Historian on Abu Dhar’s role in spread of Shia Islam to southern Lebanon


Lebanese Muslim scholar and historian Sheikh Ali Korani al-Amili speaks about the origins and history of the Shia Muslims of Jabal Amel, a mountainous region covering large areas of modern-day southern Lebanon.

Korani also addresses the claim that it was Abu Dhar al-Ghaffari – a famous companion of the Prophet Muhammad, who was the one that spread Shia Islam to the people of Jabal Amel.

Sheikh Ali Korani Al-Amili’s official channel (YouTube)


Sheikh Ali Korani al-Amili, Lebanese Muslim scholar & historian:

In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. May the best salutations and peace be upon our master, prophet, beloved, and intercessor Muhammad, and upon his noble and pure household.

Our topic is the role of Abu Dhar al-Ghafari – may God be pleased with him – in the spread of Shiism amongst the people of Jabal Amel[i]. This topic was the subject of numerous studies and books, which are, however, scattered[ii]. I have read about this subject and have worked on (a book) which has some chapters left (to be written), a book titled ‘Nabatieh: The Capital of Shiism in Lebanon’. It covers several topics and I attempt to include all of them, and I’ll put forward (similar information) that will be beneficial for you in this regard over the next 20 minutes, God willing.

Firstly, we will start with Sheba, the Kingdom of Sheba. I’ve seen the Sheba Valley and the castle of the Queen of Sheba; it’s a long valley, longer than the Lebanese Beqaa valley. While the Beqaa valley is considered a fertile and highly productive valley, (the Sheba) Valley is longer as such.

I also saw the place where the dam was, (the dam) that was destroyed by the Sayl al-‘Arim (The Tremendous Flood) … the Kingdom of Sheba, as you know from the (text) of the Holy Quran, was governed by Belkis – may God’s mercy upon her soul. Her uncle was from Al-Tababe’a, i.e. people of Tubba’, a series of Yemeni rulers. Her uncle was an unjust (king), so the people helped her against him until she took power from her uncle. Anyway, this was the woman who came to (Prophet) Sulayman (Solomon) – peace be upon him.

After the era of the Queen of Sheba, about 200 years later, a flood destroyed the dam (of Sheba , as (God) the Mighty has said, they misused (God’s) blessings (and were ungrateful towards them), and (there is a tendency/common practice) in the nature of man to misuse (power/blessings); according to some narrations, if a woman wanted to wipe for her baby she would use bread for this purpose (as they had a life of ease and plentifulness), that’s how ungrateful and mistaken they were.

Anyway, that (flood) was called Sayl al-‘Arim (The Tremendous Flood); Sayl (flood) is known to be a wave, (and) Al-‘Arim means tremendous, having a powerful and severe effect. This (flood) broke their dam and caused their lands to be submerged, (and so) they migrated. Among those who migrated because of the tremendous flood were the sons of Amilah son of Sheba, not Amilah and his sons, but the tribe of Amilah son of Sheba who were perhaps about 300 to 500 people. They came to Al-Hirah (in Iraq), some of them stayed in Al-Hirah, while others went to the Levant in search of agricultural areas (to settle in). They went to Shaqif Arnun (Beaufort Castle), which was populated, and its capital was Nabatieh. Shaqif Arnun is a mountain overlooking the Litani River from one side, and it has a five-floor castle carved out of the rock on the head of the mountain, and the only entrance it has is from the other side which is called Al-Ghandouriyeh. The Castle of Shaqif Arnun (Beaufort Castle) was a castle (that existed) in the first era, and it is mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel too. (It’s worth noting) that there is Arnun of Jordan, and Arnun of Lebanon. The tribe of Amilah settled in Shaqif Arnun, a while before Christ. They lived in Jabal Amel, and of course they did farming for a living.

The (city of) Nabatieh is not named after the Nabatean Civilization. The Nabats and Nabatean are used in two different meanings in the Arabic language, that is, the Nabatean Civilization – I came to the conclusion – is in fact the Thamud Civilization, which crushed and carved the rocks in the valley, and they were experienced with (different kinds) of rocks; which ones would be suitable for carving out a house or a castle etc. These are the Nabateans (attributed to the Nabatean Civilization).

