Dismissing oversimplified and politically charged views of the politics of Shi’ite Islam, Said Amir Arjomand offers a richly researched sociological and historical study of Shi’ism and the political order of premodern Iran that exposes the roots of what became Khomeini’s theocracy.
The purpose of this study is twofold. Drawing on the sociology of Max Weber, it purports to offer a new interpretive perspective for the analysis of the role of religion in political action and societal change in premodern societies. At the same time, it aims at a comprehensive examination of the Safavid and early Qajar sources pertaining to the establishment and consolidation of Shiite Islam as the state religion of Iran. It is conceived both as a foray into neglected areas of sociological enquiry and an attempt to throw light on a most important era in Iran, social and cultural history. Contempt, views on social change are overwhelmingly influenced by two phenomena: the industrial revolution and the impact of the West on non-Western forms of social and political organization. Important as these phenomena undoubtedly are in world history, they do not by any means exhaust the variety of societal change amenable to sociological analysis. As my subject matter, I have deliberately chosen a different type of societal change, one in which religion acts as the prim, motive force and which focuses on political action and political organization. The historical period under consideration is accordingly circum-scribed so as to excltide the complicating intermingling of the consequences of industrialization and of Western-inspired modernization of the state. The analytical framework of the present study derives from Max Weber, fundamental precepts on the formative role of world religions in societal transformation, my basic premise being that Twelver Shi’ism, as a branch of Islam, can be fruitfully considered a “world religion” as conceptualized by Weber—that is, as an autonomous intellectual pattern or belief system, which is embodied in meaningful social action and enfolded in sentiments.
About the Author
Said Amir Arjomand is Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University. He is the author of The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran and After Khomeini: Iran Under His Successors, as well as the editor or coeditor of several books.
Title: The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Order, and Societal Change in Shi’ite Iran from the Beginning to 1890
Author(s): Said Amir Arjomand
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Length: 368 pages
Pub. Date: November 15, 2010