A Shiʿi Lebanese reading of Sunni Hadith: progress, inclusivity, and an empowered contestation of narratives

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Abstract

This article assesses a Shi‘i-Lebanese debate over Sunni Hadith in the context of state formation and Shi‘i integration into this new entity. ʿAbd al-Ḥusayn Sharaf al-Dīn al-Mūsawī, the most authoritative Shi‘i-Lebanese jurist of his time, relied on Sunni compilers of Hadith, to prove the veracity of Shi‘i Islam, to a Sunni audience. Nevertheless, these treatises cannot be viewed as traditional polemics. Instead, they reflected Mūsawī’s position as a proud Shi‘i leader of a community which received historical recognition in the new nation state. Beyond Lebanon, Mūsawī perceived himself as a peer of Sunni modernized forces and thought the time was ripe for acceptance of Shi‘ism, through shared values, a pan-Islamic vision and a critical approach to Hadith, in its content and narrators, within a more humanized depiction of the Companions. Mūsawī did not deviate from classical Shi‘i notions. Nevertheless, he joined forces with Shi‘i reformists in their quest for historical reconciliation with Sunnis, within an expanded notion of orthodoxy. In his understanding, Sunni recognition of a toned down Shi‘i historiography, together with Shi‘i endorsement of Sunni Hadith, may pave the way for a cross-sectarian narrative based on a progressive vision of Islam and on a rational approach to the texts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.

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