At the foundation of Hezbollah's ideological organization is an idealized Islamic state: a profoundly messianic construction, which has, as yet, not been fulfilled. This pan-Islamic republic will be headed by religious clerics. Only when the Mahdi or hidden Imam reappears can the utopian state of the Shi'ites truly achieve fulfillment. As a result, Hezbollah must focus its attention on the pre- Mahdist construction of the state, which they perceive, in one form, is represented by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In turn, much of their theory of the state is directly taken from the theories of Khomeini.

Hezbollah's aim is not to "end the occupation of Palestine ," or even to "liberate all of Palestine ." Its goal is to kill the world's Jews. Listen to the words of its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah: "If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." (NY Times, May 23, 2004, p. 15, section 2, column 1.)

The solution to Lebanon 's problems, Hezbollah proclaims, is the establishment of an Islamic republic. Only this type of regime can secure justice and equality for all of Lebanon 's citizens. Concurrently, Hezbollah refuses to accept the idea of an independent Lebanon . Instead, it appeals for the assimilation of Lebanon into a greater Islamic state. (A. Nizar Hamzeh, "Lebanon's Hizbullah: From Islamic Revolution to Parliamentary Accommodation," Third World Quarterly, Vol. 14, No.2, 1993).

According to official party statements, Hezbollah follows a doctrinal path firmly grounded in Islam. Its message is one that seeks to establish universal peace and justice. "The kind of Islam that Hezbollah seeks is a civilized one that refuses any kind of oppression, degradation, subjugation, and colonization. Hezbollah also stretches its arm of friendship to all on the basis of mutual self-respect." ("Hezbollah: Identity and Goals," available at

Hezbollah seeks to restore Islam to a position of supremacy in the political, social, and economic life of the Muslim world. It is this goal that has attracted the material, financial, political, and social support of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, there is a great deal of cooperation between Hezbollah and the Iranian government. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s there were several hundred Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Bekaa valley training and assisting Hezbollah soldiers. In the political realm, Iran administers the affairs of Hezbollah through the guise of the Lebanon Council or Majlis Lubnan. (Martin Kramer, Hezbollah's Vision of the West, Washington Institute for Near East Policy Papers, Number Sixteen, 1989, 105-106.)

Hezbollah leaders routinely invoke the names and deeds of Shi'a martyrs as a tool of mobilization and action within the movement, linking the cause of Hezbollah to the historical Shi'a search for justice and freedom from oppression. 1360 years ago today, Imam Hussein stood on the battlefield of Kerbala, surrounded by a large force of thousands of enemy soldiers . With just a small band of followers, Imam Hussein's stand was aimed at reminding the soldier's who faced him of God, His messenger Mohammad, and of how they would be held accountable for their own deeds on the Day of Judgment. In fact, Imam Hussein's rallying cry didn't just address those enemy soldiers. It has addressed the generations of all coming ages since then ... Though heavily outnumbered, Imam Hussein decided to fight, recognizing that Islam has no place for humiliation ... Kerbala is the one, which inspired our souls and spirits and gave us struggle and steadfastness. The blood of Imam Hussein has breathed life into the souls and minds of all who have since followed him. 1360 years after Imam Hussein's blood was spilt, that same blood runs in our veins and helped us to defeat the Israelis in South Lebanon . This holy blood will always keep us on the side of the oppressed and motivate us to defend the just causes of the nation and reject humiliation and oppression. (Quoted from  www.

Hezbollah perceives of the West in a religious and political context shaped by two important notions. First is a traditional confrontation and antagonism between Islam and Christianity going back to the Crusades. Second, is their perception of modern European and American imperialism in the Middle East beginning in the aftermath of World 'War 1. They assert that Western objectives in the region are grounded exclusively in their self-interested pursuit of power, in particular, the control of oil in the region. Hezbollah openly condemns many leaders in the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia , for kowtowing to American interests. (Hala Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengeance, Columbia University Press, 1997, 55, 57.)

The principal weapon of Hezbollah has been suicide bombing: young Shi'ite combatants who have volunteered to maneuver vehicles loaded with explosives into Israeli targets and, in the process, kill themseh-es. Such a powerful weapon was new to the region-prior to Hezbollah no one had utilized such a tactic before. At the foundation of such a tactic is not secular authority, strong discipline and training, or even personal anger-it is a religious faith growing out of a pervasive sense of alienation. As one young resistance fighter asserted:

We have a firm belief in our land. It is rightfully ours and we have the right to defend and liberate it from the occupiers. The Resistance is not led by commanders, it is directed by the tenets of Islam ... it is faith [that drives us]. No one might believe us, but it emanates from our faith-that wondrous weapon, which no armaments in the world can destroy, united our town's residents, despite the fact that they had belonged to different political parties and affiliations before the invasion. (Quoted in Jaber, 1997, 23.)


