Shi'ism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality

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Shi'ism: Doctrines, Thought and Spirituality
Shi'ism Doctrines Thought and Spirituality.jpg
AuthorSeyyed Hossein Nasr
GenreIslamic Historic
PublisherSUNY Press

The book Shi'ism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality will give the readers an awareness of Shi'ism as a religious and cultural tradition with a long history and its own distinct educational system, theological and philosophical thought, piety, and religious practices.

About the authors[edit | edit source]

Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. He is the only Muslim to be included in the Library of Living Philosophers and has written over 50 books and over 500 articles and remains one of the most influential Muslim scholars in the world for his work on Islamic tradition and philosophy.

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Born in Iran, he received a dual PhD in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Dabashi has written 20 books, edited four, and written over 100 chapters, essays, articles and book reviews.

Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr is Dean and Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, a non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Contributor to Bloomberg View. He is a member of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Advisory Board to advise the Secretary of State on global issues. Between 2009 and 2011 he served as Senior Advisor to U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in SUNY Press (September 13, 1988), has 422 pages and best sellers rank of 7,886,701 in Books.

This book is an anthology of the most significant writing on the doctrinal, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of Shi’ism and hopes that Shi'ism will be seen as an integral part of the Islamic tradition, in dynamic relationship with the Sunni majority and a major facet of Islamic history.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Part I. Origins[edit | edit source]

  • Chapter 1: Shi'i View of Religion in General and Shi'ism in Particular by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I
  • Chapter 2: The Roots of Shi'ism in Early Islamic History by MAHMUD SHAHABI
  • Chapter 3: The Shi'i Interpretation of the Qur'an by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and MURTADA MUTAHHARI
  • Chapter 4: The Shi'i Interpretation of Hadith Literature by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and S. M. WARIS HASAN
  • Chapter 5: The Nahj al-Balaghah and the Teachings of the Imams by SYED HUSSEIN M. JAFRI and IMAM 'ALI
  • Chapter 6: Doctrinal Divisions Within Shi'ism by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I

In this part the Shi'i view of religion in general and Shi'ism in particular is presented. Shi'ism has developed an extensive set of sciences of the Qur'an, which make possible the understanding of both its outward and inner meaning. Then we become aware of the relationship between Shi'ism and the Islamic revelation, the Shi'i view of this basic religion discipline, and the Shi'i view on Hadith (Hadith includes not only the sayings of the Prophet, as one finds in Sunni Islam, but also those of the Twelve Imams), as understood traditionally. After that, the authors in this part, follow dealing with the Nahj al-balaghah of 'Ali ibn Abu Talib, a work whose significance for Shi'i thought hardly can be overemphasized, and also dealing with the teachings of the Imams, although a selection also is provided of the actual words of 'Ali that explains the doctrinal divisions within Shi'ism and separates Twelve-Imam Shi'ism from Isma'ilism and Zaydism.

Part II. The Shi'i Position vs. Other Divisions Within Islam[edit | edit source]

  • Chapter 7: Shi'ism and Sunnism by HAMID ENAYAT
  • Chapter 9: Shi'ism and Sufism by SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR

This part deals with the complex question of the relation between Shi'ism and Sunnism, which is followed by the vast majority of Muslims, the relationship among various branches of Shi'ism (Twelve-Imam Shi'ism, the Isma'ili and the Zaydi), and the important and complicated issue of the relationship between Shi'ism and Sufism. This complicated theological relationship and interwined destiny, on the one hand, and external opposition, on the other, is analyzed mostly with Persia in mind rather than India.