The other meaning for Nabats is the one opposite to the Bedouins (desert nomads). Amirul Mu’minin (Imam Ali bin Abi Talib) – peace be upon him – says: ‘We are a people of Nabats (farmers originating) from Kutha Rabba’. Kutha Rubba is a village close to Al-Hillah. ‘A (people) of Nabat’ means ‘we are farmers and not bedouins/tribes’, therefore, it doesn’t have to do with Nabatean; when you read about someone attributed to ‘Nabats’, would this mean he is attributed to the Nabatean Civilization? No, it means he is a ‘Nabat’, i.e. a farmer and not a tribal person, he’s not attributed to the Bedouins nor to tribes. That’s what Amirul Mu’minin meant, that ‘we’re farmers, Babylonian farmers’. These are the ancestral roots of the Prophet (Muhammad) – peace be upon him – and (the people of) Quraysh and (Prophet) Ibrahim. Our grandfather (Prophet) Ibrahim’s (origin) was from Kutha Rabba, and the oldest civilization in history is the Mesopotamian civilization (which) is called the first Assyrian (civilization), the Babylonian (civilization), and other names (as well). However, in our Islamic texts, it’s called the Syriac Civilization, it is of a Syriac culture, its language was the Syriac language, and there were prophets sent (by God) who spoke Syriac (as well), and the Syriac language is still preserved and used in written form.

Till this very day, there are regions in Syria (among others) that speak the Syriac (language), and there are relics of prophets (written) in Syriac. A (narrated Hadith says) we asked permission (to see Imam) Jafar bin Muhammad – peace be upon him – and they said, ‘you may enter’. Thus, we entered the house and we saw him sitting on his prayer mat, praying and crying. We waited (for him), he continued his prayers and performed prostration (to God while praying). We (then) asked him, ‘O son of the Messenger of Allah, what were you reciting?’, he said that it was the Dua (supplication) of (Prophet) Idris. (We asked) what language was (he using) and he replied that it was the Syriac language that he was reciting. Just how a Persian, Iranian, or Indian (religious) scholar would like to recite a dua (supplication) in Arabic, Syriac is also a sacred language. Our (Islamic) jurists issue fatwas (formal rulings that say) that if someone cannot perform his daily obligatory prayers using the Arabic language but can do so in Syriac, then he may recite it in Syriac and his prayers will be in order; although the translation of Quran into languages other (than Arabic to recite prayers) is not permissible according to Shariah law. Anyway, that’s what the Syriac language (was), and that’s (how it’s related to) the Nabats.

Some say that Nabatieh, the (modern) governorate to which Shaqif Arnun belongs to, is attributed to the Nabatean Civilization. It’s not true, it’s not related to it. It is (originally formed) by a group of farmers who gathered – farmers and not tribes – in this city, which was at that time small in population. (In fact), all the inhabitants of Jabal Amel were few in number. The famous cities were Beirut, which was a port, a meeting point for soldiers, and Sidon that was an uninhabited port during the Islamic Conquest and then became inhabited. (Moreover) Sarafand, located between Tyre and Sidon, was also inhabited, and Abu Al-Darda’ and Salman Al-Farsi among others visited it. Salman Al-Farsi also visited Beirut and Tyre.

That’s regarding the coastal (towns/cities), they were inhabited. However, the mountains had few castles, among which were the Tebnin Castle, the Hunin Castle – some of the famous castles of Jabal Amel – while the villages (in Jabal Amel) were few. It appears that the Amilis (sons of Amil) had spread from Shaqif Arnun to the villages of Jabal Amel, and they were few in number.

(Video text was translated and published in two instalments, this is Part Two):

However, the Amilis as we notice, were a group – if the Romans had (to fight) a battle, they would gather the Levantine tribes (to join them). The tribe ruling in the Levant, appointed by the Romans, was the tribe of Bani Kalb (i.e. the sons of Kalb), and the Ghasasinah (i.e. Ghassanids) tribe, the Ghassanids were the kings of the Levantine. Ibn Ghassan (i.e. son of Ghassan; belonging to the Ghassanids) was the ruler of the region (i.e. the Levantine), he would send to the chief of the Bani Amilah tribe, or any other tribe (saying) ‘bring your people along, we have a war (to fight)’.

