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The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,131 ratings  ·  163 reviews

“Historically incisive, geographically broad-reaching, and brimming with illuminating anecdotes.” —Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books

One of America’s leading commentators on current events in the Middle East, Iranian-born scholar Vali Nasr brilliantly dissects the political and theological antagonisms within Islam in this “smart, clear and timely” book (Washington Post). Still essential(Washington

Kindle Edition, 314 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  2,131 ratings  ·  163 reviews

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Julian Haigh
This is obviously from the Shia perspective, but in my limited-knowledge opinion (which I'd argue we all speak from) I'd say calling Khomeini the Sunnification of Shiism went a little far. Basically, the author appeared to back-peddle from his established opinion that Shia was the democratic and modernist alternative to a backward, fundamentalist Sunniism. Of course Khomeini is Shia and there was a Safavid empire based in Iran - but he tries to take what would be scary to the west and label it S ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone confused about Islam & current ME political conflicts
The first chapter of this book is the single best explanation I have ever seen explaining the distinction between Shias and Sunnis. Nasr has performed a valuable service in writing this book. Most explanations reduce the Shia/Sunni distinction to a mere theological point, rendering both sides foolish in the telling. Nasr explains the economic, political, and often ethnic differences that gave rise to such passionately held ideological differences. And he does so in an easy-to-read, captivating a ...more
In spite of its obviously pro-Shia bias, which many other readers have also noted, this is a superb book; I cannot imagine a better introduction to the current sectarian religious strife in the Middle East and Central Asia, nor to the general theological as well as political differences between Shia and Sunni believers. In fact, it's hard to imagine a better introduction to the history and theology of Islam, period. Nasr achieves what I think I most admire in a writer of this sort of study, mana ...more
Khairul Hezry
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in current affairs
Shelves: religion, politics
Should be read both by (Sunnah) Muslims and non-Muslims. Let's face it, what do we know about the Shia Muslims? Next to nothing, most probably. And yet we want to discuss about them and some of us want to bomb them to the stone age. Read. Understand. Chill out.
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ben by: Max Gasteen
This book basically has two parts and both are very informative. The first part is a sort of history or introduction to the Shias, who they are, and how they fit in the middle east vis-a-vis the Sunnis. The second part of the book is less historical, more of an analysis of the current situation along with thoughts on how the middle east is shaping up and what the rise of the Shias (and, the rise of Iran's influence - read influence, not domination or control) could do to change the region.
Stephanie Bluth
I don't want to speak ill of Vali Nasr and I hope this review doesn't come off like I am. I've never met him, but I know of him and he seems much loved and respected. That being said, I kind of really hated this book. I think what happened is you have a man who knows SO MUCH about this and tried to write a book for a general audience and then handed the transcript off to an editor who didn't really get it and didn't want to come across as stupid, so they gave the green light to have it published ...more
Richard K
From a completely neutral perspective the wool seemed biased towards the Shia perspective with very little good things to say for the Sunni side of the argument. Hence, whilst a good read, I would caution caveat emptor
Interesting central hypothesis about how the position of Shiites within the Muslim world is changing, but wasn't overly impressed with his argument. Too much of it felt a bit anecdotal.
David Harris
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for a more succinct review of this book, I highly recommend the one by Valerie above, who briefly describes the contents of each chapter in the course of her review.

I don't know that I would recommend this as a first book for someone with very little knowledge of Islam. It might be better to start with something like _After the Prophet_ (Hazleton) or a book on the basics of Shi'a Islam. Once you have that background, you'll be much better positioned to take advantag
This is a popular work on what Vali Nasr calls the "Shia Revival," and it must be understood that this is, more or less, an introduction to the topic. Nasr works in broad strokes, but essentially argues that--since the Iranian Revolution--Shia communities have been empowered and are taking more control of their own destiny. He spends a great deal of time examining Iraq (the first Shia Arab country to undergo this revival) and Iran (its point of origin).

Ultimately, he argues that a great deal of
A look at history and politics between the Shias and the Sunnis. Interesting, but a bit biased in his viewpoint.
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really, not great. He's got a reasonable thesis, that Shia practice and politics, and the Middle East writ large, cannot be divorced from a historical context of sectarianism, and specifically, Sunni chauvenism. There is a Shia revival, and it's a corrective to Sunni political chauvenism, and it is good, says Nasr. Fine - but his outlook, in 2006/2015 (revised edition), was baseless. He said Shia politics were moving toward openness, tolerance, and pluralism. Current events have proven him wrong ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Just a warning: I have mixed feelings about this book and they come in difficult-to-articulate forms, so this review is going to be a mess.

First, I do not think I was the target audience for this book. I was expecting a more accessible overview of the Sunnis-Shia conflict, while the author was expecting his readers to come in with a fair bit of knowledge already (at least it felt that way to me). However, even this observation of mine is a bit complicated by the fact that the author seems to os
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are a few paradigms to explain regional violence in the Middle East. The Sunni - Shia divide is one of them, also known as "civil war within Islam". This book is probably the best articulation of that paradigm, starting from the origins of the split to current events. The author traces upheavals in the region to readjustments of political and social trends between these two main branches of Islam.

As many pointed out, it's a one sided analysis from the Shia perspective. I don't
Nura Yusof
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sectarian conflict that has taken and is taking place in the Middle East is certainly not what the Prophet had in mind in propagating Islam, in my opinion.

