The famous British historian of Lebanese origin, Albert Habib Hourani (1915-1993), provided the following information about the Jabal 'Amil region in southern Lebanon in the 1986 issue of the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies published by the University of London:
Shiite scholars in the Jabal 'Amil region claim that their group, which lives in countries extending along the mountainous interior of the cities of "Tyre" and "Sidon" in southern Lebanon, is the oldest Shiite group, and they attribute the establishment of this place to Abu Dhar Ahad one of the Companions of the Prophet, and one of the names that supported the idea that Ali is his political successor. Abu Dhar came to Damascus from Medina and was later exiled to the Jabal 'Amil region, where he established the first Shiite community there. It is possible to see the mosque that was built and named after him in that region at the present time.
In fact, it is not known how Shiism spread in the Jabal 'Amil area. The fact is that Shiites began to appear in that region in the tenth century. It is possible that the Shiites formed a majority in the regions of Syria and Lebanon during the period of the Hamdanids, the Shiite dynasty that established an administration based in Aleppo, and after them the Fatimids who expanded their lands to include the lands of the Hamdanids.
Many travelers have also have born witness to this. Among them is the traveler Nasir Khusraw, who passed through the city of Tyre in 1047 and remarked that the majority of the population were Shiites, but the position of judge was held by a Sunni. According to Ibn Jubayr, There were more Shiites than Sunnis in the region as of 1184.
The Shiites were divided among themselves into several sects, including the Imamis, the Rafidah, the Zaydis, the Ismailis, and the Nusayris. Yaqut al-Hamawi, who visited Aleppo half a century later, stated that the jurists of that region had given their fatwas according to the Imami Shiite school of thought.
Jabal 'Amil, currently under the control of Hezbollah and its Shiite factions, has been the launching point for many Shiite clerics who have created profound religious and political influence in the Middle East through their shuttle trips between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran since the beginning of the last century. Among these scholars, the descendants of Sadr al-Din Muhammad ibn Salih (1779-1848) gained special fame.
Sadr al-Din Muhammad ibn Salih, whose lineage extends from the seventh Imam of the Shiites, Musa al-Kadhim to Ali, may God be pleased with him, lived in a period when the strength of the Ottoman Empire began to weaken. His son, Ismail al-Sadr (1842-1919), who was the first to hold this title, was a "transitional figure" in every sense of the word, but his influence would extend for a century.
As for the eldest son of Ismail al-Sadr, Muhammad Mahdi al-Sadr (1879-1939), who went to the Iraqi city of Najaf and settled in the mainstream of the Shiite scholarly hierarchy. His son, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (1906-1986), witnessed the most turbulent years in Iraqi domestic politics.
It is worth noting that Muhammad Mahdi al-Sadr witnessed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq, the disintegration of the kingdom, then military coups, and finally Saddam Hussein's regime. He raised his son, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (1943-1999), to be a staunch opponent of the Baath Party, just like him. Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who passed on the same political stance to his son Muqtada, born in 1974, was nearly killed as a result of a bomb attack organized by Saddam Hussein's regime.
Sadr al-Din Muhammad Ali al-Sadr (1882-1953), the second son of Ismail al-Sadr, completed his religious education in the Iranian city of Qom. His son, Musa al-Sadr, who achieved international fame, was born in Qom in 1928. After settling in Lebanon and focusing on reviving the Shiite sect in its ancestral lands, he was appointed head of the Supreme Shiite Council in 1969.
It is worth noting that Musa al-Sadr was the one who confirmed that the Nusayris, to which the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad belonged, are one of the accepted and legitimate Shiite sects. Musa al-Sadr, who became one of the country's most active figures during the 1975 Lebanese civil war, disappeared during his official visit to Libya in the summer of 1978, and his fate remains a mystery.
Haidar al-Sadr (1891-1937), the youngest son of Ismail al-Sadr, named his son, who was born at the end of his short life, Muhammad Baqir. During his life, which coincided with the difficult years of Iraq, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-1980) was a fierce enemy of the Ba'ath regime, like other members of his family.
Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and his sister Amina al-Sadr, known as Bint al-Huda, were executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after he carried the banner of rebellion against the ruling Baath regime in Iraq and established the Islamic Dawa Party.
When Muqtada al-Sadr married Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr's daughter in 1994, he was also embracing the political line he had inherited from his father and his father-in-law, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr.
It is imperative that the modern history of the Middle East be penned through famous families. The Sadr family is a powerful and reliable source that will give enough inspiration to those who will delve into this issue.