REL 234
Shi'ism Ascendant?
Last Offered Spring 2009
Division II
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

One consequence, intended or not, of recent U.S. actions in the Middle East has been to inflame the Sunni/Shi’ite division and raise fears of Shi’ite ascendancy. Sectarian conflict is, in fact, the exception rather than the rule in Islamic history because Sunnis and Shi’a have in most places been separate and lived relatively peacefully together where they intermixed. This is the fourth time in Islamic history when the specter of an ascendant Shi’ism has occupied the Muslim community. Shi’ism has always been an alliance of the dispossessed and the intellectuals (assuming the latter are not among the former) and functioned in Islam to provide a vocabulary of revolution, a highly developed philosophy of religion, and a pietistic fervor in contrast to which Sunnism emerged. This course will compare the three earlier putative episodes of Shi’ite ascendancy in the eighth, tenth and sixteenth centuries C.E. and set these in conversation with contemporary developments. We will focus on the role of early Shi’ism as the vocabulary of an alternative vision of the legitimacy of the Islamic state, the ideas of the imamate and martyrdom, the emergence of Isma’ili and Twelver versions of Shi’ism, the conversion of Safavid Iran to Shi’ism, the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the scene in the post-Saddam Islamic world.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 30
Expected: 15
Class#: 3604
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation based upon class participation and two short (4-6 page) essays and a final research paper (12-15 pages)
Prerequisites: none; open to all
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: INST Middle Eastern Studies Electives
REL Islamic Tradition Courses

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