Islamic history, religion, Syrian history

Alawais and their place in the Islamic world; allegations of heresy .

The Taymiyyah ruling

The last entry referred briefly to how the Alawais are considered heretical in some quarters. One example and possibly the main justification for the invasion of Syria by the young mercenaries, who constitute ISIS, is the ruling or fatwa by the scholar Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328) 2015/03/05/more-ibn-taymiyyah-jihad-the-mongol-invasion-acceptance-or-retaliation/. A ruling, which ultimately declared the Nusrayis to be enemies of Islam .

Much of Imam Taymiyyah’s reasoning highlights their different religious practices but draws also on possible heresay evidence. lines of communication depended, then as they do now, on people’s interpretation of events, which is often subjective as its construction is underpinned by political affiliation or even urban myth. The fatwa is a point of law and given in response to questions asked of an Islamic scholar.

The questions, in this instance, covered a range of subjects and sought to clarify the personal and business inter-relationship between the two faiths. Clearly Imam Taymiyyah considered the Nusayris to be unbelievers and cites some of their actions as proof. He refers to the  confiscating the black stone at Mecca for a time and of throwing pilgrims into the Well of Zam Zam.

In a time, when the aftermath of the Mongol invasion hung heavily on his shoulders, Imam Taymiyyah accuses the Nusayris of siding with the Christians. He cites, how they allowed the crusaders, to enter the coastal part of Greater Syria (the Sham coast), where they did capture certain ports. The ports included, those of Haifa, now in the Israeli dominated part of Palestine, Sur and Tripoli in Lebanon and Tartous, in modern day Syria.

Nusayris or Alawais

Readers may have heard the Alawai referred to as Nusayri, depending on the text and the time frame. The terms ”extreme Shia” and Ghulat (exaggeration) also crop up frequently and pertain to the Alawai religious practices, which differentiate them from orthodox and other ”extreme” Muslim sects. The last entry described how it wasn’t until the early 20th century, that scholars acknowledged their preference for the name Alawai.

The preference is understandable as the name Alawai derives from that of Alī ibn Abī Tālib, who the Alawais believe to be the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammed. The article ‘Nosis’, Nusayri Gools’ indicates, that there are ”linguistic complications” associated with the name as all Shia sects are followers of  Alī ibn Abī Tālib. This is particularly relevant as the Alawais have over time been rejected by the orthodox Shia faith.

According to ‘Nosis, and other academic texts it was the French, who enabled the change of name, when they mandated part of Greater Syria in 1922. This explains recent western media reports, which defend the actions of the ISIS mercenaries by claiming they are merely attempting to re-draw the boundaries imposed by the Picot-Sykes treaty. A spurious argument as those re-colonising Syria today have no previous interest in the region.

Such arguments serve only to justify the slaughter and displacement of countless Syrians. The Picot-Sykes accord enabled Britain and France to partition Greater Syria, weakened the position of Arabic nationalism, led to the legitimation of the Zionist cause and the formation of an Israeli ”state” in Palestine. Though this was more or less inevitable as the Zionists already controlled much of Palestine, the Israeli ”state” continues to provide a means by which all the western powers can maintain a presence in the region.

Colonisation and unforeseen consequences

The article ‘Who are the Syrian Alawais? published by ‘On Religion’  , offers an insight into the position of the Nusayris during the French mandate. The article suggests the French forced the name Alawai to create divisions between them and the Sunni majority. There is no doubt, that Alawai denotes a definite affiliation to Alī ibn Abī Tālib and under the protection of the French people might have been more secure in its usage. If anyone has any information, it would be welcome.

The French badly needed a regional ally to maintain order and commandeered the help of the Alawai peasants to quell the many rebellions, which occurred. ‘On Religion’ describes how their military status was ”regarded as a much-needed vehicle for social mobility” A previously impoverished minority received military training and were ”exposed to new ideas”.

One unforeseen consequence of their enlightenment was their subsequent commitment to Pan Arabism and Ba’ath party ideology developed by Hafez Assad.  An irony as many of the Sunni rebellions of that period were in the name of Arab nationalism. In the light of the persecution suffered by the Alawais through the centuries it is hardly surprising they turned to the French for protection.

Siding with the oppressor is a common practice among minorities, who hope to be liberated and there’s no doubt the Alawais did benefit from French patronage. If they had realised the long term plan for the area it is likely they would have been less enthusiastic. Definitely more about Mohammed ibn Nusayr next time and his relationship with the 12 Imams.


One thought on “Alawais and their place in the Islamic world; allegations of heresy .

  1. Pingback: Pan Islamism |  SHOAH

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