International Journal of Middle East Studies


The Secret of the House of Ma'n

Kamal S. Salibia1

a1 American University at Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

In the early 1590s an obscure chieftain of the Druze district of the Shûf, in the mountain hinterland of Sidon, was appointed multazim (tax farmer) of the whole Druze mountain (the Shûf along with the Gharb, Jurd and Matn, in the hinterland of Beirut) by the Ottoman beylerbeyi (provincial governor) of Damascus. The name of this chieftain was Fakhr al-Dîn ibn Qurqumâs (Turkish Korkmaz), and he belonged to the family of the Ma'ns, who had been hereditary chieftains of the Shûf at least since the fifteenth century1. In time, Fakhr al-Dîn made use of favourable circumstances to extend his dominion over the whole of Mount Lebanon, and also over other parts of the Syrian countryside. In 1633, however, the Ottomans turned against him and crushed him, and a mysterious figure called ‘Alî ‘Alam al-Dîn was appointed to replace him in the paramount chieftainship of the Druze mountain. For over three decades this man, and his sons after him, maintained themselves in power as paramount chieftains of the Druzes, while the Ma‘ns were reduced to their original size as traditional chieftains of the Shûf. Finally, in 1667, Emir Ahmad Ma‘n, a grandnephew of Fakhr al-Dîn’s, was appointed multazim of the Druze districts of the Shûf, Gharb, Jurd and Matn, and of the Maronite district of the Kisrawân, and the Ma‘nid hegemony over the southern Lebanon was thus re-established. When Ahmad Ma‘n died without male progeny in 1697 he was succeeded in his iltizâm, and hence in the hegemony of the southern Lebanon, by the Shihâbs–Sunnite chieftains of Wâdî al-Taym, on the western slopes of Mount Hermon, who were descended from the Druze Ma‘ns in the female line (see Table I). In 1710-11 the ‘Alam al-Dîns, in eclipse since 1667, re-emerged on the political scene to challenge the Shihâb succession; their revolt, however, failed and they were massacred to extermination. The Shihâbs subsequently became the unchallenged masters of the southern Lebanon, and remained so until their downfall in 1841.2