The book “Shi’i Law and Leadership” analyzes the influence of the nineteenth century scholar and head of the international Shi’i community, Mortaza Ansari.
Although ethnically Persian, Ansari lived most of his life in the Shi’i center of learning in Najaf, Iraq. Ansari’s major contribution to Shiʻi jurisprudence was his redefinition of essential legal terms. Additionally, he advanced a theory that made emulation of a living cleric a religious duty for all lay Shi’is. Ansari became the first sole supreme exemplar (marja’ at-taqlid) for the international Shi’i community. He spent his tenure as the head of the community training students, writing, extending his network of scholars, and collecting and distributing charitable donations. Ansari’s successors used the power of a more unified Shi’i community largely for political activism, which was a departure from the practices of Ansari himself. Ansari’s immediate successor successfully challenged the Qajar Persian government in the Tobacco Revolt in 1890, which emboldened future clerics to take on the powers of the state in the 1905 Constitutional Revolution and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
About the Author
Zackery M. Heern is an academic, specializing in the Middle East and Islamic Studies. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Idaho State University. Oneworld Publications published his latest book, titled “The Emergence of Modern Shi’ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran.” According to The Economist, Heern “refreshingly teases out the parallels between the three movements” of Usuli Shi’ism, neo-Sufism, and Wahhabi Sufism. In an article published by Your Middle East, Heern argues that “the birth of modernity in the Islamic world is associated with the political decentralization of the so-called Islamic gunpowder empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals.”
Title: Shi’i Law and Leadership: The Influence of Mortaza Ansari
Authors: Zackery M. Heern
Publisher: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing
Length: 92 pages
Pub. Date: March 22, 2010