Banu Amela

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The Banu Amela (Arabic: Banū 'Āmela) (Arabic: بنو عامله) a South Arabian tribe that migrated from the towns of Bardoun, Yarim, Mayrayama and Jibla in the central highlands and the Raimah region in Yemen (Jabalan Al Ardaba, Jabalan Al Raymah).

They trace their genealogy back to Amela bin Saba'a bin Yashjeb bin Ya'arib bin Qahtan who left Yemen after the 4th destruction of the Marib Dam around 200 B.C. They dwelled in Syria settling the southern highlands and eastern valley of modern Lebanon.

Byzantine era[edit]

Islamic era[edit]

Prior to the Islamic era, Banu Amela were nominally Christian, in accordance with the surrounding inhabitants of the land. Despite having left Arabia centuries earlier and having intermarried with locals (to a limited extent), they still retained a strong sense of their Arab origins and identity even leading up to and after the Muslim Arab conquests of the Levant from 634-38. However, the spectacular success of their ethnic kinsmen under the Caliphate inculcated in the tribe a sense of envy and threatening encroachment upon the independence of their Lebanese settlements and absorption into the wider Arab sphere. As a result, the tribe sought as much as possible to isolate themselves and preserve their unique status from Caliphate authority. This desire especially intensified and acquired a newfound urgency with the establishment in 661 of the Umayyad Caliphate capital in nearby Damascus, Syria. As a result of this anti-establishment stance and the later neglect of the Levant under the Sunni Abbasids and Tulunids, the tribe (along with other, especially rural, residents around the Lebanon) was particularly susceptible to the messages and propaganda espoused by Shia movements that occasionally uprose and threatened the Umayyad and later Caliphate regimes. This affinity to the Shia cause was strengthened following the captivity in nearby Damascus of the remaining retinue of Husayn ibn Ali following the Battle of Karbala.[1][2]

In the centuries following the Islamic conquest of their homeland, Banu Amela’s identity as a Shia community (often described as then being proto-Shia) solidified. However, their affiliation with the Twelver Shia sect was only concluded after an influx and settlement in Lebanon, particularly from the 11-13th centuries, of such Shia especially from eastern Arabia and southern Iraq. Prior to that, the Levant had been relatively receptive to the Ismaili Shia sect – which for a time based its activities from Syria – as well as various Ghulat groups such as the Qarmatians, which ruled over the Beqaa Valley starting in the 9th century.[3][4][5]

Banu Amela’s Shia identity would lead to their marginalization and concurrent persecution under successive Sunni regimes (up to and including the Ottoman Empire) following the vanquishing of the Crusaders from the Levant. This was also the fate of other non-Sunni groups of the region, such as Alawites and Druze. As a result, Banu Amela was forced to disperse throughout Lebanon from their traditional settlements to escape the persecution.[6]

Medieval History[edit]

Banu Amela were subject to many attacks waged against them by the crusaders in 1095 A.D. Many coastal cities successively fell in the Crusaders' hands, after witnessing many atrocities. But the villages were not subject to such mishandling since their inhabitants remained in them, and the Crusaders needed the local population to make use of the land in order to provide them with food and procurements.

The Banu Amela helped liberate their land form the Crusaders[citation needed] during the Ayubids and the Mamlukes era, when the last city, Tyre, was regained on May 19, 1291 A.D. The Mamlukes seized power afterward and persecuted those who opposed them, or belonged to a different religious sect than theirs (Mamlukes were Sunni Muslims).

Many areas that had Banu Amelas residing in them lived through a number of upheaval and civil unrests, such as those surrounding Tripoli and the region of Kisrwan in Mount Lebanon. As a result, many of them fled to the south, into areas such as Jezzine, or the east, into the Bekaa Valley. One of their prominent clergymen during that time, Shamseddine was persecuted and eventually killed by the Mamluks in 1384 A.D., later to be named the 'First Martyr.'

They played an important role in the history of ancient and modern Lebanon. During the Ottoman rule (ca. 1517-1918), they established autonomy in their areas to the extent of having their own flag (tricoloured: red-symbol of Imam Hussein's martyrdom; black-symbol of their mourning of Hussein, and; green-the symbolic colour of Islam) and army, which fought against the Ottoman regional rulers in northern Palestine and Damascus.