In 1968, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) began utilizing bases in south Lebanon as staging areas for raids across the border into Israel . Then in 1978, Israel launched "Operation Litani." Their goal was the establishment of a "security zone" between the PLO and the Israeli border communities. (Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 179-180 .) Fouad. The Vanished Iman:Musa  Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon, Cornell University Press, 1986, 115.

Four years later and in the presence of a continuing frustration with PLO activities in the region, the Israelis actually invaded south Lebanon . This invasion was a violent event that engendered catastrophic damage on the Shi'ite communities, and became the most significant catalyst in the formation of Hezbollah because it was the final phase in a process that truly radicalized the community and made it clear that tlle Shi'ites must take action to protect not only themselves but their way of life. Over 80 percent of villages in the area were damaged. Indeed, seven were completely destroyed. In the process, 19,000 Shi'ites died and 32,000 more were injured.The invasion increased the flow of Shi'ites out of the south and into the urban areas of Beirut . This exacerbated the mounting problem of poverty among these refugees and increased the size of the Shi'ite "Belt of Misery," which was rapidly becoming a hotbed of militant Shi'ite groups. (Jaber, Hezbollah, 11.)

Muslim eschatology has as its main antagonist the Jewish Dajjal and his minions. David Cook points out in his book on Muslim apocalyptic that for Muslims who take their eschatology seriously (and that seems to be a growing number today), "the Jew" is the metahistorical foe, whereas "the Christian" is (merely) the historical one.

Georges Vajda, in a seminal 1937 essay (Juifs et Musulmans selon le hadit [Jews and Muslims according to the hadith]. Journal Asiatique, 1937, Vol. 229, pp. 57-129.)—provides an overall assessment of the portrayal of the Jews in the hadith collections (the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as recorded by pious transmitters), complemented by Koranic verses, and observations from the earliest Muslim biographies [or “sira”] of Muhammad.

Vajda’s research demonstrates how in Muslim eschatology Jews are described as adherents of the DajjÇl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—and as per another tradition, the DajjÇl is in fact Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions state that the DajjÇl will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil.  When the DajjÇl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree. Thus, according to a canonical hadith, (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985), if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!”

As Vajda observes,

Not only are the Jews vanquished in the eschatological war, but they will serve as ransom for the Muslims in the fires of hell. The sins of certain Muslims will weigh on them like mountains, but on the day of resurrection, these sins will be lifted and laid upon the Jews.

Hence one can better understand the obsessive fixation on the Jews in both Shi’ite and Sunni eschatology, and the obvious connection to the ongoing jihad being waged to destroy Israel .

A second factor contributing to the emergence of Hezbollah was the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This upheaval was a watershed event in the history of modern Shi'ism because it engendered a wholly new form of Islamic Radicalism on the political map of the entire Middle East . As a result, it inspired a chain of political violence and actions that still challenge both the incumbent regimes and Western powers in ways never before seen. The revolution in Iran reshaped the relationship between the Shi'a community and the greater Arab world. Prior to the revolution, the perception of the "Persian connection" of the Lebanese Shi'a community \vas that of a sociopolitical burden "to be carried like a yoke around their necks." (Graham E. Fuller and  Rahim Francke, The Arab Shi’a, 1999, 1.)

In the aftermath of the revolution, perceptions of Shi'ism took on a much different character. For the first time in the modern age a significant revolt had succeeded in the name of Islam. This was perceived to have added enormous cultural authenticity to the Shi'a community. Finally, the old tradition of social and political fatalism and submission had come to an end, for good. 'What replaced it was a powerful messianic political, social, and cultural movement led not by the military, nationalists, or even radical secularists but Shi'a clerics. "Now the same individuals who had called men to worship were now calling them to armed revolution." And, this model was having a profound influence on the young Shi'a radical clerics of Lebanon . They quickly offered their allegiance to Khomeini and his religio-political ideology and began to envision a similar revolt in Lebanon. (Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 191.)

As early as 1982, pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini began to appear in Shi'ite communities in southern Lebanon . This was a clear indication that the Hezbollah movement now unfolding would be domiluted by two characteristics. First, it would be a religious-based movement, not a secular one. Second, assistance and ideological influence would come trom Iran . Following the Israeli invasion, Iran sent 1,500 Revolutionary Guard troops to Baalbeck in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, which had become the base of the movement, to aid the emerging Islamic Resistance. Almost immediately, these troops took charge of Hezbollah's security operations. (Jaber, Hezbollah, 19-20, 48.)

