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M. Brett Wilson


This article explores debates surrounding the controversial spiritual exercise of rābiṭa – the binding of the disciple with a Sufi master by envisioning the image of the master in different parts of the body. Despite being criticized as a non-Qurʾanic practice and as a form of idolatry, rābiṭa was made a ritual of prominence among the Khālidī-Naqshbandī suborder which took shape in early nineteenth-century Syria and spread throughout the late Ottoman Empire. Tracing defenses of the practice from Arabic sources in the early nineteenth century to Turkish language treatises in the twentieth century, I argue that the Sufi ādāb manual al-Bahja al-saniyya composed by Muḥammad b. ʿAbdallāh al-Khānī (1798-1862) established a repertoire of arguments that have been adopted and reused in Turkish language treatises until the present with little variation, revealing a remarkable continuity of apologetics over nearly two centuries. Additionally, the article considers the role of this ritual in defining the nature of master-disciple relationships and establishing hierarchies of Sufi devotion and obedience.

Mahmoud Haddad


This study tries to show that European policies influenced not only the Ottoman center at Istanbul in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but also the workings of the provincial adminstrations as well. Ottoman Syria and Iraq were, according to this assessment, proxy colonies before the direct colonization of post World War I.

Jehan Al-Azzawi


This article revisits the Shiʿi community’s secular past through an analysis of the evolution of Shiʿi involvement in the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP). It argues that the Shiʿi community’s communist interlude was a formative moment in the political mobilization of the Shiʿa, which predated the rise of distinctly Shiʿi political identities, and imparted a lasting legacy on the political development of the Lebanese Shiʿa.

Fruma Zachs and Basilius Bawardi


This article examines detective stories translated by Nasīb al-Mashʿalānī published in the periodical al-Ḍiyāʾ (“The Gleam”) and their contribution to the process of Arab nation-building at the turn of the twentieth century. We show how al-Mashʿalānī’s work consisted of a cultural process rather than a textual product or linguistic transfer. These translations introduced new social, political and epistemological concepts that were particularly important to societal changes in the Arab world – such as the notion of civil society, the relationship of the public to institutions of law and the police, the pursuit of justice, and ways of dealing with crime in the Western model of law and order – that al-Mashʿalānī deliberately adapted to the local Arab culture.

Linda Sayed


This article explores how educational reform became a primary concern for Shiʿi scholars and religious leaders as a means of integrating the Shiʿa of Lebanon into the broader national project during the French Mandate (1920-43). According to these Shiʿi writers, the lack of education contributed to their political and social marginalization as a community. This was the impetus for the development of the ʿĀmiliyya school in Beirut and the Jaʿfariyya school in Tyre. Based on archives from the ʿĀmiliyya and the Jaʿfariyya schools, this paper reflects on the pedagogical approaches taken by both schools to educate and “modernize” Shiʿi children during the French Mandate and early independence periods. Although each school had differing, and at times contrasting, objectives, their calls for educational advancement demonstrate Shiʿi efforts of inclusion into the new “modern” Lebanese nation-state. The establishment of the ʿĀmiliyya and the Jaʿfariyya schools demonstrates the growing sectarian and national underpinnings of the period.

Bashir Saade


The Lebanese political organization Hizbullah has developed its own style of commemorating ʿāshūrāʾ, the Shiʿi period of mourning in remembrance of the Battle of Karbalāʾ. Previous scholarship has analyzed Hizbullah’s ʿāshūrāʾ with prevailing conceptual binaries such as politics/religion, reason/tradition, or reason/emotion. This article challenges such binaries by looking at the series of speeches given by Hizbullah’s secretary general, Ḥasan Naṣrallāh, during the annual ʿāshūrāʾ rituals. Naṣrallāh’s oratory skills, and most importantly the careful structuring of the ten-day mourning event, show clearly that the production of reasoned arguments through speech involves the cultivation of intense emotions and states of consciousness. These are conducive not only to collective action and identity formation but also to ethical practices.

Eric Lob


An investigation into the history and activities of the Lebanese reconstruction and development organization Jihād al-Bināʾ (JB) sheds light on three aspects of Hizbullah and its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). First, the case of JB reveals that, rather than simply existing as a client of the IRI, Hizbullah sought autonomy from it. To this end, Hizbullah aspired to control JB’s projects, localize its personnel, and diversify its funding. Second, this case demonstrates how Hizbullah instrumentalized development to advance its strategic and ideational interests, which included mobilizing and socializing recruits, supporters, and voters, spreading political and religious values, and preserving a territorial and social base. Third, the case illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of Hizbullah’s politicized, faith-based, and distributive development model. While instilling cohesiveness and commitment in some personnel and beneficiaries, this model disregarded the priorities and preferences of others, and it lacked inclusivity and sustainability.