During the formative period of Islam, in the first centuries after Muhammad's death, two particular intellectual traditions emerged, Sunnism and Shi'ism. Sunni Muslims endorsed the historical caliphate, while Shi'i Muslims, supporters of 'Ali, cousin of the Prophet and the fourth caliph, articulated their own distinctive doctrines. The Sunni-Shi'i schism is often framed as a dispute over the identity of the successor to Muhammad, whereas in reality, Sunni and Shi'i Muslims also differ on a number of seminal theological doctrines concerning the nature of God and legitimate political and religious authority. This book examines the development of Shi'i Islam through the lenses of belief, narrative, and memory. It also covers a wide range of Shi'i communities from the demographically predominant Twelvers to the transnational Isma'ilis to the scholar-activist Zaydis. The portrait of Shi'ism that emerges is that of a distinctive and vibrant community of Muslims with a remarkable capacity for reinvention and adaptation, grounded in a unique theological interpretation of Islam.
Najam Haider is Assistant Professor of Religion at Barnard College of Columbia University. His articles have been published in many journals, including Der Islam, the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, and Islamic Law and Society. His research interests include early Islamic history, Islamic law, and the impact of modernity on the contemporary Muslim world. His first book, The Origins of the Shi'a was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. He is currently working on a new project that focuses on early Islamic historical writing.
Introduction; Part I. Theology: 1. 'Adl (rational divine justice); 2. Imamate (legitimate leadership); Part II. Origins: 3. Community; 4. Fragmentation; Part III. Constructing Shi'ism: 5. Zaydism in the balance between Sunni and Shi'a; 6. The weight of Isma'ili expectations; 7. Twelver Shi'ism and the problem of the hidden imam; Part IV. Shi'ism in the Modern World: 8. Zaydism at the crossroads; 9. (Nizari) Isma'ilism reconstituted; 10. The politicization of the Twelver Shi'a; Conclusion: Sunni-Shi'i relations.