The Shiites: A Short History

Combining history, comparative religion, and political interpretations, Heinz Halm elucidates Shi’ism and political developments in the Middle East for the uninformed reader. The author highlights three main aspects of Shi’a Islam: its historical development, especially the history of the Imans; the rituals, including flagellation and passion plays; and the rules of the mullahs, known as the “government of experts.” Halm explains the exalted position of the religious scholars, the mullahs and ayatollahs, who established themselves as clergy in the Safavid Empire and defined themselves as the “administrators” of the Hidden Iman. The relationship between the rulers of Iran and the mullahs has always been tense.The Khomeini revolution was the powerful culmination of a lengthy historical conflict that has expanded into Iraq and Lebanon after the American invasion in Iraq.

Heinz Halm discusses events in the Middle East during the last ten years — including the situation in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gulf States — the results of the American invasion in Iraq, and what is called the new Shi’a revival and Shi’a Crescent. This book is an updated and expanded edition of Shi’a Islam: From Religion to Revolution, now out of print.

Heinz Halm, of the University of Tübingen, is one of the world’s leading scholars on the Middle East and especially on Shi’ism. His books, which have been translated into numerous languages, include The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the FatimidsThe Arabs: A Short History, and the expanded edition of the latter, The Arabs: A Short History with Documents (both available from Markus Wiener). Professor Halm is the editor of Die Welt des Orients, and his shorter studies have appeared in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Encyclopædia Iranica, and numerous learned journals.

Allison Brown, translator, has translated German scholarly books and essays since 1988. Her main fields of interest include history, art, and the social and political sciences, especially women’s and cultural studies. She has an MA in translation science and is certified by the state of Berlin to translate official documents into English.