Shiʿi Islam has played a crucial role in furthering the manifold achievements of Islamic civilisations. Indeed, the Shiʿi scholars and literati of various branches and regions, including scientists, philosophers, theologians, jurists and poets, have made seminal contributions to Islamic thought and culture. There have also been numerous Shiʿi dynasties, families or individual rulers who patronised scholars, poets and artists, as well as various institutions of learning.
In spite of its significance, however, Shiʿi Islam has received scant attention from historians, especially in the West. This book, by one of the most distinguished Muslim historians, provides a definitive account of the development of Shiʿism, also clarifying the frequent misunderstandings and misrepresentations that colour many perceptions about it.
The author draws on the scattered findings of modern scholarship to explain the formative era of Shiʿi Islam, when a multitude of Muslim groups and schools of thought were elaborating their doctrinal positions. Subsequent chapters are devoted to the history of the Ithnaʿasharis, or Twelvers, the Ismailis, the Zaydis and the Nusayris (now more commonly known in Syria as the ʿAlawis), the four communities that account for almost the entirety of the Shiʿi Muslim population of the world (ca. 200 million).
The result is a comprehensive survey of Shiʿi Islam that will serve as a work of reference for academics in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, as well as the broader field of the History of Religions. At the same time, the author’s accessible text will assure a wide interest among general, non-specialist readers who follow contemporary events in the Middle East and the Islamic world.