The Shi‘ites of Lebanon
Modernism, Communism, and Hizbullah’s
Rula Jurdi Abisaab and Malek Abisaab
"An excellent political history. . . . Focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries, the authors reveal how a small rural population located mostly in southern Lebanon gradually achieved influence and power and underwent urbanization. After a significant split, one group, calling itself Hezbollah, became a dominating political and military force. The authors beautifully explore the subtleties of religious and political doctrine and their adoption by sometimes-charismatic leadership. It is must reading for understanding contemporary affairs in today’s Levant."—Choice
"This book is an important retelling of the modern history of Lebanon’s
Shi‘ites. It presents new research with thoughtful interpretation, informed
by numerous comparative and theoretical references."—Elizabeth F. Thompson, professor of history, University of Virginia
"An original work and its strength is the combination of expertise both
authors offer: a profound knowledge of Shiite legal tradition, history of
theology, history of modern Shiism in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, and a serious
engagement with theories of secularism and piety, as well as theoretical
discussions on civil society and public space."—Roschanack Shaery, research fellow, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen
Rula Jurdi Abisaab is associate professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. She is the author of Converting Persia: Religion and Power in Safavid Iran. Malek Abisaab is associate professor of history at McGill University. He is the author of
Militant Women of a Fragile Nation.
Book Description »[Hide »]
The complex history of Lebanese Shi‘ites has traditionally been portrayed as
rooted in religious and sectarian forces. The Abisaabs uncover a more nuanced
account in which colonialism, the modern state, social class, and provincial
politics profoundly shaped Shi‘i society.
The authors trace the sociopolitical, economic, and intellectual transformation
of the Shi‘ites of Lebanon from 1920 during the French colonial period until
the late twentieth century. They shed light on the relationship of contemporary
Islamic militancy with traditions of religious modernism and leftism in both Lebanon
and Iraq. Analyzing the interaction between sacred and secular features
of modern Shi‘ite society, the authors clearly follow the group’s turn toward
religious revolution and away from secular activism. This book transforms our
understanding of twentieth-century Lebanese history and demonstrates how the
rise of Hizbullah was conditioned by Shi‘ites’ consistent marginalization and
neglect by the Lebanese state.
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6 x 9, 368 pages, 2 illustrations, notes, bibliography, index