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Harfush dynasty

آل حرفوش
Flag of the Harfush dynasty[1]
CountryBeqaa Valley and Sidon-Beirut Sanjak briefly, Ottoman Empire
Founded15th century (Beqaa)
FounderIbn Harfush
Final rulerAhmed

The Harfush dynasty (or Harfouche, Harfuch, Harfouch, or most commonly spelled Harfoush dynasty, all varying transcriptions of the same Arabic family name حرفوش) was a dynasty that descended from the Khuza'a tribe, which helped, during the reign of Muhammad, in the conquest of Syria. The Harfush dynasty controlled the Baalbek District and several parts of the Bekaa Valley. Their being Shiaa was a major factor in the rivalry between the Harfushes and the Lebanese Druze Maan family.[citation needed]

The Shia notables such as the Harfush emirs of Baalbek and Bekaa Valley were among the most sought-after local intermediaries of the Ottoman state. Later the Hamadas rose to power. They exercised control over multiple tax farms in the rural hinterland of Tripoli in the seventeenth century through complex relationships with both the Ottoman state authorities and the local non-Shiaa communities.[2] The Harfush and Hamadas both belonged to Shia Islam in Lebanon, the Harfush emirate of the Bekaa Valley and the Hamadas of Mt Lebanon challenged the territorial extension and power of the Druze emirate of the Shuf. Unlike the Druze, the Shia emirs were regularly denounced for their religious identity and persecuted under Ebu's-Suud's definition of (Kızılbaş) heretics.[3]

The Harfushes had been a regionally paramount dynasty since early Mamluk times and even served as patrons of local Shiaa shrines and scholars. To the Ottomans they were therefore always leading candidates for local fiscal and political offices, including for the military governorship of the sub-province of Homs, to which they were appointed to partially offset the influence of the increasingly hegemonic Druze emirate.[4]


Fifteenth century

The late Mamluk historian Ibn Tawq identifies an Ibn Harfush as a muqaddam of the Anti-Lebanon mountain villages al-Jebbeh and Assal al-Ward as early as 1483. Later, Ibn al-Himsi and Ibn Tulun mention one as deputy (na'ib) of Baalbek in 1498. The unnamed Ibn Harfush appears in an Ottoman archival source as early as 1516, when he and several other local notables signed a letter offering their submission to Sultan Selim I, but was executed in 1518 by Janbirdi al-Ghazali as a rebel.[5]

Sixteenth century

There is no further word on Musa Harfush's eventual participation in the Yemen campaign (which was in fact directed against the forces of the Zaydi Shiite imam), and in later years the Harfushes would be appointed sancak-beğs of Homs and Tadmur rather than of Sidon. If nothing else, his being selected to lead a tribal auxiliary division in return for an official governorship in 1568, more than twenty years before the Ma‘n family received their emiral title, points towards both the possibilities and the limits of Shiite enfranchisement under Ottoman rule: the progressive monetarization of provincial government and the privatization of military power in the later sixteenth century created a context in which non- Sunni tribal leaders constituted viable, even ideal, candidates for local tax and police concessions, accredited by the state and integrated into the imperial military administrative hierarchy. Yet their success would also depend on their ability to hold sway locally, to transcend their narrow parochial bases, raise revenues and capitalize on western Syria's changing economic situation. The Harfush emirs were among the first in the region to be co-opted by the Ottoman state, but would in the long run not stand up to the competition of other local forces.[6]

Turning Sidon-Beirut into a beğlerbeğlik

As elsewhere in the empire, administrative units such as sancaks, eyalets and tax farms were not precisely delimited but could be reorganized according to the government's needs or the assignee's personal importance. The Ottomans briefly contemplated turning Sidon-Beirut into a beğlerbeğlik under ‘Ali Harfush in 1585; starting in 1590 Fakhr al-Din Ma‘n and his sons held Safad and then Sidon-Beirut for many years as sancak-beğs.[7]

Seventeenth century

Battle of ‘Anjar

The Harfush leader Emir Yunus al-Harfush was in a conflict with the Lebanese Druze lord Fakhr al-Din in the early 1600s because of that conflict Fakhr al-Din decided to pull into the Bekaa valley. The Harfush dynasty wanted to take over the Ma'an family realm during Fakhr al-Din's exile. Yunus had an ally, Mustafa Pasha who was the governor of Damascus. Yunus and Pasha wanted to take the sanjak of Safad from Fakhr al-Din. Fakhr al-din returned from Italy, marched across the Bekaa. He captured Mustafa Pasha and defeated the Harfush's Emir.[citation needed][when?]

