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This entry comprises articles on religious scholars in the two main branches of Islam.

Sunnī ῾ulamā'

The Arabic word ῾ulamā' is the plural of ῾ālim, literally “man of knowledge.” The opposite of ῾ilm (“knowledge”) is jahl (“ignorance”). In the Qur'ān both terms are frequently used in connection with knowledge of that which was revealed to the Prophet, or knowledge of God. Belief in God is ῾ilm, so that the ῾ālim is the believer; disbelief is jahl, so that the truly ignorant person is the one who does not believe in God. By implication, one is an ῾ālim on account of knowledge of particular religious knowledge (the Qur'ān, the ḥadīth, and fiqh or religious law); and it has always been expected that the ῾ālim embody the qualities expected of one who believes in God and practices Islam.

This textual background has always lent the term connotations of specifically religious knowledge, either in the sense of gnosis or in the sense of knowledge of exoteric religious law. In the earliest periods of Islamic history, ῾ulamā' were those who had knowledge of specifically religious sciences. Auxiliary sciences, such as knowledge of pre‐Islamic Arabic poetry, were seen as important but only as an aid to understanding the Qur'ān. The translation of works of Greek scholarship during Ma'mūn al‐Rashīd's reign (813–833) accorded a serious challenge to this unified conception of knowledge. However, despite heated initial debate about the utility of this knowledge, it was the ῾ulamā' who ended up becoming its guardians.

Thus, on the eve of the period of colonial domination of much of the Islamic world in the nineteenth century, a single set of institutions provided basic education in Islamic societies. One could assume a basic course of study including the Qur'ān, Qur'ānic exegesis (tafsīr), ḥadīth, religious law, and disciplines like medicine, astronomy, geometry, natural philosophy, rhetoric, and logic for anyone who claimed to be educated. Beyond this, the specialist in Islamic jurisprudence, the teacher of Qur'ānic exegesis, the physician, the astronomer, or the geometrician would each have some additional specialist knowledge. The title ῾ālim, however, would be applied to one who had specialized in the religious sciences.

Colonial domination constructed a parallel meaning for education. Knowledge of the colonizer's language became a prerequisite for one sense in which the word “educated” could be used. This split in meaning is reflected in modern Arabic, where the word “scientist” is also translated as ῾ālim. Ironically, it now becomes possible for the word ῾ālim to be applied to someone who does not even know of the religion of Islam, much less have a knowledge of the religious disciplines.

The colonial reorganization of society introduced a similar discontinuity in the function of the ῾ulamā' in Muslim communities. For example, Western medicine, legal institutions, and administrative structures became an alternative to indigenous systems of medical treatment, legal redress, and governance. A class of professional physicians, lawyers, and administrators emerged who had no effective allegiance or connection to the classical system of education and its personnel. From the perspective of the colonized, the legal system was as much a “religious” institution as was a school for teaching Qur'ānic exegesis. For the colonizing powers, however, the replacement of indigenous institutions had to stop when it came to what was peculiarly “religious” in their own eyes. Thus during colonial rule the domain of operation of the ῾ulamā' became confined to the mosque and the madrasah.

The Mosque.

Although there is no custom or ritual within Islamic practice for which one needs any particular set of credentials, it is a general rule that the most knowledgeable among a group of people should lead the prayers. Thus a typical function that an ῾ālim would perform today is that of imam of a mosque. As imam he leads daily prayers, delivers the Friday sermon, and teaches the children in the neighborhood the basics of Islamic law along with Qur'ānic recitation and sometimes writing and calligraphy. He may also be called upon on occasions of birth, death, and marriage for prayers or for help in the performance of the rituals involved.

The more rural the setting, the more likely it is that these functions would be seen rigidly as the functions of the imam of the mosque; in more urban areas or where there is more awareness of Islamic law, it is not uncommon for any individual familiar with a ritual to perform it. Similarly, the more rural the setting, the more likely it is that the imam is not an ῾ālim in the sense of having completed the usual course of study. Nevertheless, he would be perceived as the only person in the area with sufficient familiarity with the rituals, or with sufficient authority in the eyes of the audience, to be able to perform these rituals.

