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Lebanese Shia Muslims

Lebanese Shia Muslims
المسلمون الشيعة اللبنانيون
Distribution of Shi'a Muslims in Lebanon
Total population
Lebanese Arabic
Islam (Shia Islam)

Lebanese Shia Muslims (Arabic: المسلمون الشيعة اللبنانيون), communally and historically known as matāwila (Arabic: متاولة, plural of متوال mutawālin;[2] pronounced as متوالي metouali or matawali in Lebanese Arabic[3]), are Lebanese people who are adherents of Shia Islam in Lebanon, which plays a major role alongside Lebanon's main Sunni, Maronite and Druze sects. The vast majority of Shia Muslims in Lebanon adhere to Twelver Shi'ism,[4][5] making them the only major Twelver Shia community extant in the Levant.[6]

Today, Shia Muslims constitute around 32% of the Lebanese population,[1] surpassing both the once-majority Christians and Sunnis.[7] Under the terms of an unwritten agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, Shias are the only sect eligible for the post of Speaker of Parliament.[8][9][10][11]



The cultural and linguistic heritage of the Lebanese people is a blend of both indigenous elements and the foreign cultures that have come to rule the land and its people over the course of thousands of years. In a 2013 interview the lead investigator, Pierre Zalloua, pointed out that genetic variation preceded religious variation and divisions: "Lebanon already had well-differentiated communities with their own genetic peculiarities, but not significant differences, and religions came as layers of paint on top. There is no distinct pattern that shows that one community carries significantly more Phoenician than another."[12]

Lebanon throughout its history was home of many historic peoples who inhabited the region. The Lebanese coast was mainly inhabited by Phoenician Canaanites throughout the Bronze and Iron ages, who built the cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos and Tripoli, which was founded as a center of a confederation between Aradians, Sidonians, and Tyrians. Further east, the Bekaa valley was known as Amqu in the Bronze Age, and was part of Amorite kingdom of Qatna and later Amurru kingdom, and had local city-states such as Enišasi.[13]

During the Iron Age, the Bekaa was dominated by the Aramaeans, who formed kingdoms nearby in Damascus and Hamath, and established the kingdom of Aram-Zobah where Hazael might have been born, and was later also settled by Itureans, who were likely Arabs themselves. These Itureans inhabited the hills above Tyre in Southern Lebanon, historically known as Jabal Amel, since at least the times of Alexander the Great, who fought them after they blocked his army's access to wood supply.[13]

During Roman rule, Aramaic became the lingua franca of the entire Levant, including what is nowadays known as Lebanon, replacing spoken Phoenician on the coast. Meanwhile Greek was used as language of administration, education and trading. It is important to note that most villages and towns in Lebanon today have Aramaic names, reflecting this heritage. However, Beirut became the only fully Latin-speaking city in the whole East. On the coast, Tyre prospered under the Romans and was allowed to keep much of its independence as a "civitas foederata".[14]

On the other hand, Jabal Amel was inhabited by Banu Amilah, its namesake, who have particular importance for the Lebanese Shia for adopting and nurturing Shi'ism in the southern population. The Banu Amilah were part of the Nabataean Arab foederati of the Roman Empire, and they were connected to other pre-Islamic Arabs such as Judham and Balqayn, whose presence in the region likely dates back to Biblical times according to Irfan Shahîd.[15] As the Muslim conquest of the Levant reached Lebanon, these Arab tribes received the most power which encouraged the non-Arabic-speaking population to adopt Arabic as the main language.[16]

Early Islamic period

The spread of Shia Islam in Lebanon was a complex, multi-faceted phenomnon over a few centuries. By the time of the Islamic conquest, Jabal Amel was an ethno-linguistic hybrid which included the tribes of Amilah and Judham as well as Hamdan émigrés,[17][18] and non-Arab communities.[19] According to Irfan Shahîd, the pre-Islamic tribes of Amilah and Judham were part of the Nabataean foederati of the Romans, whose presence in the region dates back to Biblical times.[15][20] Banu Amilah, according to tenth century historian al-Tabari, were also affiliates of the Ghassanids who supplied troops to the Byzantines.[21]

