Political Awareness of the Shi’ites in Lebanon: The Role of Sayyid `Abd al-Husain Sharaf al-Din (السيد عبدالحسين شرف الدين الموسوي)

October 6, 2012



The above link is to a Ph.D dissertation regarding the life of Sayyid `abd al-Husain Sharaf al-Din, a prominent Lebanese Muslim scholar. Sayyid Sharaf al-Din was born in 1873 in Kadhmiyya in Iraq; his father had left his village, Shuhur, in Jabal ‘Anil to pursue his religious studies in Iraq. When Sharaf al-Din returned he followed his father’s path as a cleric,’ and pursued his own religious studies in Iraq in turn in 1891. He reached a high religious position and received six academic ijazat (licences) from senior ‘ulama in Iraq. His religious studies were not confined to Shiism but also included Zaidism and Sunnism.

His religious activities took him beyond Jabal ‘AmiL In 1910 he went to Egypt and engaged in a dialogue with Shaikh al-Azhar Salim al-Bishri over the differences between Sunni and Shiite concepts of the succession to the Prophet and other Shiite beliefs. This dialogue was later published as al-Muraja’at (dialogue), and continued after Sharaf al-Din had returned to Lebanon in 1921. Sharaf al-Din died in 1957, only one year before the new head of al-Azhar Shaikh Mahmud Shaltut issued a fatwa confirming that the Ithna ‘Ashari Shiite sect does not differ in the basic Islamic principles from the four major Sunni sects. During his stay in Egypt Sharaf al-Din received three more ijazat from Sunni ‘ulama: Salim al-Bishri, Muhammad Bakhit, and Muhammad al-Samluti.

His efforts to maintain a Shi’ite leadership for the community were of immense importance, particularly at the height of the power struggle for the leadership between two well-established and reputable families, the Shi’ite family of al-As’ad and the Sunni family of al-Sulh, both from Jabal `Amil. It was Sharaf al-Din’s priority to secure a Shi’ite leadership by supporting al-As’ad and to strengthen the community by launching a series of welfare organisations through which to raise socio-economic levels. His most important achievement was the establishment of the modern school of al-Jafiriyya in Tyre. This school played a major role in the 1958 revolution, and constituted a nucleus for the resistance movement against President Chamoun


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