The Shia: Identity. Persecution. Horizons is a penetrating historical account about Shia Muslims, enlightening us about their genesis, their struggles and most importantly their contribution to the Islamic faith.
Unlike many similar efforts, this book is not a chronicle of Shia-Sunni rivalries. The book is more focused on what the author believes to be the essence and spirit of Islam. He intelligently differentiates between issues that are linked to Muslim identity and others that are more profound in terms of foundations of faith. Sayyid al-Hakeem, an accomplished scholar and jurists, is not only well qualified to teach us about this subject but his access to the corridors of learning and education in the Holy City of Najaf makes him among the most ideal people to undertake this task.
Sayyid Al-Hakeem introduces the book with an explanation of the principles of Islam adhered to and pursued by the Shia as taught by the Prophet Muhammad and his family. The book is written in a fashion that makes it accessible to all aspiring to acquire knowledge on the subject. It is written in a simple and straightforward fashion. The author’s primary goal is to clearly present the basic facts without delving into more complicated and contested theological arguments. It explains all the central features of faith as understood and practiced by Shia Muslims ranging from the concept of Prophethood & Imamate to a variety of rituals. It presents brief but very useful profiles of the 12 Imams revered especially by the Shia. In addition, it serves as an introduction to how scholarly traditions amongst the Shia were institutionalized despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He also wisely separates the spiritual aspects from the political matters.
The second half of the book briefly outlines the rich history of Shia Muslims as a people and a vibrant culture. The Shia Muslim community has spanned not only the Middle East and modern-day South Asia but various other parts of the world as well. The author then directs his efforts towards exposing the anti-Shia political hostilities in a historical context. He brings their story to the present by scrutinizing their current expressions that are obvious in the shape of current power struggles across the Muslim world. He deserves credit for providing a concise and credible historical account of how various Muslim rulers and regimes targeted sacred places of Islam revered by Shia Muslims in a systematic and coordinated fashion. It is a miracle that both Shia Muslims and their discourse have survived such tyranny and brutality. The passion of defiance against oppression and standing up to bigotry indeed has been the hallmark of Shia history. The Muslim dynasties that ruled over the Middle East for centuries knew well where the challenge to their dogmatism and autocracy could come from. Thus, a concerted effort to silence the Shia (as well as some other Muslim communities) reigned.
From the provocative Islamic revolution in Iran to the increasingly important role of Ayatollah Sistani and the religious establishment in Najaf, the consequences of the empowerment of Shia have varied. For the current power centers in Middle East, this ‘Shia Revival was seen as a challenge to their ways of governing. Globally, this is also seen as rebalancing the power inside the world of Islam. Shia population may be approximately 15 to 20 percent of the total Muslim population worldwide; however, in the Arab heartland it appears to be more of a 40/60 ratio. In relevant geopolitical and economic terms, Shia Muslims are mostly dominant in the oil producing regions of the Middle East.
This poignant and well-timed analysis of the Muslim dynamics brings great clarity to the complex series of events shaping the Muslim world today. It is a must read for both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences who are interested in understanding a Shia perspective that is written with the objective of pursuing inter-religious harmony and peaceful coexistence, encouraging tolerance and defeating sectarian agendas.
About the Author
Sayyid Riyadh Al-Hakeem is a high ranking jurist in the Holy City of Najaf. He has studied and taught in the Islamic Seminaries of Qum and Najaf for over 45 years. He has published a number of works in the Islamic Sciences, both historical and contemporary in significance. Through his work, he has educated and inspired scores of teachers, students, and readers from audiences across the world.
Table of Contents
The Identity of Shia
The Shia Doctrine
Places, Events and Religious Practice
Money, Morals and Society
Brief Glimpses into Shia History
A Broad Overview of Politics and Leadership
Oppression and Genocide
Prospects for the Future
Title: The Shia: Identity, Persecutions, Horizons
Author: Sayyid Riyadh Al-Hakeem
Publisher: Mainstay Foundation
Pub. Date: May 8, 2015