“Amir” versus “Sheikh”: understanding the Arab titles

king bahrain
His Majesty Hamad Ibn Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain. The Al Khalifa  family rules Bahrain since 1783 and their royal titles are “sheikh”. They’ve adopted “Amir” in 1971 and “Malik” (or King) in 2002

We could end this article in one sentence by saying that both titles, in essence, mean the same thing.

In the last couple of centuries, it was created a convention that the title “Amir” (or “Emir”) would be the equivalent of the European “Prince”.  According to several encyclopedias, “Amir”, means “lord” or “commander-in-chief”, being derived from the Arabic root ‘a-m-r’ or “command“. Originally, simply meaning “commander-in-chief” or “leader”, usually in reference to a group of people, it came to be used as a title for governors or rulers, usually in smaller states. Therefore, the title had a military – not necessarily royal/noble – connotation.

The title Emir or Amir was equivalent of that of Commander.” The Black Book of the Admiralty, 1873, V.2, p.xiii (Cambridge University Press, 2012 edition, edited by Travers Twiss)

In the past, amir was usually a military title, now used to mean prince or as a title for various rulers or chiefs.” The New Encyclopedia of Islam, By Cyril Glassé, Huston Smith, Rowman Altamira, 2003, p.48

Whereas the title “Sheikh” was used mostly in three different connotations:

  1. Religious – although more recent, doesn’t concern this article,
  2. Royal – “sui iuris” hereditary sovereign or semi-sovereign ruler,
  3. Noble – noble title given by a sovereign or semi-sovereign ruler hereditary (“ad eternum”) or not (“ad personam”)

Sheikh (pronounced /ʃeɪk/ SHAYK or /ʃiːk/ SHEEK; Arabic: شيخ‎ šayḫ [ʃæjx], mostly pronounced [ʃeːx/ʃejx], plural شيوخ šuyūḫ [ʃuju:x])—also transliterated Sheik, Shaik, Shayk, Shaykh, Cheikh, Shekh, and Shaikh—is an honorific title in the Arabic language. It commonly designates the ruler of a tribe, who inherited the title from his father. “Sheikh” is given to a royal male at birth, whereas the related title “Sheikha” is given to a royal female at birth.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh

The word ‘sheikh’ can be used as a label for a head of a tribe in the Arab culture; for a member of a ruling family (as in Kuwait and the other Gulf States, for example), or for a religious person who perform religious duties.” Religion and Terrorism: An Interfaith Perspective, by Aref M. Al-Khattar, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, p.15

Important to note that the meaning of the word “tribe” in the Anthropological sense means a group of people, politically organized, that has the same language, beliefs, customs, and interests. However, some historians use the term “tribe” in a pejorative fashion, to mean indigenous, primitive, and insignificant.

“In such contexts, members of a tribe are typically said to share a self-name and a contiguous territory; to work together in such joint endeavours as trade, agriculture, house construction, warfare, and ceremonial activities; and to be composed of a number of smaller local communities such as bands or villages. In addition, they may be aggregated into higher-order clusters, such as nations.

As an anthropological term, the word tribe fell out of favour in the latter part of the 20th century. Some anthropologists rejected the term itself, on the grounds that it could not be precisely defined. Others objected to the negative connotations that the word acquired in the colonial context. Scholars of Africa, in particular, felt that it was pejorative as well as inaccurate.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/tribe-anthropology

Originally, the title “Sheikh” was more related to hereditary royal/noble pedigree than the title “Amir”.

Besides the sovereigns referred to above, there are several oriental potentates who should be mentioned, the rulers of the Sultanates and Sheikdoms of East Africa and the Persian Gulf (…) The style of these Sheikhs is His Highness.” “Titles: How the king became His Majesty”, L.G. Pine, New York, 1992 (Barnes & Noble) p. 137-138

In the modern United Arab Emirates, however, none of the rulers of the constituent states are called emirs (princes); all are Sheikhs.”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/emir

For a better understanding of the subject we strongly recommend the reading of the following article:

The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles

What makes a family “Royal”?

Royal-Family-665174
The British Royal Family, the most famous and prestigious in the world 

A royal family is the immediate family of a king or queen regnant, and sometimes his or her extended family. The term imperial family appropriately describes the family of an emperor or empress, and the term papal family describes the family of a pope, while the terms baronial family, comital family, ducal family, grand ducal family, or princely family are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning baron, count, duke, grand duke, or prince. However, in common parlance members of any family which reigns by hereditary right are often referred to as royalty or “royals.” It is also customary in some circles to refer to the extended relations of a deposed monarch and his or her descendants as a royal family“. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_family

Just being related to a King or Queen doesn’t make a family necessarily royal or eligible to a royal title. Specially in Europe where is estimated that around 80% of the population descends from some European sovereign.

In the end, it all depends on the particular laws of succession of each Royal family.

For example, British Queen Elizabeth II‘s eldest grandson Peter Phillips (firstborn son of HRH Princess Royal Anne born in 1977) doesn’t even have a royal title due to the British Laws of succession. Although obviously considered to be part of the Royal Family,  he’s called just “master” and is currently the 13th in line to the British throne, however, no title. His cousin HRH Prince William was born in 1982 but due to those laws of succession has a royal title and is the 2nd in line to the throne. In contrast, the Saudi Royal family has thousands of princes due to their particular laws of succession since just the descent from a ruler entitles them to a royal title.

Still in the Middle East, if you ask any Lebanese, even historians, who’s “royal” for them, they’ll immediately think of the princely families that ruled the whole Mount Lebanon under the Ottoman empire (i.e. Shuf Emirate, Emirate of Jabal Druze, Emirate of Mount Lebanon, as well as Ma’an Emirate)

However, the Thesaurus’ definition of the word “Royal” is

of or relating to a king, queen, or other sovereign

But what does “sovereign” means?

1. a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler. 2. a person who has supreme power or authority.”

In the technical sense, the El Chemor family was also sovereign in Mount Lebanon as it was in Ghassan since their power was considerable autonomous and didn’t emanate from a higher authority. The family had to make deals with the Ottomans only in the last years of rule, to join the Iltizam system for some time culminating with the deposition.

