Our Team

Oliver Scharbrodt

Prof Oliver Scharbrodt

Oliver Scharbrodt is Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Birmingham. His research expertise covers the intellectual history of modern Islam, Muslim minorities in Europe and the historical, discursive and social formations of transnational networks within modern and contemporary Islam, with a particular focus on Twelver Shia Islam. He is the principal investigator of the AlterUmma project.

Christopher Pooya Razavian

Dr Christopher Pooya Razavian

Christopher Pooya Razavian's research is focused on the relationship between tradition and modernity in Islam. He has spent many years in Iran, at both the Islamic Seminary and the University of Tehran. He received his PhD from the University of Exeter under the supervision of Prof Sajjad Rizvi. For the AlterUmma project, his research is focused on Morteza Motahhari's concept of social justice.

Oula Kadhum

Dr Oula Kadhum

Oula Kadhum's research explores Middle Eastern politics and society from a transnational perspective, with a focus on diasporic communities. Her doctoral thesis at the University of Warwick compared the UK and Swedish diaspora's involvement in state building during intervention, occupation and following the country's first democratic elections. Currently, she is exploring Iraqi Shia transnational mobilisation in the UK as part of the AlterUmma project. @OulaKadhum

Yousif Al-Hilli

Yousif Al-Hilli

Yousif Al-Hilli graduated with an MSc in Middle East Politics from SOAS and a BSc in Politics and Sociology from Brunel University. His research interests include informality within political and religious institutions, and the role of religion within states in the Middle East. He is currently working as part of the AlterUmma project to investigate the ways in which the clerical establishment in Iraq have positioned themselves post-2003.

Fouad Gehad Marei

Dr Fouad Gehad Marei

Fouad Gehad Marei is a Research Associate at the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. His research focuses on Muslim religiosities and pieties, sectarianism, pan-Shi'i politics, and insurgency and rebel governance. Fouad's work has focused on Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with a particular interest in conflict and post-conflict dynamics and translocal entanglements.

Nada Al-Hudaid

Dr Nada Al-Hudaid

Nada Al-Hudaid researches Shia religious art in the Middle East and how art is employed in the service (khidmah) of Ahl Al-Bayt. Her PhD thesis at the University of Manchester explored the materiality of Shia art among pious women in Kuwait and what role art plays in the lives of these women. For the Ulterumma project, she will focus on the materiality of dreams and miracles in contemporary Shia art. @Nadabdulla

Stefan Williamson Fa

Dr Stefan Williamson Fa

Stefan Williamson Fa is an anthropologist specialising in sensory and material approaches to the study of religion. He has conducted extensive research in Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran as well as in his home region of Gibraltar and Andalusia. Stefan received a PhD in Social Anthropology from University College London in 2019 and is currently working on a manuscript and ethnographic film based on this research tentatively titled "Resounding Love for the Household of the Prophet".

Activities

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Clerical Networks, Discourses and the State in Modern Twelver Shiism

15Apr

Organized by: BRAIS

Panel at the annual conference of the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS), 15-15 April 2019. Members of the interdisciplinary ERC AlterUmma project participate at the 2019 BRAIS conference at the University of Nottingham. The panel investigates the various ways that clerical networks and discourses have constructed the state in both Iran and Iraq by combining intellectual history with the qualitative methods of political science. The panel begins by examining two distinct periods of the authority of the marajiʿ thalath or the three religious authorities in pre-revolutionary Iran. From there, the papers will show the different ways that clerics imagined participation in the state. This includes the discourses about the use of instrumental reason in state formation and policy, debates about the creation of shura councils since the 1960s, and the scope of authority of Ayatollah Sistani in the contemporary Iraqi state.

Location: University of Nottingham, Nottingham

Clerical Networks, Discourses and the State in Modern Twelver Shi’ism

24-26Jun

Organized by: BRISMES

Panel at annual conference of British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES), 24-26 June 2019, University of Leeds Members of the interdisciplinary ERC AlterUmma project participate at the 2019 BRISMES conference at the University of Leeds. The panel investigates the various ways that clerical networks and discourses have constructed the state in both Iran and Iraq by combining intellectual history with the quantitative and qualitative methods of political science. The panel begins by examining how clerical networks are formed with a quantitative focus on the clerical formation of Najaf and Qom. From there, the papers show the different ways that clerics imagined participation in the state. This includes the discourses about the responsibility of the state to maximize human excellence, debates about the creation of shura councils since the 1960s, and the scope of authority of Ayatollah Sistani in the contemporary Iraqi state.