During the early Islamic period, Jabal Amel and the adjacent areas likely hosted several disgruntled groups or communities that were susceptible to Twelver Shia doctrine, and a positive and inviting dialectical relationship between the theological construct of Imamism and its social milieu gave precedence to the Shiite possibility.[19] Per al-Muhajir, the beginning of the process can be traced right after the Hasan–Muawiya treaty in 661.[17] Per Harris, the 842 revolt in Jabal Amel gave rare exposure to a Shia-minded population on the fringes of Mount Lebanon.[22] In the Keserwan hills east of Beirut, it's possible that Shia tribespeople were present in the area in the Umayyad period or after the 759 Munaytra uprising, and were well-established in the area by the 940s–960s.[23] Muahjir contrasts this view, contending that the Shia community in the highlands likely formed following the Fall of Tripoli in 1109 after the city's depopulation of its former Shia inhabitants.[17]

A political map of the Levant (c. 1090), highlighting the territories of Tripoli and Tyre

In Syria, Aleppo, which figures in the scholastic heritage of Jabal Amel, had become fertile ground for Twelver Shi'ism under the reign of the Hamdanids (944–991),[24][25][26] and cultural and material interactions between Aleppo and Jabal Amel may have reinforced nascent local development of Twelver Shi'ism in the area prior to Isma'ili Fatimid ascent in Egypt (969–1174).[19][27] Before Fatimid Ismaili da'wa took hold in Syria, cultural exchange between scholars in Jabal Amel and Iraq contributed to a mutual systematic observation of the Ja'fari school, which also continued after Fatimid demise.[19]

Shiites also had a strong presence in certain areas in northern Palestine and Transjordan as confirmed by al-Maqdisi (c. 966-985),[28] mainly in Tiberias, Amman and Qadas.[29][17][19][30][31] Traveling through Tyre and Tripoli c. 1047, Nasir Khusraw noted in his Safarnama that most of the inhabitants of the two cities were Shiite.[19] Ibn Asakir (1106–1175), during his ten-year residence in Tyre, noted strong opposition to his views from some of the rafida, a pejorative term denoting Shiites.[19] Tripoli was ruled by Banu Ammar from 1079, who invested large sums in turning the city into a famous center for learning, founding a "House of Knowledge" that attracted scholars as well as a notable library of 100,000 volumes.[32]

Mamluk period

By the early 14th century, Jabal Amel was becoming the Twelver Shia center of the entire Levant. During this period, a stream of scholars shifted to Jabal Amel from Aleppo due to Mamluk takeover as the area provided refuge from Sunni rigor.[16] The towns of Jezzine and Karak Nuh replaced the former urban centers of Shiite learning in the Levant, and Shiite scholars enjoyed protection under Shia chiefs starting from Husam ad-Din Bishara in 1187 until the crisis of 1781.[33][34] One particular scholar from Jezzine, Muhammad ibn Makki, became a widely known Shi'i faqīh who advocated developing religious law through debate with Sunni scholars,[35][36] whose fame as a legal expert spread as far as Khorasan, where the reigning Sarbadar invited him to instruct his court in Twelver Shiism.[35] On 30 June 1384, Ibn Makki was charged with heresy and subsequently executed in Citadel of Damascus:[35]

Between 1292 and 1305, the Mamluks carried out a series of punitive expeditions against the Shia population of Kisrawan region in Mount Lebanon east of Beirut, headed by Aqqush al-Afram.[35] According to Mamluk chronicler Badr al-Din al-Ayni, in 1292, the Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil compelled Baydara to take three thousand cavalry up the coast from Egypt, entering Kisrawan from the south. According to al-Ayni, the defenders, whom he called kafarat rawafid, mobilized 10,000 defenders who lured Mamluk contingents into ambushes.[37] The campaign was a failure, and Baydara was only able to extricate his troops after offering gifts and releasing prisoners.[37] In 1299, Kisrawan mountaineers attacked the fleeing Mamluk army, which brought Kisrawan back to Mamluk priority, prompting a swift retribution in 1300.[38] Punishment did not suffice, and following the death of the Ilkhan Ghazan in 1304, the Mamluks assembled the main Mamluk field army for a third campaign.[38] In July 1305, according to al-Maqrizi, al-Ayni and Druze chronicler Salih ibn Yahya, 50,000 Mamluk troops marched from Damascus to meet up with another army under the na'ib of Tripoli coming from the south, also summoning their Druze Buhturid allies. The Mamluk pincer movement converged on the Kisrawan rebels, resulting in fierce battles that eventually crushed the defenders.[39][35][40][41] The Mamluks then devastated villages and cultivation through August 1305 and expelled much of the population, most of whom settled in Southern Lebanon and the Beqaa valley.[35][42]

