The Chehabs (or "Shihabs"; Arabic: شهابيون / ALA-LC: Shihābiyūn) are a prominent Lebanese noble family. The Chehabs were the traditional princes of the Wadi al-Taym, who traced their lineage to the Banu Makhzum of the ancient Quraysh tribe from Mecca.
The Chehabs succeeded the Maans as rulers of the Mount Lebanon Emirate in 1697, after Emir Ahmad al Maani died without an heir and his nephew Bashir Shihab was appointed to succeed him. They originally lived in the Hawran region of southwestern Syria and settled in Wadi al-Taym in southern Lebanon in 1172 when they fought pitched battles against the crusaders and ousted them from the area. The Chehabs captured the old Crusader castle in Hasbaya and laid the foundation for their rule for the next 700 years.
The most prominent among them was Prince Bashir Chehab II, who was much like his predecessor, Fakhr ad-Din II. Having converted from Sunni Islam, the religion of previous Chehabi Emirs, he was the first Maronite ruler of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon.
His ability as a statesman was first tested in 1799, when Napoleon besieged Acre, a well-fortified coastal city in Palestine, about forty kilometers south of Tyre. Both Napoleon and Ahmed al-Jazzar, the governor of Acre, requested assistance from the Chehab princes; Bashir, however, remained neutral, declining to assist either combatant. Unable to conquer Acre, Napoleon returned to Egypt, and the death of Al-Jazzar in 1804 removed Bashir's principal opponent in the area.
When Bashir II decided to break away from the Ottoman Empire, he allied himself with Muhammad Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, and assisted Muhammad Ali's son, Ibrahim Pasha, in another siege of Acre. This siege lasted seven months, the city falling on May 27, 1832. The Egyptian army, with assistance from Bashir's troops, also attacked and conquered Damascus on June 14, 1832.
In 1840, the principal European powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia), opposing the pro-Egyptian policy of the French, signed the London Treaty with the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman ruler) on July 15, 1840.
According to the terms of this treaty, Muhammad Ali was asked to leave Syria; when he rejected this request, Ottoman and British troops landed on the Lebanese coast on September 10, 1840. Faced with this combined force, Muhammad Ali retreated, and on October 14, 1840, Bashir II surrendered to the British and went into exile. Bashir Chehab III was then appointed. On January 13, 1842, the sultan deposed Bashir III and appointed Omar Pasha as governor of Mount Lebanon. This event marked the end of the rule of the Chehabs.
Today, the Chehabs are still one of the most prominent families in Lebanon, and the third president of Lebanon after independence, Fuad Chehab, was a member of this family, as was former Prime Minister Khaled Chehab. The Chehabs bear the title of Amirs (or Princes). A branch of the family, directly descended from Bashir II, resides in Turkey, known as the Paksoy family, due to Turkish restrictions on non-Turkish surnames. Today, a group of them are Sunni Muslims, and others are Maronite Catholics, though they have common family roots. There are other families in Lebanon and elsewhere carrying the same name but are not related to the Chehab emirs and do not have the same roots or share any common lineage. The 11th century citadel in Hasbaya, South Lebanon, is still a private property of the Chehabs, many of them still living in it.
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