Conflict Resolution|International|Religion

Sulha: Traditional Arab Dispute Resolution

Continuing with the series on models of conflict resolution that are not based on the parties’ interests, below is reproduced another chapter in a proposed book on alternatives to Western mediation methods.  This one — the Arab practice of sulha — is centuries old, pre-dating even the Prophet, and its motivating considerations are an amalgam of the community’s desire for stability, aggrieved parties’ need for restored honor, and accused parties’ need for reconciliation and regaining face.

Vindicating individuals’ particular interests is nowhere to be found.

Arab Approaches to Conflict: 

Where Honor and Respect Drive the Process[1]


            Western approaches to conflict contain assumptions (a) that conflict is inevitable, normal, and can lead to positive change within enterprises; (b) that conflict can be managed and resolved to the satisfaction of the disputants; (c) that the disputants’ rational assessment of interests and generation of alternatives can yield value-added outcomes; (d) that written and enforceable legal instruments are the ideal outcome of consensual conflict resolution processes; (e) that negotiation is best facilitated by a third party who is independent and neutral; (f) that the terms of the resolution are socially satisfactory if they are satisfactory to the disputants, and need not conform to the terms that a court might render; and (g) that the resolution process typically addresses the allocation of resources and risks as to which there are competing claims.[2]

            By contrast, Arab assumptions about conflict include (a) that it is negative, disruptive and dangerous; (b) that group affiliation, not individual interest, is the source of the strategies adopted during the resolution process; (c) that emotional spontaneity, social expectations and shared cultural values are accepted and indeed dominant during the process; (d) that shame, honor, dignity and reputation are the driving forces towards ultimate resolution; (e) that the community has a vital interest in the disputants’ reaching a settlement; (f) that third-party intervention should be performed by people who are known, trusted and respected, and who are personally involved with both disputants; and (g) that the outcome is measured by the repaired, durable relationships between the parties, not the satisfactory allocation of particular resources or risks.[3]

“The goals of the Western process are pragmatic, and are directed toward the possibility of a ‘win-win’ scenario that will enable disputants to forget the past and move on.  In contrast, the goals of the Arab-Islamic process manifest concern for preserving and cultivating the established ‘wisdom’ of the community.  The process is therefore continuity-oriented; history is regarded as a source of stability and guidance that provides lessons for shaping a common future.”[4]


            Long before the introduction of Islam,[5] Arab tribes created a procedure to identify and resolve disputes that threatened social stability.  The process, sulha, continues to be practiced in some parts of the region and vestiges of it can be seen even in highly developed economies in the Middle East.[6]

 The Process and Its Context

            The term “sulha” derives from the Arabic word Sulh.  The abstract concept of peace is Salaam, but the literal act of stopping conflict and settling into peace is Sulh.[7]  The word can also mean “reconciliation,” “cooperation” or “forgiveness.”[8]

The principles of sulha are “embedded in tribal culture and in wisdom and experience passed down from generation to generation.”[9]  Sulha arose to respond to the need to restore order between families, tribes or villages so that quarrels and feuds do not threaten the stability of the larger community.[10]  Much of the literature on the process is set in the context of physical assault committed by a member of one family or tribe against a member of another, and the easiest way to understand the broad principles of sulha is to set the explanation in that hypothetical context:  An attack by one family member against a member of a different family.

            By custom, a family has not only the right, but the obligation to revenge an attack on one of its members.[11]  “To avenge the murder of a close kinsman is honorable; to fail to do so is dishonorable.”[12]  This precept, however, may subject the community to violence in its midst for many years, as vengeance feeds long-lasting feuds.  In order to prevent such dysfunction, the tradition of sulha is invoked.

