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Shi'i Scholars of Nineteenth-Century Iraq: The 'Ulama' of Najaf and Karbala' (Cambridge Middle East Studies) Hardcover – July 28, 1998

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521623568 ISBN-10: 0521623561

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Litvak has made an important and original contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century Iraqi Shi'ism, and alo to the relations of the shrine cities with both Istanbul and Tehran...I learned a great deal from this balanced, nuanced, and carefully argued book." MESA Bulletin, Peter Sluglett, University of Utah

Book Description

The shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala in nineteenth-century Ottoman Iraq were the most important Shi'i centres of learning. In the first in-depth study of the period, Meir Litvak explores the social and political dynamics of these communities and the historical development of Shi'i leadership. In this context, the book not only contributes to the historical debates, but also more broadly to an understanding of modern Shi'ism. It will appeal to historians of the Middle East, Islam, and to students of comparative religion.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Middle East Studies (Book 10)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521623561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521623568
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,534,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kirk H Sowell on November 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have a strong interest in either Iraqi history or Shia Islam, then I strongly recommend this book. The research is top notch and the writing is good, if dense, as this is an academic work. If you are looking for a broad overview of issues related to contemporary Shi'ism and Shia clerics, then alternative works I suggest include Vali Nasr's "The Shia Revival," Yitzhak Nakash's "Reaching for Power" and a paper by Mehdi Khaleji published through the Washington Institute for Near East Policy titled "The Last Marja."

This book is divided into two main sections, and the first deals with the internal composition and function of the Shia clerical community in Iraq during the time period. There is a great deal of detail regarding how clerics compete, the leading individuals and families, the rise and fall of competing hawzas, the background to the Akhbari/Usuli debate, educational institutions and clerical finance networks. Although the primary focus is on Najaf and Karbala, there is also some discussion of other Shia centers, including Kathimiya and Samarra.

The second half of the book is devoted to the external relations of the Iraqi Shia clerical community, namely with Shia Qajar Iran and the Sunni Ottoman empire. One key theme is the extent of dependence of the shrine cities on Iran, both in terms of political support and ground level sustenance (funding, students, the corpse traffic, etc.). Their relationship with the Ottomans was more antagonistic, as Ottoman officials vacillated back and forth between allowing the clerics de facto autonomy and attempts to exert control from Baghdad. One interesting point is Litvak's discussion of how the Ottoman tribal sedentization policy contributed unintentionally to the conversion of the tribes to Shi'ism.
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6 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book presented a good amount of information and showed the hard work that was done by Mr.Litvak. That amount of history and background gave a concise report on that period of Islam. However, some claims that were made showed that reliance on secondary sources, in place of primary documents, is not a wise thing to use in a scholarly work. That reason, along with unbacked personal reflections by the author and other factors, makes it clear that further refinemdnt is needed.
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