Under Ottoman rule

An 18th century copy of a miniature depicting Sheikh Baha'uddin al-Amili

After the Ottoman conquest circa 1516, leading Shiite families in Jabal Amil, Beqaa Valley and Mount Lebanon, which had been ensconced prior to Ottoman arrival, were co-opted into the Ottoman provincial administration as mukataacıs or as governors of secondary sanjaks with fiscal and police responsibilities over a vast section of the Syrian coastal highlands.[40][43][44][45][46][47][48][49] According to Abdelnour, the Shiite population in 1765 probably stood around 40,000.[50] The Harfushes of Baalbek received the iltizam concession for the Bekaa as well as a rank in the provincial military hierarchy. In the province of Tripoli, the Hamada family were charged with multiple tax collection assignments in the hinterland of Mount Lebanon. Further south, the Shiites of Jabal Amel retained their tax farms well into the mid-18th century, greatly benefiting from the foreign demand for dyed cotton and good commercial contacts with the French, and by the 1750s the area provided more tax revenues than Mount Lebanon.[51][6]

By the late 18th century, various factors influenced Shiite feudatories and traditional mukataa-based familial system, which had become redundant. Thus, Shiite influence much diminished in favor of an increasingly powerful Maronite-Druze alliance, which reached heights under the Sunni (and later Maronite) Shihab dynasty. Decline amplified in 1781 following the death of Nasif al-Nassar in battle against Jazzar Pasha, who brought Jabal Amel under his suzerainty, concurrent with the earlier fall of Shiite multezims in Kisrawan and North Lebanon.[40] According to Comte de Volney, no more than 500 Shiite families survived Jazzar's rampage at the time of his visit in 1785.[52] According to Tamara Chalabi, these events would persist in the collective memory of the Shia of Jabal Amel well into the early 20th century.[53]

Relations with Safavid Iran

During this time period, Shiites built particularly close ties with the Safavids of Iran, contributing significantly to the empire's conversion into Shia Islam.[54] Tahmasp I (1524–1576) appointed Muhaqqiq al-Karaki from Karak Nuh as the deputy of the Hidden Imam, and granted him extensive power over the sadrs (Grand viziers) in a prolix edict in 1533.[55] Tahmasp reportedly told him: "You are the real king and I am just one of your agents".[56][54] This brought new political and court power to the Islamic clerics and their networks, intersecting Tabriz, Qazvin, Isfahan, Rasht, Astarabad, and Amol.[56] Another prominent cleric was Baha'uddin al-Amili, who authored mathematical and astronomical treatises, including the possibility of the Earth's movement prior to the spread of the Copernican theory,[57] and is responsible for many architectural feats in the city of Isfahan.[58][59][34]

French mandate period

With the Ottoman withdrawal in 1918, the French entered Nabatieh and barred the local populace from carrying out political activity. Local chiefs rejected the demand, and instead hoisted the Arab flag in several villages.[60] Shiites participated in the Syrian nationalist movement and Syrian National Congress in 1919, and prominent Shiites such as Ahmad Rida often stated their support for Syrian unity and independence within the Kingdom of Syria, emphasizing their Arab identity, while simultaneously defending Shiite particularism.[61][44]

Adham Khanjar and Sadiq Hamzeh, two prominent anti-French revolutionary figures

Following the official declaration of the Arab Kingdom of Syria in March 1920, anti-French riots and clashed broke out in the predominantly Shia areas of Jabal Amel and the Beqaa Valley. Rebels attacked French military bases and garrisons in their areas, and sectarian clashes also took place, notably in Ain Ebel, due to French arming and their perceived acceptance of French mandatory rule. The French sent an expedition of 4,000–6,000 soldiers led by Colonel Niger to the south in an effort to pacify the Shiite rebels, devastating their villages and crushing Shiite rebels by June 1920.[60] The defeat dispersed thousands of peasants who feared harsh reprisals, and the high fines imposed on the villagers contributed to financial hardship in the region.[44]

The armed effort was paralleled by the nonviolent resistance movement led by Abdul Husayn Sharafeddine since 1919, who demanded US support for Syrian unity during the King–Crane Commission visit. This angered the French, who encouraged an unsuccessful assassination attempt against him. Sharafeddine strongly denounced sectarian hostility as it only gave purpose for the French military presence. During the famous the conference of Wadi al-Hujayr on 24 April 1920, he called for the protection of Christians.

