By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem* |
In the last two decades, the Islamic movements approached to adopt the phrase “civil state” as a mysterious political term in order not to veil its true intention in establishing an Islamic state that applies the sharia. In that way, it would have some room to maneuver as it wouldn’t lose its audience neither freak nor repel the opponent audience of the religious state or the establishment of the Islamic rule based on sharia.
The term “civil state” comes in use to avoid the term “secular state”, which means the separation of religion from the state, thus to cover-up the pursuit of establishing “religious state” or “Islamic state”. However, the civil state term has prevailed divergence and confusion as some consider that the civil state is indeed the secular state and the use of the word civil aims to ease the phrase, hence, secularity according to the Muslims concept and the religious ones in particular, means the deportation of religion from policy, governance, and legislative.
If we look back at the western policy ideology, we would not find the term civil state, but rather, we would find terms as the secular state, the religious state, the theocratic state, the modern state, the democratic state, or the dictatorial state.
Some researches view that the “civil state” term has been developed in the Arabic Language at the start by the Islamic reformer sheikh Muhammad Abduh (1849 – 1905) who insisted that there is no such religious authority in the Islam.
The researcher Abed Al karim Al-Jebai claims that the “Muslim brothers” have coined this term in the fifties after 1952 revolution in Egypt to oppose the military government and to improve the civil nature of the Islamic state. Whereas, some seculars use this term to point out to the modern nation-state of which separates within it the political domain from the religious domain. Several Egyptian academic researchers agree on fact that the political term “civil state” carries the same meaning of the secular state concept. Thus, it has been used by seculars in purpose to replace the unacceptable secular state term broad-based in the Egyptian society.
The researcher Mary Tadres endorses this point of view pointing at the political argument in Egypt about the Islamic state against the secular state has lasted until the beginning of the 19th century, when the civil state concept started to emerge in the Egyptian political speech.
Therefore, the civil state is a secular state that separates religion and policy away from each other; it is a state of law based on equality of rights and duties among the citizens despite their religion, race, sex, and class. Also, this state provides religious, political, and intellectual freedom for its people.
However, what is Hezbollah’s position towards the state, the civil state, and the religious state?
Before answering this question, we should go back to the beginning of establishing the party and its intellectual principles – the religious and the political ones – to understand how did Hezbollah’s perception change towards the Lebanese system, the state, and how did its speech change.
The Formation of Hezbollah: The Islamic Revolution in Lebanon
The Lebanese Hezbollah has established as a frame containing Islamic Shia groups supporting the Islamic Republic in Iran to resist the Israeli occupation after invading Lebanon in summer 1982. The prominent groups are: “The Islamic Amal Movement”, it is a group that split from the Amal Movement headed by Hussein Al Mousawi, Islamic Dawa party, Muslim Students Union, Islamic committees, Islamic Action Committees, and independent Islamic clergymen and activists. What connects these groups together is the belief in “Wilayat al-Faqih” principle and the leadership of the Iranian mentor Imam Al Khomeini, also the necessity to found an Islamic Republic in Lebanon similar to the Iranian Islamic Republic.
In its first years, these groups were busy in organizing secret military resistance to fight the Israeli occupier in Lebanon which arrived to the capital Beirut, western Bekaa, not to mention South Lebanon and Mount Lebanon; as a result, the official announcement of Hezbollah and merging these groups in structure till 1985, when the “open letter to the oppressed and the world” had been announced and uncovered the party’s principles as the party was working secretly under covered by the name “The Islamic Resistance”, thus executing military operations against the Israeli occupation forces in south Lebanon and western Bekaa.
In the “open letter” and in paragraph “who are we and what is our identity”, the founders and leaders of Hezbollah did not cover their political and intellectual orientation, as they might do today, and the paragraph states, “We are the sons of Hezbollah ummah that God conquered its beginning in Iran, and once again founded a core of the central state of Islam in the world. We are committed to one wise and just leadership resembled as Wali al-Faqih” or “Supreme Guide” and is embodied in the supreme Imam Grand Ayatollah Khamenei May his shadow endure.”
The letter also includes, “on this basis, we are not a closed organizational party, nor a narrow political frame, but rather, we are ummah correlates with Muslims all around the world by a strong ideological and political bond called the Islam. From this particular point, anything affects the Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippian or any other will affect our Islamic ummah as we are all integrated and fight it in purpose for sharia duty mainly and in the light of general political vision decided by the supreme leader.”