One of the qualities of (the tribe of Bani) Amilah was that – in the Roman wars, the Islamic Conquest, the conquest of Palestine for example, (by) Khalid ibn Saeed ibn al-Aas – may God have mercy on his soul – in the Battle of Fahl (and) the Battle of Yarmouk, they sided with the Muslims – and that’s a good thing. Perhaps they were driven by Arab nationalism, so it’s recorded (in their history) that they sided with Muslims. Regarding (their participation in) conquests, they must have taken part; regarding Murabatah[iii] (military stationing), some of them may have (undergone this form of defense), however, we don’t have any (historical) texts (as proof of it), yet some of them may have been (active) in Beirut, Sidon, or Sarafand.

(As for whether) they met Abu Dhar (or not), it’s possible that they might have met him. Abu Dhar had a respectful status. Salman al-Farsi says that he (Abu Dhar) visited the Levant and (the people there) received him as they receive the Caliph, (and) they would beg him to stay at theirs, (even) noblemen, all had begged him to stay in their homes. He told them: ‘During this visit I wish to stay at Bashir ibn Saad’s’ (but) Bashir ibn Saad was in Sarafand. Then they asked him ‘would you stay in the Levant?’, he said: ‘where is Abu al-Darda’?’, they said he was in his (place of) Murabatah (i.e. military service), (then Abu Dhar) asked: ‘where is he stationed at?’, they said he was in Beirut, so he went to Beirut.

He narrated Hadiths (narrations/teachings of Prophet Muhammad and his family, i.e. Ahlulbayt) in Beirut (for the people), he said to them ‘O people of Beirut, I’m narrating to you Hadiths on the virtue of Ribat[iv]’, he narrated (many) Hadiths (for those) in Beirut – peace be upon his soul.

Abu Dhar had participated in all the conquests of the Levant – all the wars (including) the conquest of Cyprus and the conquest of Egypt. Among the Hadiths that Albani and others have corrected (approved its validation), (is the hadith that) says: horses pray to God, asking Him to make their owners have love for them. (The Hadith) says: Abu Dhar – may God be pleased with him – was seen in Egypt, (in) the place where horses are trained – the (horse) field – (and) he had a horse called Al-Ajdal – Abu Dhar was a commander, a commander of 500 (soldiers), (the Hadith then continues): they told him ‘O Abu Dhar, we can see that you love this horse’, he said: ‘I believe his prayers were granted’, they asked: ‘what does he pray for?’, he replied: ‘I heard the Messenger of God (Prophet Muhammad) – peace be upon him and his family – saying that horses pray every morning asking God: ‘O God, make my owner have love for me that would be greater than his love for his children, so that he takes good care of me’, therefore, I believe that my love for this horse of mine is because his prayers were granted (by God)’.

Abu Dhar was an esteemed man, and one of the wonders of Abu Dhar was that he wouldn’t stay at a house, (instead, he) would set up a (Bedouin) tent made of black goat fur and stay in it, and he had a (powerful) influence (over people). Muawiyah wrote to Othman: ‘soldiers wouldn’t accept following any fatwa (ruling) other than a fatwa issued by him, nor would they accept any adjudication but his if they disagreed with each other’. He was an authority, a reference for soldiers; they once complained to him about Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, (so) he went, confronted him and obtained the right of the person (oppressed) by him. So, Abu Dhar had influence, and the Amilis have seen/met him, however, we do not have a (historical) text (that proves) that he met them and they became Shias because of him. Indeed, a (whole) generation of students became Shias by the hands of Abu Dhar, and it’s a wonder; If I would count the students of Abu Dhar who are mentioned by Ibn Hajar in (the book of) Tahdib al-Tahdib and (the book of) al-Dahabi among others, (they’re) around 30 scholars. For example, Alqama bin al-Qays the (religious) jurist of Iraq and the Levant, Ibrahim al-Nakhai as well, Oussama ibn Salman and the Omar al-Maqsoos, the student of Oussama ibn Salman. Omar al-Maqsoos – the wife of Yazid, who was a Shia and was the daughter of the granddaughter of Utbah ibn Rabi’a, Utbah who was killed in the (Battle) of Badr, (and) who’s (the father of) Abu Hashim, (however), her cousin, Muhammad bin Abi Hudayfah bin Abi Utbah is a Shia man (who’s) well-versed (in Shia matters) and had an influence over her. The wife of Yazid wanted to bring her children an educator, so she brought Omar ibn Massad (known as) Omar al-Maqsoos who raised them upon the (belief of) Shiism, (and who) was the student of a student of Abu Dhar. And so, Abu Dhar raised a generation of (Shia scholarly) students.