According to accepted international law and its principle of “sovereign equality“, the Pope or the prince of Monaco is “as royal” as the Queen of England regardless of the size of their actual territories. That principle is one of the pillars of International Law itself.

By the aforementioned, the “sovereign” or “semi-sovereign” ruling Sheikh is the equivalent of a Prince. There are so many examples in the Arabian peninsula and Gulf like Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, etc

“Besides the sovereigns referred to above, there are several oriental potentates who should be mentioned, the rulers of the Sultanates and Sheikdoms of East Africa and the Persian Gulf (…) The style of these Sheikhs is His Highness.” Titles: How the king became His Majesty”, L.G. Pine, New York, 1992 (Barnes & Noble) p. 137-138

“In the modern United Arab Emirates, however, none of the rulers of the constituent states are called emirs (princes); all are Sheikhs.”

  https://www.britannica.com/topic/emir

Even though all the Lebanese feudal titles were abolished by the Ottoman empire in 1858 CE, the empire could only do so with the titles bestowed by their own honor system. The El Chemor Family had both the Imperial and Royal Ghassanid titles and the ruling Sheikh titles by the “sui iuris” (by own right) legal principle, therefore, the revocation didn’t legally affect them.

However, both the empire and the subsequent Lebanese regimes have formally recognized all the feudal titles by printing them in the official documents like birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports. No birth legal privilege attached to those titles, only the prerogative of using them publicly. Not much, but still a formal recognition.

As mentioned, the El Chemor family was ruling since 1211 CE, almost 80 years before the Ottoman empire was even founded and over 300 years before the first emirate was created with prince Fakhr al-Din I (1516–1544).

We can conclude that there’s a huge difference between the prestige of titles in Mount Lebanon and their actual legal value. Important to note that we’re not debating neither the prestige nor the historical deeds of a particular family, but the actual title’s legal pedigree. There are many families with a more active and glamorous participation in Lebanon’s history than the Sheikhs El Chemor, however, only the families that actually ruled before the Ottoman invasion can claim sovereign or semi-sovereign status along with the Maanid and the Shihab Emirs.

Another good example of the principle of sovereign equivalency is the fact that, without a single solitary doubt, the British Royal Family is the most famous and prestigious in the world. However, technically and legally, they’ve the very exact same value as the Tongan Royal Family that rules a small Polynesian archipelago with around 100,000 people. Also, although the British Royal Family is sovereign, famous and prestigious, they don’t hold much actual power. In contrast, the Sultan of Oman, as an absolute ruler has considerably more actual power than his British counterpart.

Important to notice that the El Chemor family has this name from the last king of Ghassan, Chemor (or Shummar, Shemir, Shemar, etc) Jablah VI Ibn Aiham  (ruled 632-638 CE). Therefore, they were known as the “Chemori” or “the descendants of King Chemor”. King Jablah VI, has received the name “Chemor” from a tradition started by King Jabalah IV (ruled 518-528 CE) who was also known by the “kunya” or teknonymy of “Abu Chemor” (or “the father of Chemor“) referring to the eldest brother to King Al-Harith V, the most famous Ghassanid King of all times (ruled 529-569 CE).

It is a reputed deep-rooted allegation that the heads of Al-Chemor tribe are rooted from Bani Chemor, who are the Christian Kings of Ghassan which belong to Al Jafna.” (Father Ignatios Tannos El-Khoury, Historical Scientific Research: “Sheikh El Chemor Rulers of Al-Aqoura (1211-1633) and Rulers of Al-Zawiye (1641-1747)”Beirut, Lebanon, 1948, p.38)

“The refugees of Al Ghassani and bani Chemor who seeked refuge to Al ‘Aqoura turned into Maronites because the town now only has Maronites Christians and because Al Chemor tribe are the princes and children of kings, the Maronites reigned them over the land where the document states that: “… and Al ‘Aqoura is their own village from a long time, they can do as they wish…” and Al Chemori family could have taken over the throne due to their relentless efforts, money or battles, no one knows.” (ibid p.42)

“Conclusion
This is the history of the Chemor family Sheikhs who are feudal rulers, a genuine progeny of the sons of Ghassan kings of the Levant… one of the most decent, oldest and noblest families in Lebanon.” (ibid p.125)     

To learn more about the 1948’s book about the El Chemor family, please click HERE

To learn more about the book’s recent scholarly validation, please click HERE    

Also very important to notice that there are only two ancient families named Chemor/Shammar in the whole Middle East. One, has never set foot in Lebanese territory due to its background. They’re present in Iraq and the GCC countries, originating from the Tayy tribe and has Bedouin origin and is Muslim since its inception (its leader, Hatim Al-Tayy, have converted to Islam while Prophet Mohammad was still alive, therefore, before adopting the name “Shammar“). They have adopted to use the name Shammar/Shammari after the 14th century since they briefly inhabited the Jabal Shammar region. The El Chemor Sheikhs from Lebanon come from a sedentary Arab and Christian origin and it’s documented to use this name two centuries before the Bedouin tribe. When they’ve ruled the city of Akoura in 1211 CE they were already using the name Chemor/Shammar. There are no register of the Muslim Shammari family ever to even inhabited Mount Lebanon. Thus, by simple logic it’s easy to conclude that every family member of the El Chemor family belongs to the very same family and ancestry. The ramifications of the family only happened in the 18th and 19th centuries originating the Gharios, Habaki and Farhat families. So, there’s no need to be an expert genealogist or to hold a PhD in History to understand, again by simple logic, unless proven otherwise, that the legitimate members of these families can prove to belong to the El Chemor family by only evincing their connection to the last ancestor using the El Chemor last name, since going back to King Chemor Jablah it’s absolutely certain, since only his direct descendants that inhabited the Mount Lebanon – and none else – used this particular family name.

Of course, if we think in European terms, that might sound strange. How can we assert an unequivocal royal lineage simply by a surname? In Europe, there are dozens of families with the same surnames that are not even related. Also, by the restrictive European laws of succession (including Salic and semi-Salic laws, morganatic marriages, etc.) the observance of the particular position on the family tree is indispensable. Not in the Middle East, where the simple descent in male line from the last ruler is mandatory.

