Sami Makarem

Academic - Philosopher - Artist

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1931 - Sheikh Nassib Makarem with his sons, Sami (L) and Saiid (age 3)

A Cultural Symbol

Sami Makarem (Arabic: سامي مكارم‎) (April 14, 1931 – August 21, 2012) was born in Aytat, in the district of Aley. He is one of Lebanon’s most highly regarded scholars.

Sami Makarem was the son of Sheikh Nassib Makarem (1889 – 1971), the famous calligraphic artist, and Wassila Sleiman Faraj.

Dr Sami Makarem was considered one of the major cultural symbols of the Druze community. He was an historian with a philosophical tendency and an unparalleled depth of originality and creativity. Not just an academic, historian, writer and poet, Sami Makarem became, in the latter stage of his life, an accomplished artist and calligrapher with few counterparts.

The late Sami Makarem has been described as “one of the gurus of literature, art and history” – “he was an entire university, an institution in itself, and an encyclopedia of knowledge, science and ideas.”

He grew up in the Druze community, at one of its most difficult periods – the transition from a thousand-year-old past to a present that fluctuates at the speed of light, able to accommodate change, and to integrate them and live with both.

Today, his legacy lives on. In 1971, he purchased from his friend and neighbour, Sheikh Aref Talhouk, the 17th century former military headquarters of the Talhouk clan in Aytat. Under the guidance of his son, Samir, the complex has been transformed into the Sami Makarem Cultural Centre, to preserve his knowledge, art and history for future generations.

Tribute to Nasser-Eddine

Sami Makarem’s father sent him to receive his elementary and intermediate education at the Lycée in Beirut and secondary sciences at the Lebanese College in Souk El Gharb. He then moved to the American University of Beirut for tertiary education.

In 1953, at the age of 22, he wrote a eulogy for the passing of the famous writer and poet Amin Nasser Eddine, of Kfarmatta.

A veteran journalist, novelist and linguist, and acomplished speaker, Amin Nasser Eddine belonged to the Nasserite religion and to the Tannoukh princes who ruled Lebanon from the 10th to the 16th century. His father was Sheikh Ali bin Yusuf bin Nasser al-Din, the first to establish a Druze newspaper – Safa newspaper – in 1886 – one of the first newspapers in the Arab world.

1953 - A eulogy written by Sami Makarem for Amin Nasser Eddine

From Aytat to Ann Arbor

Sami Makarem obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Philosophy in 1954 and his Master’s Degree in Arabic Literature in 1957 from the American University of Beirut.

Meanwhile, he taught Arabic Literature at the Lebanon College of Souk El Gharb then at Al Sirat College in Aley.

He then left Lebanon for the US – to study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1963, he obtained  his PhD. in Middle Eastern Studies, specializing in Islamic Batini Studies. In addition, he taught Arabic at the same university for three years.

It was also in America in 1962 that Sami Makarem met and married his wife, Julia Mullin (Melhem) with whom he had two daughters – Sahar and Rand – and twin sons – Nassib and Samir.

Julia Makarem was among the first to research and document the history, culture and perceptions of the Druze, in English language. She was also a highly-regarded educator in Lebanon and America.

In 1963, Sami Makarem returned to his home country, where he was appointed professor of Arab culture at the Lebanese University until 1964. He was then appointed as an assistant professor of Arabic literature and Islamic Thought at the American University of Beirut, until 1971. Following that, he was an adjunct professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic thought (1971-1985).

At the same time, he was head of the Department of Arabic and Near East Studies at the American University (1975-1978), as well as director of the School of Oriental Studies. He was appointed Head of the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages (1993-1996) and fluctuated until the end of his life in the higher scientific centers of the American University.

In addition, he gave lectures, interviews and television and radio talks on topics of his competence and often on monotheistic affairs. He was also active in the Druze community, interested in its cultural affairs, participating in several institutions and councils, close to the late Sheikh Mohammed Abu Shakra and the great leader Kamal Jumblatt and later his son, Walid.

It was only after the passing of his father, Sheikh Nassib Makarem in 1971, that Sami Makarem discovered the scope of his own artistic talent. Prior to that, he had no real inkling of this ability.

Initially, he followed the “rules” of traditional Arabic calligraphy, producing works of a similar artistic ilk to that of his father.

