Shi'ism: A Religion of Protest

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Overview

For a Western world anxious to understand Islam and, in particular, Shi’ism, this book arrives with urgently needed information and critical analysis. Hamid Dabashi exposes the soul of Shi’ism as a religion of protest—successful only when in a warring position, and losing its legitimacy when in power.

Dabashi makes his case through a detailed discussion of the Shi’i doctrinal foundations, a panoramic view of its historical unfolding, a varied investigation into its visual and performing arts, and finally a focus on the three major sites of its contemporary contestations: Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. In these states, Shi’ism seems to have ceased to be a sect within the larger context of Islam and has instead emerged to claim global political attention. Here we see Shi’ism in its combative mode—reminiscent of its traumatic birth in early Islamic history. Hezbollah in Lebanon claims Shi’ism, as do the militant insurgents in Iraq,the ruling Ayatollahs in Iran, and the masses of youthful demonstrators rebelling against their reign. All declare their active loyalties to a religion of protest that has defined them and their ancestry for almost fourteen hundred years.

Shi’sm: A Religion of Protest attends to the explosive conflicts in the Middle East with an abiding attention to historical facts, cultural forces, religious convictions, literary and artistic nuances, and metaphysical details. This timely book offers readers a bravely intelligent history of a world religion.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

After the death of the Prophet, a struggle ensued for leadership of the Muslim community. Those who believe the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law Ali was his legitimate successor are called the Shi'i, and Dabashi's book is a fascinating look at this tradition viewed through the lens of such thinkers as Freud, Weber, Habermas, and others.
— Christopher McConnell

Barnes and Noble Review

You can't make sense of the news from the Middle East without some understanding of the ancient division between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Shi'ism: A Religion of Protest, by Hamid Dabashi, offers a comprehensive new history of Shi'ite theology, history, and politics, down to the current conflict in Iraq.
— Adam Kirsch

New York Review of Books

[A] challenging and brilliant new book...Dabashi's extraordinarily rich and powerful book takes Shiism out of the sectarian ghettos where it was largely confined when it became an ideological weapon of the Persian Empire in its rivalry with the Sunni Ottomans. By emancipating Shiism from its instrumental use by the Islamic Republic of Iran, he has performed a vital cultural—and political—service.
— Malise Ruthven

Booklist - Christopher McConnell
After the death of the Prophet, a struggle ensued for leadership of the Muslim community. Those who believe the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law Ali was his legitimate successor are called the Shi'i, and Dabashi's book is a fascinating look at this tradition viewed through the lens of such thinkers as Freud, Weber, Habermas, and others.
Barnes and Noble Review - Adam Kirsch
You can't make sense of the news from the Middle East without some understanding of the ancient division between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Shi'ism: A Religion of Protest, by Hamid Dabashi, offers a comprehensive new history of Shi'ite theology, history, and politics, down to the current conflict in Iraq.
New York Review of Books - Malise Ruthven
[A] challenging and brilliant new book...Dabashi's extraordinarily rich and powerful book takes Shiism out of the sectarian ghettos where it was largely confined when it became an ideological weapon of the Persian Empire in its rivalry with the Sunni Ottomans. By emancipating Shiism from its instrumental use by the Islamic Republic of Iran, he has performed a vital cultural--and political--service.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674049451
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2011
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,423,430
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Hamid Dabashi, an internationally renowned cultural critic and award-winning author, is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. More information can be found at www.hamiddabashi.com.
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Table of Contents

Prelude xi

Preface xv

Introduction 1

I Doctrinal Foundation

1 Death of a Prophet 29

2 Birth of a Revolutionary Faith 47

3 The Karbala Complex 73

II Historical Unfolding

4 In the Battlefields of History 103

5 In the Company of Kings, Caliphs, and Conquerors 132

6 At the Dawn of Colonial Modernity 159

III Visual and Performing Arts

7 Shi'ism and the Crisis of Cultural Modernity 207

8 On Ressentiment and the Politics of Despair 228

9 An Aesthetic of Emancipation 241

IV Contemporary Contestations

10 The Un/Making of a Politics of Despair 263

11 Toward a New Syncretic Cosmopolitanism 277

12 Contemporary Sites of Contestation 296

Conclusion 309

Note on Transliteration 327

Arabic and Persian Glossary 328

Schools of Theology, Philosophy, and Political Thought 338

Chronology 344

Notes 348

Further Reading 385

Acknowledgments 390

Index 393

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