The Christians (Nasara) are your brethren in the country and in destiny. Show to them the love you show to yourselves. Protect their lives and possessions as you do to your own. Only by this can you face the conspiracy and put an end to the civil strife.[60]

This period of unrest ended in 1921 with a political amnesty offered by the French mandate authorities for all Shiite rebels who had took part in the fighting, with the intention to bind the Shia community in Lebanon to the new Mandate state.[44][60] When the Great Syrian Revolt broke out in 1925, the calm remained in Jabal Amel. Nevertheless, many Shiites joined the rebels in Syria, and played a central role in the battles of the Qalamoun Mountains and Akroum, where Shiites reportedly took a booty of more than 400 rifles and fifty horses from French forces.[6] Many Christians who fled their villages during the revolt were accommodated by Shia notables from Nabatieh and Bint Jbeil, an act that was appreciated by the local Christian clergy.

What the Shi'ites did for the Christians in the south will be cherished in our hearts for as long as Lebanon and the Christians remain. What happened should be written in gold. Long live Lebanon, Long live Lebanese unity and long live the Shiites.[60]

The region experienced a decade of stability following the revolt. Shiites had become largely accepting of Greater Lebanon for sectarian and non-sectarian reasons, and the establishment of the Ja'fari court further strengthened communal ties and validated a sense of particularism otherwise denied under the Ottomans.[44] Consequently, the establishment of Ja'fari shari'a courts during the French Mandate period in Lebanon complicated the understanding of citizenship by intertwining it with sectarian identification, while also reinforcing sectarian divisions within the legal and political framework of the nation-state.[62] Instead of armed rebellion and uprisings, protests and civil strikes in Shia areas became the medium to protest French policies and tobacco prices.[44][60] Shiites were later active in providing ammunition, manpower and assistance to Palestinian rebels during the 1936–1939 revolt in Palestine, which was co-administered from Bint Jbeil.[60]


In the 19th century, Lebanon saw dramatic changes when missionaries started establishing schools throughout the country. While the French and Russians mainly encouraged Maronite and Orthodox active learning respectively, along with American Protestant missions in Beirut, the British established educational institutions in Druze areas, and Sunnis mainly benefitted from Ottoman state institutions. However, Shiites were the only ones who did not benefit from such activities. This neglectance continued into the early days of the French mandate.[60]

During the 1920s and 1930s, educational institutions became places for different religious communities to construct nationalist and sectarian modes of identification.[63] Shia leaders and religious clergy supported educational reforms in order to improve the social and political marginalization of the Shia community and increase their involvement in the newly born nation-state of Lebanon.[64] This led to the establishment of several private Shia schools in Lebanon, among them The Charitable Islamic ʿĀmili Society (al-Jamʿiyya al-Khayriyya al-Islāmiyya al-ʿĀmiliyya) in Beirut and The Charitable Jaʿfari Society (al-Jamʿiyya al-Khayriyya al-Jaʿfariyya) in Tyre.[64] While several Shia educational institutions were established before and at the beginning of the mandate period, they often ran out of support and funding which resulted in their abolishment.[64]

The primary outlet for discussions concerning educational reforms among Shia scholars was the monthly Shiite journal al-'Irfan, founded in 1909. In order to bring their demands (muṭālabiyya) to the attention of the French authorities, petitions were signed and presented to the French High Commissioner and the Service de l'Instruction Publique.[65] This institution – since 1920 headquartered in Beirut- oversaw every educational policy regarding public and private school in the mandate territories.[61] According to historian Elizabeth Thompson, private schools were part of "constant negotiations" between citizen and the French authorities in Lebanon, specifically regarding the hierarchical distribution of social capital along religious communal lines.[66] During these negotiations, petitions were often used by different sects to demand support for reforms. For example, the middle-class of predominantly urban Sunni areas expressed their demands for educational reforms through petitions directed towards the French High Commissioner and the League of Nations.[67]