We also must compare the populations of Europe and Mount Lebanon.

Mount Lebanon late 1500’s
150,000 people (including all religions)
(According to A.N. Poliak, see “Lebanon, a History 600-2011”, Oxford, 2012, William Harris, p.73)

Europe 1500’s
– French Crown 16,250,000
– Holy Roman Empire 16,000,000
– Spanish Empire 8,550,000
– English Crown 2,750,000
– Portuguese Empire 3,000,000
– Papal States 2,000,000
– Kingdom of Naples 2,000,000
– Republic of Venice 1,500,000
– Republic of Florence 750,000

Reference here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_in_1500

So, it’s obvious that in Mount Lebanon everyone knew the origins of this or that family, specially a prestigious and noble one.

Going even further, according to the Ottoman census:

  • Mount Lebanon 1780’s around 300,000 (all religions)
  • Mount Lebanon 1911 around 414,000 (all religions)

(see “Lebanon, a History 600-2011”, Oxford, 2012, William Harris, p. 166)

We mention here “all religions” since each and very sect in Lebanon have been keeping their own history and customs separately. While in Europe you’ve only Christianity (even having Catholics and protestants), there’s a homogeneity.

So, it’s easy to conclude that it’s considerably simple to establish a royal line in the aforementioned scenario.

We’d like to suggest some complimentary reading to fully understand this article:

·        The El Chemor/Gharios family Vis-à-vis with the International Law

.        Why is the El Chemor/Gharios Family endowed with the Ghassanid Royal Titles?

·        The Middle Eastern Laws of Succession 

·        Primogeniture in the Royal Arab Succession

·        The Laws of Succession of the Ghassanids

·        Understanding the Royal Ghassanid family tree

·        The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles

More about the Sheikhs El Chemor and the Ghassanid Kings HERE

Why is the El Chemor/Gharios Family endowed with the Ghassanid Royal Titles?

rasafa
Ghassanid ruins in Rasafa (Sergiopolis) current Syria

Due to the massive fall of monarchies in the 19th and 20th centuries, the study of Dynastic and Nobility Law has decayed considerably becoming a very rare subject amongst the scholars today. This fact gave birth to several myths and misconceptions about the subject even amongst reasonably educated people.

Because of the European colonial dominance in the world until the last century and the current existence of several acting monarchies in the region, as well as several non-ruling royal families being extremely active socially and even politically, created the false idea that all the royal and noble titles in the world and their succession should follow the European model, regardless of any local – and sometimes millennial – traditions that particular family may have. Truth to be told, many royal houses decided to “Europeanize” their customs and traditions, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, those “adaptations” to the European model were dully and legally documented, not leaving any room for guessing and hearsay.

Also, there’s an enormous misconception regarding legality versus notoriety and prestige. There are thousands of former ruling and noble families in the world. Some more and some less known and prestigious. Not all of them have a plethora of information available in other languages than their native ones. It’s humanly impossible, even for a scholar, to know the peculiarities and rules of every single one of them. Therefore, it’s not because many people “never heard” of this or that family means that the family is legitimate or not.

Through this blog and many other documents and articles containing several scholarly references from bonafide academic organizations all over the world, we’ve proven to exhaustion the legal rights of the El Chemor/Gharios family according to the Middle Eastern custom and the international law to the Royal Ghassanid titles.

Before we proceed, we’d like to suggest some complimentary reading to fully understand this article:

·        The El Chemor/Gharios family Vis-à-vis with the International Law

·        The Middle Eastern Laws of Succession 

·        Primogeniture in the Royal Arab Succession

·        The Laws of Succession of the Ghassanids

·        Understanding the Royal Ghassanid family tree

·        The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles

Currently, there’re today two different schools of thought (or legal theories) about the rights of ruling families that are dispossessed of their thrones.

One defends that the “de jure” (by law) sovereign rights are perpetual and attached to the person of the dethroned sovereign and his/her heirs – observed the respective laws of successionregardless of time elapsed, of territorial and political control and indifferently to the fact that that sovereign or his/her heirs are exercising or not their dynastic prerogatives in exile like for example, using publicly their titles, arms, etc. or even manifesting any kind of diplomatic protests.

 They defend that, due to domestic law in the dispossessed country or in exile, the public use of titles may be forbidden as in countries like Austria and Brazil, where after the fall of the monarchical regimes, their constitutions expressly forbade any mention to any title on the person’s name.  Also, any so-called “diplomatic protests” would represent an immense risk for the life of the protesters in absolute and/or theocratic regimes like some Islamic regimes in past and present.

Many European jurists and even recent court decisions defend the aforementioned theory.

The Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, one of the forefathers of international law, wrote:

. . . in order that silence may establish the presumption of abandonment of ownership, two conditions are requisite, that the silence be that of one who acts with knowledge and of his own free will. For the failure to act on the part of one who does not know is without legal effect.” On the Law of War and Peace, Book I, chapter IV, number 5

In other words:

Presumption of neglect cannot justly exist, where the original owner has, by ignorance of his rights, or by deception, or personal fear, been prevented from claiming what he is entitled to. If he knew not that he had a right, he could not be supposed to relinquish it. And if fear or fraud induced his neglect, his mind could not have voluntarily consented.” John Penford Thomas, A Treatise of Universal Jurisprudence, chapter II, no. 13, 1829, p. 34

Grotius also wrote:

“Contracts, or promises obtained by fraud, violence or undue fear entitle the injured party to full restitution.” www.constitution.org/gro/djbp_217.htm

Another forefather of international law, the Swiss jurist Emmer de Vattel in the treatise “THE LAW OF NATIONS“:

“CHAP. XI. OF USUCAPTION AND PRESCRIPTION AMONG NATIONS”

§ 144. Claimant alleging reasons for his silence.

