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An Introduction to Shi`i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi`ism [Paperback]

Moojan Momen
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 and recent events in Lebanon have greatly increased Western interest in the Shi'i branch of Islam, which is much less known than Sunni Islam. This volume provides a balanced and comprehensive treatment of a complex religious movement that has flourished since Islam's earliest days. Although it attempts no new or sophisticated interpretations, specialist and nonspecialist alike will benefit from its lucid exposition of both elite and popular Shi'ism. Especially valuable is the way the work presents modern critical scholarship on Shi'i history alongside the orthodox history, which still has great influence on the religion's self-understanding. A brief but useful concluding account locates the Iranian Revolution and Imam Khomeini within the framework of Iranian Shi'ism. Mel Piehl, History Dept., Valparaiso Univ., Ind.
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 8.11.1987 edition (September 10, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300035314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300035315
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Concise History & Beliefs of Shi'e October 4, 2001
By A Customer
This is a book that I recommend to everyone who is interested in understanding the history of Shi'e split from Sunni faction(s) in Islam. The book, however, goes much beyond that, and provides insight to developments of Islam at Mohammed's time, and immediately after his death, as well as a detailed follow on to present day. It is written with a style that keeps the reader glued to the book, unlike most books in similar subjects.
There are two points that I have minor criticism: the book contains numerous Arabic (and Farsi) names, perhaps too many names are given in the book. This practice, even though it provides credibility for the content, makes the reading of the book difficult for even those who can read Farsi and Arabic.
The second point is this: a few of dates provided in the text (such as birth, death, start or completion of events, etc.) appear inaccurate, even if one accepts the information detailed on the same page where the dates are recorded.
All in all, an excellent book for both the novice, as well as informed individuals. This book can also be used as a reference source; it has nearly 100 pages of bibliography, index, etc.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I have read many books about the religious development and history of Shia Islam and have to say without any hesitation that this is the most detailed and objective book I have ever read on the subject. The author, Mr. Momen, has done a thorough job of accurately presenting its early history as well as it development up to present time. Very scholarly, with many footnotes and cross references. Based upon the information that I was already familar with, I recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining unbiasd information about the subject.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read on Shia Islam January 3, 2007
By Sahar
I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially to Shia parents wishing to explain Shia Islam to their children. The book is easy enough for a high-schooler and up to read. As someone who grew up in a relatively small Shia community in the United States, this book was especially helpful in educating me over the years. Recently, many of my friends (who are of the college and professional school age) and who have not necessarily grown up in a household that stresses Shia Islam but who want to learn more about the area, have also turned to this book for understanding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I was surprised to find that I could not put this book down. I figured this would be a dry subject and picked it up because I wanted to have a better understanding of Shi'I Islam. Dr. Momen's book was very detailed yet the subject matter read like a story rather than a series of facts strewn together. The succession of the Imams and the tribulations entwined within that history were especially riveting. At the same time I always felt Dr. Momen was treating the subject fairly, giving a detailed and balanced account, especially in areas where the history is a source of controversy between the two branches of Islam.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC - a must for anyone studying Shia Islam August 8, 2006
Dr. Momen provides a comprehensive and objective overview of Shia history and beliefs. It doesnt matter if you are new to learning of Islam, or an advanced scholar, you can get a wealth of information from this book.

I have sometimes heard that this book by Dr. Momen was the catalyst for Shia Islam being taken seriously as subject in theological studies in the west.

Any question that I had while reading, Dr. Momen did not leave unanswered. With that, it was organized appropriatly for easy reference. I never have to dig for the information im looking for.

Most interesting to me was his study of the changing role of the ulema. I had always wondered how the Shia community evolved from having an Imam at the head of things, to an Ayatollah, and Dr. Momen covers the gradual shifts in full.

I havent seen a better book on the subject to date.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is an incredible introduction to Shiah Islam. December 3, 1998
The author has created a remarkable book on Shiah Islam which will undoubtedly will serve as valuable reference guide for students in Islamic studies, Middle Eastern studies, Iranian history. The author covers a vast range of history and theology, up to and including the 1979 Iranian revolution. Biograhies of prominent Iranian figures and theologians make this book a valuable aide in the field of Iranian studies. Yet it is enjoyable to read, written in a pleasant academic style that is not dry. For those seekign to understand contemporary Iran today, this is a useful reference book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work from an historical perspective August 11, 2007
By xul
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dr. Momen wrote an excellent illustrated book. Even the printing layout is very good with a rather large typeface readable even by oldies.

Dr. Momen gave due attention to details like exact transliteration, differences between Arabic and Farsi spellings and pronunciations, careful complete footnotes, glossary and reference lists, etc.

The book also contains several charts that make it much easier to gain an overview of the subject matter, in particular of politico-historic events compared to theological developments.

Dr. Momen does not claim to be an esoterist but rather has chosen an historic (zahiri) viewpoint without at all closing the door to the esoteric side (batini).

Dr. Momen makes it clear and plausible how Twelver Shi'ism has especially since Safavid rule in Iran moved towards a concentration on exoteric law with the legal experts gradually assuming several prerogatives original held reserved to the occulted 12th Imam. In other words, it seems that the Sunni Al-Azhar University's published opinion considering 12er Shi'a a 5th school of orthodox Islamic jurisprudence in addition to the four still extant Sunni schools is factually based. In all fairness, however, we should bear in mind that tendencies towards legalism are currently not restricted to Shi'i Islam but, alas, observable worldwide.

The more esoterically minded (batini) amongst the 12er ulama (doctors of theology) who do not share the view that jurisprudence (fiqh) is the central theme of Islamic knowledge have apparently gradually withdrawn and gone underground in a kind of relative occultation.

This reviewer heartily thanks Dr. Momen and hopes he is alive and well and will soon publish a second updated edition of his excellent work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another awesome book by Moojan Momen
Another wonderful, educational book about Islam. Great historical facts, and easy to read. Moojan Momen is a gifted writer and a incredible scholar!
Published 7 months ago by Jane Kazeem
5.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Shi`i Islam: The History and Doctrines of...
Interesting and very well written and gives a detailed account of shia sunni historical events. I cannot confirm that everything is true but seems to be correct as in religious... Read more
Published 18 months ago by H. A. Syed
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to Shia Islam
I found the detail in this book to be one of the best parts of it, because it goes into depth in regards to where certain traditions and concepts came from in regards to the Shia... Read more
Published on July 10, 2012 by Bob Darvish
4.0 out of 5 stars good study of evolution of shiaism
good for explaining the convuluted history of shiaism and as an ex-12 Imami shia I found the argument convincing that the 12er shiaism is a invention of much later age .... Read more
Published on July 13, 2007 by Howitzer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource for beginners
A good place to begin the study of Shi'ism. Very readable. Well referenced. Lacks in detail though. Particularly useful are the chapters related to contemporary marjaes and the... Read more
Published on March 17, 2007 by Muhammad A. Syed
1.0 out of 5 stars A tough read
I recently bought this book after reading the excellent reviews about it, but unfortunately, I couldn't go beyond the first two chapters. Read more
Published on January 28, 2006 by Ayesha Riaz
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