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The Origins of the Shī'a
Identity, Ritual, and Sacred Space in Eighth-Century Kūfa


Part of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization

  • Date Published: July 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107424951

£ 20.99

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About the Authors
  • The Sunni-Shi'a schism is often framed as a dispute over the identity of the successor to Muhammad. In reality, however, this fracture only materialized a century later in the important southern Iraqi city of Kufa (present-day Najaf). This book explores the birth and development of Shi'i identity. Through a critical analysis of legal texts, whose provenance has only recently been confirmed, the study shows how the early Shi'a carved out independent religious and social identities through specific ritual practices and within separate sacred spaces. In this way, the book addresses two seminal controversies in the study of early Islam, namely the dating of Kufan Shi'i identity and the means by which the Shi'a differentiated themselves from mainstream Kufan society. This is an important, original and path-breaking book that marks a significant development in the study of early Islamic society.

    • This path-breaking book challenges previous notions about the origins of the Shi'a thus shedding new light on early Islamic history
    • Based on legal texts which date to the eighth century whose provenance has only recently been confirmed
    • A book which will open up new paths of scholarship for historians of Islam and the Middle East
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Haider's study makes an important and much-needed contribution to the study of the origins of Imâmî and Zaydî Shiʿism as independent branches of Islam. Through his analysis of ritual practice, the legality of intoxicating drinks, and the emergence of distinct ritual locations, Haider produces a compelling case for the central role of legal discursive analysis of Kûfan ḥadîth in the articulation of Imâmî and Zaydî Shiʿi religious, political, and social identities. The Origins of the Shîʿa will be of interest to many in the fields of Islamic history, ritual studies, and law, and [Haider's] extensive use of charts to organize and explain his data and highly structured chapters make this complex historical data readable …' Karen G. Ruffle, Journal of the American Oriental Society

    'This study provides a significant contribution to the fields of Shīʿi studies, Islamic law and early history of Islam, but perhaps mostly to ḥadīth studies. Haider successfully implements a new method on Muslim traditions and reaches ground-breaking conclusions regarding the origins of early Shīʿism.' Seyfeddin Kara, Ilahiyat Studies: A Journal on Islamic and Religious Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107424951
    • length: 298 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • contains: 2 maps 23 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Narratives and Methods:
    1. Kufa and the classical narratives of early Shi'ism
    2. Confronting the source barrier: a new methodology
    Part II. Case Studies:
    3. In the name of God: the Basmala
    4. Curses and invocations: the Qunūt in the ritual prayer
    5. Drinking matters: the Islamic debate over prohibition
    Part III. The Emergence of Shi'ism:
    6. Dating sectarianism: early Zaydism and the politics of perpetual revolution
    7. The problem of the ambiguous transmitter: ritual and the allocation of identity
    8. The mosque and the procession: sacred spaces and the construction of community
    9. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Najam Haider, Barnard College, New York
    Najam Haider is Assistant Professor of Religion at Barnard College in New York City.

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