Part III. Shi'i Doctrines and Beliefs[edit | edit source]

  • Chapter 10: The Shi'i View of God by ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and WILLIAM CHITTICK
  • Chapter 11: The Shi'i View of Revelation and Prophecy by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and 'ALLAMAH AL-HILLI
  • Chapter 12: The Imams and the Imamate by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and HENRY CORBIN
  • Chapter 13: Shi'i Hermeneutics by HENRY CORBIN
  • Chapter 14: Taqiyyah by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and HAMID ENAYAT
  • Chapter 15: Mut'ah or Temporary Marriage by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I and SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR
  • Chapter 16: Eschatology by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I
  • Chapter 17: Ijtihad and Marja'iyyat MAHMUD RAMYAR and LEONARD BINDER

This chapter is concerned with what lies at the heart of Shi'ism, as that of any religion, namely, doctrines and beliefs and emphasizes the doctrine of the Unity of God (al-tawhid) as the central axis of all religious belief. Then explains the way Shi'is envisage the meaning of revelation, the nature of prophecy and the prophets, and the finality of the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam. The authors in this chapter also discuss the traditional Shi’i doctrine of the Imamate, and investigate the same subject with great sympathy and understanding, especially its more esoteric dimensions. Then the chapter, concentrates on the spiritual significance of Shi'i practice of temporary marriage and looks at the social and political significance of that. It explains the traditional foundations of this practice at the time of the Prophet, its human and social effects, and reasons why it is accepted by Shi’i law. After that, the complicated doctrines of eschatology are summarized to complete the basic doctrinal teachings of Shi'ism. The last section of this chapter presents certain Shi'i legal doctrines that are of the utmost importance for understanding its social and political teachings (ijtihad). Then some questions, which lie at the heart of the power and function of Shi'i religious scholars, or 'ulama', are examined.

Part IV. Shi'i Spirituality and Piety[edit | edit source]

  • Chapter 18: Religious Rites, Prayers, and Supplications by SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR
  • Chapter 19: Diverse Religious Practices by AYATOLLAH ABU'L-QASIM KHU'I and others
  • Chapter 20: Jihad by SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR

This chapter looks at various religious rites, as well as prayers and supplications. The rites that are nearly the same as those of Sunni Islam, with minor differences that, for the most part, vary no more than those among various Sunni schools. Then a sample of some prayers is provided, the prayers that hold a key for the understanding of Shi'i religious attitudes and of the tapestry of the soul of the Shi'i faithful. It also provides a number of religious practices prevalent among Shi'is which range from processions and the passion play (ta'ziyyah) during the month of Muharram to religious sermons related to the tragedy of Karbala, also practiced mostly during Muharram but also Safar, and pilgrimage to the tomb of local saints. These selections deal with the inner meaning of jihad and its centrality to the religious life.

Part V. The Intellectual and Artistic Life[edit | edit source]

  • Chapter 21: Shi'i Education by ROY MOTTAHEDEH
  • Chapter 23: Intellectual Sciences and Philosophy by 'ALLAMAH TABATABA'I, cABD AL-RAZZAQ LAHIJI, and MUHSIN FAYD KASHANI
  • Chapter 24: Shi'i Literature by MAHMUD AYOUB, E. G. BROWNE, PETER CHELKOWSKI, and SHAYKH AL-MUFID
  • Chapter 25: Shi'ism and Art by NADER ARDALAN and SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR
  • Chapter 26: Shi'ism and the Natural Sciences and Mathematics by NADER ARDALAN and SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR

This chapter discusses the Shi'i educational system, which has drawn a great deal of attention since the recent rise of the political power of the Iranian 'ulama', who are products of this system. This educational system has been the refuge for the Shi'i sciences, both the juridical and the theological. It summarizes Shi'i theology to clarify the Shi'i attitude to these disciplines and provide a taste of this later philosophico-theological school. The authors in this part examine various facets of this specifically Shi'i literature in a scholarly manner. At the end of this part, a selection from the fourth/tenth century Shi'i scholar and theologian, Shaykh al-Mufid, provides a primary example of classical Shi'i literature.

Part VI. Shi'i Thought in the Twentieth Century[edit | edit source]


In the last chapter of this book, attention is focused upon this century. Until the political events of the last decade turned the interest of Western observers to Shi'ism, few were aware of the living Shi'i intellectual tradition that has continued to this day. The Western categories of medieval and modern have hardly any meaning when applied to Islamic history, especially in the intellectual field. The author of this chapter brings out the traits of this contemporary intellectual tradition, based to a large extent upon the teachings of Sadr al-Din Shirazi by selections from the writings of four of the most famous Shi'i religious scholars of this age.

Source[edit | edit source]