Location: University of Leeds, Leeds

Clerical Networks, Discourses and the State in Modern Twelver Shiism

16Aug

Organized by: NSM

Panel at Eleventh Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies organised by the Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 14-16 August 2019, University of Helsinki. Members of the interdisciplinary AlterUmma project participated at the Eleventh Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Helsinki. The panel investigated the various ways that clerical networks and discourses have constructed the state in both Iran and Iraq by combining intellectual history with methods of political science. The panel began with an historical examination of the structure of clerical authority in Pahlavi Iran. From there, the papers showed the different ways that clerics imagined participation in the state. This included the discourses about the responsibility of the state to maximize human excellence, debates about the creation of shura councils since the 1960s, and the scope of authority of Ayatollah Sistani in the contemporary Iraqi state.

Location: University of Helsinki, Helsinki

Publications

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Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Where politics and temporality meet: Shi’a political transnationalism over time and its relationship to the Iraqi state

Author/s: Oula Kadhum

Description: How do we explain change in political transnationalism over time? In what way does this change affect diasporic identities? And how does this change alter the relationship and power of diasporic actors towards their homeland states? This paper addresses these questions in relation to Iraqi Shi’a political transnationalism between London and Iraq pre and post-2003. I argue that the confluence of political opportunity structures and temporality, as experienced by political actors, shapes transnational practices. As political events in Iraq unfolded over time, Shi’a diaspora mobilisation patterns changed in line with political opportunities/threats in the homeland structural context. Simultaneously, stressing the agency of actors, the temporal contexts of each period emphasised different Shi’a identities due to the interpretation of time by diasporic actors. Consequently as opportunities and temporalities shifted, political transnationalism towards Iraq also changed empowering different actors and causes. This relationship previously marked by a long-distance nationalism (Anderson 1992) evolved to a transnationalism rooted in different ontologies. Observing political transnationalism over time therefore reveals the changing actors, shifting power dynamics, transnational identity politics and the relationship between diasporic actors and their homeland state.

ISBN: 1369-183X

Published: Sept. 7, 2020

Organized by: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2020.1814128

Cover of Shi' a Minorities in the Contemporary World

Shi’a Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality

Author/s: Oliver Scharbrodt Yafa Shanneik

Description: Global migration flows in the 20th century have seen the emergence of Muslim diaspora and minority communities in Europe, North America and other parts of the world. This book offers a set of new comparative perspectives on the experiences of Shi’a Muslim minorities outside the so-called ‘Muslim heartland’ (Middle East, North Africa, Central and South Asia). It looks at Shi’a minority communities in Europe, North and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia and discusses the particular challenges these communities face as ‘a minority within a minority’.

ISBN: 9781474430371

Published: June 30, 2020

Organized by: https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-shi-a-minorities-in-the-contemporary-world.html

Die Welt des Islams

Khomeini and Muḥammad al-Shīrāzī: Revisiting the Origins of the “Guardianship of the Jurisconsult” (wilāyat al-faqīh)

Author/s: Oliver Scharbrodt

Description: This article revisits the origins of Khomeini’s concept of the guardianship of the jurisconsult (wilāyat al-faqīh) and argues that his own formulation of this concept needs to be embedded in debates around the clerical mandate in the state among clerical activists in Iraq he encountered during his exile. Focus will be on the so-called Shīrāzī network around the brothers Muḥammad (1928-2001), Ḥasan (1927-80) and Ṣādiq al-Shīrāzī (b. 1942) and their nephew Muḥammad Taqī al-Mudarrisī (b. 1945) The article discusses the close relationship between Khomeini and Muḥammad al-Shīrāzī and the important role the religio-political networks associated with the Shīrāzī brothers played in early post-revolutionary Iran. A detailed discussion of the writings of the Shīrāzī brothers and Taqī al-Mudarrisī, written between 1960 and 1970, is undertaken to illustrate that debates around wilāyat al-faqīh among Iraqi clerical activists preceded Khomeini’s own lectures on the concept in Najaf in 1970.