Al-Ahbash ("the Ethiopians")

The Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (Jami'at al-Mashari' al-Khayriya al-Islamiya), known as Al-Ahbash ("the Ethiopians"), almost 8,000 members: One of the most controversial and interesting of contemporary Islamic groups, due to its origins, its eclectic theological roots, and its teachings, which do not fit the conventional Islamist mold.21 The Ahbash is a Sufi (or spiritualist) movement that devoutly follows the teachings of Sheikh `Abdallah ibn Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Hirari ash-Shi'bi al-Abdari, also known as al-Habashi, a religious thinker of Ethiopian origins. It is spiritually Islamist but not politically. By the late 1980s, the Ahbash had become one of Lebanon's largest Islamic movements, having grown during the civil war from a few hundred members to its present size. The Ahbash did not create a militia of its own, nor did it engage in sectarian violence or fight Israel. Proselytizing and recruitment are its main aims, along with a commitment to moderation and political passivity.
The Ahbash became a key player in Lebanese politics by offering a moderate alternative to Islamism, attracting a wide following among the Sunni urban middle class by advocating pluralism and tolerance. Its ideology makes the Ahbash politically significant, including sharp controversies with Islamist movements. While Habashi pays allegiance to the pious ancestors (salaf) and the Shari'a, his emphasis on "the science of hadith" makes him suspect as being a follower of the Kalamiya (literalist) tradition of the Mu'tazila who stressed the superiority of reason over revelation. He rejects such Islamist authorities as Ibn Taymiya, Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, and Sayyid Qutb. In contrast to Hizbullah and the Islamic Association, the Ahbash opposes the establishment of an Islamic state on the grounds that this divides Muslims. Instead, it accepts Lebanon's confessional system (which used to give Christians six slots for every five Muslim slots, and now gives them parity). Its foreign policy orientation is equally mild, making no reference to jihad and directing no anger toward the West. To achieve a civilized Islamic society, it recommends that members study Western learning. Also, the Ahbash has established branches in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Sweden, Switzerland, the Ukraine, and the United States (with headquarters in Philadelphia). It enjoys excellent relations with most Arab states, particularly Syria. In rivalry with the Islamic Association for dominance of the Sunni community, it entered the parliamentary elections of 1992 and won one seat in Beirut, though it lost it in 1996.


posted by Ethiounited Moderator at6:09 PM


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