(Abu Dhar) also used to move (between different regions spreading his knowledge), this is the thing that made Muawiyah unable to tolerate him, so Othman told him: ‘send him over to me’, and he sent him to Othman, (yet), Othman couldn’t tolerate him (either), so he sent him back to the Levant. (When back) to the Levant, Muawiyah couldn’t tolerate his presence in the city, so he exiled him to al-Quds – to Bayt al-Maqdis, and Abu al-Darda’ had written him a letter asking him to ease up on people, (yet Abu Dhar) responded saying ‘I pledged allegiance to the Messenger of God (Prophet Muhammad) not to be affected by the reproach of any reproacher’, (he would) never (give up on his Islamic duties). He would stand in front of Muawiyah’s castle and tell him ‘O Muawiyah, this castle (you’re staying in), (if) you’re building it from the money/wealth of Muslim people, then this is treason (to the people you’re governing), and (if) you’re building it from your own money, then that’s an act of extravagance!’ And he was honest, (completely) honest, and according to Abu Dhar’s (religious) opinion, hoarding up gold and silver is prohibited (in religion), even if a person has paid their Zakat[v], he must invest/use them in the market; that’s an opinion (on the matter of hoarding up gold and silver) and (Islamic) jurists value it.

He went to Homs (city in Syria) to visit Abu al-Darda’ – and we have (in Lebanon in the village of) the Sarafand (a mosque called) the Mosque of Abu Dhar, which means he had passed by Sarafand. In Mays al-Jabal (village), there’s (also a mosque called) the Mosque of Abu Dhar, yet, it isn’t known whether (this village) was inhabited (at that time), as Mays al-Jabal was a road (leading) to the Levant, (it was) a small village, a stopover (for travelers); perhaps when Muawiyah sent (Abu Dhar) back to the Levant to send him to Othman, he (might have) returned from Sarafand through Mays al-Jabal and stayed there for a day or two, and the Muslims there considered the place he prayed as a blessed place and built a mosque (there) as a result.

Therefore, we do not have textual evidence for the (assertion) that Abu Dhar worked (on spreading Shiism) in Jabal Amel. (Modern) Jabal Amel hadn’t yet existed (at that time), the (modern/present day) villages weren’t present yet, there were a few castles and few villages only, while the inhabited (areas) were the (cities of) Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were full of Shia scholars, senior scholars, and it’s a wonder that some scholars like Ibn Abi Karima – (the people of) Karima who are now present in Egypt – and Ibn Abi Jumai’, (people of) Jumai’ who are Kufis, of Sidonian origin, and many others, we find many Shias in Sidon and Tyre, yet we can’t find a (historical) text (as a proof of Abu Dhar’s influence in those regions). Al-Hurr Al-Amili – may God have mercy on his soul – and Sayyed Mohsen al-Amin among others, say that he went – Abu Dhar went to these regions; it’s possible (that he had been) to the most influential areas, that is Sarafand, Tyre, and possibly Tebnine (too) on his way to the Levant. That’s one idea about the spread of Shiism (throughout Jabal Amel).

One of the most wonderful things I’ve seen is that the Amilis didn’t participate with (i.e. fight along) Muawiyah in the Battle of Seffin (against Imam Ali, peace be upon him), the tribe of Amilah son of Sheba, (they did not participate) at all, (although) this (stance) means they’ll be exposed to the wrath of Muawiyah, however, they didn’t participate, they didn’t fight (against Imam) Ali, which means they were tending (towards Shiism); they were either Shias or on their way to converting to Shiism. (Thats’ for this session,) and Praise be to God.

[i] A historical region located within modern-day southern Lebanon

[ii] not synthesised together in a holistic manner

[iii] Derived from the term Ribat

[iv] Ribat, in the abstract, was the safeguarding of frontiers of the dar al-Islam by stationing forces in the harbours and the frontier towns [thughur] for defensive purposes.

[v] Payment made annually under Islamic law on certain kinds of property and used for charitable and religious purposes, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Subscribe to our mailing list!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.