“Are you scared, Abdul-Nasser?” the little girl asked me in faultless English.
Looking around, it was difficult for me to see any cause for concern. The stony hill-country of Jebel-Amil in South Lebanon seems an idyllic place; most of the flat-roofed houses have olives, figs and almonds, or at least grapes, growing on trellises over their yards. Goats were being milked, a man was breaking up stones in a nearby field, and village-children played in the warm sunshine. The scene reminded me of the Bible picture-books of my Christian childhood. However, all is not well in this garden of Eden; any thoughts of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) proclaiming the Kingdom of God are overshadowed by another presence: Satan is in the garden.
The little girl’s house has been bombed twice by Israeli planes, and her father’s car destroyed by Israeli missile-firing helicopters. The village is on the edge of ‘Lahad-land’, a piece of Lebanese territory occupied by Israel and the proxy Zionist army of General Lahad. The first Israeli invasion of 1978 destroyed 2,500 houses completely, as well as 5 schools, 10 hospitals, 29 mosques and churches, thousands of acres of arable land, and 150,000 olive- and orange-trees. Subsequent and on-going Israeli operations have caused devestation. Israel’s next invasion in 1982 ruined half the country. In July 1993 a three-day attack killed 108 people; 102 were killed in the Qana massacre in 1996. While I was in Lebanon there were power-cuts caused by the bombing of a power-station by the Israelis earlier in the summer.
Subhan’Allah, the Muslims Lebanon are fighting back in the way that the Qur’an demands that we all must: jihad fi sabeel’Allah. During one of my visits to Jebel-Amil I met a local man, who had been blinded by a zionist missile while fighting with al-Muqawwama al-Islamiyyah (the Islamic Resistance). Another man has lost three sons and a son-in-law in the struggle. These people’s love for Islam and their pride in their resistance were truly inspiring. This pride in resistance crosses the boundaries between ‘observing’ and ‘westernised’ Muslims, and is even shared by non-Muslims. A young lady dressed in the latest western fashions, not the long coat and colour-coordinated scarf that most Muslims wear, was delighted that I have become a Muslim and that I support the Muqawwama. The Christian president of Lebanon recently gave full military honours to Muqawwama fighters who had taken part in a successful operation against the zionists. Alhumdu-lilah, the Muqawwama’s war is driving the Israelis and their collaborators out of Lebanon. They are the most successful anti-zionist army to date. Meanwhile, their political wing, Hizbullah, assist in rebuilding the devastated areas through their Jihad al-Bina’a (jihad for reconstruction’), building thousands of houses each year.
The work of Islamic organisations is also visible in Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Muslims driven out of Southern Lebanon by the Israelis have settled. The Great Prophet hospital, run by al-Shaheed foundation, towers above Bourj al-Barajneh, as does the nearby Bahman hospital, which is associated with the mosque of Ayatullah Fadhl’Allah. A school for orphans has also been built nearby, and a school for the blind is also under construction. All this has been built by a community of strictly limited income and other resources, also fighting a war.
The root of this dynamism is an Islamic leadership that is not only scholarly but is also prepared to sacrifice their own lives in the jihad. Among the faces of the shuhada looking down on Bourj al-Barajneh from posters and murals are those of numerous ulama and members of their families. It is a source of shame that, apart from Iran and a few wealthy individuals, the Muslim Ummah has not supported this great work, which should be an inspiration and lesson to us all.
[Abdul Nasser Baston is a Crescent reader in London, UK. He contributed this article after a recent visit to Lebanon.]
Muslimedia: September 16-30, 1999