Lebanese Shia Muslims
Lebanese Shia Muslims (Arabic: المسلمون الشيعة اللبنانيين), historically known as matāwila (Arabic: متاولة), refers to Lebanese people who are adherents of the Shia branch of Islam in Lebanon, which is the largest Muslim denomination in the country. Shia Islam in Lebanon has a history of more than a millennium. According to the CIA World Factbook, Shia Muslims constituted an estimated 30.5% of Lebanon's population in 2018. (However, in a country that had last census in 1932, it is difficult to have correct population estimates)
|Islam (Shia Islam)|
Most of its adherents live in the northern and western area of the Beqaa Valley, Southern Lebanon and Beirut. The great majority of Shia Muslims in Lebanon are Twelvers, with an Alawite minority numbering in the tens of thousands in north Lebanon.
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.
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."
Haplogroup J2 is also a significant marker in throughout Lebanon (29%). This marker found in many inhabitants of Lebanon, regardless of religion, signals pre-Arab descendants. These genetic studies show us there is no significant differences between the Muslims and non-Muslims of Lebanon. Genealogical DNA testing has shown that 21.3% of Lebanese Muslims (non-Druze) belong to the Y-DNA haplogroup J1 compared with non-Muslims at 17%. Although Haplogroup J1 is most common in Arabian peninsula, studies have shown that it has been present in the Levant since the Bronze age (3300-1200 BC) and does not necessarily indicate Arab descent, with the main exception being the Arabian subclade of J1-FGC12 occurring at no more than 3% among Shias and Sunnis. Other haplogroups present among Lebanese Shia include E1b1b (19%), G-M201 (10%), R1b, and T-L206 occurring at smaller, but significant rates.
In a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Authors showed that there is substantial genetic continuity in Lebanon since the Bronze Age 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.
Genetics aside, the population of Lebanon was mainly Canaanite who began to speak Aramaic. Under Byzantine rule, this Aramean population was Hellenized and adopted the Greek language alongside their native Aramaic. It is important to note that most villages and towns in Lebanon today have Aramaic names, reflecting this heritage. Lebanon was also a home for many other historic peoples; North Lebanon and the northern Bekaa Valley were areas of Amurru kingdom of the Amorites in the Bronze Age. Aramaeans, who formed kingdoms nearby in Damascus and Hamath, came to dominate in the Bekaa, where Hazael the Aramaean king might have been born. While Aramaic was spoken by the rural populations, Greek was spoken in the urban communities and among traders; Beirut became the only fully Latin speaking city in the whole east. Alongside the natives, minor pockets of Greeks, Arabs, Persians, and other populations from the Near East and Mediterranean world assimilated into the native population living in Lebanon, over the course of history. Among these pre-Islamic Arabs, Banu Amela has importance for the Lebanese Shia for adopting and nurturing Shi'ism in the southern population. Other famous Arabs include Tanukhids and possibly Itureans. As the Islamic expansion reached Lebanon, these Arab tribes received the most power which encouraged the rest of the population to adopt Arabic as the main language.
Early Islamic historyEdit
Early Islamic periodEdit
Historically, the presence of Shia Islam in the Levant dates back to the times of The Twelve Imams. Among the companions of the Imams was "Ubaidallah bin Ali al-Halabi", a Kufan companion of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq and merchant who traded in Aleppo. Another was Khaleed bin Awfa al-Ameli (fl. 140 AH/757 CE). According to Ja'far al-Muhajir, Shiism emerged in the Levant not independently but through Arab tribes that were historically known for their Shiite tendency and pro-Alid stances, such as Banu Hamdan and Madh'hij, that moved from Kufa, Iraq westwards likely after Umayyad consolidation of power in 661. This steady spread can be seen emerging significantly as early as the late 9th century throughout the Levant. As such, Shiism in Lebanon is linked with a wider dynamic in the whole Levant. After the Hamdanids took control over Aleppo in 944, Aleppo became one of the centers of Shia Islam in the region. The city prospered and was visited by many scientists, clerics and poets whom the Hamdanids invited to their court which contained Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. Other cities such as Harran, Mosul and Raqqa also contained significant Shiite populations at the time which later supported the Mirdasids of Aleppo, Uqaylids of Mosul and the Numayrids of Harran in their power after the Hamdanids.