            Immediately upon the attack having occurred, the family of the attacker approaches one or more highly respected, influential people, asking that they intervene on behalf of the party.  These interveners are referred to collectively as the jaha.  There is no hedging of the facts or of the family’s responsibility.[13]  The deed is confessed and the jaha is asked to act on that basis.[14]  Certain words of entreaty are customarily used, pleading with the jaha to assume the responsibility.  Among them might be “We are in your house and you must help us….Our son has committed a crime and our family is in your hands.”[15]   The attacker’s family must literally beg the jaha to take on the matter; otherwise when they do visit the aggrieved family it will not be able to carry the authority required. 

            Indeed, when and if the aggrieved family agrees to meet with the jaha, a preliminary question will be, “Have you been asked to come here by the other side, and have they agreed to accept any ruling you make?”[16]  The offender’s family may make its authorization express by executing a taffwith, a written document that authorizes the jaha to act on the family’s behalf in approaching the other side and committing the family to abide by the jaha’s decision.[17]

            Any delay in approaching the jaha, and any delay by the jaha in approaching the victim’s family, is unacceptable.  The aggrieved family must know without any doubt that this event has completely dominated the life of the other side and the life of the community as reflected in the composition of the individuals constituting the jaha.  “If the injured family waits for a long time, without anyone asking them what happened, they will be insulted… The terminology used here, translated literally would be: ‘They went to sleep while our honor was hurt.'”[18]

            The jaha seeks the offended family’s acceptance of its role as mediator.  That acceptance may not be immediately forthcoming, and it may take several visits before the offended family is satisfied that the jaha brings with it a restoration of the family’s tainted honor.[19]  The jaha uses freighted terms in its entreaty: “We are asked by the offender and his family to have to honor of offering their repentance, to express their sorrow, and to have the honor of accepting this jaha so that we can see how peace may be restored between you.”[20]  The tactic has been referred to as “reverse musayara [politeness or patience].”  The jaha being the most respected members of the community, the reverse this standing with respect to this ordinary, grieving family, and beseech the family to grant them the kindness of making peace through sulha.  The family’s eventual consent is thus a gesture of magnanimity, rather than compromise or retreat.[21]  Traditionally the jaha uses florid and respectful words, the “beautiful” or “sweet” language of respect and entreaty.[22]

Acceptance of the jaha must be clear, intentional, and stated in words spoken in front of the family, to the effect that “We accept that this case shall be in your hands, and that it is on your conscience, and we will accept any ruling that you issue.”[23]  Indeed, the practical effect of the grieving family’s accepting the jaha is its foregoing the right of revenge – a waiver that is so substantive that there should be no doubts as to whether it occurred.[24] 

            As explained below, the jaha is not merely facilitative or consultative.  The jaha possesses adjudicative powers, and in this initial process it obtains from each side a commitment to be bound by the jaha’s final decrees in the matter.  This having been mutually obtained, the jaha has accomplished its first goal, one highly prized by the community:  a truce, or hodna.  The families are now bound by an agreement that no violence will ensue while the jaha does its work.[25]  Indeed, the jaha cannot leave the home of the victim’s family without obtaining the hodna; it is of the essence of the utility of the sulha process itself.[26]

            Several conditions obtain during the period of hodna.  One is that the offending family will flee the community so as to avoid the risk of confrontation or unintentional disrespect.  “[I]n nomadic times, the offender’s family might be asked to pack up its tent and move far away from the tent of the victim’s family to reduce the potential for anyone to get hurt.”[27]  In modern society it does not require literal relocation; however, “if they meet inadvertently on the same bus, the offender’s family member has to get off the bus.  If it is in a public place, they have to leave immediately.”[28]  The purpose is not merely to avoid re-incitement of passion, but for the offending family to “show humility and remorse by demonstrably staying out of sight of those they have offended.”[29]

            There are two offers of payment during sulha.  The first – ‘atwa – happens at this time.  The offer of ‘atwa by the offending family, and its acceptance by the victim’s family, is evidence of the hodna, and also acts as an immediate and tangible expression of remorse on the part of the offender’s family.[30]  The ‘atwa could be monetary, in which case it is accepted in front of the community, making it a disgrace for the offended family to seek vengeance while the sulha is in effect.  Or it could be an ‘atwa of honor – the statement by the offended family that it needs no payment because, as a matter of honor, it gives its word that the hodna will be respected.[31]

