Zackery Heern

The Emergence of Modern Shi‘ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran

This talk outlines the historical background and ideological roots of the most powerful religious movement in modern Iraq and Iran – Usuli Shi‘ism. The long-term impact of the Usuli Shi‘i revival was that Shi‘i scholars gained unprecedented social, political, and economic power in Iran and southern Iraq. Shi‘i clerics claimed authority to issue binding legal judgments, which, they argued, must be observed by all Shi‘is. By the early nineteenth century, Usuli Shi‘ism became a popular, fiercely independent, transnational Islamic movement. Shi‘i clerics continue to operate at the heart of social and political developments in contemporary Iraq and Iran, as evidenced by the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.