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Combining history, comparative religion, and political interpretations, the author elucidates Shi'ism and political developments in the Middle East for the Western reader.
The author highlights three main aspects of Shi'a Islam: its historical development, especially the history of the Imans, the rituals, including flagellation and passion plays, and the rules of the mullahs, known as the "government of experts." Halm explains the exalted position of the religious scholars, the mullahs and ayatollahs, who established themselves as clergy in the Safavid Empire and defined themselves as the "administrators" of the Hidden Iman.
The relationship between the rulers of Iran and the mullahs has always been tense.The Khomeini revolution was the powerful culmination of a lengthy historical conflict that has expanded into Iraq and Lebanon after the American invasion in Iraq.