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FADLALLAH, MUHAMMAD HUSAYN ((November 16, 1935 – July 4, 2010), Lebanese Shi’i religious scholar and a leader, of Hizbullah (Party of God). Born in Najaf, Iraq, into a Shi’i family from `Aynata, a village in southern Lebanon close to Bint Jubayl, Fadlallah’s father was an `alim (religious scholar) in the Iraqi shrine and university city, and Fadlallah completed all of his studies there. One of his principal teachers was Abol-Qasem Kho’i (Abu al-Qasim Khu’i), whose doctrine and practice rejected direct political participation by the `ulama’ (community of religious scholars). Fadlallah cites the influence of his other teacher, Muhsin al-Hakim, and of his fellow student Muhammad Bagir al-Sadr, who was two years older. Bagir al-Sadr was politically active in the 1960s, turning the Shi’i University at Najaf into a center of political and religious opposition to the Iraqi regime, which had at first been favorably inclined toward the Communists, but was soon dominated by the Arab nationalists of the Bath party.

In 1964, the young `alim Fadlallah expressed his ideas on the function of a Muslim intellectual: “to bridge the deep divide that exists between youth and religion” because of the public status held by the `ulama’ and the distance between them and young people (1964 interview reprinted in Mantiq al-quwah, vol. 9, pp. 76-8o). When he was appointed in 1966 to the eastern suburb of Beirut, in Nab’ah, an impoverished area, Fadlallah established cultural youth clubs as well as free clinics and community centers. The motto of these clubs was “there is no such thing as a stupid or shameful ques-tion.” In his estimation, these clubs were a great success. In 1972, he also spread his message in his native region, Bint Jubayl, during severe Israeli offensives against the Palestinian bases which were “occupying” area villages, causing a Shi’l exodus toward Beirut. He finished The Logic of Force (Mantiq al-quwah) in March 1976. Also in 1976, all of Nab`ah was destroyed by bombs and emptied of its inhabitants by the extremist Maronite militia. Fadlallah recounts that he began his book on the present-day requirements of Islam (Khatawat) while the bombs were still falling. He was able to put himself “squarely in the experience of the havenots,” he said in a postscript written in August 1977.

Fadlallah was expelled with the other inhabitants and went back to the southern suburban area, which was overflowing with Shi`i refugees from southern Lebanon. From there he went to Bir al-`Abid, making trips to Ghubayri and to Shi’ah. His entire Lebanese ministry was affected by uninterrupted and ever-increasing violence on all sides, which he suffered along with the poor and defenseless citizens of Lebanon. After the 1978 disappearance of Musa al-Sadr, the charismatic head of the Harakat al-Mahrumm (Movement of the Disadvantaged) who was abducted and perhaps executed by the Libyans, and after the success of the social, religious, and political movement in Iran from 1978 to 1979, he expounded ideas of revolt inspired by those of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Fadlallah recognized Khomeini publicly in 1981 and visited him in 1984; in return, Khomeini named him marja` al-taqlid (“source of imitation”) in 1986.

In the civil-war configuration of Lebanese politics, Amal-the successor to Harakat al-Mahrumin-was pro-Syrian, anti-Palestinian, first and foremost Lebanese, not linked to Khomeini, and disposed to compromise with the Kata’ib (the Phalanges, a Maronite party) and Israel. In the summer of 1982, a coalition of uncompromising activist groups was formed, called the Orga nization of the Islamic Jihad. Fadlallah called them al-islamiyun (roughly, the “Islamists”). These groups consisted of: Amal Islam-1, formed in 1982 at Baalbek by 300 Iranian Revolutionary Guards who had arrived at the end of 1979 and which increased to 1,500 members in the Syrian-controlled area of Lebanon by the end of 1982; the Sunni Tawhild movement, based in Tripoli, which acquired Palestinian Arafatist elements beginning in 1983; and Hizbullah, in Beirut, which commanded more than 1,000. soldiers. In an open letter in February 1985, the group claimed responsibility for the “first operations of the popular Islamic resistance against Israeli occupation” in 1983. This can be understood to refer principally to the suicide bombings against the American and French barracks of the Multinational Forces in Beirut. Since 1985, Fadlallah has been the president of the Lebanese council of Hizbullah and the vicepresident of the central council in Teheran of the international Hizbullah.

In the large mosque of the area, and also at the American University in West Beirut (after the virtual Shi’i annexation of West Beirut in 1984), Fadlallah delivered sermons and lectures that were simple, clear, and reflective, yet firm and radical. These had a considerable local influence, and cassettes of them were circulated throughout the world, especially in western Europe. In the spring of 1985, with Hizbullah, Fadlallah actively defended Beirut’s Palestinian camps, which were beseiged by Amal, acting for Syria. It was thus that the first indirect armed conflict between Iran and Syria, which were nonetheless allied powers, erupted on Lebanese soil. At the end of 1985, and at the beginning of 1986, Hizbullah and its pro-Iranian allies violently rejected the inter-Lebanese agreement drawn up at Damascus in December 1985; in this rejection, Hizbullah followed the example of the Maronite Lebanese Forces and opposed Amal. The agreement was eventually renounced, just as the May 1983 Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement had been.

