The ‘Alawī Shaykhs of Religion

A Brief Introduction

In: Sociology of Islam
Leon T. Goldsmith Sultan Qaboos University, College of Economics & Political Science, Room 2054, P.O.Box 20, Al Khoud, Muscat, Oman,

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Gaining insight into the past, present and potential future roles and functions of the ‘Alawī sect’s religious leadership is problematic amidst the ongoing Syrian conflict. The purpose of this short introduction is to shed some light on the subject of ‘Alawī religious leadership and highlight the historical importance of ‘Alawī religious shaykhs to the preservation of their community. The study applied an inductive, exploratory and qualitative approach based on the reliable secondary literature, field observation and interviews with some key personalities from within the sect. The main discovery highlighted in the article is that the traditional influence and capacity of ‘Alawī religious leaders to guide and preserve the community has been drastically impaired since the 1980s. This became a crucial factor in the dilemma ‘Alawīs faced at the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011. This study hopes to contribute to the question of ‘Alawī religious and communal identity in the twenty-first century, a subject of importance to efforts to resolve the Syria crisis.

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