This paper presents the discourse about the religious Other of an influential cleric of the twentieth century, Muḥammad Jawād Maghniyah.
Born to a scholarly family in the Shiite-populated region of southern Lebanon known as Jabal ‘Āmil, Maghniyah completed a decade of study in the seminary town of Najaf in Iraq and began his career as a village priest after his return to Lebanon in 1936. He subsequently rose to the position of chief judge in the Shiite courts, while becoming an unusually prolific writer. Maghniyah‘s writings include not only learned books in a traditional style on law and Quranic exegesis, but also numerous shorter works in a more popular style aimed at a wider audience, along with opinion pieces contributed to journals, newspapers and magazines. Maghniyah was a reformist; he believed passionately that Islam, and particularly Shiite Islam, was meant to keep pace with modernity and deliver social justice. He was also a political activist; his dismissal from the Justice Ministry in 1956 may have been occasioned by his speaking against Lebanese participation in the pro-Western Baghdad Pact, refusing to cooperate with a leading Shiite parliamentarian, or writing a newspaper editorial against capitalism and “feudalism” (iqṭā‘), a reference to the Lebanese system in which hereditary strongmen (za‘īms) from the various confessional groups hold political power through a corrupt system of clientelism. Maghniyah‘s concern with the status of non-Shiites and non-Muslims was informed by both these stances, but above all by his desire to find a place for the poor and oppressed Shi‘ah in the Lebanese nation-state. Gaining social justice and equality for the Shi‘ah necessitated establishing a religiously-justified basis for cooperation with other communities. What attitude should be taken in such a situation toward non-Shiites and non-Muslims, and how is it possible to reconcile a multi-confessional nation-state with Islam? It is questions such as these inpire Maghniyah’s most innovative thought.
Title: A Shiite Clerical View of Other Religions and the Lebanese Nation-State: Muḥammad Jawād Maghniyah (1904-1979)
Author(s): Lynda Clarke
Published in: The Muslim World, Vol 110, Spring 2020