Religions in Lebanon: the Shiites

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Always present in the area, the Shiites form, together with the Sunnis, the largest community in Lebanon, with a history that has always been linked to resistance.

Shiites forever

As with Sunnism, the origins of the Shiites in Lebanon can be traced back to the time of the first caliphs in these lands. In fact, just before the arrival of the expedition of Khalid ibn al Walid, the Arab tribe of the Banu Amela dominated these places. This population had recently joined Christianity with little conviction, so much so that they quickly changed their minds with the arrival of the Muslims. According to some sources, it will even be the Companion of the Prophet Abu Dhar al Ghifari to push them in this direction, motivated even more by the inglorious end reserved for the lineage of Ali in the battle of Karbala. From that moment, in fact, the Banu Amela will become Shiites, forming one of the first communities of this type.

shiites lebanon
Nabih Berri, current President of the Lebanese parliament

Initially there were not too many problems for this confession, so much so that they even managed to form an emirate in the Keserwan region, but things changed starting from the end of the 13th century, when the Mamluks imposed themselves in the region. They drove the Shiites out of the region, repopulating it with the Maronites, then considered closer to their cause. Precisely because of this, they were forced to emigrate to the Beqaa valley, where they are still present today.

From the Ottomans to today

With the arrival of the Ottomans, the situation only partially improved, forcing many of them to migrate south or to Persia. With the ascent to the throne of the Safavids, in fact, there will be a forced conversion of Iran to Shiism, which will attract many Lebanese scholars to that land, also favoring the expansion of the Twelver current (currently majority). However, it must be said that, compared to the Mamluks, under the Ottomans there were also families who became very rich, such as the Hamada of Tripoli and the Harfush of Beqaa who became debt collectors for the sultan.

Religious distribution in Lebanon

They were the first to oppose the arrival of the French and were also among the most formidable adversaries of the Israeli advance on the territory. According to the “National Pact“, the Shiites are the President of the parliament. Currently they are about 27% of the population, mostly duodecimans but also with Alawite and Ismaili minorities.

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