The Shi'is of Iraq

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The Shi'is of Iraq
The Shi'is of Iraq.jpg
AuthorYitzhak Nakash
PublisherPrinceton University Press; Revised edición

The book The Shi'is of Iraq provides considerable information about the Shi'a in Iraq and focuses on the Shi'is of Iraq during a period of major change, beginning with the rise of Najaf and Karbala as the two strongholds of Shi'ism from the mid-eighteenth century and leading up to the collapse of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958.

About the author[edit | edit source]

Yitzhak Nakash teaches Middle Eastern history at Brandeis University. His publications on Iraq and Shi'i Islam have gained recognition in the United States and Europe as well as in the Arab world and in Iran. He is currently completing a new book focusing on Shi'ism and nationalism in the Arab world. Yitzhak Nakash's book The Shi'is of Iraq is "one of the best books on modern Iraq to appear for some time," according to Charles M. Brown on Humanities and Social Sciences Online.

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in Princeton University Press; Revised edition (February 16, 2003), has 336 pages and best sellers rank of 671,776 in Books.

This book intends to show that the Iraqi Shi'is are by and large recent converts to Shi'ism, a result of a development which took place mainly during the nineteenth century. It also tries to show that the essential different characters of Shi'i religion and society in Iraq and Iran was because of diverging development of Shi'i Islam in the two countries.

At first glance the book is a sea of names and numbers but that makes the book verifiable.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

The author with intention of sharpening our understanding of Iraqi society and politics as well as the different manifestations of Shi'ism in the twentieth century, has divided this book into four parts.  

PART ONE: The Formative Years[edit | edit source]

Chapter 1, The Making of Iraqi Shi'i Society

Chapter 2, Years of Upheaval

The first part examines the nature of the state which the mujtahids envisaged in southern Iraq. In the first chapter the author traces the rise of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, and the conversion of many of Iraq's tribes to Shi'ism mainly during the nineteenth century. In the second chapter he shows how the Shi'i mujtahids developed a political theory that illustrates the power of the Shi'i clergy in mobilizing people for political action.

PART TWO: The State and the Shi'is[edit | edit source]

Chapter 3, Exercising Social Control

Chapter 4, The Search for Political Representation

The second part is also composed of two chapters dealing respectively with the rise of the modern state and the search of the Iraq Shi’is for political representation and influence in the state. In the first chapter the author shows that the policies of successive Sunni Iraqi governments split the pre-monarchic Shi’i elite, reduced the position of Najaf and Karbala vis-a-vis Baghdad, and dealt a blow to the position of Persians in the country. He in the second chapter, examines the nature of Sunni Iraqi governments’ demands reflected the search of Shi’is for integration, as well as a position of power, in the state.

PART THREE: The Transformation of Rituals and Religious Practices[edit | edit source]

Chapter 5, The Commemoration of 'Ashura

Chapter 6, Pilgrimage to the Shrine Cities and the Cult of the Saints 

Chapter 7, The Corpse Traffic

The third part contains three chapters. The main point of this part is that the development of Shi'i rituals and religious practices in Iraq during the nineteenth century was closely connected to the process of formation of Iraqi Shi'i society. It also underlines the fact that Arab tribal attributes of Iraqi Shi'i society, as contrasting with the influence of Sufism and elements of martyrdom in Iranian society, were evident in the commemoration of Ashura' and the cult of the saints. The author assesses the impact of the rise of the modern state on the intensity of Shi’i rituals as well as on the pilgrimage and the corpse traffic. In demonstrating the different moral and cultural values of Iraqi Shi'i and Iranian societies. He claims that the Iraqi state succeeded in reducing the effectiveness of Shi'i rituals as a political tool, in decreasing contacts between the shrine cities and Iran, and in curtailing the sources of income of the Shi'i clergy as well as of other groups in Najaf and Karbala.

PART FOUR: The Decline of Financial and Intellectual Institutions[edit | edit source]

Chapter 8, Shi'i Money and the Shrine Cities

Chapter 9, The Shi'i Madrasa in Iraq

The fourth part of this book includes two chapters. these chapters focus respectively on Shi'i money and the Shi'i madrasa and elucidate the different organizational form of Shi'i Islam in Iraq and Iran. The author tries to demonstrate that the lack of community of interest between this Shi'i bourgeoisie and the religious classes in the modern Iraq, undermined the position of Shi'i institutions of higher learning in the country as well as the power of the clergy vis-a-vis the government. He also intends to investigate the process by which many of Najaf’s madrasas lost their economic independence and power and came under state control. The decline of the Shi’i madrasas of Najaf was a major factor in contributing to the rise of those in Qum in Iran in the twentieth century. The author also examines the establishment of a new Iraqi s Shi'i madrasa and its implications in Najaf in 1935, and shows that these developments not only placed much of Iraqi Shi'i religious education under state control, but enabled the government to cultivate a new generation of Shi'i teachers and religious functionaries loyal to the state.

Source[edit | edit source]