In cases of ordinary prescription, THE SAME ARGUMENT CANNOT BE USED AGAINST A CLAIMANT WHO ALLEGES JUST REASONS FOR HIS SILENCE, as, the impossibility of speaking, or a well-founded fear, etc., BECAUSE IS THERE IS NO LONGER ANY ROOM FOR A PRESUMPTION THAT HE HAS ABANDONED HIS RIGHT. IT IS NOT HIS FAULT IF PEOPLE HAVE THOUGHT THEMSELVES AUTHORIZED TO FORM SUCH A PRESUMPTION; NOR OUGHT HE TO SUFFER IN CONSEQUENCE: HE CANNOT THEREFORE BE DEBARRED THE LIBERTY OF CLEARLY PROVING HIS PROPERTY. THIS METHOD OF DEFENCE IN BAR OF PRESCRIPTION HAS BEEN OFTEN EMPLOYED AGAINST PRINCES WHOSE FORMIDABLE POWER HAD LONG SILENCED THE FEEBLE VICTIMS OF THEIR USURPATIONS.” http://www.constitution.org/vattel/vattel_02.htm

According to Salvioli (History of Italian Law, Utet, 1930, p.272) sovereignty as an element of state power sprang from the struggle of the kings against the great feudatories and owes its character of necessity to the resulting concentration of the powers of the state in the hands of the monarch.

“Born of feudal origins, this power continued to bear the imprint of the personal property of the Prince, whence derives its transmissibility by hereditary right IN PERPETUITY.” 

By this doctrine the Prince logically retains his sovereignty always (suprema potestas, whence supremitas, sovereignty) even when he is no longer reigning.

Archbishop Hyginus E. Cardinale in his book stated:

A Sovereign in exile and his legitimate successor and Head of the Family continue to enjoy the ius collationis [the right to confer and enjoy honours] and therefore may bestow [such] honours in full legitimacy. . . . No authority [no matter what that authority is] can deprive them of the right to confer honours, since this prerogative belongs to them as lawful personal property iure sanguinis [by right of blood], and both its possession and exercise are inviolable.” (Orders of Knighthood Awards and the Holy See — A historical, juridical and practical Compendium, Van Duren Publishers, Gerrands Cross, 1983, p. 119)”

The following legal conclusion reflects knowledge of perpetual sovereignty. The learned Italian judge officially recognized that:

Among those rights [of a former ruling house inherited by the successors is] the faculty to ennoble, to grant and confirm coats of arms, to bestow titles drawn from places over which their ancestors had exercised their sovereign powers, and also the right to found, re-establish, reform and exercise the Grand Magistracy of the Orders of Chivalry conferred by their family, which may be handed down from father to son as an irrepressible birthright.” (The United Court of Bari, The Republic of Italy, Sig. Dr. Giovanni de Gioca, March 13, 1952)

A Court sentence of the Republican Italy (Pretoria de Vico Del Gargano, Repubblica Italiana sentence number 217/1949) corroborates the above-mentioned:

 “(…) it’s IRRELEVANT if that Imperial family is no longer ruling FOR CENTURIES, because the deposition doesn’t harm the sovereign prerogatives even if the sovereign renounces, spontaneously, to the throne. In substance, in this case, the Sovereign does not cease to be King, even living in exile or IN PRIVATE LIFE (WITHOUT CLAIMING HIS SOVEREIGNTY), because his prerogatives are, itself, by birth and CANNOT BE EXTINGUISHED, but remains and may be transmitted in time, from generation to generation.”

From Professor Doctor W. Baroni Santos, Doctor D’Etat in Nobility Law at The University of Reims in France, in his book “Treaty of Heraldry / Nobility Law Vol. I, Book II, chapter I “Jurisprudence of Nobility” page 197:

 “A “Chief of Name and Arms”, a title attributed to a Claimant, being by juris sanguinis (law of blood) “heir apparent” of a defunct throne, as long as has not formalized a voluntary act of resignation and acquiescence [formalized, not assumed or presumed] to the new political order of the state, according to the classic expression “subito la debellatio”, retains, in all its fullness, the sovereign prerogatives of Fons Honorum (Fountain of Honours) and Jus Majestatis (right to majestic dignity). It is, a fortiori, the source of nobility and honor, and may, without restrictions, create nobles and arm knights.”

According to the former president of the Italian (Supreme) Court of Cassation, Professor Doctor Renato de Francesco in 1959:

“… It’s simply ridiculous, from a legal point of view, the distinction intended to be done about Dynasties that have reigned until recently of those who ruled in the distant past. It’s not understandable how you can launch at the foot numerous pages of history, only to give luster to this or that family, who, aided by good luck, has managed to remain on the throne, after the year 1815. A Dynasty either reigned or not reigned. If reigned, even in very remote time, deserves the historical and legal treatment as a Dynasty and all its effects.”

Here is an extract from the book “Chivalry Orders and Nobility titles in Italy ” (Ordine Cavallereschi e titoli nobiliari in Italia), Basilio Petrucci, pg.87:

 “So does the former King Umberto II of Savoy , once there was no ‘subito la debellatio, he conserves the royal prerogative in granting honorific titles of nobility and chivalry, along with other sovereigns of the former Italian and foreign states…”

 Here is another extract from the book “Studies on Nobility Law” (Estudos sobre Direito Nobiliário), Dr. Mario Silvestre de Meroe, pg. 63:

 “There outbreaks of political crises in front of which the monarch himself voluntarily accepted – sometimes even want to – that institutional rupture, expressly agreeing with the new order of things. In such cases, AND ONLY THOSE, he loses the dynastic rights, retaining only the princely qualities inherited and transmitted to their descendants, without, however, the attributes of ‘pretender’.”

Professor Emilio Furno, an eminent Italian jurist and scholar, former advocate in the Supreme Court of Appeal, writes as follows in “The Legitimacy of Non-National Orders“, Rivista Penale, No.1, January 1961, pp. 46-70:

There are not a few judgments, civil and criminal, albeit some very recent, all of which tend as a rule to the acceptance of traditional principles re-enunciated not long since. The issue is that of innate nobility – “Jure Sanguinis” (right of blood) – which looks into the prerogatives known as “Jus Majestatis” and “Jus Honorum” and which argues that the holder of such prerogatives is a subject of international law with all the logical consequences of that situation. That is to say, a deposed sovereign may legitimately confer titles of nobility, with or without predicates, and the honorifics which pertain to his heraldic patrimony as head of his dynasty. The qualities which render a deposed Sovereign a subject of international law are undeniable and in fact constitute an absolute personal right of which the subject may never divest himself and which needs no ratification or recognition on the part of any other authority whatsoever. A reigning Sovereign or Head of State may use the term recognition in order to demonstrate the existence of such a right, but the term would be a mere declaration and not a constitutive act. (Furno, op.cit.).