            The hodna in place, the jaha conducts an investigation and prepares its ruling.  One aspect of the final proposal will be a diya, which is given in order to redeem the blood of the victim.  It is not meant to replace the value of the loss of life, but “is only a symbolic amount for the man’s blood, which as no price.”[32]  The amount of the diya is a function of the severity of the injury, the heinous nature of the act, and the amount of diya that has been determined in similar situations in the past.[33]  In keeping with the oral tradition of sulha,[34] the precedents of past similar incidents and resolutions is gleaned from the experiences of the elder members of the jaha or from stories learned from their fathers.[35]  Over time the amount of the diya may be negotiated between representatives of the families and the jaha, but once the jaha has determined the amount it cannot be changed.[36]  Once again, it is out of respect for the jaha that the diya is agreed upon, not out of bargaining with the other side.[37]

            Just as the sulha begins in order restore peace to the community, so it ends by the community witnessing the families’ undertaking of peace.  There are three components:  Musafacha, or handshakes between the families; Musamacha, or a declaration of forgiveness by the victim’s father (or other authoritative representatives of the family); and Mumalacha, or a shared ceremonial meal.[38] 

The victim’s family assembles publicly and accepts the offender’s family’s approaching with a white flag.  The offender, surrounded by the family, goes down the line of the other family and, in silence and before perhaps a thousand onlookers, shakes hands one by one.[39]  Then the diya is passed from the family of the attacker to the family of the victim – publicly, even these days in a transparent bag – so that the community can witness for their own eyes the promises made and stand in expectation that they will be kept.  The words are then spoken, “This peace is valid and applies to those who are present and those who are absent.”  Formal speeches are made by the jaha, by the family representatives, and sometimes by high officials of the village.  A knot is tied in the flag to symbolize that the peace will not become undone.  The family of the wrongdoer is then taken to the home of the victim and drinks a cup of bitter coffee.  Then the wrongdoer’s family states, “In the name of God I invite you to eat with us today,” and the entire group will go to the killer’s home to eat rice and lamb.  Sometimes only a small amount is eaten by any individual because so many are waiting for their turn to share the ritual meal.[40] 

 The Role of Honor and Respect

            The process is permeated with concepts of respect: the lack of respect for the family that the attack evinces, and the high respect in which the jaha is held by the two families and the community at large and from which it exercises part of its authority.[41]  The respect that the jaha expresses for the aggrieved family is the source of the family’s eventual agreement to enter into the sulha.[42]  One jaha participant relates this incident involving a recalcitrant aggrieved family:

We tried to tackle it from every side; it did not work.  Then … there [was] a sense that it is an insult to the jaha not to yield.  [And elder brother] stood up, furious, and said, ‘Enough!  I will not let you go on more than that! These people [the jaha] are respected people in our society.  They have spent hours and many times coming to us, asking us, and begging us.  How many times are you going to make them feel so very ashamed?’ He banged his fist on the table, and everybody in the room was silent.  He said, ‘I want to tell the jaha, ‘I am for peace’ and I want to see anyone in this room who dares to say no.'”[43]

 Concludes one scholar, “The entire sulha system is predicated on this hierarchical logic of sharaf [respect].”[44]

            The closely-joined concept of honor also is critical to the process.[45]  The pressure to retaliate for an injury to a close family member is predicated on honor.[46]  The injured party’s acceptance of the jaha, rather than exercising its rights of revenge, is framed as a gesture demonstrating that family’s honor.[47]  The decision whether to accept the payments of ‘atwa and diya can be driven by considerations of resting upon one’s honor.[48]  Honor dictates the setting of the amount of the diya and whether it will be accepted, once offered.[49]