The Madrasah.

The two common modes of study in the precolonial period were tutelage with individual scholars, or attendance at a madrasah such as the Mustanṣirīyah in Baghdad, the Niẓāmīyah in Baghdad, or al‐Azhar in Cairo. The funding of such institutions and their degree of dependence on the state (or on other donors) has varied over time and place. A typical arrangement would involve a grant of land or other income‐yielding property to the madrasah in perpetuity (waqf). Such an arrangement would yield maximum freedom. On the other end of the scale would be a situation where the state or a nobleman would directly assume the responsibility of meeting the expenses of a madrasah.

In modern times too the patronage of madrasahs has taken different courses. The colonizers had been diffident in interfering with what they saw as local religious institutions; the new rulers were Muslim and had no such qualms. Thus in some Muslim countries many madrasahs ended up being completely state‐funded; some even underwent radical curricular changes under government intervention. In other areas, during the colonial period some madrasahs had been able to find alternative funding in the form of small private donations from the public at large. Such madrasahs clung strongly to the freedom they had been able to achieve even when the colonial rulers left and were replaced with Muslim ones.

As with funding, the nature of the curriculum varies from region to region. In some places the classical curriculum has been modified to the degree that it is almost indistinguishable from the curriculum of a modern Western university. At the other end of the spectrum are the madrasahs that have tried to maintain the classical curriculum as much as possible. As indigenous social institutions have been replaced by imported ones, the curricula of these madrasahs have become more and more focused on particularly religious sciences. Medicine, astronomy, and geometry are studied only superficially if at all. Logic and natural philosophy have fared only a little better. The literary sciences receive better coverage because they are aids to understanding and interpreting the Qur'ān and the ḥadīth. The focus of study has become the Qur'ān, the ḥadīth, Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), and other disciplines necessary for their understanding.

Along with teaching, larger madrasahs also typically provide a service of fatwā—responsa to individuals who would like to know their religious obligation regarding specific situations in which they find themselves in their daily life. Fatwā is applied law: everyone can read the rules, but only a muftī is qualified to examine a situation and identify which rules apply and how much weight potentially conflicting rules should be accorded. Again, the ability to offer fatwā is a matter of training and not a result of any esoteric knowledge. Thus it is quite acceptable to obtain a fatwā from one mufti and forward it to a second muftī for his comments.

The redefinition of “education” discussed above has provided Islamic societies a course of intellectual discipline very different from that of the traditional ῾ulamā'. In addition, because of the political ascendancy of those who subscribe to this new style of intellectual discipline, it has not been possible for the ῾ulamā' simply to ignore it. In the past few decades educational institutions have developed in Muslim countries that base themselves quite consciously on Western models but take upon themselves the teaching and study of the specifically religious sciences. These are precisely the domains the colonizers had been hesitant to approach. Thus a group of people has emerged who have not gone through the educational institutions and disciplines of the classical ῾ulamā', but who also lay claim to knowledge of the Qur'ān, ḥadīth, and Islamic law. Much of the sometimes bewildering array of opinion on Islam and on what is Islamic results from the attempts of this new group of so‐called ῾ulamā' to wrest interpretative authority from the traditional ῾ulamā'.

Despite the changed circumstances and the variety of approaches to knowledge in Muslim communities, the authority of the traditional ῾ulamā' remains quite strong. Particularly in issues relating to the textual sources of Islam, the ῾ulamā' are recognized as the final arbiters. And since there are many places in the Islamic world where the control of the government has never really been complete, the local ῾ālim continues to be sought out as judge, arbiter, and administrator.

See also Fatwā; Ḥadīth; Madrasah; Mosque, article on The Mosque in Education; Muftī.