Are the Shia, Muslims? Are the Sunnis right? Honestly, no one knows. Instead, we have both groups, each trying to out-shout each other, saying that theirs is the true Islam. And most often, by violent means.

What a waste of time and resources. They are sitting on huge deposits of oil which could greatly help them build their co
Mehwish Mughal
What I liked:
- Accessible narrative
- Engaging

What I did not like:
- Not just biased towards Shia-Islam but also towards one particular sect within Shi'ism (12 Imams)
- Oversimplification of issues.
- At times it felt like the author was forcing the entire Middle Eastern issues to fit into the Shia-Sunni conflict box

I think in order to understand the Shia-Sunni split within the historical framework with minimum subjectivity, the best book around is Shi'ite
Ghada Arafat
I am really hesitant to give this book 3 starts but I gave it that because it is a great book in terms of covering many untouched issues and it leaves the reader with enough curiosity to read more on the issue.
What was apparent for me in the book, which I did not like especially that the author has a big academic back ground, is his apparent sympathy with Shies. I noticed that when ever he talks about bloody acts committed by Shies he is giving them the excuse that they were retaliated. He
Ashik Uzzaman
Heavily pro-Shia. More descriptive and not enough food for thoughts. But still good in the sense that it captured several important events.
Metal Nyankos
I began reading this book with the notion that the Middle East - with its various religions, sects, forms of government, cultures, languages, and individual nations - was a quagmire beyond repair. That the area home to so many and to so much history was a veritable hot mess, prone to perpetual inter- (and intra-) religious violence, with most major players struggling to come out on top of one another as opposed to bridge-building and establishing a kind of tolerance or even outright peaceful coe ...more
Reza Omrani
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book gives a good overview of the conflicts in the Middle East and their historical background. Although the book is written in 2006, so much has happened in that region since then that makes the book look like an ancient book. I would love to see a sequel to the book about the events of the past decade in Middle East.
The author is Shia, and obviously he is biased, and parts of the work sounds like he is expressing his wishes rather the realities on the ground. All these being said, he is a
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. Really helped me appreciate the intricacies not just between Sunni and Shi’a, but those among and within each larger group. And this definitely put many Middle Eastern (and beyond!) conflicts into a clearer light.

My only quibble is that this at times reads as almost simplistically “Shi’a good, Sunni bad.” Nasr is a little too willing to give Iran a pass as compared to some Sunni states he cites, and the lack of discussion (or, rather, the lack of prescience) about the Syrian/Shi’a-
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If yo want to learn about the history of the Shia, their unique beliefs, and the why it is practices around the world, Vali Nasr provides a brief, yet authoritative introduction. His academic pedigree shines through in his analysis and predictions (this was written almost 15 years ago) is uncannily accurate. The book provides a wealth of information about the Shia sect of Islam and why some Sunni's such as the Wahhabis detest them.
Alexandra Skokandic
Despite being written largely about “current events” more than 10 years ago, “The Shi’a Revival” is still a very informative survey of (briefly) Islamic history and (in greater depth) modern sectarianism and its impact on both domestic and international politics and stability throughout the Middle East (with some mentions of South Asia and Africa). My only concern about this book is the persistent aftertaste of bias that made me suspicious of the editorializing it contains.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Explanation of the origination of (poliitcal) sectarian differences was easy to follow and informative.

Great explanations and examples of key moments that have shaped the Shia Revival, such as Khomeini in Iran and Sistani in Iraq, as well as briefly touching upon the rise of extremism.

Would recommend to all who are interested in gaining an insight into the root of sectarian conflict.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, islam-etc
Really 4.5 stars. The first three-four chapters are pure gold. The latter chapters' analysis of (then) current events was a bit free-flowing and somewhat disjointed, albeit erudite and informed. Biographies of people like Sadr , Ayatollah Sistani and even Zaqhawai at the foot of the pages would have been useful.
Umar Lee
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a really good book. Written in 2007 it gives a lot of information on Shia history, various scholarly camps, political trends and more. Nasr also discusses the Iranian model of revolution as opposed to Sunni revival. Of course reading this had me wishing for a part two as the very issues discussed in this book exploded in recent years throughout the region.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent account of what happened after the US invasion of Iraq, taking into consideration not only political atmosphere, but also eloquently dealt with socioecomic interactions as well as intellectual climate.
J. Maximilian Jarrett II
One of the best books I have read in the past decade. Incisive, insightful and cogently argued. A perfect antidote to the prevailing narrative promoted by many other "experts" of the so-called "middle east".
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
His grip on the Middle Eastern politics is immense. I really liked how it clears the whole air around the Arab Nationalism, Politics post the revolution in Iran and the effects of the Shia govt. in Iraq on the whole region. A star book for sure.
Bayad Ali
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book gives you a detailed insight on how the Shia planned their come back in the Middle East and further
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Son of renowned Iranian academic Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Vali Nasr was born in Tehran in 1960, went to school in England at age 16, and immigrated to the U.S. after the 1979 Revolution. He received his BA from Tufts University in International Relations summa cum laude. He earned his masters in International Economics and Middle East Studies from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1984, then ...more
“The Shia-Sunni conflict is at once a struggle for the soul of Islam… and a manifestation of the kind of tribal wars of ethnicities and identities… with which humanity has become wearily familiar.” 0 likes
“Ultimately, the character of the region [the Middle East] will be decided in the crucible of Shia revival and the Sunni response to it.” 0 likes
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