Sayyid Abdul-Husayn Sharafeddine believed that the only way to ward off foreign political influence was to establish modern schools while maintaining Islamic teachings. In 1938, he built two schools, one for girls and another for boys, at his own expense. However, the girls' school did not last long due to financial difficulties and traditional views, prompting Sayyid Sharafeddine to transfer the girls and teach them in his own home. The boys' school was known as al-Ja'fariyya, and was able to continue despite financial difficulties.[60]

Ja'fari shar'ia courts

In January 1926, the French High Commissioner officially recognized the Shia community as an "independent religious community," which was permitted to judge matters of personal status "according to the principles of the rite known by the name of Ja'fari."[68] This meant that the Shiite Ja'fari jurisprudence or madhhab was legally recognized as an official madhhab, and held judicial and political power on multiple levels.[69] The institutionalization of Shia Islam during this period provoked discussions between Shiite scholars and clergy about how Shiite orthodoxy should be defined. For example, discussions about the mourning of the martyrdom of Imam Husain during Ashura, which was a clandestine affair before the 1920s and 1930s, led to its transformation into a public ceremony.[70]

On the other hand, the official recognition of legal and religious Shiite institutions by the French authorities strengthened a sectarian awareness within the Shia community. Historian Max Weiss underlines how "sectarian claims were increasingly bound up with the institutionalization of Shi'i difference."[71] With the Ja'fari shar'ia courts in practice, the Shia community was deliberately encouraged to "practice sectarianism" on a daily basis.


Shia Twelvers (Metouali)

Shia Twelver (Metawali) woman in the Bekaa Valley in traditional clothes, 1950s

Shia Twelvers in Lebanon refers to the Shia Muslim Twelver community with a significant presence throughout Lebanon.

The jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire was merely nominal in the Lebanon. Baalbek in the 18th century was really under the control of the Metawali, which also refers to the Shia Twelvers specifically from the landmass that is modern Lebanon.[40] Metawali, Metouali, or Mutawili, is an archaic term used to specifically refer to Lebanese Twelver Shias in the past. The term was a way to distinguish the uniqueness and unity of the community. The term 'mutawili' is also the name of a trustee in Islamic waqf-system.

Seven Shia (Mutawili) villages that were reassigned from French Greater Lebanon to the British Mandate of Palestine in a 1924 border-redrawing agreement were forcibly depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and repopulated by Jews.[72] The seven villages are Qadas, Nabi Yusha, al-Malikiyya, Hunin, Tarbikha, Abil al-Qamh, and Saliha.[73] The inhabitants in turn fled to Lebanon.[72]

In addition, the Shia Twelvers in Lebanon have close links to the Syrian Shia Twelvers.[74]


Large mosque with tall minaret
Alawite El-Zahra Mosque in Jabal Mohsen, Lebanon

There are an estimated 50,000[4][75] Alawites in Lebanon, where they have lived since at least the 16th century.[76] They are recognized as one of the 18 official Lebanese sects, and due to the efforts of an Alawite leader Ali Eid, the Taif Agreement of 1989 gave them two reserved seats in the Parliament. Lebanese Alawites live mostly in the Jabal Mohsen neighbourhood of Tripoli, and in 10 villages in the Akkar region,[77][78][79] and are mainly represented by the Arab Democratic Party. Bab al-Tabbaneh, Jabal Mohsen clashes between pro-Syrian Alawites and anti-Syrian Sunnis have haunted Tripoli for decades.[80]


Isma'ilism, or "Sevener Shi'ism", is a branch of Shia Islam which emerged in 765 from a disagreement over the succession to Muhammad. Isma'ilis hold that Isma'il ibn Jafar was the true seventh imam, and not Musa al-Kadhim as the Twelvers believe. Isma'ili Shi'ism also differs doctrinally from Imami Shi'ism, having beliefs and practices that are more esoteric and maintaining seven pillars of faith rather than five pillars and ten ancillary precepts.