I have described the ῾ulamā' in the context of a struggle in Muslim countries over the definition of knowledge and what it means to be educated. The works in Western languages listed below implicitly refuse to acknowledge that the ῾ulamā' as a phenomenon of Muslim societies represent a complete indigenous vision of knowledge and of what it means to be educated which is an alternative to the vision of knowledge and education of the Western colonizer. As such, these studies participate in the struggle over the definition of knowledge and education on the side of the colonizers. One would want to round out the picture by presenting some of the polemical works written by ῾ulamā' in this struggle. Unfortunately the ῾ulamā' write either in Arabic or their indigenous languages. I cite the following single Urdu work as an example of the perspective of the ῾ulamā' on this redefinition: Manāẓir Aḥsan Gīlānī, Pāk va Hind Me Musalmāno kā niẓām‐e ta῾līm va tarbiyat (Lahore, n.d.), two vols. in one.

  • Ahmed, Al‐Haj Moinuddin. Ulama: The Boon and Bane of Islamic Society. New Delhi, 1990. Criticism of the failures of the ῾ulamā' to lead Muslim societies into modernization.
  • Antoun, Richard T. Muslim Preacher in the Modern World: A Jordanian Case Study in Comparative Perspective. Princeton, 1989. Insightful study of the political roles of the ῾ulamā' in Jordan, with particular reference to the mosque sermons they deliver.
  • Baer, Gabriel, ed. The ῾Ulama' in Modern History, special issue, Asian and African Studies (Jerusalem) 7 (1971). Deals with Sunnī authorities in the Ottoman Empire, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, India, Egypt, and the Maghrib.
  • Boulares, Habib. Islam: The Fear and the Hope. London, 1990. Former Tunisian minister of culture offers a polemic, distinguishing between “the power of the ῾ulamā'” and “the ῾ulamā' of power.”
  • Hassan, Muhammad Kamal. Muslim Intellectual Responses to ‘New Order’ Modernization in Indonesia. Kuala Lumpur, 1982. Focuses on the attitudes of the Indonesian ῾ulamā' to political developments.
  • Keddie, Nikki R., ed. Scholars, Saints, and Sufis: Muslim Religious Institutions Since 1500. Berkeley, 1972. Classic work, which, in Part I, treats various roles of the ῾ulamā' from the Ottoman period to mid‐twentieth‐century Egypt and Pakistan.
  • Kepel, Gilles and Yann Richard, eds. Intellectuels et militants de l'Islam contemporain. Paris, 1990. In Part I, a useful discussion of the ῾ulamā' in Morocco and Oman.
  • Levtzion, Nehemia. Sociopolitical Roles of Muslim Clerics and Scholars in West Africa, in Comparative Social Dynamics, edited by Erik Cohen, Moshe Lissak, and Uri Almagor, pp. 95–107. Boulder, 1985.
  • Qureshi, M. Naeem. The ῾Ulama' of British India and the Hijrat of 1920. Modern Asian Studies, 13.1 (1979): 41–59. Analyses importance of religious officials at time of Khilāfat movement agitation in South Asia and the migration of thousands of Indian Muslims to Afghanistan.
  • Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition. Chicago, 1982. Modernist Muslim views of how Islamic traditions, and their guardians, may evolve over time.
  • Roy, Olivier. “Intellectuels et Ulema dans La Resistance Afghane,” issue on “L'Islamisme en effervescence,” Peuples Meditérranéens 21 (October–December 1982): 129–151.
  • Iftikhar Zaman

    Shī῾ī ῾ulamā'

    Although the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' (professional clergy) have performed many of the same functions undertaken by their Sunnī counterparts, their political impact on society in the modern period has been more direct and incisive. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 is but the latest example of the assertiveness of the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' in the sociopolitical domain during the past two centuries. The reasons for this clerical activism are complex, being related partly to doctrinal issues of juristic authority in Shiism and partly to the set of relationships established by Shī῾ī clergymen with their followers independent of doctrinal matters. Recent research on the long‐term political quietism of Shī῾ī clergymen until the late nineteenth century has stressed that when clerical activism occurred, it was motivated by a variety of different, even conflicting, impulses. It is a mistake, therefore, to suggest a direct correspondence between Shiism and radical or revolutionary behavior.

