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Article: A Shia Religious Perspective on Lebanese Sectarianism

The position of Shia citizens in the Lebanese system has been at the core of Lebanese Shia politics for the last forty years.

This article examines the development of the position of Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din (d.2001), who headed Lebanon’s Islamic Shi’i Supreme Council, ISSC, from 1978 to 2001, on the Lebanese sectarian system. I trace the progression of his positions which underwent three phases: first, accommodation with sectarianism, albeit with reforms proposals, during the phase of collaboration with Sayyid Musa al-Sadr in the 1970s; second, a more radicalized position that rebutted the sectarian system in the midst of the civil war and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982; and finally, a de facto acceptance of the war-ending Ta’if Agreement of 1989 that consolidated sectarianism. I argue that the changing political context of post-war Lebanon and the rise of Hezbollah as a contending force on the Shi’i Lebanese scene have propelled Shams al-Din to seek rapprochement with the Lebanese state, in line with the legacy that Musa al-Sadr had initiated in Lebanon when he founded the ISSC.

Bibliographic Information

Title: A Shia Religious Perspective on Lebanese Sectarianism: The Islamic Shi’i Supreme Council under Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din (1978-2001)

Author: Farah Kawtharani

Published in: Journal of Shi’a Islamic Studies Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 2015 pp. 159-191

 Language: English

Length: 32 pages

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