Ghassan Ja'afar, who styles himself as a munshid (nasheed singer).

Following on from my report on the new Syria-Lebanon border militia outfit called Katibat Dir' al-Watan, here is a nasheed from the group. The melody and performance are by Ghassan Ja'afar, whom I characterized in the original piece as a second deputy. Ghassan however, who was born in 1988, has one child and is a cousin of al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar, formally distances himself from Dir' al-Watan, describing himself to me as "independent" and affirming the following: "I am not affiliated with Dir' al-Watan." In any case, he is on the right of one of the photos below that is from Tartous province (note al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar is just to the left of the centre), which Ghassan explained as follows: "I was only accompanying al-Hajj because he is close to me."

Like his cousins al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar and al-Hajj Hussein al-Ja'afar, Ghassan expresses dissatisfaction with the current political environment and perceived lack of concern on the part of the politicians for local north Beqaa interests. In a recent Facebook post, he wrote:

To deputies and ministers who represent the Ba'albek-Hermel region and who must bear responsibility in front of God before bearing it in front of the people:

- Doesn't the Hermel region need a university after the world has reached the moon?
- Doesn't the Orontes dam need to be finished so that the poor can benefit from it?
- Doesn't the Hermel region need equipment in the current hospitals to save lives, and doesn't the number of them [hospitals] need to be increased?
- Have you not seen that in the Hermel region there is a lack of ambulances, and that Hermel's roads need serious oversight during their use from which only the mechanic benefits?
- Do you not see the lack of work opportunities in Hermel, even for the educated, unless they have connections with your associates?
- Don't some of the villages in Hermel need sports grounds and...etc.?

We know that some of you have spent and are still spending some of your time on the lesser jihad but is it not of greater obligation that you spend some of your time in giving more importance to the jihad of the soul and it is the greater jihad, within which is purifying the conscience when man bears responsibility for one besides him in the end? To my Sayyid and my leader and crown of my head, Sayyid of the resistance the secretary general of Hezbollah, his eminence Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah (may God protect him): we hope for change in the coming elections and in all elections because some have considered them a monarchy, my Sayyid, and not a commission [i.e. same people remaining in power all the time, with positions treated like dynasties]. And the reason we have hoped for that [change] is for serious and earnest work and real and true development. As-salam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuhu.

From Tartous province: Ghassan Ja'afar is on the right wearing sunglasses. al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar is the short man just to the left of the centre, wearing black clothing.

Following up on this post, Ghassan explained to me that "the Hermel [region] is in need of much development." The term "lesser jihad" that is used in this post refers to a distinction drawn between the supposed lesser jihad of military efforts, and the supposed greater jihad of bettering oneself as a person.

In this case, Ghassan is talking about the preoccupation with the war in Syria but also military efforts in Lebanon (e.g. dealing with the small insurgency in the border areas): "The meaning is that it is not only in the military respect that there must be jihad."

More generally, Ghassan characterized his position as follows, specifically when I put to him al-Hajj Hussein Ja'afar's comments about some of the newer members of Hezbollah not being mundhabiteen ("restrained/controlled"):

For Hezbollah or any other party, it is not possible for all its youth to be of the same mind i.e. of the same personal thinking...but generally in Hezbollah, the majority are restrained and the evidence for that is the victories, for restraint is a foundational factor in the creation of victory, and from the foundational restraint in Hezbollah is the true religious adherence that represents true Islam, meaning that Hezbollah represents the foundational face for the Islamic Ummah and is not like Da'esh [Islamic State] and the likes of it. Note brother that I am not against the political direction in Hermel [i.e. the alignment with the 'resistance' axis] but rather I think that some of the particular people who represent Hermel in the state are not undertaking their role for Hermel.

Below is the nasheed translated. Note that the nasheed has features of Levantine Arabic, such as dropping of the qaf, as in اتلوا حلم الصهيونية for قتلوا حلم الصهيونية ("they have killed the dream of Zionism") and the use of بد to indicate want/need/future action. Any extended explanatory notes will be given in the appendix.

Oh mother of the Arab Ummah,
Your victory is coming oh Syria,
A coming victory that will tell you:
Of Assad, your land is of Assad.

Your lions, oh Syria, your lions,
Your storms, your rage, your rifle,
On the periphery,
From the abode of your borders,
The volcano lava of your soldiers.

Your end-goal, your lion, the beast of the jungle,[1]
Your falcon, your eagle, a hawk,[2]
Syria is the death of terrorism,
And the graveyard of the kufr[3] of terrorism.

Syria, your door is closed in the face of the kafir [disbeliever] and the Jews,
In Syria are the soldiers of the One who is worshipped [God],
Who have killed the dream of Zionism.

Oh terrorist, whom do you worship?
Oh takfiri,[4] your day is black
You have nothing to with the guider Muhammad [the Prophet],
Or the Islamic Ummah.


[1] The original Arabic reads: امدك اسدك سبع الغاب

Amusingly, Ghassan could not explain to me the meaning of امدك (NB: a noun with the 2nd person singular possessive attached to it) and had to consult the lyricist (Hussain Ismail). He then explained the meaning of الامد as غاية نهاية or اجل: cf. the Hans-Wehr definition of امد.

[2] The original Arabic reads:

صقرك نسرك باز عقاب

Ghassan explains باز عقاب as one term: "A type of the medium-sized hawks [falcons]."

[3] Kufr means 'disbelief': the idea being that the terrorists have nothing to do with Islam.

[4] A common term for Sunni jihadis/Sunni extremists who habitually pronounce others to be non-Muslims (takfir), especially those who profess to be Muslims.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a research fellow at Middle East Forum's Jihad Intel project.