    Dating the rise of the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' as a corporate stratum in a Weberian sense is not easy to do. We know that Shiism, or the veneration of ῾Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 661) and the family of the Prophet, arose in Kufa, Iraq. It spread to Iran in the lifetime or shortly thereafter of ῾Alī's son, Muḥammad ibn al‐Ḥanafīyah (d. 700). Manifested in the Kaysānīyah and Hāshimīyah movements, early Shiism in Iraq and Iran was radically sectarian. When Shī῾ī movements ascended under the banner of Abū Muslim (d. 753), a leader of the ῾Abbāsid rebellion against the Umayyads, it appeared that Shiism would triumph throughout the Islamic territories. However, the ῾Abbāsid rulers murdered Abū Muslim and embraced Sunnism, thus limiting Shiism to a heterodox tendency.

    The founder of Shī῾ī law was the fifth imam, Muḥammad al‐Bāqir (d. 733), a grandson of Imam Ḥusayn ibn ῾Alī (d. 680), to whom Kufans had turned increasingly for rulings on religious matters. However, it was al‐Bāqir's son, the sixth imam, Ja῾far al‐Ṣādiq (d. 765), who systematized Shī῾ī law, and it is perhaps by his time that an appreciable body of rāwīs (“transmitters”) of the sayings of the Shī῾ī imams emerged. Still, one could hardly speak of the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' as a genuine clerical estate at this time, exhibiting the common social customs, behavior, discourse, and occupational traits necessary for such a sodality.

    The town of Qom (Qumm) became the center of Iranian Shiism in the half‐century after the ῾Abbāsid conquest of 749. It arose to special prominence as the center of Twelver Shiism (Ithnā ῾Asharīyah). Its status was secured by the fact that so many transmitters of the imams' sayings, as cited by the authoritative codices of Muḥammad ibn Ya῾qūb al‐Kulaynī (d. 941) and Abū Ja῾far Muḥammad ibn Bābawayh (d. 991), were men from Qom. Later compilers of Shī῾ī ḥadīths, scholars of the school of Baghdad such as Shaykh al‐Mufīd (d. 1022), his student, Sharif al‐Murtaḋā ῾Alam al‐Hudā (d. 1044), and Shaykh al‐Ṭā'ifah Ṭūsī (d. 1067), were to break with the Qom traditionists by embracing forms of rationalism known as Mu῾tazilah. The Baghdad school of Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' (for a body of scholars with identifiable professional characteristics had emerged by the tenth century) condemned the traditionism of Qom and, in the case of the sharif al‐Murtaḋā, went as far as to hold that only reason could discover the principles of faith. Increasingly, the traditionists were seen as defending anthropomorphic interpretations of Allāh and predestinarianism, while the Baghdad scholars championed free will. The Baghdad school held that Allāh did not have knowledge of the actions of human beings before they acted; they maintained that Allāh does not know a thing before he wills or creates it; and they stressed that Allāh's knowledge of the universe as well as the universe itself are mutable.

    Acting as a bridge between the Baghdad school and modern doctrine are the works of the medieval scholars Naṣīr al‐Dīn Ṭūsī (1201–1274); his student, ῾Allāmah ibn al‐Muṭahhar al‐Ḥillī (1250–1325), author of numerous works on Shī῾ī dogma and practice, including Al‐bāb al‐ḥādī ῾ashar [see the biography of Ḥillī]; and Nadīm al‐Dīn Abū al‐Qāsim Ja῾far ibn al‐Ḥasan ibn Yaḥyā al‐Muḥaqqiq al‐Ḥillī (1240–1326), whose Sharā῾ī' al‐Islām is perhaps to this day the authoritative work on Shī῾ī law. In general, one can say that the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' continued to adhere firmly to Mu῾tazilī notions of the role of human reason in matters of belief.

