When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours Lebanon’s border with Israel today, he may pause a moment to consider that Iran owes its existence as a Shiite nation to the ancestors of those living in these rural hilltop villages.
The links between the Shiites of Lebanon and Iran
stretch back 500 years. They endure today in the ideological and
material relationship between the Islamic Republic and Hezbollah.
Iran wasn’t always the center of Shiite scholarship
the early 16th century, the center for Shiite scholarship was in an
area known as Jabal Amil, a rugged hill country that conforms closely to
the geographical perimeters of modern-day south Lebanon. When Shah
Ismael I, the Safavid ruler of Iran, introduced Shiism as the state
religion in the 16th century, he turned to the scholars of Jabal Amil to
help promulgate the new faith.
Dozens of scholars traveled to
Iran, settling there, marrying, learning Persian, and involving
themselves in the rivalries and intrigues of the Safavid court. It was
the beginning of a… >>>