In the second “war of the (Palestinian) camps” waged after September 1986, Hizbullah was neutral and clashed only with Syrian troops, which were eventually deployed in West Beirut, as they had been before the summer of 1982. There were twenty-six deaths among Hizbullah forces at the end of January 1987, and the Syrian army yielded to the Islamist enclave in the south of West Beirut. At the same time, Fadlallah was taking part in two formal scholarly meetings in Tehran and Lausanne. These meetings produced the draft of the Lebanese Islamic Constitution, which was inspired by the model cast by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr at Najaf one year before he was murdered by the Iraqi head of state in April 1980. Fadlallah had cosigned that proposed constitution. However, at the same time, he revealed in a personal article his anguish and doubts about the Islamic state and the risks of absolute personal power.

Fadlallah’s political activity and commitment thus seem to stem from his theological reflections. His political commitment seems to engender and nourish his theological reflections. Since 1985, Fadlallah has not participated directly in military and political affairs. He did not succeed Shaykh Musawi, who was assassinated by Israel in 1991, as operational head of Hizbullah. When, in 1989, Shaykh `Ubaydallah was taken hostage by Israel, Fadlallah called for the liberation of all of the Lebanese hostages, not only the Western ones. Hizbullah opposed the Ta’if accord in October 1989, which proposed constitutional readjustments, but as it was enforced in 1991-1992, Syria left Hizbullah forces free to continue resistance with their light arms against Israeli forces in the Israeli “Security Zone” in the south. Fadlallah took part in the August 1992 Lebanese legislative elections, since the new system of confessional secularism, which somewhat favored the Shi`i community, seemed acceptable to him. He pronounced the Iraqi Shi`i rebellion of March 1991 to be political and democratic and not religious and sectarian. Predictably, he shared the automatic Iranian opposition to the American-brokered Arab-Israeli negotiations in Madrid in November 1991 and in Washington in 1992, and he took part in the anti-Madrid and anti-Arafat congress in Teheran in October 1992.

Aside from Fadlallah’s brief commentaries on the Qur’an, his essays on Sunni-Shi’i Muslim ecumenism, and his collections of spiritual poetry, he has been silent about the scientific nature of Orientalism, although he has striven to clothe many of his reflections in historical or psychosociological science. There is, however, nothing new in Fadlallah’s apologetics, with its concept of a union between missionary Christianity, atheism, Zionism, nationalism, Orientalism, and colonialism. His references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a tsarist forgery, as if it were an authentic source also reflects common practice; in a man as educated and cultivated as Fadlallah, such uncritical naivete is disappointing. Hizbullah intentionally reiterated the theme of a “final solution” for the Jews of Israel, a theme that had been expressly eliminated by the Palestine resistance ideology since 1968. The proclaimed Islamism of the Palestinian cause revived and legitimized for Fadlallah those antiSemitic, European National Socialist cliches, which formerly had been so important to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his companions.

As to politics in general and war in particular, Fadlallah, like Khomeini, adhered to the usuli (“fundamentalist”) tradition of modern Shiism that was established at the end of the eighteenth century as an alternative to the great tradition then called akhbari (textual). To be usuli is to valorize ijtihdd in modern circumstances, to give authoritative opinions, advice, and decisions to individuals facing new problems. In the fundamentalist tradition these opinions and authorities are numerous and varied, and each great leader (mar ja`) has his particular tradition (taqlid). Fadlallah saw taqiyah (dissimulation) as a rule governing concrete daily conduct without the supervision of a marja’ al-taghd. He reproached the Akhbaris with fixing and even sanctifying the gap between the immutable and ideal norms (shad `ah) of the golden age of the imams and daily life, which has no link with those norms and is guided only by the light of mysticism. [See Usuliyah; Akhbariyah.]

According to Fadlallah, the possibility of a violent revolution at an appropriate juncture is not excluded, because of the breach between the intangible ideal of shari’ah and traditional customs and new conditions. In addition Fadlallah has sought to emulate the revolutionary examples of ‘Ali and Husayn more than the quietist examples of the subsequent imams. He has even claimed to draw inspiration from the rebellion movements that were crushed by the Shi’i powers, backed by the `ulama’ in the name of taqiyah. He made such claims as early as the first year of the civil war in Lebanon, in 1976. At the same time, he reproached the Islamic extremists with indulging in impulsive and disorganized actions-“without taqiyah” he said. The time of taqiyah is the time of education, preparation, and organization in a party which is disciplined and adheres to a firm doctrine. Fadlallah describes the Marxist theory of revolution with both sympathy and suspicion, having in mind the Lebanese Communist party and especially the Organization of Lebanese Communist Action (OLCA), a breakaway group close to the Palestinians, in particular to the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine of Nayif Hawatimah. He is distrustful of these groups, preferring to speak of taghyir (change), rather than of thawrah (sudden revolution). He speaks highly of the reformist path, and even of reform by parliamentary means in the Western style. At the same time, he favors alliance with the Lebanese Communist party or the OLCA in order to effect the removal of the Lebanese regime. Here again one notes the ambiguity of Fadlallah’s thought.