Accompanying the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were religious instructors, who immediately went to work recruiting a number of young, radical Lebanese clerics affiliated with the Lebanese branch of Al-Dawa and Islamic AMAL, a splinter faction from the larger Amal movement, which had become more secularized under the leadership of'K'abih Berri.  And in 1984, as Hezbollah moved in to take effective control of west Beirut , the presence of its militia became more visible on city streets. Hezbollah fighters wore green bands around their heads that carried inscriptions such as Allahu Akbar, or "God is Greater," and Qaaidowna Khomeini, or "our leader is Khomeini." Posters that bore the image of the Iranian leader were everywhere in sight. (Magnus Ranstorp, Hizb’allah in Lebanon,1997, 26-27.)

The notion of the leadership of Hezbollah can be a bit confusing. In contrast to ‘Western’ models of structured organizational management and clear lines of authority, no such arrangements exist within the Party of God. As a result, authority within Hezbollah is not easily understood in the context of conventional Western-style models of power, structure, and compliance. Rather, it is grounded in the capacity to simply influence and convince members and followers to pursue organizational goals. And, in the Shi'a worldview, the capacity to influence and sway the public at large rests in one's ability to construct and articulate your message in the jargon of Islam. So, religio-political authority is not endowed; it is conveyed through eloquence and perceptions of a divinely ordained communication. As a result, a more successful way to pursue the question of political leadership and authority within Hezbollah is to inquire as to who is in the best position to influence and convince the community, "whether that means convincing hostage-holders to release their hostages, or persuading young men to offer their lives in suicidal assaults.” (Martin Kramer, Hezbollah’s Vision of the West, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Papers, No. 16, 1989,9.)

It is important to acknowledge the public bond between Khomeini and Musa al-Sadr. To Khomeini, al-Sadr was both a "son and a disciple." At one juncture, Khomeini declared: "I can say that I nearly raised him." On another occasion Khomeini speculated that al-Sadr's mysterious disappearance in Libya , 'which he referred to as his "detention," represented a form of "suffering in the cause of Islam," and suggested that, similar to Imams of the past, al-Sadr "would return to his followers." (Quoted in Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 196.)

Just like Khomeini, the party accepts the notion that the Faqih is the chosen representative of the Twelfth Imam that rules over the community during his occultation. (Ammar al-Mussawi," Interview by Giles Trendle, Lebanon Report, Vol. 5, No. 12, December 1994, 10; Al-Sayyid Hassan Nasru'llah, "Jerusalem Day" southern suburbs of Beirut, al-Manar Television, January 15 and 24, 1999.)

Eleven imams, in Shi'ite teaching, succeeded Ali on the basis of male primogeniture. The historical record on ten of them is sparse but devoid of overtly mystical elements. The tenth successor and eleventh imam, Hasan al-Askari, left no heir, however, causing Shi'ites to split into several sects. The dominant one holds that Hasan al-Askari did have a son after all, Abul-Qasim Muhammad (the same name as that of the "Prophet" himself). HE is supposedly al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam who has been in hiding for the past 1132 years. He is being kept miraculously alive by Allah in a cave and he will return shortly before the Day of Final Judgment, waging war on the forces of evil, ushering in a period of perfect rule, and heralding the end-times. The believers in this tradition are known as Ithna-Ashari - i.e. "Twelver," or Imami Shi'a - and their sect is commonly treated as synonymous with Shi'ite Islam in general.

For as long as the Imam remains hidden, the world is doomed to remain fallen. Shi'ites are fixated on the end-times and they are on the constant lookout for the signs of the pending return of the Hidden Imam; this shapes not only Shi'as' philosophy of life and culture, but also their politics, and - as attested by Iranian President Ahmadinejad's  verbalized fantasy of annihilating Israel. Part of this fantasy, and also the inspiration for it, is the apocalyptic world vision of Ahmadinejad -- and of many of his co-rulers. This vision involves the Islamic Shiite belief in the return of the Hidden Imam, who, according to some, was supposed to have returned on August 22, 2006, which Ahmadinejad ominously referred to when speaking about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The date has passed, of course, and no Hidden Imam has yet, arguably, appeared; nor has an Apocalypse, in our literal understanding of it, transpired.