            Particularly noteworthy is that it is respect for the jaha that causes the parties to accept the terms that will end the conflict and avoid the feud.  “A rejection of the verdict would be considered a severe infraction of the Sulha process, an insult to the Jaha, and a general loss of face for both sides and for the Jaha members and dignitaries who were involved in the negotiations.”[50]  Thus, not only is it not individual interests that drive the process and by which success is measured; it is loss of honor that is the source of the injury; regaining honor that is the purpose of the process; and payment of honor to the jaha members that compels enforcement of the agreement.[51]  It is well observed:

[T]he strongest leverage available to the Jaha is its clout in the community and the threat of losing respect and social standing by refusing to abide by the Sulha verdict.  These consequences may seem trivial to the Western observer, but in a tribal culture, honor and respect are central elements, so the threat of shame or lost honor can provide considerable leverage.  They also provide motivation to carry out the Sulha agreement.[52]

 Contemporary Use of the Process

            While logic might dictate that “[m]any different kinds of disputes can be resolved through Sulha dispute resolution, including business, financial and consumer conflicts,”[53] in fact few are.  Almost all of the literature studies the process as applied to crimes of violence, and specifically murder.  But it is very effective in that sphere.  Writes one scholar, during upon four years of research and observation of more than a dozen instances of sulha as practiced in Galilee villages, “virtually every case of murder resulted in mediation and reconciliation rather than revenge.”[54]

            One reason for the decline of the practice in modern Arab society may be the Westernization of social and spiritual values, and the desire to be perceived as “modern.”  Perhaps the main explanation, however, is the rise of cities throughout the region, and the consequential loss of the importance of honor, reputation and respect.  Sulha arose from, and served, a nomadic, interdependent social structure.  By comparison, cities invite removal from family and tribal identification, reliance on government for daily services, increased opportunities for formal and informal education, creation and consideration of intellectual alternatives, an environment of physical density, incentives for social mobility, and relative anonymity.  “If anonymity and mobility are indeed characteristics of Arab city life, they make maintenance of [traditional concepts of honor] very difficult.  [Honor] involves reputation, and reputation is precluded by anonymity.”[55]

            Nevertheless it is reportedly frequently practices in Arab regions of Israel in cases of crime; sometimes the offender is released from prison to participate in the final ceremony, and members of the Israeli Knesset have acted as part of the jaha.[56]

            A vestige of the tradition – or perhaps the impulse beneath it – may be seen in modern cities of the region, where merchants in a commercial dispute, rather than persisting in court or seeking formal arbitration, have approached a highly respected individual such as the chair of the local chamber of industry, and submitted the matter to his negotiation.  That person’s eventual determination is honored, not through compulsion of law, but because not to follow it would be to express disrespect for the elder whose honor is engaged when he accepts the responsibility to intervene.

 Miscellaneous Considerations

            The Jaha as Servant:  In most Arab countries, modern mediation has yet to take hold.  Although many countries in the Middle East have established western-style commercial mediation centers, the practice is not widespread.[57]  When and if it does take root as a business practice, the most difficult aspect of the process for traditional Arabs to accept might be the status of the mediator as a paid professional.

            The jaha serves as an authority and a beneficent force, not as a professional like a doctor or a lawyer.  An old, wise Arab makes peace thusly:  “If a bad man and a good man quarrel, I take from the good man and give to the bad.  If two bad men quarrel, I take from myself and give to both of them.  Two good men will not quarrel.”[58] 

            By Arab tradition (and, later, Islamic practice) dispute resolution is not professionalized, but rather an exercise of one’s civic concern for the community.[59]  The jaha is never compensated.  On the contrary, it is the personal sacrifice that the jaha is making that is one source of its moral authority.  Remuneration is “out of the question as there must be no taint of influence or bribe or even misconstrued kindness from a friend or relative.”[60]  So even in modern times, if quarreling Arab merchants approach a respected and influential member of their industry to settle a dispute, that third-party acts out of duty, or out of the responsibilities of office, and neither expects nor is offered payment.

