About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos

Lebanon - SOCIETY

Lebanon - The Society


SINCE THE MID-1970s, Lebanon has been convulsed by the protracted tragedy of civil strife among the numerous segments and factions of its multiethnic and multisectarian society. The violent civil war of the mid-1970s was followed by incursions, invasions, and occasional occupation by the armed forces of foreign powers and organizations. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s scores of thousands of Lebanese fled their homeland, thousands more were killed, and the warring communities tended to become ever more intransigent in their demands for social autonomy. In the late 1980s the social systems remained severely fragmented, and a national society could not be said to exist. Prior to the 1975 Civil War some features of social change reflected an underlying trend toward modernization. Decline of kinship ties, social differentiation, rapid urbanization, and an improvement in living standards were all at play, but only within a fragmented social context in which the process of modernization lacked national uniformity. Furthermore, the tension between the forces of continuity and change retarded the pace of modernization, especially when the Lebanese political system did not adapt by expanding the scope of political representation and expression.

Generally speaking, Lebanese society was a traditional one that was exposed to forces of modernization in its urban centers. While some parts of the capital, Beirut, were undergoing a rapid process of modernization, a great influx of villagers to the cities created a "ruralizing" effect. Not only were the forces of change weakened by the value systems of the newcomers, but migration also led to social alienation in the so-called "belt of misery." This area was inhabited mostly by Shias who were driven out of southern Lebanon in the 1960s by the deteriorating political and security conditions resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian war of attrition. Moreover, the prosperity of Beirut and prospects of jobs lured skilled and unskilled laborers.

Lebanon did not come into existence until 1920, when the French--governing the region under a League of Nations mandate-- annexed the peripheral coastal area, the Biqa Valley, the northern region, and Jabal Amil (southern Lebanon) to the mutasarrifiyah of Mount Lebanon to create Greater Lebanon. Before the creation of the republic, Lebanon was politically and socially fragmented among the various Ottoman vilayets (provinces) and the confessional communities that sought refuge in its rugged mountains to avoid persecution.

Lebanese society is divided into numerous sects that are separated from each other by recognizable geographical lines of demarcation and perhaps even more by fear and suspicion. Some communal groups have resisted the changes associated with secularization and modernity by identifying more closely with their own sects and by vehemently opposing the existing political system. In 1987, after twelve years of civil war, Lebanon continued to be confessionally organized. Furthermore, the military battles had reinforced the distances between sects by causing demographic changes through the eviction of members of a whole sect from one region to another. This movement has not only affected Christian-Muslim relations, but also sects of the same faith.

Finally, the war had weakened the loose bonds of national loyalty and the feeling of belonging to one society. Although some Lebanese still believed in the efficacy of restoring the unity of a society that would comprise all sects, voices of religious fanaticism and self-interest rejected national and political integration within a system of mutual tolerance. This lack of consensus on national issues partly accounted for the continuation of war and conflict in Lebanon in the late 1980s.


Lebanon - Population


The lack of official statistics makes a demographic analysis of Lebanese society a difficult task. Because of the precarious and delicate sectarian arrangement in the body politic, the government has deliberately avoided conducting a comprehensive update of the 1932 census. Christian communities, primarily the Maronites, fear that the numerical preponderance of Muslims would eventually strip them of their privileges by changing the foundations of political representation. When the French Mandate government conducted the 1932 census, it enumerated 861,399 Lebanese, including those living abroad, most of whom were identified as Christians. The distribution of parliamentary seats among the confessions was based on the findings of the 1932 census; the ratio of six Christians to five Muslims, including Druzes, has been retained.

The government has published only rough estimates of the population since 1932. The estimate for 1956, for example, showed that in a total population of 1,411,416, Christians accounted for 54 percent and Muslims, 44 percent. The estimate was seriously contested because it was based on figures derived from a government welfare program that tended not to include Muslims in areas distant from Beirut. After the 1950s, the government statistical bureau published only total population estimates that were not subdivided according to sect. Consequently, the census became a highly charged political issue in Lebanon, because it constituted the ostensible basis for communal representation.

Conducting a census during the 1970s and 1980s was clearly impossible because of the war. The United States Department of State 1983 estimate for the population of Lebanon was 2.6 million. The figures included Lebanese nationals living abroad and excluded Palestinian refugees, of whom there were nearly 400,000. A 1986 estimate by the United States Central Intelligence Agency of the confessional distribution of the population showed 27 percent Sunnis, 41 percent Shias, 7 percent Druzes, 16 percent Maronites, 5 percent Greek Orthodox, and 3 percent Greek Catholics. However, these data were, at best, informed estimates subject to revision.

In the absence of a reliable country-wide population census, the most useful data on population was a 1984 survey conducted in the Greater Beirut region by a team of specialists from the American University of Beirut. An examination of the age composition of the resident population of Beirut in the 1983-84 period revealed a relatively young population with 41.5 percent less than twenty years of age. There appeared to be a decline in fertility over the last decade for the resident population of Beirut.

The sex distribution of the 1983-84 Beirut resident population indicated an overall sex ratio of 95.5 males per 100 females. The extreme deficiency observed for males in the age group twenty through forty-nine may be the result of two factors: the large emigration of men in these ages, mostly to Persian Gulf countries, and a high rate of war-related mortality.

A 1983 World Bank study contained some statistics on the demographic characteristics of Lebanon for the period 1960 through 1981, the last year for which figures were available in 1987. Although the reliability of the figures could not be established, the figures revealed some interesting trends. During this period, the crude birth rate declined perceptibly as did the crude death rate. Surprisingly, life expectancy rose despite the war. The fertility rate continued to decline during the war, but there was little change in the age structure of the population. Total population increased, although at a slower rate than in the prewar period, and there was a dramatic increase in urban population because of the continued influx to the cities. The rate of increase of population density slowed, however, as a result of the war and the consequent emigration of large numbers of Lebanese.

Although accurate figures of Beirut's population in the mid1980s were lacking, the city's dominant demographic position was unquestioned. Beirut has featured prominently in Lebanese society as a port city throughout its history and as the major population center of the country since at least the beginning of the Mandate period in 1920. Its role in maritime trade brought prosperity to its inhabitants. The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 benefited Beirut, which replaced the port of Haifa as a center for Arab trade with the West. Until the 1950s, Beirut was inhabited primarily by non-Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims. In the 1950s a wave of immigrants from all parts of Lebanon and from all sects sought the lure of economic prosperity and the readily available government services of Beirut. The civil strife that began the 1970s has reinforced the sectarian demographic divisions in the city.

Other major cities in Lebanon include Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, Baalbek, and Zahlah. Tripoli, the capital of Ash Shamal Province, has a majority Sunni population and a Christian minority. Sidon, in Al Janub Province, also has a Sunni majority, with a sizable Christian community. Tyre, in Al Janub Province, has a diverse sectarian composition. Although the majority of its inhabitants are Shias, the city has always included Christians of various sects. Baalbek, in Al Biqa Province, has a Shia majority and a Christian minority. Zahlah, also in Al Biqa Province, has a predominantly Christian population.

<>War and Displacement in Beirut
<>The Palestinian Element

Updated population figures for Lebanon.


Lebanon - Migration


An important characteristic of the Lebanese is their migratory spirit, which can be traced back to the Phoenicians who were known for their exploratory expeditions. Substantial emigration occurred between 1860 and 1914. During this period, approximately 330,000 Lebanese emigrated from what is now Syria and Lebanon. Between 1900 and 1914 the annual rate was about 15,000. The rate dropped sharply during World War I and immediately thereafter, but resumed a net annual emigration rate of about 3,000 between 1921 and 1939. Those who had emigrated by 1932 included 123,397 Maronites, 57,031 Greek Orthodox, and 26,627 Melkites, but only 36,865 Muslims and Druzes. Following World War II the rate decreased somewhat until 1975; thereafter the Civil War caused the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese. In much of the pre-Civil War period, the proportion of Christian Lebanese emigrants to Muslims and Druzes was as high as six to one.

Rural to urban migration has also been a strong social force within Lebanon. Villagers have moved to the cities, Beirut in particular, to seek improved living conditions or to escape the horrors of war and poverty. The new city dwellers were known for maintaining ties to their home villages. Because of Lebanon's small size and short travel distances, many could continue to spend vacations and weekends in their villages, especially during harvest time. The newcomer to Beirut usually took up residence near fellow villagers and coreligionists. In the case of many Shias, the massive movement to the so-called "belt of misery," which denoted the southern and, until 1976, the eastern suburbs of Beirut, led to deep social resentment since affluent Maronite districts were adjacent to poor Shia districts. In fact, one of the first fronts of the war in 1975 was that between the Shia neighborhood of Shayah and the Christian neighborhood of Ayn ar Rummanah. The road that separated these neighborhoods became known as the Green Line, which in the 1980s designated the line separating Christian East Beirut from predominantly Muslim West Beirut.