However many, if not most, of the openly declared and reified Mahdist movements over the last millennium were Sunni ones (Ibn Tumart, Ahmad Barelwi, Sayyid Jawnpuri, Muhammad Ahmad, etc.).  And in fact, the last overt Mahdist movement was the 1979 attempt by Juhayman al-`Utaybi and a cadre of followers to overthrow the KSA government in the name of the Mahdi, his brother-in-law Muhammad al-Qahtani.  Now while the Saudi regime of course condemned and repressed this attempted coup, note that a revolutionary Mahdist movement erupted in the heart of Wahhabi Sunnism.

What seems to happen with the recent radicalization of Islam however is that that Sunni and Shi`i views of the dire straits of the ummah, and the need for the Mahdi/UnHidden Imam to appear, will increasingly converge such that sizable factions of each branch of Islam would be willing to accept a charismatic leader as the Mahdi. And since I'm convinced that Usama bin Ladin, the most charismatic leader in the Islamic world (still outshining Nasrallah), is in Iran being protected by the ayatollahs, there is a very real possibility that UBL could emerge in the near future as the "ecumenical" leader of the jihadist world, both Sunni and Shi`ite.
Thus, Hezbollah adherents envision themselves as "fighters for God." As explained by Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah:
The faqih is the guardian during the absence [of the Twelfth Imam], and the extent of his authority is wider than that of any other person ... we must obey al-wali al-faqih; disagreement with him is not permitted. The guardianship of the faqih is like the guardianship of the Prophet Mohammed and of the infallible Imam ... His wisdom derives from God and the family of the prophet, and he approaches the divine ... When [velayat-e faqih] orders that someone be obeyed, such obedience is obligatory. (Quoted in Martin Kramer, "Redeeming Jerusalem: The Pan-Islamic Premise of Hizballah," in David Menashri, ed., The Iranian Revolution and the Muslim World, 1990, 113.)

Where we pointed out the important role of conspiracy theories in Iran, also Hezbollah leader, Sadr forwarded conspiracy theories; suspecting among others an Arab- Israeli plot to settle Palestinians in Lebanon , hence he moved to south Lebanon to help foil this scheme. And to confuse matters more, Pro-shah Iranians painted him as a long-term agent of Ayatollah Khomeini. Anti-shah Iranians claimed that the shah paid as much as $1 million to ensure Sadr's rise to the top of Lebanon 's Shi'i hierarchy, or even that he was sent to Lebanon to bring that country under Iranian control. The PLO called him an agent of the CIA or the Lebanese government. The Libyans accused him of building up Shi' a power on Israel 's behalf. The Muslim Brethren emphasized Sadr's deep connections" to Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad. Others tied him to the Iraqi regime. Italian police suspected him of training members of the extreme left-wing organization Prima Linea.

Sadr's end is a source of enduring mystery. Actually, he went one better than the nineteenth-century figure by not dying but (in the classic Shi'i style) disappearing. Accepting an invitation from Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi, he visited Libya in August 1978. The Libyans claimed he then left the country by airplane for Italy , but multiple inquiries make it clear that Sadr never boarded the Bight. Why? Many hypotheses have been forwarded; the most likely is that Qadhdhafi accused Sadr of conspiring against Arab unity, Sadr responded with anger, and Qadhdhafi had him executed. (D.Pipes, The Hidden Hand, 1996, 347.)

Sunni Mahdists seem to be conflicted about how to view Iran , especially since the Islamic Republic was established there. On one hand, the revolution there is seen as a beacon of hope for Islamists everywhere; on the other hand, it has inspired false mahdis (like the al-`Utaybi uprising of 1979 in KSA) and, more importantly, it's suspect because it represents but the latest Shi`i resurgence going back to the Safavids and their wars with the Sunni Ottomans. But this jaundiced view of Iran and it's Shi`ism is being overshadowed today by the ecumenical tendency within Islam that sees the Sunni-Shi`i divide as far less important than uniting against the common enemy: the West in general and the U.S. in particular. And thus  even Sunni Mahdist works in recent decades have described the Islamic Revolution in Iran as necessary to save Iran from the nefarious influence of "Jews and foreigners."

In early 1983, Hezbollah made the effort to establish its first centralized leadership, known as the shoura or council, which incorporate: three members; although, over time, this number has averaged around seven members. It is the responsibility of the shoura to make final decisions about all political, military, and social policies. As a result, Hezbollah's structure is, in some respects, rather loosely organized. In other respects, it is quite clearly defined. This results in two distinct components of the movement. The first component includes the key party officials. The second component includes the mass of the party adherents. The Party of God does not consider itself to have "members."