            The Absence of Mutual Dissatisfaction:  Western mediation is sometimes measured by whether the parties are equally dissatisfied.[61]  That type of comparative assessment appears to be completely absent from sulha.  Each family is satisfied and the community is satisfied.  The offended party regains its respect, honor and dignity; the accused party has averted the risk of future loss through vengeance by removal of the “root of bitterness;” and the community has prevented unrest, violence and further loss of life.[62]  Compared to such an outcome, the concept of “win-win,” so admired in Western negotiation, seems facile.

            The Emphasis on Collective Responsibility:  Be it the tribe, the family or the group, sulha relies upon the recognition of collective responsibility.[63]  In a society placing importance on individualism, where a person may not feel responsible for the acts of others (including family members), the process may not gain traction.[64]

            This sense of acting as a unit rather than as an individual permeates the process.  For example, the diya must be paid by each member of the victim’s family, not by just the patriarch or the wrongdoer.  The diya is then allocated among each member of the victim’s family, not just the parent or close relations.[65]  Western traditions of individual accountability are thus at odds with one of the driving engines of sulha.  With the latter, “social values and norms as well as social codes of honour, shame and dignity are essential components that inform the conflict resolution process.”[66]

            The Role of Forgiveness:  Seldom in the literature of Western negotiation is importance given to whether the disputing parties forgive each other.  Yet forgiveness is a fundamental attribute of sulha.  From its tribal and nomadic beginnings, the purpose of the process was not so much to appease or ameliorate the disputants, but to ensure that the community was not beset by blood-feuds.  It is noteworthy that, for all of its supposed concern about community standards of “justice,” Western law pays little attention to whether conflicts end with reconciliation or forgiveness. Arab culture does.

If it is an act of sharaf [honor] to avenge, it is more honor not to revenge; that is why we call him [who forgives] a great person.  If he takes revenge, then he is like any other normal person, but when he says, ‘I could have killed the killer, but I chose not to,’ that is a great man.  In Arab culture there is nothing bigger than forgiveness.  That is the highest point, the height of sharaf.  Some people forgive because they do not have any choice, but when you have a choice and you forgive, this is the highest rank of sharaf.[67]

             This view is consistent with a teaching in the Qur’an, which provides:  “The retribution for evil is equal to the evil done; yet those who forgive and rehabilitate will be rewarded by God. … If one avenges himself after he has been wronged, there is no way of blaming him. … But he who bears with patience and forgives, surely complies with divine resolve.”[68]

Forgiveness and honor can sometimes merge.  It is not atypical for the patriarch of the victim’s family to take the diya in his hands from the offending family, raise it above his head for all to see, and pronounce “I return this money – I do not need payment to forgive.”  Thus his magnanimity is unconditional, and his honor great.[69]

            Nor is any of this immune from manipulation or strategic power plays.  A Syrian friend related the tale of the patriarch of a Druze family whose son had been killed by neighboring Bedouins.  After long discussions and consultations, the patriarch authorized the jaha to convey that, as diya, he would accept one red shoe – meaning a common object of little value.  The family was appalled that he would value the son’s life at such a paltry sum, but the Bedouin family and the community at large was amazed at the gesture and praised the patriarch’s honor and willingness to reconcile and forgive.  Some years later, however, the patriarch led his family in a raid against the Bedouins that resulted in the deaths of 15 Bedouin young men.  The patriarch approached the jaha and said that he was prepared to enter into peace – and offered a diya of 15 red shoes!


            We end as we began.  Sulha reflects assumptions about social order and expectations that in the main are distinct from Western concepts of either justice or self-interest.  Sulha is not about determining guilt, imposing punishment, requiring restitution, warning others through exemplary sentencing, or any of the other state goals of Western criminal law.  Instead it relies upon shared values of forgiveness, honor, respect, and reconciliation through public humility and the sharing of food.[70]  It arises from a perception that appears frequently in the literature: That nobody can carry blood – it is too heavy.[71]

            The peace that sulha provokes is prompted by utilitarian concerns as well.  The society that gave rise to the process was deeply interdependent and could not afford indefinite disequilibrium, or the threat of murderous violence.[72]  Reconciliation through sulha is not just spiritually aspirational; it is economically vital.