The territorial domains of present-day Lebanon similarly became home to significant Shia populations in the north, south and east since at least the 800s, and also in coastal cities such as Tyre and Tripoli. Nasir Khusraw, who visited Tripoli and Tyre in 11th century (c. 1037) mentions that these two cities were mostly inhabited by Shia Muslims. Nasir also remarked that the majority of population of Tiberias and half of Nablus' population were Shia Muslims. Tripoli was under the rule of Banu Ammar family, while Tyre was under Abi Aqil family. Tyre and Tripoli produced and were visited by notable poets and scholars since the late 9th century. In the Bekaa valley, a 14th century report by al-Yunini mentions that when Ibn Ma'qal al-Homsi came to Baalbek in the mid 13th century, "the Shias of this nahiya (district) were moralized by his presence".
Seljuk, Crusader and Ayyubid periods, and the Mongol invasionEdit
The Seljuk and Ayyubid periods are characterized by intense promotion of Sunni Islam in the Levant. Thus, Shia Islamic presence declined under the Seljuks, and later the Crusaders, Ayyubids and Mamluks.
The First Crusade arrived in the Levant in 1097 and swept across until it captured Jerusalem in 1099. Shias in Tripoli and Tyre resisted Crusader armies violently for years until the two cities fell in 1109 and 1124, respectively. While the north and central parts of Lebanon had a form of semi-autonomy, Jabal Amel was under direct Frankish rule of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. During the crusader period, a Shia community emerged in the mountains of Keserwan and Dinniyeh. It is suggested the region is named after a Shia group called "al zanniyyah" الظّنيّة. Alawites and the "Batiniyyah" (باطنيّة) were also present as well, a name historically and Islamically used to describe Isma'ilis and Qarmatians. The Crusader states survived in Tripoli and Tyre until the Mamluks captured both cities in 1289 and 1291 respectively.
During Mongol invasions and conquests, "Najm ad-Din ibn Malli al-Ansari al-Ba'labakki" (b. 617 AH/1220-1221 CE), Baalbek's only Shia scholar at that time, is said to have gathered 10,000 men to resist the Mongols through guerilla warfare tactics, often attacking Mongols at night.
Mamluk period and 1305 campaignEdit
During the start of the 14th century, the Mamluks were involved in a rivalry with another recently-converted Islamic power, the Mongol Ilkhanate. Specifically during the rule of Öljaitü (1304-1316), the Ilkhan was influenced by prominent Twelver theologians such as Allamah Al-Hilli and Maitham Al Bahrani which, allegedly, lead to Shia sympathies on his side moreso than the Mamluks who were interested in promoting the Sunni schools of thought. Subsequently, the Mamluks might have become wary of the loyalty of Shias living in the rural mountainous region of Keserwan. In addition, Keserwan was a rather lawless region which oversaw the strategic roads between Damascus and Beirut which meant bandits were able to raid trade caravans freely, which didn't sit well with the authority at Cairo. It is important to note that this is not necessarily indicative of directed group persecution by the Mamluks, but rather the general viewpoint and feel of the authority back then.
The region of Keserwan had previously been observed to have had communities of multiple faiths and denominations. The most prominent faith was Shia Islam in its orthodox Twelver form and also with the presence of extremist sects. Alawites were also present and Isma'ilis as well. It is usually considered that the adherents of these sects either fled away or reverted to mainstream Twelver Shia Islam in time. Another group that was mentioned were the Druze, or as called before, "Hakimiyya". It's likely there were Christians living in Keserwan as well.
Mamluks accused the people of Keserwan of attacking one of their garrisons and robbing them, and in the year 1305, they led a destructive campaign on Keserwan by the deputy of Damascus Aqqush al-Afram in which an estimated 50,000 soldiers participated, against the people of Keserwan, which lead to the total destruction of the region, a great number of Keserwan natives killed, and a great number of them fleeing to Jezzine and to the eastern slopes of Mount Lebanon by the Bekaa valley, while a humbled many stayed .
