Twelve Infallible Men. The Imams and the Making of Shi’ism by Matthew Pierce

By Matthew Pierce

A millennium in the past, Baghdad used to be the capital of 1 of history’s maximum civilizations. a brand new Islamic period used to be lower than approach. but regardless of the profound cultural achievements, many Muslims felt their society had long past off beam. Shiˀa Muslims challenged the dominant narrative of Islamic luck with tales of loss. devoted Muslims have lengthy debated no matter if Sunni caliphs or Shiˀa imams have been the real heirs of the Prophet Muhammad. extra influential has been the best way Muslim groups remembered these disputes via tales that encouraged the right way to imagine and suppose approximately them, Matthew Pierce argues.

Twelve Infallible males specializes in the function of narratives of the imams within the improvement of a different Shiˀa identification. throughout the 10th century, at a serious juncture in Islamic background, a bunch of students started assembling definitive works containing money owed of the twelve imams’ lives. those collective biographies built a sacred heritage, portraying the imams as powerful, appealing, discovered, and pious. Miracles surrounded their beginning, they usually grew to become miracle staff in flip, yet have been however betrayed and martyred by way of enemies.

These biographies encouraged and entertained, yet extra importantly they provided a significant narrative of historical past for Muslims who respected the imams. The debts invoked shared stories and formed communal responses and formality practices of grieving. Mourning the imams’ tragic fates helped nascent Shiˀa groups face up to the strain to fail to remember their tale. The biographies of the imams turned a focus of cultural reminiscence, inspiring Shiˀa non secular mind's eye for hundreds of years to come back.

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On November 29 (the third of Ramadan) in 413/1022, al-Mufid died. 95 His opponents were Matthew Pierce - 9780674969087 Downloaded from PubFactory at 08/01/2016 02:03:58PM via New York University Bobst Library Technical Services and New York Medical Center Library Setting the Stage ■ 33 relieved by his death. In his monumental history of Baghdad, Khatib alBaghdadi (d. 463/1071) said of al-Mufid, “He was an imam of error. ”96 Al-Mufid was a key figure in the transformation of Twelver Shiʿism from a loosely affiliated group of ʿAlid sympathizers to a coherent religious community with defined boundaries, specific theological positions, and unique cultural patterns.

40 These classical Arabic genres represent the literary context out of which biographies of the imams were conceived and assembled. The Collective Biographies of the Imams Like the authors of works in the abovementioned genres, Shiʿa writers were concerned with the life stories of their communities’ most significant figures. Collections of the sayings and teachings of the imams were assembled that mirrored hadith literature on the Prophet Muhammad, and biographers drew from such accounts, rearranging them into a birthto-death chronology that removed them from legal questions and placed them in the realm of history.

The tragic fates of the infallibles are foreshadowed and mourned long before their deaths are described in the texts. It’s fitting, therefore, to begin our analysis with the ends of their lives, because their martyrdoms shape the emotional dispositions and the general mood set by the biographers. Their deaths help us make sense of the specific type of reasoning and emoting that persists throughout the biographies. 2 One of the most pervasive assumptions demonstrated by the authors was that the imams’ personal qualities were in keeping with the office of the imamate.

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