The Study of Shi’i Islam History, Theology, and Law By Farhad Daftary and Gurdofarid Miskinzoda, eds. (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2014. 616 pages.)
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Shi’i Islam is a broad subject encompassing history, theology, ritual, culture,
and other topics. Several current monographs provide an overview of
one or more of these subject areas. Two examples that come to mind are
Pedram Khosronejad’s edited volumes on Shi’i pilgrimage, ritual, and material
culture, The Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shi’ism: Iconography
and Religious Devotion in Shi’i Islam (2011) and Saints and Pilgrims
in Iran and Neighboring Countries (2012). While these volumes help us
understand the pilgrimage practices, art, and other cultural expressions of
Shi’ism, they are not focused on the fundamentals, such as the movement’s
history, various theological schools, legal traditions, and textual sources.
The Study of Shi’i Islam: History, Theology, and Law helps to fill this void
with its large and serious collection of essays on Imami, Ismaili, and Zaydi
The volume is organized into eight sections: “History and Historiography,”
“The Qur’an and Its Shi’i Interpretations,” “Shi’i Hadith,” “Shi’i Law,” “Authority,”
“Theology,” “Rites and Rituals,” and “Philosophy and Intellectual
Traditions.” Contributions include essays by some of the greatest contemporary
scholars working in Shi’ism, including Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, Etan
Kohlberg, Sajjad Rizvi, Maria Massi Dakake, and Wilferd Madelung.
The Study of Shi’i Islam opens with a preface that includes a succinct
and important discussion about the marginalization of Shi’ism in the academy.
The reasons for the lack of attention, which has been somewhat remedied
in recent years, include a worldview that used Western Christianity to
create categories of Islam and the popularity of scientific Orientalism. As the ...