Under Ottoman ruleEdit
Keserwan began to lose its Shia character under the Assaf Sunni Turkmen whom the Mamluks appointed as overlords of the area in 1306 and in 1517 by the Ottomans. The process intensified around 1545 when the Maronites started migrating to Keserwan and Byblos, encouraged by the Assafs, who sought to use them as a counterweight to the Shia Hamade sheikhs who reemerged in Keserwan in the late 16th century. When in 1605 the Druze emir Fakhr al-Din Ma'n II took over Keserwan, he entrusted its management to the Khazen Maronite family. The Khazens gradually colonized Keserwan, purchasing Shia lands and founding churches and monasteries. They emerged as the predominant authority in the region at the expense of the Shia Hamedeh clan. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Khazens owned Keserwan and only a few Shia villages survived. The Hamade clan eventually fell out of the favor of the Ottomans and were forced to relocate to Hermel in 1773.
The Harfushes were already well established in the Bekaa on the eve of the Ottoman conquest. The Harfushes of Baalbek received the iltizam concession for the Bekaa as well as a rank in the provincial military hierarchy (the district governosrhip of Homs or Tadmur) in recognition of their long-standing position of dominance within local Shiite society. In the seventeenth century, the Harfushe emirate of the Bekaa valley and the Hamadas of Mt. Lebanon rivalled the territorial extension and power of the Druze emirate of the Shuf. Unlike the Druze, the Shiite emirs were regularly denounced for their religious identity and persecuted under Ebu's-Suud's definition of Kızılbaş heretics. The Harfush rule however ended in 1865 when they were deported to Edirne.
The best-known Shiite taxlordship in Jabal ‘Amil was that of the ‘Ali al-Saghirs, of the Wa'il clan, ancestors of the modern Asa'ad family, who entered Jabal Amil with Salah al-Din, took over local leadership in the early thirteenth century. They controlled most of the land south of the Litani River, collectively known as the Bilad Bishara for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. According to ‘Amili tradition, ‘Ali and Husayn al-Saghir, reputed descendants of a leading Shiite tribe from the past, went on to eliminate rival families in 1639 and 1649 respectively, and therewith established a single-family Shiite reign over the entire southern Jabal ‘Amil that would last until the tyrannical rule of Cezzar Ahmed Paşa in the eighteenth century. In the 18th century, the most powerful Shia sheikh in the South was Nassif al-Nassar. Nassif inherited the leadership of the ‘Ali al-Saghir clan in 1749/50 after his brother Zahir Nassar. Nasif and Zahir challenged the authority of the Ottoman governors of Sidon and Damascus and their Druze allies who dominated Mount Lebanon. When this coalition of Ottoman forces launched an offensive against Nasif and Zahir in 1771, the forces of the latter two routed them in Lake Hula. After the Battle of Lake Hula, Nasif's forces, who numbered some 3,000 horsemen, decisively defeated a 40,000-strong Druze force under Emir Yusuf Shihab, killing some 1,500 Druze warriors. According to Baron Francois de Tott, a French mercenary of the Ottoman Army, Nassif's cavalry "put them to flight at the first onset".
This prosperity, however, ended with the Ottoman appointment of Ahmad al-Jazzar as governor of Sidon province (1775–1804). Jazzar crushed the military power of the Shia clan leaders and burned the libraries of the religious scholars. Many are said to have been killed in the process, and villages burnt, especially during the battle of Yarin in 1781. He established a centralized administration in the Shia areas and brought their revenues and cash crops under his domain. By the late eighteenth century, the Shias of the Jabal 'Amil lost their independent spirit and adopted an attitude of political defeat. Al-Jezzar was nicknamed "the butcher" and a big population of the Shia were killed under his rule in Lebanon.
