The aim of this book is to present in their historical context the debates that have been taking place in the Muslim world recently. It describes the place of Iranian culture in contemporary art and thought and the increasing influence Muslims are having on Western societies. In an introductory autobiographical chapter, Mehdi Abedi introduces readers to the world of Shi'ite believers. Beginning with the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 he describes Iranian class structure, patronage network, socialization, and religious psychology and shows how the political consciousness of an entire generation of Iranian youth - both religious fundamentalist and Marxist - was formed and exercised. Continuing with a description of how Muslims read and interpret the Qur'an, Michael Fischer and Mehdi Abedi set the interpretations against contemporary theories of reading in the modernist and postmodernist West and against contemporary Jewish and Christian thought. Other chapters analyze the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca and its various functions; describe the debate about nationalism and Islam between Shariati and Motahhari, two thinkers crucial to the revolution; outline the historical evolution of Baha'ism as apart from Shi'ism; and consider the burgeoning diaspora of Muslims in the West, using Houston as an example. A final chapter considers Iranian art as illustrative of the postmodern, intercultural context of the revolution and of contemporary Islam.
Michael M. J. Fischer is professor of anthropology and director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Mehdi Abedi is research associate in the Anthropology Department at Rice University, where he teaches and lectures on Islam and Iran.