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Martyrs Of Karbala

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    religion and politics in Shi'i Islam society

    The Shi'i branch of Islam makes up only about 15 percent of the religion. But counting for nearly the entire population of Iran and 60 percent of Iraq's, the Shi'i have a crucial influence on Middle East and world affairs from their numbers in these strategically important countries. A professor of Islamic and Iranian history at the U. of Texas-Austin, Aghaie gives a view of Shi'i culture in Iran that is eye-opening and germane for Western readers. Basically, one sees that for the Shi'i there is no clear, or even worthwhile, distinction between religion and other aspects of society, including most significantly government. Whereas such a distinction is a part of the foundation of the U. S. and other democracies, Shi'i culture was founded with the defeat of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hoseyn and the massacre of his family by the caliph Yazidin in the 680AD battle of Karbala. Shi'i religious ceremonies, motives for behavior, social purposes, and community goals grew out of this defeat. A special intensity and commitment, as well as sacrifice, was called for so Islam as expressed by Mohammad and his descendants would not be lost. This branch of Islam faith is distinguished from that reflected in the institutional rule of the caliphs came about throughout most of the Middle East. Aghaie's subject is the relationship between Iranian leaders from the Qajars of the 19th and early 20th century through the Shah of Iran to today's Islamic Republic and the symbols and rituals of Shiism. The Shah of Iran was overturned in a revolution because in an effort to modernize Iran, he sought to minimize the symbols and rituals. The work brings an insight into the Shi'i culture that is timely and germane considering current events in Iran and Iraq and U. S. ambitions to institute democracy in this area.

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