Twelve Infallible Men: The Imams and the Making of Shi'ism

Twelve Infallible Men: The Imams and the Making of Shi'ism

2016 | ISBN-10: 0674737075 | 232 Pages | PDF | 5 MB


A millennium ago, Baghdad was the capital of one of history's greatest civilizations. A new Islamic era was underway. Yet despite their great achievements, many Muslims felt society had gone astray. Shi'a Muslims challenged the dominant narrative of Islamic success with stories of loss. Faithful Muslims have long debated whether Sunni caliphs or Shi'a imams were the true heirs of the Prophet Muhammad. More influential has been the way Muslim communities remembered those disputes through stories that influenced how to think and feel about them, Matthew Pierce argues. Twelve Infallible Men explores the role of narratives of the imams in the development of a distinct Shi'a identity. During the tenth century, at a critical juncture in Islamic history, Shi'a scholars assembled accounts of the imams' lives, portraying them as strong, learned, and pious miracle workers who were nonetheless betrayed by their enemies. These accounts inspired and entertained, but more importantly they offered a meaningful narrative of history for Muslims who revered the imams. The biographies invoked shared memories and shaped communal responses and ritual practices of mourning. They became a focal point of cultural memory, inspiring Shi'a religious imagination for centuries to come.

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