Lebanese Shi‘a Discourse
By Rola el-Husseini
The Middle East Journal, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Summer 2008)
By scrutinizing four of their works published in Lebanon between 1998 and 2001, I will tease out their conceptions of jihad and martyrdom and articulate how these prominent Lebanese Ayatollahs base these concepts on their understanding of Shi‘a tradition. Specifically, in the tradition that Michael Fischer has dubbed “the Karbala paradigm,” which provides an exemplar for taking an active role and rebelling against injustice and tyranny, manifest in this case with the Israeli invasion and occupation.
In this article, I answer the following questions: What is the Shi‘a definition of jihad and of “Islamic resistance?” Are they one and the same? If so, are they to be understood as an exclusively armed form of resistance or can “Islamic resistance” be non-violent? And more importantly to a Western audience, who is the target of this resistance? More specifically, can “resistance” occur against local corrupt rulers or is it always directed against Israel, against the United States, or against what has locally been termed “Western Imperialism?”
I then examine the impact of these writings on resistance movements in the region and analyze their implications. I argue that the discourse of Fadlallah and Shams al-Din has influenced Hizbullah in Lebanon, and I contend that the Party of God incorporated this resistance discourse into its ethos and made it its defining attribute if not its raison d’être. I also maintain that through its influence on Hizbullah, this discourse has affected the development of Hamas in neighboring Palestine. What do Fadlallah and Shams al-Din mean by resistance? How do they define the concept, and in what ways do they link it to jihad?
in preparation for the advance of more conventional troops. The suicide missions assigned to the young Basijis were given religious sanction: The young men would be following in the steps of Imam Husayn.
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