The events in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon over the last few years have drawn attention internationally to the role of Shiism as a crucial political and religious element of the exceedingly complex relationship between the West and Islam. Shiites belong to one of the two major families within the Muslim world and account for about 10% of all Muslims, versus the 90% of the Sunnite majority. The origins of this separation is based more on political reasons rather than issues of doctrine, and dates back to the civil strife surrounding the succession to the Prophet Mohammed after his death. The history of Shiism is full of dramatic episodes and internal divisions, as well as popular religious fervor originating fascinating and affecting rituals. This book is a portrait of Shiite Islam that touches on history, politics, and culture.
Anna Vanzan teaches Islamic Culture at the University Institute for Modern Languages in Milan and Persian Language and Culture at the University of Milan.