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The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future Hardcover – August 5, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the least remarked upon aspects of the war in Iraq, at least in the American press, has been how conflict and instability in that country have shaken the delicate balance of power between Sunni and Shia throughout the wider region. Nasr, professor of Middle East and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School, tackles this question head-on for a Western audience. His account begins with a cogent, engrossing introduction to the history and theology of Shia Islam, encapsulating the intellectual and political trends that have shaped the faith and its relations with the dominant Sunni strain. Nasr argues that the Shia Crescent—stretching from Lebanon and Syria through the Gulf to Iraq and Iran, finally terminating in Pakistan and India—is gathering strength in the aftermath of Saddam's fall, cementing linkages that transcend political and linguistic borders and could lead to a new map of the Middle East. While Nasr's enthusiasm for Iraq's Shiite leader Ayatollah Sistani sometimes borders on the hagiographic, and he makes a number of uncharacteristic errors, such as conflating the Syrian Alawi community with the Turkish Alevis, his book is worthwhile reading for those seeking a primer on the second-largest Muslim sect. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* About 15 percent of Muslims worldwide are Shia. In Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain, Shia constitute a majority or plurality of the populace, and areas of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (in the latter, the oil fields) host Shia majorities. Iran's Islamic Revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini, which rushed Islam to the forefront of non-Islamic consciousness internationally, was a Shia phenomenon. Iranian Middle East researcher Nasr, who teaches, consults, and writes in the U.S., says that Khomeini was rather a maverick who discountenanced the quietism, ritualism, and celebratoriness of mainstream Shia. If that is a revelation to Westerners, so, probably, are Nasr's arguments that the Shia have been persecuted and oppressed by the Sunni majority ever since the divergence of the two Islamic strains more than 1,300 years ago, and that Islamic terrorism from well before 9/11 to the current insurgency in post-Saddam Iraq is a tactic of intransigent Sunnism. Nasr never pontificates or accuses, always choosing to show both sides' reasons for even the most heinous actions. He never so much as hints at what many readers must infer from his presentation--that the U.S. should think again and again and again before attacking Iran. So enlightening and perspective altering that no one concerned about the Middle East should miss reading it. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 287 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (August 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062113
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The current world environment is one of incredible dynamics, meteoric change, and turmoil, but it is one which we should all be familiar with. To misunderstand the players is to misunderstand the issues. To point, having familiarity with and a basic understanding of the Muslim world is tantamount to grasping world events. Vali Nasr's THE SHIA REVIVAL is an excellent treatise for the uninitiated to the Muslim culture and Islam.

Nasr attempts to unlock the doors to the political and theological ideals driving Islam. While we see political figures such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syria's Bashar Al-Asad, the tilt Nasr drives at is the influence of the theologians, and their radical stances. Nasr describes, from a historical perspective, the omnipresent sectarian issues in the region, and the struggle for the foothold of power. And while the fall of Saddam was one that many applauded, the lack of a focal point of control is causing a bad situation to spin further into an abyss. Nasr builds on his thesis that future peace is tantamount to a solution (or some derivation thereof) to the ancient sectarian struggles between the Shia and Sunni.

Nasr illuminates this historical resistance between the Shia and Sunni, from the beginning (in the times of the Prophet Mohammad) to current times. Nasr explains the cultural differences, the religious impacts, and the light in which the Muslim world views the Western world. Nasr clarifies the in-country hostilities and defines the ostensible ongoing power struggles between various countries and their leaders.

Without doubt, Nasr's offering is an important one in that, in one volume, he has provided information associated with the Shia/Sunni rivalry, the history, the current struggle, and how it affects the rest of the world.
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Format: Hardcover
Every once in a while an author writes a book that challenges the foundation of all of one's thinking.

Vali Nasr is such an author. "The Shia Revival" is such a book. Reading it will leave you questioning the value taxpayers have reaped from the billions invested in diplomacy and intelligence. His thesis is clear and obvious; yet, it pales one's imagination that it never exposed before this.

Nasr, a professor at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA argues convincingly that Saddam Hussein's removal from power in Iraq has changed the Mid-east, but in ways never conceived by President Bush and his neo-con advisors. By removing Iraq's Sunni dominated dictatorship, he argues, and replacing it with the Shiite majority, the United States has destroyed the buffer that has held the Shia in Iran in check.

This will play out, he argues, with increasing confrontations between Sunnis and Shiites throughout the region starting in Iraq and then spreading from Lebanon, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

This divide will have serious consequences for United States' foreign policy. By creating the first Shiite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam, we have ignited hopes among the region's 150 million Shiites. Yet, our policy still operates under the old assumptions of Sunni dominance.

It never fails that actions often lead to unintended consequences. In this case, however, Nasr clearly lays out a case that there will be no quick fixes.

This is a book you owe it to yourself to read. Individuals who can look at the same set of facts and come up with a unique insight and analysis of them are to be celebrated.

Too bad no one in the diplomatic and intelligence bureaucracy had heard of him before 2001.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_The Shia Revival_ by Vali Nasr is a well-written and timely analysis of the history and nature of the greatest division within the Muslim world, that of the 1,400 year old split between Sunnis and Shiites, a division existing from practically the beginning of the faith, each sect viewing itself as the "original orthodoxy."

Though stressing that the Shias (like the Sunnis) are hardly monolithic, varying in degrees of piety and because of different cultural and economic backgrounds, Nasr listed a number of key characteristics of Shias worldwide.

Though Shias are a minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims (comprising 130 to 195 million people or about 10 to 15% of the total Muslims in the world), they are as nearly numerous as the Sunnis in the Islamic heartland from Lebanon to Pakistan and around the Persian Gulf comprise 80% of the population.

The Shia-Sunni split dates back to the succession crises after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis came to accept the notion that successor caliphs to the Prophet (perhaps individuals chosen by the community) need not possess exceptional spiritual qualities but merely be exemplary Muslims who could direct the religious and political affairs of the community and still later accepted future rulers so long as they maintained order, protected Islam, and left religious matters to the ulama (religious scholars).

What became the Shiites disagreed with this, feeling that the true leaders of the community should not be "ordinary mortals" but should instead be Muhammad's family - popularly known as the ahl al-Bayt or people of the household - as the blood of the Prophet ran in their veins along with the spiritual qualities invested in him by God.
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