The 'Alawīs in modern Syria: From Nuscombining dot belowayrīya to Islam via 'Alawīya

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The 'Alawīs in Syria have long been viewed as an esoteric Shi'ī sect, known to outsiders as extremist and considered by their Muslim neighbors as heretics. As they kept their beliefs in secret, we have no published accounts of the community's tenets by insiders until the end of the Ottoman period. This article analyzes the religious arguments by which insiders of the community have been attempting to integrate into Islam. It does so by focusing on the 'Alawī writings since the Mandate when 'Alawīs began formulating new historical and religious claims to help facilitate the adoption of nationalism together with Islamism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalIslam - Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Kultur des Islamischen Orients
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
al-Ali which erupted in 1919. Historians speculate on the motivations of al-Ali and his supporters to instigate such a revolt. Philip Khoury, for example, doubts Syrian historiography, which describes al-Ali as a rebel motivated by Arab nationalist ideology and sentiments, even though al-Ali was backed by the nationalists of Damascus and other Syrian cities.55 Although the reasons that led to this revolt are beyond the scope of this paper,56the ethnic implications that the revolt had on Syria deserve special attention. Because the revolt was supported by the Syrian nationalists of Aleppo and Damascus, it was portrayed by Alawi unionists as well as Syrian nationalists as one of the Arab-Syrian revolts against the French Mandate and against any separation from Syria. Since the independence of Syria in 1946, the idealization of Salih al-Ali’s revolt served to integrate the Alawis within the “national Syrian community”. In his book of 1946, Munir al-Sharif was probably the first to idealize the revolt as Syrian nationalism. As a participant in the revolt, al-Sharif presents the Alawis as nationalist from the very inception of the Mandate. This publication by al-Sharif was followed a year later by Abd al-Latif Yunus, who dedicated his whole book to al-Ali’s “nationalist” revolt.57

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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