Though perhaps somewhat better established in neighbouring Syria, where the faith founded one of its first da'wah outposts in the city of Salamiyah (the supposed resting place of the Imam Isma'il) in the 8th century, it has been present in what is now Lebanon for centuries. Early Lebanese Isma'ilism showed perhaps an unusual propensity to foster radical movements within it, particularly in the areas of Wadi al-Taym, adjoining the Beqaa valley at the foot of Mount Hermon, and Jabal Shuf, in the highlands of Mount Lebanon.[81]

The syncretic beliefs of the Qarmatians, typically classed as an Isma'ili splinter sect with Zoroastrian influences, spread into the area of the Beqaa valley and possibly also Jabal Shuf starting in the 9th century. The group soon became widely vilified in the Islamic world for its armed campaigns across throughout the following decades, which included slaughtering Muslim pilgrims and sacking Mecca and Medina—and Salamiyah. Other Muslim rulers soon acted to crush this powerful heretical movement. In the Levant, the Qarmatians were ordered to be stamped out by the ruling Fatimid, themselves Isma'ilis and from whom the lineage of the modern Nizari Aga Khan is claimed to descend. The Qarmatian movement in the Levant was largely extinguished by the turn of the millennium.[81]

The semi-divine personality of the Fatimid caliph in Isma'ilism was elevated further in the doctrines of a secretive group which began to venerate the caliph Hakim as the embodiment of divine unity. Unsuccessful in the imperial capital of Cairo, they began discreetly proselytising around the year 1017 among certain Arab tribes in the Levant. The Isma'ilis of Wadi al-Taym and Jabal Shuf were among those who converted before the movement was permanently closed off a few decades later to guard against outside prying by mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims, who often viewed their doctrines as heresy. This deeply esoteric group became known as the Druze, who in belief, practice, and history have long since become distinct from Isma'ilis proper. Druze constitute 5.2% of the modern population of Lebanon and still have a strong demographic presence in their traditional regions within the country to this day.[81]

Due to official persecution by the Sunni Zengid dynasty that stoked escalating sectarian clashes with Sunnis, many Isma'ilis in the regions of Damascus and Aleppo are said to have fled west during the 12th century. Some settled in the mountains of Lebanon, while others settled further north along the coastal ridges in Syria,[82] where the Alawites had earlier taken refuge—and where their brethren in the Assassins were cultivating a fearsome reputation as they staved off armies of Crusaders and Sunnis alike for many years.

Once far more numerous and widespread in many areas now part of Lebanon, the Isma'ili population has largely vanished over time. It has been suggested that Ottoman-era persecution might have spurred them to leave for elsewhere in the region, though there is no record or evidence of any kind of large exodus.[83]

Isma'ilis were originally included as one of five officially-defined Muslim sects in a 1936 edict issued by the French Mandate governing religious affairs in the territory of Greater Lebanon, alongside Sunnis, Twelver Shias, Alawites, and Druzes. However, Muslims collectively rejected being classified as divided, and so were left out of the law in the end. Ignored in a post-independence law passed in 1951 that defined only Judaism and Christian sects as official, Muslims continued under traditional Ottoman law, within the confines of which small communities like Isma'ilis and Alawites found it difficult to establish their own institutions.[84]

The Aga Khan IV made a brief stop in Beirut on 4 August 1957 while on a global tour of Nizari Isma'ili centres, drawing an estimated 600 Syrian and Lebanese followers of the religion to the Beirut Airport in order to welcome him.[85] In the mid-1980s, several hundred Isma'ilis were thought to still live in a few communities scattered across several parts of Lebanon.[86] Though they are nominally counted among the 18 officially-recognised sects under modern Lebanese law,[87] they currently have no representation in state functions[88] and continue to lack personal status laws for their sect, which has led to increased conversions to established sects to avoid the perpetual inconveniences this produces.[89]

War in the region has also caused pressures on Lebanese Isma'ilis. In the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli warplanes bombed the factory of the Maliban Glass company in the Beqaa valley on 19 July. The factory was bought in the late 1960s by the Madhvani Group under the direction of Isma'ili entrepreneur Abdel-Hamid al-Fil after the Aga Khan personally brought the two into contact. It had expanded over the next few decades from an ailing relic to the largest glass manufacturer in the Levant, with 300 locally hired workers producing around 220,000 tons of glass per day. Al-Fil closed the plant down on 15 July just after the war broke out to safeguard against the deaths of workers in the event of such an attack, but the damage was estimated at a steep 55 million US dollars, with the reconstruction timeframe indefinite due to instability and government hesitation.[90]

Geographic distribution within Lebanon

Lebanese Shia Muslims are concentrated in south Beirut and its southern suburbs, northern and western area of the Beqaa Valley, as well as Southern Lebanon.[91]


Lebanese Shia Muslims[92][93][1]
Year Percent

Note that the following percentages are estimates only. However, in a country that had last census in 1932, it is difficult to have correct population estimates.