Because it deems itself a pan-Islamic movement, "whose ideology spreads beyond the domestic confines of a conventional political party, its followers or adherents are considered to be the masses." The shoura is led by the secretary general of Hezbollah, although he is not permitted to make any decisions unilaterally. The role of the secretary general is a functional one. He acts more as a coordinator and facilitator of the council, than as a powerful leader. (Jaber, Hezbollah, 66.)

Consistent with the teachings of Khomeini, power within Hezbollah centers on clerics who provide the community with both spiritual and political guidance. It is through these individuals and their teachings that the community hears of Hezbollah's position on major political issues and even their justification for violence. This takes place in a very decentralized environment in which every cleric has his own particular mosque, much like that of a parish priest, in which the ministers to the people at the grass roots level.

By the mid,1980s, a new spiritual leader of Hezbollah-Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah-had emerged. Born in Najafin 1935, Fadlallah was also educated there during the religio-political ferment that pervaded the great center of Shi'a theology in the 1950s. (Martin Kramer, "The Oracle of Hizbullah: Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah," in R. Scott Appleby, ed., Spokesman for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East, University of Chicago Press, 1997,83-181.)

In 1962, Fadlallah visited Lebanon and assisted Musa al-Sadr in preparing a written letter of protest against the policies of the shah of Iran . During this trip, he was impressed with what al-Sadr had been able to accomplish in Lebanon in such a short period of time. In addition, he may have been influenced to move there because of ancestral ties on his mother's side. His mother's father had been a notable figure among the powerful Bazzi family that lived in Bint Jubayl and his uncle had been a minister of the Lebanese government. Fadlallah arrived for good in Beirut in 1966. (Ibid.)

The disappearance of al-Sadr in 1978 "opened a gate of opportunity for Fadlallah and his message.  He was now in a position to gradually assume the mantle of mystical guidance within the community. Because he knew, in particular, the Shi'ite youth of Beirut so well he could fully appreciate their anger and disappointment, and could harness its force for the achievement of a political purpose. His capacity to mold his message in such a way as to respond to the messianic expectations of the community made the endeavor complete. Nonetheless, despite his growing power, he preferred to remain outside of any formal connection to Hezbollah, asserting:

The claim that I am the leader of Hizbullah is baseless and untrue. I am not the leader of any organization or party. It seems that when they could not find any prominent figure to pin this label on, and when they observed that I was active in the Islamic field, they decided to settle on me. It could be that many of those who are considered to be part of Hizbullah live with us in the Mosque and they might have confidence in me. Who is the leader of Hizbullah? Obviously he is the one who has influence. So, when they cannot see anybody on the scene, no spokesman, no prominent political figure speaking out for Hizbullah, they try to nail it on a specific person, whose name is linked to every incident.] (Kramer cites this Fadlallah interview from Monday Morning, October 15, 1984.)

In his book Islam and the Logic of Force, Fadlallah:- formalizes his argument that only through militancy can the Shi'ite achieve their political goals. “Force means that the world gives you its resources and its wealth: conversely, in conditions of weaknesses, a man's life degenerates, hi, energies are wasted; he becomes subject to something that resembles suffocation and paralysis. History, the history of war and peace, of science and wealth, is the history of the strong.” (Quoted in Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 214-215.)

But, what about the notion of the hidden Imam- Fadlallah hypothesized that the notion of the Imam Mahdi does not require the Shi'a community to wait passively for his return, while accepting an unjust state in his absence. The concept does not demand that Shi'ites forsalce the political realm. "Society needs a state," he asserted, it "needs to be organized ... the issue is not the existence of an infallible Imam but society's innate need for a ruling order, to rescue men from confusion and chaos." It also does not require that men remain disengaged and passively accept the oppression and injustice imposed on them by others. Armed confrontation, he argued, did not come to an end with the death of Husayn. It is an incorrect interpretation of history to assume that after the tragedy at Karbala that Shi'ism entered a long-term period of silence in which the community quietly accepts the rule and accepts him without question. The evasion of struggle does not have to be an enduring condition of the community and an undeviating response to injustice and oppression. So, Fadlallah was articulating the concept of an Islamic state well before that of even Khomeini. (Kramer, Hezbollah's Vision of the West, 15.)

In addition, he argued that Shi'ism can be and is an ideology of revolution and a response to the injustice of the world. His writings and speeches came to be a call to arms for the community by injecting the necessary justification for political violence in response to immorality and unworthy leadership in the state. What this allowed ,vas the convergence of two Shi'ite movements in Lebanon into one:

Hezbollah. At one level, it represented an "extremist millenarian revolt" that did not hesitate to utilize political violence to achieve its political and social goals. At another level, it was a "reformist mainstream" movement that could equally utilize humanitarianism and provide social services to the community to assist them at a time of dire need. And, both of these "were grafted onto the legacy of Musa al-Sadr by their respective adherents." (Ajami, The Vanished Imam, 217.)

