While the US Administration and the West view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, it means something totally different to the Lebanese Shiite Muslims and the Arabs nowadays.
During the civil war in Lebanon in the nineteen eighties the establishment of Hezbollah was a necessity for the Lebanese Shiite Muslims to defend themselves from the Israeli invaders. But their role was not limited to mere liberation fighters. They set up a social services and information network starting from organizing health services for their people, caring for their windows and orphans, schooling and education as well as spiritual support in times of hardship and fear. They even established their own satellite channel with a wide range of programs including news in different languages, documentaries, Arabic soap series, children programs and special feature programs on religious occasions.
In 2000 when the Israeli army pulled out of South Lebanon Hezbollah had given their people a sense of integrity and security, new hope and assurance that they were cared for, not forgotten and helpless people, they had returned their dignity. They had and still have, of course, help from friends, just like Israel receives continuous help and support from her friends in the Western world. It is Hezbollah’s success that poses a threat to Israel and in the minds of many people in the West, who would rather want to get rid of Hezbollah. Hence, for Israel Hezbollah is a dangerous element obstructing peace in the region.
A new war started when Hezbollah seized two of Israel’s soldiers and killed eight others during an operation that was originally planned to trait these captives with many Lebanese and Palestinians who had been captured by Israel during their continuous incursions into Lebanon in the past and actions against the Palestinian uprising. The reaction of Israel shocked the world. Opinions differed and support for both sides could be found. But what was unprecedented and probably unexpected was the support Hezbollah, a pure Shiite organization, gained from all over the Arab and Muslim world.
Famous and liberal Arab actors spoke their support on TV for Hezbollah’s leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, calling the resistance not only an Islamic but „humanitarian uprising“ that had restored the honor and pride of the Arabs and Muslims. The Lebanese mostly Shiite civilians, who suffered so terribly under the relentless bombardment of Israel’s military airpower, would woe their unshaken support for Hezbollah. All over the Arab world people demonstrated with Hezbollah flags and carried the picture of its leader. On people’s cars and in shops or homes in the Middle East these pictures are still increasingly displayed. It seems that Hezbollah is actually much more than a resistance group or militia in their people’s hearts and it definitely proved itself to be very different from the picture that the West would like to portray, namely a bunch of daring terrorists. But whatever the view on Hezbollah, what is their secret, if there is any, for their success?
From the Shiite perspective it is actually no secret at all. They openly declare it every day on their TV channel Al Manar, which Israel had tried to destroy right from the beginning of the recent war. Rather than trying to destroy the voice of Hezbollah, the attentive observer would recognize the very vital source of insight it offers. The speeches of Sayed Nasrallah are inspiring for his followers in which he indicates the fundamental philosophy of their struggle, but that is not always recognized by non-Shiite viewers. Closing one of his speeches, Sayed Nasrallah ended with a quote; a quote from Lady Zainab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed, the sister of the revered martyr Imam Hussain. Although the Western press has mentioned occasionally the fact that Shiism has a special connection to this martyrdom, it does not understand the significance of this historic event for Shiite Muslims in particular and Islam in general.
The quote of Lady Zainab as recited by Sayed Nasrallah is the fuel for the Shiite cause. It makes Shiites view their dead and martyrs not as loss in the battle of resistance but as encouragement towards a final outcome. As a result they are not scared of losing their soldiers and even civilians. But although deeply saddened, they understand this struggle to be the continuing revolution of Imam Hussain against tyrants and aggressors. Imam Hussain had refused to pay allegiance to Yazid, the powerful ruler at the time, who was an oppressive and arrogant leader to the Islamic Umma, the Muslim people. Yazid had sent his troops to confront Imam Hussain who was on his way from Mekka to Kufa on a stop with his caravan in Kerbala. Because Imam Hussain refused to submit to a ruthless and hypocritical leader, history recalls the cruel massacre of his male household and close companions on the day of ‚Ashoura‘. Afterwards the female members and only one very sick male survivor, the Imam’s son Ali, were taken captive and delivered to Yazid along with the severed heads of Imam Hussain and those of his close companions to be humiliated even further in front of Yazid’s court in Damascus.
So what did Lady Zainab say after she had witnessed the massacre of her male family members and close companions who were only a few against an army of hundreds? Challenging Imam Hussain’s sister Zainab, Yazid asked her what she would say after she had seen what he was able to do to her family. But Lady Zainab was not devastated as Yazid must have expected. Her speeches have been remembered since, her unbroken dignity and faith became the pillars of resistance against injustice and aggression: „You did what you wished, but remember that you have cut your own skin. … On that occasion (on the Day of Judgment) you will be burdened with the sins of the misdeed committed by you … Feel not elated with our defeat, for you will have to pay the penalty of it on the day when you will be rewarded for your misdeeds. God is not unjust to anyone. We trust in Him. He is our place of refuge. In Him we seek sanctity and with Him rest our hopes! …, nor can you wipe out the ignominy you have earned for yourself by your abominable and vile performance. Your decisions are poor and your days are numbered. … – God’s curse be on tyrants and transgressors“.
With these words, well-known by all Shiites, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah closed his speech, truly effective and highly motivating for his people; and as a warning for the dominant Israeli military power, for Yazid, being the head of the superpower of his time, disappeared three years afterwards and was never seen again. The resistance of Imam Hussain and his family ending in martyrdom, however, is to this day commemorated every year by millions of Shiites as a symbol of their freedom, dignity and rejection of aggression with zealous emotions and the call „every land is Kerbala and every day is Ashoura“. Even famous non-Muslim personalities of modern history have recognized the significance of ‚Ashoura‘, like Mahatma Ghandi who commented that he had „learned from Hussain how to be defeated and yet achieve victory“.
The outcome of the latest war, despite the great price paid by Lebanese civilians and also Israelis, is a stronger Hezbollah with an increased support from Arabs and Muslims all over the world and a discredited Israeli government. Cynical voices might even speculate that Israel has done Hezbollah a great favor, rather than clip it. Hezbollah has more than ever become a firm part of Lebanon’s politics on which lay great hopes and expectations from many Lebanese people and Muslims. Hezbollah has achieved a higher position than its status quo ante in the Arab and Muslim world thanks to an ignorant and rash Israeli „act of self-defense“. However, it seems that it is not only their improving guerilla tactics and organizational skills that are able to challenge military superiority. The question is what role does their strong faith and spiritual background play in their success?
Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in Monotheism and divine signs and warnings have been part of all religions and histories. But despite secularism and alternative beliefs or ideologies nowadays, time and again people remember these handed down signs and warnings, which cause even people of modern times to bethink these and consider the spiritual approach more serious than contemporary scientists, experts or politicians would like to admit. The increasing interest in religion in Europe and North America shows this trend to become somewhat more influential in the interpretation of worldly affairs. As for their becoming reality we have to wait and see. For the moment, however, the signs seem to be in favor of Hezbollah who declared their victory with a public celebration of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese from all sects and sectors, and a special appearance from their leader Sayed Nasrallah, whom Israel has vowed to keep on hunting but who has become recognized in his role by many others.