Tens of thousands from Lebanon and the region gathered on Saturday in the town of Baaqlin in the Chouf region of MT Lebanon to bid farewell to Sheikh Abu Mohammad Jawad Walieddine, the highest spiritual authority in the Druze community who died Friday morning at the age of 96.
Mourners included the Druze Sheikh al-Aql Naim Hassan and hundreds of dignitaries from Lebanon and the region including the representative of the President of the Republic Minister Chakib Cortbawi, representative of the Speaker of the parliament Ghazi Zaiter, Representative of the Prime Minister WalidDaouk, former Lebanese President and current leader of the Lebanese Phalange Party Amin Gemayel, the Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, ministers Wael Abu Faour, Ghazi Aridi, Ala Tru, MPs Marwan Hamadeh, Akram Chehayeb, Talal Arslan , Mohammed Hajjar representing former PM Saad Hariri , Fouad Saad, Fadi El-Habr, Strida Geagea,George Adwan, Eli Queiroz, Tawhid Arab party leader Wiam Wahhab, the Iranian ambassador and several delegations of religious leaders and dignitaries from Lebanon , Syria, Jordan and other countries .
Sheikh Walieddine’s body was displayed in a glass coffin for a viewing at his house in his home town Baaqlin.
Sheikh Walieddine, who was born in Baaqlin in 1916 , spent his life there and assumed the top post in the council after the death of Sheikh Abu Hassan Aref Halawi on November 24, 2003. He was known as the “Sheikh of the Jazeera,” or northern Arabian peninsula, for his leadership of Druze in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Walieddine was also known as the “Lion of the Chouf” for his courage … He reportedly was living in his house without any guards during the civil war and his door was open for all visitors all the time.
He was the symbol of peace for his community. Throughout the Lebanese civil war the sheikh worked hard at sectarian coexistence.
Walieddine was married, and his wife preceded him in death by several years.
Druze elders will reportedly meet to decide on his successor, though if the sheikh has already named one in his will, they have promised to respect his choice.
Condolences poured in from across the country and political spectrum for a religious leader who was described as a figure who worked for sectarian coexistence. Many contacted MP Walid Jumblatt, Druze leader and head of the Progressive Socialist Party, and MP Talal Arslan , leader of the Lebanese Democratic party to express their sympathy.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Friday said
“The late [Sheikh] was an example in Lebanon, and in all the regions where Druze people [live], to which we offer the warmest condolences,” National News Agency (NNA) quoted Mikati as saying.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, telephoned Jumblatt and expressed sorrow over the loss of the religious leader, describing Walieddine as a “great figure of piety and wisdom.”
“[Walieddine] was known by all the Lebanese for his faith, piousness, hard work for the unity of Lebanon and its people, and support of just causes,” Hariri said in a statement.
Former PM and current leader of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc Fouad Siniora also telephoned Jumblatt and Arlsan to offer his sympathy to the Druze community. In a statement on behalf of the Future bloc, he called the sheikh “a great pillar of wisdom, honestly and knowledge.”
Arslan expressed his sorrow at the passing of Walieddine, who he called “a symbol of wisdom and unity, and a figure who embraced and protected the sect and the nation in the most difficult of circumstances.”
The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, telephoned Jumblatt to offer condolences, as did Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, and his wife, MP Strida Geagea. Geagea said in a statement:
“On behalf of the Lebanese Forces, and in my name, I extend to my brothers in the Druze faith the warmest heartfelt condolences for the death of the supreme spiritual authority Sheikh Abu Muhammad Jawad Walieddine, who was an inexhaustible source of reason and piety, and concern for national unity in general and the unity of Mt Lebanon in particular.”
Chouf MP Nidal Tohme, a member of Jumblatt’s National Struggle Front, said that “the Druze sect have lost a figure of unity who called for love and peace. His absence is a great loss for all segments of Lebanese society.” He stressed the influential role Walieddine played in supporting the return of the Civil War-displaced, reconciliations in Mount Lebanon, and Druze-Christian coexistence.
“Today we are in great need of people like him,” he said, “but his teachings and actions will remain in the hearts of people from the Chouf, and all the Lebanese.”
Condolences can be offered in the town from Sunday April 29 until May 6, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.