Before long, he developed his own unique style of artistry (photos below).

“He veered away from the classical approach – he was rebellious and broke every rule of conventional Arabic calligraphy,” says his son, Samir Makarem, who is now restoring and curating the Sami Makarem Cultural Center in Aytat.

“He made the letters dance, he freed it from restrictions, he added color and made it flow – his style was exclusive to him.

“It took a lot of courage to defy all conventions.”

Sami Makarem participated in many successful art exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad, and also published books in this field.

In his literature, he specialized in the historical research of the Tawhid sect. He published a number of books regarding history and faith, in Arabic and English, and published a large number of articles on this subject which have become an important reference in the history of the Druze.

sami makarem and artwork
Dr Sami Makarem
Julia Makarem
Samir Makarem
dr sami makarem drawing calligraphic artwork
book by dr sami makarem

Prolific Writer

Dr Sami Makarem wrote over twenty five books mainly concerning Islamic history and studies, Lebanese history and the Druze faith, in addition to a great number of articles in different specialized periodicals, and hundreds of art works.
• Al-Shi’r al-‘Arabi fi Lubnan Bayn al-Harbayn al-‘Alamiyyatayn (Arab Poetry in Lebanon between the Two World Wars), 1957
• Ash-Shafiya, an Ismaili Poem Attributed to Shihabeddin Abu Firas (Edition and Translation into English with Notes and Introduction by Sami Makarem),1966
• Shiraz Madinat al-Awliya’ wash-Shou’ara’, a Translation of A. Arberry’s Shiraz Persian City of Saints and Poets, 1966
• Adwa’ ‘ala Maslak at-Tawhid (Lights on the Druze Faith), 1966
• Al-Islam fi Mafhum al-Muwahhidin (Islam in the Druze Understanding), 1970
• The Doctrine of the Ismailis, 1972
• The Political Doctrine of the Ismailis; The Imamate, 1979
• Al-Hallaj,1989, New Edition, 2004
• ‘Ashiqaat Allah (The loving “Saints” of God), 1994
• Ash-Shaykh ‘Ali Faris Waliyy min al-Qarn ath-Thamin ‘Ashar (Shaykh Ali Faris, An eighteenth-century Druze saint) 1998
• Lubnan fi ‘ahd al-Umara’ at- Tanukhiyyin (Lebanon Under the Tanukhid Emirs), 2000
• Al Taqiyya fil Islam (Dissimulation in Islam), 2004
• Al-‘Irfan fi Maslak at-Tawhid (Mysticism in the Druze Faith), 2006

•  Introduction to the book – History of Abdul Malak’s Territories in Lebanon by Abdul Majid Abdul Malak, 2000

"He was an entire university, an institution in itself, and an encyclopedia of knowledge, science and ideas"

Words of acknowledgement for Dr. Sami Makarem

In addition to his academic contributions in the fields of Islamic studies, Sufism, Islamic history, and his artistic contribution, he published three works of poetry:
• Mir’at ‘ala Jabal Qaf (A mirror on Mount Qaf) (1996),
• Daw’ fi Madinat ad-Dabab (A Light over the city of Mist) (1999)
• Qasa’ed Hubb ‘ala shati’ Mir’at (Love poems on the shores of a Mirror) (2004).


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Honors & Awards

Dr Sami Makarem was the recipient of many awards and honors.

• Member in a ministerial committee to study the subject of teaching 
civil education in high schools, 1972-73.

• Honorary citizen of the city of Houston, Texas, 1978.

• Holder of the key of the city of Huston, Texas, 1978.

• Member of the Board of Trustees of the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace, Beirut.

• Secretary-General and member of the Board of Trustees of the Druze Center for Research and Development, Beirut.

• Member of the Board of Trustees of the Walid Jumblatt Foundation for University Studies, Beirut.

• Order of the Arab Historian, Ittihad al-Mu’arrikhin al-Arab), 1993.

• Secretary General of the Druze Council for Research and Development.

dr sami makarem calligraphy
sufi artwork by sami makarem
calligraphy arabic by sami makarem
calligraphy art by sami makarem aytat
calligraphy dr sami makarem aytat
calligraphy arabic sami makarem
Picture of Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Heather & Sami Eljurdi

Founders • Archivists • Editors

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