[P6521] Shia Ulama Between State Power and Sufism: Safavid to Modern Theories of Legitimacy

Created by Alexander Shepard
Wednesday, 12/01/21 2:00 pm


How did Shia scholars conceptualize the relationship between religion and state? How did Sufis, understand their place with regards to the leaders of the time? How did the Shahs of Iran, who claimed Shia Islam as a basis for their reign, justify their monarchies? How do contemporary Shia authorities conceptualize the Islamic Republic and the guardianship of the jurist doctrine? This panel offers four distinct, yet interlocking papers all dealing with conceptions of leadership at various times in Shia history.

The first paper investigates the Shi’i ulama from Lebanon and Bahrain during the Safavid dynasty, specifically their role in convincing and assisting Safavid rulers to suppress Sufism in Iran and promoting a legalistic interpretation of Twelver Shia Islam. It will also examine the titles of the positions held by these ulama.

The second paper analyses the works and thoughts of Shaykh Muḥammad Bahārī (1265/1849 - 1325/1907) who attempted to redefine Sufism in a way that made it more acceptable to the Iranian clerical establishment. He advised his followers to avoid engaging with power or leadership, and to take a Sufi path of renunciation. The paper also investigates the hidden relationship between Bahari and the Dhahabi Sufi order.

The third paper examines the theories of state legitimacy and revolution in Shi'i primary texts, as well as their expression in the relationship between the clergy and monarchy in the Pahlavi dynasty. It disputes the explanation that the Islamic Revolution was born out of either an alienation of the religious establishment or an intrinsic revolutionary tendency born within Shia Islam.

The fourth paper investigates the political engagement of Ayatollah al-Sīstānī in Iraq, in particular what it indicates about the circumstances under which the Grand Ayatollahs of Iraq are willing to take political action. For that purpose, it explores al-Sīstānī’s stand on Wilayat al-faqih and his fiqh on the ideal role of jurists in the time of the Occultation. In addition, the paper discusses how the Iraqi political and social scene has reacted to the power al-Sīstānī seems to exert.

The fifth paper will explore the transformation of the concept of velayat-e faqih to the modern concept of valiye faqihe Mutlaq. This paper will compare the development of political Shi’ism to the transformation in the thought of Religious Zionism, comparing it with the philosophies of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) and his son Zvi Yehuda Kook (1891-1982).


Rel Stds/Theo; Rel Stds/Theo



Sholeh A. Quinn

(University of California, Merced)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

SeyedAmir Asghari

(Indiana University Bloomington)
Seyed Amir Hossein Asghari is a doctoral candidate in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. His area of study focuses on Islamic philosophy, Sufism, Islamic manuscripts, Quranic and Shia studie...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ezra Tzfadya

(FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg / IU-Bloomington)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Azadeh Aghighi

(Indiana University)
I am currently a Ph.D Candidate at Indiana University of Bloomington, the school of Global and International Studies. I am doing some research on Muslim feminists' hermeneutics of the Quran for my Ph.D dissertation.
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Alexander Shepard

(Indiana University, Bloomington.)
Alexander Shepard received his BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies with a minor in history from Le Moyne College in 2013. He received his MA in NELC in 2017 and is currently studying for a PHD at Indiana University, Bloomington. His research interests...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Mohammed Al Ameri

(Indiana University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;