Shi‘ism in South East Asia ‘Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions by Chiara Formichi and Michael Feener, eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 397 pages.)

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Philipp Bruckmayr

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Abstract

Although Southeast Asian Muslims are overwhelmingly Sunni, alleged historical
Shi‘i influences have been a recurring feature in academic debates on
the region’s Islamization, the content of local traditional literatures, and certain
contemporary manifestations of religiosity. Moreover, the emergence of local
Shi‘i communities from the 1950s onward has been frequently noted but rarely
studied. This collection of path-breaking research seeks to help fill this gap in
the literature.
Unfortunately, the book’s catchy title may initially obscure its outstanding
theoretical and thematic depth, for most of the chapters are about Alid
piety and devotion to the Prophet’s household as found in different Sunni
traditions. By highlighting the pervasiveness of the latter in other regions
of the Muslim world, the editors’ introduction represents a major reconsideration
of such commonly found earlier notions as “Shi‘itic elements,”
“crypto-Shi‘ism,” and “de-Shi‘itization.” Many of the papers show that it
would be misleading to equate local literary and other traditions of Alid piety
with Shi‘i influence. Those that deal with actual contemporary Shi‘i sectarian
constructions in the region are highly suggestive of the different mechanisms
behind Shi‘ism’s global expansion in the modern era, thereby contributing
to a growing body of research on present-day Shi‘ism beyond the Arab-Iranian
world.

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