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Roots of North Indian Shi’ism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh, 1722–1859

In this book, the writer, Juan Ricardo Irfan Cole has contributed significantly to our understanding both of Nawabi Awadh (Oudh) and also Twelver (isna Ashari) Shi’ism. His detailed study of the social and theological origins and development of the professional Shi’i clergy of Awadh adds mightily to the scholarship on that region. He illuminates the problematic relationships between different schools of Shia theology and the state. Cole’s mastery of the extensive materials produced by this clergy and their contemporaries brings major insights to both these topics.

Two modern events, the 1947 creation of Pakistan out of India and the 1978-79 Iranian revolution, underline the importance of religion as an element of state formation in West and South Asia. One could almost speak of “Muslim nationalism,” but it has recently been suggested that it might be better to substitute an uncontaminated phrase such as “political identity” for the vaguer “nationalism.” Whatever we wish to label it, Muslim separatism and Muslim state-building on a religious basis have profoundly influenced the modern history of Asia, in sharp contrast to the rise of secular government in modern Europe.

How far back to look for the roots of Muslim separatism and religious state building has become a central debate in the study of Asian Islam. The two major approaches to the problem have been called the “instrumental” and the “primordial.” The extreme instrumentalist might say, for instance, that ethnicity is “the pursuit of interest and advantage for members of groups whose cultures are infinitely malleable and manipulable by elites.” He would argue that pre-1947 Muslims and Hindus in the subcontinent differed little from one another, but that different rates of mobilization and the claims of elites to advantage created a split. The primordialist would counter that Islamic religious conceptions so profoundly shape community identity that “the formation of separatist movements on the basis of religious confession, the assertion of a political identity on the basis of religion… does seem to be an especial characteristic of Muslims.”

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Bibliographic Information

Title: Roots of North Indian Shism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh. 1722-1859

Author: Juan Ricardo Irfan Cole

Publisher: University of California Press

 Language: English

Length: 320

ISBN: 978-0-585-15935-5

Pub. Date: 1988

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