The Shi'is of Iraq

Princeton University Press
Free sample

The Shi'is of Iraq provides a comprehensive history of Iraq's majority group and its turbulent relations with the ruling Sunni minority. Yitzhak Nakash challenges the widely held belief that Shi'i society and politics in Iraq are a reflection of Iranian Shi'ism, pointing to the strong Arab attributes of Iraqi Shi'ism. He contends that behind the power struggle in Iraq between Arab Sunnis and Shi'is there exist two sectarian groups that are quite similar. The tension fueling the sectarian problem between Sunnis and Shi'is is political rather than ethnic or cultural, and it reflects the competition of the two groups over the right to rule and to define the meaning of nationalism in Iraq. A new introduction brings this book into the new century and illuminates the role that Shi`is could play in postwar Iraq.
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About the author

Yitzhak Nakash teaches Middle Eastern history at Brandeis University. His publications on Iraq and Shi‘i Islam have gained recognition in the United States and Europe as well as in the Arab world and in Iran. He is currently completing a new book focusing on Shi‘ism and nationalism in the Arab world.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 26, 2018
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Pages
339
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ISBN
9780691190440
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Middle East / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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As the world focuses on the conflict in Iraq, the most important political players in that country today are not the Sunni insurgents. Instead, they are Iraq's Shi'I majority--part of the Middle East's ninety million Shi'I Muslims who hold the key to the future of the region and the relations between Muslim and Western societies. So contends Yitzhak Nakash, one of the world's foremost experts on Shi'ism.

With his characteristic verve and style, Nakash traces the role of the Shi'is in the struggle that is raging today among Muslims for the soul of Islam. He shows that in contrast to the growing militancy among Sunni groups since the 1990s, Shi'is have shifted their focus from confrontation to accommodation with the West. Constituting sixty percent of the population of Iraq, they stand squarely at the center of the U.S government's attempt to remake the Middle East and bring democracy to the region. This groundbreaking book addresses the crucial importance of Shi'is to the U.S. endeavor. Yet it also alerts readers to the strong nationalist sentiments of Shi'is, underscoring the difficult challenge that the United States faces in attempting to impose a new order in the Middle East.


The book provides a comprehensive historical perspective on Shi'ism, beginning with the emergence of the movement during the seventh century, continuing through its rise as a political force since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, and leading up to the Iraqi elections of January 2005. Drawing extensively on Arabic sources, this comparative study highlights the reciprocal influences shaping the political development of Shi'is in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon, as well as the impact of the revival of Shi'ism on the larger Arab world. The narrative concludes with an assessment of the risks and possibilities arising from the assertion of Shi'I power in Iraq and from America's attempt to play an increasingly forceful role in the Middle East.


A landmark book and a work of remarkable scholarship, Reaching for Power illuminates the Shi'a resurgence amid the shifting geopolitics of the Middle East.

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