Islam in Syria is composed of a Sunni majority and four minority sects; Twelver Shiites, and also Druze (which is not an Islamic sect), Alawi and Ismailis. Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam. Sunni Islam is also referred to as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h (Arabic See also Shi'a Islam Twelver Shi'ism ( ar اثنا عشرية Ithnāˤashariyyah) is the largest branch of Shi'a branch of Islam The Druze ( Arabic: درزي derzī or durzī, plural دروز durūz) are a religious community found primarily in Syria, Lebanon For the Alaouite dynasty of Morocco see Alaouite Dynasty, for the former state now in Yemen see Alawi (sheikhdom The Alawites For the Egyptian city see Ismaïlia. The Ismāʿīlī ( Urdu: إسماعیلی Ismāʿīlī, Arabic: الإسماعيليون Sunnis make up 65%-70% of the total population of the country (including a majority of Arabs and a Kurdish minority). The araB gene Promoter is a bacterial promoter activated by e L-arabinose binding Shias comprise up to 20% while Christians make up 5%-10% of the Syrian population, about half of them Greek Orthodox. A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic Religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth The Greek Orthodox Church ( Greek: Ἑλληνορθόδοξη Ἐκκλησία Hellēnorthódoxē Ekklēsía) is formed by several autocephalous churches Alawis are the pre-dominant Shia group (approximately 12% of the total Syrian population), followed by Druze, Twelvers and Ismailis. Sunnis are mainly of the Shafi'i madhhab with pockets of Hanafi and [[Hanbali]. The Shāfi‘ī Madhab ( ar شافعي) is one of the four schools of Fiqh, or religious law within Madhhab or Mazhab ( Arabic مذهب mæðhæb pl مذاهب mæðæːhıb) is an Islamic school of thought, or The Hanafi ( Arabic حنفي school is the oldest of the four schools of thought ( Madhhabs Several large Sufi orders are active in the country, including the Naqshbandi tariqa, Qadiriyya and others. Sufism ( تصوّف - taṣawwuf, Persian: صوفیگری sufigari, Turkish: tasavvuf, Urdu: تصوف Naqshbandi ( Naqshbandiyya) is one of the major Tasawwuf orders ( Tariqa) of Islam. Tariqah ( ar طريقه; pl طرق; Ṭuruq or Persian: Tarighat, Turkish: Tarikat) means "way" Qadiriyyah ( Arabic: القادريه, Turkish: Kadirilik) (also Transliterated Kadri, Elkadry, Kadray The secularist government has promoted Sufism in an attempt to weaken radical Sunni fundamentalist movements, and a now deceased Naqshbandi alim, shaykh Ahmad Kaftaru, gained stature as Syria's government-appointed chief Mufti. Ulema ( ar علماء,, singular ar عالِم,, "scholar" refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several Sheikh, also rendered as Sheik, Cheikh, Shaikh, and other variants ( Arabic:, shaykh This article is about an Islamic scholar Mufti can also refer to civilian dress.
