Shi'i Sectarianism in the Middle East: Modernisation and the Quest for Islamic Universalism

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"The eruption of violent sectarianism in Iraq following the US invasion in 2003 brought the question of Sunni-Shi'i relations in the country to the forefront of the international public agenda. It also strengthened the popular belief that contemporary Shi'ism is inherently sectarian. Yet several decades earlier, Ayatollah Khomeini had declared an Islamic revolution and downplayed its Shi'i origins and links. So what is the true orientation of Shi'i Islam in the contemporary era and how did modernisation alter its sectarian affiliation? This book contends that early Shi'i reformist thought set the foundations for a more universal-oriented Shi'ism. Prominent reformists in the first half of the twentieth century from the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq and from the Shi'i centres in Southern Lebanon played a significant role in the renewal of Shi'ism and laid the groundwork for its reinvention in the modern era. Exploring this shift towards a more ecumenical perception of Islam, Elisheva Machlis here provides a fresh perspective on inter-sectarian relations in contemporary Iraq and illuminates the intellectual roots of the Islamic revolution, by examining networks of Shi'i scholars such as Muḥammad Ḥusayn Kāshif al-Ghiṭā' and Muḥsin al-Amīn al-'Āmilī, operating within a more globalised Muslim world. Drawing on the experiences of early Shi'i reformists, such as 'Abd al-Ḥusayn Sharaf al-Dīn al-Mūsawī in Lebanon and Muḥammad Jawād Mughniyya in Damascus, this book gives new insight on the future of inter-Muslim relations at a time of growing inter-sectarian contention, from the Iran-Iraq war to the post-2003 Sunni-Shi'i conflict in Iraq and al-Qa'ida's anti-Shi'i message, taking into account questions of theology, historiography, jurisprudence and politics which all played a vital role in the transition to the contemporary era. The author here analyses the broad scholarly connections between Iran, Iraq and Lebanon in the twentieth century, while debating paramount questions of leadership, identity and group membership in the development of modern Shi'ism. Examining the relationship between intellectual thought and socio-political development in the region, this book provides a new perspective concerning the future of an increasingly globalised Muslim world and will prove essential reading for students and specialists."--Bloomsbury Publishing.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherI.B. Tauris
ISBN (Electronic)9780857737786, 9781786739513
ISBN (Print)9781780767208
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameLibrary of Modern Religion


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