More than twelve years of turmoil have resulted in considerable compulsory and voluntary displacement of ordinary people. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese left their country, some as permanent emigrants, others for what they hoped would be temporary exile. How many left is not known, but Lebanon has the dubious distinction of being the only developing country which the World Bank believes has actually witnessed a negative population growth rate in recent years. Lebanon's inability to hold a proper census, even in time of peace, means there are only estimates for the country's population. Whereas the population was thought by World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) sources to have grown by around 70 percent to 2.77 million over the 25 years to 1975, by 1984 the population was thought to have declined to 2.64 million.

There has been considerable internal migration as well. Again, it is not possible to quantify this precisely. But the repeated redrawing of militia lines of control, and the repeated fears of members of one community living in enclaves dominated by people of a different religious, national or political persuasion, make it not unreasonable to suppose that as much as a third of the country's inhabitants in mid-1987 had moved to new homes since 1975. It might also be argued that as many as half the people have at some stage moved away from their family homes for a while to escape the persistent violence. Such developments have had profound socioeconomic consequences. A disproportionate number of males have emigrated, while men presumably also account for the majority of those who have died in the years of conflict. Thus there has been a steady increase in the number of women entering the workforce and in female-headed households.



Lebanon - War and Displacement in Beirut


On the eve of the Civil War in 1975, it was evident that the demographic expansion of Beirut and its suburbs had occurred at the expense of the rest of the country. Between 1960 and 1975 the population of Greater Beirut increased almost threefold, from 450,000 to 1,250,000. In 1959, 27.7 percent of all Lebanese lived in Beirut, but this figure ballooned to more than 50 percent in 1975. Lebanon's service-based economy acted as an agent for Western industries and Arab markets alike, leading to the centralization of firms and resources in Beirut, which served as a transit point.

Two factors changed the demographic composition of Beirut in the 1970s. The first was the dramatic growth, starting in 1973, of labor emigration to the Persian Gulf countries. At one point, the outflow included about half the entire work force of Beirut. The second was the series of battles that engulfed the city in a ferocious war. As for the levels of internal migration of various sectarian and ethnic groups at different times during the Civil War, three patterns can be discerned in terms of scope and duration: heavy migration, fast and temporary (the exodus from Beirut when it was besieged by the Israeli army in 1982); heavy migration, fast and permanent (the eviction of Palestinians and Shias from East Beirut in 1976 and the eviction of Christians from the Shuf Mountains in 1983); and the slow and intermittent migration of individuals and families.



Lebanon - The Palestinian Element


After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, between 100,000 and 170,000 Palestinian refugees entered Lebanon. They were mostly Muslims and nearly all Arabs, but they also included some Armenians, Greeks, and Circassians. During their first two decades in Lebanon, the Palestinian refugees emerged as politically powerful players. The number of Palestinians in Lebanon swelled as a result of the war between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Jordanian Armed Forces and the subsequent expulsion of several thousand Palestinian guerrillas from Jordan in 1970.

In 1987 a large number of Palestinians still lived in or around camps administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees in the Near East. In 1975 there were sixteen officially designated UNRWA camps in Lebanon, but in 1975-76 the Maronite militias evicted thousands of Palestinians from the suburbs of East Beirut and demolished their camps. By 1986 there were only eleven camps in Lebanon. Many relatively well-off Palestinians lived outside the camps. In 1984 the United States Department of State estimated that 400,000 Palestinians were living in Lebanon, whereas the PLO claimed the figure to be as high as 600,000.





In 1987 the dominant culture among the various communities was an Arab culture influenced by Western themes. Lebanon's shared language, heritage, history, and religion with its Arab neighbors, however, tended to minimize the distinctiveness of the Lebanese culture. Ethnically, most Lebanese are Arabs, many of whom can trace their lineage to ancient tribes in Arabia. This ethnic majority constitutes more than 90 percent of the population. Muslim and Christian Lebanese speak Arabic, and many of their families have lived in what is now Lebanon for centuries. Moreover, the difference in dialects in Lebanon is a function of geographical location and not of confessional affiliation. Minority non-Arab ethnic groups include Armenians, Kurds, and Jews, although some members of these groups have come to speak the language and identify with the culture of the majority.

Despite the commonalities in Lebanese society, sectarianism (or confessionalism) is the dominant social, economic, and political reality. Divisiveness has come to define that which is Lebanon. Sects should not be viewed as monolithic blocs, however, since strife within confessional groups is as common as conflict with other sects. Even so, the paramount schismatic tendency in modern Lebanon is that between Christian and Muslim.

Sectarianism is not a new issue in Lebanon. The disintegrative factors in society preceded the creation of modern Lebanon in 1920. Before that date, historical Lebanon, or Mount Lebanon, was shared primarily between the Druzes and the Maronites. The two communities, distinguished by discrete religious beliefs and separate cultural outlooks, did not coexist in peace and harmony. Rather, the Druzes and Maronites often engaged in fierce battles over issues ranging from land ownership, distribution of political power, foreign allegiances, and petty family feuds. At least twice in the last century, the conflicts between the two confessional communities developed into full-scale civil wars, which were only ended by the intervention of foreign powers. The Lebanese sectarian problem became more acute in 1920, when the French authorities annexed territories to Mount Lebanon to form Greater Lebanon. Although the new state comprised diverse confessional communities, a political system favoring the majority Christians was established by the French.


Lebanon - Lebanese Confessional Societies


The Lebanese confessional societies reflect the tensions at the heart of Lebanese society. While Muslims and Christians have lived together in Lebanon for over a century, their deep disagreements over the Lebanese political formula and state make it unrealistic to treat all Lebanese as members of one social unit.

Since the creation of the republic, the Lebanese have disagreed over the identity of the new state. Although Muslims, specifically the Sunnis, were inclined toward a close association with Greater Syria and the Arab world, Christians, particularly the Maronites, opted for linking Lebanon culturally and politically to the Western world. Christians were not opposed to economic cooperation with Arab countries, to which Lebanon exported most of its products, but they insisted on distinguishing Lebanon's foreign policy from that of its Arab neighbors. The question was not whether Lebanon should be Arab, since as early as 1943 the National Pact (the governing formula) declared Lebanon as having "an Arab face." Rather, the postindependence debate was really over how Arab Lebanon should be. This debate was exacerbated in the 1950s by former Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser's pan-Arab activism on the one hand, and former Lebanese President Camille Shamun's (also seen as Chamoun) pro-Western administration on the other.

The controversy over the identity of Lebanon extended beyond the political realm to encompass questions of culture and literature as these were presented in school textbooks. Muslims in general, as well as the Greek Orthodox, insisted that Arab and Islamic culture and literature should be emphasized, whereas Uniate Christians refused to commit Lebanese education to what they considered an inferior culture. The Maronite political movement viewed Lebanon's culture as distinctively Lebanese in its origins and values.

Regardless of sectarian affiliation, Lebanon has no civil code for personal matters. Lebanese citizens therefore live and die according to sectarian stipulations. Each sect has its own set of personal status laws that encompass such matters as engagement, marriage, dowry, annulment of marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance. These laws are binding on the individual, whether one is a practicing member of the sect or not. The confessional system of personal-status laws strengthens the role of communal religious leaders and impedes the evolution of Lebanese nationalist or universalist secular ideas.

The economic history of Lebanon has been marred by an unequal distribution of national income and misallocation of benefits and funds. The central government tended to regard the regions that were annexed to what was Mount Lebanon in 1920 as marginal parts of Lebanon. Furthermore, the centralization of government in Beirut worsened the conditions of the rural areas, luring many Lebanese to crowded, confessional community, poverty belts around the metropolitan center. The central government's neglect of southern Lebanon, particularly, contributed to a feeling of humiliation by the Shias, who in 1987 constituted the largest sectarian community.

The economic situation in peripheral Lebanon, which geographically comprises the provinces of Al Janub and, Al Biqa, and the Akkar region in Ash Shamal Province, differed sharply from that around Beirut. Economic exploitation was more evident in these areas, with the dominance of feudalistic production patterns. The land was divided among a small elite, and working conditions on the large estates were harsh. In addition, state services were scarce outside the capital. Beirut and its suburbs became politically and socially explosive when people from the impoverished periphery migrated to the city and came in contact with the affluent city dwellers.


