Mahdi Amel

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Mahdi 'Amel
Hassan Abdullah Hamdan

DiedMay 18, 1987
Cause of deathAssassinated
Other namesHilal Bin Zaytoun
Alma materUniversity of Lyon
Notable work
Marx in Edward Said's Orientalism
RegionArab world
InstitutionsLebanese University
Main interests

Hassan Abdullah Hamdan (Arabic: حسن عبد الله حمدان), more commonly known by his pseudonym Mahdi 'Amel (Arabic: مهدي عامل), was an Arab Marxist intellectual and political activist in the second half of the 20th century. Mahdi was one of the most influential Marxist thinkers in the Arab world during his time; his work remains both influential and respected.[1]

The pseudonym, Mahdi Amel, comes from Jabal Amel, a predominantly Shiite mountainous region in southern Lebanon.[1]

'Amil was a professor of philosophy at the Lebanese University in Beirut, and a prominent member of both the Lebanese Communist Party and the Union of Lebanese Writers. He also contributed to the magazine ‘‘al-Tareeq’’, the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Communist Party.[2]

'Amil was assassinated at the relatively young age of 51, amidst the violence and chaos of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). There is little evidence indicating who murdered him.

Early life[edit]

Mahdi was born in 1936 in Harouf, close to the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh. His parents moved him and his siblings to Beirut shortly afterwards. In Beirut, Mahdi attended high school at the al-Maqasid School. In 1956, Mahdi began his university studies in France, eventually receiving a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Lyon. Afertwards, Mahdi began his active involvement with the Lebanese Communist Party, joining in 1960.[2] While in France, he also participated in a secretive group of Arab communists.[1] As his scholarship demonstrates, Mahdi possessed much more command of Marxist theory than most other Arab political activists at the time.


In 1963, Mahdi moved to the newly independent Algeria with his wife, Evelyne Brun.[2] She taught French, while he taught classes in the city of Constantine on Franz Fanon, who had recently passed. During this time, Mahdi wrote several articles for the publication ‘’Revolution Africaine’’, the first of which was about Franz Fanon.[1]

Mahdi lived in Algeria for 13 years of his relatively short life (1963 to 1976). During this time, the Lebanese Communist Party had gained considerable momentum within Lebanon, operating increasingly more freely between 1970 and 1975. The number of workers strikes increased, students became more involved, and the party managed to get 50,000 people to protest against the privatization of education. This improving situation for the Communist Party in Lebanon likely encouraged Mahdi’s return.[1]

Return to Lebanon and the Communist Party[edit]

Upon returning to Lebanon in 1976, Mahdi began work as a teacher at a high school for girls. Later on, he changed jobs to become a full-time professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the Lebanese University. There, he taught philosophy, politics, and methodologies.[2]

At this time, Mahdi also began contributing to ‘’al-Tareeq’’, the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Communist Party. For the articles he wrote for this magazine, Mahdi began using the pseudonym by which he is now most commonly known (Mahdi ‘Amel).[2]

Mahdi traveled a great deal within Lebanon to deliver lectures on Marxism and to discuss pressing issues with farmers around the country[2] – especially tobacco farmers. As a result, Mahdi earned much respect from Lebanon’s rural working class population.[1]

Mahdi moved up the ranks of the Lebanese Communist Party, eventually becoming a member of the Central Committee in the Fifth Convention, which took place in 1987.[2]


Mahdi ‘Amel was assassinated on May 18, 1987 at the age of 51.[2] Mahdi was walking on Algeria street, running an errand, when two men called his name. As he turned around, the men shot him, and he died later that day at the American University of Beirut’s hospital. There is not much evidence as to who killed Mahdi, some says the Islamic Jihad member Imad Mughniyah was behind his assassination.


In 1991, a collection of his work from the period between 1968 and 1973 was published as’’In Issues of Teaching and Educational Policies.’’ In this collection, Mahdi describes how Lebanon’s education system reproduces sectarianism and undermines overall education.[2]

Notable works[edit]

Among Mahdi's notable scholarly work, his criticism of Edward Said's Orientalism on account of its misreading of Marx's work has gained considerable respect.[3]

  • Theoretical Introductions to Study the influence of Socialism on the National Liberation Movement.
  • Conflict of Arab Civilization or Conflict of Arab bourgeoisie?
  • Theory in Political Practice: Research in the Causes of the Lebanese Civil War.
  • Introduction to Critique of Sectarianism: The Palestinian Cause in the Ideology of the Lebanese Bourgeoisie.
  • Marx in Edward Said's Orientalism: Intelligence for the West and Passion for the East?
  • In the Process of Ibn Khaldun's School of Thought.
  • Introduction to the Critique of Sectarianism in the Sectarian State.


On top of political activism and articles on Marxism, Mahdi also authored poems, which he signed under the name Hilal Bin Zaytoun.[2]

  • Time Improvisations
  • The Space of N

See also[edit]