So sulha is effective because it is honorable; because it is restorative; because it is permeated with respect; because it is lead by wise and respected people; because it affirms shared social and spiritual values; because it preserves order; but most of all because it is necessary in order for the community to go on with their lives.[73]  Once a reconciliation through sulha is reached, the conflict may no longer be referred to; it is past.  “Once a wound has healed, it cannot bleed again.”[74]

Can this be said for Western mediation, Western society, or Western law?[75] 



[1] This chapter benefitted from interviews held with Anas Ghazi, Hussein Khaddour, Nicholas Khoury, Houssein Al Wasty, and three Damascus lawyers and arbitrators.  However any errors or misinterpretations are the responsibility of the author.


[2] See Irani, G.E. and Funk, N.C., “Rituals of Reconciliation: Arab Islamic Perspectives” in Said, A.A., Funk, N.C. and Kadayifci, A.S. (eds.) Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice (University Press of America 2001) (hereinafter “Irani”) at 171-72 (“In contemporary North America… [c]onflict is accepted as a natural concomitant of self-interest and competition which, when subject to an optimal amount of regulation by carefully designed institutions, keeps societies dynamic, energetic, and strong…. This philosophy, whereby every conflict can be managed or resolved, clashes with other cultural approaches to conflict.”).


[3] Abu-Nimer, M. “Conflict Resolution in an Islamic Context: Some Conceptual Questions” in Said, A.A., Funk, N.C. and Kadayifci, A.S. (eds.) Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice (University Press of America 2001) at 130-32.  For an express comparison of Western mediation and Arab sulha, see Rohne, H-C., “Cultural Aspects of Conflict Resolution – Comparing Sulha and Western Mediation” in Albrecht, H-J., Simon, J-M, Rezaie, H., Rohne, H-C., and Kiza, E., Conflicts and Conflict Resolution in Middle Eastern Societies – Between Tradition and Modernity (Dunker & Humbolt 2006) (hereinafter “Rohne”) 187-214.


[4] Irani at 181.


[5] But see Tarabeih, H., Shmueli, D. and Khamaisi, R., “Towards the Implementation of Sulha as a Cultural Peacemaking Method for Managing and Resolving Environmental Conflicts Among Arab Palestinians in Israel,” 5 J. of Peacemaking and Development No. 1 50 (2009) at 50 (referring to sulha as “a religiously based and culturally accepted social conflict resolution too used in many Muslim societies”).  The likely reason for this misunderstanding is explained by Rohne: “Although pre-Islamic in its origin, with the emergence and evolution of Islam in the Middle East its elements were adopted by Islam and Sulha is now regarded as an integral part of Islamic conflict resolution and has become known primarily as a religious tradition.”  Rohne at 188.


[6] Pely, D., “Resolving Clan-Based Disputes Using the Sulha, the Traditional Dispute Resolution Process of the Middle East,” Disp. Res. J. November 2008-January 2009, at 87 n. 2 (“Sulha is used in Lebanon and throughout the Arab community in Israel.  In Jordan, it is the officially recognized conflict resolution tradition of the Bedouin tribes.  The process differs slightly between regions.”).


[7] Pely, D., “Resolving Clan-Based Disputes Using the Sulha, the Traditional Dispute Resolution Process of the Middle East,” Disp. Res. J. November 2008-January 2009 (hereinafter “Pely”) at 82.


[8] Lang, L., “Sulha Peacemaking and the Politics of Persuasion,” XXXI J. of Palestine Studies No. 3 (Spring 2002) (hereinafter “Lang”) at 53; Irani at 183.


[9] Jabbour, E., Sulha: Palestinian Traditional Peacemaking Process (House of Hope Publications 1996) (hereinafter “Jabbour”) at 16.


[10] Jabbour at 26.


