The Shiʻis of Iraq
Iraqi Shiis, the country's majority group, are nevertheless politically disinherited, as was vividly demonstrated in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Here Yitzhak Nakash provides a rich historical background for understanding their place in today's Sunni-dominated Iraq. The first comprehensive work on the Shiis of Iraq, this book challenges the widely held belief that their culture and politics are a reflection of Iranian Shiism. In examining the years between the rise of the Shii strongholds Najaf and Karbala in the mid-eighteenth century and the collapse of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, Nakash shows that the growth of Iraqi Shiism was closely related to socioeconomic and political developments in the nineteenth century. The strong Arab values of the sedentarized tribes who converted mainly in the nineteenth century made Iraqi Shiism very different from that of Iran, as did differences in rituals and religious organization and in the nature of the Iraqi and the Iranian state. Nakash sees the rise of the modern state as a development that pulled Iraqi and Iranian Shiites further apart in the twentieth century: the policies of Iraq's Sunni rulers and the Pahlavis in Iran dealt a blow to the position of Shii Islam in Iraq and facilitated its rise in Iran in the twentieth century. In exploring this topic, Nakash elucidates Shii political aspirations and the position of Shii Islam in contemporary Iraq. An epilogue discusses the impact of the Gulf War on Iraqi Shiism, pointing to the challenges now facing people in Iraq and the opposition in exile.
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