The distribution of Lebanon's religious groups

A census in 1921 put the numbers of Shiites at 17.2% (104,947 of 609,069). The last official census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Shias at 19.6% of the population (154,208 of 785,543).[93] A study done by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1985 put the numbers of Shias at 41% of the population (919,000 of 2,228,000).[93][94][92] More recently, the CIA World Factbook estimated that Shia Muslims constitute 31.2% of Lebanon's population in 2022.[1]

Between 1921 and 1988, Shiites maintained the highest fertility rate of all communities, contributing to a rapid increase from 17% to 32%.[95]

Percentage growth of the Lebanese Shia Muslim population (other sources est.)[96][97][92][1][60][98][94][50][34]
Year Shiite Population Total Lebanese Population Percentage
1545 97,692 256,574 38%
1861 55,120 487,600 11.3%
1921 104,947 609,069 17.2%
1932 154,208 785,543 19.6%
1956 250,605 1,407,868 17.8%
1975 668,500 2,550,000 26.2%
1988 1,325,499 4,044,784 32.8%
2022 1,652,600 5,296,814 31.2%


In a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, authors showed that there is substantial genetic continuity in Lebanon and the Levant since the Bronze Age (3300–1200 BC) interrupted by three significant admixture events during the Iron Age, Hellenistic, and Ottoman period, each contributing 3%–11% of non-local ancestry to the admixed population. The admixtures were tied to the Sea Peoples of the Late Bronze Age collapse, South or Central Asians and Ottoman Turks respectively.[99] Genetic studies have shown that there are no significant genetic differences between Lebanese Muslims and non-Muslims.[100]

Genetic studies on Lebanese people have shown that the most common Y-DNA Haplogroups among Lebanese Shias were J2 (26.5%), J1 (25.5%) and E1b1b (17.3%).[101] Although haplogroup J1 is most frequent in Arabian peninsula, studies have shown that it has been present in the Levant since the Bronze Age[102][103] and only expanded later into Arabia.[104] Other haplogroups present among Lebanese Shia include, G-M201 (10%), R1b, and T-L206 occurring at smaller, but significant rates.[101]

Notable Lebanese Shia Muslims

Religious figures

Political figures


Artists, singers and journalists

See also


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  2. ^ Wehr, Hans (1976). Cowan, J Milton (ed.). Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (Third ed.). Ithaca, New York. p. 1101. ISBN 0-87950-001-8. OCLC 2392664. متوال mutawālin successive, consecutive, uninterrupted, incessant; -- (pl. متاولة matāwila) member of the Shiite sect of Metualis in Syria((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ Massignon, Louis. "Mutawālī". Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936). doi:10.1163/2214-871X_ei1_SIM_4996.
  4. ^ a b Riad Yazbeck. Return of the Pink Panthers?. Mideast Monitor. Vol. 3, No. 2, August 2008
  5. ^ Zoi Constantine (2012-12-13). "Pressures in Syria affect Alawites in Lebanon – The National". Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  6. ^ a b c Halawi, Majed (1992). A Lebanon Defied - Musa Al-sadr And The Shi'a Community. Boulder - San Francisco - Oxford: Westview Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0813383187.
  7. ^ Cohen, Saul Bernard (2015). "Chapter 12: The Middle East Shatterbelt". Geopolitics: the geography of international relations (3rd ed.). Lanham Boulder New York London: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 402. ISBN 978-1-4422-2349-3.
  8. ^ "Lebanon-Religious Sects". Global Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  9. ^ "March for secularism; religious laws are archaic". NOW News. Archived from the original on 2018-07-18. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  10. ^ "Fadlallah Charges Every Sect in Lebanon Except his Own Wants to Dominate the Country". Naharnet. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  11. ^ "Aspects of Christian-Muslim Relations in Contemporary Lebanon". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  12. ^ Maroon, Habib (31 March 2013). "A geneticist with a unifying message". Nature Middle East. doi:10.1038/nmiddleeast.2013.46.
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Lebanese Shia Muslims
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