Publications

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society logo

Title: Divine Sovereignty and Clerical Authority in Early Shi‘i Islamism: Bāqir al-Ṣadr (1935–80) and Taqī al-Mudarrisī (b. 1945) on the Islamic State

Author/s: Oliver Scharbrodt

Description: Divine sovereignty (ḥākimiyya)—as conceived by Abū al-A‘lā Mawdūdī (1903–79) and popularised by Sayyid Quṭb (1906–66) - has been a central component of Islamist thought. This article investigates the reception of the concept within Shi‘i Islam. As case studies, the article choses two prominent actors in the formative period of Shi‘i Islamism in Iraq: Muḥammad Bāqir al-Ṣadr (1935–80) and Muḥammad Taqī al-Mudarrisī (b. 1945). By discussing their reflections on the nature of an Islamic state, the article pursues three objectives: first, it overcomes a trend in academic scholarship that disregards Sunni influences on the development of Shi‘i Islamism. Second, the article highlights the role that the Iraqi Shi‘i intellectual milieu played in incorporating key Islamist concepts into Shi‘i political thought. Finally, the article demonstrates the different receptions of ḥākimiyya. Bāqir al-Ṣadr uses the ideological repertoire of Islamism to explore in pragmatic terms the parameters that define the state as Islamically legitimate. In contrast, Taqī al-Mudarrisī uses ḥākimiyya to redefine the sovereignty of the state in Islamic terms. He operationalises the concept in a Shi‘i context by arguing that the state must be led by a just jurisconsult (al-faqīh al-‘ādil) who becomes the sole agent of divine sovereignty in the state.

Atlantic Council

Title: Iraqi diaspora mobilization and the future development of Iraq

Author/s: Oula Kadhum

Description: Iraqi diaspora mobilization and the future development of Iraq – authored by Dr. Oula Kadhum, explores Iraqi diaspora mobilization before and after the 2003 invasion and fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. It looks at the ways members of the diaspora sought to help in the rebuilding of their country of origin, at both the elite and grassroots levels, as well as investigating changes over time. Importantly, it analyses the obstacles that have hindered diaspora mobilization since 2003 and argues that the Iraqi diaspora is a valuable, yet largely untapped resource for Iraq.

British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies

Title: Collective hawza leadership in a time of crisis: the period of marajeʿ thalath (1937–1953)

Author/s: Dr. Mohammad Mesbahi

Description: The intention behind this article is twofold. Firstly, it aims at reviewing the political settings that lead to the second phase (1937–1953) in the formation of the hawza leadership, often ignored by scholars. This period follows the death of the founder of the hawza ʿilmiyya of Qum, Ayatollah ʿAbd al-Karim Haʾeri in 1937, and precedes the 1953 CIA sponsored coup d’état, and includes the appointment of Ayatollah Husayn Borujerdi as the leader of the modern hawza. Secondly, the article assesses the leadership style of the triumvirate of Shiʿa jurists known as marajeʿ thalath, who managed to firmly consolidate the modern hawza of Qum despite the secularizing policies of the Pahlavis which aimed at eliminating the religious sector from the Iranian political scene. In order to understand the course of subsequent developments of the religious establishments and Shiʿi scholars in their attainment of power and influence in Iran in the course of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is crucial to investigate the developments during this period. This paper is the first study that draws on a range of primary sources not consulted before to research the political and social contributions of the triumvirate during the period of 1937–1953.

Islam and Christian Muslim Relations

Title: Lamenting Karbala in Europe: Husayni Liturgy and Discourses of Dissent amongst Diasporic Bahraini and Lebanese Shiis

Author/s: Dr Fouad Gehad Marei

Description: Abstract: The presence of Shii communities in Europe is increasingly felt, especially as they establish independent religious and social infrastructures. Supporters of different Shii–Islamist political parties have established transnational links connecting diasporic communities with their countries of origin. These links have shaped and been shaped by religious, political and social dynamics in the Middle East. This article examines how lamentation poetry performed in Shii ritual gatherings is used to articulate political dissent among diasporic communities. The lachrymal expressions and descriptions that characterize Shii lamentation poetry have the ritualistic function of metaphorically identifying participants with Imam Husayn and his cause. Organizers of these gatherings, however, use lamentation poetry to narrate and give meaning to geopolitical developments in the Middle East, especially since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003. This article constitutes the first attempt to examine the political contextualization of Shii lamentation poetry, embedded within the political discourses of two Shii Islamist parties, the al-Wefaq Movement in Bahrain and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Unlike other studies on Shii ritual practices, it is informed by a multi-sited ethnographic study of female-only and male-dominated ritual spaces in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain..

