Peer Reviewed





Using the discourse of Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din, this article examines the contestation of sovereignty in Lebanon. His discourse on questions of sovereignty and agency offers an alternative vision of modernity that is part of an evolving struggle in the Lebanese political system. Lebanon’s consociational democratic system of structured political sectarianism necessitated an enmeshed and interactive theological, organizational, and political response. The article asks how political and ideational challenge – in the sense of empowering a disempowered group – occurs within a dominant political system of democratic exclusion? In addition, the geo-political reality of diminished state-level sovereignty, both vis-à-vis regional and international powers and domestically, in state institutions, functions, and relations, begs the question of how conditions of structured exclusion affect the state’s ability to act autonomously and in the interests of the majority of its citizens? I argue that Shams al-Din’s discourse sought to reform the status quo by emphasizing a post-sectarian accommodative vision. The essence of this vision emphasized the role of the resistant struggle (al-muqawama) for truth, justice, and inclusiveness as integral to the achievement of muwatana or citizenship (ownership / voice in the nation-state) as well as nationalist sovereignty, both of which he contextualized historically and politically within open and constructive relationships with their broader Arab, Islamic, and Human milieus. Shams al-Din’s idealistic but politically-engaged vision drew on the Sunni concept of (consultation) shura and traditional Shi‘i texts to frame just rule as an aspirational struggle and as a post-sectarian framework for political and societal organization based on taqrib (drawing closer, searching for commonalities) that stretches beyond borders. This vision outlined an interactive and interdependent relationship whereby national sovereignty is fortified for being embedded in its society and in the agency of its citizens, and vice versa.


Sovereignty, Agency, Shi'ism, Resistance

Total Pages

39 pages


Copyright © 2013 by Dina Jadallah

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.