The clergy and the Khazin sheiks in the 17th century
Written by Malek el Khazen

SOURCE: Notables and Clergy in Mount Lebanon by Richard Van Leewen, Chapter 4: Section II

4.2.1 The clergy and the Khazin sheiks in the 17th centuryAlthough information is scarce, some historians have described the relations between the Maronite clergy and laymen before the 18th century as a rather harmonious symbiosis. This, perhaps too idealized, picture suggests that the patriarch's authority was required to legitimize secular leadership, while the latter fulfilled the role of patrons of the church and the clergy, who provided the financial support of the church and, according to customary practice, participated in the election of patriarchs and the nomination of mutrans.

This symbiosis also involved a de facto division of judicial capacities, as the clergy could act as arbitrators, but were ultimately dependent upon the executory powers of the secular leaders. The functioning of this symbiosis clearly required a high degree of social coherence, based on an unambiguous political and communal loyalty, which presupposed social stability, limited outside interference, a slow pace of economic change, and a fairly balanced population growth.9

These conditions began to change in the course of the 17th century. Although reliable population figures are lacking, it is generally held that an increase of the Maronite population occurred during the 16th and 17th centuries, resulting in the propensity of the Maronites to migrate from Bsharri to other areas of Mount Lebanon, especially to Jubayl, Kisrawan, al-Matn, and the Shuf regions. This development coincided with the new opportunities for economic activity provided by the expansion of Fakhr al-Din Ma'n. As the relations with their environment became more complex, relations within the Maronite community also became more ambiguous.10 The simultaneous development of the economic opportunities and the changes in the social structure of the Maronite community, is reflected by the ascendancy of the Khazin sheiks in Kisrawan, who came to dominate the Maronite community and the church from the 17th century until well into the 19th century. The Khazin sheiks thus came to embody not only the tensions between change and continuity in the Maronite community, but also the tensions between secular and clerical authority.

As has been noted in chapter 2, the rise of Fakhr al-Din cannot be separated from the extension of sericulture in Mount Lebanon and the expansion of trade with France and Tuscany. This is equally true for the rise to prominence of the Khazin sheiks, who acquired a substantial share in the foreign trade and were apparently the ideal intermediaries for promoting European interests in the Syrian coastal areas. French contacts with the Maronites can be traced back to a pledge of protection by Louis XIV in 1649, which was confirmed by the general clauses on the protection of Christians in the Ottoman Empire in the French Capitulations with the Porte. Although these formal bonds between the French and the Maronites had few direct consequences, they could be revived at any time to serve and legitimize the political aims and interests of either party."

The ties between the Khazin sheiks and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany were established as a result of emir Fakhr al-DIn's efforts to attract European support for his policy of regional expansion, at a time when Tuscany was attempting to expand its share of the Levant trade. Abu Nadir al-Khazin and Abu Safi al-Khazin accompanied Fakhr al-Din on his exile to Italy in the years 1613-1618, and thus added a Christian element to the political image of the emir, which enabled the Tuscans to devise, at least theoretically, a religiously inspired policy concerning the Levant and the Holy Cities. This policy obviously involved the Vatican as well, whose interest in the Maronite community had been resuscitated at the close of the 15th century. At this stage, however, the Vatican was not interested in any attempt to forge a new Holy League to invade Palestine, which in any case seems to have been only a theoretical option. Nevertheless, in 1656 sheik Abu Nawfal al-Khazin received a papal decoration for his exertions on behalf of the Catholic faith. Acclaimed by the French court and by the Vatican as defenders of the Catholic faith amidst the "thorns" of Islam, the Khazins came to be considered to be the foremost representatives of the Maronite community and successfully strove to become the political leaders of the community.12

