Friday, September 13, 2013

Who are the Alawites?

As I expect a fair number of people now know, the Alawites are a religious sect, mostly in Syria. Assad is Alawi and they are a major part of his support. But, religiously speaking, who are they?

My vague memory was that they had a long history of keeping their doctrines secret, making it unclear just where they did or didn't fit into the general pattern of Muslim sects, that in recent years they had chosen to identify themselves as a form of Shia but that it was not clear whether that was an accurate description of their beliefs or merely one that they found politically convenient. A comment on a recent post here got me interested, so I did some online research.

The Wikipedia page says that they "follow a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam," and goes on to add that "Alawite beliefs are kept secret for outsiders, even for non initiated Alawites. Therefore many rumours about their religious beliefs have arisen," but says nothing about what those beliefs are. 

With a little searching, however, I found quite a detailed account on another web page. I do not know  if it is accurate, although my guess on internal evidence is that it probably is. If so, it sounds as though their beliefs deviate from Islamic orthodoxy as much as Muslim beliefs deviate from Christianity and probably more than Muslim beliefs deviate from Judaism. They apparently believe that Ali was some sort of incarnation of God, reject the Koran, and believe in reincarnation for males but not females.

Which makes me wonder whether the absence of information in the Wikipedia page reflects a successful attempt to defend the identification of Alawites as Shia in support of Assad's alliance with (twelver Shia) Iran.


P.S. A commenter point out a detailed and scholarly account of Alawites consistent with the one I earlier linked to. It supports my suspicion that their identification as twelver Shia was a matter of politics rather than theology.


At 11:23 AM, September 13, 2013, Anonymous RKN said...

and believe in reincarnation for males but not females.

Hmm. Must be that reincarnation is Y-linked.

At 11:41 AM, September 13, 2013, Anonymous kzndr said...

Martin Kramer has a decent article on the Alawites that includes some good scholarly references and also touches on the politics surround Musa Sadr's fatwa that ruled they were within the fold of Twelver Shiism:

At 12:04 PM, September 13, 2013, Blogger Paavo said...

Are alawites the Mormons of muslim world? I don't know much about mormons or alawites, but I have a hunch that Mormons have somewhat succesfully downplayed their theological differences and are more accepted by protestant and evangelical christians that themselves are threatened by secularisation. That's the analogy that comes to my mind.

At 3:51 PM, September 13, 2013, Blogger David Friedman said...


I actually offered the Mormon analogy in the common thread a few posts back that led to this post.

At 7:48 PM, September 13, 2013, Blogger Mike Hammock said...

This raises an important question: Who are the Scientologists of the Muslim world?

At 11:29 AM, February 16, 2014, Blogger Unknown said...

This is just another one of those stupid articles about alawites. I just want to say that not one thing ive read about alawites online is correct or even comes close so direspectful and rather disgusting you make it sound like a cult of filth. Go and research something youre actually going to speak truthfully about

At 11:34 AM, February 16, 2014, Blogger Unknown said...

Alawites are muslims who follow the teachings of the prophet muhammed they pray 5 times a day and fast the month of ramadan alawites do this because they are a part of the 5 pillars of islam not in honour of anyones name!! They do not drink and offer their wives to anyone alawism is not a disgusting cult. If you cannot find something true about alawites you shouldn't posts such things nothing but lies and putrid assumptions

At 1:35 PM, July 19, 2014, Blogger güven said...

as an alawi ı must say, you totally wrong, but it is not your fault.

first, alawism is a tree and it has many branches, for example, alawis in syria are called nusayri, and they have some difference between alawis in turkey and also from the iran alawis (yarsan- enel haq)

this link gives some good informations about alawis in turkey.

end of all

some of us go to mosque and cem both for worship, some of us just go to cem, the original alawi worship is different from sunni muslims, because, we are Batin( to believe that holly books has inner and hidden meaning and massages)

the secret is God created human as a piece of him,so we love god, and we love people, and animals, and the world.

At 4:28 AM, November 18, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The arabian Alewis who live in Hatay(TR) are moslems and belongs to "ahl el beyt" family members of Mohammed (sav), for them exists ALLAH one time, Mohammed (sav) is their prohpet and Kuran-el-kerim is their holy book. They know the sure to pray in mosques and additionally much more knwoledge for praying.
And now I ask you, where us he problem?

At 2:48 AM, March 05, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and Mr David calls himself academic

At 4:23 PM, July 04, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said...

95% of things I read on Google or watch on YouTube about "Alawites" is far from the truth of who alawites really are, what they are about, who & what they follow & practice.
Yes, alawites do keep their religion secret and have every reason for doing so. I think this is why there are so many wrong & false information out there. People start to assume because they do not know anything about Alawites!
Peace to all ✌

At 7:15 AM, January 12, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're definitely right. I'm from Hatay and everything is like what you said


Post a Comment

<< Home