Lebanon - Sectarian and Clan Consciousness


Lebanon's somewhat peculiar political system has reinforced sectarian identification and consciousness. The tendency of the individual to identify with his sect as the major political unit has characterized the sectarian composition of political parties. That most militias in the 1980s were organized along purely sectarian lines, or that the army's brigades were also divided among the sects, indicates the primacy of sectarian consciousness.

In the mid-1980s there were other associational affiliations in Lebanon. Shia families in the Biqa were organized into clans (ashair) that have existed for centuries. The politics of the region entailed typical clan feuds, alliances, and themes of revenge, which local politicians exploited. The rise in sectarian consciousness among Lebanese generally did not necessarily conflict with clan solidarity. Another pervasive primordial tie that characterized the Lebanese was their fealty to a group of traditional leaders (zuama; sing., zaim). The system of fealty involves utmost allegiance and loyalty (including support in election times) by a certain family to a certain zaim, in return for services and access to powerbrokers. The relationship between the two parties is maintained by a system of obligations and political commitment. This system, a vestige of feudal Lebanon, fostered a bond of fidelity between peasants and the feudal lord. Zaim clientelism provides the individual zaim with undisputed leadership of a local community, which sometimes encompasses a whole sect (such as the zuama of Al Assad in southern Lebanon in the first half of the twentieth century). In the 1980s the zuama were in many cases the direct descendants of the great feudal families of the past.

A new development in Lebanon after 1975 was the rise of an elite that included a new stratum of emerging street leaders who enjoyed power by virtue of sheer military force, individual charisma, or even direct descent from zuama families. All three characteristics applied to the late Bashir Jumayyil (also seen as Gemayel). This stratum typically included young and dynamic sons of zuama, street thugs, and a rising elite of Muslim religious clerics.


Lebanon - RELIGION


Divisions within the Christian and Muslim faiths were considerable, but most observers accepted the Christian-Muslim dichotomy as the most salient in Lebanese society. Even so, identification by religious affiliation often blurs subtle social and economic considerations.

Religion in Lebanon is not merely a function of individual preference reflected in ceremonial practice of worship. Rather, religion is a phenomenon that often determines social and political identification. Hence, religion is politicized by the confessional quota system in distributing power, benefits, and posts.

A sectarian group binds its members together on the basis of their professed allegiance to the teaching of the faith and their common location within the sectarian social and political map. Ethnicity does not strictly apply to Lebanon's confessional communities, since more than 90 percent of all Lebanese are ethnically and linguistically Arabs. But the distinctiveness of Lebanon's confessional communities approximates the notion of sect to that of ethnicity. The exceptions are Kurds, Armenians, and Jews, who constitute ethnic groups in the classical sense. In sum, an understanding of the Lebanese mosaic requires an awareness of ethnicity and confessionalism because the similarity between the two concepts has become clearer in present-day Lebanon, where each sectarian group has its own agenda, political culture, and leaders.

The exact number of Lebanon's sects has always been disputed. In 1936, the French Mandate established the first official law regarding sects in Syria and Lebanon. The sects were enumerated as follows: nine patriarchal sects, one Latin church, the Protestant sect (including eleven Christian denominations) and five Muslim sects (Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawi, and Ismaili). At that time, the Muslims rejected their division into separate sects, and consequently they were excluded from the appendix of the law.

Following independence, only non-Muslims were included in a 1951 law enumerating officially recognized sects in the following order: Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian), Armenian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites), Syrian Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, Nestorian Assyrians, Latins (Roman Catholics), Protestants, and Jews. The law specified that each sect was free to manage its waqf (religious endowment) properties, as well as its personal status laws for its members. The Alawi and Ismaili sects were considered numerically insignificant, which left them without legally sanctioned institutions. Other Muslim sects, Sunnis, Shias, and Druzes were considered still covered by the provisions of Ottoman Law.

<>Tenets of Islam
<>Twelver or Imami Shias
<>Greek Catholics
<>Roman Catholics
<>Greek Orthodox
<>Armenian Orthodox or Gregorian
<>Assyrian or Nestorian Church


Lebanon - Tenets of Islam


In A.D. 610 Muhammad (later known as the Prophet), a merchant belonging to the Hashimite branch of the ruling Quraysh tribe in the Arabian town of Mecca, began to preach the first of a series of revelations granted him by God through the angel Gabriel. A fervent monotheist, Muhammad denounced the polytheism of his fellow Meccans. Because, the town's economy was based largely on the thriving pilgrimage business to the Kaabah shrine and numerous polytheist religious sites located there, this vigorous censure eventually earned him the bitter enmity of the town's leaders. In 622 he and a group of followers were invited to the town of Yathrib, which came to be known as Medina (from Madinat an Nabi--The Prophet's City). The move, or hijra (known in the West as the Hegira) marks the beginning of the Islamic era and of Islam as a force in history. The Muslim calendar, based on the lunar year, begins in 622. In Medina, Muhammad continued to preach, eventually defeated his detractors in battle, and consolidated both the temporal and the spiritual leadership of all Arabia in his person. He entered Mecca in triumph in 630.

After Muhammad's death in 632, his followers compiled those of his words regarded as coming directly and literally from God as the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam. His other sayings and teachings and precedents of his personal behavior, recalled by those who had known him during his lifetime, became the hadith. Together they form the sunna, a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of the orthodox Muslim. The shahada (literally, testimony or creed) succinctly states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Prophet of God." This simple profession of faith is repeated on many ritual occasions, and its recital in full and unquestioning sincerity designates one a Muslim.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is a monotheistic religion that acknowledges the absolute sovereignty of God. Islam means submission (to God), and one who submits is a Muslim. Muhammad is the "seal of the prophets;" his revelation is said to complete for all time the series of revelations received by Jews and Christians.

The duties of the Muslim form the five pillars of the faith. These are the recitation of the creed (shahada), daily prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage (haj). These religious obligations apply to all Muslims, although there are slight variants in the beliefs of Shias as opposed to Sunnis. The believer is to pray in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions each day at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prescribed body movements accompany the prayers, which the worshiper recites while facing toward Mecca. Whenever possible, men pray in congregation at the mosque under a prayer leader or imam and on Friday, the holy day, are obliged to do so. In the early days of Islam, the authorities imposed zakat as a tax on personal property proportionate to one's wealth; this was distributed to the mosques and to the needy. The fourth pillar occurs in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, a period of obligatory fasting throughout the daylight hours in commemoration of Muhammad's receipt of God's revelation, the Quran. Finally, all Muslims at least once in their lifetime should if possible make the haj to the holy city of Mecca to participate in special rites held there during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar.

A Muslim stands in a personal relationship to God; there is no clergy in orthodox Islam. Those who lead prayers, preach sermons, and interpret the law do so by virtue of their superior knowledge and scholarship rather than because of any special prerogative conferred by ordination.

Sunni and Shia Muslims differ over the fundamental issue of succession. The Prophet neither designated his successor nor decreed how a successor should be chosen. Some members of the Muslim community (umma) believed Muhammad's successor should be a close blood relative of the Prophet, i.e., Ali, who was a member of the Hashimite line, the Prophet's cousin, and the husband of Fatima, Muhammad's sole surviving daughter. Other Muslims believed such kinship was not a necessary prerequisite and held that the caliph (from khalifa--successor) should be chosen by the community. A split in the ideally egalitarian and harmonious umma developed over this issue. The rift subsequently generated the two major divisions of Islam: Shia, from Shiat Ali (the party of Ali), and Sunni, from men of the Sunna and Jamaa (i.e., those who favored a leader chosen by the community).


Lebanon - Sunni


Orthodox Sunni Muslims are those who regard the Quran, supplemented by the traditions of the Prophet, as the sole and sufficient embodiment of the Muslim faith. They do not recognize the need for a priesthood to mediate the faith to the community of believers. Thus, Sunnis have no "church" and no liturgy. The Sunnis, especially the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, stand for the original simplicity of Islam and its practices against later innovations.

Religious leadership of the Sunni community in Lebanon is based on principles and institutions deriving partly from traditional Islam and partly from French influence. Under the Mandate, the French established a Supreme Islamic Council at the national level, headed by a Grand Mufti and a national Directorate of Waqfs; these institutions continued to exist in the mid-1980s. The French also established local departments of waqfs, which staffed and maintained hospitals, schools, cemeteries, and mosques. In addition, the waqfs managed the funds that supported these operations. The funds were obtained partly from direct donations and partly from income derived from real property given to the community as an endowment.