Since day one, Hezbollah has declared his correlation with the Iranian Islamic Republic and which called it “The central state of Islam” thus its commitment to the supreme leader orders, Imam Ali Khamenei. Furthermore, Hezbollah announced Islamic internationalism and it surpassed the Lebanese nationalism and Arab nationalism similar to most Islamic movements as Muslim Brotherhood and others by focusing on what affect the Muslims all around the world and confronting it based on the vision and orders of the supreme leader.
As for its intellectual reference, the letter notes that Hezbollah knowledge come from “The Holy Quran, The Infallible Sunnah, judgments and advisory opinions (fatwas) issued by the supreme leader, our religious reference (marja’a).
Regarding al jihad, in the same document, Hezbollah considers, “Everyone of us is a soldier when the time of jihad comes and everyone will handle his required mission in the battle according to his religious obligation framed by the supreme leader work.”
Concerning the regime Hezbollah wants, the letter states, “We do not hide our commitment towards the Islamic ruling regime and we invite everyone to choose it, as it is by itself guarantees justice and dignity for all, and prevents any attempt for colonial infiltration into our country again.”
In another paragraph, Hezbollah also added, “We have no attempt to oblige Islam on anyone as we hate to be obliged by beliefs and regimes of others, and don.t want the Islam to rule the country by force as the political Maronite. However, we assure we are convinced with the Islam by faith (aakida) and regime, ideology and ruling, and we invite everyone to recognize it and resort to its sharia, as we also invite to adopt Islam and adhere to its doctrine individually, politically, and socially.”
Hezbollah assures his adoption to political Islam by faith and approach as it honestly announced invitation to adopt “Islamic regime in Lebanon on free choice and direct basis by people, not by force.” Hezbollah exposes its ambitions for Lebanon to become embedded in the political map opposed to America, world’s arrogance, and global Zionism, which would be governed by the fair leadership of Islam.”
Looking back at the very initial founding document of Hezbollah would be useful to understand its intellectual, political, and religious principles; however, it is fair to say that it was an urgent unrealistic enthusiastic document written due to the disastrous situation that Lebanon drowned in due to the Israeli occupation to most of its territories thus to the occupation of the very first Arab capitol, not to mention the occupier obligation to choose an advocate president with a mindset in ruling as a militia Phalangist partisan, dominant Maroni sector, and exerting revenge approach on Muslims, national forces, and the leftist movement that fought Phalange (Kataeb) Party and the Christian “Lebanese forces” during the first civil war (1975-1985). Hezbollah was also supported by Iran’s’ triumphs in the war against Iraq, thus the announcement for approaching victory and changing the regimes for the entire territory. In addition, Hezbollah was still recently established and didn’t have any experience in the political domain, nor an independent intellectual vision from Iran.
Therefore, Hezbollah and its ideology cannot be judged based on the document only. Instead, the second new document Hezbollah, issued in 2009, should be considered after 24 years since releasing the first document; in addition to the electoral programs Hezbollah issued since its entrance to the parliamentary council in 1992 of which these electoral programs were concerned in internal Lebanese political, economic, and social issues without touching upon the ideology.
Perhaps, the election programs – based on it Hezbollah went through parliamentary elections in years 1992, 1996,2000, 2005, 2009 – unveil most of the adjustments that the party introduced in its political speech in terms of realistic reading of the regional political situation on one side, and turning its vision for the Lebanese reality that consists of political and religious diversity on the other side; thus, for its internal alliances and its vision at the resistance force and the clashes against the Israeli occupier. However, these adjustments did not reach the phase of reconsidering the ideological/religious speech of Hezbollah.
Document 2009: Shifting From The Revolution To The State
In Hezbollah’s political document, issued in 2009, it is noticeable that it in its first chapter it tackles the American and western dominance on the whole world and the American project for our territory, while, it allots the second chapter to discuss about Lebanon, the resilience force, and the political regime. From the form perspective, Hezbollah’s priorities are the regional cases that come at the expense of the national cases. Later, we will observe how these priorities reflected on the party’s political, military, and security performance as the “Islamic International” benefit dominated the Arab and Lebanese benefit. Moreover, it is accused to be working in accordance to the Iranian benefits agenda.
“Lebanon is our country, it is our fathers and ascenders country as it is our sons and decenters. It is the country we offered for its sovereignty, pride and dignity, and freeing its territories the most precious sacrifices and dearest martyrs. The country we want to be for all the Lebanese people without distinction to embrace, contain and rise within their passion. We want Lebanon to be united within its land, people, state, and organizations, and we refuse any kind of classifying or “federation”, the explicit or convenient. We want a free cherished strong independent resilient country to be present at region equations, and a prime participant in building the present and future as it was permanently present in making history.”
*Dr. Haytham Mouzahem is the head of Center for Asian and Chinese Studies.