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Power and Knowledge in Medieval Islam: Shi'i and Sunni Encounters in Baghdad

Power and Knowledge in Medieval Islam: Shi'i and Sunni Encounters in Baghdad
Tariq Al-Jamil

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During the period of Mongol occupation from 1258-1386, Baghdad was a site of intense intellectual debate and dialogue between Shi'i and Sunni communities. In this long-established centre of learning in the Islamic world, scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya and the influential Imami Shi'i scholar Allamah al-Hilli participated extensively in the transmission of knowledge across sectarian lines, as both students and teachers. Tarqi al-Jamil here contextualises the social and political climate of Iraq during this time, examining the dynamic and complex nature of Shi'i-Sunni relations and their competition for authority and legitimacy. This significant new history provides a challenge to contemporary discourses - both scholarly and in the popular media - that tend to falsely attribute the current political conflict in Iraq to pre-modern Shi'i-Sunni relations in the region. Instead, al-Jamil articulates a framework for understanding the negotiation of boundaries between Shi'i-Sunni religious communities, broadening the consensus of critical historical knowledge concerning what it meant to be Shi'i or Sunni.

Author Info

Tariq al-Jamil is Associate Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. His research focuses on Shi'ism and inter- communal violence, religious dissimulation, the transmission of knowledge in medieval Islam, and gender, sexuality, and the body in Islamic law and social practice. Al-Jamil received his BA from Oberlin College, MTS from Harvard University, and MA and PhD from Princeton University.


"A well researched and thoughtful book
Al-Jamil's provocative study makes it clear that we can no longer understand the history of the transmission of knowledge in Medieval Islam within an exclusionary framework in which Shi'is are absent or marginalized. The complexity of Tariq al-Jamil's presentation of the interaction between Shi-i and Sunni scholars in medieval Baghdad will provoke new discussions in our field."
Shaun E. Marmon, Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Princeton University "A serious new contribution to our historical understanding of a decisive period and controversial topic with important contemporary political and cultural ramifications, since the underlying polemics between extreme Hanbali perspectives (represented then and now primarily by the key figure of Ibn Taymiyya) and learned clerical forms of Imami (Twelver) Shi'ism has currently taken on often violent public ramifications-rooted in Arab-Iranian struggles for regional and even global political influence- that are today considerably visible and widespread in the Muslim world. a solid, original work of social and intellectual history focusing on a key turning point (the post-Mongol, pre-Ottoman period) in Middle Eastern culture and history that was to be marked by the rapid expansion and development of Islam as a world religion... a highly readable work"
James W. Morris, Professor of Islamic Studies, Boston College

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: The Early and Medieval Islamic World

ISBN: 9781780764931
Publication Date: 29 Mar 2018
Number of Pages: 240
Height: 216
Width: 134

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