Shaykh is an honorary title given to any Muslim religious man in Lebanon. As a result of the 1975 Civil War and the intensification in sectarian mobilization and identification, the religious leaders of the Sunni community assumed a more political role, especially with the advent of Islamic fundamentalism in Lebanon. As of 1987, the Sunni mufti, Shaykh Hasan Khalid, was the most powerful Sunni leader; he headed what was called the Islamic Grouping, which was composed of all Sunni traditional leaders. The Sunni ulama (learned religious men) of Lebanon emulated the Shia practice of combining temporal and religious power in the person of the imam.

In 1987 the majority of Lebanese Sunnis resided in urban centers. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of them lived in Beirut, Sidon, and Baalbek. The few rural Sunnis lived in the Akkar region, the western Biqa Valley, around Baalbek, and in the Shuf Mountains. Their typical occupations were in the realms of trade, industry, and real estate. Large Sunni families enjoyed political and social significance. The most prominent of them were the Sulh, Bayhum, Dauq, Salam, and Ghandur in Beirut; the Karami, Muqaddam, and Jisr in Tripoli; and the Bizri in Sidon. It is estimated that approximately 595,000 or 27 percent of the Lebanese population as of 1986 were Sunnis.

The Kurds are non-Arab Sunnis of whom there are only a few in Lebanon, concentrated mainly in Beirut. They originated in the Taurus and Zagros Mountains of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. The Kurds of Lebanon tended to settle there permanently because of Lebanon's pluralistic society. Although they are Sunni Muslims, Kurds speak their own language.


Lebanon - Twelver or Imami Shias


Leadership of the Shia community is held by the imam, a lineal male descendant of Ali. A son usually inherited the office from his father. In the eighth century, however, succession became confused when the Imam, Jafar as Sadiq, first named his eldest son, Ismail, his successor, then changed his mind and named a younger son, Musa al Kazim. Ismail died before his father and thus never had an opportunity to assert his claim. When Jafar died in 765, the imamate devolved on Musa. Those Shia who followed Musa are known to Western scholars as the Imami or Twelver Shias. The part of the community that refused to acknowledge Musa's legitimacy and insisted on Ismail's son's right to rule as imam became known as Ismailis. The appellation "Twelver" derives from the disappearance of the twelfth imam, Muhammad al Muntazar, in about 874. He was a child, and after his disappearance he became known as a messianic figure, Ali Mahdi, who never died but remains to this day hidden from view. The Twelver Shias believe his return will usher in a golden era.

In the mid-1980s the Shias generally occupied the lowest stratum of Lebanese society; they were peasants or workers except for a small Shia bourgeoisie. The Shias were concentrated chiefly in the poor districts of southern Lebanon and the Biqa. From these rural areas, stricken by poverty and neglected by the central government, many Shias migrated to the suburbs of Beirut. Some Shias emigrated to West Africa in search of better opportunities. As of 1987, the Shias constituted the single most numerous sect in the country, estimated at 919,000, or 41 percent of the population.

Shias of Lebanon, most of whom were Twelver or Imami Shias, lacked their own state-recognized religious institutions, independent of Sunni Muslim institutions, until 1968 when Imam Musa as Sadr, an Iranian-born cleric, created the Higher Shia Islamic Council. Sadr was elected chairman of the council, which was supposed to represent Lebanese Shias both at the political and religious levels. The council included as members all Shia clerics, as well as deputies, state employees, ministers, writers, professionals, and most noted Shias residing in Lebanon. Sadr, as chairman for life, continued to head the council until 1978, when he "disappeared" in Libya while on a state visit. He reportedly was kidnapped and killed by Libyan authorities for unknown reasons. Shia leaders in Lebanon as of 1987 still refused to acknowledge Sadr's death. While the chairmanship of the council was preserved for Sadr's awaited "return," in 1987 Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams ad Din (also seen as Chamseddine) was the vice chairman of the Higher Shia Islamic Council. Moreover, a new Shia leader emerged in the early 1980s in Lebanon. Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, the spiritual guide of Hizballah (Party of God), became the most important religious and political leader among Lebanon's Shias.


Lebanon - Ismailis


In the mid-1980s there were only a few hundred Ismailis in various parts of Lebanon. The Ismailis are Shias known as Seveners because they believe Ismail was the seventh Imam.

The Ismaili sect is divided into two branches: the Mustalian branch is found primarily in North Yemen, and the Nizari branch is found in the Iranian district of Salamiya, Afghanistan, Soviet Central Asia, India, the hitral and Gilgit areas of Pakistan, and East Africa. The Ismailis split into two branches over a succession dispute. The current Nizari Imam is a revealed ruler and is well known, even in the West, as the Agha Khan.

Ismaili beliefs are complex and syncretic, combining elements from the philosophies of Plotinus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, gnosticism, and the Manichaeans, as well as components of Judaism, Christianity, and Eastern religions. Ismaili tenets are unique among Muslims. Ismailis place particular emphasis on taqiyya, the practice of dissimulation about one's beliefs to protect oneself from harassment or persecution. Ismaili beliefs about the creation of the world are idiosyncratic, as is their historical ecumenism, toleration of religious differences, and religious hierarchy. Furthermore, the secrecy with which they veil their religious beliefs and practices (together with the practice of taqiyya) makes it extremely difficult to establish what their actual religious beliefs are. Their conceptions of the imamate also differ greatly from those of other Muslims.


Lebanon - Alawis


Several thousand Alawis were scattered throughout northern Lebanon in 1987. Lebanese Alawis have assumed more significance since the rise to power of the Alawi faction in Syria in 1966, and especially since the Syrians established a military presence in Lebanon in 1976.

The Alawis are also known as "Nusayris" because of their concentration in the Nusayriyah Mountains in western Syria. They appear to be descendants of people who lived in this region at the time of Alexander the Great. When Christianity flourished in the Fertile Crescent, the Alawis, isolated in their little communities, clung to their own pre-Islamic religion. After hundreds of years of Ismaili influence, however, the Alawis moved closer to Islam. Furthermore, contacts with the Byzantines and the Crusaders added Christian elements to the Alawis' new creeds and practices. For example, Alawis celebrate Christmas, Easter, and the Epiphany, and use sacramental wine in some ceremonies. For several centuries, the Alawis enjoyed autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, but, in the midnineteenth century, the Ottomans imposed direct rule. Regarding the Alawis as infidels, the Ottomans consistently persecuted them and imposed heavy taxation. During the French Mandate, the Alawis briefly gained territorial autonomy, but direct rule was reimposed in 1936.

Alawis claim they are Muslims, but conservative Sunnis do not recognize them as such. In the early 1970s, however, Imam Musa as Sadr declared the Alawi sect a branch of Shia Islam. Like Ismaili Shias, Alawis believe in a system of divine incarnation. Unlike Ismailis, Alawis regard Ali as the incarnation of God. Because many of the tenets of the faith are secret, Alawis have refused to discuss their faith with outsiders. Only an elect few learn the religion after a lengthy initiation process; youths are initiated into the secrets of the faith in stages. Alawis study the Quran and recognize the five pillars of Islam.

Alawis do not set aside a particular building for worship. In the past, Sunni government officials forced them to build mosques, but these were invariably abandoned. Only the men take part in worship.


Lebanon - Druzes


In 1987, more than half of Lebanese Druzes resided in rural areas. Druzes were found in the Shuf, Al Matn, Hasbayya, and Rashayya Regions; those who chose to live in an urban setting resided in Beirut and its suburbs in confessionally marked neighborhoods. The Druze elite consisted of large landowning families.

The religion of the Druzes may be regarded as an offshoot of Ismaili Islam. Historically it springs from the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, Hakim (996-1021 A.D.), who considered himself the final incarnation of God. His close associates and followers Hamza and Darazi (hence the name Druze) spread the new doctrine among the inhabitants of southern Lebanon, and founded among them a sect which non-Druzes called "Druze" and Druzes called "Unitarian." The Druzes believe that Hakim is not dead but absent and will return to his people. Like the Ismailis, they also believe in emanations of the deity, in supernatural hierarchies, and in the transmigration of souls.

The Druzes are religiously divided into two groups. Those who master the secrets and teaching of the sect and who respect its dictates in their daily life, are referred to as uqqal (the mature) and are regarded as the religious elite. Believers who are not entitled to know the inner secrets of the religion and who do not practice their religion are called juhhal (the ignorant).

The leadership of the Druze community in Lebanon traditionally has been shared by two factions: the Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt) and the Yazbak family confederations. The community has preserved its cultural separateness by being closely knit socially. The Druzes constituted about 7 percent of the population (153,000) in 1987. Shaykh Muhammad Abu Shaqra was the highest Druze religious authority in Lebanon in 1987, holding the title of Shaykh al Aql.