The ascendancy of the Khazin sheiks can be seen as an important factor in the increasing social differentiation within the Maronite community and the growing complexity of social relations. If there was a tradition of communal leadership exerted by the patriarch, from the 17th century onwards this was balanced by the strong de facto leading role of the Khazins based on political and economic power. The cohesion of the community was not only affected by territorial expansion, but also by the widening gap between those families who succeeded in profiting from the new political and economic constellation, such as the Khazin sheiks, and those who were unable to adapt to the new circumstances. Furthermore, the new role of the Khazin sheiks required a definition of their attitude within extra-communal politics, as their contacts with the Syrian Ottoman framework of administration and with the neighboring tax farming families, especially the Druze and the Matawila, became more frequent. Finally, the Khazins represented the tendency within the community towards an outspoken orientation towards Europe, which came to be an important mainstay of their economic control and of their political attitude.

The political prestige of the Khazin sheiks, and even their position as consuls of France, was partly founded on the endorsement of the Maronite prelates and the European missionaries. In the course of the 17th century, when the Khazins asserted their control over Kisrawan, the symbiosis between secular and clerical authority took the form of an all-embracing secular patronage over the church and the dominance of lay interests. It should be noted that this lay interference was not inconsistent with tradition, as no clear definition of the role of laymen in the church existed. The privileges acquired by the Khazins were not seen as an infringement of traditional practice or of clerical independence as it was justified by their secular authority and, moreover, provided the clergy with obvious advantages.

The influence of the Khazin sheiks in clerical matters concentrated on two aspects, which were, as far as the clergy were concerned, closely interrelated: the nomination of prelates and the founding and administration of clerical and monastic possessions. Traditionally, the main Maronite notables were consulted on the occasion of the election of the patriarch. In practice, from the 17th century onwards, this custom implied that the Khazin sheiks had to approve the chosen candidate, before he could receive the pallium from Rome. It has been recorded, for instance, that the delegates who had travelled to Rome in 1633 to obtain the confirmation of the election of Jirjis IJmayra had to return to Mount Lebanon empty-handed, as they were unable to produce the endorsement letters from the Khazins which were required by the Vatican. In 1670 discord broke out between the Khazin sheiks and the elected patriarchal candidate al-Duwayhi, since, according to some sources, sheik Abu Nawfal had not previously been consulted. In 1710, finally, the Khazin sheiks used their influence to have the mutrans depose Patriarch Ya^ub Awwad and appoint a Khazin protege, Yusuf Mubarak. These examples, which supposedly were recorded because they represented irregularities in the prevailing pattern, show that in the course of the 17th century the patriarchate came under the control of the Khazin sheiks to a large extent.13

The authority of the Khazin sheiks over the patriarchate was enhanced by their interference in the ordination of the mutrans, who were officially responsible for the election of the patriarch and provided the candidates. Moreover, the mutrans were, again officially, directly responsible for the administration of the dioceses covering the Khazin domains and for the collection of the "ushur. Mutrans who were ordained as a result of the intercession of the Khazin sheiks in the 17th century were, as far as we know, Ishaq al-Shadraw! (Tripoli; 1629), Sarkis al-Jamri (Damascus; 1658) Yusuf Mubarak (Baalbek; 1683) and Butrus Makhliif (Cyprus; 1674). Eventually, the three main branches of the Khazin family acquired the privilege of selecting the mutrans of the dioceses of Aleppo (awldd Abi Nasif), Baalbek (awldd Abi Qansawh) and Damascus (awldd AbT Nawfal). This privilege was acknowledged by Patriarch Ya'qub 'Awwad. It is, therefore, evident that the Khazin sheiks also interfered in dioceses which officially had no connection with their administrative territory, an indication that they saw their role in church matters as an extension of their political power within the community as a whole.14