This ambiguity was to some extent lessened by the success of the Iranian Revolution. In effect, Fadlallah recognized that a general Islamic revolution had begun, and that from then on, not to support it would be nifaq (hypocrisy), and no longer only legitimate taqiyah. He has stated that even terrorist actions are at least justified as “political jihad,” if not encouraged.

Nothing that Fadlallah has suggested concerning the modernization of fiqh (jurisprudence) has gone beyond the level of generalities—certainly seductive to his youthful listeners but lacking concrete revolutionary application. Following the model of Muhammad Baqir alSadr, and not Khomeini, he has particularly emphasized the entire scope of fiqh, and its social and political aspects. Thus he intends that the role of faqih (especially that of the marja` al-taglid) should go beyond simple director of the individual consciences. He affirms the existence of an Islamic economy, an Islamic social structure, and an Islamic politics, according to certain general principles, which, however, do not establish a specific type of political regime.

More specifically, in the applications of the supposedly modernized fiqh, Fadlallah rules out the restoration of the caliphate, and is wary of Khomeini’s own theory of wildyat al fagih al-qa’id (governance of the jurisprudent). It is true that he clearly stated his allegiance to Khomeini, but this allegiance was to his jihadi (“struggle movement”) rather than to the man himself. Thus, Fadlallah excluded the notion that Khomeini was the representative or the forerunner of the imam Mahdi. Rather, Khomeini’s legitimacy lay in the reality of his Islamic government, which, Fadlallah has said, was truly the first to be established after long centuries of expectation. He has implicitly denied the Islamic character of all other existing regimes in the Muslim world.

Fadlallah criticizes the theory of wildyat al-faqih, which he says can easily lead to autocratic personal power. He emphasizes as preferable the practice of marja` iyat al-taglid (authority of the source of imitation), once again following the example of Baqir al-Sadr, whose thoughts had contributed to its establishment and development. Fadlallah attempted to keep the wildyat al fagih within the framework of the encompassing marja’iyah, which by definition signifies pluralism. Yet he defines wildyat al-faqih as a function of control over governmental institutions at all levels; it is no longer only a matter of counsel, as with the marja`iyah, but at the same time it is not defined as direct governmental authority. [See Wilayat al-Faqih; Marja` al-Taqlid.]

The Lebanese Islamic Constitution, which Fadlallah helped develop, would provide for a lajnah (commission) of wildyat al fagih to exist alongside the president of the republic, elected for four years, the government, the parliament, and the head of the army (who may be the president). However, this commission would have the power to dismiss the parliament, suspend the government, and demand the president’s resignation, as well as nominate and dismiss him. It would be the commission which would put forth the candidates for president. This lajnah would be a version of the traditional all-powerful revolutionary councils of the Arab world.

Fadlallah’s democratic views and his misgivings about the totalitarian wilayat al -faqih, excluding the maija` altaqlid, are no longer apparent in this document. The legitimacy of this Lebanese lajnah was to be Khomeini, the sole faqih qa’id of all the Muslims in the world. The Lebanese president of this local lajnah would be presented simply as Khomeini’s representative, designated by him. In this regard, Fadlallah finally acknowledged a unique supreme authority (wilayah), as well as delegated, dependent local authorities. The theory of the pluralist marja’iyah thus collapsed. One should recall that Fadlallah had at this same time pondered the question, which he termed “agonizing” of the choice between a sole wilayah for the world or multiple authorities in Muslim countries; the choice was thus between an imperial Muslim state under one single authority or a federation, or better, confederation, of autonomous Islamic states which would meet periodically in a central assembly led by Khomeini. The Lebanese Islamic Constitution adopted the former solution.

Fadlallah also addressed the status of non-Muslims in a professed Islamic state. For him, secular individual freedom does not exist. Going against the great Muslim tradition existing in practice as well as theory since the eleventh century, he rejects the fundamental distinction between political and religious power. He opposed his teachers who did not wish to become involved in political activity, in particular his own mentor in Najaf, alKho’i. He praised the involvement of Baqir al-Sadr in the Da’wah party in Iraq, and explains al-Sadr’s eventual withdrawal and even his refusal to let his disciples be politically active as only a tactical decision of superior wisdom (taqiyah) in the face of the all-powerful police strength of Saddam Hussein. Fadlallah himself emphasizes the necessity for a well-organized political party in the service of Islam.