Under the French Mandate[edit]

When the French took their mandate from the League of Nations after World War I, Lebanon became part of that mandate, which established modern day Republic of Lebanon in 1920 by including south Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and north Lebanon to form the country.

Banu Amel in the South Lebanon Governorate resented the French rule on their territory, especially the establishment of French government offices and military bases, considering it an encroachment on their historical autonomy. Guerrilla war ensued, leading many people and prominent resistance figures to ally themselves with the Druze of Lebanon and neighbouring Syria around the Houran region along the Golan Heights area.

Adham Khanjar, one of the most historical figures during this conflict found a close alliance with Sultan Basha Al-Atrash who offered help and sometimes refuge for Khanjar and his followers. The great revolt of 1925 - 1927 succeeded in driving French forces from the Jabal Druze and became a symbol of Syrian and Lebanese common objections to the mandate and all that it represented.[7]

Also, many religious figures played an important role in deciding the fate of this revolt against the French. The Ulema-religious scholars-advocated and worked for cooperation between Lebanon and Syria, since they were opposed to the Greater Lebanon idea under direct French control, which was believed to be carved out of Bilad al-Sham, or Grand Syria. Some scholars, such as Sayyed Abdul Hussain Sharaffedine issued a Fatwa for Jihad against the French. The Ulema (in Arabic 3olama2) and the leaders in the South met in 'Wadi El Hujay' on the 24 of April 1920 to authorize Sayyed Sharafeddine, Sayyed Muhsen Al Amine and Sayyed Abdel Hussain Noureddien to discuss the future of Jabal Amel and its people with King Faisal in Damascus.

Many revolts broke out as a result beginning from the 1920s until the French departure, and a number of brigades were formed by Banu Amela to fight against the French. These were led by Adham Khanjar, Sadeq Hamzeh and Muhammad Ahmad Bazzi brigades. One of the most important events in the course of this revolt occurred in 1936 when the town of Bint-Jbeil carried a great fight against the French, which later was described as a struggle for the sake of independence. People who were killed in that event were considered martyrs of the Lebanese resistance to the French occupation.

Following Lebanese Independence[edit]

[1] After Lebanon gained its independence on November 22, 1943 and by the time French army withdrew its soldiers from Lebanon in 1946, the Lebanese National Pact, which is a notional and unofficial understanding, allocated the seat of Speaker of the Parliament to the Shia in recognition for their role demographically and politically, but they remained socially and financially marginalized.

This status had very much to do with the historical alliance the French compacted with the Maronites in Lebanon, and the fact that most of development projects took place in Beirut or the regions surrounding it, which somewhat had a positive outcome since many active young people travelled abroad looking for better opportunities. In the 1960s and 1970s West Africa received the bulk of Shia emigrants from South Lebanon, especially the Senegal, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Zaire, therefore providing them with opportunities to build wealth and political connections that persists until today.

Later on, in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s new emigration destinations included the U.S.A., Canada, and many parts in South America such as Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and also in Australia.

Political Parties, Families, and Prominent Members[edit]

Some of the major political parties include: Amal Movement, Hizbullah, and the Social Democratic Movement (led by Kamel Al-As'aad), Lebanese communist party, Syrian Social Nationalist Party

Traditional families: Al-As'aad, Al-Saghir, Mugniyeh, Berro, Khalil, Sweidan, Wehbe, Hariri,Osseiran,Sabbah,Fadlallah,Abdallah,Nasrallah,Charafeddein,Saffeidein,Berri

Prominent figures: Adham Khanjar, Hassan Kamel es-Sabbah

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ ’’Lebanon’’, edited by Barry Rubin, pp. 11-16.
  2. ^ ’’Lebanon: A History, 600-2011’’, by William Harris, p. iv-xi.
  3. ^ ’’Lebanon: A History, 600-2011’’, by William Harris, p. iv-xi.
  4. ^ ’’Global Security Watch—Lebanon: A Reference Handbook: A Reference Handbook’’, by David S. Sorenson, pp. 103-4.
  5. ^ ’’Lebanon’’, edited by Barry Rubin, pp. 11-16.
  6. ^ ’’Negotiating Language Education Policies’’, edited by Kate Menken, Ofelia Garcia, Professor of Urban Education, p. 164.
  7. ^ William L. Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 3rd Ed. Westview Press 2004