Imams and Emirs: State, Religion and Sects in Islam

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9780863563485: Imams and Emirs: State, Religion and Sects in Islam

Imams and Emirs is a comparative study of Islamic sects in the contemporary Arab world. It spotlights the Sunnis, Shi'as, Alawis, Druze, Ibadis, Zaidis and Yazidis. The Christian Maronites are added to this group because they share the same distinguishing features, which include geographical isolation, territorial exclusiveness, intensity of rituals and duality of religious organization. The book's unique contribution is to examine not only issues of dogma, but also the ecological, historical and structural variables that differentiate a religion from a sect and a sect from a religious community or minority. This is the first time Islamic religious communities have been placed on a single comparative scale.

The book focuses on religious ideology and ulama organization. Ideology refers to the genesis and formation of the religious community; organization, to the recruitment, training and roles of the ulama (imams) in society. Whereas Sunni ideology and organization are adapted to the sovereignty of centralized authority (state, government), those of other sects are adapted to the sovereignty of the religious community. Thus Sunni ideology tends to be conformist, and that of the other sects, rebellious. Many Islamic sects began as rebellious groups and subsequently developed into stable, routine systems.

Conflict and contradiction among Muslims centre around two poles: the ulama, who derive their authority from religious dogma, and the emirs and sultans who base their authority on power and coercion. In Sunni Islam, for instance, the ulama's role is subsidiary to that of the power elites, but among the Shi'a it is theulama themselves who form the power elites. After reviewing the ideological and organizational characteristics of individual sects, Khuri addresses the issue of religious change under the heading 'Brethren or Citizens'. Here, he deals with the interplay between religions, state and nationalism and discusses the contradictions between modern state structures and the Islamic umma. Already, he argues, some religious concepts are taking on nationalistic meanings.

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About the Author:

Fuad I Khuri is a distinguished Lebanese writer and academic. Among his many teaching appointments, he has been Visiting Professor at the Universities of Chicago and Oregon and Professor of Social Anthropology at the American University of Beirut. He has written widely on the contemporary Arab world, covering such topics as social and cultural change, tribal and peasant societies and religious organization in Islam.

Review:

Readers in a variety of fields will find this book a reliable source . . . Well researched, amply documented and highly readable.' --Middle East Journal

' . . . An excellent book.' --Middle East International

'The relationship of authority and political culture among the Sunni and the Shi'a receives extensive treatment. The author's direct interaction with various ulama and his exposition of their views is useful.' --International Journal of Middle East Studies

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Fuad Khuri
Published by Saqi Books
ISBN 10: 0863563481 ISBN 13: 9780863563485
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