    With the victory of the Ṣafavids in 1501, the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' achieved greater stature than before. The Ṣafavid shahs, state centralizers who were determined to establish Shiism in Iran in place of the prevailing Sunnī doctrines, found it necessary to import Shī῾ī mujtahids from Lebanon and Bahrain. [See Ṣafavid Dynasty.] Qom was not a source of supply for the Ṣafavids, since the center at Qom had pretty much disintegrated in the eleventh century in the wake of repeated attacks by the Baghdad school, and it had never really recovered. Some of these mujtahids accepted important posts in the state administration, although others maintained an aloofness from political matters. The important ῾ulamā' in this period are too numerous to mention individually, although Muḥammad Bāqir al‐Majlisī (d. 1699) stands out for his attack on certain mystical and theosophic tendencies in Shiism that he considered elitist. He was, however, careful to uphold the veneration of the imams, which in many respects is the basis for those mystical tendencies. [See the biography of Majlisī.]

    Around the time of al‐Majlisī's death, a furious doctrinal struggle occurred among the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā', reminiscent of the conflicts of the Qom and Baghdad schools centuries earlier, over the relative importance of the traditions and of human reason. Known as the Akhbārī‐Uṣūlī dispute, it was resolved in the defeat of the traditionists and the upholding of the principle of ijtihād (independent reasoning to ascertain a legal rule). This important doctrinal victory eventually served those who advocated clerical engagement in social issues. Arguing that the clergy as a body were al‐wakālah al‐῾āmmah (“general agents”) of the Hidden Imam, the jurists seemed to imply that they had been bequeathed a certain residue of the imam's wilāyah (authority). [See Akhbārīyah; Uṣūlīyah; Wakālah al‐῾Āmmah, al‐.]

    These doctrinal innovations are important in the light of the achievement of Imam Ja῾far al‐Sadiq generations earlier. According to the doctrine of the imamate, central to Shiism, the imams alone are the legitimate rulers. However, Ja῾far had directed his followers to desist from any revolutionary activity aimed at restoring legitimate rule to their imams, insisting that at some point an imam would “rise up” (al‐qā'im) and reestablish rightful rule. Indeed, so committed was Ja῾far to this position that he insisted his followers engage in taqīyah (pious dissimulation) to protect the Shī῾ī community from being destroyed by the Sunnī rulers. Accordingly, the Usūlī victory should be seen as a step away from Ja῾far's quietism, but not yet toward the revolutionary clericalism of Ayatollah Ruhollah al‐Musavi Khomeini (1902–1989) two centuries later.

    As European imperialism became pervasive in nineteenth‐century Iran, the clergy began to participate in society as an autonomous social force. Whereas the Ṣafavid rulers had basically coopted the ῾ulamā', or else managed to ignore them, the Qājār shahs (1785/97–1925) found themselves subject to the clergy's criticism over foreign concessions, tax policies, loans, territorial losses, and, at times, autocratic conduct. [See Qājār Dynasty.]

    Perhaps the most important nineteenth‐century clergymen were Shaykh Murtaḋā Anṣārī (d. 1864) and Mīrzā Ḥasan Shīrāzī (d. 1896). Anṣārī's strong vindication of Usūlī doctrine found its manifestation in the principle that the clergy as a group were vested with a modicum of the imam's authority (vilāyat‐i i῾tibārī). This privileged them to be custodians of the infirm, the needy, widows, and orphans and to supervise expenditures on religious matters, including the upkeep of the sayyids (Muslims of noble lineage), mosques, shrines, and waqfs (mortmain bequests). Beyond this, a new institution known as marja῾īyat al‐taqlīd (source or repository of emulation) had come into existence. Shī῾īs were called on to identify a distinguished clergyman, a marja῾ al‐taqlīd, whose teachings in matters of ritual they would follow. Such a development institutionalized a special relationship between the highest‐ranking clergy‐men and their followers and was to provide the basis for social mobilization and novel collective protest. The establishment of the principle of marja῾īyat al‐taqlīd followed closely on the victory of the advocates of ijtihād in the late eighteenth century. Because the boundary line between ritual and sociopolitical matters was not always clear, these twin occurrences manifestly enhanced the top clergy's influence.