In March 1963 a military coup installed a secular, Baath socialist regime dominated by minority sects. Secularity ( adjective form secular) is the state of being separate from Religion. The Arab Socialist Ba'th Party (also spelled Baath or Ba'ath; Arabic: حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي was founded in Damascus Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the Means of production and distribution In 1970, an Alawi ruler, Hafez al-Assad, seized the presidency (he was succeeded by his son, Bashar al-Asad, in 2000). Hafez al-Assad (حافظ الأسد) ( October 6, 1930 &ndash June 10, 2000) was president of Syria, for three Dr Bashar al-Assad (بشار الأسد) (born 11 September, 1965) is the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Regional Secretary The most intractable challenge to Baathist rule has come from Sunni Islamic groups, most notably, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brothers ( Arabic: الإخوان المسلمون al-ikhwān al-muslimūn, full title The Society of the Muslim Brothers, often simply الإخوان The first Islamic uprising was in 1964 in Hama; other such sectarian disturbances followed in 1967, 1973 and from c:a 1976-85, culminating in the violent repression of another Hamas uprising in 1982. Hama (ancient Hamath; Arabic: حماة meaning fortress is a city on the banks of the Orontes river in central Syria north of The Hama massacre ( مجزرة حماة) occurred on February 2, 1982 when the Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in order Discontent lay mainly in the cities, fuelled by the resentment of a still-influential Sunni merchant class and former nobility, as rural areas had witnessed unprecedented economic development under the Baathists, and Syria's religious minorities - Druze, Alawis, Christians, and Ismailis - were unsympathetic to Islamist aspirations. Islamism ( Islam + ism; Arabic: al-'islāmiyya) a set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only
The influx of a large number of Iraqi refugees to Syria, especially after 2003, has somewhat altered these proportions. For a topic outline on this subject see List of basic Iraq topics. Iraqi refugees -- estimated at nearly 2 million, or close to 10% of the Syrian population, in 2007 -- comprise all Iraqi religions, including Sunnis and Twelver Shia, as well as a disproportionate number of Christians. The most notable effect on Syria's religious balance has been the increased size of the resident Twelver Shia community in Syria, which was previously minimal.
The largest religious group in Syria is the Sunni Muslims, of whom about 80 percent are native Syrian Arabs, with the remainder being Kurds, Turkomans, Circassians, and Palestinians. Sunni Islam sets the religious tone for Syria and provides the country's basic values.
Sunnis follow nearly all occupations, belong to all social groups and nearly every political party, and live in all parts of the country. There are only two provinces in which they are not a majority: As Suwayda, where Druzes predominate, and Al Ladhiqiyah, where Alawis are a majority. In Al Hasakah, Sunnis form a majority, but most of them are Kurds rather than Arabs.
In theory, a Sunni approaches his God directly because the religion provides him no intercession of saints, no holy orders, no organized clerical hierarchy, and no true liturgy. In practice, however, there are duly appointed religious figures, some of whom exert considerable social and political power. Among them are men of importance in their community who lead prayers and give sermons at Friday services. Although in the larger mosques the imams are generally well-educated men who are informed about political and social affairs, an imam need not have any formal training. Among beduin, for example, any literate member of the tribe may read prayers from the Quran. Committees of socially prominent worshipers usually run the major mosques and administer mosque-owned land and gifts.
The Muslim year has two canonical festivals--the Id al Adha, or "sacrificial" festival on the tenth of Dhul al Hijjah, the twelfth Muslim month; and the Id al Fitr, or "festival of breaking the fast," which celebrates the end of the fast of Ramadan on the first of Shawwal, the tenth month. Both festivals last 3 or 4 days, during which people wear their best clothes, visit and congratulate each other, and give gifts. People visit cemeteries, often remaining for some hours, even throughout the night. The festival of the Id al Fitr is celebrated more joyfully than the Id al Adha because it marks the end of the hardships of Ramadan. Lesser celebrations take place on the Prophet's birthday, which falls on the twelfth of Rabia al Awwal, the third month, and on the first of Muharram, the beginning of the Muslim new year.
Islamic law provides direction in all aspects of life. There are four major schools of Islamic law--the Hanafi, the Hanabali, the Shafii, and the Maliki--each named after its founder and all held to be officially valid. Any Muslim may belong to any one of them, although one school usually dominates a given geographical area. The schools agree on the four recognized sources of law-- the Quran, the Sunna, the consensus of the faithful (ijma), and analogy (qiyas)--but differ in the degree of emphasis they give to each source. Represented in Syria are the Shafii school and the more liberal Hanafi school, which places greater emphasis on analogical deduction and bases decisions more on precedents set in previous cases than on literal interpretation of the Quran or Sunna.
Conservative, Sunni leaders look to the ancient days of Islam for secular guidance. Only since the first quarter of the twentieth century have Syrian Sunnis become acutely aware of the need for modern education. Therefore, secularization is spreading among Sunnis, especially the younger ones in urban areas and in the military services. After the first coup d'état in 1949, the waqfs were taken out of private religious hands and put under government control. Civil codes have greatly modified the authority of Islamic laws, and the educational role of Muslim religious leaders is declining with the gradual disappearance of kuttabs, the traditional mosque-affiliated schools.
