was a key element in establishing and leading Hezbollah (if indirectly), but he was the legitimate agent for Sayyed al-Khooeie (not Knomeini). Two years after al Khoeii died (in 1992) he became a marj’a, which sparked the ire of the Velayat-e-Faqih in Tehran and its followers in Hezbollah (who considered Sayyed Fadlallah the spiritual father until then).
They started a severe campaign of criticism on him, using, indirectly, his efforts in Sunni-Shi’ite rapprochement and his criticism to illogical historical narrations, cursing and insulting the companions of prophet Mohamed peace be upon him, especially the myth of the death of “Fatema” by Omar (may Allah be pleased with them both).
The relation between the two parties improved after the war in 2006 but Hezbollah never acknowledged Fadlallah as Marj’a. Fadlallah, however, was followed by hundreds of thousands of people and his mosque was crowded every Friday with thousands of people. Tens of thousands also attended his funeral in 2010 in Beirut's southern suburbs, Hezbollah’s stronghold8.
In an interview with Asharq Al Awsat Newspaper on June 14, 2014, Lebanese Sheikh Mohammed al-Haj Hassan «head of the Free Shi’a Movement» highlighted that more than 300 thousand Shi’ites in Lebanon oppose Hezbollah and its policies. The numbers are rising under the anger of the Shi’ite community in the country after Hezbollah turned into a party of fighters and murderers following its intervention in the Syrian crisis,” he added.
Early in September 2012, a number of statements were issued by a number of Shia’a scholars; most notably, former Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sheikh Subhi al Tofayli, Sayyed Mohamed Hassan al-Amin and Sayyed Hani Fahs who called for supporting all the Arab revolutions, especially the Syrian Revolution without any reservation. Late in August 2012, a statement, signed by a number of scholars, intellectuals, political activists and journalists, was issued calling for supporting all the Arab revolutions and establishing the state of citizenship in Lebanon, and focused on the role of Syria’s scholars in the national and Islamic unity and the call to stop any practices that lead to sectarian strife9.
The same happened in May 2014 in Iraq, where a prominent political Shi’ite raised in a session of Kurds businessmen and foreign oil experts, when the issue of the Iranian pressures was raised in the file of forming the new government then, and he pointed out at the mountains and highlands surrounding Erbil city, northern Iraq, saying: “we are not a southern suburb that would be controlled by Iran forever, she knows that the Shi’ites in Basra and Najaf extend cultural and economic partnerships cross these mountains with several Iraqis, towards Europe, and historic partnerships with Gulf Arabs, and they gain more self-confidence when they see all the giant oil companies race to invest here, and that the Iranian influence is temporary, encouraged by lack of regime after the fall of Saddam Hussein. You will all see how we will organize it10.
“Rebellion" against the Iranian desires is not fresh or new, it emerged after the elections held in 2010 when the Islamic Supreme Council, founded in Tehran early in the 1980s, refused to support a new government for Nuri al-Maliki, despite the pressures made by the Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleymani. It was punished by the Iranians when they ordered Badr Organization, its military wing, to secede and support al-Maliki.
Another sign of rebellion against Iran’s desires came in 2012 when Moqtada al-Sadr went to Irbil in a meeting that aimed at withdrawing confidence from Nuri al-Maliki, and allied with the Kurds and Sunnis which led to several directions after that, when al-Sadr, Ammar al-hakim and leading clerics in Najaf talked about their refusal to push Iraqi youths in the conflict besides Bashar al-Assad against Hezbollah.
The Shi’ite house divided and insisted that al-Maliki should leave. Muqtada al-Sadr, Ammar al-Hakim and other members of the Shi’ite National Alliance announced it as their first demand, despite the Iranian pressure and mediation attempts that failed all. At the end, al-Maliki left and Iran submitted to the will of the Iraqis.
Conclusion .. Hani Fahs:
Sayyed Hani Fahs, born in Jibchit (Nabatieh) South Lebanon in 1946, was a prominent Shi’ite clergyman, an exceptional patriot and icon of moderation who marked his time. Sayyed Hani devoted his life to liberate the contemporary Shi’ite ideology from the isolation and Safavid residuum and the Iranian contemporary enrollment who implicated Shi’ite and Sunni Arab movements that liberated and respected the national identity while remained faithful to its sectarian identity..
In the last meeting with him, late in 2013, in Jordan, I asked him: “what is the solution?” “the Statehood”, he replied.. the state.. return of the state.. to protect us from who trade with intolerance, the policy contractors who use sectarianism for their interests.
- See Dr. Khedr Nabha, hint on the biography of Mohaqiq al-Karki, and his call for keeping his Hawza, al-najaf resalah magazine, issues 7,8 in 2006 link
- See Ali Fayad, the theories of the authority in the contemporary Shi’ite political ideology, the Civilization Center for developing Islamic Ideology, 2010.
- See Mohamed Sadek al Husseiny, Imam Khomeini, in the message of reform and change, the Civilization Center for developing Islamic Ideology, 2009.
- See Haydar Saiid, Shi’ite Nationalism in Iraq, attempts to establish Arab Shi’ism, unpublished paper, 2010.
- See Haydar Saiid, Shi’ite Nationalism in Iraq, attempts to establish Arab Shi’ism, unpublished paper, 2010.
- See Maarouf al-Resafi, Iraqi Message in politics, Religion and Sociology, Dar al Gamal, 2005.
- Haydar Saiid, Shi’ite Nationalism in Iraq, attempts to establish Arab Shi’ism, unpublished paper.
- Samer al Quarenshawy, Sect wider than Khamenei and Hezbollah! Political employment of Sunni-Shi’ite conflict! Al Arabiya Institute for Studies, published on August 18, 2013, Link
- See Kassim Kusseir, Movement and Discussions in the independent Shi’ite fields, September 4,2012.
- Quoted from Al Jaridah Kuwaiti newspaper on May 14, 2014. link