A source of emulation

Jimmy Carter meeting Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Hezbollah-controlled Dahiyeh, South Beirut, June 9, 2009

Consider this: When Jimmy Carter visited Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut just over a year ago, protection for the former US president was provided not only by the Secret Service but also Hezbollah’s own security personnel, both of whom feared that Carter might be assassinated by Israel’s Mossad!

Fourteen years earlier Fadlallah escaped an assassination attempt — that time it was a CIA covert operation in which 83 people died and 283 were injured.

The two incidents highlight the subjective nature of “terrorism” — a term used in the contemporary era to refer almost exclusively to violence carried out by non-government entities, yet a term that could just as reasonably be used to describe actions by the two governments that most loudly trumpet the threat from terrorism: Israel and the United States.

With that in mind, let’s consider once more the life of a man who the US government still designates as a “terrorist”: Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

Rami G Khouri (who in confessionally fragmented Lebanon, it should be noted, is a Palestinian Arab Christian) writes:

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon’s most influential Shiite Muslim leader who died in Beirut this past weekend, was a marja, or a source of emulation for Shiites, during his lifetime — just about the highest achievement a human being can attain in this world.

It would be doing Fadlallah a disservice only or mainly to see him as a gifted Shiite religious figure. His great achievement, I believe, was to provide a living example of the combination of the best qualities that any Arab or Muslim could aspire to in this era of great mediocrity, corruption, materialism, mindless violence and abuse of power throughout much of the Arab world.

Fadlallah was — as Americans are fond of saying of sports figures who are talented, smart, humble, generous and personable — “the complete package.” He stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries in Lebanon and most of the region because he combined several qualities noteworthy each on its own: profound theological and academic learning; an analytical and active mind; extensive social activism to assist the needy; nationalist politics to protect one’s sovereignty and support Arab causes, like Palestine; a commitment to resisting and fighting foreign aggression and occupation; political modernism that appreciated pluralistic and accountable governance; a rejection of one-man rule in favor of collective leadership based on consultation and consensus; a deep commitment to dialogue and solidarity with those of different faiths, ideologies or ethnicities; a progressive sense of the rights of women and youth; humility of spirit that prevented him from assuming public or official positions; and — I suspect from reading some of his writings, as I never met him — a twinkle in his eye and generosity in his heart that accepted the need to enjoy life, without hurting others or blaspheming core religious dictates.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Fadlallah had followers in many parts of the world, far beyond his native Lebanon or Iraq where he grew up. A key reason for his charisma and a source of emulation was his philosophy of the obligation of the weak and oppressed to struggle and if necessary to fight for their humanity, liberation, dignity and rights. By the examples he set in his own life and behavior — education, contemplation, self-assertion, honesty, generosity toward the needy — he showed others how they could aspire to achieve their full potential as human beings, individually and collectively.

His was a very Shiite life story, given that the Shiites of Lebanon in just two generations — from the 1960s to the 2000s — transformed themselves from the abused and subjugated downtrodden of Lebanese society into the single most powerful group in the country. His rise to prominence coincided with and partly inspired this epic transformation, that now sees Hizbullah as the dominant Shiite organization in the political, social and military fields. This change in status is also controversial for many other Lebanese who distrust Hizbullah and see it as an Iranian- and Syrian-manipulated menace to Lebanon’s collective sovereignty, identity and stability.

Fadlallah’s life story is so noteworthy because it transcends the Hizbullah-dominated dimensions of Lebanese Shiism. There was a convergence of sentiments and struggle between the man and the nascent movement and its forerunners, for a while, in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet he went beyond Hizbullah’s focus on resistance, to embrace and develop the totality of human, communal and national dimensions that he believed was the obligation of any Muslim and any human being.

His recipe was simple but effective, for those who could apply it: Read. Study. Discuss. Debate. Question. Learn. Work hard. Be generous. Respect others, especially those who are different from you. Stand up for your rights. Use your power to defend your people and country. And, always, remain humble.

Perhaps his greatest feat — as is the case with others of his ilk who joined God’s world with ours, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope John Paul II, or Bishop Desmond Tutu — was his ability to make Islamic religious ethics a springboard for personal and collective human betterment, rather than an isolated obsession or source of autocratic fanaticism.

The learned man moved back and forth from his books to his neighborhood, from lofty divine inspirations to mundane social, economic and political problems that needed resolution — in this lifetime, not the one to come. Faith, in his view and life practice, gave you the power and confidence to fix the flaws and injustices of our world, rather than only to bemoan and endure them. That, in the end, was not just a holy man, but a very modern man — a model Lebanese, Arab and Muslim who was rightly respected and emulated by many in his lifetime, because he showed us what we could become if we put our mind to it.

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4 thoughts on “A source of emulation

  1. delia ruhe

    In sum, Fadlallah was the supreme threat to all the elaborate propaganda in which we in the Western world have been thoroughly wrapped for so long. Alistair Crooke called it the “new Orientalism”:

    “The new ‘Orientalism’ offers us new political tools. Since the ‘new barbarians’ live outside of civilization, civilized rules no longer apply to them: if ‘they’ win elections they can still not be part of ‘us’ — office holders and parliamentarians can be abducted and interned without a murmur; members of ‘barbarian’ movements can be arrested and taken away for imprisonment and torture in other countries, and barbarian leaders, whether or not legitimately elected, can be assassinated at the pleasure of western leaders. They ‘abduct’ us, we ‘arrest’ them.”

    How can we reconcile men like Fadlallah — or even Jimmy Carter — with this ideology, an ideology crucial to the continued dominance of Western influence in the Middle East? How could we even think about obliterating Iran in order to put an end to their non-existent nukes if we allow the Fadlallahs of this world to influence our thinking? Fadlallah was a dangerous man, and he’s clearly even more dangerous now that he’s dead. His memory must be stamped out before it ruins everything we’ve been slaughtering Muslims for in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Palestine.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    If Fadlallah was a ‘terrorist’ that surely raises the name in our eyes. The word clearly has more than one meaning to humanity.

    On the other hand the name one must apply to Israel and Washington has only one clear meaning — murderers.

  3. DE Teodoru

    There’s nothing you can say. The reaction to any reverence toward Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah will crush both the freedom of speech and freedom of religion of respectful Americans, considered “anti-Semitism” and duly punished by these psychopaths. This anti-Muslim censorship can only be considered symptomatic of a severe and dangerous psychotic disease. The game goes on as these squelchers of American free speech paranoids are provided profitable careers as Mossadists who would otherwise– and may well be–moonlighting as Israeli-Russian Mafia. The end result they force will be a reactive American paranoia that spreads over Main Street. That’s when the American Krystalnacht will explode and all of us who are today outraged with the Zionist-right’s antics out of concern for Diaspora Jews. We will be unable to save our as-American-as-apple-pie Jewish neighbors from the very wave of popular American rage Israel deliberately started in order to stampede all OUR Jews with their assets to Israel where wealth will be plucked from them by its chicken-plucker operatives. US media articles like the one below fuel the fire that we can’t put out because the ANTI-JEWISH Zionazis will find a way of fanning the flames slandering and paralyzing our desperate warnings. They want and need Jewish blood spilled because their brand of killer-Israel is, on its own, defunked.

    Just look at this story that can raise the hairs on the back of your neck:


    It was sent to me by a worried Israeli-American friend. True or not, it fans the flames and that’s EXACTLY what the Zionazis want. A Holocaust created Israel, they say, and another will save Greater Israel, they think. These are sick people trained in old KGB-land and now they, not civilian government, run Mossad. And you and your Jewish neighbors are the targets of these twisted minds for which the Holocaust is only a license to kill.

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