In the sphere of clerical possessions, the Khazins deployed considerable zeal in the founding of monasteries and churches in the 17th century. Of course, these activities were related to the restructuring of the exploitation of Kisrawan and the immigration opportunities for the Maronite population. As the various aspects of the monastic estates will be discussed below in chapter 5, it will suffice to say here that the Khazin sheiks claimed far-reaching privileges concerning the administration of the monasteries in their domain and actually considered themselves the proprietors of the monasteries they founded. The monasteries founded by the Khazins not only strengthened the economic and territorial base of the church, but simultaneously enabled the sheiks to assert their control over the revenues of the clergy and the territorial expansion of the church. The Khazins also proved hospitable to foreign missionaries. In 1652 they founded Dayr "Ayn Tura for the French Jesuits and in 1681 Dayr Harisa for the Franciscan mission. These provided useful intermediaries in their contacts with the French and the Vatican.15

The privileges mentioned above gave the Khazin sheiks a strong foothold in the organizational apparatus of the church. The advantages which they derived from this position, at least in the political field, primarily concerned the legitimation of their leadership both with regard to the Maronite community, and with regard to regional and international societies. In practice, this legitimation procured them, for example, repeated intercession on their behalf by the patriarch, the mutrans and the missionaries at the French court and the Vatican. Thus, during the conflict over the consulate of Abu Nawfal in 1658, the Marseillan lobby met a clerical pro-Khazin lobby consisting of Jesuits and the Maronite mutrans al-Shadrawi and al-Jamri, who were deliberately sent to France to plead Abu Nawfal's case. Al-Jamri eventually blessed Abu Nawfal's consular guise. As has been mentioned before, the Khazin sheiks did not fail to exploit their image as benefactors of the church for material purposes. They repeatedly asked for financial support from the French, while once they refused to pay for a shipload of arms sent by the Vatican, arguing that they held a papal decoration.16

Apart from acquiring them religious merit and economic benefit, the foundation of monastic estates and the Khazins' authority over the administration of the monasteries greatly facilitated the sheiks' control over the church administration. Several mutrans took up residence in monasteries in Kisrawan, which promised to provide a stable income, while church councils usually met in Kisrawan under the protection of the Khazins. In the course of time, the patriarchs came increasingly to reside in Kisrawan, while the patriarchal see in Qannubin fell into _ decay. As a result, the centre of the Maronite community, economical- ff. ly, politically and socially, gradually shifted from Jabbat Bsharri to Kisrawan, and the Khazin sheiks succeeded in drawing the clergy into their territorial sphere of influence, at the expense of the influence of the Hamada sheiks of Jabbat Bsharri. This territorial aspect is illustrated by the conflicts that arose over the election of the successor of Patriarch al-Duwayhi in 1704. Husn, the head of the Khazin family at that time, insisted that the election take place in Kisrawan, since he feared interference from the Hamadas, by way of intimidation or bribes. The Hamadas were naturally interested in the election in view of their economic relations with the estate of Qannubin, which lay in their domain. When, after much ado, the election was held in Kisrawan, the choice fell upon Husn's protege Jibra'il al-Bluzani, who was the abbot of Dayr Sayyidat Tarnish in Kisrawan, which had been founded under the auspices of the Khazins.17

Of course, the privileges enjoyed by the Khazin sheiks were not necessarily disadvantageous to the Maronite church. The expansion of the monastic estates and churches widened its range and strengthened | its financial base. The territorial control and political strength of the j Khazins guaranteed the clergy a relative autonomy vis-a-vis the non- , Maronite rulers, such as the Hamadas, in the fields of jurisdiction, financial administration and the construction of ecclesiastical buildings. These opportunities for self-assertion were supported, financially and diplomatically, by the intensified contacts with the French and with the Vatican. Thus, on the one hand, the church profited from the shield provided by the Khazins by expanding its economic and social network. On the other, the increasing interference of the Khazin sheiks in church matters reflected a shift in the power balance between the notables and the clergy which was to disrupt the traditional symbiosis. The patriarch was no longer the sole symbol of Maronite unity, as the political, economic and social leading role was appropriated by the Khazin sheiks. As this development in turn reflected social changes, the apparent community of interests between the clergy and the notables did not correspond to the complexity of social relations any more, and tensions between secular and clerical interests became inevitable. Both interests became increasingly connected with the contacts with the French and the Vatican, upheld by both the clergy and the notables.