Lebanon - Maronites


The Maronites are the largest Uniate or Eastern church in Lebanon and represent an indigenous church. Maronite communion with the Roman Catholic Church was established in 1182, broken thereafter, and formally reestablished in the sixteenth century. In accordance with the terms of union, they retain their own rites and canon law and use Arabic and Aramaic in their liturgy as well the Karshuni script with old Syriac letters. Their origins are uncertain. One version traces them to John Maron of Antioch in the seventh century A.D.; another points to John Maron, a monk of Homs in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. The words maron or marun in Syriac mean "small lord."

In the late seventh century, as a result of persecutions from other Christians for the heterodox views they had adopted, the Maronites withdrew from the coastal regions into the mountainous areas of Lebanon and Syria. During the Ottoman era (1516-1914) they remained isolated and relatively independent in these areas. In 1857 and 1858 the Maronite peasants revolted against the large landowning families. The revolt was followed by a further struggle between the Druzes and Maronites over land ownership, political power, and safe passage of community members in the territory of the other. The conflict led France to send a military expedition to the area in 1860. The disagreements diminished in intensity only after the establishment of the Mandate and a political formula whereby all sects achieved a degree of political representation.

The Maronite sect has been directed and administered by the Patriarch of Antioch and the East. Bishops are generally nominated by a church synod from among the graduates of the Maronite College in Rome. In 1987, Mar Nasrallah Butrus Sufayr (also spelled Sfeir) was the Maronite Patriarch.

Besides the Beirut archdiocese, nine other archdioceses and dioceses are located in the Middle East: Aleppo, Damascus, Jubayl-Al Batrun, Cyprus, Baalbek, Tripoli, Tyre, Sidon, and Cairo. Parishes and independent dioceses are situated in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal. There are four minor seminaries in Lebanon (Al Batrun, Ghazir, Ayn Saadah, and Tripoli) and a faculty of theology at the University of the Holy Spirit at Al Kaslik, which is run by the Maronite Monastic Order. The patriarch is elected in a secret ceremony by a synod of bishops and confirmed by the Pope.

In 1986 it was estimated that there were 356,000 Maronites in Lebanon, or 16 per cent of the population. Most Maronites have historically been rural people, like the Druzes; however, unlike the Druzes, they are scattered around the country, with a heavy concentration in Mount Lebanon. The urbanized Maronites reside in East Beirut and its suburbs. The Maronite sect has traditionally occupied the highest stratum of the social pyramid in Lebanon. Leaders of the sect have considered Maronite Christianity as the "foundation of the Lebanese nation." The Maronites have been closely associated with the political system of independent Lebanon; it was estimated that in pre-Civil War Lebanon members of this sect held 20 percent of the leading posts.


Lebanon - Greek Catholics


Greek Catholics are the second largest Uniate community in Lebanon. They emerged as a distinct group in the early eighteenth century when they split from the Greek Orthodox Church. Although they fully accept Catholic doctrines as defined by the Vatican, they have generally remained close to the Greek Orthodox Church, retaining more of the ancient rituals and customs than have the Maronites. They use Arabic and follow the Byzantine rite. In Lebanon, when one speaks of Catholics, one is referring to this group, not to Roman Catholics or the Maronites.

The highest official of the church since 1930 has been the Patriarch of Antioch, who resides at Ayn Traz, about twenty-four kilometers southeast of Beirut. The patriarch is elected by bishops in a synod and confirmed by the Pope in Rome, who sends him a pallium (a circular band of white wool worn by archbishops) in recognition of their communion. Greek Catholic churches, like those of the Greek Orthodox, contain icons but no statues.

The Greek Catholics live primarily in the central and eastern parts of the country, dispersed in many villages. Members of this sect are concentrated in Beirut, Zahlah, and the suburbs of Sidon. They have a relatively higher level of education than other sects. Proud of their Arab heritage, Greek Catholics have been able to strike a balance between their openness to the Arab world and their identification with the West, especially the United States. Greek Catholics constituted 3 percent of the population (72,000) in 1986.


Lebanon - Roman Catholics


Catholics who accept the full primacy of the Holy See and follow the Latin rite comprised less than 1 percent of the population in the 1980s. The Lebanese refer to them as Latins to distinguish them from Uniate groups. The Latin community is extremely variegated, since both laity and clergy, including large numbers of foreigners, are mainly Europeans. As Roman Catholics, they acknowledge the supreme authority of the Pope in Rome, venerate the Virgin Mary and the saints, and recognize the seven sacraments of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist (the sacrament of the Lord's Supper), confession and penance, ordination, matrimony, and extreme unction (given when facing the danger of death). Members of the clergy are celibate.


Lebanon - Greek Orthodox


The Greek Orthodox adhere to the Orthodox Eastern Church, which is actually a group of autocephalous churches using the Byzantine rite. Historically, these churches grew out of the four Eastern Patriarchates (Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople) which, from the fifth century diverged from the Western Patriarchate of Rome over the nature of Christ. The final split took place after the fall of Constantinople in 1096. From that time, with the exception of a brief period of reunion in the fifteenth century, the Eastern Church has continued to reject the claim of the Roman patriarchate to universal supremacy, and has also rejected the concept of papal infallibility . Doctrinally, the main point at issue between the Eastern and Western Churches is that of the procession of the Holy Spirit. There are also divergences in ritual and discipline.

Originally a peasant community, the Greek Orthodox include many free- holders, and the community is less dominated by large landowners than other Christian denominations. In present-day Lebanon, the Greek Orthodox have become increasingly urbanized, and form a major part of the commercial and professional class of Beirut and other cities. Many are also found in the southeast and north, near Tripoli. They are both highly educated and well versed in finance. The sect has become known for its pan-Arab orientation, possibly because it exists in various parts of the Arab world. The church has often served as a bridge between Lebanese Christians and the Arab countries. Members of the sect constitute 5 percent of the population.


Lebanon - Jacobites


The Jacobites or Syrian Monophysites, often referred to as the Syrian Orthodox Church, take their name from Jacob Baradeus who spread the teachings of the church throughout Syria in the sixth century. The doctrinal position of the Jacobites is that after the incarnation, Christ had only one divine nature. This is contrary to the orthodox Christian position that states Christ had both a human and divine nature. The church follows the Syriac liturgy of St. James and has an independent hierarchy under the Patriarch of Antioch, whose seat was formerly at Mardin in Turkish Kurdistan and is now at Homs, Syria. As of 1987 there were only a few thousand Jacobites in Lebanon.


Lebanon - Armenian Orthodox or Gregorian


The Gregorian Church was organized in the third century and became autocephalous as a national church in the fourth century. In the sixth century it modified the formulations of the Council of Chalcedon of 451 that confirmed the dual nature of Christ in one person. Instead the Gregorian Church adopted a form of Monophysitism that believes in the single divine nature of Christ, a belief which is slightly different from the belief of the Copts and the Syrian Orthodox Church. The Armenian Orthodox Church has five patriarchs, of whom the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin in Soviet Armenia is the most revered. It also has an Armenian liturgy.

The Armenians in Lebanon were refugees who had fled Turkey during and after World War I. In 1987 they resided in Beirut and its northern suburbs as well as in Anjar. They are admired for their skills as craftsmen and diligence, which have enabled them to gain prominent economic positions. Politically, Armenians advocate compromise and moderation.


Lebanon - Assyrian or Nestorian Church


The Assyrians are the remnants of the Nestorian Church that emerged with the Christological controversies in the fifth century. The Nestorians, who have a Syriac liturgy, stressed that Christ consisted of two separate persons, one human and one divine, as opposed to having two natures in one person. Their doctrine was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Subsequently, those Nestorians who accepted this doctrine formed an independent church, which has only a few thousand members in Lebanon.


Lebanon - Protestants


The Protestants in Lebanon were converted by missionaries, primarily English and American, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They are divided into a number of denominations, the most important being Presbyterian, Congregational, and Anglican. Typically, Lebanese Protestants are educated and belong to the professional middle class. They constitute less than 1 percent of the population and live primarily in Beirut.


Lebanon - Jews


Lebanese Jews historically have been an integral part of the Lebanese fabric of confessional communities. In 1947, they were estimated to number 5,950. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Lebanese Jews did not feel compelled to emigrate because they enjoyed a prosperous status in Lebanese society and had been granted equal rights by law with other citizens. Moreover, they suffered no harm during the anti-Zionist demonstrations of 1947 and 1948. However, the intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict politicized attitudes toward local Jews, who were often associated with the policies of Israel. In the early 1950s their synagogue in Beirut was bombed, and the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies witnessed heated debates on the status of Lebanese Jewish army officers. The discussions culminated in a unanimous resolution to expel and exclude them from the Lebanese Army.