Bekaa Valley before and after the battle of ‘Anjar can be obtained from a recently published register of iltizam appointments for the province of Damascus. Covering the years 1616 to 1635, the register among other things provides documentary evidence of the Harfushes’ growing marginalization as well as of the rise of the Shihabis of Wadi Taym as new contenders for government tax farms in the region. Beginning in 1618, for example, around the time of Fakhr al-Din's return from Tuscany, Yunus Harfush came under pressure to renounce the income normally due to the emin of Baalbek from the village of ‘Aytha, after the mufti of Damascus (a native of ‘Aytha) had petitioned for it to be set aside for himself in the supposed interest of reviving and repopulating the area. Even in later years, after the Harfushes had retaken control of the Bekaa from the Ma‘ns and the mufti was long dead, the village remained formally excluded from their holdings. The register also sheds light on the administrative context of the fitna (strife) between the Harfushes and Ma‘ns in 1623–24. It corroborates local chroniclers’ claims that Fakhr al-Din offered to send the sultan 100,000 gold coins for the Baalbek tax concession, but casts doubt on the notion that the governor of Damascus simply ‘paid no heed’ to the offer or ignored the Sublime Porte's orders to instate him. Fakhr al-Din's offer was matched by Yunus, and the iltizam was reconfirmed to his son ‘Ali Harfush by the kadıs of Damascus and Baalbek immediately after the battle of ‘Anjar.[8]

One of their well-known scholars

There was at least one Imami scholar from the Bekaa by the name of Harfush in the Ottoman period: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Harfushi (died 1649), a cloth-maker, grammarian and poet from Karak Nuh, was apparently persecuted for rafd in Damascus and then moved to Iran, where he received an official state post.[5]

Eighteenth century

The battle of Ayn Dara and the role of Harfush's emir

The Harfushes appear to have been back in control of Baalbek by 1702, when local accounts indicate that a Christian shaykh of ‘Aqura in Mt Lebanon entered emir Husayn’s (Harfush) service as yazıcı, or secretary, on account of his Turkish skills. In 1711, French consular reports suggest, Husayn Harfush gave shelter to Haydar Shihabi and then supplied 2,500 troops to help him wipe out his Druze rivals in the Battle of Ain Dara, and establish himself as sole emir of the Shuf. curiously not addressed in H. A. al-Shihabi or any other chronicles of the period.[9]

Support to the Shiaa of Mount Lebanon

The Ottoman court historian Raşid (d. 1735) telescopes several important events into his official account (but omits the atrocities committed against the Shiaa villagers). The Hamadas, who were supported by the ʿAwjan as well as the Harfush, were caught in heavy snows while fleeing toward Baalbek. An estimated 150 men perished. Only the Khazins now prevented the wholesale slaughter of the survivors, by disingenuously claiming they had no permission from Maan to leave the province of Tripoli, and directed the imperial forces elsewhere. Still, Ali Paşa was not to be satisfied. A manhunt began for the Hamadas and their confederates, Shiaa or otherwise. Untold villages were torched, women enslaved, and severed heads brought back to Tripoli. In late August, he sent another army into the Ftuh just to pillage the farmsteads. In the course of an attempt to retrieve some of their animals, Husayn ibn Sirhan, his cousin Hasan Dib and several companions were caught and killed.[10] In late October, when Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi visited Tripoli, Ali Paşa was still out "battling the pertinacious heretics, the Hamada faction".[11][12]