A notable example of this principle is that of the People’s Republic of China which for a considerable time was not recognized and therefore not admitted to the United Nations, but which nonetheless continued to exercise its functions as a sovereign state through both its internal and external organs.” (Furno, op.cit.).

The eminent author concludes:

To sum up, therefore, the Italian judiciary, in those cases submitted to its jurisdiction, has confirmed the prerogatives “jure sanguinis” of a dethroned sovereign without any vitiation of its effects, whereby in consequence it has explicitly recognized the right to confer titles of nobility and other honorifics relative to his dynastic heraldic patrimony. “(Furno, op.cit.).

According to the above, the El Chemor/Gharios Family fully retains the Royal Ghassanid titles satisfying the legal criteria since it’s proven their descent from the last Ghassanid King in male line in perfect accordance with the respective Arab Laws of Succession.

The second school of thought defends that royal heir only retain their sovereign rights if, and only if, they use their titles publicly and/or make diplomatic protests.

One of the great defenders of this theory is Dr. Stephen Kerr y Baca a former professor of public international law and human rights at Antioch School of Law and legal advisor to the Habsburg family. In his book “The Entitlement to Rule: Legal, Non-Territorial Sovereignty in International Law” (Heritage International University, 2015 – ISBN: 978-0-692-02896-4) he explores all the legal nuances of the rights of dethroned families and formulates how the public use of the titles, that according to him consist in a form of diplomatic protest, would prevent the irreparable forfeiture of the sovereign rights.

Here we will quote excerpts to his book that are particularly interesting since they clearly show a legal parallel with the El Chemor/Gharios Family.

The Prescriptive Preservation of the Ancient Royal House of David

Maintaining royal rights and keeping them alive, according to the rules of prescription, can be easily discerned in the following case, which represents prescriptive preservation of deposed rights for almost a thousand years.  It has been gleaned from what history is available to show that titles were used by a well-known deposed royal house, such that, their claim was never discarded, neglected or abandoned.  From 970 B.C. to the coming of Christ in 1 A.D., the Davidic line was a dispossessed and did not rule or reign in the Holy Land.  This loss of kingship was prophesied or foretold by the Prophet Hosea, who lamented for the sins of Israel and explained the result thereof, “For the children Israel shall abide many days [thousands of years] without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice. . . ,” etc. (Hosea 3:4)  In other words, he considered that part of the curse of sin is to lose the great blessing and national benefit of having a royal house reigning in the midst of the people.  Nevertheless, the House of David followed what perpetuates or keeps the non-territorial right alive according to natural law.  The example is that:

Jesus [who was called the Christ] was in the most full and perfect sense a descendant of David, not only by law in the royal line of kings through his reputed father, but also in fact by direct personal descent through his mother.[72]

The angel announced to his mother, Mary:

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1: 32-33)

Jesus the Christ was of the lineage of the ancient kingly line and the rightful heir of the family.  However, to be the royal scion of a royal house is not enough.  Titles of sovereign rank had to consistently used to legally and lawfully maintain a claim of sovereign royalty by a deposed house, which requirement was full achieved by the ruling line of the descendants of David.  This was exemplified by the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was called “the son of David” seventeen times in the New Testament account. “Son of David” was a title.  It did not merely mean a descendant of David, but is found elsewhere in Jewish tradition.  It refers to the heir to the throne.[73] 

. . . Son of David was one of the most common Jewish titles . . . . It was a royal title denoting his lineage from the family of the Great King David and his right to re-establish and rule over the coming kingdom of God.[74]

This title is similar to the French title “dauphin,” which was the title of the heir apparent to the throne in France.  The title “son of David” was the de jure and rightful head and chief of the royal house of David.  With the addition of “the” to the title, making it “the son of David,” it was the title of Jesus the Christ.  It meant that he was the actual, legal and lawful king of all Israel.

Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, was also called “son of David,” in other words, heir to the throne holding dynastic or de jure succession rights. (Matthew 1:20)  That is, “The scepter of Juda [the right to the throne] . . . came to Joseph by hereditary succession. . . .”[75]  According to Hammurabi’s Code, section 188, if a man teaches his adopted son a trade, the son is thereby confirmed in all the complete rights of heirship.  As the adopted step-son of the Davidic heir to the crown of Judah and Israel, Jesus became the rightful heir after his father’s death.

Dr. James E. Talmage wrote:

Had Judah been a free and independent nation, ruled by her rightful sovereign, Joseph the carpenter would have been her crowned king; and his lawful successor to the throne would have been Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.[76] 

Canon Girdlestone adds:

If the crown of David had been assigned to his successor in the days of Herod it would have been placed on the head of Joseph.  And who would have been the legal successor to Joseph?  Jesus of Nazareth. . . .[77]

Not only was the regal and exalted title of the “son of David” used, but:

. . . The words “mother of my Lord” [spoken by Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist] point to Mary as a queen-mother figure [or personage of high royal status].  It has been noted in the royal court language of the Ancient Near East, the title “mother of my Lord” would have been used to address the queen mother of the reigning king (who himself is addressed as “my Lord;” 2 Samuel 24:21).[78]

The royal line kept their de jure royal rights alive the same way international law requires today.  Specifically it was through the continued use of royal titles, such as, using the royal title “son of David,” which was the equivalent of “prince of the royal Davidic line.”

(…)

“[This ruling office] was hereditary, passing directly from father to son in most but not all cases.”[81] 

(…)

Note the title of rightful kingship “the Son of David,” meant the heir to the throne.  

(…)

Rightful sovereignty has been preserved intact for both of these sovereign entities for thousands of years.   

www.the-entitlement-to-rule.com/id38.htm

Summarizing, Dr. Kerr y Baca defends that the use of the surname “Ben David” or “son of Davidwas enough to represent legally the use of the royal Davidic titles and claims therefore constituting a diplomatic protest necessary to preserve intact the sovereign claim for thousands of years according to international law.

