Religions in Lebanon: the Sunnis

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To deal with Lebanon it is necessary to speak of faith, for this reason we are starting with one of the numerically most present communities in the country: Sunni Muslims.

Sunnis in Lebanon

The origins of Sunni Islam in Lebanon are very ancient and are even traced back to the first Arab conquests of the 7th century. At the time, the region was dominated by the Ghassanids, a Christian Arab tribe that had long been a vassal of the Byzantine Empire. The most important battle took place near the Yarmouk River, a tributary of the Jordan where the legendary commander Khalid ibn Al Walid won a decisive victory, conquering the whole region.

Sunni Lebanon
Said Hariri, current prime minister and representative of the ruling Sunni community

At the time, the first Maronitecommunities were already present in Lebanon, formed between the 4th and 5th centuries following in the footsteps of the monk Maron. These obtained the approval of the Muslims to remain on the territory, provided that it was included within the Dar al Islam and placing itself under their jurisdiction. From here on, Lebanon will become a part of the various Islamic empires that will follow each other over the years, while always maintaining a great autonomy in terms of faith and political management. Being in the orbit of these powers, however, will ensure that the Sunnis are always present, becoming the first confessional reality, however, only in the 1900s.


With the birth of Israel, in fact, Lebanon became one of the centers of the Palestinian diaspora, a population with a clear Sunni majority, greatly altering the delicate balance created up to then. In the country, until then, the Maronite Christians had been and they were the most present in the area, a condition that will change starting from the 1980s. In fact, 40% of the Muslim population in 1932 will rise to 75% in the 1985, a condition that, together with many others, will lead to the Civil War, which lasted 15 years.

Religious distribution in Lebanon

In Lebanon, unlike other countries, religious confession has not only a personal but also a political value. According to the “National Pact“, institutionalized in 1943, each faith has a specific task in the government, in order to avoid any kind of favoritism towards a given group. In 1989 the Ta’if agreements were signed, with which the war was finally put to an end, rebalancing proportions that had changed over time. Currently Sunni Muslims are about 27% of the population and an absolute prerogative over the premier, who must strictly follow this belief.

If you want to know more, the film “The insult” by Ziad Doueri is highly recommended, where these issues emerge clearly.

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