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Religious Authority and Political Thought in Twelver Shi‘ism: From Ali to Post-Khomeini

This book is a detailed theoretical study of the doctrine of leadership (Imamate) in Twelver Shi‘i Islam. Hamid Mavani provides not only a traditional perspective on Imamate but also theological, mystical, and philosophical dimensions, which are used as bases in formulating different conceptions of an Islamic state.

The writer demonstrates that Shi‘i scholars have been actively engaged in producing a comprehensive formula for a pluralistic Islamic state during the absence of the hidden Imam. The book argues that there is a possibility for such a model to emerge but only if there is a creative re-interpretation of Islamic legal theory (Ijtihad) and worldview on the inseparability of Religion and State in Islam and on what constitutes a political “authority”.

Ranging from the time of the infallible Imams, to the contemporary era, this book provides a comprehensive overview of Shi’i religious and political authority, focusing on Iran and Lebanon, without limiting the discourse to Khomeini’s version of an Islamic State.

Utilising untapped Arabic and Persian sources, Hamid Mavani provides a detailed, nuanced, and diverse theoretical discussion on the doctrine of leadership (Imamate) in Shi’ism from traditional, theological, philosophical, and mystical perspectives. This theoretical discussion becomes the foundation for an analysis of the transmission of the Twelfth Imam’s religious and political authority vis-á-vis the jurists during his Greater Occultation.

Bringing the often overlooked diversity within the Shi’i tradition into sharp focus, Religious Authority and Political Thought in Twelver Shi’ism discusses what constitutes an Islamic state, if there is such a notion as an Islamic state. Hamid Mavani further explores the possibility of creating a space for secularity, facilitating a separation between religion and state, and ensuring equal rights for all. This book argues that such a development is only possible if there is a rehabilitation of ijtihad. If this were to materialise modern religious, social, economic, political, and cultural challenges could be addressed more successfully. This book will be of use to scholars and students with interests ranging from Politics, to Religion, to Middle East Studies.

About the Author

Hamid Mavani is Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Claremont Graduate University, Department of Religion. Professor Mavani has spent time at the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto, and McGill University, as well as undertaking specialized, theological training at the traditional seminaries in the Muslim world, such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, and Jordan. His primary fields of interest include Islamic legal reform, women and Shi‘i law, Islamic theology and political thought, transnational Islam in Asia, Islam and secularity, intra-Muslim discourse, and Muslims in North America.

Table of Contents


1 The Ethos of Shi’ism

2 Approaches to the Imamate: Traditional, Theological, Philosophical and Mystical

3 Mode of Succession and Imam’s Policy vis-a-vis the Rulers

4 Shi’i State Models during the Major Occultation

5 Khomeini’s Concept of Governance and its Critique

6 The Case for Secularity in Islam: Traditional and Foundational Ijtihad Conclusion

Bibliographic Information

Title: Religious Authority and Political Thought in Twelver Shi’ism: From Ali to Post-Khomeini

Author: Hamid Mavani

Publisher: Routledge

 Language: English

Length: 288

ISBN: 9781138933736

Pub. Date: 2015-07-18

About Ali Teymoori

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