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).

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:


Ghassanids, the Great Sultans of medieval Yemen

rasulid map

The Rasulid Sultans ruled part of today’s Yemen and Saudi Arabia from 1229 until 1454 CE.  The Rasulids descended from the eponymous Rasul a.k.a. Muhammad ibn Harun Al-Ghassani (“The Ghassanid” in Arabic). As personally claimed by the Sultans themselves and recognized by the great majority of Arab historians (and by the unanimous opinion of the Yemenite historians, he descended from the last Ghassanid king Jabalah VI ibn Al-Aiham.

Rasulid sultans

According to Professor Irfan Shahîd, it would make no sense for the Rasulid Sultans (Muslims) to claim descent from the last Christian Ghassanid ruler since it was known that the King Jabalah VI had refused to convert to Islam in his famous meeting with Caliph Omar?

“… the Rasulids themselves were aware of their Ghassanid descent and were proud of it.” The Islamic World: From Classical to Modern Times (Essays in Honor of Bernard Lewis) pp.332

List of Rasulid Sultans:

al-Mansur Umar I (ar) ruled 1229–1249 CE
al-Muzaffar Yusuf I (ar) ruled 1249–1295 CE
al-Ashraf Umar II (ar) ruled 1295–1296 CE
al-Mu’ayyad Da’ud ruled 1296–1322 CE
al-Mujahid Ali ruled 1322–1363 CE
al-Afdal al-Abbas ruled 1363–1377 CE
al-Ashraf Isma’il I ruled 1377–1400 CE
an-Nasir Ahmad ruled 1400–1424 CE
al-Mansur Abdullah ruled 1424–1427 CE
al-Ashraf Isma’il II ruled 1427–1428 CE
az-Zahir Yahya ruled 1428–1439 CE
al-Ashraf Isma’il III ruled 1439–1441 CE
al-Muzaffar Yusuf II ruled 1441–1454 CE
al-Afdal Muhammad ruled 1442 CE
an-Nasir Ahmad ruled 1442 CE
al-Mu’ayyad Husayn ruled 1451–1454 CE
al-Mas’ud Abu al-Qasim ruled 1443–1454 CE

It’s important to point that although the Rasulid Sultans were direct descendants from the last Ghassanid King Jabalah VI – as the Sheikhs El Chemorthey could never claim the Ghassanid titles due to a law imposed by Ghassanid kings in the 6th century CE of the Royal Family having to be necessarily Christian.

It’s also noteworthy that so many rulers descended from Ghassanid King Jabalah VI like:

Roman (Byzantine) Emperors of the Phocid Dynasty (802-813 CE)
Ceasars and Masters of the Island of Rhodes (1203-1250 CE)
Sultans of Rasul (1229-1454 CE)
Sheikhs of Akoura (1211-1633 CE)
Sheikhs of Zgharta-Zawyie (1641-1747 CE)

More about the Ghassanid Dynasty HERE


Ghassanids, the sovereigns of the Island of Rhodes

The beautiful Greek island of Rhodes

Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of land area and also the island group’s historical capital. It’s famous for its magnificent resorts, ruins and for being occupied by the Hospitaller Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem.

However, what many people don’t know is that the island was ruled by Ghassanid sovereigns for over half century. The precise date of the island control is not known but the fact that Leo Gabalas (Greek transliteration of “Jablah” referring to the last King of Ghassan) was recognized as “Ceasar” (in Byzantium a sort of Imperial Sovereign ruler) and master of Rhodes in 1203 CE is widely documented adding another imperial title to the Ghassanid Dynasty (other being ‘Basileus Araves’ or “Emperor of all Arabs” in 529 CE and Byzantine Emperor in 802 CE). This imperial dignity is also recognized by Islamic sources like the Research Centre for Islamic History.


The Leo’s early life and the origin of title of “Caesar” and the details of his establishment of control over Rhodes are unclear. Contemporary sources make clear that Rhodes had slipped out of imperial Byzantine control and was held by an independent ruler already at the time of the Fourth Crusade (1203–04 CE). This ruler is usually identified with Leo, but Nikephoros Blemmydes claims that Leo held his title by hereditary right, which may indicate an unknown predecessor who actually seized control of the island. This theory is defended, amongst others,  by scholar Michael F. Hendy. It has been surmised that at some point Leo acknowledged the suzerainty of the Empire of Nicaea, and that the title of Caesar may have been granted by the Nicaean rulers Theodore I Laskaris (ruled 1205–1222 CE) or John III Vatatzes (r. 1221–1254 CE). On the other hand, if he (or a relative) held power on Rhodes since before 1203, the title may have been granted by the Angeloi emperors.

Emperor Leo Gabalas ruled until 1240 CE being succeeded by his brother John. It’s also known that both rulers were part of international treaties with the neighboring States like the Venetian Republic and also had their own coinage.



It’s also known that Leo’s brother and successor John Gabalas ruled the island until the Nicaean annexation (around 1250 CE).

More about the Ghassanid Dynasty HERE 


“It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles”


Niccolo dei Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Those were the wise words of Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. And I couldn’t agree more! I’d even go further, titles just as a personal honor are completely useless in the 21st century!

That might initially shock coming from someone that defends monarchical and chivalric values. However, it makes total sense.

Nobility titles might had an intrinsic value in the past when they represented (legally) a different class, with real birthright privileges. Today, the majority of constitutions state that all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of class. And I definitely agree with this principle. None should be above the law, not even a sovereign.

Today, the legal privilege of an honorific title ends in its use. Although its legal existence can be characterized as “immaterial property” and its succession can be applied as “immaterial inheritance”, its recognition is each country’s prerogative. Meaning, a country can or cannot recognize a title regardless of its legality. But the so-called “recognition” doesn’t mean, in any way, that the title is real or not but only a “permission” for its use whithin the country’s dominions.