During the June 1967 War, Lebanese authorities stationed guards in Jewish districts, when hostility toward Lebanese Jews became overt. Several hundred chose to leave the country; until 1972 Jews were free to leave the country with their money and possessions. During the 1975 Civil War, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Lebanese leftist-Muslim forces posted militia in the Jewish neighborhood of Wadi Abu Jamil, that housed what remained of the dwindling Jewish community, estimated to number less than 3,000. Nevertheless, the rise of Muslim fundamentalists, especially in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion of 1982, constituted a real threat to Lebanese Jews. Organizations such as the Khaybar Brigades and the Organization of the Oppressed of the Earth claimed responsibility for kidnapping and killing several Lebanese Jews between 1984 and 1987. As of 1987 it was estimated that only a dozen Jews remained in West Beirut, and some seventy others in the eastern sector of the city.





Arabic is the official language, as well as the religious language for Muslims, Druzes, and some Christian communities. Like Hebrew and Aramaic, it is a Semitic language. One of the earliest recorded instances of Arabic is found in an Assyrian account of a war fought with Arabs between 853 and 626 B.C. Arabic inscriptions in various alphabets have been found on the Arabian Peninsula. By the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sixth century A.D.), Arabic had developed into a refined literary language. The Arab conquest brought it to Lebanon.

In Lebanon, as elsewhere in the Arab world, there are essentially two forms of Arabic--colloquial, of which there are many dialects, and classical. Classical Arabic, uniform throughout the Arab world, is chiefly a written language. It is also used for public speeches, poetry recitations, and radio and television broadcasts. A Modern Standard Arabic has been developed from the old classical language of the Quran, the Islamic scripture; the syntax has been slightly simplified, the vocabulary considerably expanded, and the literary style made less complex.

The classical Arabic language is the principal unifying factor in the Arab world. It is revered by Arabs as the symbol of their unity, as a sacred language, and as the vehicle of a great literature. They think of it as their original language and of their spoken dialects as corruptions.

Lebanese colloquial developed from the Syrian Arabic dialect, which includes the Arabic spoken by Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese. It has been influenced by Aramaic, which preceded it in the area. Within Lebanon, the dialect changes from region to region, and the dialect of the Druzes is regarded as distinctive.

Colloquial dialects are seldom written, except for some novels, plays, and humorous writings. However, a call for the adoption of the spoken language to replace the classical as the national language emerged in the 1960s among Maronite political and intellectual circles. The movement, which was championed by the prominent Lebanese poet and political activist, Said Aql, attracted a number of supporters by 1975, with the rise of a right-wing trend to dissociate Lebanon from its Arab ties. Nevertheless, few took the movement seriously, apart from a handful of writers who wrote in colloquial Lebanese.

Proposals also exist for improving the Arabic alphabet and for updating Arabic vocabulary to include scientific and technological terms. In written Arabic, short vowels and doubled consonants are not indicated but must be supplied from the context.

Scholars tend to adopt foreign words without changing them and use them in both Arabic and Roman alphabets. The language academies in Cairo and Damascus, apprehensive of this practice, have achieved a certain amount of success in forming new words from old Arabic roots.

Other Languages

Armenian is an Indo-European language, distantly related to English, although a large part of its vocabulary is derived from Arabic and Turkish. When the Armenians were converted to Christianity in the fifth century, they acquired an alphabet based on Greek and developed a classical literature, which differed considerably from modern Armenian. Modern Armenian literature flourishes today in Soviet Armenia and to a lesser degree in Lebanon, where a printing and publishing industry is active. Armenians are strongly attached to their language, which is important as a means of maintaining their identity.

Assyrian, a Semitic language, is a modern spoken form of ancient Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. The Assyrians increasingly use Arabic as their spoken language, but Syriac continues to be used for religious purposes.

French and English are the most widely used Western languages. Although French is not an official language, almost all government publications appear in French as well as in Arabic. Since World War II United States influence, and consequently the importance of English, has increased. Some Lebanese authors choose to write in French or English, and fluency in these languages generally marks the educated man and woman. The Lebanese dialect, particularly in Beirut, has acquired some French words. Arabic literary style, especially in poetry, has also been influenced by the style of Western languages.




In 1987, Lebanese society was riddled with deep social, economic, political, and sectarian divisions. Individual Lebanese were primarily identified with their family as the principal object of their loyalty and the basis of marriage and social relationships as well as the confessional system. This, in turn, tended to clash with national integration and cohesion. Society was divided not only into diverse sectarian communities but also into socioeconomic strata that cut across confessional lines.

<>The Family
<>Gender Roles
<>Child-Rearing Practices
<>Impact of War on the Family


Lebanon - The Family


The Family

The primacy of the family manifests itself in all phases of Lebanese life including political, financial, and personal relationships. In the political sphere, families compete with each other for power and prestige, and kinsmen combine forces to support family members in their quest for leadership. In business, employers give preference to hiring relatives, and brothers and cousins often consolidate their resources in operating a family enterprise. Wealthy family members are expected to share with less prosperous relatives, a responsibility that commonly falls to expatriate and urban relatives who help support their village kin.

In the personal sphere, the family has an equally pervasive role. To a great extent, family status determines an individual's access to education and chances of achieving prominence and wealth. The family also seeks to ensure an individual's conformity with accepted standards of behavior so that family honor will be maintained. An individual's ambitions are molded by the family in accordance with the long-term interests of the group as a whole. Just as the family gives protection, support, and opportunity to its members, the individual member offers loyalty and service to the family.

The traditional form of the family is the three-generation patrilineal extended family, consisting of a man, his wife or wives, their unmarried children of both sexes, and their married sons, together with the sons' wives and children. Some of these groups live under one roof as a single household, which occurred in earlier generations, but most do not.

The family commands primary loyalty in Lebanese society. In a study conducted by a team of sociologists at the American University of Beirut in 1959, loyalty to the family ranked first among both Christians and Muslims, males and females, and among both politically active and noncommitted students. Next to the family in order of importance were religion, nationality or citizenship, ethnic group, and finally the political party. The results of this study probably reflected the attitudes of the Lebanese in 1987. If anything, primordial ties appear to have increased during the 1975 Civil War. The rise of Islamic and Christian fundamentalism encouraged the development of ethnic and familial consciousness. Among Maronites, there has always been an emphasis on the family; for example, the motto of the Phalange Party is "God, the homeland, the family."

The family in Lebanon has been a means through which political leadership is distributed and perpetuated. In the Chamber of Deputies of 1960, for example, almost a quarter of the deputies "inherited" their seats. In the 1972 Chamber, Amin Jumayyil (who became president in 1982) served with his father Pierre Jumayyil after inheriting the seat of his uncle Maurice Jumayyil. Because "political families" have monopolized the representation of certain sects for over a century, it has been argued that family loyalty hinders the development of a modern polity.


Lebanon - Gender Roles


The family in Lebanon, as elsewhere in the region, assigns different roles to family members on the basis of gender. The superior status of men in society and within the narrow confines of the nuclear family transcends the barriers of sect or ethnicity. Lebanese family structure is patriarchal. The centrality of the father figure stems from the role of the family as an economic unit, in which the father is the property owner and producer on whom the rest of the family depend. This notion prevails even in rural regions of Lebanon where women participate in peasant work. Although the inferior status of women is undoubtedly legitimized by various religious texts, the oppression of women in Arab society preceded the advent of Islam. The roles of women have traditionally been restricted to those of mother and homemaker. However, since the 1970s Arab societies have allowed women to play a more active role socially and in the work force, basically as a result of the manpower shortage caused by heavy migration of men to Persian Gulf countries. In Lebanon the percentage of women in the labor force has increased, although the Islamic religious revival that swept Lebanon in the 1980s, reasserted traditional cultural values. As a consequence, veils and abas (cloaks) have become more common among Muslim women. Among Christians, the war enabled women to assume more independent roles because of the absence of male family members involved in the fighting.

Notwithstanding the persistence of traditional attitudes regarding the role of women, Lebanese women enjoy equal civil rights and attend institutions of higher education in large numbers (for example, women constituted 41 percent of the student body at the American University of Beirut in 1983). Although women have their own organizations, most exist as subordinate branches of the political parties.


Lebanon - Marriage


In the past, marriage within the lineage, especially to first cousins or other close paternal kin, was the rule. This provided the woman the security of living among the people with whom she was raised and also tended to keep property inheritance within the family. Among Muslims, there is traditional preference for marriage to a patrilineal first cousin; in some conservative Muslim villages, the choice is considered obligatory. In Roman Catholic canon law the marriage of persons within the same bloodline or of persons within the third degree of collateral relationship is explicitly forbidden. In Lebanon a dispensation for such marriages can be obtained and they are not uncommon.