[11] See Jabbour at 36 (In old Arab tradition, the offended family would have the right to revenge within twenty-four hours, within the hot period of extreme anger, described as ‘boiling blood’ in the veins of the victim’s family, (fawrat el-dam)”); Lang at 56 (translating the phrase as “the eruption of the blood”).


[12] Lang at 54.


[13] Irani at 183 (“Private sulh takes place when both the crime and the guilty party are known.”); Rohne at 190 (“[I]nherent in the action is an admission of wrongdoing by the offender and his family as well as an expressions of their willingness to pay the price for that wrongdoing.”).


[14] See Jabbour at 42 (The offending family “admit to their responsibility and are ready to accept whatever just decision may arise from this event.”).


[15] Jabbour at 27; Lang at 56.


[16] Jabbour at 27.


[17] Pely at 82.


[18] Jabbour at 29; Rohne at 190.


[19] The story is told of a jaha that was refused admittance to the victim’s house and instead had ashes poured over them from the roof.  Said one of the jaha, “You have the right to do that.  Go on, go on.  Don’t throw at your enemy – throw at us.  You have the right – pour the ashes – you have the right.”  Jabbour at 46.


[20] Jabbour at 31.


[21] Lang at 54-55 and 65 n.11.


[22] Lang at 57.


[23] Jabbour at 32.


[24] Rohne at 190-91 (“The agreement to Sulha has to be declared by the representative of the offender’s family in a clear tone in the presence of the jaha.”)..


[25] Jabbour at 33.


[26] Jabbour at 35; Irani at 183.


[27] Pely at 83.


[28] Jabbour at 33.


[29] Lang at 56.


[30] Pely at 84.


[31] Jabbour at 34-35.


[32] Jabbour at 40-41.


[33] Jabbour at 41, 48-49, 61.  See also Lang at 58.


[34] See Rohne at 189 (“As customary law, Sulha is an informal system which has been passed down orally.”)


[35] Pely at 84.


[36] Jabbour at 42-42 (“Honorable people will not argue over the money.”); Rohne at 193.


[37] Jabbour at 58 (“OK, for your sake, I will accept it.” (emphasis supplied))


[38] Pely at 85.  For a summary of the ceremony’s parts see Rohne at 195-96.


[39] “This physical contact is of special importance, albeit tense: the person(s) who otherwise would have been the object of revenge is (are) greeted amicably, symbolizing the turning point in the conflict where the tension eases and peace is manifested.”  Rohne at 195.


[40] Jabbour at 52-57; Lang at 59-61; Irani at 184-85.


[41] Jabbour at 27-28.


[42] See Rohne at 189-90 (The reputation that [members of the jaha] enjoy in the community forms the basic element of their legitimacy to mediate in a case.”).


[43] Lang at 57.


[44] Lang at 58.


[45] For a discussion of the derivation and ramifications of honor in traditional nomadic Arab society, see Dodd, P.C., “Family Honor and the Forces of Change in Arab Society,” 4 Int’l J. of Middle East Studies (Jan. 1973) 40.  Dodd explains that, when responsibility for the protection of the family’s security and wealth rests upon the male heir, that heir’s reputation is critical to the sustenance of the group.  The dominant male’s most immediate responsibility is to defend himself in physical combat, but the principle extends to the honor of the women in the family, the collective honor of the family itself, and the collective reputation of the tribe.  In some instances honor is fragile.  “Once lost, [honor] is difficult to regain.”  Id. at 45.


[46] See, e.g., Hourani, A., A History of the Arab Peoples (Warner Books 1992) at 104-08 (explaining the process by which responsibilities in nomadic tribal life bring forth the concept of honor: “It was part of a man’s honour to defend what was his and to respond to demands upon him from members of his family, or of a tribe or larger group of which he was a part; honour belonged to an individual through his membership of a larger whole.”)


[47] Jabbour at 31; Rohne at 194 (“Their willingness to solve the dispute by Sulha is considered to be an honourable act.”).