Relations with Iranian ShiasEdit
During most of the Ottoman period, the Shia largely maintained themselves as 'a state apart', although they found common ground with their fellow Lebanese, the Maronites; this may have been due to the persecutions both sects faced. They maintained contact with the Safavid dynasty of Persia, where they helped establish Shia Islam as the state religion of Persia during the Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunni to Shia Islam. Since most of the population embraced Sunni Islam and since an educated version of Shia Islam was scarce in Iran at the time, Isma'il imported a new Shia Ulema corps from traditional Shiite centers of the Arabic speaking lands, such as Jabal Amil (of Southern Lebanon), Bahrain and Southern Iraq in order to create a state clergy. Isma'il offered them land and money in return for their loyalty. These scholars taught the doctrine of Twelver Shia Islam and made it accessible to the population and energetically encouraged conversion to Shia Islam. To emphasize how scarce Twelver Shia Islam was then to be found in Iran, a chronicler tells us that only one Shia text could be found in Isma'il's capital Tabriz. Thus it is questionable whether Isma'il and his followers could have succeeded in forcing a whole people to adopt a new faith without the support of the Arab Shia scholars.
These contacts further angered the Ottoman Sultan, who had already viewed them as religious heretics. The Sultan was frequently at war with the Persians, as well as being, in the role of Caliph, the leader of the majority Sunni community. Shia Lebanon, when not subject to political repression, was generally neglected, sinking further and further into the economic background. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Comte de Volmy was to describe the Shia as a distinct society.
French mandate periodEdit
Following the official declaration of the French Mandate of Greater Lebanon (Le Grand Liban) in September 1920, anti-French riots broke out in the predominantly Shia areas of Jabil ‘Amil and the Beqaa Valley. In 1920 and 1921, rebels from these areas, led by Adham Khanjar and Sadiq Hamzeh, attacked French military bases in Southern Lebanon. During this period of chaos, also several predominantly Christian villages in the region were attacked due to their perceived acceptance of French mandatory rule, including Ain Ebel. Eventually, an unsuccessful assassination attempt on French High Commissioner Henri Gouraud led to the execution of Adham Khanjar. At the end of 1921, this period of unrest ended with a political amnesty offered by the French mandate authorities for all Shi’is who had joined the riots, with the intention to bind the Shia community in the South of Lebanon to the new Mandate state.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, educational institutions became places for different religious communities to construct nationalist and sectarian modes of identification. 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. 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. 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.
The primary outlet for discussions concerning educational reforms among Shia scholars was the monthly Shiite journal al-‘Irfan. 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. This institution – since 1920 headquartered in Beirut- oversaw every educational policy regarding public and private school in the mandate territories. 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. 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.
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.” 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. 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 1920’s and 1930’s, led to its transformation into a public ceremony.
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." 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)Edit
Shia Twelvers in Lebanon refers to the Shia Muslim Twelver community with a significant presence all over Lebanon including the Mount Lebanon (Keserwan, Byblos), the North (Batroun), the South, the Beqaa, Baabda District coastal areas and Beirut.
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. Metawali, Metouali, or Mutawili, is an archaic term used to specifically refer to Lebanese Twelver Shias in the past. Although it can be considered offensive nowadays, it 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 Twelver (Mutawili) villages that were reassigned from French Greater Lebanon to the British Mandate of Palestine in a 1924 border-redrawing agreement were depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and repopulated with Jews. The seven villages are Qadas, Nabi Yusha, al-Malikiyya, Hunin, Tarbikha, Abil al-Qamh, and Saliha.
There are an estimated 40,000 Alawites in Lebanon, where they have lived since at least the 16th century. 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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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. In the mid-1980s, several hundred Isma'ilis were thought to still live in a few communities scattered across several parts of Lebanon. Though they are nominally counted among the 18 officially-recognised sects under modern Lebanese law, they currently have no representation in state functions 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.
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.
Geographic distribution within LebanonEdit
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.
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 last census in Lebanon in 1932 put the numbers of Shias at 20% of the population (200,000 of 791,700). 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). However, a 2012 CIA study reports that the Shia Muslims constituted an estimated 27% of Lebanon's population. And more recently, in 2018 the CIA World Factbook estimated that Shia Muslims constitute 30.5% of Lebanon's population.