Although permitted under Muslim law, polygamy is generally regarded as both impractical and undesirable because of the additional economic burden it places upon the household and because of the personal complications it entails. Polygamous families consist of a man, up to four wives, and their children. A man rarely has more than two wives, one of whom is sometimes much younger than the other, and is married after the children of the first wife are almost fully grown. The two wives may live with their children in different rooms of the same house, or they may reside in separate abodes. A survey of families in Beirut, made in the early 1960s, indicated that there was more than one wife in only 3 percent of the Muslim families interviewed.

Other than the marriage of close relatives, such as first cousins, a factor that often enters into the choice of a marriage partner is interest in expanding family resources. A man from the leading family of a particular lineage, especially an influential and wealthy lineage, is apt to choose a wife from another such lineage within his own religious community to improve the position of his immediate family group.

The general practice in both Christian and Muslim villages is to find a partner within the village, preferably the closest eligible relative within the family. This practice has been considerably weakened in villages close to cities, where marriages outside the family and outside the village occur more often, and where first cousin marriage occurs only occasionally.

Marriage is more a matter of recognizing adult status and of joining interests than of romantic attachment. Men marry to have sons who will continue their lineage, work their land, and do honor to their house. Women marry to attain status and to bear sons for protection in their old age. Most women marry.

Age at marriage varies. In some villages girls tend to marry in their late teens; boys, in their early twenties. Urban youths marry somewhat later. Among educated families, young men frequently postpone marriage for many years, some of them waiting until their late thirties or early forties.

Christians and Druzes do not enter into a formal marriage contract; Muslims, however, do. After the announcement of the engagement of a Muslim couple, and before the wedding takes place, a formal contract is drawn up. The marriage is legal once the contract is signed. The contract notes the consent of the couple to marry and specifies the bride-price, a payment by the young man to his fiancée. In traditional Muslim society, the bride-price represented a substantial amount of money, or its equivalent in land, or a combination of both. In the 1980s, however, except in remote villages, only a token gift was made. The bride is expected to provide a dowry, usually in the form of furnishings for a new household.

Premarital and extramarital sexual relations are frowned upon throughout society. In the village there are strong sanctions against sexual relations outside marriage and such relationships are rare because every potential female partner is enmeshed in the network of kinship ties which reinforce these sanctions. Improper conduct toward an unmarried girl damages the honor of her lineage. Her father and brothers will seek redress, which can take the form of killing the girl and the man involved, killing the man or driving him from the village, or a settlement between the two lineages. If redress is not obtained, open strife between the two lineages may occur.


Lebanon - Child-Rearing Practices


The major reason for marrying is procreation. A wife without children, or even one without male children, is an object of sympathy. Also, among those Christians not under the Holy See and among Muslims, she is threatened with divorce. The importance placed on having sons is reflected in the festivities attendant upon birth. At the birth of a child, the father will give a feast; if the child is a boy, the feast will be more lavish and the guests more numerous. It is always made clear within the family that male children are preferred and are given special privileges.

When the first boy is born to a married couple, friends no longer address them by their given names alone but call them by the name of their son; for instance, "father of x" and "mother of x." They continue to be addressed by the name of their first-born son, even in the event of his death. With respect to naming children, traditionally one male in every generation is given the name of his grandfather to pay respect to the older man and to honor his memory after his death.

Child-rearing practices in Lebanon are characterized by the severe discipline imposed by the father and overprotection by the mother, who strives to compensate for the rigidity of the father. In Arab society parental control does not stop at age eighteen (when a child is considered independent in most Western societies), but continues as long as the child lives in the father's residence or until the child marries. Furthermore, the practice of the father and mother making major decisions on behalf of their offspring pertains to marriage, especially the son's marriage; the daughter comes under the control of her in-laws. Arranged marriages are still practiced widely across the socioeconomic and sectarian spectrum.

Children are not trained to be independent, and expect their father to care for them as long as they are loyal and obedient. Punishment can be in the form of intimidation (takhjil, literally to incite fear and shame) or physical punishment. A study of the impact of the war noted a decline in parental authority due to extensive involvement of young men in armed militias.


Lebanon - Impact of War on the Family


The protracted Civil War has made the task of conducting empirical research on marriage habits almost impossible. Available statistics indicate that familial and marital habits differ among sects. Christian families tend to be smaller than Muslim- -particularly Shia--families. According to a 1970 survey, the average Lebanese Christian family excluding Maronites had 3.57 children, the Sunni 4.38, and the Shia 5.01. A striking aspect of marriage habits in Lebanon, especially after 1975, was the impact of recession on marriage. The high cost of living and housing and the difficulty in finding employment caused men to marry later. In the past, Lebanese men and women married at an early age, but in the 1980s in Beirut the average age for marriage was 31 years for men and 22.5 for women. Economic difficulties also forced more families to resort to birth control, so that the size of the average Lebanese family has declined appreciably.

A study conducted in 1983 indicated, however, that marriage was common among the population of Greater Beirut, with only 10 percent or fewer of the population remaining single at ages above forty. The majority of females at age twenty-five or older were married; a majority of males at age thirty or older were also married. Moreover, very few adult males or females were separated or divorced. The percentage of widows forty years of age and less was considerably higher than that for males of the same age. Marriages based on personal choices of the spouses as opposed to familyarranged marriages increased with the gradual elimination of traditional boundaries between the sexes. However, family-arranged marriages continued to be practiced across geographical and social boundaries. They were preferred among the economic elite of the cities as a means of preserving wealth and status within the same extended family, or within the same social group.

One study conducted in the early 1980s on the impact of the war on family structure concluded that there was a clear decline in divorce. This probably occurred because of the huge costs involved: payment of deferred dowry, alimony for children, and support of the woman during the prescribed period during which she may not remarry.




Prewar Conditions

On the eve of the 1975 Civil War, Lebanon's general standard of living was comfortable and higher than that in any other Arab country. Regional variations existed in housing standards and sanitation and in quality of diet, but according to government surveys most Lebanese were adequately sheltered and fed. Known for their ingenuity and resourcefulness in trading and in entrepreneurship, the Lebanese have shown a marked ability to create prosperity in a country which is not richly endowed with natural resources. Economic gain was a strong motivating force in all social groups.

Many problems affecting the general welfare before the war stemmed from high prices and the massive rural exodus to the cities. This exodus has been linked to rapid soil erosion, fragmented landholdings, and a distinct preference of most Lebanese for urban living and for urban occupations. The population increase in the cities, especially in Beirut, created severe housing shortages for those unable to pay the high rents for modern apartments. It also aggravated the problems of urban transportation and planning. The high cost of living, which had been steadily rising since the 1950s, further diminished the purchasing power of small rural incomes and threatened the consumption patterns of lowand middle-income groups in the cities. Of special concern were high rents, school fees, and the price of food and clothing. Many urban households lived on credit, and indebtedness was widespread in some parts of the countryside.

In urban centers, where the Western influence was most apparent in the 1980s, there had been a tremendous increase in modern apartment buildings that had almost erased the scenes of traditional-style houses with red-tiled roofs. The government did not take action during the construction boom of the early 1970s to protect these remnants of Lebanon's culture. In rural Lebanon, houses with flat earthen roofs were the most common. The size and shape of the house indicated one's economic status.


Lebanon - Wartime Conditions


The disruption of Lebanon's modernization by the war has not been adequately measured. A social data sheet on Lebanon prepared by the World Bank in 1983, however, illustrated some trends. Women's share of the labor force progressed very slowly from 3.4 percent in 1960 to 19.9 percent in 1981, probably because of strong traditionalist resistance within the family. The same data indicated a sharp decline in the percentage of the labor force employed in agriculture, from 38 percent in 1960 to only 11 percent in 1980. There was no corresponding rise in industrial activity, however; the industrial labor force only increased from 23 percent to 27 percent. Most of the labor force was still employed in the service sector. Other indices such as energy consumption, passenger cars per thousand population, radios and television sets per thousand population, and newspaper circulation also documented Lebanon's pace of modernization. What these figures did not indicate was the disproportionate levels of modernization among various communities and regions.

As for the impact of the war in general on public life, radical adjustments had to be made by inhabitants of neighborhoods that were subjected to intense fighting. The people of Beirut, in particular, adjusted to shortages of all kinds: water, electricity, food, and fuel. The wartime living situation started to deteriorate in the spring of 1975. During lulls in the fighting, remnants of the central government attempted to resume services to the population, but the task was impossible because of the harassment by militia members. The government then resorted to rationing water and electricity. It was particularly hampered by the sharp decline in the payment of bills by consumers. According to one employee in the Beirut electric company, only 10 percent of all customers paid their bills. The rest either declined to pay or simply hooked up to utility supply cables.