The Lebanon Jihad

The Shi'a community is one of eighteen different religious groups that comprise the ‘Confessional’ -based political system in Lebanon . These include Sunni Muslims, Christian Maronites, Greek Orthodox, and Druze Muslims. Just as the Druze and Maronites, the Shi'a are a minority sect within their respective religions.

During the era of the Ottoman Empire , the Shi'a played virtually no role in the politics of the region, because the Ottomans ruled in the name of Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. (Juan Cole, Sacred Space and Holy War, 2002,16-30. )

During the latter years of the Ottoman Empire, the area surrounding Mount Lebanon in the Levant had been an autonomous region dominated by the Christian Maronites. Following World War I, the Maronites were successful in increasing the territory under their control to include the Bekaa Valley in what is now the southern part of Lebanon . This expansion of the control of the Maronites was supported by the French government, which had received the mandate over both Syria and Lebanon following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. (Kamal Salibi, A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered, University of California Press, 1988, 17.)

The new lands that came under the expanded control of the Maronites contained large numbers of both Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. The Sunni, in particular, strongly objected to Maronite rule over what they considered to be their lands. In response, and in an attempt to maintain control, the Maronites eventually struck a deal with Shi'a leaders. In return for a large degree of their own freedom of political action in the south, the Shi'a agreed to accept Maronite control. The Shi'a had long lived in the region as a minority group persecuted by the Sunni majority and, at the very least, sought to bring that practice to an end. Their efforts were successful. As a result oftheir support of the Maronites, the Shi'ites soon materialized as a distinct and important faction in Lebanon; a position they had not been able to assume previously. Indeed, beginning in 1926, the French allowed the Shi'ites to create their own, autonomous, religious-based infrastructure and to practice their religion without outside interference. (Jaber, Hezbollah, 9.)

As expected, the Christian Maronites emerged as the dominant political actor in the mandate. Out of respect for the diverse factions however, political power was divided among the various religious entities. In addition, certain political arrangements were established in an attempt to maintain regime stability and legitimacy. For example, the presidency of Lebanon would always be in the hands ofthe Christian Maronites, the prime minister would always be a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the National Assembly would always be in the hands of the Shi'as. Additionally, the ratio of Christian members of the assembly to Muslim members was fixed at six to five, a relationship that reflected the demographic majority of the Christians in 1932. This arrangement guaranteed that the Sunnis and the Christians would control the leading political and military positions in the new state of Lebanon.

Following ' World War II , Lebanon began to modernize. This process had a significant impact on all members of the state both socially and politically. And, this was particularly true of the Shi'ites. The infrastructure of the entire country began to both expand and improve. Transportation was made easier, which contributed to an influx of Shi'ites into Beirut , searching for a better life. Nonetheless, an almost immediate result was the rapid expansion of the "Belt of Misery."

Modernization impacted the media and the availability of information among the entire population. Radio and television contributed to a growing awareness among the Shi'a that their position within Lebanon was not what it could be, in a way that they had not been impacted before. This exacerbated their sense of relative deprivation and made the lack of social mobility, all the more painfully obvious. Most Shi'a in Lebanon saw an almost continuous sequence of what they perceived of as unjust government and a society that simply did not seem to work for them. And, Sunni hegemony within the Islamic community, placing the Shi'a in a sort of permanent minority status among the faithful, tended to exacerbate these problems.

Thus during the 1940s and 1950s, a significant gap was growing, economically, politically, and socially, between the Shi'ites and the rest of the country, largely because the government in Beirut tended to neglect them. Perhaps worse yet, semi feudal, landowning elites in the south were far more interested in their own personal gain than they were in the welfare of the Shi'a community as a whole. As a result, whereas the rest of Lebanon was modernizing, the Shi'ites lacked basic necessities: schools, hospitals, roads, and even running water in many instances. In comparison with the prospering areas of the Sunnis and Christians, their standard ofliving was medieval. As an example, in an analysis prepared in 1943, at the time of Lebanon 's independence, it was noted that there was not one hospital in the entire south Lebanon area. The closest health clinic was in Sidon , Tyre , or Nabatiyya, all in the middle or northern sections of the country. Further, the availability of water for irrigation or human consumption was a persistent problem in the region. Nonetheless, there was very little that the new Lebanese state was willing or was able to do for the minority and increasingly marginalized Shi'a community. (For details see Graham E. Fuller and Rend Rahim Francke, The Arab Shi’a: The Forgotten Muslims, 1999)

At another level, Shi'a religious leaders and many members of the lay public did not trust the government, which they perceived of as a secular, unworthy, activity. As a result, members of the Shi'ite community purposely held back from participating in public affairs, even within those fields that were within reach to them professionally. (Fuller and Francke, The Arab Shi’a, 46.)

