An outcome of the Islamic Revolution in Iran is Imam Musa al-Sadr (1928-1978). Having been born of Lebanese decent in Iran, Musa Sadr pursued a track to elevate Shi’i spirituality in Lebanon. “Probably the saga of Musa Sadr illustrates the many ties, in his case also the family ties, which bind the two communities. Later the success of the Revolution in Iran was welcomed by the majority of the forces of the Lebanese political spectrum,” found in the book, Iran and the Arab World.
Musa al-Sadr used social groups as the basis for Shi’i transformation. The principal organization he created was the Harakat al-Mahrumin (the Movement of the Deprived), which was complemented in 1975 by Amal, (Lebanese Resistance Detachments), a populist reform, and militant movement. His work within the Shi’i community would preface further activism under another Shi’i organization, Hizballah (Party of God).
Renowned historian, Albert Hourani pin points the causes of Shi’i interest toward Amal and Hizballah, and sheds light onto certain conditions which softened the ground for Musa al-Sadr, and Islamic revival. His observations approach Lebanon’s climb toward politically modernity, defined as the period 1959-1974, as a change from “an agrarian republic into an extended city state,” found in the article, Lebanon: From Feudalism to Modern State,” Middle Eastern Studies. As this growth took hold, Shi’i populations employed largely in agricultural sectors would face a departure from Lebanon’s rural based economy, and instead became a staple of the urban, and suburban economies.
The agrarian-based economic structure had been replaced by an urban-based sprawl, which set large groups of Shi’i in urban areas. By 1971 close to half of Lebanon’s Shi’i population was living in Beirut, and its periphery. Although it may be difficult to measure hardship, Halim Barakat’s book, Lebanon in Strife: Student Preludes to the Civil War, offers certain evidence claiming that the Shi’i had emerged as Lebanon’s most neglected, and estranged community.
The repercussions of Lebanon’s struggle to modernization were robust. It is also interesting that migration from rural to urban areas in Lebanon, has been historically associated with elevated religious observance, and closer adoption of Islamic fundamental traditions, found in the book, The Turban for the Crown. Iran and Lebanon parallel this point. In the middle of the 1970s, Lebanese Shi’i groups became further engaged in the political game by creating political organizations to promote their presence, and further their progression in Lebanese society.
Within this dynamic, opposition and schism, such as the conflict between Hizballah, and the Amal Movement, as well as the collapse of many state institutions during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), only added to the major voids in Shi’i society.