Despite civil codes introduced in the past years, Syria maintains a dual system of sharia and civil courts (see The Judiciary , ch. 4). Hanafi law applies in sharia courts, and nonMuslim communities have their own religious courts using their own religious law.
Shia play only a minor role in Syrian politics. In religious affairs, they look to Shia centers in Iraq, especially Karbala and An Najaf, and to Iran. However, Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, and Syria's alliance with Iran in its war with Iraq, have elevated the prestige of Syria's Shia minority. As hundreds of Iranian tourists began to visit Damascus each week, the Shia shrine of the tomb of Sitt az Zaynab, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, located in Al Ghutah outside Damascus, became a major pilgrimage destination, replacing those areas no longer accessible in Iraq. However, the government of Syria has viewed with caution the resurgence of Shia Islamic fervor in Syria and has taken steps to dampen it.
The Ismailis are an offshoot of Shia Islam, the split having occurred over the recognition of the Seventh Imam. Shia Twelvers, those who accept the first Twelve Imams, believe that Jafar, the Sixth Imam, passed over his eldest son, Ismail, in favor of Ismail's brother Musa al Kazim. Ismailis, however, believe that Jafar appointed Ismail to be the Seventh Imam--hence Ismailis are often called Seveners. Little is known of the early history of the sect, but it was firmly established by the end of the ninth century. From 969 to 1171, an Ismaili dynasty, the Fatimids, ruled as caliphs in Egypt.
Ismailis are divided into two major groups, the Mustafians and the Misaris. The Ismailis of Syria, numbering about 200,000, are predominantly Misaris; this group gained prominence during the Crusades when a mystical society of Misaris, called Assassins, harassed both the Crusaders and Saladin (Salah ad Din al Ayyubi). The Misari Ismaili community has continued in Syria to the present day and recognizes the Aga Khan as its head. The Mirzahs are the leading family in the community. [Shahgaldian, op. cit. ].
Originally clustered in Al Ladhiqiyah Province, most of the Syrian Ismailis have resettled south of Salamiyah on land granted to the Ismaili community by Abdul Hamid II, sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909. A few thousand Ismailis live in the mountains west of Hamah, and about 5,000 are in Al Ladhiqiyah. The western mountain group is poor and suffers from land hunger and overpopulation--resulting in a drift toward the wealthier eastern areas as well as seasonal migration to the Salamiyah area, where many of them find employment at harvest-time. The wealthier Ismailis of Salamiyah have fertile and well-watered land and are regarded as clannish, proud, and tough.
Ismailis accept many Shia doctrines, such as the esoteric nature of truth and the inspiration of the Imams. Although holding their Imams to be of divine origin, as the Shia do, Ismailis have a dual Imamate. They believe the succession of visible Imams has continued to the present. There are, however, two imams, the visible and the hidden, the speaker and the silent. The identity of the hidden imam is not known to the community but it is believed he will return to lead the faithful. Ismailis generally follow the religious practice of the Shia Twelvers in prayers, fasts, and Quranic prescriptions, but in their conservatism they resemble Sunnis on some points. For example, they do not observe the tenth of Muharram in the impassioned way of the Shia.
The Alawis, or Nusayris, who number about 1,350,000, constitute Syria's largest religious minority. They live chiefly along the coast in Al Ladhiqiyah Province, where they form over 60 percent of the rural population; the city of Latakia itself is largely Sunni. The Alawis appear to be descendants of people who lived in this region at the time of Alexander the Great. When Christianity flourished in the Fertile Crescent, the Alawis, isolated in their little communities, clung to their own preIslamic religion. After hundreds of years of Ismaili influence, the Alawis moved closer to Islam. However, contacts with the Byzantines and the Crusaders added Christian elements to the Alawis' new creeds and practices. For example, Alawis celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Epiphany, and use sacramental wine in some ceremonies.
