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al-Jabbar - The Shiite Movement in Iraq

Tags: books


  • iraq was tarred with the Bush doctrine of pariah states married to Islamic militancy
  • Shiites agree that the 1920’s they left themseolves out of the cold with regards to the British, now they sought US patronage (in the forms of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Dawa)
  • cultural artifacts were on display in April 9 in 2003, because the vacuum of the state meant that there was no civil society to rely on
  • Majd al-Khoei was killed on April 10th in najaf, where he was neogtiation with the custodian of the shrine
  • Muqtada al-Sadr
    • was in house arrest in the 1999
    • his father built a network of novice sheikhs
    • 2003 had no clear vision of the state as an Islamic entity
    • engaged in clerical supreme authority by means of street politics
    • “clerical class traditionally constituted of family based leadership with a network of embedded novices”
  • jabbar argues taht religion works as an identity marker
  • links the decline of nasserism and the rise of religion in its stead

State, Nation, Islam


  • Timeline
    • Late 1950’s - start of shia militancy
    • Mid 1960’s -> ‘Arif brothers caused Islamic activism to thrive
    • 1974 -> mass protests and Baathist executions of shia leaders
    • 1977 -> Arbaeen demonstrations shook the political elite
  • Argues that there are 3 main theories of shiism in Iraq
    • Communal
      • shia majority vs sunni minority
      • issue treats shiism as one monolithic thing
    • Cultural-essentialist
      • largely arose after 1979
      • orientalist in outlook
    • Conjunctural
      • two patterns to shia military social movements
        • islamist protest is born of common greviences due to modernity, there is nothing inherent about Islam, these are cross-cultural issues given an Islamic flavor
        • local: shiite activism is spurred by protest against group discrimination under authoritarian regimes - Blaydes - State of Repression?
      • forms of religiosity differ from one groupo to another
      • distinguishes between tribal leaders and ulema
        • islam bridges/substites the unity between these two groups
    • 3 major classes
      • clerical class
      • mercantile class in najaf
      • modern middle class
    • shias had published regularly after 1979, previously their publications were largely totally obscure
    • migration after iran/iraq war to western countries only further encouraged publication
    • iraqi security services archives also contain information

Islamism, Fundalmentalism, Communalism, and the Nation-State

  • Rise of shia islam is conflated with two things
    • 1970’s had a broad rise of Sunni/Shia “fundalmentalism”
    • a rise in secular militancy
  • We need to make a clear delination between shiite activism and islamic militancy
  • Islamic activism dates ot the late 19th century, relating to the major, but not only reformation of Islam
  • major religious reformations seek to purify islam, either by:
    • stating the tradition is enternal & true
    • constructing a paradigm of pure, prisetine Islam
  • An all embracing Islam has been held by Jamal al-Din Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Wahhabi, hassan al-banna, ruhollah khomeini
    • all the waves have similar shades “fundalmentalism”

19th century Sunnis


  • port cities were prone to disruption, starting with hassan al-banna
  • muslim brotherhood and Hahbani’s Hizb al-Tahriri al-Islami and Dawa party
  • after 1967, nationalist regimes turned to Islamist symbols and themes
  • from arab sociallism to liberalized and deregulated economy, Saudi wealth and influence replaces Nasserisms with Oil wealth
  • Islamisms development as a populist ideaology of protest against the failures of authoritairan nation-state and nationalist elites, which absorbs an interesting amalgam of concepts

Liberal Monarchy - 1921-58

  • Dual legal system, development of the Tribal Disputes Regulation Act
  • 1947 census
    • Ethnic
      • arabs: 3,244,000 - 71.1%
      • Kurds: 870,000 - 19%
      • Persians: 52k - 1.2%
      • Turkomans: 92k - 2%
    • Religious
      • Muslims: 93.3%
      • Christians (Assyrians, Chaldeans and etc): 3.1%
      • Jews: 2.6%
      • Yazidis and Shabak: 0.8%
      • Sabaeans: 0.2%
  • cities engaged with national spaces more than the tribes
  • tribes had to settle down and dissolve large confederations
  • state elites were drawn from small upper classes and from different regions, largely geared towards integration
  • landed aristocracy and upper mercantile and business and modern elites
  • soldier/politicans - Cited by Hanna Batatu

