The Shi’i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity

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The Shi’i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity
The Shi‘i World.jpg
AuthorFarhad Daftary, Amyn Sajoo and Shainool Jiwa
PublisherI.B. Tauris

The book The Shi’i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity aims to contribute to a better understanding of Shi’i Islam and the multiplicity of ways in which it is expressed.

About the authors[edit | edit source]

Farhad Daftary completed his early and secondary education in Tehran, Rome, and London, before going to Washington, D.C., in 1958. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the American University there, and then continued his graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, leading to a Ph.D. degree in 1971. Subsequently, Dr. Daftary held different teaching posts, and, since 1988, he has been affiliated with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, where he is currently Co-Director and Head (since 1992) of the Department of Academic Research and Publications.

Amyn B. Sajoo is a Scholar-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies in Vancouver, Canada. A specialist in international human rights, civil society and public ethics, Dr Sajoo was educated at King's College London and McGill University, Montreal. He has taught at the University of British Columbia, McGill, Simon Fraser University and The Institute of Ismaili Studies, and was a 2005 Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University.

Dr Shainool Jiwa is the Head of Constituency Studies and a Senior Research Fellow at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Prior to this, she was the Head of the Department of Community Relations from 2005 to 2012. She was also the founding coordinator of the Qur’anic Studies Project at the IIS (2002-2005). Dr Jiwa is a specialist in Fatimid history, having completed her Master’s degree from McGill University and her doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. As a senior faculty member, Dr Jiwa teaches on the IIS graduate programmes (GPISH & STEP) and contributes to the development of the IIS Secondary Curriculum.

About the book[edit | edit source]

This book published in I.B. Tauris; Sew edition (November 30, 2015), has 408 pages and best sellers rank of 5,228,413 in Books.

This study is an impetus to develop an informed understanding of how the Shi’i communities of interpretation view themselves, through examining their history and lived experience across the centuries in varied geographic and cultural landscapes.

Abstract of chapters[edit | edit source]

Chapter 1: Remembering Muhammad[edit | edit source]

Omid Safi in this chapter examines how Muhammad’s legacy has unfolded in the collective memories and experiences of all the Muslim communities. He recalls the ‘theological sisterhood of the monotheisms’, with the twin aims of developing a deeper appreciation of that complex relationship as well as shedding light on the modern context of interfaith and communal relations. Safi concludes that the memory of Muhammad ‘is most fully honored beyond ownership’.

Chapter 2: Imam Ali[edit | edit source]

At the beginning of this chapter Shah-Kazemi notes that “to speak about Shi’i Islam is quintessentially to speak of Imam Ali b. Abi talib”. He focuses on walaya in which he discerns two complementary principles: the first being ‘spiritual authority or guardianship, which derives from proximity to God, love, intimacy or friendship with Him’; and the second being ‘fidelity, devotion, and affiliation manifested by the follower’ to the wali Allah, the friend of God. Walaya to the Prophet and his progeny, which came to be varyingly interpreted by the many Shi’i denominations, is the central principle of Shi’i Islam.

Chapter 3: Imam ja‘far al-Sadiq and the Elaboration of Shi‘ism[edit | edit source]

Karim Douglas Crow in this chapter traces Ja’far al-Sadiq’s legacy as a unifying figure for Muslims of various persuasions, which has led to his being acknowledged as an authority by most legal schools. Crow notes how al-Sadiq’s shaped the incipient communal identity of the Imami Shi’a and following his demise, this community coalesced into the two major branches of Shi’i Islam – the Ismailis and the Ithna’asharis. He also notes that, drawing upon the teachings of his father Imam Muhammad al-Baqir as well as those of his forefathers, al-Sadiq portrayed the imams as ‘divinely designated initiatic guides and authoritative exponents of salvific knowledge’.

Chapter 4: Legal traditions[edit | edit source]

Andrew j. Newman in this chapter notes that what has come to distinguish Shi’i law from Sunni law is, ‘the former’s derivation from the practices of, and narratives attributed to, the imams, as well as its recourse to a distinctly Shi‘i form of ijma (consensus) and ijtihad (independent legal judgment)’. He also highlights the point that among the Shi’a, there is a ‘shared discursive pluralism’ of legal opinion about key facets of theology and daily practice that have engendered varying pathways.

Chapter 5: Intellectual Traditions[edit | edit source]

In this chapter Paul E. Walker argues that, while Shi’i Islam revolves around a specific doctrine of the imamate which deems the succession to the Prophet to belong to Imam Ali and his descendants, it does this not only on the basis of faith and inherited tradition but also by establishing intellectual proofs, that is, by means of ‘rationally determined judgement’. In so doing, he highlights the role of philosophy and its use as a means of articulating the Shi’i worldview.

Chapter 6: Governance and Pluralism under the Fatimids (909–996 ce)[edit | edit source]

In this chapter Shainool Jiwa analyses a number of early Fatimid texts to reiterate the symbiotic relationship between doctrine and history. Her discussion of this reiterates the charismatic religious and temporal authority which the Fatimid Imam-caliphs asserted as their designated inheritance from the Prophet, which thus accorded them the distinction of being the supreme source of law and doctrine.

