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Arab World: Remembering Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah

Sayed Mohammed Hussain Fadlullah

Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a leading Shiite figure, has died at the age of 75 yesterday. The religious leader, with a huge following, was remembered by bloggers from across the region. Lebanon declared three days of mourning in respect.

Lebanese Dr As'ad AbuKhalil from The Angry Arab News Service shares some information he got first-hand from Fadulallah:

I am still in Doha and don't have time to write an essay about Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. But much of the writings (not only in English) is missing many elements about his background and thought. In his early years in Najaf, where his father `Abdur-Ra'uf Fadlallah was a teacher, he was very much disturbed, as he once told me, by the strength of the communists in that country. The conflict with the communists affected his early readings and his manner of argument. This was during the time when the Iraqi communist party was the strongest party in Iraq and beyond.

Although described by the media as a mentor for Hizbullah, Dr Abukhalil notes:

His relationship with Hizbullah is always misunderstood and there is much about that relationship that is not known, by Westerners but also by some Arabs. The relationship with Hizbullah turned into conflict by the 1990s: Fadllalllah was giving a weekly sermon in Damascus and there he developed a new line of religio-political thought and he broke from Wilayat Al-Faqih. He once gave me a tape from the mid-1980s in which he explained how he moved from the Shura concept to Wilayat Al-Faqih. Well, he later moved away from Wilayat al-Faqih and developed a new liberal thinking especially on issues of personal status laws. He openly discussed female masturbation and ruled that a woman can fight back if she is a victim of domestic violence. He urged for a closer relationship between science and religion. Those views and others primarily on Wilayat Al-Faqih put him at odds with Hizbullah and with Iran, and an Iranian cleric specialized in responding to Fadlallah. Hizbullah urged that the matter of the conflict not be open and be discussed at the clerical level (I know about that conflict primarily from Hasan Nasrallah who once patiently answered my questions about the conflict with Fadlallah during that time). But all that changed by 2006: when the typically ignorant Israeli Orientalists still believed that Fadlallah was the “spiritual guide” of Hizbullah–as Western media and some scholars insisted that he was–and Israeli war criminals bombed his house and many of the institutions that he had built. That made Fadlallah a staunch ally of Hizbullah, and he remained so to his last days. This should be a topic of a PhD dissertation: to deal with the transformation of the religio-political thought of Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. His influence extends beyond Lebanon and much of the donations to his organization comes from outside of Lebanon. Before people speculate about “religio-political inheritance” in Lebanon they should know that the marji`iyyah (supreme religious authority) can't be transmitted to heirs.

In conclusion, The Angry Arab adds:

His passing will only strengthen the position of Hizbullah and Sistani will continue to be emulated by those who don't agree with Khamenei as the object of emulation in Lebanon.

On Ya Libnan, readers mourned Fadlullah. Elias writes:

He was a good spiritual leader and a scholar. He wanted the best and a united Lebanon. He preached about having Islamic unity but also he wanted them to reach out to other non-muslims and be more open and forgiven to other religions. Lebanon have lost a great one and I hope many will follow in his footsteps. Rest in Peace and bless your family and Lebanon too.

Youssef adds:

We have lost a rare commodity, a spiritual guide who encouraged and promoted coexistence & unity. His actions spoke louder than his words. May his soul rest in peace and may God grant his family and loved ones the strength & patience required in this testing time. God bless humanity…. Peace

From Egypt, Zeinobia writes:

Fadallah was not only known for being a spiritual leader to Hezbollah since 1980s but also for his controversial religious opinions and fatwas (religious edicts). It is not only Lebanon that has lost one of its religious icons but also the Shiite Islamic world has lost one of its outspoken moderate figures.You can watch Al Jazeera documentary about Al Shiite to see him speaking about his sect's beliefs

Still in Egypt, Abu Al Maali Faeq notes (ar):

لقد كان هذا الرجل يذكرنى بالشيخ محمد الغزالى رحمه الله فقد كان الغزالى يكره سفاسف الأمور،كما كان يكرهها أيضا الشيخ العلامة محمد حسين فضلله،رحل هذا الرجل والأمة تتلاطمها أمواج الخلافات المفتعلة بفعل بعض الأغبياء الذين تركوا العدو الحقيقى المتمثل فى ما يسمى بدولة إسرائيل وراحوا يفتشون عن عدو من الماضى وضعه المستعمر وما زال يلعب عليه حتى اللحظة،ما أحوج الأمة إلى أمثال السيد حسين فضلله كما كان أحوجها أيضا إلى الشيخ الغزالى
This man used to remind me of Shaikh Mohammed Al Ghazali, may his soul rest in peace. Al Ghazali used to hate shallow issues, which Sayed Fadlullah hates too. This man has left us while the Muslim nation is being hammered by conflicts created by some stupid people who have left the real enemy, represented in the form of what is called the state of Israel, and went looking for an enemy from the past, created by the colonists, who continue to play that ‘divide and rule’ card to this day. Our Islamic nation needs the presence of such men as Sayed Fadlullah today, just as it needs men like Shaikh Al Ghazali.

Young men mourn the death of Sayed Fadlullah in the Shia village of Bani Jamra in Bahrain

And finally in Bahrain, A Green Oasis reports that a march was held in the village of Bani Jamra in Fadlullah's memory. Click on the link for photographs from the march.

  • Scott Modlin

    Just as with the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri last year we all, and just the muslim world, have lost a remarkable man. At times like these I have to wonder what may have been. Even with dire circumstances without his control he remained largely a peaceful man. Always he was seeking initially to heal rather than to hurt. His passing should, I hope, be a somber, reflective moment rather than one to use in an attempt at violence. Peace be unto all.

    • Scott Modlin

      There should be a “not” inserted between “and” and “just”. That sentence should read … we all, and not just the muslim world, have lost a remarkable man. To suggest that he is merely remarkable in the Muslim corners of the world disservice to him as well as others. I wish all to read, understand, and respect this man for both his real world accomplishments he made, as well as the vision he had of more respectful and peaceful world we live in.

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