A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, 1935-2010

A brief drop-in on the Fourth of July to note the passing of Sheikh (Grand Ayatollah to his followers) Sayyid Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the man usually identified in the media as the "spiritual leader" or "guide" of Hizbullah, though he had no formal post in the organization. He has died in Beirut's Suburb.

Fadlallah was a dominant figure in Lebanese Shi‘ite religious discourse and clearly had much influence with Hizbullah. BBC's obituary here; and Al-Manar's (that is, Hizbullah's) here. Wikipedia's take is here.

A sharp critic of US policy in the region, he was the target of a 1985 assassination attempt allegedly backed by the United States, which he escaped but which killed 80 people. So it is ironic, I suppose, that 25 years later, he died a natural death on the Fourth of July.


David Mack said...

Fadlallah was the most prominent Arab "Source of Emulation" (marj'a at-taqlid) in Shi'a Islam, since Ayatollah Sistani is Persian, even though he has lived for most of his life in Najaf. I have heard that he had his followers among Arab Shi'a far from Lebanon, including in Bahrain and the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia. As a general rule, Arab Shi'a have shown a reluctance to follow the religious teachings of the various Iranian Ayatollahs. It will be interesting to see the reactions in such quarters to Fadlallah's passing.

David Mack said...

Blogging in "Informed Comment" on July 5, Juan Cole has a very interesting reflection on Fadlallah's place in the resurgence of Shi'a Islam in the past half century. It includes considerable information on his lifelong relationships with Iraq, including his involvement in the history of the Da'wa Party.