Close alliance to the Orthodox

Like the Hamadas, the Harfush emirs were involved on more than one occasion in the selection of church officials and the running of local monasteries. Tradition holds that many Christians quit the Baalbek region in the eighteenth century for the newer, more secure town of Zahle on account of the Harfushes’ oppression and rapacity, but more critical studies have questioned this interpretation, pointing out that the Harfushes were closely allied to the Orthodox Ma‘luf family of Zahle (where Mustafa Harfush took refuge some years later) and showing that depredations from various quarters as well as Zahle's growing commercial attractiveness accounted for Baalbek's decline in the eighteenth century. What repression there was did not always target the Christian community per se. The Shiite ‘Usayran family, for example, is also said to have left Baalbek in this period to avoid expropriation by the Harfushes, establishing itself as one of the premier commercial households of Sidon and later even serving as consuls of Iran.[13]

Siege of Zahle

Says a contemporary Christian historian of the siege of Zahle' in 1841: "The harfushes did not credit Zahle' only, but also all Christians in Lebanon. The Christians would have been humiliated if they had lost their battle (Zahle’) against the Duruze, who had (the Duruze) earlier won the battle in Deir Al Qamar" (The Harfushes stood behind the Christians and defeated the Duruze in the battle field of Zahle').[14]


In 1865 the Ottoman government ordered to send the last Harfush emirs to Edirne in Turkey for exile;[5] later most of them returned to Baalbeck, but others could not and stayed in Istanbul; subsequently Emir Ahmad bin Mohamad bin Soultan El -Harfouche was transferred to Cairo.[15]

Effect of disappearance of the Harfush emirate

The abrupt disappearance of the Harfush emirate left the Shiite community of Baalbek bereft of any anciently rooted, indigenous social leadership, making it that much more of a likely venue for the rise of foreign-inspired, ideological mass movements such as Communism, Nasirism and the Hizb Allah in Lebanon's tumultuous 20th century.[16]


Today, Al Harfouch still own large acres of lands in Baalbek, the main cemetery of Baalbek and two villages are left in their memory, the Harfouche village and the Mrah el Harfouch village.[citation needed] The name of Yunus al-Harfouche is also engraved on the oldest mosque in the city of Baalbek. Nowadays, in the city it is more frequently referred to as Al Harfouch family instead of Harfouch dynasty. However, in the local families of the bekkaa still hold Al Harfouch to their high standards as the heroic defenders of region and its people.

See also



  1. ^ Nehme, Joseph; Nehme, Adonis (1995). Le Drapeau Libanais: A Travers les Siècles. Deir al-Qamar. p. 20. وقد اختار آل حرفوش والأمراء الشيعة علماً لهم باللون الأخضر، الذي كان شعار المتشيعين للإمام علي - صهر النبي [The Harfush family and the Shiite princes chose green as their flag, which was the emblem of the Shiite followers of Imam Ali - the son-in-law of the Prophet.]((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ Winter, 2010, p. 5 (Argument).
  3. ^ Winter, 2010, pp. 31, 32.
  4. ^ The Shiaa Emirates of Ottoman Syria (Mid-17th–Mid-18th Century), Stefan Helmut Winter, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois August 2002, page 15.
  5. ^ a b c Winter, 2010, p. 46
  6. ^ Winter, 2010, p. 43
  7. ^ Winter, 2010, 120
  8. ^ Winter, 2010, pp. 53, 54.
  9. ^ Winter, 2010, p. 148
  10. ^ Ibn Nujaym, "Nubdha", pp. 817-818.
  11. ^ Archivum Ottomanicum, Edited by György Hazai 18 (2000) page 215 and 216
  12. ^ ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (d. 1731), al-Ḥaqīqa wa-’l-Mujāz fī Riḥla Bilād al-Shām wa-Miṣr wa-’l-Ḥijāz, ed. Riyāḍ ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd Murād (Damascus: Dār al-Maʿrifa, 1989), 202, 226.
  13. ^ Winter, 2010, 166
  14. ^ hoser al litham aan nakabat al sham, Makarios, p. 13.
  15. ^ Saadoun Hamada, the history of the Shiites in Lebanon, Volume I, 2013 edition, page 371.
  16. ^ The Shiaa Emirates of Ottoman Syria (Mid-17th -Mid-18th Century), Stefan Helmut Winter, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois August 2002, page 236.


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Harfush dynasty
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