In 1958, a civil war erupted in Lebanon , largely as a result of the increased factionalism caused by the political arrangements established over 20 years earlier. Predictably, the Christian community had developed an increasingly pro-Western orientation, gaining the favor of not only France , but the United States . This orientation came into conflict with the growing pan-Arab ideology of the Sunni Muslims throughout the region. Ultimately, U.S. troops intervened in the fighting and order was established when the leader of Lebanon 's army, Fouad Chehab, was elected president. (Fuller and Francke, 10.)

Then came, Ayatollah Khomeini who sought to connect the Shi'a past, with the Shi'a nature, and contend that “Western” thought and values are dangerous. He advanced the new theory of political Islam that promoted direct clerical rule whose task it was to act as representatives of the hidden Imam. Plus as he stated:

The two qualities of knowledge of the law and justice are present in countless fuqaha [the religious scholars] of the present age. If they would come together, they could establish a government of universal justice in the world . If a worthy individual possessing these two qualities arises and establishes a government, he will possess the same authority as the Most Noble Messenger in the administration of society, and it will be the duty of all people to obey him. (Khomeini, Islam and Revolution)

The concept of political authority resting in the hands of one high-ranking, religious scholar was not new in Shi'a scholarship and theology. And it was certainly not created by Khomeini. Such a concept is steeped in Iranian tradition and culture. It was first expressed in written form, and in a religio-political context, over 100 years before bv the Mullah Ahmad Naraqi. Khomeini was now reactivating it, with some modifications, "as a plausible theory of theocratic monism that was to assume the character of a miraculously revealed panacea to reverse imitative Westernization and to cure the strains of the rapidly emerging industrial society." (See, Arjomand, The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam, 268-269.)

Since the hidden Imam remains in occultation, the legal and spiritual sovereignty that rests with him cannot be fully exercised. As result, he requires the assistance of representatives in the temporal world to deal 'with the practical and spiritual matter of guiding the community. The logical choice for these representatives is the ulama who have traditionally interpreted Islamic law for centuries. From among the ulama, one can emerge who is the most enlightened and venerated cleric within the community. Ultimate authority of interpretation rests in his hands: the velayat-e faqih. (See En'and Abrahamian, The Iranian Mohahedin, Yale University Press, 1989, p.22 .)

Then as we have seen in p.1 Al-Sadr, a Persian by birth, and thus non-Arab, was capable of leading the Arab Shi'a community of south Lebanon.

In 1975, he created the Afwaj al-Muqawamah al-Lubnaniyah or Battalions of the Lebanese Resistance. The organization quickly became known as simply AMAL, or "hope." Al-Sadr modified ancient interpretations of the martyrdom of Husayn and like Khomeini, created a more activist movement.

“This revolution did not die in the sands of Kerbala; it flowed into the life stream of the Islamic world, and passed from generation to generation, even to our day. It is a deposit placed in our hands so that we may profit from it, that we draw out of it a new source of reform, a new position, a new movement, a new revolution, to repel the darkness, to stop tyranny and to pulverize evil.” (Transcript of al-Sadr speech as it appeared in Al Hayat, February 1, 1974.)

Hezbollah rejects both nationalism and ethnicity as a basis for the identity of either the organization or its adherents. Loyalty to Lebanon is irreconcilable with the prophecy of Hezbollah. Indeed, the unrest that exists within the country is perceived of as the unavoidable result of synthetic and illegitimate formation. Hezbollah leaders assert that the country possesses no justifiable or lawful basis for its existence, and that its manmade borders were created by the great powers in order to facilitate a political deal in the 1920s. (Martin Kramer, Hezbollah's Vision of the West, Washington Institute for Near East Policy Papers, Number Sixteen, 1989, p. 27.)

Or as articulated by Naiim Qassem, Hezbollah's deputy secretary general:

In our region we have a problem with the West, which at one time placed us under the French mandate, at other times under the British mandate and over certain periods we were politically governed by the whims of the United States . When the West moves into a region, it does so with the intention of marketing its principles. It establishes schools, its own educational curriculum, Western cultural institutions, its own media, practically its own way oflife and thinking. All of this, in a bid to impose its own ideologies in our region ... they seek to impose their own Western principles, not taking ours into consideration, in an attempt to suck us into their own agenda. From here we consider that there is a cultural conflict between us and the West and it is our job to invalidate their concepts here, to prove their evil and to spread our vision instead. If we succeed we will have obstructed their political agenda and this is our first kind of confrontation. (Quoted in Jaber, Hezbollah, 56-57. )

On April 18, 1983, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was destroyed in a massive explosion carried out by a Hezbollah suicide bomber, killing a total of 63. Six months later, a U.S. Marine compound located near the Beirut airport and a French military compound four miles away were bombed within seconds of one another killing 299.