The Journal of Leadership and Developing Societies

Title: Governing Dahiya: Interrogating the State in Beirut’s Southern Suburbs

Author/s: Dr Fouad Gehad Marei

Description: Lebanon, a multi-confessional country with an established consociational democracy, is facing the threat of slipping into state failure as it grapples with its soaring political and economic crisis. The country’s governing system has come under increased and perhaps unprecedented scrutiny since the outbreak of popular protests in 2019 as many accuse an oligarchic political and sectarian elite of subordinating the State to their private interests. Based on an empirical examination of the politics of post-war reconstruction in Beirut’s southern suburbs, this article examines regimes of rule beyond the limitations of the seemingly dichotomous categories of State and non-state. The empirical inquiry presented in this article argues for a state analysis that is less concerned with discerning and deciphering where the State begins (or ought to begin) and where its non-state other(s) end (or ought to end), but is concerned instead with unpacking the real and messy workings of government. Rather than relativising the weak-state thesis, this article seeks to extend and complicate our understanding of the State (in Lebanon and beyond) by locating regimes of rule within a broader, dynamically evolving social whole.

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Title: 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.

Religion and Society

Title: From the Throes of Anguished Mourning: Shi‘i Ritual Lamentation and the Pious Publics of Lebanon

Author/s: Fouad Gehad Marei

Description: Drawing on a study of Shi‘i ritual lamentation in Lebanon, this article examines how religious actors and pious publics employ literary, recitational, theatrical, and socio-technological methods to cultivate imaginal engagements with the other-worldly. These methods are analyzed, demonstrating how they locate pious Shi‘is in religious meta-narratives that transcend the linearity of time, taking place simultaneously in the Elsewhere and in the here-and-now. I argue that this produces transposable and lasting dispositions that constitute the Shi‘i self, immerses subjects in this-worldly-oriented modes of religiosity, and bestows upon Shi‘i politics and the imagined community a profound emotional legitimacy. I posit that cultivated engagements with the Elsewhere are constitutive experiences in modes of religiosity that emphasize a symbiosis between human action and metaphysical intervention, thus complicating the question of agency and intentional action.

Cover of Shi' a Minorities in the Contemporary World

Title: 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’.

Die Welt des Islams

Title: 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.

World Arts Journal Volume 10

Title: Karamah (‘marvel’): an exploration of the literal and ethnographic meaning of miracles among Shi`a female artists in Kuwait

Author/s: Nada Al-Hudaid

Description: This position paper examines new forms of painted artworks made by pious Shi`a female artists in Kuwait, which treat imagery and experience known as Karamah (sing.) and Karamat (pl.), commonly understood as ‘miracle'. I examine current anthropological considerations of ‘miracle' and I find that the most suitable translation of the Arabic word Karamah may be ‘marvel', rather than ‘miracle', although how Shi`a use and understand ‘Karamah' may differ regionally. Fieldwork interviews and ethnography reveal that the paintings objectify the relationship between people and the family members of the Prophet Mohammed known as Ahl Al-Bayt. I argue that the new forms and, increasingly, exhibitions comprise important forms of ‘service’ dedicated to Ahl Al-Bayt.

International Affairs volume 6 Issue 2

Title: Unpacking the role of religion in political transnationalism: the case of the Shi'a Iraqi diaspora since 2003

Author/s: Oula Kadhum

Description: This article explores the role of religion in political transnationalism using the case of the Shi'a Iraqi diaspora since 2003. The article focuses on three areas that capture important trends in Shi'a transnationalism and their implications for transnational Shi'a identity politics. These include Shi'a diasporic politics, transnational Shi'a civic activism, and the cultural production of Iraqi Shi'a identity through pilgrimages, rituals and new practices. It is argued that understanding Shi'a Islam and identity formation requires adopting a transnational lens. The evolution of Shi'a Islam is not only a result of the dictates of the Shi'a clerical centres, and how they influence Shi'a populations abroad, but also the transnational interrelationships and links to holy shrine cities, Shi'i national and international politics, humanitarianism and commemorations and rituals. The article demonstrates that Shi'a political transnationalism is unexceptional in that it echoes much of the literature on diasporic politics and development where diaspora involve themselves from afar in the politics and societies of their countries of origin. At the same time, it shows the exceptionalism of Shi'a diasporic movements, in that their motivations and mobilizations are contributing to the reification of sectarian geographical and social borders, creating a transnationalism that is defined by largely Shi'a networks, spaces, actors and causes. The case of Shi'a political transnationalism towards Iraq shows that this is increasing the distance between Shi'is and Iraq's other communities, simultaneously fragmenting Iraq's national unity while deepening Shi'a identity and politics both nationally and supra-nationally.

Contemporary Islam Dynamics of Muslim Life

Title: Shia Muslims in Great Britain

Author/s: Oliver Scharbrodt Reza Gholami Sufyan Abid Dogra

Description: Special issue of Contemporary Islam, vol. 13, no. 3 (2019) This special issue brings together most recent research on Shia Muslims in Britain. Edited by Oliver Scharbrodt, Reza Gholami and Sufyan Dogra (all University of Birmingham), the special issue includes six original research articles that cover different Shia communities across Britain, their local manifestations and transnational connections: from attitudes towards Islam among members of the Iranian diaspora, Iraqi and Iranian Shia networks in London and their transnational links, the role of ‘Ashura’ procession among Shia communities in Edinburgh, contestations around Shia religiosity among South Asian Shiis to identity discourses among young British-Iraqi Shiis. The special issue is the very first publication of this kind highlighting the particular position of Shiis among the Muslim minority in Britain.

Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

Title: "Creating a Diasporic Public Sphere in Britain: Twelver Shia Networks in London"

Author/s: Oliver Scharbrodt

Description: Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations (2019) Since the 1980s, the Borough of Brent, in north-west London, has been a major global hub of transnational Twelver Shiism. With the influx of Iraqi refugees, many clerical leaders of Twelver Shia Islam established their European headquarters in Brent, and, in addition to Damascus and Tehran, London became a major centre of Iraqi diaspora politics during Saddam Hussein’s regime. The transnational networks and organizations based in Brent engage in an Islamic ‘transnational public space’, which Bowen defines as a globally operating discursive ‘field of Islamic reference and debate’. Based on ethnographic research in London, the article provides novel insights into the Twelver Shia Muslim organizational field in Britain and its engagement in ‘an alternative diasporic public sphere’ that articulates issues and contestations specific to Shia Muslims living in Britain: what does displacement and migration mean for Shia Muslims who have often escaped oppression, war and civil conflict; how do Shia Muslims in Britain define their relationship to Sunnis in the context of rising sectarianism in the post-Arab Spring Middle East; how do Shia Muslims position themselves towards Iran and its aspiration to be the political leader of global Shiism?

British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies

Title: "Assessing co-development projects for civil society building in Iraq: the case of the Iraqi diaspora and Swedish institutions following the 2003 intervention in Iraq"

Author/s: Oula Kadhum

Description: British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 2019. While the literature has expounded diaspora’s involvement in homeland politics through lobbying efforts to influence hostland foreign policies, involvement in homeland conflicts and peace-building, this paper addresses a less-explored area in the diaspora literature related to the development of democracy through transnational civil society building. Using the case study of the Iraqi diaspora in Sweden, this paper assesses co-development projects financed by Sweden’s International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA) between Swedish institutional partners and Iraqi diaspora organizations from 2004 to 2008. Looking at both the perspective of the diaspora and public officials in Sweden, the paper problematizes the notion of diaspora as development partners and provides a nuanced understanding and new insights into the opportunities, challenges and limitations of diasporic initiatives aimed at supporting homeland civil society. Diaspora initiatives, it is argued, need to consider homeland security, understandings of development and goals, as well as homeland social and political contexts for exploring the opportunities and limitations of diasporic contributions. This is important for understanding both how and when diaspora’s involvement is to be supported, especially in conflict or post-conflict settings.

Global Networks A Journal of Transnational Affairs

Title: Ethno-sectarianism in Iraq, positionality and political transnationalism: case study of the UK Iraqi diaspora in the aftermath of the Iraq war "

Author/s: Oula Kadhum

Description: Global Networks 2018. In this article, I draw on the experiences of Iraqi diasporas in the UK and Sweden after the 2003 US‐led intervention to demonstrate how ethno‐sectarianism in Iraq has affected their political transnationalism. Using the concepts of intersectionality and positionality, I show how the reconfiguration of the social positions of individuals and groups in the diaspora affects their types of political engagement and the spaces in which political mobilization takes place. In the case of the Iraqi diaspora, I show how, among other things, the social categories of ethnicity, religion and gender create positions of both subordination and privilege, which inhibit, reshape and empower the political actions of diasporas in both the homeland and host country. In societies divided along ethnic, religious or tribal lines, the social positions of individuals and groups relative to the dominant ethnic/religious political parties and the nationalist ideology they promote determine the nature of their diasporic mobilization.

Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, Volume 10

Title: Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, Volume 10

Author/s: Samim Akgönül Ahmet Alibašić Jørgen S. Nielsen Egdunas Racius Oliver Scharbrodt

Description: The Yearbook of Muslims in Europe is an essential resource for analysis of Europe's dynamic Muslim populations. Featuring up-to-date research from forty-three European countries, this comprehensive reference work summarizes significant activities, trends, and developments. Each new volume reports on the most current information available from surveyed countries, offering an annual overview of statistical and demographic data, topical issues of public debate, shifting transnational networks, change to domestic and legal policies, and major activities in Muslim organisations and institutions. Supplementary data is gathered from a variety of sources and evaluated according to its reliability. In addition to offering a relevant framework for original research, the Yearbook of Muslims in Europe provides an invaluable source of reference for government and NGO officials, journalists, policy-makers, and related research institutions.

Contemporary Islam Dynamics of Muslim Life

Title: The Transnational Politics of Iraq’s Shia diaspora

Author/s: Oula Kadhum

Description: Carnegie Middle East Center, March 2018 The article explores Shia diasporic transnationalism and its effects on the Iraqi state since 2003.

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