[48] Jabbour at 34.


[49] Jabbour at 43.


[50] Pely at 84-85.


[51] See, e.g., Pely at 85 (noting a distinction from Western ADR processes because, “once the parties agree to participate, they are bound to accept the outcome”).


[52] Pely at 86.


[53] Pely at 80.


[54] Lang, L., “Sulha Peacemaking and the Politics of Persuasion,” XXXI J. of Palestine Studies No. 3 (Spring 2002) at 52.


[55] Dodd, P.C., “Family Honor and the Forces of Change in Arab Society,” 4 Int’l J. of Middle East Studies (Jan. 1973) at 48.


[56] Lang at 61-63.


[57] Irani at 169 (“Because the teaching and practice of [Western conflict resolution techniques] is a novel phenomenon in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, their testimony has often been greeted with distrust.”).


[58] Jabbour at 45.


[59] Abu-Nimer, M. “Conflict Resolution in an Islamic Context: Some Conceptual Questions” in Said, A.A., Funk, N.C. and Kadayifci, A.S. (eds.) Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice (University Press of America 2001) at 130 (“Such professionalism does not exist in Middle Eastern or Islamic societies.”).

[60] Jabbour at 46-47.


[61] A better term might be “equitability”: the state where both parties think they received the same fraction of the total value in dispute, as each of them assigned value to the components of that total value.  See Brams, S.J. and Taylor, A.D., The Win-Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everybody (W.W. Norton 1999) at 14-15.


[62] Jabbour at 59-60; Irani at 184 (“The sulh ritual is not a zero-sum game.  The ritual must satisfy the community’s need for peace and stability, the needs of each family for dignity and security.  The family of the victim must receive some compensation (even if largely symbolic), and the family of ther perpetrator must pre-empt reprisals and, insofar as possible, save face.”).


[63] Irani at 181 (“Far more is at stake than the interests of individuals.”).


[64] Jabbour at 69-71.


[65] Jabbour at 70; Rohne at 203.


[66] Rohne at 204.


[67] Lang at 55.


[68] Al-Qur’an (Ali, A., trans.) (rev. ed, Princeton University Press 1994) 42:40-43.


[69] Lang at 59.


[70] Said, A.A., Funk, N.C. and Kadayifci, A.S. (eds.) Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice (University Press of America 2001) at 9 (“From an Islamic perspective, the Western approach to peace puts too much faith in institutional formulas, scientific progress, and the “invisible hand” of competition, and too little emphasis on the need for shared values that might protect the individual and the community from misguided or harmful ventures.”)


[71] Jabbour at 57; Lang at 65.


[72] Irani at 182 (Sulha’s value lies in “its recognition that injuries between individuals and groups will fester and expand if not acknowledged, repaired, forgiven and transcended.”).


[73] See Lang at 65:  “The practice of sulha embodies a set of assumptions about the kinds of relationships that ought to exist between people in village society.  These views of the social order are perpetuated with every sulha as they are represented, retold, and reinscribed in the minds of those who participate.”)


[74] Abu-Hassan, M., “Tribal Reconciliation (El-Sulh) in Jordan,” in Albrecht, H-J., Simon, J-M, Rezaie, H., Rohne, H-C., and Kiza, E., Conflicts and Conflict Resolution in Middle Eastern Societies – Between Tradition and Modernity (Dunker & Humbolt 2006) 557.  The removal of injury entirely through reconciliation permits new and advantageous relationships in Bedouin society, including through marriage, that might otherwise be impossible to achieve.  Id. at 561.  This consideration is also the reason why the peace made at the sulha ceremony extends not only to those present, but also to those absent and those not yet born.  Id. at 571.


[75] See Irani at 173 (“[N]on-Western students of conflict resolution are likely to be highly sensitive to the general lack of correspondence between the principles and practices espoused by Western conflict resolution professionals and the actual conduct of Western nation-states (primarily the United States) in the international system.”).

“interests” are nowhere to be found.

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