Shi’a Islam: From Religion to Revolution, Heinz Halm

Shi'a Islam: From Religion to Revolution, Heinz Halm

Shi’a Islam: From Religion to Revolution
Heinz Halm
Combining history, comparative religion, and political interpretations, the author elucidates Shi’ism and political developments in the Middle East for the Western reader.
The origin and tenets of Shiite Islam receive fair treatment from a German historian. Since it is also fair to say Americans were perplexed and angered by televised images of Shiites during the Iranian revolution, this book offers a healthy dose of fact over emotion and prejudice. Halm straightforwardly recounts the schism that divided Islam into Sunni and Shiite branches; the latter believe Muhammad bequeathed his authority to Ali, a claim disputed by Sunnis. However, the claim was passed down through a succession of imams (“leaders”), the death of one of whom in 680 is intensely remembered by Shiites to this day in such rituals as self-flagellations and passion plays, the details of which occupy the middle third of Halm’s book. After a short history of how Shiism became centered in Iran and southern Iraq, Halm explains the institution of religious scholars and how they doctrinally justify their rule in Iran. With all these facts, interested readers can start learning about Shiism on their own terms.

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