Or take for example Hezbollah Salah Ghandour, who in 1995 drove his car, laden with bombs, into an Israeli military compound. Before his death, he recorded his final message:

I shall, insha'allah [God willing], shortly after saying these words, be meeting my God with pride, dignity, and having avenged my religion and all the martyrs who preceded me on this route. In a short while I shall avenge all the martyrs and oppressed of Jabal Amel, South Lebanon, as well as the children and sons of the Intifada in Palestine . I shall avenge all those suffering in the tortured security zone. Oh sons of Ali and Hussein and sons of the great Imam Khomcini, God bless his soul. Yea sons of the leaders Khameini and sons of the martyr Abbas Musawi and Sheikh Ragheb Harb, your jihad, insha'allah, is the preparatory jihad for the anticipated Imam, so let us continue until we achieve our desired target and the Godly gratification and thus arrive at our Godly promise. We belong to God and to God we shall return. (Quoted in Jaber, Hezbollah, 86-87.)

The leaders of Hezbollah claim they possess a large number of young Shi'ites who are ready to give their lives in martyr attacks in order to play their part in ultimate success of the movement. Although many scholars of Islam have condemned the practice, the leadership of Hezbollah detends it. They assert that these young martyrs follow in one of the more powerful and durable traditions of Shi'ism, inspired originally by Husayn. (Jaber, Hezbollah, 84.)

In the same way, there is no room in Hezbollah's vision of the future of the community for expressions of either Arab or Persian ethnicity, which, it is argued, splits Shi'ites along unnecessary lines. (Ibid., 29. He cites a speech by Shaykh Ibrahim Qusayr ofDayr Qanun al-Nahr, Al-Ahd, February 28, 1986. The occasion was a visit by Iran 's charge d'affaires, Mahmud Nurani, to Beirut.)

As a result, Hezbollah argues that the "ties of Islamic belief are the only ties which truly bind, and they bind without distinction of origin, nationality, race, language, or sect." The party does not acknowledge any of the state boundaries that exist among the Islamic states. This is particularly true of those that divide the Islamic umma and hinder the formation of a true Islamic identity. According to their ideology: "all believing Muslims must work together to implement what Sayyid Ibrahim al-Amin calls the 'one Islamic world plan,' the aim of which is the creation of a 'Great Islamic State' which will unite the entire region." (Martin Kramer, "Redeeming Jerusalem: The Pan-Islamic Premise of Hizballah." In The Iranian Revolution and the Muslim World. Ed. David Menashri, 1990, p.118.)

In this way, identity within the movement is not grounded in ethnicity, nationalism, place of birth, or language. Rather, it is firmly grounded in the millenarian faith of Shi'ism that stands at its ideological foundation. The plan of achieving the.'Great Islamic State, they perceive, will proceed in four phases. First is confrontation with Israel . Second is the toppling of the Lebanese regime. Third will be the liberation of Lebanon from interference by the Great Powers. Finally, these will be followed by the establishment of Islam as the exclusive basis of rule in Lebanon "until the Muslims of Lebanon join with the Muslims throughout the world in this age, to implement the single Islamic plan, and so become the centralized, single nation (umma) willed by God, who decreed that 'your nation will be one."Hezbollah not only seeks to establish a republic in Lebanon based on the rule of Islam, they seek to incorporate such a state into a far broader entity that brings together all Muslims. According to Ibrahim al-Amin, " Lebanon 's agony will end only 'when the final Middle East map is drawn. We seek almighty God's help in drawing this map as soon as possible, with the blood of the martyrs and the strength of those who wage the jihad.' This messianic notion that a final map of the entire region is now being drawn in blood sets the struggle of Hezbollah in a larger pan-Islamic context for its adherents." (Kramer, "Redeeming Jerusalem ," 119)

Thus Hezbollah asserts that Iran and Lebanon (as part of a 'new' caliphate) are one nation. Indeed, the party itself is a function of the uniyersal Islamic Republic, symbolized by Iran. The Islamic Revolution only began in Iran. Ultimately it will spread throughout the community. (Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion, 2002, 72.)

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