“Money was the life blood of Najaf.” Thus observed the Shi[ayn]i author, [ayn]Ali Khaqani.1The story of the Oudh Bequest, which channeled more than 6 million rupees from the Shi[ayn]i kingdom of Awadh2in India to the two Shi[ayn]i shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala[ham] in Iraq during the second half of the 19th century is a fine example of Khaqani's assessment. These [ayn]Ataba¯t-i [ayn]a¯liya¯t (“sublime thresholds”) were the most important centers of learning in Shi[ayn]ism during the 19th century. For this reason, a study of the bequest provides important insights into the internal workings of a leading community of ulama during a period of change, as well as into the role of European players in the life of such communities.
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