An Advocate for the Deprived
The American delegation paying their respects included residents of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Hawaii and Oregon, a Catholic Priest and two nuns, some of whom were in Beirut as participants in the delayed Lebanon flotilla to help break the siege of Gaza. They felt they were the true representatives of their country, not their Embassy. Ever misleading the public with respect to the Middle East, the mainstream western media began a thousand reports with the words, “A fiery anti-American critic died.” It is nonsense, of course. Fadallah was very pro-American in the sense that he often extolled the founding American principles and his relationship with the American people was valued by both. Barely two weeks before his death he left his sick bed to meet with a group of Americans from Washington DC, against the advice of his doctors, and he urged them to work to preserve the founding principles on which their country was founded and to encourage dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews and to end the occupations of this region.
Like the rapidly growing number of American critics of US policy in the Middle East, many of Fadlallah’s Friday prayer sermons denounced arming and supporting serial Israeli aggressions.
For more than 50 years, he worked at “modernizing” the Shari’a and rendering it accessible to modern day youth, addressing their concerns, expectations and fears in a fast-changing world. He was truly the Mufti of the youth and of women, their guide who never oppressed their dreams and always simplified rulings. He was available for questions regarding the most taboo of social and political subjects. He was also the enemy of stalemate and a rejecter of tradition in its inflexible sense. He insisted on subjecting all ideas to discussions, debates and reassessments and was much more interested in human beings than doctrines.
His followers revered him for his moderate social views, openness and pragmatism. Fadlallah issued religious edicts forbidding female circumcision, condemning domestic violence-even allowing women to wear cosmetics and finger nail polish which some clerics opposed, and insisting that women could physically resist abusive husbands. He strongly supported female-male equality. He rejected the blood-letting at Ashoura events and like Hezbollah encouraged his followers to donate blood to the Red Crescent Society instead of cutting themselves. He also opposed the call to “jihad,” or holy war, by Osama bin Laden and he was among the first to condemn the 9/11 attacks. Fadlallah opposed “suicide attacks” but distinguished the right of an individual to sacrifice himself as a weapon during asymmetrical warfare by aggressors.
Fadlallah supported the Islamic revolution in Shiite Iran, and advocated armed resistance to Israel. In 2009, again during a meeting with Americans, including Jews, Fadlallah, whose family came from the southern Lebanese village of Ainata, reiterated his call for a Muslim-Jewish dialogue as part of interfaith efforts aimed at bridging the gap among various religious, rejecting any offensive against Jews or Christians in any Arab or Muslim country. But he emphasized to the delegation the importance of a Muslim-Jewish dialogue away from Zionist influence, stressing that Jews need to be freed from the cycle of world Zionism and Israel should be confronted because of its occupation of Arab lands.
He welcomed the election of Barack Obama in the US, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2009 that “some of Obama’s statements show that he believes in the method of dialogue”. He added: We don’t have a problem with any American president, but our problem is with his policy that might affect our strategic interest.” He later told visitors of his disappointment at President Obama’s Middle East policy, accusing him of being “under pressure” from Israeli supporters and “not a man who has a plan for peace”.
Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah had a widespread reputation for piety and scholarship through his teaching and the more than 40 books and treatises he wrote. He established religious schools and foundations, clinics and libraries as part of the charitable Al Marrarat Foundation.
In summary, Mohammad Hussein Fadallah was too moderate, progressive and too effective a spokesman advocating for the deprived to be tolerated by the US administration and Israel. Both required more stereotypical radical Muslim clerics to smear the region. The Mossad is believed to have targeted him more than half a dozen times including during the July 2006 Israeli attack.
A generation was inspired by Sayeed Fadallah and listened to him and studied his voluminous writings. Two generations feel the emptiness of his passing away.
Mohammad Hussein Fadallah was a rare man of an angel’s wit, mirth, and singular learning, a marvelous man of gentleness, humbleness, and affability. Sometimes when defending the rights of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all people of faith or non-believers of good will, his countenance was changed by a sad gravity and his smiling eyes darkened. For to his core, Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah believed in the right and responsibility to resist injustice and occupation.
He was a man for all seasons whose conscience and piety would not allow him to be idle as long as the poor and downtrodden remained dispossessed and voiceless or his beloved Lebanon and Palestine was occupied. For this, and for no other reason, he was placed and kept on the US Political Terrorism list as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and his American charitable assets confiscated.
Like Thomas More, Fadlallah rejected offered inducements and bribes including T list removal from Washington if he followed the King’s wishes and stop support to the Lebanese National resistance. He wore his nonsensical Terrorist label as a badge of honor as his daily good works mocked and marked the list keepers with shame and cowardice for squandering American founding principles and for funding, arming and providing diplomatic cover to the Zionist colonial enterprise that stole Palestine.
Each month since Sayed Fadlallah’s passing brings deeper understanding about the greatness of this public servant and the value of his achievements. Following Arbeen, the Muslim 40 day period of mourning for the departed, I visited with two of Fadallah’s close associates who wondered whether the future without his leadership would lead to his social service agency, the Mabarrat, having to cut back on its 30 schools, medical facilities, and social service agencies. They were worried that with his parting, his life’s work might become diminished and growing demands in the community could not be met.
This morning I was advised by a key aide of the late Ayatollah Fadlallah that the Marbarrat, thanks to Fadlallah’s administrative skill, planning and foresight, is strong, expanding and will long serve our community.
May Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah forever rest in Peace.