    A clear example of this is provided by the fatwā (religious opinion) associated with Mīrzā Ḥasan al‐Shīrāzī against the shah's grant of the tobacco monopoly to a British subject in the early 1890s. Although argued on narrow grounds that tobacco is a personal item whose handling by an infidel renders it ritually unclean, the fatwā had enormous political significance, because it mobilized thousands in protest, led to the cancellation of the concession, and led to a crisis between the British and Iranian governments.

    For all their increasing activism, the Shi῾i ῾ulamā' did not then possess an institutional church in the Western sense. There was no curia, no ecclesiastical body, no pope, no college of cardinals, no mechanism to select the leadership, no machinery of decision making, rule, or enforcement. Yet, it is clear that by the end of the nineteenth century, the Shī῾ī clergy in Iran were becoming confident that their organization, sāzmān‐i rūḥānīyat (the religious institution), was a credible force on the stage of national politics. Adding to their power was the fact the several marja῾ al‐taqlīds were financially independent of the government. Although the amount of funds they received from their supporters in the population varied from year to year, this autonomy permitted them to stake out independent positions and insulated them from government control.

    The Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' in the modern period did not, of course, have identical or even similar views on such matters as government, administration, public policies, social stratification, or a whole range of issues in the realm of al‐dunyā (worldly matters). Even in some of the most spirited undertakings by the clergy in modern Iranian history—such as the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1909, the oil crisis of 1951–1953, the civil disturbances of 1960–1963, and the Iranian Revolution of 1979—clergymen spoke with a variety of voices and behaved in highly variegated ways. In short, the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā' are not a monolithic stratum, and its members embody a variety of ideal and material interests.

    The doctrinal innovations of Ayatollah Khomeini altered the basic understandings of the role of the clergy. Building on the achievements of Anṣārī regarding the wilāyah of the imams and clergy prerogatives, Khomeini argued in his book The Mandate of the Jurist (1970) that the clergy was entitled to rule. This radical interpretation meant that clergymen should not content themselves with giving advice to rulers, a position with which he had publicly identified in his book Kashf al‐asrār (Revealing the Secrets, 1941). His new line was that jurists had the duty not only to give their advice but actually to rule. Since such rule was merely a matter of implementing sharī῾ah (holy law), this line of thinking did not appear to him to break with classical teachings. But a number of his colleagues rejected his reinterpretation of the doctrine of the imamate, seeing in it unacceptable encroachments on the substantive wilāyah of the imams.

    It might be that Khomeini's achievement in reinterpreting the doctrine, as well as leading the revolutionary forces in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, has led to the creation of something resembling a Shī῾ī “church.” For the centralization that has occurred in the religious institution in Iran is unprecedented, and actions have been undertaken that resemble patterns in the ecclesiastical church tradition familiar in the West. For example, in 1982, Khomeini encouraged the “defrocking” and “ex‐communication” of his chief rival, Ayatollah Muḥammad Kāẓim Sharī῾atmadārī (d. 1986), although no machinery for this has ever existed in Islam. Other trends, such as centralized control over budgets, appointments in the professoriate, curricula in the seminaries, the creation of religious militias, monopolizing the representation of interests, and mounting a Kulturkampf in the realm of the arts, the family, and other social issues tell of the growing tendency to create an “Islamic episcopacy” in Iran.

