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Roots Of North Indian Shi'ism In Iran And Iraq: Religion And State In Awadh, 1722-1859
by Juan Ricardo Cole
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In this pioneering study of the Twelver Shi'i branch of Islam prevalent in Iraq and Iran, J. R. I. Cole traces the influence of Shi'i rule on the development of religious communalism and conflict in the North Indian State of Awadh (Oudh). He also examines the relationship of the Shi'i clergy to the state and the clerical reaction to British imperialism and capitalism.
Based on research in rare manuscripts and in archives, the book reveals that the Shi'i clergy advocated policies that caused resentment among Sunnis and Hindus, thereby promoting religious communalism and setting the stage for modern communal conflict. The Shi'i learned men took government posts in support of Awadh's Shi'i nawabs and shahs; Awadh state support, in turn, helped transform Shi'ism from a persecuted "sect" to a dominant, if still minority, religious establishment.
Sociologically, the book draws attention to the specific role of the state in defining "sect" and "church." It also argues the importance of class divisions within the Shi'i community, showing that the dominant clerical ideology was often not accepted by the laboring strata. Cole's study supports the view that Muslim communalism in Northern India had genuine historical roots and was not simply an elite strategy of modern Muslim politicians. Contrary to the arguments of some writers and to the image projected by Iran's current ayatullahs, he claims that most Shi'i clergy did not play a role of opposition to the state.
About the Author
J. R. I. Cole teaches in the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He is the co-editor of Shi'ism and Social Protest (1986).
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