Shi'ite Heritage: Essays on Classical and Modern Traditions

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Shiite heritage: essays on classical and modern traditions
Shiite heritage essays on classical and modern traditions.jpg
AuthorLynda Clarke
GenreIslam’s history
PublisherGlobal Academic Publishing

The book Shi'ite Heritage: Essays on Classical and Modern Traditions is a collection in which both modern views and the classical background of Shi’ite tradition are treated.

About the author[edit | edit source]

Lynda Clarke is professor of Religion and Islam in the Department of Religion of Concordia University, Montreal. Dr. Clarke specializes in Shiism, Sufism and Persian language and literature, and is presently engaged in research on current development in Shi’ite law, as well as a translation of the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami's romantic epic, "Layli and Majnum". Her books are:

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in Global Academic Publishing (January 1, 2001), has 418 pages and best sellers rank of 4,779,766 in Books.

Shi'ite Heritage is a very good selection of essays on Shia/Sunni divergence subject that brings together Western and Muslim scholarship on multiple aspects of the Twelver Shi’ite tradition, including history, authority, jurisprudence, ritual, and interactions with the Sunnite majority.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Part 1, THE COMMUNITY IN HISTORY[edit | edit source]

In this part the writer will consider how the Shi’i movement originated in history with a particular allegiance and ideal of right rule and how practical problems inherent in the Shi’i model of authority shaped the movement prior to the final Occultation of the twelfth imam. The essay of Sayyid Jafar Shahidi (the Iranian historian and litterateur) in this part is a sample of his extremely influential work on Islamic and Shi’i history, and on the event of Karbala in particular. In this essay Shahidi examines the milieux of various parts of the Islamic empire of the seventh century in an attempt to understand why the community failed to support Husayn’s mission to Iraq, finally abandoning him and his party to their fate on the arid plain of Karbala. This outcome is regarded by Professor Shahidi as essentially a moral failure. In his view, the deep remorse of a part of the community for this failure was decisive in forming Shi’ism into a political and religious movement.


This part includes essays by two prominent Shi’i clerics: Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Misbah-Yazdi, and Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri. They write their biographies as participants in the tradition. Most of Ayatollah Misbah’s many writings are in the areas of philosophy and ethics and Ayatollah Taskhiri’s writings often address political or ideological issues.


The four essays presented in this part all emerge from the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The first author is Ayatollah Muhaghegh-Damad, whose writings have in general a liberal, reformist cast, although firmly anchored in the Islamic legal tradition. The second author is Dr. Ahmad Mahdavi-Damghani, who has served in the Chamber of Notaries of Iran in various capacities. Dr. Mahdavi, although a mujtahid, is part of a generation of Iranians that experienced de- clericalization under Reza Shah. The third author is Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri. As in the previous essay, he draws on classical jurisprudence in an effort to establish a theoretical background for the practical functioning of the Iranian Shi’i theocracy. The last author, Ayatollah Muhammad Mujtahid Shabistari, is the most profoundly influenced by Western thought of all these scholars. He has written extensively on Islamic law and social philosophy, drawing on Western thought not, he has said, for the sake of imitation, but to provide a sound intellectual or “scientific” (ilmi) basis for Islamic thought.


The essays discussed in this part approach Shi’ism and Sunnism together as different configurations of a shared tradition. It is assumed that we cannot understand the development of Shi’ism in isolation from Sunnism, nor the development of Sunnism without considering the Shi’ism.

Part 5, SHI’ISM BETWEEN MHYTHOS AND LOGOS[edit | edit source]

This part has focused almost exclusively on juristic, Usuli Shi’ism. Juristic Usulism, however, is only one aspect of the Shi’i movement. The writer here argues that a more essential characteristic of Shi’ism has been openness and even persistent attachment to myth and ritual. Thus, she sees juristic Usulism as actually a countertrend or lesser domain within the movement (although certainly a very significant one).  the essays in this part discuss the several forms of Shi’ism, touching at the same time on the countervailing force of the Shi’i logos, juristic Usulism. The first two essays in this part, on the ebb and flow of rationalism and traditionalism in Bahrain and the mystical speculation of Ahmad al-Ahsa5T, deal with tendencies associated with Akhbarism. Akhbarism as a formal school of thought represents that stream of the Twelver movement which rejected the interpretational strategies taken up by Usulism, determining instead to maintain a direct link to the imams through sole reliance on the corpus of their reported sayings (akhbar).

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