One might have expected that his experience in Lebanon, his commendation of coexistence with Christians, his desire for a substantive dialogue, and his desire for an open and humanized fiqh would have brought him to discover new solutions. This has not been the case. He has maintained that Christians must renounce political sectarianism. Yet, although he asserts that Muslims should do so as well, in fact the Christians’ situation is seen from the perspective of strict Muslim sectarianism. The desired Muslim state is not founded on the legal equality of all people, regardless of their religious and family ties, even though these ties might be taken into account, as in the present-day Lebanese constitution. The same situation applies to the rights of women and the family. Undoubtedly appealing to the new generation of young people, Fadlallah, unusual for a `slim, encourages young women and even mothers to work professionally. In this respect, he is consistent with Iranian practice since 1979. He suggests no new attitude toward mixed marriages, a particular issue in Lebanon, and a concrete element in the Islamic-Christian dialogue he claims to wane. One concession to modernity is a certain understanding of premarital sexual relations. He recommends that, within the framework of a trial, stoning for “crimes of honor” should not result in death. In effect, the hudud (Qur’anic penalties) are in general seen as being the concern of the judicial powers and not the victims themselves.


[See also Hizbullah, article on Hizbullah in Lebanon; Lebanon; Shi`i Islam, article on Modern RIM Thought; and the biography of Sadr.]


Works by Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah

Al-Islam wa-mantiq al-quwah. 2d ed. Beirut, 1981. Khatawat `ala tariq al-Islam. 3d ed. Beirut, 1982. Mafahim Isldmiyah. 12 vols. 4th ed. Beirut, 1982. Ma’a al-hikmah bi-khan al-Islam. Beirut, 1985. Collection of articles published between 1979 and 1981.

Al-muqawamah al-Islamiyah. Beirut, 1985.

“Ala tariq harakat al-quwah fi al-dawlah al-Islamiyah.” Al-tawhid (March 1986): 85-102.

Secondary Sources

Carre, Olivier. L’utopie islamique dans i’Orient arabe. Paris, 1991. See chapter 9, “Khomeinisme libanais: Orgueilleux et desherites chez Fadlallah,” and chapter to, “La revolution islamique selon Fadlallah.”

Duran, Khalid. Islam and Politischer Extremismus. Hamburg, 1985. Kramer, Martin. “Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah.” Orient, no. 2 (1985) 147-149.


Translated from French by Elizabeth Keller



He had been hospitalized several times in the months before his death suffering from internal bleeding. His frailty was also a reason for his inability to deliver Friday sermons in the weeks preceding his death. Fadlallah’s Media Office announced his death at Al-Hassanein Mosque in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hureik on July 4, 2010 at the age of 74. His office said the funeral was scheduled for July 6 at 13:30 p.m. leaving from his house to be buried in Al-Hasanein Mosque. His family members then started to receive condolences at the Hassanein mosque.

The day was also declared by Lebanon as a day of national mourning.The cabinet’s General Secretariat said all public institutions and administrations, headquarters of municipalities, private and public schools and universities would be closed. The Lebanese flag would be lowered to half-mast in public institutions and administration, and the headquarters of municipalities. Radio and television programmes would also be “adjusted in line with the painful occasion.”

At his funeral his supporters carried his body around Shia neighbourhoods in southern Beirut. They then marched to the spot of his 1985 assassination attempt before returning to Imam Rida Mosque where he was laid to rest. Thousands of mourners gathered at the mosque for prayer services before the funeral procession. Delegations included representatives from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Syria and Iran.Thousands of his followers also gathered outside his mosque in Haret Hreik. Al-Manar broadcast the funeral. They said that during his funeral thousands of his followers took part in his funeral, and told “his eminence for the last time their ‘own secrets’ and vowing to stay committed to his path. They told him that even if he has died, he will remain the ideal and the model for them, that even if he has died, his eminence will remain a great man in the eyes of all those who had the chance to know him, and his views will continue to circulate from one generation to another.” It also added that his followers “launched a school of beliefs and thoughts, a school that would always be committed to the main causes of Islam, from Jihad to Resistance, and face all foreign threats against the region.” It claimed that he “committed to the central cause, Palestine, calling to fight occupation through all possible means. His eminence issued different ‘fatwa’s calling to fight Israel and boycott American goods and ban normalizing of relations, and was a ‘true supporter’ of Islamic unity all over his life. In his last moments before his death, Sayyed Fadlullah was still preoccupied with the cause. He was asking about the dawn prayers and telling his nurse that he wouldn’t rest before Israel’s vanishing.”

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/fadlallah-muhammad-husayn/

  • writerPosted On: November 7, 2012
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