What is it about?

Twelver Shi`i (Shiite) Islam is the religion of the majority of the population of Iran and there are millions also in the countries of the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. This paper proposes that a major theme of the history of Shi`i (Shiite) Islam has been a struggle between a legalistic interpretation of religion and a more mystical, ethical, devotional interpretation. This paper traces that struggle in Iran from the victory of the legalistic school (the Usuli school) in about 1770, describing the various movements (Akhbari, Shaykhi, Babi, Baha'i) that have tried to take Shi`i Islam in the opposite direction.

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Why is it important?

In the standard works on the subject, the history of Shi`i Islam is told from the viewpoint of the victors (the Usuli school). This conceals the fact that what are now considered to be the norms of Shi`i Islam have not always been so, nor are they accepted by all Shi`i Muslims.

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This page is a summary of: The Struggle for the Soul of Twelver Shiʿism in Qajar Iran, Die Welt des Islams, March 2020, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15700607-00600a01.
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