|Year||Shiite Population||Total Lebanese Population||Percentage|
Notable Lebanese Shia MuslimsEdit
- Muhammad Jamaluddin al-Makki al-ʿĀmili (1334-1385) – A Shi'a scholar, born in Jabal A'mel in Southern Lebanon, known as "Shahid Awwal"/"First Martyr"
- Nur-al-Din al-Karaki al-ʿĀmilī (1465-1534) – Shiite scholar who was a member of the Safavid court
- Zayn al-Din al-Juba'i al-'Amili (1506-1558) – Known as "Shahid Thani"/"Second Martyr", one of the most prominent Shia fiqh scholars of his time
- Muhammad Saḥib al-Madarik (1524-1587) – Shia scholar and author of one of the most extensive works on Islamic Shia jurisprudence
- Bahāʾ al-dīn al-ʿĀmilī (1547-1621) - Shia Islamic scholar, philosopher, architect, mathematician, astronomer and poet who lived in Safavid Iran
- Nassif al-Nassar (c. 1750) – Feudal "Sheikh" from Jabal 'Amil
- Musa al-Sadr – Spiritual leader and founder of the Amal movement, philosopher and Shi'a religious leader
- Hussein el Husseini – Statesman, co-founder of the Amal movement and Speaker of Parliament
- Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah – Spiritual Leader and Shia Grand Ayatollah
- Hassan Nasrallah – Leader of the group Hezbollah
- Imad Mughniyah – Lebanese, Hezbollah's former Chief of Staff
- Ahmad Rida – Shiite scholar who participated in the creation of the Kingdom of Syria under Faisal
- Adham Khanjar – Lebanese revolutionary who attempted to assassinate Henri Gouraud and as a result he was executed in 1923
- Tawfiq Hawlo Haidar – Lebanese revolutionary who took part in the Great Syrian Revolt (1925 - 1927)
- Youssef Al Harakè – Brigadier General in the Lebanese Security Forces. Awarded 16 medals during his career.
- Mustafa Badreddine – Military leader in Hezbollah and both the cousin and brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyah
- Adel Osseiran – Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, and one of the founding fathers of the Lebanese Republic
- Sabri Hamade – Speaker of the Parliament and political leader
- Ahmed al-Asaad – Speaker of the parliament and political leader
- Kamel Asaad – Speaker of the parliament and political leader
- Nabih Berri – Speaker of the Parliament and political leader of Amal Movement
- Abbas Ibrahim – General director of the General Directorate of General Security
- Wafiq Jizzini – Former General director of the General Directorate of General Security
- Jamil Al Sayyed – Former General director of the General Directorate of General Security
- Hussein al-Musawi – Founder of Islamic Amal militia in 1982
- Assem Qanso – Former leader of the Lebanese Ba'ath
- Ali Qanso – Member of cabinet, former president of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party
- Muhsin Ibrahim – Lebanese Communist and leader of the Communist Action Organization in Lebanon
- Zaynab Fawwaz – Pioneering Lebanese Shiite novelist, playwright, poet and historian of famous women
- Ragheb Alama – Singer, composer, television personality, and philanthropist
- Amal Saad-Ghorayeb – Lebanese writer and scholar
- Diana Haddad – Singer and television personality
- Bushra Khalil – Lebanese lawyer, represented Saddam Hussein during his trial
- Haifa Wehbe – Model, actress, and singer
- Assi El Helani – Famous singer
- May Hariri – Model, actress, and singer
- Alissar Caracalla – Lebanese Dance choreographer
- Okab Sakr – Lebanese journalist
- Rammal Rammal – Lebanese Physicist
- Ali Chamseddine – Lebanese Physicist
- Hassan Bechara – Lebanese wrestler, won the bronze medal in the men's Greco-Roman Super Heavyweight category
- Roda Antar - Lebanese football manager, Former captain of Lebanese national team and player who currently coaches Racing Beirut in the Lebanese Football League.
- Moussa Hojeij – Lebanese football player and manager at Nejmeh SC
- Malek Maktabi – Lebanese journalist and television presenter husband of Nayla Tueni
- Mouhamed Harfouch – Brazilian-Lebanese actor
- Fouad Ajami – university professor and writer on Middle Eastern issues
- Rima Fakih – winner of the 2010 Miss USA title; later converted from Shia Islam to Maronite Christianity
- Hanan al-Shaykh – Lebanese author
- Husayn Muruwwa – Marxist philosopher
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متوال mutawālin successive, consecutive, uninterrupted, incessant; -- (pl. متاولة matāwila) member of the Shiite sect of Metualis in Syria
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