Sociology of Shiite Islam

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Sociology of Shiite Islam
Sociology of Shiite Islam.jpg
AuthorSaid Amir Arjomand

The book Sociology of Shiʿite Islam is a study of development of Shiʿism from its sectarian formation in the eighth century to the Islamic revolution Iran in the twentieth century.

About the author[edit | edit source]

Saïd Amir Arjomand is an Iranian-American scholar and Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University, Long Island, Director of the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies and the founder and President (1996-2002, 2005-08) of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies. He received his Ph.D. in 1980 from the University of Chicago.

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in BRILL (June 14, 2018), has 498 pages and best sellers rank of 4,929,263 in Books. The present book is the collection of scholarly articles with historical analysis of Twelver Shi‘i Islam. These essays are grouped into four parts.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Part 1: Formation of Shiʿite Islam as a World Religion of Salvation: Imamate, Occultation and Theodicy[edit | edit source]

The first part addresses the historical formation of Shi‘ite Islam from the eighth to thirteenth centuries. In this formative period, the distinctive features of Twelver Shiʿism as a world religion of salvation as defined by Max Weber took definitive form: the doctrines of Imamate and Occultation, followed somewhat later by a theodicy of suffering missing in the world-affirming mainstream of Sunni Islam. According to author’s opinion, world religions provide solutions to the problem of meaning. He in this part, tries to answer the question of how human suffering can be reconciled with the justice of God/divinity.

Part 2: Shiʿite Religion and the Structure of Domination in Iran[edit | edit source]

This part of the book, which contains four essays, examines the long-term changes in the structure of domination that resulted from the establishment of Twelver Shiʿism in Iran by the Safavids (1501–1722). Twelver Shi‘i Islam under the Safavids gradually transformed from a sectarian minority religion into the national religion of the majority of Iranians. This process required a redefinition of clerical authority as impersonal authority of office that was a kind of return to the “Caesaropapism” of Safavids, in the form of theocratic monarchy.

Part 3: The Bearers of Shiʿite Islam and Its Institutional Organization[edit | edit source]

The third part of the book, with its four essays, examines the early ʿulamāʾ as bearers of the Shiʿite religion in the mid-ninth century, and the changing composition, character and organization of the bearers of Shiʿism through the ages. In the formative period of its history—the eighth and ninth centuries, the bearers of Shiʿite Islam were the charismatic holy Imams themselves, aided by the administrative and fiscal bureaucracy of their agents. In the tenth century and after the onset of the period of Occultation, the bureaucracy at the seat of the eleventh Imam came under control of the leading Imami families who gained prominence at the service of the ʿAbbasid caliphs in Baghdad, most notably the Nawbakhtis. The man directly in charge of the Imāmi bureaucracy was, however, the head of the representatives who maintained that there was a young twelfth Imam alive, and that he was in fact in hiding.

Part 4: Shiʿite Islam and the Motivation of Sociopolitical Action: Revolution and Constitution[edit | edit source]

The final part of the book in particular deals with pendulum swings such as shifts from routinized piety to revolutionary action to thence to constitutional reconstruction. These connect two Shiʿite revolutions nearly five centuries apart. The first Shi‘i revolution was the change brought about by the Safavids. The second was the revolutionary changes made by the 1979 Islamic Revolution and these changes had a profound effect on the Shi‘i political theology. The first revolution was intended to be a global Shiʿite revolution in the beginning of the sixteenth century, probably with the Ottoman empire as its primary target, but in the end resulted in the establishment of Twelver Shiʿism in Iran as the official religion of the new Safavid empire. We see that the conversion of Iran to Shiʿism after the Safavid revolution required a ruthless policy of elimination of rival Sufi orders, and of Sunnism of the Safavid state, which drastically reduced religious diversity in Iran. In brief, we have a socio-political back-and-forth movement of Twelver Shi‘ism between revolution and constitution.

Source[edit | edit source]