Revolutionary Period: Military Authoritarian Regimes - 1958-1968

  • Monarchy downfall was due to middle and lowerclass rebellion against the small pro-British ruling class that monopolized power and wealth
  • Middle class, military dominated, populist and authoritarian regimes assumed power
  • Destruction of landed and old ruling classes
  • Accelerated the development process but disturbed the processes of national integration
  • Increased oil revenues detached the state from the power relations of social wealth

Totalitarian-Patrimonial Ba’th Regime: 1968-2003

  • schisms and rifts among ruling elites forced a stable system to emerge vial totalitarianism
  • single-party system and the single-family/clan system
  • Lack of mature and solid base of private property and mature social classes with vested interests independent of the state
  • Populist politics with primordial solidarties as unique medium for organization, cohesion, mobilization, control, and regulation is a mix
  • Revolutionary Command Council as the leading power function, but the Regional Leadership (Iraq)
    • both were subsumed into the same practical identity until the end of the National Assembly was introduced under a controlled ballot as a result of the iranian revolution
  • the state controlled the bulk of sphers of production and distribution of social wealth, dominated production and distribution of culture, and absorbed most forms of social association
  • state employment becomes the final form of distributing economic benefits
  • families begin to command private social wealth, but the composition changed, such as the selective inclusion of kurds and certain shi’ite families
  • modern middle class was structured by state employment, which formed the bulk of the growing party apparatus
    • as a result, mass urbanization occured, including in Baghdad

Shi’ite social structures

  • Shi’a in 1921 did not constitute a closely knit body of people, they were originally quite divided
  • Tribal confederation emerged during the Mamluik era
  • Shia imams were presented as gallant knights and brave warriors, and then guarenteed commerial and property contracts
  • Clerical class in shrine cities and the free traveling sayyids emrged as a “bedouin” or “arabic” in opposite with the “sufist” or “persanized” sh’ism of iran
  • najaf was governed by armed guilds knowns as the shuri or zuguri, who controlled the city and provided defense against external hazards
    • created a separate exchange-liasons with the clerical class and the artisans, merchants, and pilgrims
  • najaf and karbala specifically rebelled against the ottomans in 1915 and 1916 respectively
  • post-1921 - nomadic tribes lost their significance
  • deporation of the jews in 1948-1949 caused shiites to emrge as the strong social class, where tribal landlords established firm positions
    • shifts from the shi’is as rural poor fallahin into poor and middle class city dewllers
  • sectarian policies of the ‘Arif brothers and the Baath accelerated the development of a coherent shia identity

Areas of Conflict: Shi’is and the modern state

  • political conflict premised on under-representation
    • first two decades of the monarchy and waned in the last decade, but then resurfaced under ‘arif and the ba’th
  • economic grievances based off of landed shi’ite groups that opposed land reforms in 1959
  • cultural encroachment, arab nationalism replaced islam, such as sati al-husri’s cultural nationalism based on language and history
    • reduced islam to a predicate to ethnicity, which destroys the centrality of religion
  • nusuli affair in the late 1920’s
    • nusuli, syrian secondary school teacher glorified the ummayad dynasty, which the shia viewed as the usurpers of the caliphate from the rightful Imams
    • nusuli’s book caused a political crisis
    • 1950’s and 1960’s, Abdul Aziz al-Duri, a iraqi sunni historian and dean of Baghdad university continued to to raise the idea that the ethnic purity ofthe arabs was not only crucial but was endangered by the persians
  • citizenship rights
    • persian shias have had different pre-national rights, many arabs sought persian “naturalization” to avoid military service in the ottoman standing army
    • shi’ism being equated with persianism reinforces the idea that the shrine cities had persian cultural traits, alongside the strong trade relations and the persian mujitahids
    • mass deportations in the early 1970’s under the baath
  • state control of religious cultural spaces and controlled separation of state and religion
    • since sunni religious establishment was subsumed into the administration, the remaining secularization drive was focused on the shia