Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition and Dialogue
Chapter 2 Shi‘i Religious Narratives in History and Ritual Memory
Introduction There is a long history of scholarship within Islam and particularly in Shi‘i Islam. Much has been written about Islamic history, theology and doctrine from both the Shi‘i perspective and the Sunni perspective. There has been little study however of Shi‘i communities and the popular piety that makes up much of Shi‘i worship and devotional practice. In this chapter, I bring together both the academic and scholarly work that has been written about Shi‘i Islam in the western academy (most of the sources are in English and there are a number of translations from the Arabic) and the popular and ritual knowledge of Shi‘i Islam that makes up the religious life of the worship- ing community. This knowledge of Islam is evident in the sermons and the speeches that make up the annual and ritual celebrations of the community. There are many commonalities between Shi‘i and Sunni Muslims and many would stress there unity. There are however dif ferences in understand- ing and worship that identify the Shi‘i particularity. In the central place is that of the interpretation of history and leadership within the community. Here the place of ‘Ali and the Shi‘i Imams is central. In countless gather- ings I have heard these hadith, stories and interpretations that make up the foundation of Shi‘i Islam. In this chapter I have gathered them together, using the academic works that introduce them and situate them. There proper place however is...
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