One of the most difficult periods in the struggle for survival among Lebanese and Palestinians occurred during the siege of Beirut by Israel in 1982. To pressure the PLO to surrender the Israeli army, along with the Christian Lebanese Forces, ensured that no food or fuel entered the city.

The war scarcely left a house or building in Beirut intact or free from shrapnel damage. The Lebanese, however, soon adjusted to the new situation either by living in bombed-out apartments or by fixing damaged parts of their residence. Some displaced people from southern Lebanon who could not afford to rent in Beirut or even in its suburbs, chose to live in deserted apartments and hotels in areas close to the Green Line, which separated West from East Beirut. The situation in many Palestinian refugee camps was particularly oppressive. Some along the coastal road had come under Israeli fire during the invasion of 1982, and others in the Beirut area had been destroyed by Christian militias during the war or had come under Shia attack in the mid-1980s.




The Lebanese, along with the Palestinians, had one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. The rate was estimated at nearly to 80 percent in the mid-1980s, but like most other spheres of Lebanese life, communal and regional disparities existed. In general, Christians had a literacy rate twice that of Muslims. Druzes followed with a literacy rate just above that of Sunnis. Shias had the lowest literacy rate among the religious communities.

The war adversely affected educational standards. Many private and public school buildings were occupied by displaced families and the state was unable to conduct official examinations on several occasions because of intense fighting. Furthermore, the departure of most foreign teachers and professors, especially after 1984, contributed to the decline in the standards of academic institutions. Admissions of unqualified students became a standard practice as a result of pressures brought by various militias on academic institutions. More important, armed students reportedly often intimidated--and even killed--faculty members over disputes demanding undeserved higher grades.

In the 1980s there were three kinds of schools: public, private tuition-free, and private fee-based. Private tuition-free schools were available only at the preprimary and primary levels, and they were most often sponsored by philanthropic institutions. Many private fee-based schools were run by religious orders.

Public schools were unevenly distributed among Lebanon's districts. The Beirut area had only 12.9 percent of the country's public schools, but a large number of Lebanon's private fee-based schools concentrated in or near Greater Beirut.

Primary Education

In 1987, five years of primary education was mandatory and available free to all Lebanese children. The curriculum of grades one through five was mostly academic, and Arabic was the major language of instruction. French and English were also major languages of instruction in private schools, although foreign languages were taught in public schools as well (see table _, Private Elementary Schools, Appendix). No certification was awarded upon completion of the primary cycle. At the end of the fifth grade, the student qualified for admission to the four-year intermediate cycle, or the seven-year secondary cycle.

Intermediate Education

Intermediate education was a four-year cycle, consisting of grades six through nine for intermediate schools and one through four for vocational schools. Three different tracks were offered at this level: lower secondary was a four-year academic course designed to prepare the student for the baccalaureate examination; the upper primary track consisted of three years similar to lower secondary and a fourth year of preparation for entering vocational schools or teacher training institutes; and vocational study was a three-year practical course for less skilled trades. At the end of this cycle, students received an academic, technical, or professional certificate.

Secondary Education

This consisted of grades eleven through thirteen for academic programs, or years one through three for vocational programs. Three tracks were available at this level. The secondary normal track consisted of three-year training programs for prospective primary and intermediate school teachers. A teaching diploma was awarded to normal school students who passed examinations at the end of the twelfth school year. The secondary vocational track prepared students for careers in such fields as business, commerce, tourism, hotel management, electronics, construction, advertising, nursing, telecommunications, automobile mechanics, and laboratory technology. Finally, the secondary academic track offered concentrations in philosophy (liberal arts curriculum), mathematics, and experimental sciences. The Baccalaureate I certificate was awarded to students who passed the official examination given at the end of the twelfth school year, and the Baccalaureate II was awarded to students who passed official examinations at the end of the thirteenth school year. The Baccalaureate II was necessary for admission to institutions of higher education in Lebanon. Many of the courses taken during the year were comparable to those at the college freshman level.

Technical and Vocational Education

There existed in Lebanon in 1987 around 130 technical and vocational training institutes. Seventeen of these were state run, and the remaining 113 were private. Eighty-six of the private schools were in the Greater Beirut area. Major public institutes included the Industrial Technical Institute, the Technical Institute for Tourism, and the Technical Teachers Institute.

Higher Education

In 1987 there were sixteen colleges and universities in Lebanon, and all but the Lebanese University were privately owned. The Lebanese University, established in 1952, was under the Ministry of Education. It had two main branches--one in East and the other in West Beirut--and smaller branches in the provinces of Ash Shamal, Al Janub, and Al Biqa. University faculties (departments) included law, political science and management, engineering, literature and humanities, education, social sciences, fine arts, journalism and advertising, business administration, and agriculture. The language of instruction was Arabic, and one foreign language was required by all faculties.

Beirut Arab University was established in 1960 and was officially an Egyptian-sponsored institution under the auspices of the Maqasid Society of Beirut. All affairs were controlled by Alexandria University in Egypt. Approximately 85 percent of the students enrolled at Beirut Arab University in the 1980s were non-Lebanese, coming primarily from Persian Gulf countries. Arabic was the primary language of instruction.

Saint Joseph University, established in 1875, was administered by the Society of Jesus and had strong ties to the University of Lyons in France. Saint Joseph University had branches in Tripoli, Sidon, and Zahlah. French was the primary language of instruction, although some courses were offered in English. Faculties in 1987 included theology, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering, law and political science, economics and business administration, and letters and humanities.

The American University of Beirut (AUB) was initially established in 1866 by the Evangelical Mission to Syria. In 1987 final authority over the affairs of AUB rested with the Board of Trustees whose permanent office was in New York City. The university was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. The faculty of arts and sciences awarded bachelors and masters degrees; the faculty of medicine awarded bachelors and masters degrees in science, masters degrees in public health, and certificates in undergraduate nursing and basic laboratory techniques; the faculty of engineering and architecture awarded bachelors and masters degrees in engineering as well as bachelors degrees in architecture; the faculty of agriculture and food sciences awarded masters degrees in all departments, as well as doctorates in agronomy. English was the language of instruction at AUB.


Lebanon - HEALTH


Before 1975 Lebanon boasted advanced health services and medical institutions that made Beirut a health care center for the entire Middle East region. The war, however, caused enormous problems. Emergency medicine and the treatment of traumatic injury overwhelmed the health care sector during the 1975 Civil War. Indeed, the problems in health care continued into the 1980s. A World Health Organization (WHO) study conducted in 1983 found that the private sector dominated health care services and that public sector health organizations were in chaos. The weakened Ministry of Public Health maintained little coordination with other public sector health agencies, and over two-thirds of the ministry's budget (US$58.5 million in 1982) flowed to the private sector through inadequately monitored reimbursements for private hospital services. As of 1983 there were about 3.2 hospital beds (0.23 of them public) for every 1,000 persons, but control over the quality of hospital and medical services was minimal, and many public and private hospital beds were unoccupied. There was about one doctor for every 1,250 inhabitants, but nurses and middle-level technical personnel were scarce. Furthermore, health personnel were concentrated in Beirut, with minimum care available in many outlying areas. The Ministry of Public Health as well as other government and private agencies operated small clinics and dispensaries, but few such centers existed in Beirut. Nowhere in Lebanon was there a health center which delivered a full range of primary health care services.

Although epidemiology is central to public health programs, the WHO delegation found that government health services in Lebanon lacked appropriate epidemiological techniques. At the local or community level, health personnel, especially doctors, rarely reported diseases to the health department, although they were legally obliged to do so for some diseases. A similar situation existed with respect to health establishments such as clinics, dispensaries, and hospitals. Consequently, not only was there a conspicuous absence of health records, but where available, they were often incomplete.

Because of the lack of adequate data, only cautious inferences based on partial data and observations and interviews by the WHO mission can be made concerning the incidence of disease. Upper respiratory tract infections and diarrheal diseases headed the list of causes of morbidity, and infectious diseases were endemic.

Malnutrition was reported to be restricted to groups living in particularly difficult situations, such as the Palestinian and Lebanese refugees. Studies on the growth and illness patterns of Lebanese children, initiated in 1960, indicated 10 percent of children under five had low weight and height for their age. Various sources reported a high incidence of mental retardation among children, with cases occurring in clusters and seemingly related to consanguineous marriages in certain communities.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

TRY USING CTRL-F on your keyboard to find the appropriate section of text


what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

Copyright 2013 Mongabay.com