Back to the title’s personal value.

First, we have to understand that a title should come not only with rights and privileges but also with duties. And don’t mistake yourself in thinking that a title will make you, suddenly, a better person. I always say that a title is just a label, a beautiful golden label. We’re the product. You can have the most beautiful label in the world but if the product is bad, regardless of the label, it’ll still be bad. Personally, I rather have a great product with a simple label (or no label at all) than a bad product with a great label. In the end, “the product” is what matters.

That’s why if the title’s use is not somehow relevant in the today’s society it shouldn’t be used. That’s the reason why the serious chivalric orders usually have militant humanitarian works. Modern knights and dames won’t fight infidels but are committed to fight famine, disease, injustice, etc. Also barons, counts, marquees, dukes, etc. If they cannot live a real “noble” life being role models and helping the needy, they’re nothing more than “outdated adornments”. The title alone won’t make them “noble”.

Deposed Royal and Noble families are nothing but historical families with a glorious past and almost no privileges but nostalgia. If they limit themselves to feeding their ego, shining their medals and remembering the heroic past, they’ll definitely be forgotten in a heartbeat.

The same applies to my own title. If I cannot help my people and region being relevant somehow there’s no reason for a “Prince of Ghassan“. If I cannot preserve my people’s legacy and heritage, my title is just a “dusty museum piece” in a dark and forgotten corner of a huge ancient building.

I always repeat that I’m Al-Numan Gharios El Chemor. A simple and ordinary man, alas, terrible in sports. Although the correct protocol would be using the “Highness” address I consider it an optional courtesy and I’ve never asked anyone to treat me anymore than an equal fellow human being. And the fact that I’m “occupying” the office of the Prince of Ghassan doesn’t make me grand. The office in itself is grand, representing eighteen centuries of history and dozens of great imperial and royal rulers. Do I have their blood in my veins? Yes, but also probably you that’s reading this article descend from some King or Queen since is estimated that around 70% of the European stock descend from some royal ancestor. But I’m sure you still have to pay your taxes like I do.

But the analogy that a title would make someone better would be the same as evaluating a person by the chair he or she is sitting on. Preposterous!

HIRH Prince Gharios El Chemor of Ghassan Al-Numan VIII

We also recommend: “Are the titles of nobility still relevant in the 21st century?




A 2017’s Retrospective


We sincerely hope that you’re having very pleasant holidays with your family and friends.

It’s time to remember what has happened in 2017 and plan for the new year.

We had many achievements in 2017, here are some highlights. More details and photos, please, follow the links:

* In February, a top Maronite scholar in Lebanon has validated the historical chronicles about the Ghassanid Royal Family

TIRH, Sheikh Camil. Sheikh Dr. Elie, Prof. Schirrmacher, HE General Michel Aoun the President of Lebanon, HIRH Prince Gharios, Sheikh Dr. Naji and HIRH Prince Cheikh Selim

* In May, invited by the Lebanese Government, HIRH Prince Gharios El Chemor has traveled to Lebanon and was received officially by the President of the Lebanese Republic with other members of the Royal Family. President Gen. Michel Aoun also accepted the Order of Saint Michael


Prince Gharios was also interviewed by Lebanese TV

And also featured at the AlHurra Arab TV


* In June, Prince Gharios and the Royal Family were received by His Excellency the President of Albania at the Presidential Palace in Tirana. He also has received the Order of Saint Michael

fullsizeoutput_c237* During the trip to Albania, the Royal Family was also officially received by HRH Crown Prince Leka II of the Albanians. HRH also received the Order of Saint Michael

DSC05154* In Tirana, the Royal family was also officially received by the Orthodox Patriarch

DSC05803* The Grand Mufti (Sunni Muslim highest authority)

DSC05021* The world leader of the Bektashi Order (Sufi Islam)

pgstiftung* The Prince Gharios Foundation in Germany has sponsored the construction of a church for refugees

Koch royal couple* In August, Prince Gharios and Princess Viviane visited His Eminence Cardinal Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome

SOSMA Karcher* And Monsignor Karcher, the Pontifical Secretary of Protocol at the Vatican Secretariat of State. He has received the Order of Saint Michael

Valentino* Prince Gharios also met the fashion legend Valentino in Capri, Italy

* In September, Prince Gharios was invited by the Lebanese Government to an official event in Las Vegas

princebishopnayrouz2017* In October, Prince Gharios El Chemor was invited to the Neyrouz service of the Coptic Orthodox Church at Westminster’s in London, UK

IMG_0417* The Coptic Archbishop of London Anba Angaelous has received the Order of Saint Michael

archbishop boutros Mattar maruni* In November, Prince Gharios was invited to participate at the commemoration of the 74th Lebanese Independent Day in Beverly Hills

DRgl7cQX4AIHM9k* In December, the Royal House of Ghassan had a Christmas Charity event in Lebanon

Also, during the year, Prince Gharios El Chemor has received many honors and awards, amongst them:

Medal from the Dragomanov University (Ukrainian Ministry of Education)

Goodwill Ambassador of the State of Arkansas (USA)

US Congressional Special Recognition


We also invite you to learn more about the history of the Ghassanid Royal Family and ancestors:

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

Father Ignatios El Khoury, one of the most acclaimed Maronite historians of the 20th century

The Middle Eastern Laws of Succession

HIRH Prince Cheikh Antonios El Chemor The Honorary Founder of the modern Royal House of Ghassan

Understanding the Royal Ghassanid family tree

The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles  

We wish you and yours a Blessed 2018, full of health, wealth and peace!    


The Sheikhs El Chemor: a legal study of titles


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.”

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.

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.”

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