    The Iranian Constitution of 1979 specifically mentions Khomeini several times, as the faqīh (top jurist) endowed with the imam's wilāyah, thereby extending to him extraordinary powers. Moreover, Khomeini's practice of issuing authoritative fatwās, obedience to which is made compulsory, comes close to endowing the top jurist with powers not dissimilar to those of the pope of the Catholic church. After all, compliance with a particular cleric's fatwās in the past had not been mandatory. In late 1987 and early 1988 Khomeini wrote two fatwās in which he declared that everyone had to obey the commands of the state, because it was now an Islamic system. Even if the state commanded a halt to prayer and suspended the pilgrimage, two cardinal features of Islam, he wrote, its orders required unhesitating obedience. These fatwās perhaps represented the furthest elaboration of clerical “caesaropapism.”

    After Khomeini's death in 1989, the Iranian regime retreated slightly from these trends by emphasizing the position of rahbar (leader) and declaring that the leader did not have to be a marja῾ al‐taqlīd. Khomeini's successor as rahbar, Sayyid ῾Ali Khamene'i, who was not even an ayatollah at the time of his appointment, could not pretend to have the status of marja῾ al‐taqlīd, although the press tried in a short‐lived and desultory campaign to endow him with it. Hence, the regime declared that it was not even necessary for the political system in Iran to be led by an individual of such high rank, preference being given for a leader with the requisite politico‐administrative skills. Although this development created the possibility of a reversion to a situation in which power is diffused among several duly acknowledged marja῾ al‐taqlīds in the Shī῾ī community, developments toward centralization have proceeded too far in Iran for them to suddenly lapse with Khomeini's death. Moreover, with the deaths in 1992–1993 of three grand ayatollahs (Abū al‐Qāsim Khū'ī, Shihāb al‐Dīn Mar῾ashī Najafī, and Muḥammad Riẓā Gulpaygānī) the leader of the judicial branch of government, Ayatollah Muḥammad Yazdī, made several speeches in December 1993 in which he tried once again to advance Khamene'i's candidacy as marja῾ al‐taqlīd. If he succeeds, it will set a precedent, since heretofore individuals have attained this status only through acclamation of the people.

    In other countries with large Shī῾ī populations, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Iraq, the trends are less clear‐cut. Nowhere outside Iran have the implications of the eighteenth‐ and nineteenth‐century developments in Ithnā ῾Asharī Shiism been followed through to the conclusions that were reached in Iran after the 1979 Revolution. The official Shī῾ī clergy is under siege in Iraq, whereas in the other countries it must either accommodate itself to the demands of other confessional groups (as in Lebanon) or acknowledge its minoritarian status in the larger Sunnī world in which it finds itself. But even in these countries, ruling regimes will likely face continuing challenges at the hands of the Shī῾ī ῾ulamā', who will no longer be as quietist as they have been in the past.

    See also Ayatollah; Fatwā, article on Modern Usage; Iran; Ithnā ῾Asharīyah; Marja῾ al‐Taqlīd; Shī῾ī Islam; and Wilāyat al‐Faqīh.