For several centuries, the Alawis enjoyed autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, but, in the mid-nineteenth century, the Ottomans imposed direct rule. Regarding the Alawis as infidels, the Ottomans consistently persecuted them and imposed heavy taxation. During the French Mandate, the Alawis briefly gained territorial autonomy, but direct rule was reimposed in 1936.
For centuries, the Alawis constituted Syria's most repressed and exploited minority. Most were indentured servants and tenant farmers or sharecroppers working for Sunni landowners. However, after Alawi President Assad and his retinue came to power in 1970, the well-being of the Alawis improved considerably.
Split by sectional rivalries, the Alawis have no single, powerful ruling family, but since independence many individual Alawis have attained power and prestige as military officers. Although they are settled cultivators, Alawis gather into kin groups much like those of pastoral nomads. The four Alawi confederations, each divided into tribes, are Kalbiyah, Khaiyatin, Haddadin, and Matawirah.
Alawis claim they are Muslims, but conservative Sunnis do not always recognize them as such. Like Ismaili Shias, Alawis believe in a system of divine incarnation. Unlike Ismailis, Alawis regard Ali as the incarnation of the deity in the divine triad. As such, Ali is the "Meaning;" Muhammad, whom Ali created of his own light, is the "Name;" and Salman the Persian is the "Gate. " Alawi catechesis is expressed in the formula: "I turn to the Gate; I bow before the Name; I adore the Meaning. " An Alawi prays in a manner patterned after the shahada: "I testify that there is no God but Ali. "
According to Alawi belief, all persons at first were stars in the world of light but fell from the firmament through disobedience. Faithful Alawis believe they must be transformed seven times before returning to take a place among the stars, where Ali is the prince. If blameworthy, they are sometimes reborn as Christians, among whom they remain until atonement is complete. Infidels are reborn as animals.
Because many of the tenets of the faith are secret, Alawis have refused to discuss their faith with outsiders. Only an elect few learn the religion after a lengthy process of initiation; youths are initiated into the secrets of the faith in stages. Their prayer book, the source of religious instruction, is the Kitab al Majmu, believed to be derived from Ismaili writings. Alawis study the Quran and recognize the five pillars of Islam, which they interpret in a wholly allegorical sense to fit community tenets.
Alawis do not set aside a particular building for worship. In the past, Sunni government officials forced them to build mosques, but these were invariably abandoned. Only the men take part in worship.
In 1987 the Druze community, at 3 percent of the population the country's third largest religious minority, continued to be the overwhelming majority in the Jabal al Arab, a rugged and mountainous region in southwestern Syria.
The Druze religion is a tenth-century offshoot of Islam, but Muslims view Druzes as heretical for accepting the divinity of Hakim, the third Fatimid caliph of Egypt. The group takes its names from Muhammad Bin Ismail ad Darazi, an Iranian mystic. Druzes regard Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, as their chief prophet and make annual pilgrimages to his tomb in lower Galilee. They also revere Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, the three most important prophets of Islam.
The Druze have always kept their doctrine and ritual of secret to avoid persecution. Only those who demonstrate extreme piety and devotion and the correct demeanor are initiated into the mysteries. The initiated (uqqal; sing. , aqil) are a very small minority and may include women. Most Druzes are juhhal, ignorant ones. Apparently the religion is complex, involving neo-Platonic thought, Sufi mysticism, and Iranian religious traditions.
Endogamy and monogamy are the rule among the Druzes. Until recently, most girls were married between the ages of 12 and 15, and most men at the age of 16 or 17. Women are veiled in public, but, in contrast to Muslim Arab custom, they can and do participate in the councils of elders.
This article contains material from the Library of Congress Country Studies, which are United States government publications in the public domain. The Country Studies are works published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress ( USA) freely available for use by researchers The federal government of the United States is the central United States Governmental body established by the United States Constitution. The public domain is a range of abstract materials &ndash commonly referred to as Intellectual property &ndash which are not owned or controlled by anyone