Chapter 7: moral Authority in the Safawid State[edit | edit source]

Rula J. Abisaab in this chapter examines the ethical tropes and dilemmas with which jurists in the service of the Safawids had to grapple in order to arrive at their rulings. She demonstrates how these jurists implemented the shari’a’s legal-ethical principles in the emerging Shi’i society of the Safawid empire. Abisaab elucidates the dynamics of the Shi’i ethicallegal nexus through a review of the status of the Friday prayer, which also reflected issues related to the scope of authority of the Ithna’ashari ulama in the Safawid state.

Chapter 8: Devotional Practices[edit | edit source]

This chapter focuses on reverence for the ahl al-bayt, the family of the Prophet, which is a recurring theme throughout the book. Ali S. Asani notes that while veneration for Ali and other members of the Prophet’s family is a quintessential marker of Shi’i piety, it is not unique to the Shi’a. He concludes that it is the doctrine of walaya, and the theological and cosmological frameworks that it engenders as regards the Shi‘i imams, that distinguishes Shi‘i practices from those of other Muslim groups.

Chapter 9: Shi’i Communities in history[edit | edit source]

Farhad Daftary in this chapter provides an overview of the historical origins and conceptual developments that have shaped the course of the major branches of Shi’i Islam, including the Ithna‘asharis, the Ismailis and the zaydis.

Chapter 10: Remembering Fatima and Zaynab: Gender in Perspective[edit | edit source]

Zayn Kassam and Bridget Blomfield in this chapter explore gender perspectives in Shi‘i narratives and review the role of seminal female figures in the Prophet’s progeny including Fatima and her daughter Zaynab, as well as their descendant Nafisa, and other female figures, including those who were at Karbala and those from later periods of Shi‘i history; They became examples for the Shi‘i faithful of their time, as well as serving as models of valour, piety and agency for Shi‘i women in particular.

Chapter 11: Art and Architecture[edit | edit source]

Jonathan M. Bloom addresses the definition of Shi’i art in this chapter. He provides a discursive survey of some of the memorable architecture commissioned by Shi’i rulers, including al-Azhar mosque, built in Cairo under the Fatimids, and the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad. In his survey, Bloom identifies certain characteristics that designate a piece of art or indeed a building as having a Shi’i provenance, through its inscriptions, its functions and its patronage.

Chapter 12: Literature[edit | edit source]

Eric Ormsby explores in this chapter what distinguishes Shi’i literature from that of other Muslim literary traditions. He examines several examples of Shi’i literature including The Path of Eloquence (Nahj al-balagha) of Imam Ali, the Epistles of the Ikhwan al-Safa and the writings of Nasir-i Khusraw and Farid al-Din Attar, in search of an answer. He also notes that there is ‘an abiding sense of the contrast between outer and inner truth, the zahir and the batin’ which characterizes most Shi’i works, and which it shares with Sufi mystical traditions.

Chapter 13: music[edit | edit source]

In this chapter William Sumits presents the musical diversity of the Shi’i world through time and across regions, using selected genres and master musicians as examples. He considers the role of musicians to be ‘bearers of tradition and transmitters of cultural patrimony’.

Chapter 14: Shi’ism in Iranian Cinema[edit | edit source]

Nacim Pak-Shiraz in this chapter endeavors to examine how films share and engage with Shi’i expressions of Islam and illustrate a complexity which ranges from legalistic and formalistic approaches to the more popular and personal interpretations. She lists a rich range of views, academic, religious and practitioner, on how film should engage with religion and spirituality in the Iranian context. She concludes by noting: ‘These filmic discourses constitute a new addition to the rich corpus of Shi’i religious expressions in literature, poetry, art and architecture.’

Chapter 15: Diasporas[edit | edit source]

In this chapter Zulfikar Hirji and Karen Ruffle focus on Shi’i diasporas. They examine the histories, social forms and cultural expressions of selected Shi’i settlements in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe and North America. They also delineate some features such as the views of these communities on authority and identity, spaces of worship and gathering, rituals, gender, engagement with the state, transnational formations and relations with other Muslim groups. At the end, they illustrate how, despite the dislocation engendered by migration, many Shi’i communities have flourished in the global age.

Chapter 16: modernity: The Ethics of Identity[edit | edit source]

Amyn B. Sajoo in the last chapter of this book probes the ethics of identity. He examines the pressures that ‘modernity and its social imaginaries’ make on the particulars of communal identity for the Shi’a in their varied social environments today, including the many diasporas. He also finds that while the Twelvers, Ismailis and zaydis are generally recognized, other groups such as the Turkish Alevis have been regarded as less amendable to any categorization as Shi’i. Sajoo concludes: ‘The notion that identities can or ought to flourish in splendid isolation rests on a conflation of the “distinctive” and the “exclusive”; while the former may be laudable in favoring a positive sense of selfhood, the latter will most likely favor chauvinism.’

Source[edit | edit source]