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Islam in the West

Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition and Dialogue


Kieran Flynn

This book studies the historical, religious and political concerns of the Iraqi Shi‘i community as interpreted by the members of that community who now live in the United Kingdom and Ireland, following the 2003-2010 war and occupation in Iraq. It opens up a creative space to explore dialogue between Islam and the West, looking at issues such as intra-Muslim conflict, Muslim-Christian relations, the changing face of Arab Islam and the experience of Iraq in the crossfire of violence and terrorism – all themes which are currently emerging in preaching and in discussion among Iraqi Shi‘a in exile. The book’s aim is to explore possibilities for dialogue with Iraqi Shi‘i communities who wish, in the midst of political, social and religious transition, to engage with elements of Christian theology such as pastoral and liberation theology.


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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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