The El Chemor/Gharios family did exactly the same thing. The Sheikhs El Chemor ascended to power in 1211 CE in Koura (today’s Lebanon) due to their genealogical direct descent to the Ghassanid Kings. They were known asthe descendants of King Chemor Jablah”, the last king of Ghassan. That’s the origin of the surname “Chemor” (other transliterations: Shamir, Shammar, Chemr, etc. ) since after the deposition of the last Ghassanid King in 636 CE his Royal descendants were known as “Bani Chemor” and the regular Ghassanid citizens as “Bani Ghassan”.

According to Dr. Kerr y Baca, that alone would be enough to keep the sovereign claim legally alive. However, the El Chemor family kept using the Royal title of “sui iuris” “Sheikh” until the present date. This title was recognized by the Ottoman empire until its demise in 1924 and also by the Lebanese republic since its inception until the present date being printed in Identification cards, driver’s licenses and passports. Therefore, there was never a time in history since the loss of the Ghassanid kingdom in 636 CE until the present day that the descendants of the last king didn’t use their titles and/or surnames in public. (IMPORTANT: there’s a difference between the Royal and the Noble Sheikhs in Lebanon, please see this article for a better understanding)

After everything presented, it’s extremely easy to conclude that the El Chemor/Gharios Family have preserved intact its sovereign legal rights and titles.

 

 

Primogeniture in the Royal Arab Succession

UEA rulers
The seven princes that rule the emirates (or principalities) that form the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Each Royal House is independent and have its own rules of succession. However, all of them disregard the principle of primogeniture as all the middle eastern monarchies, except Bahrain

We’ve already covered here the fact that the Arab Royal laws of succession are different than the European in many ways, specially by a fundamental point: the principle of primogeniture.

Primogeniture (English: /praɪməˈdʒɛnɪtʃər/) is the right, by law or custom, of the paternally acknowledged, firstborn son to inherit his parent’s entire or main estate, in preference to daughters, elder illegitimate sons, younger sons and collateral relatives. The son of a deceased elder brother inherits before a living younger brother by right of substitution for the deceased heir. In the absence of any children, brothers succeed, individually, to the inheritance by seniority of age (subject to substitution). Among siblings, sons inherit before daughters. In the absence of male descendants in the male-line, there are variations of primogeniture which allocate the inheritance to a daughter or a brother or, in the absence of either, to another collateral relative, in a specified order (e.g. male-preference primogeniture, Salic primogeniture, semi-Salic primogeniture).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primogeniture

That was never accepted in the Arab monarchies until very recently.

Middle Eastern monarchical systems have established various methods of choosing which among the eligible princes will rule.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 27)

According to one the foremost scholars in Middle eastern history and Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, USA, Professor Bernard Lewis:

“… the dynastic principle and the practice of hereditary succession remained powerful, deep-rooted, and virtually universal in the Islamic Middle East. Even in the nomadic tribes, the shaikh is normally chosen from among the members of one family, who have a recognized hereditary claim to the headship of the tribe and very often to the custody of some sacred place or object—the palladium or ark of the covenant, so to speak. Similar practices may be observed also among Iranian and Turkic nomads. The principle of primogeniture—of succession from father to eldest son in the direct—is a European idea. It was not accepted among the ancient Arabs, and it never took root in the great Muslim dynastic empires. Descent in the male line from the founding and the ruling families was the sole requirement. The most usual practice was for the ruler to designate his successor, choosing whichever of his uncles, brothers, nephews, or sons might be the most suitable. Sometimes the ruler might designate more than one in line, though this was neither usual nor required.” From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East, By Bernard Lewis, Oxford 2004, p. 96

Since the time of the ancient Arab tribes, we see a system called “rotation”. Usually, the heir to the throne was selected from among the King’s male descendants for his qualities, such as: physical force, nobility (if the prince was descended from another Royal line from his mother, it would make him more fit for the throne: even the King’s direct sons could come from different mothers) and also the most intelligent and popular prince among the people.

In succession based on “rotation”, all (male) members of the dynasty are entitled to the monarchy.

In Europe, where dynasties flourished, succession was once determined by a show of strength among a ruler’s sons. In time, however, it reverted to primogeniture, in which a ruler’s oldest male descendant acceded to the throne. For a variety of reasons, chiefly because of religious and tribal traditions, Primogeniture has not developed among Arabian dynasties in quite the same way, because under Shariah law, all sons of a man are equal and legitimate, even if they were born from illegitimate marriages. Moreover, in pre-Islamic tribal norms, while the throne could have passed from one generation to the next within a particular family, it was not necessarily passed from father to son. Rather the authority also fell to a ruler’s brother, uncle, or cousin, depending on which of these oldest male relatives was seen to possess ‘ the qualities of nobility; skill in arbitration; hazz or ‘good fortune’; and leadership ’ “. (Joseph A. Kechichian, “Succession in Saudi Arabia”, 2001, p.10)

No firm principle specified which member of the ruling family had the right to rule.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 22)

The same principle was not only limited to the Arab Dynasties, but also the great majority in the Middle East.

In the Ottoman Empire after 1617 the eldest living male of the dynasty succeeded, though this was not formalized legally.” (Alderson, “The Structure of the Ottoman Dynasty“, 12-13. J.C. Hurewitz reviews succession across the Middle Eastern empires in “Middle East politics: the military dimension”, 18-27)

Again, that’s a common pattern for all the Middle East.

In vain would it be to establish here the succession of the eldest son; the Prince [King] might always choose another as every Prince of the royal family has an equal capacity to be chosen, hence it follows that the Prince who ascends the throne strangles immediately his brothers [once they all compete equally for the succession], as in Turkey; or put out their eyes, as in Persia; or bereaves them of their understanding as in the Mogul’s country,” (Nathan J. Brown, Constitutions in a nonconstitutional world: Arab basic laws, p.12 citing Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1748), The Spirit of Laws, Book V)

In Arabia [Arabic monarchies], all males within the ruling sublineages of the families have a theoretic right to the rulership. In practice, the succession generally goes to those whose fathers ruled (though not necessarily to the sons of the most recent ruler). These general guidelines leave a large number of shayks [Sheikhs] and princes eligible, especially if, as in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait [as in Ghassan], the succession has moved laterally to brothers and cousins instead of directly to the ruler’s sons.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 26, 27)

Even today, the only country to adopt legally the principle of primogeniture is the Kingdom o Bahrain.