    • Akhavi, Shahrough. Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran: Clergy‐State Relations in the Pahlavī Period. Albany, N.Y., 1980. Political history of the clergy and the relationship to the modernizing Pahlavi state.
    • Algar, Hamid. Religion and State in Iran, 1785–1906. Berkeley, 1969. Detailed discussion of historical and doctrinal trends in Shiism in the Qājār era, with emphasis on the clergy as defenders against the despotism of the rulers.
    • Arjomand, Said Amir. The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam. Chicago and London, 1984. Comprehensive discussion of Ithnā ῾Asharī Shiism in the context of the Weberian sociology of religion. Begins with the classical period and continues up to the 1890s.
    • Arjomand, Said Amir. The Turban for the Crown. New York, 1988. Sociological explanation of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, emphasizing political‐cultural variables.
    • Bayat, Mangol. Iran's First Revolution. New York, 1991. Stresses the divergent motivations of the clergy in the Constitutional Revolution of Iran and argues for the primary role of lower‐ranking clerics whose actions were often inspired by sectarian ideas and socialist notions.
    • Eliash, Joseph. Misconceptions Regarding the Juridical Status of the Iranian ῾Ulamā'. International Journal of Middle East Studies 10.1 (February 1979): 9–25. Reviews the doctrinal bases for clerical activism in Shī῾ī Islam and argues that no categorical warrant for it exists.
    • Enayat, Hamid. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin, 1982. General discussion of various problems in Muslim social thought pertaining to rule, authority, representation, justice, and the like.
    • Enayat, Hamid. Iran: Khumayni's Concept of the ‘Guardianship of the Jurisconsult.’ In Islam in the Political Process, edited by J. P. Piscatori, pp. 160–180. Cambridge, 1983. Traces the doctrinal roots of wilāyah and argues that wilāyat al‐faqīh is a concept going no further back than the mid‐nineteenth century.
    • Fischer, Michael M. J. Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution. Cambridge, Mass., 1980. Anthropological study of the Iranian clergy in the Pahlavi period, with a focus on clerical educational discourse and social behavior in the city of Qom.
    • Floor, Willem. The Revolutionary Character of the Iranian ῾Ulamā': Wishful Thinking or Reality? International Journal of Middle East Studies 12.4 (December 1980): 501–524. Examination of the Shī῾ī clergy's role in the Iranian protests of 1960–1963, concluding that Shī῾ī Islam does not provide the clergy with inherently revolutionary motivations.
    • Keddie, Nikki R. The Roots of the ῾Ulamā''s Power in Modern Iran. Studia Islamica 29 (1969): 31–53. Traces the doctrinal and historical factors behind the assertiveness of the Shī῾ī clergy in the modern period.
    • Khomeini, Ruhollah al‐Musavi. Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini. Translated and edited by Hamid Algar. Berkeley, 1981. Important English‐language source for Khomeini's writings, including his book, Islamic Government (also translated variously elsewhere as The Mandate of the Jurist and The Guardianship of the Jurisconsult).
    • Lambton, Ann K. S. Quis Custodiet Custodes: Some Reflections on the Persian Theory of Government. Studia Islamica 5 (1956): 125–148, and 6 (1956): 125–146. Classic exploration and critique of Shī῾ī juristic theory of authority, stressing its blending of ancient Iranian notions of kingship and Islamic concepts of leadership. Emphasizes the illegitimacy of rule not exercised by the imam.
    • Madelung, Wilferd. Religious Trends in Early Islamic Iran. Albany, N.Y., 1988. Clarifies the complexities of early Shiism by tracing the ideas of the early sects as well as the concepts of medieval jurists.
    • Mallat, Chibli. Shi῾i Thought from the South of Lebanon. Oxford, 1988. An occasional paper of the Centre for Lebanese Studies containing valuable comparisons of the ideas of the Shī῾ī clergy in Lebanon with one another and with their colleagues in Iran. Especially enlightening in regard to differences between certain Lebanese ῾ulamā' and Ayatollah Khomeini on the matter of wilāyat al‐faqīh (vilāyat‐i faqīh).
    • Mallat, Chibli. The Renewal of Islamic Law: Muhammad Baqer as‐Sadr, Najaf and the Shi῾i International. Cambridge and New York, 1993. Intellectual biography of a leading Shī῾ī clergyman of the second half of the twentieth century, whose ideas in the areas of education, law, and economics have had important resonances in the Shī῾ī world.
    • Moaddel, Mansoor. Class, Politics, and Ideology in the Iranian Revolution. New York, 1993. Examines the Iranian Revolution of 1979 through the prism of contemporary collective protest literature and stresses the importance of ideology as its constitutive feature.
    • Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi῾i Islam. New Haven, 1985. Comprehensive survey of developments in Shiism, focusing on doctrinal as well as historical trends.
    • Mottahedeh, Roy P. The Mantle of the Prophet. New York, 1985. Iranian Revolution of 1979 as captured by an illuminating exploration of the world of the Shī῾ī seminary, blending fiction, historical analysis, and philosophical analysis to follow the lives of one religious and one secular student.

    Shahrough Akhavi

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