Religious Studies | Shi'ite Islam
R367 | 3738 | Alexander


R367 Shi'ite Islam (3 Cr.) TR 2:30-3:45 SY 002 (section 3738) *Carries
COAS Culture Studies Credit (Alexander)

When a Sunni Muslim Arab friend of mine from the Persian Gulf region once
asked me what aspect of Islam I focused on in my then current research
project, I said, "Shi`ism," to which he replied in horror,"What do you
mean, 'Shi`ism'? That is not Islam!" Add this to the fact that most
non-Muslims in the Euro-American West usually expect the word "Shi`ite" to
be followed by "extremist" or "terrorist organization," and one can draw
the fair conclusion that Shi`ite Islam is one of the most misunderstood
religious traditions of the modern age.

The aim of this course will be to leave all such shallow stereotypes at
the door and survey the historical development of Shi`ism as a varied
subset of Muslim traditions which represent the faith of only ten to
fifteen percent of Muslims worldwide, but which have played an enormously
significant role in shaping the history of Muslim societies and identities
from the late seventh century CE to the present.

We will examine the origins of Shi`ism as a religio-political movement
within the Muslim community of the late seventh century CE, and trace the
history of this movement through its early (632-1000), medieval
(1000-1500), and early modern and modern periods (1500-present) of
development.  We will investigate the Shi`ite doctrine of the "imamate" or
leadership of the Muslim community; and the messianic and  apocalyptic
teaching of the "occultation" of the Twelfth Imam; as well as various
aspects of Shi`ite ritual, religious law, and the organization of
the Shi`ite religious hierarchy.  We will also have an opportunity to
discuss the relationship between Shi`ism and the 1979 Islamic Revolution
in Iran which has profoundly affected the history of the contemporary
Muslim world.

Although our focus will be primarily on what is known as "Twelver" or
"Ithna `Ashari" Shi`ism-- the religion of the majority of Muslims in Iran,
Iraq, Bahrayn, and Lebanon--we will also explore the origins and
development of two other important types of Shi`ite Islam, namely
"Isma`ilism" and "Zaydism."  Meets with R553.