Alone among the Gulf ruling families, the Al Khalifa pass the succession according to a fixed rule. The constitution specifies that the eldest son of the ruler shall succeed him.” (Michael Herb, All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, p. 132)

But even in Bahrain, the Constitution says that:

“… the Amir (ruler), during his lifetime, can appoint a different son as Crown Prince [successor]” (Section 1, Article 1).

That’s in perfect harmony with the standards of the Arab monarchies.

For a better understanding, we also recommend the following articles:

 

The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles

maronitesheikh

After the advent of Islam, it’s known that the Ghassanid Royal Family had to leave the Ghassanid territory (today’s Syria, Jordan, Northern Saudi Arabia and Northern Iraq). Part of the family went to Byzantine empire and part sought refuge in the heights of the Mount Lebanon, a safe haven for Christians.

It’s known and documented that the El Chemor Sheikhs descended directly from Ghassanid King El Chemor Jablah Ibn Aiham (ruled 632-638 CE), the last King of Ghassan:

 “It is a reputed deep-rooted allegation that the heads of Al-Chemor tribe are rooted from Bani Chemor, who are the Christian Kings of Ghassan which belong to [King] Al Jafna.” Father Ignatios Tannos El-Khoury, Historical Scientific Research: “Sheikh El Chemor Rulers of Al-Aqoura (1211-1633) and Rulers of Al-Zawiye (1641-1747)” Beirut, Lebanon, 1948, p.38

By “jus sanguinis” (or law of blood) as the undisputed descendants and heirs of Ghassanid King Chemor Jablah they were already the legitimate heirs of the Ghassanid Imperial and Royal titles. Nevertheless, for local and circumstantial reasons, they’ve ruled two small sheikhdoms or principalities (Akoura and Zgharta-Zawiye) in Mount Lebanon for approximately 500 years (until 1747 CE) using the title of “Sheikh”.

Sheikh (pronounced /ʃeɪk/ SHAYK or /ʃiːk/ SHEEK; Arabic: شيخ‎ šayḫ [ʃæjx], mostly pronounced [ʃeːx/ʃejx], plural شيوخ šuyūḫ [ʃuju:x])—also transliterated Sheik, Shaik, Shayk, Shaykh, Cheikh, Shekh, and Shaikh—is an honorific title in the Arabic language. It commonly designates the ruler of a tribe, who inherited the title from his father. “Sheikh” is given to a royal male at birth, whereas the related title “Sheikha” is given to a royal female at birth.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh

There were several different categories of “Sheikh” in Mount Lebanon through history. To understand the role and importance of the Sheikhs El Chemor in later times one has to comprehend the nobiliary system of Mount Lebanon in the last centuries.

For that understanding, it’s necessary a division:

Mount Lebanon BEFORE the Ottoman rule

Ottoman Sultan Selim I invaded Syria and Mount Lebanon in 1516 CE and allied to the famous Druze Prince Fakhr ad Din I established a semi-autonomous country that only worked in practice for the urbanized areas, since the rural areas, specially in Northern Mount Lebanon, were ruled by the local chiefs. That would take over a century to change. But lets’ return to that later.

Before the Ottoman invasion, the natural local leaders called “Sheikhs” or “Muqqadams”, ruled sui iurissovereign and semi-sovereignsheikhdoms” or small principalities only paying taxes to neighboring dynasties. And they were left considerable alone to take care of their own affairs. In other words, they were “sovereign” (or “semi-sovereign”) being considerably independent and autonomous. That characteristic makes those ruling families technically “royal” giving the title “Sheikh” the same connotation that it had and still has in the Arabian gulf today. The Sheikhs El Chemor were ruling Akoura since 1211 CE, exact 305 years before the Ottoman invasion. They were known and acclaimed by the people as sui iuris”  Sheikhs”, they were not formally invested (or elevated) by an Emperor, Sultan or Emir.

Local leaders in fragmented Lebanon were called Zu’ama, and their followers were described by an English visitor as ‘of an independent turn of mind; all are armed from the age of boys, and are governed by their own Emirs, or Sheikhs, or PrincesThey are all warriors, loving athletic exercise.’ They included Christian Maronites who dominated the highlands of Mount Lebanon.”

Nicolle ill. McBride 1998 p22

Maybe the most important point to be understood about the honor system in Lebanon is the fact that the Sheikhs that had this title before the Ottoman invasion (1516 CE) were “natural autonomous tribal rulerslike their counterparts in the Arabian Gulf, they had the title sui iuris” (by their own right), having autonomy and powers similar to the princes and sovereign dukes of the Holy Roman Empire. However, different than in Europe, their Lebanese counterparts had sovereignty locally but no saying in the administration of the Caliphates. (see “A House of many mansions: the history of Lebanon reconsidered”, Berkley, 1988, Kamal Salibi and “Lebanon A History 600-2011, Oxford, 2012, William Harris)

The Sheikhs El Chemor ascended to power due to their genealogical direct descent to the Ghassanid Kings. They were known as “the descendants of Ghassanid King Chemor Jablah”, the last king of Ghassan. That’s the origin of the surname “Chemor” (other transliterations: Shamir, Shammar, Chemr, etc. ) It was very common at the time the knowledge of genealogy.

“Druze and Maronite muqataajis (feudal lords) could trace their descent back over many generations to the ancestors of their families…” All Honourable Men: The Social Origins of War in Lebanon, Oxford, 2001, Dr. Michael Johnson pgs. 98-99

The founder of the Ghassanid Dynasty was King Jafna Ibn Amr (ruled 220-265 CE). He was the son of the Azd ruler Amr Ibn Muzaikiya. The other sons of Amr gave origin of other important Arab ruling families like the Al-Said Sultans of Oman, the Al-Nahyam rulers of Abu-Dhabi, the Al-Maktoums rulers of Dubai and the Al-Nasrids rulers of Al-Andaluz (Spain). Originally as part of the Azd tribe, the Sheikhs El Chemor have blood ties with many major Arab ruling houses. The El Chemor Sheikhs were related by marriage to the El Hachem Sheikhs of Akoura in Lebanon (descendants of the Hashemites rulers of Jordan and Iraq) and, more recently, to the Shihab Emirs, the latest rulers of Lebanon before the republic.

Mount Lebanon AFTER the Ottoman rule

Although the “Iltizam” system was effective implemented in Mount Lebanon only in 1667, some “noble” (not “royal”) Sheikhs were created during the previous century by the Ottoman appointed princes. They were not natural “sovereign or semi-sovereign” tribal leaders but wealthy notable commoners elevated to nobility.

Iltizām, in the Ottoman Empire, taxation system carried out by farming of public revenue. The state auctioned taxation rights to the highest bidder (mültazim, plural mültezim or mültazims), who then collected the state taxes and made payments in fixed installments, keeping a part of the tax revenue for his own use. The iltizām system included the farming of land taxes, the farming of urban taxes, the production of certain goods (such as wine, salt, or senna), and the provision of certain services. It began during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (1444–46, 1451–81) and was officially abolished in 1856. Various forms of iltizām, however, continued until the end of the empire in the early 20th century, when the system was replaced by methods of taxation that were supervised by public officials.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/iltizam-tax-system#ref158373

About the difference between the original tribal Sheikhs and the appointed “multazimsSheikhs:

“… [the tribal Sheikh] was a hereditary feudal chief whose authority over a particular district was vested within a patrilineal kinship group. He lived in his own village and maintained ties of patronage with his atba’ [following]. In contrast, the multazim [Sheikh] was not indigenous to the tax farm he controlled. He was more akin to a government official than a feudal sheikh.”  “Lebanon’s Predicament“, Columbia, 1987, Samir Khalaf

In 1711, the Shihab Princes had codified the honor system which is the one known today. The system was divided as:

Grand Emirs (princes), Emirs, Muqqadams and Great Sheikhs (five Druze and three Maronite families) and Sheikhs.

The system was not based on pedigree but in political prestige and economical favors.

Even though the “Great Sheikhs” were maybe more relevant and prestigious in Lebanon’s modern history than the El Chemor Sheikhs, their titles are of “noble” assent, not “royal” since they were given by a higher authority corresponding to the equivalent of the European (non-sovereign) “Duke”.

A similar case happened with the Arslan Emirs (princes). According to several historians, they had less actual power than some Sheikhs but a higher social importance. (see “All Honourable men: the social origins of war in Lebanon, Oxford 2001, Dr. Michael Johnson, p.99)

If you ask any Lebanese, even historians, who’s “royal” for them, they’ll immediately think of the princely families that ruled the whole Mount Lebanon under the Ottoman empire (i.e. Shuf Emirate, Emirate of Jabal Druze, Emirate of Mount Lebanon, as well as Ma’an Emirate)

However, the Thesaurus’ definition of the word “Royal” is

of or relating to a king, queen, or other sovereign

But what does “sovereign” means?

1. a monarch; a king, queen, or other supreme ruler. 2. a person who has supreme power or authority.”

In the technical sense, the El Chemor family was also sovereign in Mount Lebanon as it was in Ghassan since their power was considerable autonomous and didn’t emanate from a higher authority. The family had to make deals with the Ottomans only in the last years of rule, to join the Iltizam system for some time culminating with the deposition.

According to accepted international law and its principle of “sovereign equality“, the Pope or the prince of Monaco is “as royal” as the Queen of England regardless of the size of their actual territories. That principle is one of the pillars of International Law itself.

By the aforementioned, the “sovereign” or “semi-sovereign” ruling Sheikh is the equivalent of a Prince. There are so many examples in the Arabian peninsula and Gulf like Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, etc

“Besides the sovereigns referred to above, there are several oriental potentates who should be mentioned, the rulers of the Sultanates and Sheikdoms of East Africa and the Persian Gulf (…) The style of these Sheikhs is His Highness.” Titles: How the king became His Majesty”, L.G. Pine, New York, 1992 (Barnes & Noble) p. 137-138

 

“In the modern United Arab Emirates, however, none of the rulers of the constituent states are called emirs (princes); all are Sheikhs.”

  https://www.britannica.com/topic/emir

Even though all the Lebanese feudal titles were abolished by the Ottoman empire in 1858 CE, the empire could only do so with the titles bestowed by their own honor system. The El Chemor Family had both the Imperial and Royal Ghassanid titles and the ruling Sheikh titles by the “sui iuris” (by own right) legal principle, therefore, the revocation didn’t legally affect them.

However, both the empire and the subsequent Lebanese regimes have formally recognized all the feudal titles by printing them in the official documents like birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports. No birth legal privilege attached to those titles, only the prerogative of using them publicly. Not much, but still a formal recognition.

As mentioned, the El Chemor family was ruling since 1211 CE, almost 80 years before the Ottoman empire was even founded and over 300 years before the first emirate was created with prince Fakhr al-Din I (1516–1544).

We can conclude that there’s a huge difference between the prestige of titles in Mount Lebanon and their actual legal value. Important to note that we’re not debating neither the prestige nor the historical deeds of a particular family, but the actual title’s legal pedigree. There are many families with a more active and glamorous participation in Lebanon’s history than the Sheikhs El Chemor, however, only the families that actually ruled before the Ottoman invasion can claim sovereign or semi-sovereign status along with the Maanid and the Shihab Emirs.

More about the Sheikhs El Chemor and the Ghassanid Kings HERE

 

 

Royal House of Ghassan has Christmas Charity event in Lebanon

Again this year, the Lebanese branch of the Royal House of Ghassan had a Christmas Charity Event in Furn El Chebbak, Lebanon. In partnership with the Amicale des Freres Association the Royal House has distributed food and gifts to the elderly people forgotten by their own families. Congratulations to Sheikh Dr. Elie Gharios, the President of the Lebanese branch of the Royal House of Ghassan for the initiative! Happy Holidays